Response to a Witch Hunt
“Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” from the Center for American Progress is just the latest in an ever-lengthening string of markedly similar “exposés” of so-called “Islamphobes.” Each purports to show that the anti-Sharia movement in America is a sinister cabal of well-funded, dishonest hacks stirring up hate against innocent Muslims in order to profit from it. Each has been highly distorted and markedly unfair, twisting the facts and cooking the data in order not to enlighten but to manipulate, not to educate but to propagandize.
Just in recent months there have been two other reports, both almost identical in substance to “Fear, Inc.”: the far-Left Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Jihad Against Islam” and the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations’ “Same Hate, New Target: Islamophobia and Its Impact in the United States.” Each of these is lavishly produced, printed on glossy paper and full of colorful illustrations. With the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the midst of a full-scale, years-long campaign at the United Nations to compel the West to criminalize any honest discussion of how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to recruit and motivate terrorists, it would be useful to know who is funding these slickly produced reports; but, true to form, the mainstream media instead glosses over the radical and genuinely sinister ties of the organizations that produced them, and repeats their agitprop as if it were fact.
But it isn’t. In what follows I must, for reasons of time, limit myself largely to responding to the report’s attacks on me; however, the “Fear, Inc.” attacks on my colleagues and others doing similar work are no more substantive or less manipulative and propagandistic.
The misinformation starts on the first page, when the “Fear, Inc.” authors call me “one of the anti-Muslim misinformation scholars we profile in this report.” The term “anti-Muslim” is immediate evidence of the manipulative, propagandistic nature of this report: my work, and the work of the other scholars and activists demonized in “Fear, Inc.,” has never been against Muslims in the aggregate or any people as such, but rather against an ideology that denies the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people. In fact, years ago at Jihad Watch I had an exchange with an English convert to Islam. I said: “I would like nothing better than a flowering, a renaissance, in the Muslim world, including full equality of rights for women and non-Muslims in Islamic societies: freedom of conscience, equality in laws regarding legal testimony, equal employment opportunities, etc.” Is all that “anti-Muslim”? My correspondent thought so. He responded: “So, you would like to see us ditch much of our religion and, thereby, become non-Muslims.”
In other words, he saw a call for equality of rights for women and non-Muslims in Islamic societies, including freedom of conscience, equality in laws regarding legal testimony, and equal employment opportunities, as a challenge to his religion. To the extent that they are, these facts have to be confronted by both Muslims and non-Muslims. But it is not “anti-Muslim” to wish freedom of conscience and equality of rights on the Islamic world -- quite the contrary.
The report also contains a – by now obligatory – lengthy excursus on Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik: “While these bloggers and pundits were not responsible for Breivik’s deadly attacks, their writings on Islam and multiculturalism appear to have helped create a world view, held by this lone Norwegian gunman, that sees Islam as at war with the West and the West needing to be defended.” While granting that we are not responsible for Breivik’s acts, the report also takes pains to point out that “Robert Spencer and his blog were cited 162 times in the nearly 1,500-page manifesto of Anders Breivik, the confessed Norway terrorist who claimed responsibility for killing 76 people, mostly youths.” Not surprisingly, it doesn’t mention that I have never sanctioned or justified violence, or that Breivik was plotting violence in the 1990s, before I had published anything about Islam, or that he complained that I was not recommending violence, or that he recommended making common cause with jihadists, which I would never do – indicating that his “manifesto” is actually ideologically incoherent, and not a legitimate counter-jihad document at all. These facts are not mentioned in “Fear, Inc.,” because they would interfere with its propagandistic agenda.
As for the claim that Breivik committed his murders because of the worldview we had created that “sees Islam at war with the West,” “Fear, Inc.” is also silent about the many Muslims who have declared that they are indeed at war with the West, in the name of Islam. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said: “Have no doubt... Allah willing, Islam will conquer what? It will conquer all the mountain tops of the world.” CAIR cofounder and longtime Board chairman Omar Ahmad said in 1998: “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.” (He now denies saying this, but the original reporter sticks by her story.) The prominent American Muslim leader Siraj Wahhaj said in 2002: “If only Muslims were clever politically, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate.” The most influential Islamic cleric in the world today, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has said: “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor, after being expelled from it twice.”
