Of course, with the weakening of Islam in the modern era, embarrassed Muslims began to euphemize their imperialistic history, portraying jihad as “defensive,” “spiritual,” etc.—culminating with Soliman’s fairy tale. Even the unapologetic Sayyid Qutb, the sheikh of “radical Islam,” interpreted jihad and the conquests as “altruistic” endeavors to “liberate” mankind.
Such sophistry is inevitable; for the Muslim conquests pose a thorny problem for Muslims. As David Cook writes in Understanding Jihad, p.167:
[T]he conquests were seen from the beginning as one of the incontrovertible proofs of Islam. To disavow them or to examine them critically—which has yet to happen in the Muslim world—will be very painful for Muslims especially Arabic-speaking Muslims. At every point… when Muslims have tried to abandon militant jihad for the internal, spiritual jihad… the memory of the conquests and the need to rationalize them have defeated this effort. The problem may lie in the unwillingness to confront the fact that the conquests were basically unjustified. They were not a “liberation” and they were not desired by the non-Muslim peoples; they were endured and finally accepted.
The question remains: Are Islam’s apologists disingenuous or deluded? When it comes to “bridge-building” Soliman—who provides “sensitivity training” to the FBI and Pentagon—one is inclined to answer in the former: his book contains academic crimes, including flagrant mistranslations to support his thesis and wild, but undocumented, assertions (for example, that the Arians, like the Muslims, used to proclaim “There is no god but Allah and Jesus is his prophet”).
That said, Muslim self-deception—typified by the impulsive need to always exonerate Islam—is a very real and widespread phenomenon. I am reminded of an Arabic op-ed I read last year in Al-Masry Al-Youm, which opened bluntly by saying: “We Muslims have an inferiority complex…and feel that our Islamic religion needs constant, daily affirmation from Europeans and Americans… What rapturous joy takes us when one of them converts—as if to reassure us that our religion is ‘okay.’” Discussing how the Arab world exulted when it erroneously thought that Muslim critic Henryk Broder had accepted Islam—based on sarcastic remarks he had made—the author wrote “but we are a people who do not understand sarcasm, since it is subtle and requires a bit of thinking and intellectualizing; rather, we read quickly, with a hopeful eye, not an eye for truth and reality.”
Considering Islam’s lax views on deception, this comes as no surprise. After all, whether Muslims consciously deceive infidels or unconsciously deceive themselves, the goal has long been one: empowering Islam and its adherents—reality be damned.
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