Robert Spencer’s “Cut and Paste” Scholarship

Robert Spencer calls himself a “scholar of Islam”, but the more one delves into his “scholarship,” the more one realizes that he is anything but. In a recent post about a truly shocking news report from Saudi Arabia, Spencer begins by saying, “It’s in the Qur’an…”

It’s in the Qur’an: “We ordained therein for them: ‘Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.’ But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers.” — Qur’an 5:45

Now you will tell me, “Wait a minute, Spencer, that’s in the Hebrew Scriptures, too.” So often I hear that the Bible and the Qur’an are equivalent in their messages — something that only someone who hasn’t read either one could say. But in any case, it’s true: “an eye for an eye” appears in Exodus 21:22-25, Leviticus 24:19-21, and Deuteronomy 19:21. However, this phrase has always been understood in Judaism as limiting excessive vengeance, not encouraging it, and has never been taken in Jewish tradition as being a warrant for maiming anyone. It is likewise limited in Christianity by Jesus’ statement: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38-39).

But in Islam, the literal force of the Qur’anic passage is paramount.

He then goes on to quote the news report from Saudia Arabia, and then ends his post by writing: “So there’s no discussion of whether it is cruel and unusual punishment. After all, it’s in the Qur’an.”

His disdain for Islam is palpable, and that disdain colors his “scholarship.” Take the verse he quoted, 5:45. The way Spencer introduces the verse, you would think that this “eye for and eye” principle came from the Qur’an. Yet, in this verse, the Qur’an was talking about the principle that was laid down in the Biblical scriptures: Read the verse again:

We ordained therein for them: ‘Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.’ But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers.”

Who is the “them” in the verse? Spencer makes the reader think that the “them” refers to Muslims. In context, however, one realizes that the verse is actually talking about the Jewish people:

Verily, it is We who bestowed from on high the Torah, wherein there was guidance and light. On `its strength did the prophets, who had surrendered themselves unto God, deliver judgment unto those who followed the Jewish faith; and so did the [early] men of God and the rabbis, inasmuch as some of God’s writ had been entrusted to their care; and they [all] bore witness to its truth. Therefore, [O children of Israel,] hold not men in awe, but stand in awe of Me; and do not barter away My messages for a trifling gain: for they who do not judge in accordance with what God has bestowed from on high are, indeed, deniers of the truth!

And We ordained for them in that [Torah]: A life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and a [similar] retribution for wounds; but he who shall forgo it out of charity will atone thereby for some of his past sins. And they who do not judge in accordance with what God has revealed – they, they are the evildoers! (Quran 5:44-45)

Of course, Spencer “the scholar” will not mention this at all. Now, Spencer does admit that this “eye for an eye” principle is in the Bible, but he quickly seeks to qualify their meaning:

But in any case, it’s true: “an eye for an eye” appears in Exodus 21:22-25, Leviticus 24:19-21, and Deuteronomy 19:21. However, this phrase has always been understood in Judaism as limiting excessive vengeance, not encouraging it, and has never been taken in Jewish tradition as being a warrant for maiming anyone.

But, Spencer gives no such allowance for Islam:

But in Islam, the literal force of the Qur’anic passage is paramount.

Yet, read the verse again, and it becomes clear that it actually encourages forgiveness:

But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself.

Isn’t that exactly the same as what Spencer says about Jewish tradition? Doesn’t this verse seek to “limit excessive vengeance,” or even any vengeance at all? Sure it does, but Spencer will never admit to this.

This same principle of forgiveness is found in the other Qur’anic verse about retribution (emphasis mine):

O YOU who have attained to faith! Just retribution is ordained for you in cases of killing: the free for the free, and the slave for the slave, and the woman for the woman. But if the culprit is pardoned by his aggrieved brother, then restitution to his fellow man shall be made in a goodly manner. This is an alleviation from your Lord and an act of mercy. (Quran, 2:178)

Again, the verse extols the virtue of forgiveness. But, Spencer will never tell you this. His hatred for Islam is so blinding, that he can’t even see the weakness of his own arguments. And they call him a “scholar”?

37 thoughts on “Robert Spencer’s “Cut and Paste” Scholarship

  1. I suggest Spencer should read the book “Religion and the Death Penalty” and look at the section on Islam, where a very strong case is made that the death penalty is strongly discouraged, even in cases of murder.

  2. Is anyone actually tipping Spencer off via his contact form or e-mail address that the floor is being wiped with him and his “work”? This is pure gold, sure, but it’s not worth its full value if it passes by Spencer unnoticed..

    Be warned though, that buffoon is a human spambot when replying to mails.

  3. Pingback: Robert Spencer’s “Cut and Paste” Scholarship | Islamophobia Today eNewspaper

    • Islamophobes wouldn’t consider that positive news. They would spin the story.

