During the last weekend in July, The Kolbe Academy, a Catholic homeschool program located in Napa, California will host a conference in Sacramento where educators and home school instructors will gather to discuss how they can “engage the culture in a year of faith.”
Ordinarily, such a program would come and go unnoticed. But this year, featured amongst a lineup of distinguished speakers, is Robert Spencer, a controversial anti-Muslim blogger who civil rights organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League label a “hate group leader.” This places him in close proximity to KKK leaders, the Black Panther Party, and neo-Nazi groups.
His scheduled appearance casts a negative light on what should be a positive event. It also raises questions about why a man whose writing was cited thirteen dozen times by the Norway terrorist Anders Breivik, who slaughtered 77 youth campers in Oslo in 2010, was ever invited to speak about youth education in the first place.
In recent years, though, his focus on Bach, Beethoven and the teachings of St. Ignatius have given way to a more pernicious fixation: “creeping Sharia,” “stealth jihad,” and the supposed threat of radical Muslims in the United States.
Spencer’s imbalanced and perverted writings on Islam, which focus entirely on violence, and his work alongside anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, have led the federal government to reject the trademark application for his hate group, Stop the Islamization of America.
The ruling states that the group disparages Muslims. Given that one board member, John Jay, once recommended burning all mosques and sending Muslim immigrants “back to their countries,” it’s not hard to see why.
This week, the British government served Mr. Spencer with a travel ban, forbidding him to enter the country ahead of a scheduled rally with the English Defence League. The group’s leader, Tommy Robinson, has served prison time for passport fraud and been arrested for assault. Its members assaulted police officers with pig heads.
In addition to trolling Twitter and antagonizing his detractors with endless (and elementary) tirades of Nazi references and other name-calling, Spencer, who claims to be a “scholar,” has argued that there is no distinction between American Muslims and radical, violent jihadists. To that end, he’s marshaled public stunts that seek to advance that wild claim.
He and Geller were behind the raucous Park 51 protests in Manhattan in 2010, and the duo recently took their battle to metro and bus stops in major metropolitan cities, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and New York.
Controversial advertisements sponsored by the pair equated Muslims with savages and presented violent acts of notorious terrorists like Osama bin Laden as normative of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims.
At a recent town forum on Muslim civil liberties in Tennessee, their supporters shouted down speakers and verbally abused police officers. They cheered at slideshow images of burned down mosques and booed at pics of American Muslim soldiers.
All of this begs very obvious questions: Is this the type of person with whom the Kolbe Academy and Catholic homeschoolers in California want to be associated? What could Spencer possibly say about classical education or Catholic values that would diminish his stature as a man banned by foreign governments, cited by global terrorists, and championed by prejudiced individuals who spread their vile in the bowels of the blogosphere?
There is a more important question, though. Did the Kolbe Academy know of Spencer’s background before they invited him? And if so, why did they proceed with a speaking invitation? What does that say about their organization?
David Duke, the notorious Grand Wizard and white supremacist, had political experience but no one would dare seek his advice or remarks on politics at a public gathering because of his associations with the nastiest aspects of our country’s history.
If any religious group in the United States understands the harmful effects of prejudice, it is Catholics. Throughout the 1900s, they were on the receiving end of the same stereotypes and associations that Spencer aims at Muslims today.
The Santa Rosa Diocese, which governs the Kolbe Academy, should follow the actions of the Worcester Diocese in Massachusetts, which rescinded Spencer’s invitation to speak at a men’s conference in Massachusetts in March. The Sacramento Diocese, which governs St. Stephen The First Martyr Parish, the parish where the event will be held, should do the same.
Hate speech has no place in any religious institution, Islamic, Christian, Jewish, or otherwise, and it is incumbent on leaders in all faith communities to reject it.
For quite some time it has been known that Robert Spencer, according to his own testimony, is a Catholic of the Maronite Melkite tradition. However what has not been discussed has been the extent of his involvement with the Church. Spencer attempts to portray himself as a “freedom fighter” (nothing could be further from the truth), fighting “Islamization” and the “savage” Muslims. Presenting himself as an “objective” scholar (though he has no qualifications when it comes to Islam) and a blogger while downplaying his other prominent roles in life.
In light of the recent and welcomed news that the Catholic Diocese of Worcester uninvited Spencer from a speaking engagement at an upcoming Men’s Conference, it is clearer why he was invited in the first place: he is an active Catholic deacon.
