The book The Sword of the Prophet written by Dr. Serge (a.k.a. Srdja) Trifkovic of Serbian extract, is similar to many such post-Cold War era books (written by pseudo-experts like Judith Miller & Co.) that are written to keep alive the perceived “threat” of Islam before our eyes, while guaranteeing themselves profitable fees, consultancies, recurrent appearances in TV and lucrative book contracts. To these bunch of bigoted, eavesdropping, lying and self-promoting journalists, in these days, especially after 9/11, there is no better and easier way to draw attention and sell books than to demean and dehumanize Muslims and Islam. It does not take too much insight to find common grounds that motivates these bigots.
I think it is important to know who they are and from what background they emerge in order to judge the value of their contribution and to understand the quality of their thoughts and ideas. A scrutiny of their educational background would reveal that these hate-writers do not have any expertise in Islam. What binds them together is a common hatred for Islam and Muslims.
Serge Trifkovic, a graduate of the University of Southampton, UK, is identified as one who pursued a post-doctoral research at the Hoover Institution, CA, and then worked as a TV broadcaster and later as a journalist covering southeast Europe for the U.S. News & World Report and Washington Post. He is a frequent contributor and, since 1998, foreign affairs editor to the Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, where his Serbian ultra-nationalistic stand is easily discernible. It is not clear if he had visited any Muslim country, outside his native Serbia in former Yugoslavia, a state that was guilty of ethnic cleansing of Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims. His field of study had nothing to do with either the people or the religion that he writes about in his hate-book The Sword of the Prophet. Yet his ignorance did not dissuade him from venting his venom against Muslims in this spiteful and inaccurate work.
What qualifies Trifkovic as an “expert” on Islam today? In the Foreword to his book, he himself confesses of his hatred or as he mildly puts it “lack of a priori admiration” for Islam. As one may also recall, during the genocide of Muslims in the Balkans, he tried to defend the case for his murderous Serbian leader — now being tried for crimes against humanity in The Hague. While the whole world saw the savagery of the Serbian Christians against unarmed Muslims in Bosnia, he blamed the victim Muslims by stating that the latter had brought it down upon themselves through “self-inflicted atrocities and stage-managed massacres.”
It is said that falsehood oft repeated achieves the veneer of truth and some are sure to swallow it. Trifkovic’s The Sword of the Prophet is a typical example of such an attempt at disseminating falsehood with doggedness and cruelty. A collection of lies and half-truths, many fuzzy facts, quite a few obsolete and unreliable sources and mindless anecdotes, and a plethora of imagination and false interpretation, therefore, forms the nucleus material for the above work. His hate-book demonstrates his belief that, in the post-Milosevic era, it has fallen on shoulders of ultra-nationalist Serbian zealots like him to carry the mantle of Milosevic, Karadzic & their gang of sub-human brutes to finish their yet unfinished business through misinformation campaign what the half-decade long extermination campaign could not achieve physically in the battle field. It is no wonder that in this endeavor he is aided by all the bigots – from the pujaris of Hindutva (who want to cleanse India of non-Hindu minorities) to Zionists (who want to justify the annexation of entire Palestine by uprooting Palestinians) — as is reflected in several websites belonging to these latter hate-groups which routinely post his lies and distortions. Truly, the fascists, racists and bigots have discovered a prized comrade in their common crusade.
In order to assess Islam and the Muslim world, areas that are unfamiliar to him, Trifkovic uses the writings of discredited journalists and ex-Muslims — whose motivation was nothing honorable either. Such arguments hardly carry any conviction. Truly, the work epitomizes his intolerance against Islam and Muslims, and in that process reveals nothing but his ‘anti-Muslim paranoia and bigotry’. He quotes his peers like Judith Miller and Ibn Warraq voraciously in his book. Because that is the level of his learning or education on the subject he dared write about.
Let us look now at Miller’s work itself that Trifkovic uses. I shall try to be brief in my analysis here since I personally do not see the merit to a more comprehensive criticism of her work (or that of Ibn Warraq). For those interested in a more comprehensive report, they may consider reading the book reviews by scholars of repute. I personally liked the book review by Prof. Edward Said of Columbia University, NY.
Books like Judith Miller’s “God has ninety-nine names” are symptomatic because, as Prof. Edward Said of Columbia University had rightly pointed out, they are “weapons in the contest to subordinate, beat down, compel and defeat any Arab and Muslim resistance to U.S.-Israeli dominance.” In her book, Miller shows her pro-Israeli, pro-Phalangist (a fascist organization) bias against the uprooted Palestinians. She disdains facts. She prefers quoting endless talks to justify the marauding activities of the Israeli apartheid government and the U.S. support of it. Israel’s war against civilians is simply buried in reams of chatter. Despite her knowledge of violent activities by right-wing Jewish fanatics, she deliberately omitted their murderous acts and promised, instead, to write a book on right-wing Judaism in Israel. It has already been more than six years; still we have not seen that book and probably never will.
And when did Miller became an “expert” on Islam? Truly, her work resembles the work of a name-dropping university student, who begins with an anecdote and then moves to a potted history. She cites unreliable sources that cannot be verified. Her footnotes only prove her ignorance, lamentable prejudices and failures of comprehension. In her summary on the life of the Prophet of Islam, she does not quote one Muslim source, – none of the classical biographies of the Prophet. I wonder if Simon & Schuster, her publisher, would allow a book on Jesus or Moses that does not make a single mention of Christian or Judaic authority. But such pseudo-scholarship, hate literatures are now kosher when it comes to Islam. One wonders what are we coming to in this age?
