Karen Armstrong attacks Robert Spencer

With thanks to LFG:


Western apologists for Islam invariably resort to ad hominem attacks and obscure deceptions when they attempt to confront a knowledgeable critic like Robert Spencer; at Jihad Watch Spencer replies to a review by Karen Armstrong of his biography of Mohammed: Karen Armstrong reviews Spencer’s The Truth About Muhammad.

The conclusion of Spencer’s rebuttal contains a perfect example of the deception mentioned above. In her review, Armstrong says the Koran condemns “all warfare as an awesome evil.”

In the comments field below, Jihad Watch reader “Great Comet of 1577” has found the Qur’an verse to which Armstrong was referring. It’s Qur’an 2:217:

“They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression) [or an ”awesome evil“], but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel His people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can. And whoso becometh a renegade and dieth in his disbelief: such are they whose works have fallen both in the world and the Hereafter. Such are rightful owners of the Fire: they will abide therein.”

Thus, contrary to Armstrong’s statement that this verse refers to “all warfare” as “an ‘awesome evil,’ in fact the verse refers only to warfare during the sacred month as evil at all, and then goes on to say that ”persecution is worse than killing.“

In context, this verse was revealed to justify a Muslim raid on a Quraysh caravan: the raid took place during a sacred month, during which war was forbidden. But the Quraysh were allegedly persecuting the Muslims, so this verse absolves the Muslims of guilt for the raid — since ”persecution is worse than killing.“

So in fact, the verse that Armstrong is using to argue that the Qur’an teaches that war is an ”awesome evil” actually teaches that moral precepts, such as the prohibition on fighting during the sacred month, may be set aside to benefit the Muslims.

Fjordman comments:

I wonder how much the Saudi’s are paying her. (it is a fact that Armstrong has received ‘grants’ from our ‘friends’- the Sowdi’s…)

BTW: Here is a rather different conclusion:

Islam is the most Warlike Religion

A Danish language researcher has spent over three years analyzing the original texts of ten different religions, and concludes that the Islamic texts stand out by encouraging terror and violence to a larger degree than other religions do. Four years after the terror attacks at the World Trade Center, Danish linguist Tina Magaard presents an analysis that questions Islam’s relationship with terror, violence and Holy War.

Islamic texts encourage terror and fighting to a far larger degree than the original texts of other religions, concludes Tina Magaard. She has a PhD in Textual Analysis and Intercultural Communication from the Sorbonne in Paris, and has spent three years on a research project comparing the original texts of ten religions. “The texts in Islam distinguish themselves from the texts of other religions by encouraging violence and aggression against people with other religious beliefs to a larger degree. There are also straightforward calls for terror. This has long been a taboo in the research into Islam, but it is a fact that we need to deal with,” says Tina Magaard.

Moreover, there are hundreds of calls in the Koran for fighting against people of other faiths. “If it is correct that many Muslims view the Koran as the literal words of God, which cannot be interpreted or rephrased, then we have a problem. It is indisputable that the texts encourage terror and violence. Consequently, it must be reasonable to ask Muslims themselves how they relate to the text, if they read it as it is,” says Tina Magaard.

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5 thoughts on “Karen Armstrong attacks Robert Spencer”

  1. Karan Armstrong is a very useful idiot, and she is insane, I say the Mohammedans are giving her multiple millions, a useful idiot like that would be considered a very valuable assist to the Mohammedans, and well worth giving money to

  2. “It is easy, therefore, to quote so selectively that the main thrust of the faith is distorted. But Spencer is not interested in balance. He picks out only those aspects of Islamic tradition that support his thesis.”
    -Karen Armstrong.

    I would respond to this by quoting the great Mark steyn: “it’s a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice-cream and a quart of dog feces and mix ‘em together the result will taste more like the latter than the former.”

    I wonder if Ms. Armstrong is a supporter of Hamas because they build schools and clinics, as well as murder innocent Jews. Balance.

  3. Jimmy the Dhimmi;

    Hamas doesn’t build schools, they build madrassahs.
    As for clinics, they remain yet to be seen.

    Yes, they murder innocent Jews.
    No, there is no balance. Only Islam.

  4. Ms.Armstrong has received funds from some Islamic countries or Imams. Why I said this is because the president of Maldives gave some funds to one Maldivian business man and asked him to find a European writer who could write a book about Qayyoom. The funded author wrote a book called ” A man for all atolls”, in which the author said” Mr.Qayyoom is a model for all small countries”. After one year she published the book we knew that Maumoon was the worst dictator in South Asia following a killing of four people in the jail. Now all International human rights orgnanisations know who Mr.Qayyoom is.

    The same thing is happened to Ms.Armstrong, she received some funds from Saudi government and she just wrote a book for money.

  5. The God Fraud

    Best-selling atheist author Sam Harris pushes back against Karen Armstrong’s sympathetic take on religion.


