It Is About Islam
INTRODUCTION Jefferson’s Quran
One block from the U.S. Capitol sits the Library of Congress. Housing more than 160 million books, manuscripts, photographs, recordings, and maps,
it’s the largest library in the world. If you put its bookshelves together in a single line, they would extend 838 miles.
The current collection owes its start to one of America’s greatest Founding Fathers. After the Library of Congress was burned to the ground by the British during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson, then in retirement at Monticello, offered once more to be of service to his young nation. Jefferson, who owned the nation’s largest private collection of books—6,500 at the time—offered the entire lot to the newly rebuilt library “for whatever price found appropriate.”
Jefferson was a voracious reader and a distinguished intellect. Along with hundreds of books that matched his varied interests was a well-worn two-volume set that he believed offered his nation a warning.
Jefferson had bought these volumes, bound in leather and
filled with yellowed pages that crackled when you turned them, forty years earlier when he’d been a young red-haired law student in Williamsburg. By then he’d already developed a reputation as a passionate debater in the service of justice—even if it meant challenging the laws of the Crown. In 1765, the young rabble-rouser had become known for his strident opposition to Parliament’s passage of the Stamp Act, the latest in a series of unjust taxes imposed by the British on the colonies without representation.
As a student of the law, Jefferson was curious about laws of many kinds, including those that had a voice in exotic lands or claimed to carry the word of God. That is why, when he wandered into the offices of the Virginia Gazette, the local newspaper that doubled as a bookstore, one day in October 1765, Jefferson found the two-volume set so tantalizing. Printed in London by a British lawyer named George Sale, the books were
one of the first English translations of the Quran. After paying sixteen shillings, Thomas Jefferson held in his hands the holy book of Islam. He kept them among his possessions for the following four decades.
When I first heard that one of our nation’s Founding Fathers owned one of America’s earliest copies of the Quran, I endeavored to do some research on it. I was curious as to why Jefferson, a man famously curious and cosmopolitan, but also skeptical of organized religion, had it in his possession.
We don’t know exactly how closely Thomas Jefferson read the Quran he owned. We do know that he is the
only Founding Father to have a basic understanding of Arabic. We do know that he promoted and
championed the creation of an Oriental languages department at his alma mater, the College of William & Mary. And we do know that he would be the first American president to go to war with Islamic radicals.
It is clear, however, that Jefferson was, to put it mildly, suspicious of Islam. He compared the faith with Catholicism, and believed
neither had undergone a reformation. Both religions, he felt, suppressed rational thought and persecuted skeptics. When combined with the power of the state, religion would corrupt and stifle individual rights. Islam, to Jefferson’s mind, provided a cautionary tale of what happened when a faith insisted on combining religious and political power into one.
As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Jefferson cited Islam as an example for why Virginia should not have an official religion. A state religion, he argued, would quash “free enquiry,” as he recorded in his notes at the time. He knew Islam held little tolerance for other faiths.
But Jefferson was neither a bigot nor an Islamophobe. The irony of Jefferson’s observations about Islam is that they were made in service of an argument that would ensure that Muslims—along with Jews, Christians, atheists, and adherents of every other faith—would have full citizenship as Virginians, and ultimately, as Americans.
The landmark legislation Jefferson championed, “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom,” which served as a model for the United States Constitution a decade later, ensured that there was no official religion of state. Between 1776 and 1779, Jefferson drafted more than one hundred pieces of legislation, but he was most proud of number 82, which is referenced on his gravestone as “the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom.” The fiercely controversial bill disestablished Christianity as the official religion of his state.
Jefferson’s legislation was nothing short of revolutionary, a first in the history of the world: absolute freedom of religious conscience and permanent separation of church and state. And as evidenced by his copious notes, Jefferson’s knowledge of the Quran and Islam had shaped his views of the importance of protecting religious liberty.
Jefferson believed that everyone should have the right to worship, or not to worship, as they choose. It was, unfortunately, not a view shared by the Muslims he eventually encountered.
In March 1786, after America had won its independence, Jefferson was serving as minister to France, shuttling between European capitals to secure commercial agreements. One of the thorniest challenges he had to confront was the growing power of the Barbary States, four North African territories that sponsored marauding pirates who were increasingly confiscating thousands of dollars in American shipping and enslaving hundreds of U.S. citizens in prisons across the Mediterranean.
In London, Jefferson and his fellow diplomat John Adams met with the ambassador from the pasha of Tripoli, a man named Abdul Rahman, to resolve the growing dispute. The war that existed between his nation and America, the ambassador explained, “was
founded on the Laws of their Prophet.” The capture of U.S. ships and people was a just and holy war, sanctioned by the Quran.
Jefferson and Adams took meticulous notes of the meeting. “It was written in their Koran,” the two Americans noted, “that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was
sure to go to Paradise.”
