Lenny Ben-David: Welcome to Jerusalem Online, I’m Lenny Ben-David, the Director of Publications, and I’m happy to again host Harold Rhode, an expert on the Arab world and on Muslim culture, having served in the United States Department of Defense in that role, and having studied as a prize student of Professor Bernard Lewis. Today, Harold is teaching Islamic Affairs and the Arab Culture at the Ariel University.
Harold, we’ve been seeing attacks of Muslim radicals, of terrorists, across Europe. But there seems to be a focus on the Iberian Peninsula, with attacks on Barcelona and, of course, the famous one in the Madrid trains. From your understanding of Arab affairs and Islamic history, why is there a focus on Spain and the Iberian Peninsula?
Harold Rhode: Superb question! Here’s the problem. In Islam, once a territory is conquered by Muslims, it is Muslim forever. This is according to Sharia – the Muslim holy law.
In the year 712, a Muslim general by the name of Tariq leads the Muslims across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco and takes over the Iberian Peninsula. Therefore, from an Islamic point of view, Spain belongs to the Muslims – forever. Now, they ruled Spain and various parts of it, there were wars galore, until 1492 when they were thrown out. If you read Muslim documents – and there’s Muslim diplomatic correspondence during the period from 1492 to today – whenever they mention a city in Spain, they say, “may it be returned to the bosom of Islam speedily.” Now, if you know Arabic and you go on to the Internet, you will see passionate arguments about how they will reconquer Spain and Portugal, which are theirs by their definition.
Lenny Ben-David: Do they use the name Spain and Portugal?
Harold Rhode: They call it Andalus or Andalusia. And what is interesting is in the city of Cordova, which was one of the great capital centers of Islamic culture and rule of Iberia, there is an institute which is interested, it says, in preserving the Islamic history and culture of Cordova – nothing wrong with that, that’s great. But in the early 1980s, the great professor Bernard Lewis was at a conference in Cordova on Islamic Affairs. He’s with a whole bunch of Turks. Now, for various reasons, he was at the time perfectly fluent in Turkish, and he’s hanging around with them, speaking with them. There was a group from this Institute who said, “would you like to come and see our Institute?” And, of course, the Turks said “yes”, and they assumed that Bernard Lewis was also a Turk because he was speaking in Turkish. So they bring a bus and bring them to the Institute, and he said, “now that we’re only among our own, I would like to talk about what we’re really here for. We’re not just worrying about the preservation of Islamic culture here, we are preparing for the Islamic re-conquest of Spain, because we of course know it’s ours.”
Some of the Turks got very upset. Bernard Lewis writes about this in his autobiography, written when he turned 100, about a year or so ago. Thank God he’s still alive. And he writes about this experience. Now, that’s what they’re all about. And so when we’re seeing the bombings in Madrid and we’re seeing the bombings and the running over of people in Barcelona not that long ago – what is this all about? This is classic Islamic warfare.
I’ve just published, about 2 or 3 months ago, a book called A Modern Islamic Warfare: An Ancient Doctrine Marches On. What is this all about? Classic Islamic warfare is based on pre-Islamic Arabian warfare, which is raiding parties, which we call terrorism today. It’s small groups fighting small groups. Since they were small groups and they didn’t have a lot of people, they didn’t want to get killed. So what they did was: you attack, you terrorize, instill fear in the other side and withdraw. And attack and withdraw, and attack and withdraw. Now, this is what it’s all about. When I say terrorist rates, we think terrorism is awful! It’s simply classical pre-Islamic Arabian warfare. That’s what they’re doing. And when they use daggers and they use swords, that’s what their Prophet Muhammad used and those around him. They’re just imitating what their prophet and his generals did.
Lenny Ben-David: Do you see this in ISIS publications?
Harold Rhode: Absolutely, yes! It’s in ISIS publications. I’m just going to tell you what a Sunni Muslim, a friend of mine who is totally secular, said to me in Baghdad. He said: “Harold, you’re missing the point of ISIS. They’re appealing to the very soul, of our Muslim soul. How are they doing that? They say that we are all to live, the whole world must be Muslim, and eventually it will be. And it must be under a Caliph, which is one who takes the place of their Prophet Muhammad, and under the Sharia, which is the Muslim law.” And that is what we learned from the time that we are little children! And that is what ISIS is doing. And that is what all of these other people, whether it’s ISIS or it’ll be a new group thereafter – that’s what they’re all talking about, and it’s the ideology that appeals to their souls from the time they were born. They all know that they should live in one world; we’re all going to convert to Islam; there’s going to be a Caliph.