Miller’s book is full of interviews with whole bunch of self-serving scoundrels that are not too convincing for any objective minded reader. Her use of phrase “my friend” (a few hundred times), rather than convincing her readers, puts them off the track through long digression that follows. And even when she manages to cite certain names, she misidentifies their religion. These lapses in her account would not have been so bad if she was not bent on revealing her intimacy with those individuals. She talks about Jews and their suffering but does not mention Jewish beliefs and laws against the goyim, the rabbinical sanctioned practices of killing, demolitions, deportations, land confiscations, annexation, etc.
After reading her book, one wonders why she truly wrote this book? After all, she confesses that she dislikes all the Arab countries for one reason or another. She does not mention a single thing she loves about the people she wrote about. Arabs have a quality to be open, welcoming, to think well of others, to be hospitable and courteous to their guests. She seldom has a good word for their hospitality. She neither had the nobility to return the courtesy shown to her nor the decency to respect truth and to be as impartial as possible in her evaluation of Muslims. Truly, hers is an epitome of betrayal of trust. Her book is a pathetic display of a deeply partisan journalist, a hostile combatant, who does not and cannot communicate with the people she writes about – the common mass, listen to their conversation, read their books, listen to their music. Yet she has no problem poking fun at the people she met, the history and culture of a place that to her is one long saga of jumbled rage and resonance. In summary, as Prof. Said correctly pointed out, Miller is a shallow and highly-opinionated journalist whose voluminous work is unnecessarily too long and short on facts, analysis, structure and reflection.
What has been stated above about Miller’s book is equally applicable for Trifkovic’s book since the latter copies her blindly. He often uses sources that are dubious. Many of his comments on Islam and the Muslim world are provocative, scornful and provide a philosophy for religious bigotry. His analysis on matters pertaining to Islamic faith lacks scholarship and sensitivity, and is based on innuendo and false interpretation. The Qur’an, which is revered by more than a billion Muslims, deserves greater respect than he is willing to concede. For example, in his discussion around whether Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians, he demonstrates his total lack of comprehension and narrow mindedness. He has no problems subscribing to Trinity, a notion which for the past two millennia the Church itself had difficulty in explaining logically not only because of its confusing nature, but has problems with the simple, logical and uncompromising monotheism in Islam, a doctrine that is equally shared among the Jews (see Deut. 6:4).
Trifkovic tactfully forgets to share with us the fact that the concept of Trinity is nowhere propounded within the so-called Old Testament and that Jews also reject the concept of original sin and vicarious atonement – concepts that they find repugnant and arguably pagan in origin. His cynicism reveals his blatant Orthodox Christian leanings. In the Mosaic story about Samiri, who lured the Children of Israel into cow worship, he confuses Samiri with the Samaritans, who, according to the Biblical narrative, were implanted into Samaria after the Assyrian conquest (in the 8th century BCE). In his jaundiced view, he fails to see the similarity in how child Moses (Ar. Musa) was cared for in his infancy (Exodus 2:1-9). He doubts the Islamic version of sacrifice of Ishmael (Ar. Isma’il), but has no problem in accepting the Hebrew Biblical version in Gen. 22:2, where it states, “Take thy son, thine only son Isaac.” How is Isaac the only son of Abraham when he was born 14 years later than Ishmael (see Gen. 21:5, 17:25, 16:3)?
Trifkovic’s knowledge of history is equally defective. While he had no problem deflating the Bosnian Muslim casualty, he had no qualms inflating casualty figures when the victims were non-Muslims. If his sources were reliable, one could accept such, but he provides not a single credible source and chooses propaganda materials from websites that are managed by bigoted non-Muslim fundamentalists who are on a revisionist mode of their own now to alter historical facts, in order to justify their religious-cleansing activities against Muslim minorities.
…they established in the world a great tradition of dignified fair dealing, they breathe a spirit of generosity, and they are human and workable. They created a society more free from widespread cruelty and social oppression than any society had ever been in the world before.
H. G. Wells in The Outline of History, Garden City Books, NY, (1961), p. 484
Writing about Islam, he further states,
It (Islam) was full of the spirit of kindliness, generosity and brotherhood; it was a simple and understandable religion….Against it were pitted Judaism, which had made a racial hoard of God; Christianity, talking and preaching endlessly now of trinities, doctrines, and heresies no ordinary man could make head or tail of; and Mazdaism, the cult of the Zoroastrian Magi, who had inspired the crucifixion of Mani.
ibid., p. 485
Of the Mughal rule in India, Wells says,
…(Mogul dynasty) marks the most splendid age that had hitherto dawned upon India.
ibid., p. 577
Mahatma Gandhi said:
I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind? I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.
Statement published in Young India (1924)
Sir George Bernard Shaw wrote:
I have studied him (Muhammad) ? the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Savior of Humanity.
The Genuine Islam, Vol. 1, no. 8 (1936)
James Michener wrote,
No other religion in history spread so rapidly as Islam. The West has widely believed that this surge of religion was made possible by the sword. But no modern scholar accepts this idea.
James Michener, Islam: The Misunderstood Religion, Reader’s Digest, May 1955, pp. 68-70.
Writing about Islamic civilization, Bertrand Russell stated:
From India to Spain, the brilliant civilization of Islam flourished. What was lost to Christendom at this time (699-1000) was not lost to civilization, but quite the contrary.
Bertrand Russell in History of Western Philosophy, London, 1948, p. 419.
Trifkovic, in short, is typical of the cynical anti-Muslim hawks. His book is trash and falls under the category of hate-books. It implants prejudice and harvests hatred. Naturally, in the aftermath of 9/11 his capacity as a “pen-pusher” has endeared him among Muslim-haters and Islam-bashers. We learn from history that fascism is always preceded by carefully concocted ideological distortions. It is writings like these that make our world more divided than ever before.
Books of this kind do not belong to the shelves of serious researchers except those who are searching for dirt and filth. Truly, if one were to search for such materials, there is no shortage of such in any community.