    In her article (“Think Again: God,” November 2009), Karen Armstrong discovers that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and I have mistaken “fundamentalism” for the totality of religion. (Sorry about that.) But do Richard and Christopher really hold religion responsible for “all human cruelty”? That is a surprise. I hadn’t realized that they were idiots.

    In any case, I am hopeful that Armstrong’s winsome depiction of Islam will shame and enlighten them, as it has me. They will discover that Hassan al-Banna and Tariq Ramadan are paragons of meliorism and wisdom, while we are ignorant bigots who know nothing of theology (of course), politics (Christopher, are you listening?), human nature (what’s to know?), or the proper limits of science (um … narrower?).

    I can’t quite remember how we got it into our heads that jihad was linked to violence. (Might it have had something to do with the actual history and teachings of Islam?) And how could we have been so foolish as to connect the apparently inexhaustible supply of martyrs in the Muslim world to the Islamic doctrine of martyrdom? In my own defense, let me say that I do get spooked whenever Western Muslims advocate the murder of apostates (as 36 percent of Muslim young adults do in Britain). But I now know that these freedom-loving people just “want to see God reflected more clearly in public life.”

    I will call my friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali at once and encourage her to come out of hiding: Come on out, dear. Karen says the coast is clear. As it turns out, those people who have been calling for your murder don’t understand Islam any better than we do.

    Armstrong assures us that because religion has existed for millennia, it is here to stay. Of course, the same could be said about a preoccupation with witchcraft, which has also been a cultural universal. The belief in the curative powers of human flesh is still widespread in Africa, as it used to be in the West. It is said that “mummy paint” (a salve made from ground mummy parts) was applied to Lincoln’s wounds as he lay dying.

    This is now good for a laugh. But in Kenya elderly men and women are still burned alive for casting malicious spells. In Angola, unlucky boys and girls have been blinded, injected with battery acid, and killed outright in an effort to purge them of demons. In Tanzania, there is a growing criminal trade in the body parts of albino human beings — as it is widely believed that their flesh has magical properties.

    I hope that Armstrong will soon apply her capacious understanding of human nature to these phenomena. Then we will learn that though witchcraft has occasionally been entangled with political injustice, an “inadequate understanding” of demonology and sympathetic magic was really to blame.

    People will torture their children with battery acid from time to time anyway — and who among us hasn’t wanted to kill and eat an albino? I sincerely hope that my “new atheist” colleagues are not so naive as to imagine that actual belief in magic might be the issue here. After all, it would be absurd to criticize witchcraft as unscientific, as this would ignore the primordial division between mythos and logos. Let me see if I have this straight: Belief in demons, the evil eye, and the medicinal value of a cannibal feast are perversions of the real witchcraft – -which is drenched with meaning, intrinsically wholesome, integral to our humanity, and here to stay. Do I have that right?

    Sam Harris
    Author, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
    Co-founder, The Reason Project

    Karen Armstrong replies:

    It is clear that we need a debate about the role of religion in public life and the relationship between science and religion. I just wish this debate could be conducted in a more Socratic manner. Socrates, founder of the Western rationalist tradition, always insisted that any dialogue must be conducted with gentleness and courtesy, and without malice. In our highly polarized world, we really do not need yet another deliberately contentious and divisive discourse.

    When I was a student, I was taught to listen to all sides of a question, examine the evidence impartially, and be prepared to change my mind. For many years, I wanted nothing to do with religion and would have agreed wholeheartedly with Sam Harris; my early writing definitely tended to the Dawkinsesque. But my study of the history of world religion during the past 20 years has compelled me to alter my views.

    Religious traditions are highly complex and multifarious. Like art, religion is difficult to do well and is often done badly; like sex, it is often tragically abused. I hold no brief for witchcraft or the superstitious trading of body parts. Like many religious people, I do not believe in demons. I abhor violence of any kind, be it verbal or physical, religious or secular.

    I have written at length about the desecration of religion in the crusades, inquisitions, and persecutions that have scarred human history. I have also pointed out that, driven by political humiliation and alienation, far too many Muslims have in recent years distorted the traditional Islamic view of jihad, which originally referred to the “effort” required to implement the will of God in a violent world.

    But these abuses do not constitute the whole story. Religion is also about the quest for transcendence, the discipline of compassion, and the endless search for meaning; it was not designed to provide us with the same kind of explanations as science, but to help us to live creatively, serenely, and kindly with the suffering that is an inescapable part of the human condition. As such, it continues to appeal to millions of human beings across the globe. To identify religion with its worst manifestations, claim that they represent the whole, and then demolish the straw dog thus set up does not seem a rational or useful way of conducting this important debate.

    Historically, this kind of attack only serves to make religious fundamentalists more extreme. Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens have flung down the gauntlet in their spirited — some would say intemperate — manifestos against religion. They cannot be surprised if people challenge their critique in the way that I attempted in my article.

    In the past, theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Rahner, and Paul Tillich enjoyed fruitful conversations with atheists and found their theology enriched by the encounters. We desperately need such interchange today. A truly Socratic dialogue with atheists could help to counter many of the abuses of faith that Harris so rightly deplores.

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