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ICC NOTE: This article identifies some of the ideas that spur on extremist thinking, that will eventually victimize individuals of Christian and Jewish faiths.

Is Islamic Law “Extremist”?

By Robert Spencer | May 26, 2006

[Editor’s note: Frontpage recently reprinted a Washington Post piece, “Extremism Isn’t Islamic Law,” by the former President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, which argued that Islam is a religion of peace and that extremists distort it. Below is Robert Spencer’s rejoinder.]

Back on New Year’s Eve I posted a few comments on a Wall Street Journal piece by the former President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid. My point at that time was that despite the full-throated enthusiasm that greeted Wahid’s piece, it was not in fact the heartening indication of Islamic moderation that many took it to be.

I have repeated many times a point that evidently is nearly impossible for some people to grasp: that while it is easy to convince Westerners who know nothing of Islam that Islam is peaceful, it is ultimately a fruitless exercise to do so. What peaceful Muslims like Wahid need to do is not spend their time writing articles in Western media outlets, but convincing the mujahedin. I am all for real moderate Muslims, but if I can see that a moderate’s account of Islamic teaching is inaccurate, a mujahid will certainly be able to also. And if that moderate’s moderation won’t convince Muslims, what’s the point of it? To make non-Muslims feel better? I would rather have the truth than feel better on the basis of half-truths, thank you.

Reform isn’t accomplished by deception or self-deception. Reform is accomplished by acknowledging the problem and coming up with ways to deal with it. Let Wahid confront the specific Qur’anic passages, Hadith passages, examples from the life of Muhammad, and rulings of the madhahib that the mujahedin use to recruit and motivate Muslims to commit violence and attempt to subvert Western societies, and find new ways to understand those passages that will be convincing to Muslims. He didn’t do that in the Journal, and he doesn’t do it in this Washington Post (Bandar Beacon) piece (thanks to all who sent it in), “Extremism Isn’t Islamic Law”:

…Does Islam truly require the death penalty for apostasy, and, if not, why is there so little freedom of religion in the so-called Muslim world?

The Koran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad do not definitively address this issue. In fact, during the early history of Islam, the Agreement of Hudaibiyah between Muhammad and his rivals stipulated that any Muslim who converted out of Islam would be allowed to depart freely to join the non-Muslim community. Nevertheless, throughout much of Islamic history, Muslim governments have embraced an interpretation of Islamic law that imposes the death penalty for apostasy.

Wahid ignores, of course, evidence that both the Qur’an and Muhammad do address this issue. Qur’an 4:89 says: “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): but take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (from what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks…” The verse is clear: those who “turn renegades” and “reject Faith” are to be killed by the believers. For the full article