M. Cherif Bassiouni Rips Fake Scholar Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer: Exposed

Robert Spencer: Exposed

Robert Spencer crawled out of the wood works and into the relative limelight circa 2003 when he started Jihad Watch. Ever since then it has been a long journey into the bizarre ranks of the pantheon of right wing blog stars with an occasional foray to bless the mere mainstream mortals with his personal knowledge of Islam. He receives stupendous applause and adulation from the cult following that has sprung up since his site was created — the little “counter-Jihadis” who in the late middle of their lives have found a new purpose to life; hate of Muslims as defense of the West.

His blog, JihadWatch, has served as a portal into the realm of propaganda against Islam and Muslims. It works at one and the same time to confuse and conflate issues and news related to Islam and Muslims. A man murders his wife and for Spencer it is not a question of domestic violence but honor killing that derives its roots from the Quran.  Recently, a mass wedding in Gaza in which a picture was taken of the grooms holding hands with their nieces was egregiously misconstrued by Spencer as an instance of mass pedophilia. These are the type of Gobbelsesque tactics employed by Spencer that highlight the pre-set prejudiced conclusion he begins with; the maxim he seems to be working from is Muslims are guilty, before proven innocent.

His employing of this highly disingenuous maxim is starkly on display in his most recent crusade of attempted character assassination.  It involves M. Cherif Bassiouni a distinguished Muslim scholar, lawyer, professor and human rights activist, titles which Spencer almost mocks derisively. Oddly enough it is almost fitting that Robert Spencer would mock Bassiouni’s qualifications because again who really needs to go through the hard work of scholarship, qualifications and peer reviewed work when you can do your own study without peer review and come up with your own conclusions?

Spencer proclaims that it was “false” for Bassiouni to write that “a Muslim’s conversion to Christianity is not a crime punishable by death under Islamic law.” Even when Bassiouni pointed out that the document was his (and a large number of other scholars’) opinion and that it was submitted to a court in Kabul dealing with a case in which the death penalty was being considered for apostasy he didn’t backtrack but continued to attempt to castigate the professor. Not a smart move it seems.

Cherif Bassiouni

Cherif Bassiouni

When he couldn’t get the professor on any of the facts he resorted to the tactic of guilt by association. In this case it was one of the most pathetic guilt by association arguments ever made in the annals of pathetic guilt by association arguments on Jihad Watch. Essentially, some random emailer to JihadWatch emailed Spencer threatening him and then that emailer “defended” Professor Bassiouni which led to Spencer blogging a post titled M. Cherif Bassiouni Gets an Ally. At least this is the story that Spencer wants us to believe, but let us take Spencer’s word for it and say that it happened the way he said it did. What does any of this have to do with Bassiouni? Is Spencer insinuating somehow that in some weird conspiratorial way Bassiouni put the emailer up to it? That somehow Bassiouni who his whole life has worked for nothing but peace, and in his correspondence with Spencer has been nothing but civil is now inciting violence? Is he insinuating that the emailer and Bassiouni are linked in anyway?

The answer to all these questions from the perspective of Spencer seem to unfortunately be yes, and it is sad because it just further proves that Spencer has fallen further down the rabbit hole then previously thought.  Of course, Spencer can expect to be lauded, and proclaimed victorious in this encounter with Bassiouni — by members of his own website. The verbose Hugh Fitzgerald after the first exchange of emails was exultant, gesticulating in his wild praise of his bosom buddy Robert Spencer. It almost made you teary with disgust at reading the hyperbole bandied about by Fitzgerald in defense of his man. He proclaimed that Spencer is like the “Robber Baron of the Mauve Decade who proudly explained, ‘I sees my opportunities, and I took ‘em.’” Exaggeration anyone?

Fitzgerald went on to state, still in a state of intoxicated amazement and bedazzled wonderment by his hero, “Spencer’s reply to him is unanswerable. He has no answer. He must now remain silent. And if he still has some of his wits about him, he must at this point be truly mortified. For what can he say?” Well it seems there is more that Bassiouni can say and if anything, it seems now it remains for Spencer to be silent — or at least just let Fitzgerald do the talking.

Dear Mr. Spencer,

Thank you for your email of 8/13/09 in response to mine. You had asked for permission to print my letter, but you went ahead and did it without my permission so, obviously, you are no longer seeking my permission.

