Why Robert Spencer Cannot Be Trusted
1. Spencer is no scholar of Islam
Firstly, Spencer himself claims he is a scholar of Islam, so to make such a powerful statement must be backed up with credentials. Scholar, Ivan Jablonka, stated that Spencer lacks “academic seriousness.”
This is indeed true, because once we look at Spencer’s academic achievements, biography and scholarly claims, we find that indeed, Spencer has no academic qualifications whatsoever to claim he is a scholar about Islam. His friends seem to do so and this is highlighted on his website.
Academically, Spencer has only a Master’s degree in the field of religious studies.
If he is certainly no scholar, then him and his friends are indeed lying about his claims to pass off as an intellectual individual. If he is indeed lying, how then, can he be trusted? His credentials, online presence, website and statements then carry little weight.
2. Spencer cannot understand Arabic
Spencer has written about Islam, the Quran, the hadith and other Islamic sources that have been originally compiled in the complex Arabic language. Little does he know that the Arabic language is full of meaning and interpretation. But this makes it easier for him to misinterpret passages, especially without the reader knowing.
Academically, Spencer has only a Master’s degree in religious studies and not once in his life has he completed or undertaken an Arabic course or degree.
Most Islamic scholars study Arabic, Spencer lacks this crucial understanding.
3. Spencer tries to market and seek profit from books
As we know, Spencer is an author and has written numerous books about Islam. But you can see below that Spencer has uses Twitter not only to promote his web links, but also to conjure up interaction with leading or controversial professionals to try and promote his book.
Whether he is trying to make people interested in his book can be questionable, but raising awareness about it is certainly a promotional marketing strategy.
Even Spencer’s friends have tried promoting his work, such as conspiracy promoting anti-Muslim, Bat Ye’or, who wrote a surprisingly great review of Spencer’s book on Amazon.
Pamela Geller, Spencer’s close friend (co-founder of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and the Freedom Defense Initiative) also wrote a positive review for the audience of her website trying to help promote his works.
4. Spencer uses conspiracy to sell books
Did Jesus exist? Did Moses exist? These have been famous conspiracy theories that have grasped people’s imaginations for centuries and allowed people to gain profit. Spencer recently worked on a new book titled “Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins”. And it seems to have sold.
Forgetting the fact that Muhammad’s life has been narrated by countless people, being recorded and recounted to hundreds if not thousands of people recollected in hadith, Spencer makes things very complex and shifts to small holes in which he regards as proof that Muhammad didn’t exist.
As an example, Spencer asks as to why the early Islamic coins fail to acknowledge Muhammad or the Muslim faith. The simple answer would be that it doesn’t matter and people didn’t have to do it. Nevertheless, these little irrelevant things show that Spencer has cherry picked certain ideas and made them into a big issue. Once all the small ideas are combined, they can be made into a controversial book that sells.
5. Spencer was named by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in manifesto
Spencer was named a total of 64 times by name in the manifesto created by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik shortly before he killed more than 70 people.
Breivik was influenced by Spencer and even recommended Spencer’s blog posts in his manifesto. He even went on to say, ‘About Islam I recommend essentially everything written by Robert Spencer’
6. Spencer is closely linked to Pamela Geller who received an extremist email
Spencer himself co-founded hate-group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and the Freedom Defense Initiative with fellow friend and blogger Pamela Geller.
In 2007, Pamela Geller received a dangerous email from an anonymous Norwegian, who claimed he/she/or they, were “stockpiling weapons” on her blog AtlasShrugs. The email clearly read “We are stockpiling and caching weapons, ammunition and equipment. This is going to happen fast.” Bloggers quickly reacted, printscreened and Geller issued an article afterwards (because she most likely had to).
If this person was indeed Breivik, then Geller is to be investigated. If the person was not affiliated to Geller, then Geller is still to be investigated because this could be a potential terrorist case.
As we know, Spencer is very closely linked to this woman and ignoring this may result in devastating consequences.
Breivik even recommended Geller’s blog posts in his manifesto.
