(cross-posted from The American Muslim)
by Sheila Musaji
Danios of Loonwatch has had an ongoing online discussion with Robert Spencer in an effort to set up a debate.
Spencer has regularly challenged Muslims to debate him, but seems to prefer limiting those debates to marginal figures or useful idiots. As Danios has said in the past Spencer’s modus operandi: engage in debate with those who are weak debaters, fastidiously avoid debating with those who are skilled debaters (and who have solid grasp of the subject matter), and then crow in victory over one’s supposedly undefeated record.
Spencer has also shown a pattern of setting impossible conditions on even something as simple as a request for an interview, let alone a debate, as Dean Obeidallah found out just last month.
In the case of Danios attempt to accept Spencer’s challenge to debate, Spencer displays both of these propensities — avoiding a genuine debate, and attempting to hide that avoidance by setting so many conditions that the other party will just give up.
First, a little background on the Spencer vs Danios debate saga, In June of 2010, Spencer stated thatThe list of the Leftist and Muslim academics and apologists who have refused my challenge to debate is very long; they know they can’t refute what I say on the basis of evidence, so they resort to broad-based smears and personal attacks — and haughty refusals to debate.
Danios of Loonwatch immediately responded to Spencer I accept your challenge, Spencer. I agree to a radio debate with you on the topic of jihad and “dhimmitude”, namely chapters 1-4 of your book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). It will then be seen if you can defend your own writing, which I argue is a load of sensationalist crock. Will you accept my challenge to debate or cower in fear? My guess is that you “know [you] can’t refute what I say” and will “resort to…haughty refusals to debate.”
Ahmed Rehab in an article stating why he personally was not interested in debating Spencer reminded Spencer of Danios acceptance of his challenge to debate: And now for some irony. Spencer, you are claiming you are ready to debate anyone but that alas no one wants to debate you because no one can. But, is this actually true? Does the name Danios of Loonwatch ring a bell Spencer? You may be burying your head in the sand hoping no one will notice, but a simple Google search on “Robert Spencer debate” reveals your hypocrisy. How come you are ignoring an invitation from another blogger who has challenged you numerous times and whose articles shredding your arguments to pieces are all over the web without a peep of a rebuttal from you? Are you conceding defeat? Are you “running away?”
Robert Spencer at first said that I am willing: if “Danios of Loonwatch” reveals his real name, finds a university willing to host the debate and contracts an impartial moderator, I’m ready when he is. Spencer expanded on the issue of Danios pseudonymn saying Sorry, I don’t debate fictional characters or pseudonyms. “Danios of Loonwatch” can go debate Scot Harvath or Harold Robbins.
ROUND 1: Danios agrees to debate Spencer in a radio debate. Spencer sets conditions: Danios must reveal his real name, hold the debate at a university, and find an “impartial” moderator.
Danios responded Of course, Spencer’s two conditions–both of which involve revealing my identity–are completely bogus. I have offered to debate Spencer on the radio. Does Spencer not do radio interviews? In fact, Spencer has appeared on the radio countless times … Danios also said This is of course strange since Hugh Fitzgerald, the Vice President of JihadWatch since 2004, himself operates under an anonymous pseudonym. Fitzgerald is a co-administrator of the site, alongside Spencer. Is Fitzgerald then a “fictional character” who is only worthy of debate with Scot Harvath or Harold Robbins? If that is the case, I challenge Hugh Fitzgerald–co-administer and Vice President of JihadWatch–to a radio debate. The topic will be Jihad, “Dhimmitude”, and Taqiyya (Stealth Jihad), namely chapters 1-4 of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).