After looking at your website, I was quite surprised to see how much hate, venom and misunderstanding you are fostering. Through my 45-year career in International Criminal Law and Human Rights I have regrettably, all too often, seen the harmful consequences of what you manage to engender. Goebbels and others in Nazi Germany brought about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, the war in the former Yugoslavia (1991-95) had many religious undertones between Serb-Orthodox and Catholic-Croats, whose religious animosity producing violence goes back to 1915, and then, we have Christian-Catholic Hutus killing between 500,000 and 800,000 of their co-religionist Tutsis in Rwanda. It all started the same way, and all too few people spoke up against it. Having investigated war crimes in the former Yugoslavia for the United Nations, monitored human rights in Afghanistan also for the U.N., and done work in Iraq, funded by the U.S. government, I can tell you in all three arenas of conflict how pernicious religious hatred and misunderstanding is. That is why I speak up against your hate-mongering.

I don’t know if this communication will have any moderating effects on your anti-Islam and Anti-Muslim stances. Usually persons who have extremist views are beyond the reach of reason, good sense, and good faith. They are too imbued with their own self-righteous views and are all too often blinded by their hatred or animosity towards others to act in ways that most people consider reasonable and decent.

Mr. Spencer, I am not a polemicist. If you find out about me through public sources, you will discover that I have spent my life fighting for what is right, even at the risk of my own life in many situations. Hate-mongering, incitation to hate, various forms of religious, ethnic, national intolerances have, in my experience, only produced violence and harmful results. I don’t know what you are up to, why you are doing it, and for whose benefit, but everything I read tells me there is something wrong in conducting such an extremist campaign against Islam and Muslims. What is that intended to accomplish other than radicalization and polarization? Is that in the best interests of relations between Americans who have different faith-belief systems? Is that intended to arouse anti-Islamicism in America for certain political purposes? If any of these are the case then whatever I or anyone else may have to say to you will not have much effect. By the grace of God, I continue to believe in the best in human beings, and I hope that the best in you, and those who follow you, will prevail over the worst that is reflected in the work that you are doing.

I firmly believe that there is one God who has created one humankind and that we are all members of the same human family. This God, who is the beginning and end of everything, the One described in the First Commandment contained in the Hebrew bible and the Old Testament is, in my opinion, the same God described in the Qur’ān. All three Abrahamic faiths, as well as other belief systems, conceive of a single humankind, making us all brothers and sisters in this humanity. There is no superior or inferior human being and certainly it is against any belief in God and moral/ethical values to dehumanize a person or demonize a person for his/her beliefs or otherwise. History has always demonstrated that when that occurs, it is the beginning of the rationalization for genocide and crimes against humanity.

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of any organization having a campaign similar to yours aimed at discrediting a major religion and its followers. Consequently there is something unique in what you are doing and in your mission, which not only sets it apart from established inter-religious practices, but which also calls into question the motives, purposes and goals of such an undertaking. Fortunately there is only you and your group in the world doing such a thing and, hopefully, you will not be able to do much harm to your fellow human beings, whether in this country or elsewhere.

As to your invitation to a debate, I have never engaged in oral debates, particularly when it clearly appears from both your website and your publications that the goal would not be to obtain a better understanding of whatever the issue may be.

Concerning the merits of the issue of apostasy, Islamic law has a long history and it is rather complex. In the course of 14 centuries there have been many differences among scholars as to almost every aspect of law, theology and religious practices. Similar differences exist in Judaism and Christianity as well as other faith-belief systems. Different cultures also see things in different ways. And, in time, many perspectives change.

My views on apostasy have been made public since 1983, in the U.S., and in the Muslim world. They include my understanding that apostasy in the days of the Prophet meant, essentially, high treason in the equivalent modern significance. There were different views on the matter between the late 7th and 12th centuries. Since then, Ijtihad, which means making the effort to think (much as the word jihad means making an effort) has been stopped by theological fiat. As a result, not much progressive thinking or corrective interpretation has been made to show that the interpretations which took place after the Prophet’s death were not the correct ones. The Qur’ān’s overarching principle enunciated in chapter 2 is that there can be “no compulsion in religion.” That doesn’t make me “deceptive” nor does it make me an “apologist.” These are two terms you have used to describe me, which are defamatory. (Whether you see fit to publish a retraction or apology will demonstrate your good faith.)

In any event, this concludes our written exchange, but I will be glad to meet with you personally whenever you are in Chicago or if our paths cross elsewhere. In order to avoid any further polemic, I will stop with this communication, though I still hope that this message may have a positive effect on you.

Sincerely,
M. Cherif Bassiouni

Robert Spencer: Self-declared Scholar v. Real Scholar on the Fatimah Rifqa Bary Case

Andrew Bostom and "Islamic Scholar" Robert Spencer

Andrew Bostom and "Islamic Scholar" Robert Spencer

The Right-Wing anti-Muslim loonocracy and its minions in the blogosphere have secured a new cause to rally around, ironically enough it once again involves a Muslim minor, and in this regard, the anti-Muslim blogosphere really doesn’t have a good track record.  As recent history has proved, the last time the anti-Muslim blogosphere got this riled up about Muslim minors they turned up with egg on their faces.