Jefferson needed only reference his own two-volume translation of the Quran to understand that everything in the ambassador’s explanation of the Barbary States’ “holy war” against America was accurate and faithful to Islam’s holy book.
The Quran’s Sura (or chapter) 9, verse 29, explains the Islamic duty to make war upon non-Muslims:
Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah
and His Messenger, (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e., Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.*
Sura 47, verse 4 sanctions the taking of captives as spoils of war:
So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah’s Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e., take them as captives). Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e., free them without ransom), or ransom (according to what benefits Islam), until the war lays down its burden. Thus [you are ordered by Allah to continue in carrying out Jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam (i.e., are saved from the punishment in the Hell-fire) or at least come under your protection], but if it had been Allah’s Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight), in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.
And Sura 2, verse 154, clearly outlines that Allah will reward holy warriors who fight on his behalf:
And say not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah, “They are dead.” Nay, they are living, but you perceive (it) not.
What the ambassador of Tripoli was explaining to the future second and third presidents of the United States was the concept of jihad—God’s lawful war against nonbelievers. To drive the point home, the ambassador left Jefferson and Adams with a final image of what American sailors would face on the high seas. The two American diplomats recounted what the Barbary ambassador had told them:
It was a law that the first who boarded an enemy’s vessel should have one slave, more than his share with the rest, which operated as an incentive to the most desperate valour and enterprise, that it was the practice of their corsairs to bear down upon a ship, for each sailor to take a dagger in each hand and another in his mouth, and leap on board, which so terrified their enemies that very few ever stood against them, that he verily believed the Devil assisted his countrymen, for
they were almost always successful.
Again, the ambassador was hewing closely to Islam’s holy text. Prisoners could be killed, sold into slavery, or ransomed. Sura 33, verses 26 and 27:
And those of the people of the Scripture who backed them (the disbelievers) Allah brought them down from their forts and cast terror into their hearts, (so that) a group (of them) you killed, and a group (of them) you made captives. And He
caused you to inherit their lands, and their houses, and their riches, and a land which you had not trodden (before). And Allah is Able to do all things.
* * *
I started with this story because I want you to follow the path of Thomas Jefferson, a path that starts with reading the primary sources and original texts of Islam in an effort to better understand how millions of Muslims interpret their faith.
Every day around the world Islamist fanatics are plotting ways to kill us. They do so under the banner of a supremacist ideology that pits Islam against the rest of the world and commands the murder of those who do not willingly submit.
It is no understatement to say that Islam has the power to change our way of life. It already has. From mindless security protocols, like toiletries stuffed into clear bags and shoes being removed, at airport checkpoints, to entire parts of the globe now being impenetrable to Western travelers, to an emerging nuclear arms race that threatens global stability, to shaming and silencing those of us who defend freedom of speech, Islam is on a crash course with the free world.
The ultimate irony is that, fifteen years after 9/11, we’re actually farther away from understanding the threat than we were in the days following the most brutal attack in our history.
That’s why this book is necessary.
This work is not meant to be a polemic, but rather an exercise in free inquiry in the tradition of one of our nation’s most cherished Founding Fathers. As such, it’s going to tell the truth about Islamists and the fundamental things they believe. I’ll spare you the political correctness and the pleasant-sounding niceties. The time for worrying about being insensitive or hurting other people’s feelings is long past.
Put simply, it is about Islam.
People do not want you to know that truth. They don’t want to hear it. They certainly don’t want to discuss it. The mainstream media has essentially ordered a blackout of anything remotely to do with it.
When you say that the siege against America under way today is about Islam itself, the PC crowd gasps and says you’re attacking a religion, or disrespecting people’s right to worship how they choose.
That’s nonsense. Do Americans have a problem with people worshipping any supreme being they choose? Of course not. Our country was founded on religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson himself ensured that the Constitution protected religious freedom, including for Muslims, Scientologists, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, and everyone else. Our forefathers came here expressly because they wanted every citizen to worship, or not to worship, as they see fit.
Is every Muslim in the world predisposed to violence or thinking that America is the Great Satan? Of course not. Does every Muslim in the world share a belief in spreading a Caliphate or support the mandatory implementation of sharia law? Absolutely not. Here in the United States, many Muslims disagree with the radical beliefs of Islamists around the world.
There’s a crucial distinction to be made between Islam and Islamism. When discussing a topic this important, terminology is critical. Islam is the faith of 1.5 billion people around the world. Islamism is the supremacist political ideology that insists on imposing sharia, or Islamic holy law, on the world. Tens of millions of Muslims around the world are Islamists. They include terrorists in groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS—variously known as the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (or Levant, meaning the lands including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, hence ISIL), and Daesh (the Arabic acronym of ISIS, pronounced “desh”)—but they also
include millions more who may not resort to suicide bombings and beheadings but who would like to see people like you and me convert to Islam or else be treated as second-class citizens. There is no such thing as a “moderate” Islamist.
