Smearcasters: Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer

A while back FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) came out with an expose on some of the most influential and bigoted Islamophobes in the US. It is a report that well worth the read, and as you can guess Robert Spencer was one of the Islamophobes profiled.

Check it out:

Robert Spencer

According to the American Muslim and former Nixon advisor Robert Crane (TheAmericanMuslim.org, 10/20/07), Robert Spencer is “the principal leader…in the new academic field of Islam-bashing.”

Spencer is the author of several books attacking Islam, including the New York Times bestsellers The Truth About Muhammad, Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Regnery, 2006) and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Regnery, 2005). He is the publisher of the “notoriously Islamophobic website” Jihad Watch (Guardian, 2/7/06), a subsidiary of the David Horowitz Freedom Center; a columnist for right-wing outlets like Human Events and WorldNetDaily; and a recurring guest on Glenn Beck’s CNN Headline News show, as well as several Fox News shows.

Though his scholarship has been questioned by Islamic scholars (e.g. Crane, TheAmericanMuslim.org, 10/20/07; Louay M. Safi, Media Monitors Network, 12/29/05; Khaleel Mohammed, FrontPage Magazine, 4/18/05), Spencer serves as an intellectual force in the movement, specializing in one-sided interpretations of the Quran. He has written (cited in Crane, TheAmericanMuslim.org, 10/20/07) of Osama bin Laden’s use of quotes from the Quran:

Of course, the devil can quote scripture for his own purpose, but Osama’s use of these and other passages in his messages is consistent (as we shall see) with traditional understanding of the Quran. When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent actions against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretative traditions that have moved them away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretative tradition.

Yet Islam does in fact have an interpretive tradition, which Spencer seems bent on ignoring. His New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam has been faulted (Crane, AmericanMuslim.org, 10/20/07) for promoting a Puffin English-language version of the Quran that contains no explanatory commentary as superior to versions which include “many thousands of footnotes evaluating 14 centuries of interpretative tradition” and “the wealth of classical Islamic scholarship on both the inner and outer meaning of the Quran and on the hadith that reflect this wisdom.”

According to Crane, “Spencer’s readers are carefully steered away from all contact with the Islamic interpretative tradition, which equals or exceeds that of any other religion, because any scholarly knowledge about Islam would expose all his extremist interpretations to ridicule.”

By selectively ignoring inconvenient Islamic texts and commentaries, Spencer concludes that Islam is innately extremist and violent, and

Unfortunately, however, jihad as warfare against non-believers in order to institute “Sharia” worldwide is not propaganda or ignorance, or a heretical doctrine held by a tiny minority of extremists. Instead, it is a constant element of mainstream Islamic theology. (Jihad Watch, 3/3/07).

Of course, a similarly selective reading of the Torah might lead one to conclude that Jews favor killing homosexuals, as well as those who wear garments that mix cotton and wool. Spencer’s methods have prompted even conservatives such as Dinesh D’Souza (who challenged his views on Islam in a C-SPAN debate–3/1/07– and on his blog–AOL News Bloggers, 3/2/07) and Stephen Schwartz (FrontPageMag.com, 10/28/04) to denounce him as one-sided and intolerant.

But those methods have made Spencer a mainstay in the Islamophobia circuit, featured, for example, at Horowitz’s 2007 Islamofascism Awareness events. And they haven’t decreased his popularity in official circles: His website boasts that he has led seminars on Islam and jihad for, among others, the U.S. Central Command, the Department of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and “the U.S. intelligence community.”