Recently the American Library Association & the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Roundtable was to hold a discussion around the topic of Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping. For all intents and purposes the forthcoming discussion seemed very promising. It would confront and discuss the important issue of stereotypical portrayals of Islam and all that is associated with it such as myths and smears.
The program ran into trouble when without the knowledge of the other panelists, and seemingly without any sort of vetting, the ALA invited a well known anti-Islam and anti-Muslim blogger and writer — Robert Spencer. To say the least this made more than a few people scratch their heads. How could a reputable organization invite a well known Islamophobe who traffics in perpetuating stereotypes to speak at an event that is supposed to go beyond stereotypes?
To understand just how strange this was just imagine if the ALA had invited David Duke as a speaker on matters of race, say on a panel discussing the topic Perspectives on Race: Beyond Stereotyping. Does anyone believe he would be invited?
This was the very reason that a group of librarians, scholars and individuals sent a letter to the ALA protesting the inclusion of Robert Spencer on the panel. In it they detail their reasons and their apprehension at the severe lapse of judgment and error on the part of the ALA,
Even the most cursory overview of Mr. Spencer’s oeuvre makes it clear that in fact he has no place on a panel whose aim is to dispel stereotypes about Islam. Indeed, we, as librarians, scholars, and individuals are deeply concerned by ALA & EMIERT’s choice of Mr. Spencer for such a panel: Mr. Spencer espouses a view of Islam as a system of belief which is essentially violent, undemocratic, totalitarian, exclusive and at war with all non-Muslims. Mr. Spencer in fact goes as far as to equate Islam with fascism. According to him,
The misbegotten term “Islamo-fascism” is wholly redundant: Islam itself is a kind of fascism that achieves its full and proper form only when it assumes the powers of the state.” (www.jihadwatch.com/islam101)
Hence a question arises as to the justification for inviting a speaker who cannot see anything positive about Islamic beliefs, cultures, societies, histories, etc. to talk to an audience in order to dispel negative views of Islam. We are indeed saddened and puzzled by ALA’s choice for their panel, especially in that this appears to be a rare opportunity to educate people about Islam against the backdrop of an overwhelming atmosphere of ignorance, and negative stereotyping.
The open letter to the ALA resulted in the other three panelists withdrawing their participation in protest against the inclusion of Robert Spencer who they only learned was going to be a part of the panel a few days ago. This resulted eventually in the ALA canceling the event.
This cancellation served as a continuing repudiation of Spencer by scholars and his growing inability to cross over into the mainstream. Increasingly, Spencer’s voice is limited to the echo chamber that is the cottage industry of Islam-bashing which contains such “luminaries” as Debbie Schlussel, Brigitte Gabriel, and Andrew Bostom (!).
In response to being outed by the academics and librarians Spencer wrote a usual shrill diatribe in which he attacked his former friend Charles Johnson, CAIR and accused the ALA of “caving-in” to pressure. Yet by responding it seems Spencer has just dug himself further in a hole that leaves him wide open to further accusations, of at the very least, brazenly supporting loony anti-Muslimism and Islamophobia.
This is all the more revealing in light of a recent comment on Loonwatch from an obvious Spencer fan by the name of John Jackson on a post about Debbie Schlussel. In it Jackson agrees with another commenter Sami and says, “You do a great disservice to Robert Spencer by lumping him in with Debbie Schlussel as ‘Islamophobes’. Schlussel goes off the deep end frequently. I have never seen Spencer do the same.”
It may be true (though I don’t think so) that Spencer doesn’t go off the deep end “frequently” but he does go off the deep end — a lot. Also he takes issue with Spencer being lumped in with the likes of Schlussel, but why not? The only difference between Debbie Schlussel and Robert Spencer is that Debbie doesn’t hide her hate and vitriol against Muslims or Islam nor does she attempt to couch it in an air of objectivity. Furthermore, it wasn’t Loonwatch that first lumped Spencer in with Schlussel but the excellent report produced by FAIR titled Smearcasters.
In Spencer’s response to ALA’s cancellation he lashed out against Smearcasters and to the chagrin of John Jackson he didn’t qualify his attack by saying that some of the profiled such as Debbie Schlussel go off the “deep end frequently” or that Debbie was a “retard” as Sami wrote, instead he defended them saying, “In reality, the “Smearcasters” report was a political hit piece on an array of the opponents of CAIR and its allied groups.”
For Spencer those profiled by Smearcasters were the victims of a “hit piece” on mere “opponents of CAIR and its allied groups.” Yes, nothing to do with their hate and bigotry Spencer! This is nothing less than an indirect endorsement of all those in the report, and so it is not us lumping in Spencer with what Spencer supporter Sami called “retards” but Spencer himself.
In the same response Spencer further goes after CAIR and defends his alliance with Geert Wilders, the controversial and fascist European politician stating,
CAIR’s Honest Ibe Hooper doesn’t have to resort to such circumlocutions. I didn’t actually have anything to do with that conference in Florida, but Hoop could just say straight out that I support Wilders. And so should anyone who holds dear the Western values that are threatened by Islamic supremacists — notably, as I said above, the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, the equality of rights of all people before the law.
There it is straight from his pen and that’s why Spencer keeps digging himself a hole. His support for Geert Wilders is his downfall because any objective and thorough understanding of Geert Wilders, what he has said and what he represents will prove the lie to the claim made by Spencer that he cares about Democratic freedoms and Rights because if he did he wouldn’t support Wilders and company.
Wilders is on record stating that religious freedom, a cornerstone of the foundation of modern democracies everywhere should not apply to Muslims,
Islam is not a religion… the Quran is a book that calls for hatred, that calls for violence, for murder, for terrorism, for war, and submission…We should also stop pretending that Islam is a religion…the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam.
This is not the only place that Wilders has made this statement he has repeated it to roaring applause at Synagogues and conferences.
It is unbelievable that Spencer would now attempt to posit himself as an objective academic researching and writing on Islam when he unabashedly “supports” odious and reprehensible individuals such as Geert Wilders. Who can take Spencer’s grandiose claim seriously that he is fighting for the freedom of speech, freedom of conscious, indeed for Western civilization itself against “Islamic supremacism” when he supports and calls on us to support one who would infringe on the right of individuals to freely practice their faith.
What can you expect though from one who joined a group that aimed for a reconquista of modern day Turkey, forcibly replacing its Muslim population with a Christian one?