In a striking departure from his typical Islamophobic rhetoric, far-right leader and media personality Steve Bannon has actually praised Islam in a new book about his life.
"It’s a path to enlightenment or a path to God ... just like Judaism’s got its path, just like Christianity’s got its path," Bannon says in the book, according to Newsweek. "It’s not for anybody to determine what path an individual takes.”
The former top advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump also speaks highly of Sufism, a mystical sect of Islam, as well as the idea of an "eternal struggle" promoted among Muslims.
Bannon also appears to shift dramatically from previous anti-Muslim rhetoric, saying: "We're not enemies of Islam," going on to refer to it as a "major, great religion in the world."
Written by journalist Keith Koffler, the new book – titled Bannon: Always the Rebel – is based on 10 hours of interviews with the Breitbart News chairman. It will be released to the public on Nov. 13.
However, despite Bannon's strangely positive words regarding Islam, he also touches on his more hardline positions. He compares radical extremist Islam to communism, saying it must be crushed as it is a global threat.
Bannon, who is considered a pioneer of the Alt-Right movement – a Western white supremacist political movement – has been proudly outspoken with his criticism of Islam in the past. As an advisor to Trump, Bannon is believed to have been a key figure in pushing for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
In January, Bannon referred to Islam as "the most radical" religion in the world, suggesting the U.S. is in a major civilizational struggle with the Muslim world, according to USA Today.
Through his radio show and Breitbart News, he has also given a platform to numerous Islamophobic individuals and ideas.
In the past, Bannon has piled criticism on former U.S. President George W. Bush for saying that "Islam is a religion of peace." He responded to Bush's comments by saying: "Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission," according to CNN.
Bannon also previously said that Islam has not transitioned to modernity.
"It is very evident when you look at Islam, it has not had its meeting with the Enlightenment. It has not had that transition to modernity. Aspects of it ... are quite radical and quite radical in proselytizing, where no other religion can be accepted," he said.
"You don't see ... enforcement of radical forms of Christianity," he added.
While Bannon's argument is popular among far-right leaders and supporters, it ignores the existence of extremist Buddhist movements in Asia and brutal Christian militias in Africa, both of which target and slaughter other groups. Hindu extremists in India also frequently target and kill Muslims.
Bannon's comments in the new book likely represent a more nuanced explanation of his extremist views, as opposed to a major transition in thought.
However, Bannon has also recently shown his admiration for Saudi Arabia, expressing that he is impressed with the rapid changes happening in the kingdom. He also said Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia in May was "important for the Muslim world. It was important for the Arab world. It was important to show that the United States is fully engaged," according to The Intercept.
“If you look at Saudi Arabia, they’ve had a pretty big fundamental change since the summit,” Bannon said.