Andrew Bostom Takes on Michael Kruse–Loses

Andrew Bostom and Robert Spencer

Andrew Bostom and Robert Spencer

Andrew Bostom (well over due for a LoonWatch piece), a close friend of Robert Spencer’s, and another self-proclaimed “Islamic scholar” is lauded on JihadWatch as having “taken on and crushed” Mchael Kruse, the St.Petersburg Times reporter who has been covering the Fathima Rifqa Bary case.

It’s a popular tactic amongst Islamophobes, especially Robert Spencer to try and twist what is clearly a negative outcome for themselves into a self-declared victory with a peppering of congratulatory self-adulation. This was the case with Spencer in his confrontation with Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, when his alter-ego Hugh Fitzgerald proclaimed “victory” for Spencer and “defeat” for Bassiouni.

The truth is Spencer and company are ever more becoming isolated on the fringes of an increasingly radicalized segment of the Right-Wing, the company he keeps consists of neo-fascists, birthers, conspiracy theorists, Glenn Beck types, etc.

kruse_michael_wp_10347a

Michael Kruse

In this recent episode Bostom says that Kruse was wrong for stating that Spencer believes that “Muslims are in America to take over,” which from the body of Spencer’s work and the company he keeps is more than likely an accurate presumption, in context it is also the impression that he was trying to give at the press conference outside the courtroom of the Fathima Rifqa Bary case.

A case which is proving to be very embarrassing for Spencer, as evidence after evidence keeps coming out that the charges made by bloggers such as him and Pamela Geller that Rifqa’s life was/had to be in danger and that she was abused by her parents turn out to be bogus. Spencer’s reputation has taken a big hit and he is doing everything in his power to try to salvage some face.

Let’s look at an interesting part of the exchange between Bostom and Kruse:

Kruse to Bostom:

It’s my job to listen to everybody. It’s not my job to assign everybody equal credibility. When it comes to Robert Spencer scholars of Islamic studies outright dismiss him and his body of work. They call him an unreliable ideologue at best and a divisive bigot at worst. I can’t do that, though, can’t just ignore him like that, because he, and Pam Geller, too, are so much a part of this story, and certainly reasons it’s turned into what it’s turned into. Judging from his e-mails and how he talks in person, Rob strikes me as a pretty smart guy, but he’s a pretty smart guy with a very specific worldview. Everything he writes or says gets filtered through that static narrowness. Here is a relatively new dynamic: The other day in Orlando, Rob and Pam were speakers at a news conference, advocates for one “side” of this whole thing, and THEN they covered it as members of the press. They’re covering a story they’ve helped create, or at the very least stoke. The front row of the courtroom was for media, and there was the AP, some newspaper reporters, some TV reporters, some radio reporters, and there was Pam, a woman who last fall wrote a story on her blog saying Barack Obama was the illegitimate son of Malcom X. All of it is an interesting piece of the sprawling Rifqa Bary story, worth watching and considering now, and during the next story like it, and the next one after that.

Here Kruse devastates Bostom and Spencer by pretty much objectively telling it like it is, or as Dave Chapelle used to say Keepin’ it real. This is incomprehensible to polemicists and subjective ideologues such as Bostom and Spencer. It is incontrovertibly true that Spencer (and Bostom for that matter) is completely and thoroughly rejected by academics, we have noted that before here.

Yet, Kruse makes the point that he as a reporter cannot reject Spencer and Pamela Geller out of hand because THEY ARE PART OF THIS STORY. In fact, he points out they have in many ways CREATED this story or at the very least stoked it.

That is absolutely true, ever since the story broke Spencer and Pam have been on a crusade, whipping up their supporters in the blog world to “save Fathima Bary” from a sure “honor killing.” They knew nothing about the family or the context, they cared nothing for this little girl or her future, but eager to make Muslims and Islam look barbarous they attempted to castigate this family in front of the public thereby destroying any chance in those early days of reconciliation.

When fact after fact came out confirming the family’s story, supported by the Ohio police and Children Services, Pamela Geller resorted to making accusations which she claimed she heard from “anonymous sources” that Rifqa Bary was abused throughout her whole life, and that she was even sexually abused by her uncle.

Spencer applauded her in all this, extolling that the mainstream media was ignoring this “mountain of evidence” secured by Pamela Geller that showed that Rifqa Bary’s family was fundamentalist crazy and had abused her. For some reason the police were unable to unearth any evidence of these libelous accusations? Probably because they are made up whole-cloth.