These Islamists—people who believe in Islam as a political and governing force—are the heart of the problem. They have a clear agenda. They are not trying to hide it. And they are succeeding in executing on it.
There are, however, moderate Muslims—and while I know this comes off as being overly political correct, it’s not an exaggeration to say that they are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends, and our family members. They are the reformers who seek to make Islam compatible with our individual liberties and freedoms and with a twenty-first-century society. They are also the victims. The Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other Islamist terrorist groups kill their fellow believers for not being Muslim enough. Thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Muslim Kurds have died fighting the Islamic State and its totalitarianism.
But increasingly I fear these Muslims are the exception. But there are troubling signs, including here in America. A June 2015 poll of Muslims living in the United States by the Center for Security Policy showed that a shocking number (51 percent) seek to embrace sharia over the U.S. Constitution. In addition, nearly one in four of Muslims polled believed that “it is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed.” One in five respondents agreed that “the use of violence is justified in order to make shariah the law of the land in this country” while only 39 percent believed that Muslims in the U.S. should be
subjected to American courts.
If, as the Pew Research Center estimates, there are approximately 3 million Muslims in America, that translates to roughly
half a million U.S. Muslims who believe acts of terror and murder are legitimate tools in order to replace the U.S. Constitution with sharia law.
One of the consequences of living in a free, open-minded, tolerant nation like ours is that we don’t always see what is really going on elsewhere in the world. In the Middle East, for example, there are many countries where the vast majority of Muslims share the fundamentalist view that Islam is the only true religion and that it must be spread through any means necessary. They are growing in power, influence, and size.
Islam—as it is interpreted and practiced by these people—is, quite simply, incompatible with freedom the way we understand it. It is incompatible with open elections, rights for minorities, trial by jury, and all the other institutions familiar to the Western way of life. It is incompatible with basic morals and decency. It is incompatible with man-made laws and the rights of mankind to adapt and progress and modernize.
This book is going to prove that. Not through theory or opinion, but through facts and quotes of primary source material. You can understand the Islamists only if you first understand what they truly believe.
Those who claim Islam is not the problem, or deny that it’s incompatible with freedom, are racist, homophobic, and sexist. Why? Because the Islam that millions of Muslims believe in, practice, and promote envisions a world in which we are required to accept a lower standard of life for women, for homosexuals, for Christians, or for anyone else who is different from their standard.
In America we like to believe that all religions are equal. But that’s not the truth. A religion that believes in stoning and killing people who don’t share their views and values is not equal to the rest. A religion that supports the beheading of human beings in the twenty-first century simply is not equal to Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or any of the world’s great faiths.
The PC police in America will be aghast at this thought—and this book. How, they’ll ask, could you say that the radicals and fanatics of Iran or ISIS have anything to do with Islam? ISIS is a terrorist group that has nothing to do with the Islamic faith.
That is a lie, and it’s time to label it as such.
Islam is at the root of everything that terrorists from ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas say and do. Islam is the reason they have recruits. To argue that it has nothing to do with terrorism or violence is the equivalent of going back to the sixteenth century and telling Martin Luther that the corrupt actions of the Catholic Church had nothing to do with Christianity.
If you take Islam out of ISIS, you have nothing left. They are called Islamists for a reason: their references to Islam—to what they call a holy war against our Roman Empire—are what help them gain recruits and money and support.
As a nation we bend over backward to accommodate—yes, to appease—some of the most vile practitioners of Islam. As I write this, the Obama administration is making a deal with the radical ayatollahs of Iran—a country that roots for the death of the Jews and the end of America; a country that refuses basic rights to women and denies not only the rights, but the very existence, of homosexuals. In Tehran, Bruce Jenner would not have a widely televised special where he talks about his transformation into a woman; he would be in pieces, torn limb from limb, hung from a crane, or stoned to death in public.
Let me repeat that: stoned to death. You will find that word repeated again and again throughout this book. Millions of practitioners of Islam believe that God wants us to literally stone people to death when we find their lifestyle offensive.
We haven’t had stoning in America, well, ever. But in the Islamic Republic of Iran, stoning is one of the punishments currently available for a variety of offenses. Here’s how a report by Amnesty International put it:
Code prescribes execution by stoning. It even dictates that the stones are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately. Article 102 of the Penal Code states that men should be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be
so small that they could not be defined as stones.”
What the Amnesty International report neglects to mention is the full name of the statutes that allow stoning: the Islamic Penal Code of Iran (emphasis added). Here’s what Chapter 21 of that code authorizes in cases of attempted theft: “up to five years’ imprisonment and
up to 74 lashes.”