      Just like when Robert Spencer reported that Muslims were ready to spread Shariah law because a Michigan high school football team practiced after Iftar during Ramadan. The coach and all but one player were all Muslims. Spencer claimed that the Muslims were discriminating against the one non-Muslim team member and were discouraging non-Muslims from joining the team by imposing Islamic law.

      Its quite funny because the Associated Press reported it as a ‘feel good’ outreach story. But Spencer obviously didn’t take it that way.

    • Menj, I sent Spencer this story on influential Muslim scholars from India condemning terrorism and violence, saying that it’s not in Islam’s name.

      Spencer’s take on it? They are too vague, probably mean terrorism against Muslims while secretly supporting terrorism from Muslims, and that generally scholars decrying terrorism is nothing of significance.

      Stinking hypocrite..

  4. Great piece Inconnu!!

    I am loving your work. I second Sphinx, the full value of this work can not be appreciated unless Spencer sees it and goes ballistic, lol, which I believe he is but he is staying silent on it all.

    I would recommend contacting the people on the left, people who have commented on Spencer in the past and showing them this site. They would absolutely love it and may (actually should) use it as a resource in the future.

  5. Ummm…can someone tell me what happened to loonwatch? It looks like it was taken over by some emos 🙁

    Looks like someone is fighting for “freedom of speech” in the same way Wilders is.

    • I can access LoonWatch fine, so probably the hack was fixed by now. To prevent future hacks, always make sure that you have the latest version of WordPress running.

  6. Oh no! Our precious LW has been hacked!! 🙁

    Any news from Danios and Co. yet?? I am worried for this site too…

    Those Islamophobic thugs have gone too far…

  7. ***Isn’t that exactly the same as what Spencer says about Jewish tradition? Doesn’t this verse seek to “limit excessive vengeance,” or even any vengeance at all? Sure it does, but Spencer will never admit to this.***

    Errr, not really.

    An eye for an eye is simply interpreted in Rabbinic Judaism differently than it is in Islam, as Spencer was clear to point out.

    To use an example, if the Koran and Hebrew Bible said a cow for a cow, Jewish scholars would interpret the passage as meaning that the ‘plaintiff’ should be compensated for his loss.

    That is, the aggrieved party will receive be compensated for how much the cow cost, ‘the price of a cow for a cow’.

    Islam allows for a literal interpretation. Even going so far as saying a ‘slave for a slave’, ‘woman for a woman’, etc.

    The ruling we saw the Saudi judge issue was totally compatible with Islamic law. Crowing on about ‘but, forgiveness is also allowed, waaaah, sniff sniff’, misses the obvious point that most Westerners are feeling.

    But I won’t spell that point out for you. You’ll have to figure it out yourself.

    • It’s easy for Spencer to spin things the way he wants, since he just uses moderate interpretations of the Bible and extreme interpretations of the Qur’an to compare and contrast, and then say “See? Islam is such and such”. It’s very disingenuous and unscholarly.

      It is especially disingenuous here, since the Qur’an in this case, mentions this “eye for an eye” thing as being in the Torah. So how exactly is it supposed to mean something different where it’s in the Torah, from where the Qur’an says it’s in the Torah?

      Of course, an objective and fair approach is the very antithesis to Spencer’s whole career, which begins and ends with misrepresenting the worst, most base, extreme (and sometimes outright false) interpretation of Islam as being the “true Islam” and “representative of all Muslims”.

      If he’s going to reference contemporary examples, he should at least have the decency to pick one that all (or at least most) Muslims actually hold to be correct.

        • Well, Spencer, the Chicken, Why do you [Spencer :)] interpret the Qur’an with a literal approach and not the Torah?
          I guess because you are a Chicken :).
          Don’t tell me you are not Spencer.

        • Whatever “interpretations” he cites that agrees with his argument. Then of course, he ignores and dismisses the ones that don’t. This is known as “cherry-picking”, just like you “cherry-pick” what you want to respond to. Spencer doesn’t have a case otherwise.

          None of his work stands up to any real scrutiny, as we can clearly see on this site and at loonwatch.com . He has no objective support. All of his supporters would have the same attitudes they do without him. He’s just an excuse for them to hide their empty hatred, bigotry and prejudices behind.

          • I don’t cherry-pick which posts to respond to.

            Since we’re posting under the Iron Curtain, what posts are shown are at the discretion of Dear Leader.

            As for critical reviews, would Danios’ quote mining scholarship stand up to scrutiny ?

          • I think the rules for posting here have been quite clearly established. If you don’t know them, you should take the time to find out what they are before you start thinking you can post whatever you feel like. They apply to everyone.

            It’s certainly more open to posts than Spencer’s site is, which doesn’t allow any posts criticizing his religion (which there is a lot to say about). Talk about an “iron curtain”, that has hypocrisy written all over it too.

            And even though Danios doesn’t call himself a scholar, what he’s posted would certainly stand up to far more objective scrutiny than anything by the self-proclaimed “scholar” Spencer. Danios’ work at least can stand up to cross-examination. Spencer’s work can’t even do that.