Kruse, highlights how incongruous it is for a woman such as Pamela Geller,  who claims Obama is a Mooslim, anti-Semite, Socialist son of Malcolm X to be in the press area covering a story that she is actively creating. Bostom responds with more polemic,

Bostom to Kruse:

I deal with your non-sequiturs about Robert and Pamela, below. But first, you deliberately and grossly misrepresented what Robert said and the very specific context in which he made his statement–despite standing right next to him, as one can see in the videotape. That reflects very poorly on your own credibility and your ability to judge anyone else’s for that matter.

Do you not see that? Do you not see your own transparent–certainly to me– “static narrowness?”

As for scholarship, who are you to judge? What do you know about Islamic doctrine and history??

I asked you to contact Ibn Warraq via e-mail–He says he never heard from you, and judging from your responses to my repeated questioning you never obtained his definitive scholarly assessment of apostasy, “Leaving Islam”–so clearly real scholarship on the subject matter at hand—apostasy from Islam–does not even appeal to you.

Have you attempted to contact another high profile apostate from Islam, Nonie Darwish, who recently published “Cruel and Usual Punishment,” and wrote about a high profile apostasy case ongoing NOW in her native Egypt, in early August??

I have compiled, edited, and introduced two critically acclaimed scholarly compendia–one on the jihad, the other on Islamic Antisemitism. I have also read and on several occasions reviewed Robert’s books, and they easily exceed most of what passes for “scholarship” on Islam in today’s academy–despite targeting, deliberately, the larger lay audience. Regardless, they are solid works in their own right that are meticulously documented. Have you read them and found identifiable flaws in any of them??

As for Pamela, excuse me, but from my where I sit, she is doing the basic shoe leather investigative reporting those like yourself have thus far refused to do.

How many of Rifqa’s friends have you interviewed, starting for example with the now publicly identified Jamal Jivangee? What sort of of financial investigation of Mr. and Mrs. Bary’s businesses have you conducted??

I think you are being very disingenuous, and your pretense of “objectivity” is simply ludicrous.

As we mentioned Kruse did not misrepresent Spencer, Spencer just spoke very badly and it is not a stretch for Kruse to say that Spencer believes “Muslims are in America to take over” because that is exactly what he was insinuating at that right-wing blogger “press conference.” Then Bostom attempts to accuse Kruse of being ill-informed and not knowing anything about Islam (ironic) and then lists himself (in a bit of shameless self-promotion) and another Islamophobic writer, Ibn Warraq as “experts” that Kruse should have contacted.

This is a highly rich and whiny statement at the same time, what part of discredited do Bostom and Spencer not get? People don’t choose you guys as experts in the field of Islam because you are a pair of polemicists with deep hatred for Islam and Muslims. You can’t blame people for not considering you suitable candidates. He also trots out Nonie Darwish who believes there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, she dumps all Muslims in the radical camp, she also compares Islam to Nazism amongst other interesting Islamophobic anecdotes.

By this time Kruse is almost done, knowing by now where Andrew Bostom comes from, i.e. the far right lunatic camp and says,

Kruse to Bostom:

I should stop, I know this, but I just have to ask: We’ve talked on the phone, we’ve e-mailed, and you seem like an intelligent person, so how can you possibly take Pam Geller seriously?

Bostom to Kruse:

Excuse me, but just as you have calumniated Spencer–with a live video record to debunk you and prove your deliberate misrepresentation—you’ve now done the same with Geller.

From here:

http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2008/10/how-could-stanl.html

“The ‘Atlas says that Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child’ charge has gone viral among leftards and lizards. The only problem with it is that it is false. I am not the author of this post, and I posted it because the writer did a spectacular job documenting Obama’s many connections with the Far Left. The Malcolm X claim is one minor part of this story, and was of interest to me principally as part of the writer’s documentation that Stanley Ann Dunham could not have been where the Obama camp says she was at various times. I do not believe that Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child, and never did — but there remain many, many unanswered questions about his early life and upbringing.”

As a scrupulously honest, painstakingly objective journalist you must know that Pamela has written “I do not believe that Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child, and never did”? Would you even care if you did know?

We know the answer to that, as your calumny against Spencer makes plain.

As we demonstrated Kruse didn’t calumny against Spencer or Geller but Bostom does by trying to defend Pamela. Pamela is thoroughly discredited for more then her posting of the Malcolm-X-is-the-father-of-Barack-Obama-conspiracy, which she attempts to half-heartedly disavow now, but also for her other conspiracies that Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he was indoctrinated into Jihad in Pakistan, that he hates Jews and is an anti-Semite, that he is not an American citizen and was not born in America; all that doesn’t even touch a bit of what she says about Palestinians, Arabs, and real Muslims.