In a 2002 article by Shawne K. Wickham, a certain Robert Spenser (his name is spelled wrongly) is cited as studying to become a Melkite deacon. Spen(s)er discusses the idea of “bringing heaven to earth,”
Robert Spenser, who is studying to be a Melkite deacon, recalls an old story of the emissaries who were sent out into the world by the Slavic king to investigate various religions, and happened upon a Byzantine church service in Constantinople. “We didn’t know if we were on heaven or on earth,” they would report back.
“I think the idea of bringing heaven to earth, and having a taste of heaven on earth is one of the reasons people come here,” Spenser said.
This information also provides further insight into the reasoning behind Spencer’s anti-Muslim/Islam hate activism. What has been known for quite some time through Robert Spencer’s own statements and declarations (such as his 2003 interview with the Washington Times and his “debate” with his former college Professor Peter Kreeft) is that his Crusade against Islam and Muslims is colored by an extremist Christian supremacist theology that views Islam and Muslims as the ultimate existential threats to “Christendom.”
Additionally, and this is perhaps the real question, it speaks volumes about the Our Lady of the Cedars Church. Why would they have someone ordained who is designated as a hate group leader? Why would they have someone in their ordained clergy who makes a living telling people that Muslims are violent criminals bent on destroying the West?
Is this what the Catholic church is all about? I happen to believe it is not, especially considering that surveys of Catholic Americans show that the majority have positive views of Islam and Muslims. The fact that Spencer is out of step with mainstream Catholicism is also underscored by the fact that the National Catholic Reporterapplauded the cancellation of his speech by the Worcester diocese.
If anyone should understand what it feels like to be discriminated against based on religion, it is Catholics. They have faced a history of prejudice in the United States, thus it is odd that such a hostile, and at the least, very controversial figure would assume a leadership role in their church.
And presumably, a portion of his income from his anti-Muslim rants goes to the church. There is one link that shows him as a “platinum” donator to a church function, and another one where he gives a “generous” gift to have a Pantocrator icon installed in the church.
Lastly, we must call out Deacon Spencer’s hypocrisy: In the Melkite tradition, women are not allowed to enter the Holy Place, where the altar stands, and girls are not allowed as altar servers. But of course Spencer rails about discrimination against women in Islam yet he doesn’t notice such blatant discrimination happening in his own tradition. A case no doubt of,
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)
Update: Robert Spencer kneeling before the altar, decked out in full green regalia?
An invitation for Robert Spencer, a leader in the Islamophobia Movement to speak at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester has been rescinded according to the Boston Globe. It is a good sign that many are realizing that his hate has no place at a respectable institution.
The Boston Globe report has a couple of issues, first the title, describing Spencer as a mere “critic of Islam” is misleading, he is not a “critic,” he is a bigot who delves into and spreads deeply paranoid falsities/smears about Islam and Muslims daily. The article also unfortunately alludes to Jihad being defined as “holy war.” I’m also curious why the ADL is solicited for expertise on the subject when their record has been rather mixed in the fight against Islamophobia.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester rescinded an invitation Wednesday to Robert Spencer, a Catholic whose work depicts Islam as an inherently violent religion, to speak at its annual Catholic Men’s Conference in March.
The invitation was withdrawn after Muslims in Massachusetts expressed concerns to the diocese about the appearance of Spencer, scheduled to be a featured speaker at the DCU Center on March 16.
Spencer is director of the blog Jihad Watch and a leader of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, both of which are seen as anti-Muslim groups by some organizations that monitor extremism.
His books include “Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs,” “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion,” and “Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics.” On his blog, he has argued that jihad is a central tenet of the faith.
After the Globe sought comment on his scheduled appearance from the diocese and from Muslim organizations Wednesday, the Islamic Council of New England sent an e-mail urging Catholic leaders to cancel Spencer’s appearance. The diocese agreed to do so shortly after receiving the e-mail.
“Although the intention of the conference organizers was to have a presenter on Islam from a Catholic’s perspective, we are asking Robert Spencer to not come to the Worcester Catholic Men’s Conference, given that his presence is being seen as harmful to Catholic–Islamic relations both locally and nationally,” Raymond Delisle, a spokesman for the diocese, said in a statement issued to the Globe.
The conference is a religious and social gathering for Catholic men, as well as their male friends and relatives, that typically includes talks from prominent Catholic men, a Mass said by the bishop, and the opportunity to attend confession.
Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, cochairman of communications for the Islamic Council of New England, called the cancellation of Spencer’s speech “very reassuring” and said it was consistent with longstanding good relations between the Muslim and Catholic communities in Massachusetts.
“Somebody may have been blindsided by Robert Spencer, not knowing exactly what kind of hatemonger he was,” he said.
Spencer, in an e-mail late Wednesday afternoon, said the diocese had not notified him of the cancellation.
“If it does turn out to be true,” he said in another e-mail, “it is new evidence of the cowardice of Roman Catholic officials in confronting the reality of Muslim persecution of Christians and their inability to grasp the importance [of] basing genuine dialogue between religions on truth, however unpleasant, rather than on wishful thinking and comforting fictions.”
In an earlier e-mail, he defended his work.
“There is nothing hateful or bigoted about what I say,” he said. “My work is in defense of the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law.”
In September, the American Freedom Defense Initiative posted ads in the New York subway system that referred to Islamists who opposed the state of Israel as “savages.” The group is now running a second series of ads featuring photographs of the burning World Trade Center alongside a quotation attributed to the Koran: “Soon we shall cast terror into the hearts of unbelievers.”
Spencer was a leading opponent of the Park51 project to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan, which he has referred to on his blog as the “Islamist supremacist mega-mosque at Ground Zero.”
He has also raised alarms about multiculturalism and what he believes to be the threat of Sharia, Islamic religious law, undermining American courts and civil rights across the world.
Oren Segal, codirector of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, called Spencer “the godfather of the anti-Muslim movement in this country.”
Segal said there are legitimate concerns about people motivated by radical interpretations of Islam, which he said his organization has spoken out about forcefully. But Spencer, he said, is part of “a cottage industry . . . that under the guise of fighting radical Islam is actually demonizing an entire religion.”
Spencer, in another e-mail, said that the Anti-Defamation League “has unwisely ventured into leftist advocacy politics, spending more time combating friends of Israel on the right rather than enemies of Israel on the left. Its record in this is nothing short of shameful.”
Spencer says on his blog, Jihad Watch, where he posts many times a day, that he does not believe all Muslims espouse violence or that Islam is a monolithic faith.
But he calls violent jihad a “central element of Islamic theology,” citing a Koranic verse that says, in part, “Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them [captive] and besiege them and prepare for them each ambush.”
Omid Safi, an Islamic studies scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that there are indeed references like that to holy war in the Koran and that some Muslims in different periods of history have used them to justify their actions.
That does not mean, he said, that most modern Muslims accept them literally.
“If we go flipping through each other’s scriptures to persuade ourselves that other people’s scriptures contain violent elements, then that’s a losing game for all of us,” Safi said. “The question is: How do we make sense of them, and which ones do we call upon to live our lives today?”
In the Gospel of Matthew, he notes, Jesus says, “I come not to bring peace, but the sword.”
Safi also said that Spencer has no formal training in Islamic studies or Arabic.
Asked about his credentials, Spencer replied that his critics’ real problem is not his training.
“What I say about Islam is not unusual or eccentric,” he said. “Numerous scholars who have the credentials that those you have spoken with require, and many ex-Muslims, have made the same observations about Islamic doctrine that I have.”
Amjad Bahnassi, a member and occasional spokesman for the Worcester Islamic Center, said the Muslim community in the city generally has an excellent relationship with the Catholic Church.
Bahnassi said he counts a number of priests as friends and regularly speaks at Catholic churches about Islam. Next month he is scheduled to speak at Anna Maria College and Assumption College.
“I would have liked for them if they wanted to know about Islam’s view of Christianity to ask a Muslim,” he said of the organizers of the Catholic Men’s Conference.
Robert Spencer had a “debate” at Thomas More College recently with a former professor (and ping pong partner) of his, Catholic Theologian and apologist Peter Kreeft. It was quite evident that the two were friends and they were quite chummy with one another, in fact it was pointed out by Kreeft that this wasn’t a debate as much as it was a “dialogue” or “discussion,” I thought of it more as good ole’ Muslim bashing.
The resolution being debated was that “the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.” Imagine the reaction if it had been “the only good Jew is a bad Jew” or the “only good Christian is a bad Christian.” Of course yours truly Robert Spencer, affirmed the resolution, defending it with the usual canard of ‘any Muslim who truly practices his faith is potentially dangerous and a threat to society.’ The “debate” was interesting as it exposed even more vividly the inherent biases and prejudices held by Spencer, the deep lack of understanding and knowledge of Islamic theology, belief and history as well as his limited command of the Arabic language.