    • “Islam allows for a literal interpretation…..The ruling we saw the Saudi judge issue was totally compatible with Islamic law. Crowing on about ‘but, forgiveness is also allowed, waaaah, sniff sniff’, misses the obvious point that most Westerners are feeling.”

      Unfortunately for you, if that claim of yours were true then such incidents like this one would not have been ruled by a judge in Saudi Arabia. There are many more examples like these out there.

      At least you are right about one thing. The judge in the above link did rule exactly as Islamic laws allows for, i.e. compassion and forgiveness is given to the accused. In the man-made laws called the (so-called) civil law, the man would have been hanged or gone to prison anyway, regardless whether the family forgives him or not. That is the justice of Islamic law, something which your highly-valued “secular laws” can never provide.

      Instead of learning about Islam and the Sharia’ from bigoted Islamophobes like Robert Spencer, get a life and read about Islam from authentic Muslim sources and scholars. There are tons of such references online, whether it is on P2P networks or bittorrent networks. But I sense that people like you are like instant noodles….all soaked up about Islam but have no real knowledge to speak about it!

  8. Spencer… Why don’t you post under your real name…

    I challenge you to explain how “eye for an eye” in Hebrew means go to the optician and buy me a glass eye and “eye for an eye” in Arabic is literal and so the other’s eye is to be gouged out. Islam makes it clear that forgiveness is IDEAL and is charity. This is not made clear in Jewish law. Some Jewish laws are imported into Islam and whilst Jews have gone astray (Hence their woes throughout History), Muslims still maintain the true law of God.

    The fact is that the Saudi authorities should be encouraging the man to forgive and accept compensation as allowed by Islamic law and not embarass themselves in front of the world.

  9. Isn’t “An Eye for an Eye” part of the code of Hammurabi? That was created in 1790 BC. If someone already mentioned it sorry…

  10. “What Christian Terrorism” Says Robert Spencer?

    Hmmm how about a Catholic Priest, one of the leaders of the IRA who bombed Claudy NI in 1972 killing 9 people.
    But, of course Spencer will say that the civil war in Northern Ireland, as he has done, was Sectarian and not religious. Kind of like the opposite to the war in Kosovo, which ran along the same lines between sectarian and religious but Spencer conveniently ignores the sectarian part of the Kosovan war as it involves Muslims.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11061296

  11. JihadBob (more likely Spencer), how come a liberal interpretation of the Torah is the correct one while a liberal interpretation of the Koran is not?

    Also, here are some words from your idol, Samuel Huntington…
    “I don’t think Islam is any more violent than any other religions, and I suspect if you added it all up, more people have been slaughtered by Christians over the centuries than by Muslims”

    • Who said that a liberal interpretation of the Koran wasn’t correct ?

      Geez, try and bone up. This story materialized after an actual ruling where the Saudis decided to paralyze a man based on how they interpreted the Koran.

      If Muslims decide to throw away Sharia law or reinterpret it for modern times, then I’m all for it.

      After all, I’m not a Muslim who tries to tell other people how they should be practicing their religions by proof texting scripture.

      Good grief, man.

  12. Please don’t accuse commentors of their actual identity. I’m sorry but it just sounds immature :/ love this new site, I always admired the format of jihadwatch and I’m glad you could adopt it also.

  13. As JihadBob (aka Spencer) has proven, Islamophobes are mentally incapable of judging Islam by the same standard they judge “Judeo-Christianity”.

  14. Pingback: Robert Spencer: Was the Cabbie Attack Faked? | Spencer Watch

  15. Hey, glad someone has done this. Robert is an affront to academia and the very values he claims to defend. I mean the flaws, double standards, deception and hypocrisy in what he says are so easy to see and his argument so easy to defeat, which is why he relies so heavily on BUZZ words and CHARACTER ASSASSINATION. And also when he goes on FOX News their very selective about who he goes up against and even then the presenter usually sides with Spencer and it becomes like two bullies in the playground teasing the kid that cant speak English to well. Would love to see him go against Tariq Ramadan, Dr Zakir Naik etc and get destroyed. Another thing he does is he goes up against those passive ” Islam means peace” kinda people, then all he has to do is show one violent verse out of the Quran and his won, like, would love to see him go against someone who explains it properly both theologically and in historically and modern practice. Does piss me off when I hear him say things and I think of an answer and hope the guy his debating will say it instead the guy comes up with a defensive avoiding the question statement which then give Spencer the victory. But, I have written many emails to him and he usually answers with insults, my emails are usually respectful and just go along the line of hey “u said this” “but, what about that” etc and I try to argue a post he will blog with reason, logic and fact and usually he responds with insults. Yet, when he receives vile, inarticulate emails from some guy in Timbuktu then he will put it on his blog as an example of uneducated email.

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