I just received this kind letter about my recent contretemps with blogger Dean Esmay:
Dear Mr. Spencer, or (if you prefer) Robert,
Let me say this: I am one of many who believed that Islam was a religion of peace before it was hijacked by terrorists.
Then I read your debate with Mr. Esmay. Then I read several of your other articles in JihadWatch. Then I read several of Mr. Esmay's articles at his website. Then I read the Qur'an and several portions of the Hadith. Then I re-read quite a bit of the above.
I have changed my mind. Here's why:
You write with remarkable clarity, and rarely use sarcasm or insult to deflect from the issue (I think I counted you doing it twice, and even then, you immediately returned to the issues at hand).
More importantly, you always cite specific references (sometimes multiple specific references), showing that your assertion is not just your opinion, but verifiable fact. Believe me, I checked every single one of your references in the USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts. You always cited references as professionally as any reputable historian or philosopher. (I wish we'd had you as a member of our Debating Team!)
Also, and this is paramount: you don't suffer from the same illness that many other blog editors do, the Super Star Syndrome. That's when you stop reporting factually and just sermonize, in love with the words you've written, and the posts of all those adoring fans ("Oh Robert, you're like a god! You can say nothing wrong!"). And the thrust of yor arguments becomes, "How can you disagree with me? I'm so perfect! All the posters here say so!"
This does not describe you. You are still grounded, and that's important. Anyone can turn into a fanatic, whether sinner or saint. It takes a lot of character to NOT become a fanatic, and you seem to have that requisite character.
So, to echo your statement regarding Dean Esmay: "I was actually referring to the impossibility of convincing him (Dean Esmay) of anything, but the possibility of convincing people of good will."
You can count me in as one of those "people of good will." I hope I can be of some help. I have two young sons whom I want to prepare for life, and part of it is knowing how to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
And if Mr. Esmay is reading this, please focus on Robert's statement to you:"I can see from your (web)site that you have good intentions ... I am going to keep giving you reasoned responses ... as I think ultimately we are working in the same direction -- although I am aware you may indignantly reject such an idea."
Remember, folks: it isn't MuslimWatch; it's JihadWatch.
I appreciate Martin's perhaps overgenerous words toward me personally, and above all I appreciate his focus on the evidence. Nothing will be gained by pursuing the politically correct fantasies that have most recently been retailed again by Canadian officials; reality may be uncomfortable, but it is reality. It cannot ultimately be avoided.
Meanwhile, Mr. Esmay's assertions have proved false on virtually every count. This isn't important, but since he brought it up -- Esmay declared, referring to me, that "it's an absolute certainty that I have a lot more readers than he does." Well, as it happens I installed Sitemeter a week or so ago, and Jihad Watch has been averaging 20,000 unique visitors a day (our listed average is slightly lower than that right now because I put in Sitemeter late one evening and the fragmentary numbers from the first day are averaged in with the rest). Dean's World? Fewer than 5,000 a day: see #78 (Jihad Watch) and #219 (Dean's World) in this list of weblogs by traffic.
More importantly, Dean Esmay continues to hammer away at me, calling me "a shuck and jive artist who makes his living throwing raw meat to gullible people." Ordinarily I wouldn't consider this kind of thing worthy of an answer, but the irony here is too stark to ignore. Esmay has taken to referring to me as "Roobart Sbunsar," after the Arabic form of my name, روبرت سبنسر, which I included in this post after an emailer asserted that I know no Arabic. In this Esmay is following a Muslim blogger named Aziz, who posted this at Esmay's site:
...he signed his name Roobart Sbunsar. Not that the choir to which he preaches will notice; he could have signed his name "bebsi" and they'd still have applauded him for his scholarship.
When I saw this, I emailed Aziz, since he had conveniently not told Dean's World readers that Arabic has no p and doesn't write vowels -- so that I had supplied one of the best possible renderings of my name in Arabic and he had taken advantage of Dean's readers' likely ignorance of Arabic to portray me as an inept dunce. Aziz wrote back promptly, we had a cordial exchange, and he added this post:
Robert Spencer emailed me to point out, fairly, that I neglected to mention explicitly that there is no letter "p" in Arabic. I alluded to this with my "bebsi" remark, btw. In actuality, Robert probably got as close to spelling his name in Arabic as can be reasonably expected, and deserves kudos for trying.
That was generous of him, although apparently he would have let his original misleading post stand unretracted if I hadn't challenged him. He goes on to say that the whole thing shows that the Arabic-to-English translation involves too much slippage for any sound conclusions to be drawn, but if that were the case, Muslims would not translate the Qur'an and Hadith into other languages -- yet they do, with great energy.
It is interesting to note also that when I asked him politely to explain why he had apparently intended to mislead Dean's readers into thinking that my Arabic rendering was erroneous when it wasn't, taking advantage of their ignorance of Arabic, he sidestepped the question. And of course his retraction hasn't stopped Dean Esmay from referring to me repeatedly as "Roobart Sbunsar," as if I have been thereby exposed as an ignoramus. In other words, Esmay is acting as a shuck and jive artist, ignoring the evidence and throwing raw meat to gullible people. What a pity.
I would never have mentioned all this were it not for the fact that I believe it is instructive: Islamic apologists and their allies constantly deride those who point out the elements of Islam that give rise to jihad violence as ignorant and disingenuous -- yet it is they who are turning their back on manifest facts and hoping that the rest of us don't notice.
Well, I've noticed. Sorry, Esmay and Aziz. And thank you, Martin.