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.”

Robert Spencer Rejected by Academics: Still Supports Geert Wilders

Islamophobes Inc., Robert Spencer and Geert Wilders

Islamophobes Inc., Robert Spencer and Geert Wilders

Recently the American Library Association & the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Roundtable was to hold a discussion around the topic of Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping. For all intents and purposes the forthcoming discussion seemed very promising. It would confront and discuss the important issue of stereotypical portrayals of Islam and all that is associated with it such as myths and smears.

The program ran into trouble when without the knowledge of the other panelists, and seemingly without any sort of vetting, the ALA invited a well known anti-Islam and anti-Muslim blogger and writer — Robert Spencer. To say the least this made more than a few people scratch their heads. How could a reputable organization invite a well known Islamophobe who traffics in perpetuating stereotypes to speak at an event that is supposed to go beyond stereotypes?

To understand just how strange this was just imagine if the ALA had invited David Duke as a speaker on matters of race, say on a panel discussing the topic Perspectives on Race: Beyond Stereotyping. Does anyone believe he would be invited?

This was the very reason that a group of librarians, scholars and individuals sent a letter to the ALA protesting the inclusion of Robert Spencer on the panel. In it they detail their reasons and their apprehension at the severe lapse of judgment and error on the part of the ALA,

Even the most cursory overview of Mr. Spencer’s oeuvre makes it clear that in fact he has no place on a panel whose aim is to dispel stereotypes about Islam. Indeed, we, as librarians, scholars, and individuals are deeply concerned by ALA & EMIERT’s choice of Mr. Spencer for such a panel: Mr. Spencer espouses a view of Islam as a system of belief which is essentially violent, undemocratic, totalitarian, exclusive and at war with all non-Muslims. Mr. Spencer in fact goes as far as to equate Islam with fascism. According to him,

The misbegotten term “Islamo-fascism” is wholly redundant: Islam itself is a kind of fascism that achieves its full and proper form only when it assumes the powers of the state.” (www.jihadwatch.com/islam101)

Hence a question arises as to the justification for inviting a speaker who cannot see anything positive about Islamic beliefs, cultures, societies, histories, etc. to talk to an audience in order to dispel negative views of Islam. We are indeed saddened and puzzled by ALA’s choice for their panel, especially in that this appears to be a rare opportunity to educate people about Islam against the backdrop of an overwhelming atmosphere of ignorance, and negative stereotyping.

The open letter to the ALA resulted in the other three panelists withdrawing their participation in protest against the inclusion of Robert Spencer who they only learned was going to be a part of the panel a few days ago. This resulted eventually in the ALA canceling the event.

This cancellation served as a continuing repudiation of Spencer by scholars and his growing inability to cross over into the mainstream. Increasingly, Spencer’s voice is limited to the echo chamber that is the cottage industry of Islam-bashing which contains such “luminaries” as Debbie Schlussel, Brigitte Gabriel, and Andrew Bostom (!).

In response to being outed by the academics and librarians Spencer wrote a usual shrill diatribe in which he attacked his former friend Charles Johnson, CAIR and accused the ALA of “caving-in” to pressure. Yet by responding it seems Spencer has just dug himself further in a hole that leaves him wide open to further accusations, of at the very least, brazenly supporting loony anti-Muslimism and Islamophobia.

This is all the more revealing in light of a recent comment on Loonwatch from an obvious Spencer fan by the name of John Jackson on a post about Debbie Schlussel. In it Jackson agrees with another commenter Sami and says, “You do a great disservice to Robert Spencer by lumping him in with Debbie Schlussel as ‘Islamophobes’. Schlussel goes off the deep end frequently. I have never seen Spencer do the same.”

It may be true (though I don’t think so) that Spencer doesn’t go off the deep end “frequently” but he does go off the deep end — a lot. Also he takes issue with Spencer being lumped in with the likes of Schlussel, but why not? The only difference between Debbie Schlussel and Robert Spencer is that Debbie doesn’t hide her hate and vitriol against Muslims or Islam nor does she attempt to couch it in an air of objectivity. Furthermore, it wasn’t Loonwatch that first lumped Spencer in with Schlussel but the excellent report produced by FAIR titled Smearcasters.

In Spencer’s response to ALA’s cancellation he lashed out against Smearcasters and to the chagrin of John Jackson he didn’t qualify his attack by saying that some of the profiled such as Debbie Schlussel go off the “deep end frequently” or that Debbie was a “retard” as Sami wrote,  instead he defended them saying, “In reality, the “Smearcasters” report was a political hit piece on an array of the opponents of CAIR and its allied groups.”

For Spencer those profiled by Smearcasters were the victims of a “hit piece” on mere “opponents of CAIR and its allied groups.” Yes, nothing to do with their hate and bigotry Spencer! This is nothing less than an indirect endorsement of all those in the report, and so it is not us lumping in Spencer with what Spencer supporter Sami called “retards” but Spencer himself.

In the same response Spencer further goes after CAIR and defends his alliance with Geert Wilders, the controversial and fascist European politician stating,

CAIR’s Honest Ibe Hooper doesn’t have to resort to such circumlocutions. 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 — notably, as I said above, the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, the equality of rights of all people before the law.

There it is straight from his pen and that’s why Spencer keeps digging himself a hole. His support for Geert Wilders is his downfall because any objective and thorough understanding of Geert Wilders, what he has said and what he represents will prove the lie to the claim made by Spencer that he cares about Democratic freedoms and Rights because if he did he wouldn’t support Wilders and company.

Wilders is on record stating that religious freedom, a cornerstone of the foundation of modern democracies everywhere should not apply to Muslims,

Islam is not a religion… the Quran is a book that calls for hatred, that calls for violence, for murder, for terrorism, for war, and submission…We should also stop pretending that Islam is a religion…the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam.

This is not the only place that Wilders has made this statement he has repeated it to roaring applause at Synagogues and conferences.

It is unbelievable that Spencer would now attempt to posit himself as an objective academic researching and writing on Islam when he unabashedly “supports” odious and reprehensible individuals such as Geert Wilders. Who can take Spencer’s grandiose claim seriously that he is fighting for the freedom of speech, freedom of conscious, indeed for Western civilization itself against “Islamic supremacism” when he supports and calls on us to support one who would infringe on the right of individuals to freely practice their faith.

What can you expect though from one who joined a group that aimed for a reconquista of modern day Turkey, forcibly replacing its Muslim population with a Christian one?

Also Read Svend’s take: Joke of the Day: Robert Spencer as Bridge-Builder