Last night Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy, debated -- and bested -- Suhail Khan, Assistant to the Secretary of Transportation for Policy, on the question of "Is Islam A Religion of Peace?" You can listen to the debate here.
Although Khan was debating Gaffney, he seems to have been under the impression that he was debating not Frank Gaffney but me. During his opening remarks he mentioned me four or five times, much more often than he mentioned anyone else. He even said something about having circulated one of my articles, although I don't know which one, and couldn't tell which one from his highly distorted description of what I had written in it.
Yet despite a manifest carelessness (at best) with the facts, Suhail Khan came out of the gate complaining, "I was disappointed that so many were unwilling to participate in an honest debate," and added: "Robert Spencer, who has written hate-filled screed after screed on Islam and Muslims, after initially agreeing to debate, soon backed out."
The part about my writing hate-filled screeds is defamatory, but it is no surprise -- it is a common feature of the playbook that jihadists, their allies, and their dupes are using in the U.S. today: rather than respond to the arguments of those who are trying to resist jihad and Islamic supremacism, simply smear them as "bigots" and "racists." It's an effective tactic, to be sure, as it makes many uninformed people of good will turn away without examining the issues. But at the end of the day it leaves the case made by the anti-jihadists unanswered, and exposes Mr. Khan and his friends as base mudslingers whose unhesitating use of slander, defamation, and other smear tactics belie their soothing words about wanting to establish dialogue and foster harmony.
The part about my agreeing and then declining to debate Mr. Khan is true. I was indeed invited to debate Mr. Khan. I agreed to do so on August 14 and then had to decline on August 15. One would think that in the seven weeks since then Mr. Khan would have had time to revise his remarks so as to make them a bit less Spencer-centric, but the life of an Assistant to the Secretary of Transportation for Policy is no doubt hectic with weighty national responsibilities, and maybe he just didn't have time.
Anyway, I did not ultimately pass up the chance to debate Suhail Khan because I was not interested in honest debate, and certainly not because I would hesitate to debate him for even a second. I passed it up because I had eleven talks all over the country scheduled for this month, which is a punishing enough schedule as it is, and because the sponsors were unable to compensate me at all for my time. They were willing to pay for my travel expenses, and nothing more, an offer I intend to make to the electrician the next time the blinking neon Jihad Watch sign that hangs outside this office needs repair.
In this I do not mean to criticize the debate sponsors in any way -- if they didn't have the resources, they didn't have the resources -- and I am very glad that Frank Gaffney was able to take on the debate and to present the truth so eloquently and forcefully. But that's why I couldn't make it. Although I would love to be able to donate my time to debating the delightful Mr. Khan, unfortunately the power company still expects to be paid in American currency. While the Espositos and Aslans and Abou El Fadls of this world can command huge sums to spin fantasy Islams for bemused multiculturalists, anti-jihad activity is not quite so financially rewarding, and so doesn't leave much margin for services to be rendered gratis. I do donate my expertise to government and law enforcement agencies whenever they call upon me, but I can no more speak anywhere and everywhere without compensation than a doctor can treat anyone and everyone for illness without expectation of payment. (Indeed, if I honored all the requests that I receive to donate my knowledge of Islamic jihad and supremacism, I would have this week scheduled an appearance at the first-ever Anti-Jihad Swingers Get-Together, but for a variety of reasons extending far beyond the financial I decided that this was another invitation I was going to have to pass up.)
Anyway, the core fact remains: I would be happy to debate Suhail Khan or any other Islamic apologist, as well as Dinesh D'Souza, John Esposito, Khaleel Mohammed, Grover Norquist -- any of them or any other serious (yes, Nadir, that excludes you) individual who can come up with a sponsor and a venue. I don't have a direct email address for Suhail Khan (if anyone does, please send it to me), but I am going to make every effort to get this to him, so that we can find a sponsor and a venue and get our debate scheduled soon.
I'm looking forward to it.