ROUND 2: Danios says that if Spencer doesn’t want to debate an individual using a pseudonym, then he will agree to debate Spencer’s Jihad Watch site’s Vice President, Hugh Fitzgerald, who also uses a pseudonym. (Note: Spencer’s fellow Islamophobes whose work he publishes and promotes often use pseudonymns — e.g. Hanan Qahwaji, Nour Semaan, Rachael Cohen and Brigitte Gabriel are the same person. Nonie Darwish and Nahid Hyde are the same person. “Sultan Knish” is actually Daniel Greenfield. “Baron Bodissey” of Gates of Vienna is actually Edward May. “Bonni” of Bare Naked Islamis actually Bonni Benstock-Intall. Fjordman is actually Peder Jensen. Hugh Fitzgerald has been writing for Jihad Watch since 2004, although no biographical information on this individual appears anywhere else, and no photographs exist even on Jihad Watch. No one knows who Jihad Watch contributorsHugh Fitzgerald or ]Henry Rochejaquelein, or Marisol actually are.)
Now, we jump forward to January 10, 2012, and the Spencer vs Danios debate saga heats up again. Here is what Danios posted on Loonwatch about this development
Just yesterday, Robert Spencer posted an article with the title of “Why can’t Muslims debate? (Again)”, saying:
For example, an Islamic supremacist hate site that defames me and lies about what I say regularly charged that I was refusing to debate them:
I responded by repeating yet again something I had reiterated several times in the preceding weeks, when other Muslims had thrown up this site to me:
No response to that at all.
A simple Google search will reveal how this is a great big lie. Spencer has adamantly refused to engage in a radio debate with LoonWatch and me in particular, using my anonymity as a face-saving excuse.
Do his recent tweets reflect a change in attitude or is he still cowering in fear of me? Spencer, are you willing to back your words with action and “debate [me] anytime”? I will debate the accuracy of your book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), with regard to the topics of jihad, “dhimmitude”, and taqiyya. Are you ready to defend your arguments or not?
I think most of us anticipate “no response to that at all.”
This time, it didn’t take months for Spencer to respond. Two days later, on January 12th, Danios posted this
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.”
* * * * *
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 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?
ROUND 3: Spencer asks Danios to set a topic, Danios does, Spencer rejects that topic and asks for another. Spencer agrees to a radio debate “anywhere”, but then refuses the venue proposed by Danios and demands a different venue, ABN and with ABN’s moderator. (ABN, by the way is a Christian TV ministry whose mission statement says: ABN is a non-denominational ministry committed to presenting the Word of God and its transforming message of Jesus Christ to Arabic and Aramaic speaking people worldwide through media. Their approach to this missionary work is not to set a good example of what Christianity is, but to attack Islam. I could find nothing on their site except such biased attacks.)
This attempt by Danios to arrange a debate with Robert Spencer has now gone on since June of 2010, but perhaps, we are actually getting close to seeing this debate happen. Here is what Danios posted today, January 15, 2011:
A few days ago, it looked like Robert Spencer of JihadWatch had stopped running away from me and finally agreed to debate me.
But then (surprise, surprise), Spencer tried weaseling out of the debate.
One of Spencer’s sticking points was the issue of venue and moderator. I had recommendedSalon Radio, whereas he suggested ABN Sat (a loony anti-Muslim Christian channel with shows like Jihad Exposed). In our email exchanges, Spencer kept insisting that ABN is “neutral” (ha!).
The funny thing is that in my initial email to Spencer I pointed out that he always tends to only debate on Christian or conservative channels. This observation angered Spencer to no end, who insisted that he would “debate anywhere.” He even seemed to accept Salon as the venue for the debate.
Spencer then had an about-face, rejecting Salon, and once again bringing up ABN, reinforcing what I said earlier: Spencer’s M.O. has been to debate Muslim floozies on Christian or conservative channels, only to then thump his chest when he wins. The fact that I suggested Salon (a respectable and award-winning site) and Spencer kept insisting on ABN Sat (a loony anti-Muslim Christian channel) speaks volumes about what company we prefer: I like the legendary Glenn Greenwald, whereas he likes loony Christian bigots.
The choice of ABN was designed to stack the cards in his favor. That’s fine. I am so utterly confident in the searing truth of my argument–and the absolute falsity of his–that I acceptABN as the venue and moderator of the debate.