7. Spencer fear-mongers
Spencer and Geller together, have long been active in spreading the idea that the U.S. is going to ‘Islamized’, a conspiracy ideology that is also remnant in far-right groups such as the Netherlands Party for Freedom and the English Defence League. Together they founded Stop the Islamization of America group, who constantly preach about how the U.S. is being ‘Islamized’.
With his blog JihadWatch, Spencer aids his group and propagates the concept that Islam is slowly ‘creeping’ into the West, whilst also making people hateful of Islam and Muslims too. Here, we see how Spencer funds the association of honour killings and relating them directly to Islam.
This campaign was funded by the Stop the Islamization of America group around the U.S. Islam is clearly attacked and linked to honour killings even though mainstream Islamic scholars have condemned honour killings and have stated they have no place in Islam.
It must be understood that Spencer has less credibility than the majority of Islamic scholars who have studied Islam, the Quran, hadith, traditions and the language of Arabic. Spencer only has a Master’s in religious studies.
8. Spencer picks and chooses to support claims
Conservative scholar, pundit and author, Dinesh D’Souza, stated that “Spencer's historical argument is dubious. It emphasizes violent passages in the Koran, while downplaying the passages that urge peace and goodwill.”
As we know, the Quran, as well as speaking of violence also speaks about peace, justice and tolerance. It is blatantly obvious, that Spencer hardly mentions these. He seems to simply reject them, without understanding the verses and passages are there. It’s like he deliberately picks and chooses to suit fit. He has done this technique in his books too, like how he omits the details of the Nakhla raid (further highlighted in LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series).
In his works, he tends to pick out what ‘Islamists’ and extremists say, but fails to recognise the words and actions of mainstream Islamic scholars, such as Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri’s constant condemnations of violence. He even admits this on his website.
Clearly, Spencer omits out important elements in his works (such as the concept of the inner Jihad and peace treaties during Muhammad’s time), hence giving readers the one side of the coin. By doing this, he can manipulate the reader.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) correctly stated that “by selectively ignoring inconvenient Islamic texts and commentaries, Spencer concludes that Islam is innately extremist and violent”.
So if he continues to pick and choose facts and omit details that misleads the reader, then his credibility and bias is to be held into account. Ex-Nixon Aide and author, Robert Crane, correctly highlighted that “Spencer's readers are carefully steered away from all contact with the Islamic interpretative tradition”.
9. Blatant anti-Islamic views
Charles Johnson, a former ally, friend of Robert Spencer stated that “Robert Spencer is an anti-Muslim blogger…And yes, I do mean ‘anti-Muslim’ — Spencer long ago crossed the line from simply criticizing radical Islamists to relentlessly demonizing all Muslims. And the bigoted, hateful comments he allows at his website are beyond disgusting.”
Spencer has also referred the Quran to the ‘Mein Kampf’, similar to hate-preacher Pamela Geller, who seems to be Spencer’s partner in crime. Comparing a religious book to Nazism is downright inaccurate and also hateful.
That being said, Spencer aims to highlight Jihad on his website, but with stances opposing Islam and referring the Quran as the ‘Mein Kampf’, it is an attack on Muslims themselves (like how Charles Johnson described earlier). So despite trying to highlight Jihad, it seems clear that Spencer is merely trying to demonize Islam and Muslim themselves (also see section 7).
M. Cherif Bassiouni, law professor, scholar and humanitarian, found the same rhetoric when he viewed Spencer’s website, stating, “After looking at your website, I was quite surprised to see how much hate, venom and misunderstanding you are fostering.”
Even in his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Spencer states that ‘Islam’s only overarching moral principle is “if it’s good for Islam, it’s right”…’ But what about the Islamic pillar of giving charity (zakat)? Clearly, Spencer forgets this and misleads the reader to believe nothing good ever comes out of Islam.
As a self-confessed scholar of Islam, we would expect he would know about this. But it seems his bias shines straight through his work too.
10. Blatant anti-Islamic views even in his works
The first chapter of ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)’ is “Muhammad: Prophet of War”. We know that Muhammad was indeed part of many battles, but he was also part of peace treaties, social justice, welfare and community work too. This is hidden from view in this book.