Lashes? Also known as flogging, as in taking a strap to human flesh seventy-four times. Hitting a human being repeatedly and violently so that pieces of their flesh tear off the body. That’s sanctioned under Islamic law.
How about forced amputations? This, too, comes from Amnesty International’s report on the Islamic Republic of Iran:
Sentences of flogging and amputations continued to be imposed for a wide range of offences, including alcohol consumption, eating in public during Ramadan, and theft. These sentences were
increasingly implemented in public.
Under Islamic law, at least as interpreted by Iran, you can lose a hand for things that teenagers in America do on a typical Friday night.
Even crucifixion is not off-limits in Iran as well as in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria.
In this book, we’re going to use the Islamists’ own words to
show what they really believe. To show what they stand for. To show what their laws actually say. To show what they hope to impose on the rest of the world.
Again, we’re going to do this in their own words.
We’re going to quote straight from the Quran, Islam’s most holy book, so you can see what it really says. We’re going to quote straight from the Hadith, the collected deeds and sayings of Allah’s prophet Muhammad, which form one of the primary bases of Islamic law. And we’re also going to expose the foolish, naïve, and, as we’ll learn in some cases, intentionally deceptive views of Islam apologists in the United States who have worked hard to convince everyone that there is nothing to see here. That there isn’t something inherently wrong with the way millions of people are practicing the Islamic religion. That Islam has nothing to do with the fact that so many people want us dead.
The first chapter will take you into the heart of the Islamist agenda—an agenda that seeks to bring about, in the words of many Islamists, Armageddon and the End Times. This is why reasoning or negotiating with terrorists is pointless. They believe they have literally been tasked by Allah with bringing about the end of the world—and that the time for it is rapidly approaching.
Chapter 2 offers some history of the Islamic faith, going back to the time of Muhammad and the spread of Islamic empires.
Chapter 3 chronicles the rise of modern Islamist ideology and the use of terrorism as a response to Islam’s stagnation and the rise of Western powers.
Chapter 4 outlines how Islamist terrorists have used everything from 9/11, to the war in Iraq, to the rise of ISIS to bring about a final confrontation with the West, one they hope will result in World War III. We will chronicle, in their own words, their twenty-year plan to build a new empire, or Caliphate, and expand it to the rest of the world.
The book also contains a section about the many lies that are told about Islam and its followers, using other people’s words and sentiments as much as possible. The lies include the oft-heard claims that Islam is a religion of peace, that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism, that Islam respects the rights of women and Christians, and that sharia law is a myth made up by Islamophobes.
Finally, we’ll talk about the future. What can we do about any of this that will make a real difference? How do we protect ourselves against people who believe they are taking their cues to destroy us directly from Allah?
In doing all this and asking the hard questions we will be following in the path of Thomas Jefferson himself, who read and thought deeply about Islam. He stood as representative of a nation that had hundreds of captives languishing in prisons across North Africa. He was face-to-face with jihad and saw the threat it posed.
Which brings us back to Jefferson’s Quran.
Today it resides in the Library of Congress in the great round room that replicates his original collection. Other than the fact the two volumes arrived at the Library of Congress in 1815 from Monticello, how do we know the book is in fact Jefferson’s?
On page 113 in volume 1 of George Sale’s translation are Thomas Jefferson’s own initials beside one of the Quran’s most warlike passages: “God hath preferred those who fight for the faith [mujahideen] before those who sit still.”
What possessed Jefferson to mark this page, and this page only, in his Quran? We will never know. Perhaps he was struck by Allah’s blessings bestowed on the mujahideen—the holy warriors who strive and fight in His name. Perhaps he turned to this passage before his meeting with Abdul Rahman in 1786. Or perhaps he turned to this passage in 1801, when, as commander in chief, he finally gave the order to take America to war against the
Barbary pirates, the mujahideen of the Mediterranean. Regardless, it seems clear that Jefferson undertook a serious effort to understand the motivations of his enemies.
The mujahideen of 2015 are no less devoted than those of 1800. They seek Allah’s reward with even greater fervor. So, to truly understand the threat they pose, we must follow Jefferson’s example and go straight to the source of their beliefs. *
There are many English translations of the Quran. Because Muslims believe the Quran was delivered to Muhammad in Arabic, most Muslims believe that any translation cannot be more than an approximate interpretation. As a result, every translated version of the Quran contains parentheses and brackets to give context and clarify missing pronouns. For the purposes of this book, we are using the translation by Muhammad Taqi al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, titled The Noble Qur’an in the English Language. Endorsed by the Saudi government, Dr. al-Hilali and Dr. Khan’s translation is the most published Quran in Islamic bookstores throughout the English-speaking world. I have used the exact translation; all parentheses and brackets appearing in Quranic verses (as well as Hadith) can be found in the original text, which is available online at: http://www.noblequran.com/translation/