Review: The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran

Shadow work: attacking Muslims by trashing their holy book
CIGK is a deliberately misleading work of fear mongering and a frontal attack on the idea that Islam is a religion of peace. The book's method is to equate the true beliefs of Muslims with the words of the Koran. If the Koran says something, then Muslims necessarily must believe it, no matter how much they might protest. CIGK provides a simplistic view of Islam that is at odds with the observable behavior of nearly all Muslims.

Truth be told, the Koran does not lack for verses that attack Jews and Christians, and insist on their conversion. What's astounding is the inability of the author to see that Jewish (think Joshua) and Christian (think Revelation) texts also spill over with blood-drenched attacks on unbelievers. Yet the author blithely claims that the Bible preaches love and tolerance while the Koran teaches hatred. The amount of blindness or outright cynicism involved in these smears is breathtaking. The demonstration of projecting one's own evil on the Other is mindboggling -- and dangerous at a time of worry about Islamic terrorism.

Spencer finds the idea that one could find wisdom in the Koran to be ridiculous. True to his conservative program, he styles anyone's positive words about the Koran to be a "genuflexion." He goes so far as to equate the Koran with "Mein Kampf." The fact that millions of people find hope and guidance from their holy book strikes him as perverse.

Spencer's rewriting of history and reality is spectacular. He claims flatly (as if he is in a position to know) that US guards at Guantanamo Bay die *not* flush Korans down the toilet, when the truth is far murkier. He writes that Geert Wilders, the anti-Islamist demagogue and firebrand, "has become one of the most popular political leaders in the Netherlands," whitewashing his dangerous, alarmist and violence-prone rhetoric. That Wilders is denounced as a hate-monger by much of the European political establishment does not make an impact on Spencer's assessment.

There is no question that some Muslims find in the Koran a divine mandate to attack the West. The 9/11 attacks are only the most obvious example of the literal way that some Muslims - or even many, especially in underdeveloped countries - understand their holy book. Of course, many Christians also take a simplistic or literal view of their sacred writings. Some are even moved to influence political events to obey biblical commands or to "fulfill" biblical passages. Consider religious gay-haters and Christian Dominionists. But don't ask Spencer to acknowledge the possibility that Christians are capable of violence based on their reading of the Bible.

Spencer takes the broad-brush to the tarring of Muslims. "The idea that the Koran commands them to do violence to unbelievers runs from the very top of the international jihadist movement (Osama bin Laden) down to the rank and file." Thus, all Muslims are ready and eager to kill idolaters, read "God-fearing Americans." And those who deny this are obviously hiding their true motives. Spencer makes a habit of using making the worst interpretation of every aspect of the Koran. He quotes the Koranic verse, "Those who believe, fight in the cause of Allah; and those who disbelieve fight in the cause of Tagut" - that is, anything worshipped other than Allah, for example, Satan. From that point on, Spencer uses "Satan" as the equivalent of "Tagut," substituting the Christian bogeyman for a idolatry of all kinds. And thus does he transform anti-idolatry into Satan-worship.

"The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran" is a foul and devious attack on a religious group, that paints it as bloodthirsty and worthy of reproach, or worse. At a time in history when it is critical that Americans learn more about the faith that animates hundreds of millions of their neighbors, Spencer chooses to stir up their fears with an ignorant, slanted and hypocritical attack on their holy book. You don't have to like what is in the Koran, but you should want to know what Muslims see in it, how it affects their understanding of the world, and how it does (or does not) pose a threat to you.