Kreeft who didn’t provide much of a challenge to Spencer and who showed brightly his Ultra-Conservative Catholic belief essentially agreed with 95% of what Spencer was saying. While it is clear that Kreeft regards Muslim devotion to, and confidence in their faith in high esteem he nevertheless believes Islam is a “primitive,” “defective,” and “false” religion that has caused “more bloodshed” than Christianity.
Instead of challenging Spencer’s consistent distortions of Islam and Islamic teaching (he deferred to Spencer as an “expert on Islam”) he pivoted the argument to say that the greater threat to Catholicism is the Enlightenment and the Sexual Revolution.
Surprisingly, Spencer agrees with Professor Kreeft regarding the Enlightenment being a threat to Catholicism though he didn’t explicitly say that Islam was less of a threat. I can see how Ultra-Conservative Catholics may rail against the Enlightenment, it was the era which saw a secularist revolt in the name of Reason against the Catholic Church and which led to formulas for the Separation of Church and State, it also witnessed the decline of the power of the Catholic Church in the temporal realm.
However, it is quite hypocritical for Spencer to agree with such a premise, especially considering Spencer claims to be a defender of the West. Agreeing that the Enlightenment is bad is like saying that the Separation of Church and State is bad, or that Constitutional government is bad, all the things that Spencer claims to champion! (but which we have frequently shown is just a front for his own anti-Freedom supremacist beliefs).
A few other points were likewise revealed in this debate:
Spencer’s terrible command of Arabic and very poor articulation of Arabic. This has been revealed on other occasions such as when Danios slammed Spencer and one of his JihadWatch groupies‘ faulty understanding of the word dhimmi, which Spencer was trying to pass off as meaning “guilty people.”
Spencer said during the course of the dialogue on the topic of Islamic views of marriage that,
In Islamic marriage the woman is essentially chattel, and actually the word for marriage in Islam is an obscenity in Arabic, I am not making this up, the theological word for marriage in Islam is not a word that people say in polite company.
(Gasps from the crowd)
It’s because its a very degraded idea.
In this instance Spencer says that the theological word for marriage in Islam is actually an obscenity! A ridiculous notion that underscores the willful and deliberate ignorance of the so-called “scholar of Islam.”
The word that Spencer is likely referring to is *”Nikah” which simply means in Islamic theological terminology “marriage.” In claiming that “Nikah” is an obscene word that cannot be uttered in polite company, “scholar” Robert Spencer is committing a laughable gaffe that underscores yet again the shallow nature of his knowledge of Arabic and Islamic terminology. He is confusing a classical Arabic word Nikah, with the colloquial word (“Neik”), a different word, just because they sound similar. This would be like Spencer suggesting that Richard is an obscene word, because a colloquial subtract “Dick” is used as a derogatory word for penis. Well, here Spencer is arguing that Richard is an obscene word. That’s your scholar.
Also, when Spencer attempted to say Arabic words such as madhab, nasikh, mansukh, etc. it sounded like an Arabic 101 student struggling with pronunciation, it was quite embarrassing.
Kreeft, in one of the rare instances where he pushed back against his buddy Spencer said,
Kreeft: Doesn’t the Qur’an say that you can only have four wives if you respect them and treat them equally?
Spencer: It doesn’t say respect all of them, I have it here, it says you can have four wives if you treat them all equally, in other words if you treat them all the same, if you’re beastly to all of them then you can have them. It doesn’t say anything about respect.
Here Spencer reveals more of his biases and readings of his own prejudice into Islamic text. He believes the Qur’an calls for men to treat their wives “beastly.” Can he provide us a quote, a single verse that says anything remotely near that claim? In fact his claims are belied by the fact that the Qur’an and Islamic teaching specifically call for love, harmony, and respect between a husband and wife.
Take this verse (30:21),
“And amongst His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you love and compassion. Indeed in that are signs for a people who contemplate.”
or this one (2:228),
“And they (women) have rights similar to those (men) over them in kindness…”
or this (2:187),
“They (women) are your garments and you are their garments.”
or take the saying of Prophet Muhammad,
“The best amongst you, are the best for their wives”
So much for all that chattel nonsense.
More disturbing was when the question shifted from one in which Islamic belief is questioned to questioning the mere presence of Muslims in the West.