On her post about Barack Obama being the illegitimate son of Malcolm X, which she now claims she doesn’t support, there are some troubling questions that it seems Bostom doesn’t want to raise or answer. Like the obvious as day and night, why did she post that crazy article in the first place? Is that any way to prove that there was “no way that Obama’s mother could have been in America when Obama was born?” The fact is that Pam posted the piece with out any qualifiers, she posted it in her name without attributing it to anyone else. That brings her story of never having supported it into high doubt, the attempt to cover it up now and sweep it under the rug is not going to work especially when her track record has been loonier than the loons.

Robert Spencer: Loonwatch, One-half of the Leftist-Mooslim Alliance

Robert Spencer with loon Pamela Geller

Robert Spencer with loon Pamela Geller

Loonwatchers, it seems the big bad blogger himself, Robert Spencer, is beginning to worry about our little blog over on Jihad Watch (hat tip: Mallorcaman). In a blog titled, Daily Kos Sides with Islamic Supremacists Who Want to Extinguish Free Speech and Oppress Women and Non-Muslims (how many stereotypes can you fit in a single title?), Spencer targets Daily Kos contributor Devon Moore who has written comments on our site previously and has linked to us on his site.

Spencer’s post is interesting both for what Spencer writes as well as the comments which end up proving the depths to which Spencer has sunk. I don’t know if Spencer is giddy at the mere fact that he received some mention on Daily Kos or if he is truly fuming in his traditional, up-tight and conspiratorial way that “stealth jihad” is being perpetuated under the guise of some dreaded and fanciful “leftist-Mooslim” alliance. There is probably an element of both in his paranoia, but as in his attempt to pick a fight with Bassiouni it looks as though it is more of the conspiracy card.

The title itself is quite perplexing and makes bold the fact that Spencer has a penchant not only for melodrama (to stroke his ego) but also misinformation. Whenever anyone disagrees with Spencer or disputes his claims (and the list of people is ever increasing) he takes it personally, and reacts with violently worded blog posts that sling innuendo to-and-fro.

The question is: why is it that Spencer can dish out the criticism but is unable to take it? Is it the hallmark of an objective scholar to think that he or she is above any criticism? That everyone outside of the choir he sings to is wrong and part of some Leftist-Mooslim alliance? The ALA is wrong? Muslim scholar and International Law expert Cherif Bassiouni is wrong? Chicago activist Ahmed Rehab is wrong? Islamic scholar Carl Ernst is wrong? Islamic scholar John Esposito is wrong? Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is wrong? Religious scholar Karen Armstrong is wrong? Islamic scholar Khaleel Mohammed is wrong? Academic historian Ivan Jablonka is wrong? Journalist and neo-Con Stephen Shwartz is wrong? Conservative ex-boyfriend of Ann Coulter Dinesh D’Souza is wrong? Spencer’s former friend Charles Johnson is wrong? Blogger and columnist for Commentary Magazine Kejda Gjermani is wrong? The list goes on and on.

Of course, the plain truth is that all of these diverse individuals are neither wrong or incorrect but they are on to something: Spencer is not an objective scholar, he is not in fact very scholarly, in fact he traffics in some of the oldest and well abused stereotypes about Islam and Muslims out there, while all at the same time putting up a front that he is objective and part of the elite vanguard safe-guarding Western values such as freedom of religion and free speech.

This methodology of Spencer is belied by the fact that he takes umbrage at other people expressing their right to free speech which is exactly what Devon Moore did. He stated his opinion (one shared by many), yet according to Spencer what he did was the equivalent to teaming up with “Islamic Supremacists who want to extinguish free speech and oppress women and non-Muslims.” Say what?

Spencer really should go through our website, especially the articles relating to him. He will see that all we do is report the facts — his instances of Islamophobia and anti-Muslimism. Like when he joined the genocidal Facebook group which called for the reconquista of modern day Turkey and its transformation through ethnic cleansing of the whole peninsula; driving out its Muslim Turkish inhabitants and replacing them with Christians.