After viewing a picture online of a wedding in Gaza, with grooms holding the hands of their young female cousins and nieces, the Islamophobia hit epic proportions with accusations of pedophilia being flung about wily-nily without nary a fact check. Tim Marshall, who reported on the wedding wrote about the Islamophobic response to the wedding,

Our report on this put it into context saying that it took place just a mile from the Israeli border and was a message from Hamas about its strength confidence and future fighters. Oh and that the brides were elsewhere. Pretty straightforward.

It never struck me for a moment that the little girls might later be described in the bloggersphere as the brides! How naive I am.

Dozens, and I mean dozens, of websites took the video of the event and wrote lurid stories about Hamas mass paedophilia with headlines about ‘450 child brides’, and endless copy about how disgusting this was, how it showed how depraved Islam is, et al, ad infinitum. Site after site jumped on the story, linking from one totally wrong load of rubbish to the next.

Robert Spencer was amongst the bloggers that falsely reported the incident as an instance of pedophilia.

The Fatimah Rifqa Bary Case

This time the case involves 17 year old Fatimah Rifqa Bary the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants who came to America in 2000 seeking treatment for her vision problems. And before you could say “expediency,” the typical hordes of vultures started cycling, not so much out of interest for the girl’s welfare or the facts of the story, but as what they saw as a golden opportunity to reaffirm their caricature of Islam and Muslims as a dangerous cancer lurking within an otherwise good and pure Western civilization.

Fatimah, a cheerleader at New Albany High School ran away from her Columbus, Ohio home and ended up at the home of a pastor in Florida named Blake Lorenz. The details on how she ended up in Florida are still murky but what is clear is that she is leveling some very serious allegations against her family, including that she will be killed if she is returned to Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch reports in a story titled Girl Brainwashed, Parents say:

With Lorenz holding his arm tightly around her, Rifqa told WFTV-TV in Florida on Monday that she would be killed if she came home.

“They love God more than me; they have to do this,” she said. “I’m fighting for my life. You guys don’t understand.”

The family disputes these allegations and believes their daughter has been brainwashed. They state quite categorically that she is free to practice whatever faith she wants,

“We love her, we want her back, she is free to practice her religion, whatever she believes in, that’s OK,” her father, Mohamed Bary, said yesterday.

“What these people are trying to do is not right — I don’t think any religion will teach to separate the kids from their parents,” he said.

The family is not the only ones questioning the young girls allegations, Sgt. Jerry Cupp, the Chief of the Columbus Police Missing-Persons Bureau has said that Mohamed Bary (the father) “comes across to me as a loving, caring, worried father about the whereabouts and the health of his daughter.”

Robert Spencer, however, without knowing anything about the family — or the complete facts of the case — believes there is a slow motion honor killing in the making.  Starting from the pre-set conclusion that he derives from his personal study of Islam, he states that Islam requires the death penalty for apostates, and that it is a dead letter only “if no one cares or is able to enforce it in a particular case.” He writes this in response to Muslim scholar M. Cherif Bassiouni, a distinguished Law professor at DePaul University and President of the International Human Rights Law Institute, who wrote in 2006 that “a Muslim’s conversion to Christianity is not a crime punishable by death under Islamic law.”

Professor Bassiouni wrote this in 2006 when a man in Afghanistan was under the penalty of death for converting to Christianity. He wrote it as part of a document that was submitted to the court in Kabul. It has also been professor Bassiouni’s opinion as early as 1983. Professor Bassiouni responded to Spencer stating,

My position on apostasy has been expressed as early as 1983, namely that at the time of the Prophet it was not considered as only changing one’s mind but that it was the equivalent of joining the enemy and thus constituting high treason. In fact, at one time the Prophet had an agreement with the people in Makkah to return to Makkah all those who came from there, who wished to return after they had converted to Islam. I and a number of other distinguished Muslim scholars have long criticized the views of the four traditional Sunni schools…It is amazing to me how apparently little good faith and intellectual honesty you are displaying in your attack upon Islam and Muslims.

Professor Bassiouni’s position is pretty straight forward, he disagrees with those Muslims and non-Muslims who believe Islam legislates death for apostates and that his and many other distinguished Muslim scholars’ opinion is that it doesn’t. This is not so hard to grasp as LoonWatch contributor Barbel notes directly addressing Spencer,

In an obvious attempt to categorically associate this situation with all Muslims you wrote:

If she is sent back to her family, she could be killed, in accord with the death penalty that is prescribed by all Muslim sects and schools for those who leave Islam.