In reply to a commenter/questioner from the audience who basically asked “what will we do with Muslims in the West, since they are in our midst now,” Spencer replied,
Anyone who professes the Islamic faith, if he delves into the teachings of his own religion, he can end up being someone who is very dangerous to us. Now that doesn’t mean that people should be round up into camps and such but we need to enforce our own laws about sedition and formulate some sane immigration policies and recognize that this is an ideological conflict and not a problem of racism.
Oh thank heavens! At least Spencer isn’t calling for camps! Though his buddy Michelle Malkin does. Muslims need to *just* be aware that for merely professing to follow Islam they can be convicted of sedition! That is really the import of what Spencer is saying, he is calling for Muslims to be locked up and denied entry to the USA. Very Geert Wilders-esque.
The moderator asked the horrid question earlier to Kreeft and Spencer,
Couldn’t we learn from Muslims what we need to learn from reading their books but nevertheless energetically fighting their attempts to assert themselves in American society, restricting their entrance into our countries and just generally fighting political Islam, protecting our own religious freedom and our own political freedom by aggressively imposing our own values on our own societies. In other words, not permitting them polygamy, not permitting them honor killing, or wife beating or any of the other aspect of Sharia that they are asserting. In other words couldn’t we get all this from your book, your book tells us what we need to gain from Islam, and so, ok, fine, they can go home now?
The framing of the question is terrible, which Muslim or Muslim group is asserting Sharia? Who is calling for polygamy and honor killings? Then look at the condescending way in which the moderator asks “why don’t we tell them to go home now?”
So I ask you who is for freedom? Democracy? Who is viewing the “other” as foreign and not belonging?
Kreeft who is supposed to be the “counter” replied,
the long and complete and nuanced version of my answer to your question is ‘yes.’
Spencer answered the question without any caveats simply saying,
Spencer also asserted that there are “20-30,000 polygamous groups of Muslims in the USA” but he didn’t provide any independent evidence. This is in fact all conjecture to further the “stealth-Muslims-in-our-midst-who-are-trying-to-advance-creeping-Sharia’ conspiracy theory.”
To cap it all off a Thomas More student who is joining the Israeli Army said,
You’re probably familiar with the supremacy clause in the Qur’an, “In order to honor Allah you must kill all the infidels, first the Saturdays and then the Sundays.”
Spencer replied accurately (he had no choice) for once, thereby sparing himself further ridicule from us that “such a verse doesn’t exist in the Qur’an,” but unable to help himself he went on to say,
There is a hadith, it isn’t in the Qur’an that says the Muslim must kill the Jews, and the Jews hide behind trees and the trees cry out and say, O’ Muslim there is a Jew behind me come and kill him, that is an authenticated hadith, and so it is considered to be a laudable practice for a Muslim to kill a Jew because it is something that hastens the coming of the end times in which all things will be consummated, but its not specifically in the Quran like that.
Unbelievable. A colossal falsity, an absurd statement that ventures on the ridiculous and is certainly slanderous. In this instance Spencer is attempting to advance the notion that a tenent of Islam is that the End Times can be hastened and brought quicker by killing Jews.
In fact, Spencer should focus more on his Christian brethren in the Evangelical movement who believe they can hasten the second coming of Christ by planting the seeds of the second Armageddon.
Such a theological precept doesn’t exist in Orthodox Islam. In fact it runs counter to Islamic theology to say that one can hasten the End Times, and if anyone were to claim they could they would be immediately considered a heretic. However, I will deal with this claim in more depth in a future article. Suffice it to say that it is a despicable statement that underscores Spencer’s profound ignorance of Islamic theology and belief.
Dawood, one of our Loonwatchers points out,
“nikah” (نكاح) and “neik” (نيك) are completely different words, having no relation to each other in structure. As can be seen above (for those who don’t speak Arabic), only 2 letters are the same (ن ك). Unless Spencer is implying the Arabs simply decided to drop off a letter, which is something I have never heard of before!
The root term for “nikah”, means union, or the coming together of two things. He is obviously implying that it is a term meaning the sexual act, and in a lewd way, but it simply is not. It could definitely allude to it – as you can see from the meanings above – but it can also mean, as most people understand it, the coming together and union of two people in marriage. If we check the major lexicons, such as Hans Wehr and Hava, even the older texts such as Lane’s Lexicon, they support this interpretation clearly.