Malkin's Book

Malkin's Book

We don’t have time to go through a detailed list of the odious friends and individuals of a very anti-Muslim bent that Spencer calls allies, but they include: Michelle Malkin of In Defense of Internment fame, Geert Wilders a neo-Fascist European politician (though Spencer thinks he is not a “genuine” neo-fascist) who wants to ban the Qur’an, Muslim immigration and deny religious freedom to Muslims, Serge Trifkovic one of the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs during the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims, the Gates of Vienna website which advocates an end to Muslim immigration and the dominance of the original indigenous White Europeans, and more. One day we will list all his buddies but just this small oeuvre should be a chilling reminder of who Spencer is: a biased, self proclaimed scholar who does not view Islam from a dispassionate and objective lens.

Spencer’s blog post also reveals a bit more of the strange world he inhabits. He writes,  first quoting Devon Moore,

The anti-Muslims cover a wide spectrum though most can be found slithering in the Right-Wing. They range from academics such as Daniel Pipes, self-declared scholars like Robert Spencer and his JihadWatch, to open racists such as Debbie Schlussel, Pamela Geller and the blog Gates of Vienna.

“Open racists”? When the Left can’t argue (which is most of the time), they smear and lie. Schlussel and Geller are freedom fighters, warriors for human rights. Only to a Leftist would that be “racist.” They are not open racists or closet racists or any kind of racists.

Moore made the incontrovertible point that Pamela Geller and Debbie Schlussel are racists, he could have also added loony extremists. Yet, according to Spencer, Debbie Schlussel and Pamela Geller are “freedom fighters” and “warriors for human rights.”

Pamela Geller, you may recall is one of the bloggers who initiated and pushed (and still is pushing) the Birther conspiracy about Barack Obama. That Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and that he is a secret Muslim subverting America through Jihad. She also “uncovered” somehow that Barack Obama was the illegitimate son of Malcolm X. This is what her WikiAnswer page has to say about her,

Pam Geller’s blog has earned her a spot in the Conservative limelight. She frequently attacks Barack Obama, pushing and originating conspiracy theories that include: Obama is a secret Muslim, Obama is not American, Obama is the illegitimate son of Malcolm X, Obama is an anti-Semite. She writes in an August 1st blog about Obama’s travel to Pakistan in the 80’s, “I think he went for the drugs and came back with jihad.”

Debbie Schlussel

Debbie Schlussel

The other “freedom fighter” for Spencer is that delightful, if deranged blogger known as Debbie Schlussel. She gives us so much fodder that there should be a website devoted exclusively to her. Debbie Schlussel was the one who proclaimed after the Virginia Tech Massacre that the shooter was a Muslim, and when early reports came out that he was Asian, she wrote that “Pakis are considered Asian” and that the attack could have been “part of a co-ordinated terrorist plot by Pakistanis.” Even when it was revealed that the shooter was a Korean she persisted with her story that he could have been a secret Muslim. Not too long ago she was on the record making a genocidal joke about Palestinians, while writing about clashes between rival Palestinian forces which left six dead Schlussel stated, “As we say in lawyer jokes, that’s a start. Six down, a few million to go.”

Now with friends like those can we really take Robert Spencer seriously? Especially when he gives these crazies ringing endorsements as “freedom fighters” and “warriors for human rights.” It seems even some of his followers are a little queasy about his endorsement, one commenter on JihadWatch, JoeChill writes,

Sorry, Mr. Spencer–you make some excellent points, but Debbie Schlussel is a highly disturbed woman. Granted, the idiots at Kos don’t like her, but even a broken clock, etc.

Schlussel initially suggested that the VA Tech shooter was a Muslim (he wasn’t). She claims that one of the 9/11 victims, Jon Schlissel, was a “cousin” of hers (based on the idea that someone with a similar name had the same ancestor a few centuries ago) and she repeatedly attacks those she disagrees with by making unsubstantiated claims, or, more often, lies.

I agree with you that Islamic jihadists and those who follow Sharia law are little more than brutal thugs who are trying to remake the world into their own twisted image. But Schlussel’s pretty twisted herself, even though she opposes them. If conservative writers are guardians of the Constitution, Schlussel is a rabid German Shepherd. By espousing her, you weaken your otherwise excellent column.

Posted by: JoeChill [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2009 4:35 PM

It would be wise for Robert Spencer to take this advice from JoeChill, he should retract his endorsement of the racist Debbie Schlussel, apologize for it, condemn her and distance himself from her. Then he should do the same with Pamela Geller. That way he might be on the road to rehabilitating his image as an apologist for fascism and an endorser of racists, instead of boohooing about a fictitious “Leftist-Mooslim” alliance.

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.