Now, the point is that they don’t agree on what is Islam because there are different types of Islam: “my way or the highway,” is what Bernard Lewis would say. “You do it my way” or, “I’m right, you’re wrong, go to hell” is what he used to say in lectures. And that’s what it’s all about: I’m right, you’re wrong.
So the point is then that they’ll fight amongst each other. But that’s what they’re trying to do, that’s what Erdogan, the Turkish president, is trying to do by letting all these immigrants go into Europe. Muslims, the first year they take over small places and they’re very quiet, and when they reach critical mass, then they start making demands. What we’re witnessing is the islamification of Europe. The Russians, Putin, understands this very, very well and understands that he’s in an internal battle against Islamic orthodoxy that wants to take over this world. And the Chinese have the same problem in northwestern China in a place called Xinjiang that was conquered by Islam in the eleven-hundreds, and so therefore again, just like in Spain, is Islamic territory forever.
By the way, that’s the same story in Israel. Everybody is worrying about, especially the State Department,the West Bank and the settlements and how awful they are. Look, Islam conquered what is all of Israel and the West Bank today in the year 637. So, Tel Aviv is as much a settlement in the Muslim mind as any of the settlements that are in the West Bank – it’s all the same. All of this territory must be and will be eventually returned to Islamic rule.
Lenny Ben-David: Harold, I’m a little confused. I can understand that they want to recapture areas in even China or in Spain, but they also controlled areas in Europe historically, and now they try to expand into places like Copenhagen or Sweden. What do they feel is their patrimony?
Harold Rhode: The world. It works this way: from a Muslim point of view and, I’m giving you Sharia, this is Islamic holy law. The only territorial divisions that exist from a Muslim holy law point of view are the world of Islam Dar-al-Islam in Arabic and Dar-al-Harb; the world of war or the world that eventually will be Muslim. There is no such thing as a permanent peace between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. Bygones are not bygones. Eventually, you may have a temporary truce – that’s what Muhammad did in 628 at a place called Hudaybiyyah – where he was weak and he made a truce with his enemies for 10 years. The 10 years ended after 2 years when he was strong enough to continue the war. There is an eternal battle between the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world. So Europe is part of the non-Islamic world, which is in the process of becoming part of the Muslim world.
Lenny Ben-David: I’ve seen an ISIS magazine that has on its cover the Vatican.
Harold Rhode: Yes, of course!
Lenny Ben-David: Why “of course”?
Harold Rhode: Because from their point of view religion is the basis of identity, and it’s true actually in the West, although we may not want to understand it that way. Now, what is the center of the Muslim world as far as they’re concerned?
Lenny Ben-David: I assume it’s Mecca or Cairo?
Harold Rhode: No, sorry, what is the center of the Christian world, the non-Muslim world?
Lenny Ben-David: From their perspective it is where the Crusaders were sent from, and that’s the Catholic capital.
Harold Rhode: So if they capture the Vatican, they’ve captured the Christian world from a Western point of view. It’ll take some time.
See, in the West we’re obsessed with time: we buy it, we spend it, we talk about it in economic terms. They have patience. In Arabic, in Turkish, in Persian, they use the Arabic word ‘sabr,’ which means patience; “wait, eventually the whole world is going to be Muslim. And just take your time, and us good Muslims will go and take over, we’ll slowly get into different places, we’re going to take over everywhere.” Now, we in the West may think otherwise, but I’m seeing that the West doesn’t seem to believe in itself anymore. The churches in Europe are empty; on the coasts of the United States they’re basically empty. The middle of America, what the self-appointed elite of the United States on the East and West coasts have called ‘the flyover zone,’ the churches, thank God, are still full. And they’re the ones who understand that the Islamic culture, not the Islamic religion per se, religion is just a small part of Islamic culture, they’re the ones who basically want to take over the whole world and they want to stand up against it. Maybe the establishment in Washington is, in some ways, very post-American, and same as on the West coast. But the American people in the ‘flyover zones’, they are very very strongly committed to their identity and they’re good Christians. The more that they are Christians, the more there is a chance for the West to stand up against the onslaught of Islam, which is, as I said before, in the process of taking over the entire world.
Lenny Ben-David: Harold Rhode, thank you very much.