[Naturally, I would insist that they give me equal time to speak, reproduce the debate in its full, unedited form, and give our website (and any other website) the right to reproduce our own recording of the debate. (Spencer has already agreed to a 2-3 hour long debate; if this is too long for ABN to air on their show, they can do what the Daily Show does by airing the first part of the debate and then putting the rest of it online.)]
Readers should understand this decision of mine (i.e. accepting such a hostile venue and moderator) as a reflection of my low regard for Robert Spencer’s arguments and views. This is especially bold of me, considering the fact that he has engaged in numerous debates whereas I am a novice in this field: I prefer written medium. Even so, I have absolutely no doubt that I will trounce him in debate.
Now that I have accepted Robert Spencer’s own choice of venue and moderator–one that is heavily slanted in his favor–what excuse will Spencer come up with to avoid debating me?
* * * * *
I must, however, insist on the following thesis:
Islam is more violent than other religions, specifically Judaism and Christianity.
As I stated before, this is not just the main theme in his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), but it is even the title of one of his books: Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t. More than this, it reflects the fundamental differencebetween he and I: whereas I accept the violent and intolerant aspect inherent in all religious traditions, Spencer specifically targets Islam.
Under this thesis, I will individually debate the following sub-points:
1.The Islamic prophet was more violent and warlike than the Judeo-Christian prophets. This is the main argument in chapter 1 of Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), entitled “Muhammad: Prophet of War”. On p.4, Spencer compares Muhammad to Jesus and to all other prophets in order “to emphasize the fallacy of those who claim that Islam and Christianity–and all other religious traditions, for that matter–are basically equal in their ability to inspire good or evil…[T]hrough the words of Muhammad and Jesus, we can draw a distinction between the core principles that guide the faithful Muslim and Christian.” In fact, throughout his book Spencer has sidebars that compare Muhammad to Jesus. (Yet, somehow when you refute this, it’s a “tu quoque fallacy!”)
2. The Quran is more violent and warlike than the Bible.This is the focus of chapter 2, which he entitles “The Qur’an: Book of War”. On the very first page of this chapter (p.19), Spencer states unequivocally: “There is nothing in the Bible that rivals the Qur’an’s exhortations to violence.” (When I want to refute this claim, then “tu quoque, tu quoque!”) He says on the same page: “The Qu’ran is unique among the sacred writings of the world in counseling its adherents to make war against unbelievers.” On pp.26-31, Spencer explains why the Quran is far more violent and warlike than the Bible. (But refute this claim and you are guilty of committing a “tu quoque fallacy.”)
3. The Islamic religious tradition was more violent and warlike than the Jewish and Christian traditions.This is what chapter 3 of his book is about, entitled “Islam: Religion of War”. This argument is also spread throughout his book and blog. For example, on p.31, Spencer argues that in Judaism and Christianity there have been “centuries of interpretive traditions” that have moved away from violent and warlike understandings, whereas “ in Islam, there is no comparable interpretative tradition.” Chapter 14 of his book is entitled “Islam and Christianity: Equivalent Traditions?” (But if you question this point by showing that yes indeed the two traditions are at least equally violent, then get ready to be accused of committing “tu quoque!”)
4. Contemporary Muslims interpret their religion in a much more violent and warlike way than Jews and Christians. Again, this claim is found throughout his book and blog; on p.31, for example, he argues that, unlike Muslims, “modern-day Jews and Christians…simply don’t interpret [their scripture] as exhorting them to violent actions against unbelievers.”
5. Jews had it much better in Christian Europe than the Muslim world.This is addressed in chapter 4 of Spencer’s book, in which he talks about “dhimmitude.” On the very first page of this chapter, he states: “The idea that Jews fared better in Islamic lands than in Christian Europe is false.” (OK, so are you ready to defend this statement of yours, Spencer? Or do you cry “tu quoque, tu quoque” when asked to do so?) Spencer quotes “[h]istorian Paul Johnson” (a conservative Christian ideologue–surprise, surprise) who says: “the Jewish dhimmi under Moslem rule was worse than under the Christians,” and Spencer himself says that “the Muslim laws were much harsher for Jews than those of Christendom.” (But ask Spencer to defend that statement and see how it’s automatically a “tu quoque fallacy” to do so.)