Surely, as a “scholar” you must be aware of this verse from the Muslim holy book, the Quran:

Those who believe, then reject Faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject Faith, and go on increasing in Unbelief,- God will not forgive them nor guide them on the Way.

How would it be possible to reject faith twice or go on increasing in unbelief if one was suppose to have been killed after the first rejection?  Furthermore, what purpose would withholding guidance have if the person had a death sentence anyway?

Robert, regardless of what you might want us to believe, Islamic scholars are NOT in consensus nor have they ever been in consensus over the apostasy issue.  Historically, the sentence of death was only applied to people who converted from the religion AND committed espionage. Consider what the 10th century scholar Shams al-Din al-Sarakhsi had to say:

The prescribed penalties are generally not suspended because of repentance, especially when they are reported and become known to the head of state.  The punishment of highway robbery, for instance, is not suspended because of repentance; it is suspended only by the return of property to the owner prior to arrest. … Renunciation of the faith and conversion to disbelief is admittedly the greatest of offenses, yet it is a matter between man and his Creator, and its punishment is postponed to the day of judgment. Punishments that are enforced in this life are those which protect the people’s interests, such as just retaliation, which is designed to protect life.

More recently, the contemporary Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan (a man you have repeatedly tried to defame) had this to say:

I have been criticized about this in many countries.  My view is the same as that of Sufyan Al-Thawri, an 8th-century scholar of Islam, who argued that the Koran does not prescribe death for someone because he or she is changing religion. Neither did the Prophet himself ever perform such an act. Many around the Prophet changed religions. But he never did anything against them.  There was an early Muslim, Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh, who went with the first emigrants from Mecca to Abyssinia.  He converted to Christianity and stayed, but remained close to Muslims.  He divorced his wife, but he was not killed.

I know this is probably still not enough for you, so here are over a hundred more Islamic scholars who are against the death penalty for apostasy.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that this girl (or many others who are in similar situations) isn’t at serious risk.  She very may well be.  All it means is that the straw man version of Islam that you have created only serves to ignite more hatred and promote your own personal ideological agenda.

This highlights the absurdity that is Robert Spencer, an absurdity that projects an ominous pre-set conclusion on any heated situation that arises dealing with Muslims and castigates “all Islam” in the process without acknowledging the polyvalent interpretations that exist or the context.

Robert Spencer’s Hypocrisy on Religious Freedom

What further makes the Fatimah Rifqah Bary case one which exposes Spencer and his cronies is the hypocrisy of it all. This is being painted as a freedom of religion case, specifically the freedom to change one’s religion, but it seems in this department Spencer sounds like the pot calling the kettle black since he supports those who would restrict the freedom of religion of Muslims.

As we have written on extensively before, one of the close comrades of Spencer is neo-fascist European politician Geert Wilders. Spencer is on the record stating his admiration for Wilders who he sees as the only European politician standing up for Western Civilization.

"Under his wing": Geert Wilders & Robert Spencer

"Under his wing": Geert Wilders & Robert Spencer

Wilders is by all accounts an odious individual who calls for the out right denial of religious freedom to Muslims. He has called for the banning of the Quran which he compares to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he has also stated that, “Freedom of Religion should not apply to Islam.” He is also working to end Muslim immigration and strip Muslims in Dutch society of their citizenship.

This is Spencers friend. Spencer has also participated in forums with Wilders, conferences, writes articles about him, has interviewed him and cites him often. In one article Spencer wrote in response to CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper he says,

I didn’t actually have anything to do with that conference in Florida, but Hoop could just say straight out that I support Wilders. And so should anyone who holds dear the Western values that are threatened by Islamic supremacists.

So is the Fatimah Rifqah Bary case another instance of Robert Spencer jumping the gun or is her life legitimately under threat? The courts will resolve that question, but Spencer has shot his credibility in this department with a track record of obfuscation, innuendo and misrepresentation and is wholly unreliable.

Will Spencer also back track on his position that “all Muslim sects and schools of thought” legislates the death penalty for apostates and concede that there is a valid counter opinion such as the one articulated by Professor Bassiouni? Finally, will Spencer quit the charade that he is a democrat that cares for Freedom of Religion when in fact his position is to support those who would deny religious freedom?

It seems that per his practice, Spencer seized on this case to further his well-oiled agenda that Islam is evil and Muslims are backward. As the story of Fatimah Rifqah Bary plays out we will see more clearly that the anti-Muslims are not motivated by her welfare but rather to confirm their warped hatred of Islam and Muslims.