Robert Spencer

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Robert Spencer is an anti-Islam blogger and author. He runs the blog Jihad Watch, has published ten books on the "Islamic threat," and founded the groups Stop Islamization of America and the Freedom Defense Initiative with frequent co-collaborator Pam Geller (who runs the Atlas Shrugs blog). Spencer and Geller also led the charge against the Park 51 Islamic Community Center / "Ground Zero mosque" in 2010. He is listed as one of America's most dangerous hatemongers.[1]

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) ranked Robert Spencer as the second leading Islamophobe in the country, just behind Spencer's boss and financier, neo-conservative David Horowitz (ex-Marxist). [2] The David Horowitz Freedom Center funds Spencer's JihadWatch website, Spencer is a columnist for Horowitz' FrontPage Magazine and Human Events, and Spencer has written several monographs for the Center. [3]

According to Spencer's JihadWatch website, "[h]is articles on Islam and other topics have appeared in the New York Post, the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News, Canada's National Post, FrontPageMagazine.com, WorldNetDaily, Insight in the News, Human Events, National Review Online, and many other journals. He has discussed jihad, Islam, and terrorism on the BBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, C-Span, and Croatia National Televison (HTV), as well as on numerous radio programs including Michael Savage's Savage Nation, The Alan Colmes Show, The G. Gordon Liddy Show, The Neal Boortz Show, The Michael Medved Show, The Michael Reagan Show, The Larry Elder Show, The Barbara Simpson Show, Vatican Radio, and many others." [3] Despite allegations he is an Islamophobe and his "studies" on Islam have no basis in scholarship, he has led seminars on Islam and jihad for the U.S. Central Command, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the U.S. intelligence community.

Anders Breivik

Anders Breivik, the confessed Norway right-wing terrorist who planted a bomb in Oslo that killed eight people and shot and killed 68 people (mostly teenagers) at a youth camp in July 2011, cited Robert Spencer and his JihadWatch blog 162 times in his 1,500 page anti-Islam manifesto. [4]

Criticism

While Spencer's JihadWatch profile states he "has been studying Islamic theology, law, and history in depth since 1980," his assertions have no basis in scholarship. [5] Spencer's M.A. degree in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was in the field of early Christianity. [3] Carl W. Ernst, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says 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. . . his views have no basis in scholarship." [5]

According to Spencer, "my books are made up largely of quotations from Islamic jihadists and the traditional Islamic sources to which they appeal to justify violence and terrorism. My work sheds light on what these sources say. The evidence stands by itself; readers can evaluate it for themselves." For example, in his book "The Politically Correct Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)," Spencer writes 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."[6]

In discussing the book, Former [Richard Nixon] advisor Robert Crane writes that Spencer ignores "centuries of interpretive 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. . . 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."

Crane says that Spencer is “the principal leader… in the new academic field of Islam bashing." [7]

Activities

According to the website www.SpencerWatch.org, "Spencer’s attack against Islam can be broken down into two categories: polemical and activist:

Anti-Muslim Polemicist:

Spencer’s polemical attack is based on his personal study of Islam since he has no formal training in Islamic studies. Spencer employs a number of arguments and tactics in his polemics: projecting the actions of an individual as an inherent trait of the entire group, taking the most extreme opinions and interpretations of Islam and asserting them as correct, normative and mainstream, conflating culture with religion, guilt by association, regurgitating Orientalist ideas, and weaponizing, revisiting and at times forging history to suit his arguments. He consistently forwards conspiracy theories about “Stealth Jihad,” “Eurabia,” genocide in Bosnia never occurring or being exaggerated, eminent “Islamization of America,” and the infiltration of Congress by “Muslim spy interns.”

Spencer’s activist attack against Islam and Muslims initially took the form of speaking at Conservative conferences, Churches and Synagogues, on college campuses for David Horowitz’s sponsored “Islamo-Fascism Week,” on Christian TV Networks such as Pat Robertson’s CBN, giving classes on Islam to the FBI, and engaging in debates with the likes of Dinesh D’souza who dubbed him an “Islamophobe.”