6. Islamic law, unlike Judaism and Christianity, permits lying and deception against unbelievers. This is the import of chapter 6 of Spencer’s book, entitled ”Islamic Law: Lie, Steal, and Kill”. On the very first page of this chapter, Spencer argues that “Islam doesn’t have a moral code analogous to the [Judeo-Christian] Ten Commandments” and that “the idea that Islam shares the general moral outlook of Judaism and Christianity is another PC myth.” On p.84, he writes that Islam is alone among religions and civilizations in that it fails to espouse “universal moral values.” On the very next page, Spencer bellows: “This is what sets Islam sharply apart from other religious traditions.” (Try to disagree and suddenly you will hear chants of “tu quoque, tu quoque!”)
7. Islamic history was more violent and warlike than Jewish and Christian history. This argument is found in chapter 9 of Spencer’s book, entitled “Islam–Spread by the Sword? You Bet”. On the first page of this chapter, Spencer writes: “The early spread of Islam and that of Christianity sharply contrast in that Islam spread by force and Christianity didn’t.” On p.116, Spencer rejects the “myth” that “Christianity and Islam spread in pretty much the same way.” (Reject that claim–and yep, you got it: “tu quoque, tu quoque!”)
8. In the modern day (twentieth and twenty-first century), Muslims are more violent and warlike than Jews and Christians. This is of course the general theme found not only throughout Spencer’s book but also on his blog. This is the ultimate fall-back argument of Islamophobes, who routinely ask: “why are there no Jewish or Christian suicide bombers?”
Spencer claims these are “tu quoque fallacies” (his favorite phrase), but in fact he himself is the one making these comparisons. He makes such comparisons, and then shields himself from all counter-attack by invoking “tu quoque, tu quoque!” How very convenient.
There is a very important reason that Robert Spencer refuses to debate me on this topic and thesis–he knows that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Even when I let him choose the venue and moderator (one that slants the debate in his favor), he still cannot–at all costs–debate me on the central theme of his book and ideology. That’s why Spencer is not a real scholar: he has never been forced to defend his thesis, nor had his work peer-reviewed, challenged, and intellectually critiqued. I’m merely asking Spencer to defend the substance of his book. This refusal in and of itself is a very powerful reminder of how his ideology is fraudulent, how he himself is nothing more than a hateful ideologue and huckster, and how he is so scared that I will expose him.
The fact that I want to debate him–and that he wants to run away from me–is now self-evident: I have removed any possible barrier by agreeing to his venue and moderator. So, what excuse will Robert Spencer come up with now to chicken out of this debate? Will he continue to run away from me on the one hand and on the other hand continue to lament why no liberal or Muslim will debate him?
Don’t hold your breath for a debate: Spencer can’t debate me. It would be the end of him. So, he will continue to run.
ROUND 4: Danios accepts ABN as the venue even though it is not “neutral” but hostile, but insists on the original topic.
Spencer has said in an article bemoaning the fact that Muslims just won’t debate him:
… other Muslims claimed they wanted to debate me, but never followed up on my invitation to email me and set a topic, date and venue. … So the real reason why no Muslims will debate me is this:
They know that what I say about Islam and jihad is true, and don’t want that fact to be illustrated to a wider audience.
Why can’t Muslims debate? Because the truth is something they don’t generally wish the Infidels to know. So they do all they can to shut down those Infidels by other means.
There is an ancillary reason also: Islam doesn’t encourage critical thinking. It has no natural theology, only a series of laws declared by fiat. In some contemporary forms of Islam, hardly any premium is put on reasoning—after all, the Qur’an itself warns Muslims not to question (5:101). Consequently, even superficially intelligent Islamic supremacists such as Reza Aslan and Ibrahim Hooper are abjectly incapable of building a cogent intellectual argument and defending it. All they and so many others like them can do, as is clear from their track record, is heap abuse upon those who oppose them.
It seems as if Danios has followed up on all of Spencer’s demands. Now all that is left is to set a date. I am holding my breath to see what ROUND 5 will be.