Muhammad is again attacked in Spencer’s book “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion”. Again, Spencer hides facts about peace treaties, social justice, welfare and community work and focussing more on war and violence through omit and omission (highlighted in section 8).
11. Spencer preaches about Quranic violence and forgets Biblical violence
What’s strange is that Spencer is very enthusiastic to comment and write about violence mentioned in the Quran (perhaps its his job to do so, highlighted in section 12). But Spencer skips his own faith.
As mentioned earlier, Spencer has a Master’s degree in religious studies. So surely, he would know of all the violence mentioned in the Bible? Nevertheless, Philip Jenkins studied violence in the Bible and in the Quran, and found that the Bible is ‘far more violent.’
Spencer is quick to critic Islam, but doesn’t seem to critic his own faith. He’s even created a book named “Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t”.
This further shows he has bias (highlighted in sections 7, 8, 9, 10).
12. Spencer is funded
In 2011, the Center for American Progress released a report (called Fear Inc: ‘The Roots Of the Islamophobia Network In America’) showing that almost $43 million from seven charitable groups since 2001 served as a main driver of anti-Islamic campaigns and works.
The report stated that money had flowed into the hands of five key “experts” and “scholars”. These “experts” and “scholars” were Frank Gaffney, David Yerushalmi, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer and Steven Emerson. It is said that these key players (with others working alongside them) have been helping spread the anti-Muslim rhetoric and propaganda. Page 7 of the report shows us the main network.
The report was even covered by Fox News.
Spencer and his close friend Geller simply reject the detailed report, with no proof provided as to why it might be fake. It is brushed off their shoulders.
Additionally, in October 2010, an investigative report by The Tennessean found that IRS filings from 2008 showed that Robert Spencer earned $132,537 from the David Horowitz Freedom Center (who help Spencer with his website), and Horowitz himself gained over $400,000 for himself in just one year.
As this article highlights, Spencer cannot be trusted.
Islamic scholar, Carl Ernst, correctly stated that “the publications of Spencer belong to the class of Islamophobic extremism that is promoted and supported by right-wing organizations, who are perpetuating a type of bigotry similar to anti-Semitism and racial prejudice. They are to be viewed with great suspicion by anyone who wishes to find reliable and scholarly information on the subject of Islam.”
Upon analysis, we have seen that Spencer indeed, picks and chooses his words in his works (highlighted in section 8). He deliberately misses out key concepts of Islamic history and even relies on what ‘Islamic jihadists’ (section 8) say, and not even what other mainstream scholars have to say. Another example of representing one side of the coin is how Spencer highlights quotes of violence in the Quran and seems to forget the ones that urge peace and justice. This reflects a serious case of bias.
Spencer has a close association with hate-groups such as Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and has even links to key figures (surprisingly also connected to the Islamophobia network). Pamela Geller, a prominent hate-blogger, received an email from a terrorist (highlighted in section 6). Even if the email at hand (section 6) is not indeed the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, then it is indeed a potential terrorist case that needs to be investigated by the main authorities.
What we do know for certain, is that Anders Breivik was deeply influenced by the likes of Spencer (highlighted in section 5) and people are constantly being influenced by him, which can possibly lead to catastrophic consequences, as we’ve seen. With the use of fear mongering, Spencer and his group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) are manipulating the minds of the public. Breivik was one of these individuals.
As this article has highlighted using two well-researched reports (section 12), Spencer shows to have been funded by individuals or groups who have been closely linked together. Studies and research would suggest that Spencer is merely paid to do what he does. That is, to spread hate and criticize Islam and Muslims by any means necessary, whether it be to market his own books and even make close friends support his scholarly claims (i.e. reviewing his books to promote them for him).
But as for Spencer’s scholarly claims, they are clearly over-exaggerated by what seems to be the majority of his close friends and allies. This makes him pass off as an intellectual, when in fact, all he has is a Master’s in religious studies. He has not studied Islamic history, the Quran, or the hadith, whilst mainstream Islamic scholars such as Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri have dedicated their whole lives to studying the religion of Islam. They have more credential, expertise and reliability than Spencer.
In conclusion, there is more to Robert Spencer and his ‘scholarly’ claims than what meets the eye.
Written by Mr. F.