Anti-Muslim Activist:

However, since the cementing of his friendship and alliances with Pamela Geller, European anti-Muslim activist Anders Gravers (leader of SIOE) and radical Dutch Euro-supremacist politician Geert Wilders, Robert Spencer has embarked on a course of institutionalizing and organizing against Islam and Muslims under the rubric of “fighting the Jihad.” He is now co-founder and leader in two new anti-Muslim organizations, Freedom Defense Initiative (FDI) and Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA).

The creation of these two groups by Spencer must be read in the larger context of a growing movement of anti-Muslim/Islam organizations across the country. They are part of what Homeland Security has dubbed the “rise in right-wing extremism” since the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. For Robert Spencer this all boils down to a “Crusade against Islam,” a religion that he views as the “chief rival” to Catholicism, that is “incomplete,” “misleading” “downright false,” and a “threat to the peace and well-being of the Western world.”"[1]

Suggesting President Obama endorses Muslim Brotherhood

Spencer supports Gaffney’s conspiratorial claims that President Obama’s religious identity and his support of Egyptian democracy are endorsement of the Muslim Brotherhood and its alleged “Islamist” agenda. Spencer has posted a video on his blog where he explains why he thinks President Obama may still be a Muslim, claiming, “ultimately only he knows the answer as to what he really believes. But certainly his public policies and his behavior are consistent with his being a committed and convinced Muslim.” [8] [9]

Funding

According to the Center for American Progress, "Spencer’s activities are funded in large part through the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Spencer’s salary at Jihad Watch was about $140,000 in 2010, according to an investigative report by Politico’s Kenneth Vogel and Giovanni Russonello. Donations to Stop Islamization of America appear to be collected by Jihad Watch’s PayPal account. In 2005 and 2006, the Fairbrook Foundation contributed a total of $253,250 to Jihad Watch. [10]

Groups

Personal

Robert Spencer was born in 1962 and is of Greek heritage, and a Melkite Greek Catholic. His grandparents came from what is present day Turkey. Spencer claims that he became interested in Islam after learning about his family's history, where his grandparents were reportedly offered the choice of conversion to Islam or exile. [13]

According to an August 2010 New York Magazine article, Spencer's father worked at the Voice of America during the Cold War. Despite his current ideological leanings, Spencer "spent part of his youth working at Revolution Books, which is run by the Revolutionary Communist Party (and its cultish leader Bob Avakian), a hard-line Maoist group most sixties-style radicals, like, say, Bill Ayers, would consider beyond the pale." [14]


Recent books

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Robert Steinback, 10 of America's Most Dangerous Hatemongers, Alternet, 21 July 2011.
  2. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting "Smearcasting", Robert Spencer, accessed January 14, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Robert Spencer "About" page, JihadWatch, accessed January 14, 2010.
  4. Eli Clifton, “chart: oslo terrorist’s manifesto cited many islamophobic Bloggers and pundits,” Think Progress, July 25, 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Carl W. Ernst "Notes on the Ideological Patrons of an Islamophobe, Robert Spencer", University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, accessed January 14, 2010.
  6. Robert Spencer, The Politically Correct Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (at Google Books), Regnery Publishing, 2005.
  7. robert crane, quoted by robert spencer in “spencer, ibrahim at middle east Forum in new york,” Jihad watch, January 14, 2009.
  8. robert spencer, “obama’s Brotherhood moment,” Frontpage magazine, February 2, 2011, available at http://frontpagemag.com/2011/02/02/obamas-brotherhood-moment/.
  9. robert spencer, “spencer interview: is obama a muslim?”, Jihad watch, april 29, 2010, available at http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/04/spencer-interview-is-obama-a-muslim.html
  10. Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir, "Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, Center for American Progress, August 2011.
  11. Advisory Board, American Council for Kosovo, accessed August 10, 2008.
  12. Who's Involved, Save Iraqi Christians, accessed August 10, 2008.
  13. Q&A (C-Span) Transcript, August 20, 2006, accessed January 14, 2010.
  14. Mark Jacobson, The Imbroglio Over the Ground-Zero Mosque (Mohammad Comes to Manhattan), New York Magazine, August 22, 2010, accessed January 14, 2010.

External resources

External articles