When I first read Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) a couple years ago, I knew I could not just refute it but (proverbially speaking) blow it out of the water. After I penned my first few articles against it, I also knew that Spencer could not issue any substantive reply. Soon, I began to detect fear in Spencer’s eyes. It is no wonder then that he has refused to debate me for so long. I have documented Spencer’s evasion here.
Yet, Robert Spencer is also keenly aware of the fact that his refusal to debate the one site that is dedicated to refuting him–and was voted by his “target population” to be the number #1 non-Muslim blog with the number #1 writer–makes his fear obvious to the world. When his fear of debating me was pointed out in a recent Twitter war, Spencer finally agreed to debate me. (Of course, in true Spencer fashion, he accused us of “lying” when we said that he had been refusing to debate us for almost two years.)
Even so, I had predicted–as had many others–that Spencer would try to weasel his way out of the debate. Lo and behold, this now seems to be the case.
Initially, Spencer sent me an email saying “[t]here needs to be a thesis…So propose one.” I proposed the following thesis: Islam is more violent than other religions, specifically Judaism and Christianity. This is not only the central argument in Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) but is also the title of another book of his: Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t.
Yet, Spencer emailed me back and said:
Actually, I am not interested in debating about Judaism and Christianity. I am only interested in debating regarding Islam and Jihad.
Spencer, the title of your book is a comparison between Christianity and Islam. So, are you saying that you can’t defend the central tenet and title of your book!?
He goes on:
Your tu quoque arguments are silly and have had abundant airing already. Propose another.
When you write a book titled “Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t”, then to you that’s a valid comparison, but when someone refutes that comparison by pointing out how Christianity, by the very same standards you apply to Islam, couldn’t be considered a “religion of peace,” then you cry “tu quoque”!
If my arguments “are silly,” then why don’t you debate me on them and show me how silly they are? Do you accept my counter-argument that “Judaism and Christianity are just as violent as Islam, if not more so”? If yes, then please state it openly so that we can declare victory and move on; otherwise, if you disagree with it, then refute it in debate with me.
The entire premise of Spencer’s book, the one I have been refuting all along, is the thesis I have proposed. It represents the fundamental difference of opinion I have with Robert Spencer and JihadWatch, so why should we debate something else? Does Spencer think we should debate on just any topic? Maybe we can debate the following thesis then: Arrested Development should never have been canceled because it is the single best comedy show ever.
I have never said or believed that the Islamic tradition does not have its violent aspects to it. I have only argued that Islam is not alone in this and that the religious tradition of the dominant group (the Judeo-Christian tradition) is just as bad in this regard, if not worse. That is my central argument, so why should we debate something else?
To be clear: I will only debate this thesis (Islam is more violent than other religions, specifically Judaism and Christianity) and no other, since (1) it is the central tenet of Robert Spencer’s book and (2) it represents the fundamental difference I have with him. The fact that Robert Spencer cannot defend his central tenet (and the fundamental difference between us) indicates that he knows he doesn’t stand a chance in defending the thesis. That’s why he must insist on “propos[ing] another.”
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Additionally, there is an issue regarding “venue.” He has suggested we debate on ABN SAT–a Christian channel. Ludicrously, he calls them “neutral,” even though the channel airs a show (the one Spencer debated on) called Jihad Exposed, with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeah, real “neutral.”
I had earlier complained that Spencer tends to debate only on Christian or conservative channels, to which Spencer accused me of “lying.” In any case, he asked that I propose another venue other than ABN and in the same email adamantly stated: “I will debate anywhere.” OK, if that is the case, how about we debate on Salon?
Initially, Spencer responded (bold is mine):
I have no problem with Salon but I guess you mean a print debate, in that case.
I actually had meant Salon Radio, so it would be a recorded audio debate that they could reproduce on the Salon site. In any case, I emailed somebody at Salon, only to later get this follow-up email from Spencer (bold is mine):
Also, Salon in print is not what I had in mind. If you have a radio show in mind, I wasnt aware that Salon had one, but in that case Salon is not a neutral forum with a neutral moderator.
ABN — they offer a completely neutral forum. Let’s do it there.
Initially, he will “debate anywhere” and he has “no problem with Salon,” only to follow-up with an email rejecting Salon as a venue. And then he goes back to the same silly Christian channel as an option.
Whether or not Salon will agree to host the debate is still up in the air, but if they accept will Spencer stick by his word that he will “debate anywhere” and that he has “no problem with Salon”? Spencer?