True to form for these “Islamophobia” reports, “Fear, Inc.” ignores such statements and many others like them, attempting to create the impression that the only ones responsible for the idea that Islam is “at war with the West” are the “Islamophobes.”
Without offering any substantive refutation, “Fear, Inc.” dismisses as “inaccurate and perverse” my statement that Islam is “the only religion in the world that has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers and mandates that Muslims must wage war in order to establish the hegemony of the Islamic social order all over the world.” What is “inaccurate and perverse” is the report’s denial of this, since it is a matter of objective verification that all the mainstream Islamic sects and schools of Islamic jurisprudence do indeed teach that the Islamic umma must wage war against unbelievers and subjugate them under the rule of Islamic law. The report does not and cannot produce any evidence that Islam does not contain sects and schools that teach this.
Most of what “Fear, Inc.” says about me is just name-calling, but it makes an attempt at substance with this: “Spencer’s views on Islam—and his credibility in discussing Islam at all—are challenged by scholars at his own alma mater. He has ‘no academic training in Islamic studies whatsoever,’ according to Islamic scholar Carl W. Ernst, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Instead, Professor Ernst says Spencer selectively uses textual, religious evidence to mainstream the claim that ‘Islam is not a religion of peace.’ Indeed, Spencer gives misplaced credence to the ‘Sharia threat’ argument that is then mainstreamed by the Islamophobia network.”
Ernst’s dismissal of my work on the basis of my having “no academic training in Islamic studies whatsoever,” besides being false, is completely void of substance: the determination of whether or not one’s work is accurate is not decided by the number of one’s degrees, but by the nature of the work itself. What’s more, Ernst’s claim is especially laughable given the ideological dominance of the far-Left Middle East Studies Association (MESA) among academics in this field today, such that dissenting voices are seldom, if ever, heard. Ernst’s own objectivity, moreover, is in severe doubt after he flew to Tehran in December 2008 to accept an award from Iran’s anti-Semitic, genocide-minded Islamic supremacist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Another compromised authority that “Fear, Inc.” cites is Charles Johnson, the “Little Green Footballs” blogger who several years ago moved from the right to the hard Left, betraying his former friends and posting vicious and arguably libelous false charges about them. For “Fear, Inc.,” Johnson’s blog is “popular” and “right-leaning,” when in fact it is no longer either one.
“Fear, Inc.” likewise trumpets the 2004 Amman Message as a “Sharia-based condemnation of violence from the world’s leading Islamic authorities.” The report deceptively fails to mention, however, that the Amman Message forbids Muslim-on-Muslim violence based on takfir, or declarations by one Muslim group that another is apostate. The Amman Message’s three points, mentioned in “Fear, Inc.,” do not address violence or non-violent jihad activity against non-Muslims at all, and the Amman Message’s website actually endorses an undefined “legitimate jihad.”
That is indicative of the dishonesty and one-sidedness of this report. The chief indication of that dishonesty is the wildly misleading presentation of financial data – making the sums involved appear much greater than they actually were by lumping together donations given to disparate organizations over a period of many years. When examined closely, the sums involved are actually far lower than those regularly received by Leftist and Islamic supremacist groups such as the ones that have produced the recent “Islamophobia” reports. Hamas-linked CAIR just announced today that it had almost reached its goal of raising $650,000 during Ramadan. I have never received that kind of support for Jihad Watch during any comparable period of time.
An honest presentation about “Islamophobia” would address the American people’s reasonable concern about the continuing series of violent acts committed by Muslims in the name of Islam, and outline ways in which the Muslim community could lessen suspicion against Muslims by cooperating fully and honestly with law enforcement anti-terror activities. But instead, “Fear, Inc.” is designed to portray Muslims as victims and demonize all those who stand in the way of the misogynistic and unjust agenda of the Islamic jihad, whether advanced by violent or non-violent means. As such, it is simply an instrument of that jihad.