About Robert Spencer
ROBERT SPENCER is the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and the author of twelve books, including two New York Times bestsellers, The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (both Regnery). His latest books are Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam's Obscure Origins (ISI) and Not Peace But A Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam (Catholic Answers).
Spencer has led seminars on Islam and jihad for the United States Central Command, United States 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.
Spencer is the Associate Director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). He is a weekly columnist for PJ Media and FrontPage Magazine, and has written eleven monographs and well over three hundred articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism. In addition to the above books, he is the author of Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter); Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery); Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't (Regnery), a refutation of moral equivalence and call for all the beneficiaries and heirs of Judeo-Christian Western civilization, whatever their own religious or philosophical perspective may be, to defend it from the global jihad; Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs (Regnery), an expose of how jihadist groups are advancing their agenda in the U.S. today by means other than terrorist attacks; and The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran (Regnery). He is coauthor, with Daniel Ali, of Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics (Ascension), and editor of the essay collection The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (Prometheus). He is coauthor, with Pamela Geller, of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War On America (Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster). Spencer's books have been translated into many languages, including Spanish, Italian, Finnish, Korean, and Bahasa Indonesia.
Along with his current weekly columns, for nearly ten years Spencer wrote the weekly Jihad Watch column at Human Events. He has completed a weekly Qur'an commentary at Jihad Watch, Blogging the Qur'an, which has been translated into Czech, Danish, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. He has served as a contributing writer to Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism. His articles on Islam and other topics have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, the New York Post, the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News, the New Criterion, the Journal of International Security Affairs, the UK's Guardian, Canada's National Post, Townhall, Middle East Quarterly, WorldNet Daily, First Things, Insight in the News, National Review Online, and many other journals.
Spencer has discussed jihad, Islam, and terrorism at a workshop sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the German Foreign Ministry. He has also appeared on the BBC, ABC News, CNN, FoxNews's O'Reilly Factor, the Sean Hannity Show, the Glenn Beck Show, Fox and Friends, and many other Fox programs, PBS, MSNBC, CNBC, C-Span, France24 and Croatia National Televison (HTV), as well as on numerous radio programs including Bill O'Reilly's Radio Factor, The Mark Levin Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, Bill Bennett's Morning in America, Michael Savage's Savage Nation, The Sean Hannity Show, The Alan Colmes Show, The G. Gordon Liddy Show, The Neal Boortz Show, The Michael Medved Show, The Michael Reagan Show, The Rusty Humphries Show, The Larry Elder Show, The Barbara Simpson Show, Vatican Radio, and many others.
He has been a featured speaker at the University of California-Irvine, Temple University, Dartmouth College, Penn State University, the University of California-Los Angeles, Stanford University, New York University, Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, State University of New York-Binghamton, State University of New York-Stony Brook, DePaul University, the College of William and Mary, Washington University of St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Boise State University, and many other colleges and universities.
Spencer (MA, Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) has been studying Islamic theology, law, and history in depth since 1980. As an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation in 2002 and 2003, he wrote a series of monographs on Islam: An Introduction to the Qur'an; Women and Islam; An Islamic Primer; Islam and the West; The Islamic Disinformation Lobby; Islam vs. Christianity; and Jihad in Context. More recently he has also written monographs for the David Horowitz Freedom Center: Islamophobia: Thought Crime of the Totalitarian Future (with David Horowitz); Obama and Islam (with David Horowitz); What Americans Need to Know About Jihad; The Violent Oppression of Women In Islam (with Phyllis Chesler); Islamic Leaders' Plan for Genocide; and Muslim Persecution of Christians.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Why should I believe what you say about Islam?
RS: Pick up any of my books, and you will see that they 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. I would, of course, be happy to debate any scholar about Islam and jihad; this is a standing invitation.
Q: Have you debated Islamic scholars and spokesmen?
RS: Yes, I have discussed and/or debated various aspects of it with Jaafar Siddiqui and Salam Al-Marayati (twice) on the Michael Medved Show; Al-Marayati again on the Alan Colmes Show and Radio Islam; Hussam Ayloush on the Dennis Prager Show and another show; Hussein Ibish on CNN radio; As'ad AbuKhalil (the "Angry Arab") on a station in San Diego; Muqtedar Khan on a Jamaican radio station; Ibrahim Hooper on MSNBC TV with Keith Olbermann; Abdul Malik Ali on Pax TV; two Islamic scholars on Michael Coren's TV show in Toronto; Abdulaziz Sachedina and an Iranian scholar on the Lou Dobbs show; and Ayloush and AbuKhalil, as well as Khaleel Mohammed, in print. Others also.
Q: Why have you studied Islam for so long?
RS: It has been an enduring fascination. Since childhood I have had an interest in the Muslim world, from which my family comes. When I was very young my grandparents would tell me stories about their life there, and I always heard them with great interest. When I met Muslim students as a college undergraduate I began reading and studying the Qur'an in earnest. That led to in-depth forays into tafsir (interpretations of the Qur'an), hadith (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad), and much more about Islamic theology and law. While working on my master's thesis, which dealt not with Islam but (in part) with some early Christian heretical groups, I began to study early Islamic history, since some of these groups ended up in Arabia and may have influenced Muhammad. In the intervening years I continued these studies of Islamic theology, history, and law out of personal interest.
This led to my consulting privately with some individuals and groups about Islam, but I had never intended to do such work publicly. However, after 9/11 I was asked to write my first book, Islam Unveiled, in order to correct some of the misapprehensions about Islam that were widespread at that time.
Q: I've read that you are secretly a Catholic and have a religious agenda.
RS: My being Catholic is no secret; I co-wrote a book called Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics. But I have no religious agenda. In fact, Jihad Watch covers jihad in all its manifestations, and emphasizes the need for all the actual and potential victims of jihad violence and oppression -- Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, secular Muslims, atheists, whatever -- to join together to defend universal human rights. There are many things about which we all disagree, but at this point we need to unite simply in order to survive. We can sort out our disagreements later.
Q: I've read that you are a member of Opus Dei.
RS: No, I am not.
Q: I've read that you are actually Jewish.
RS: Again, no. Jihadists commonly label all their opponents as Jews and Zionist. I am honored to be able to stand with Jews and others in defense of human rights against the totalitarian, supremacist jihad ideology.
Q: I've read that you are actually a white supremacist neo-Nazi.
RS: No. I have consistently opposed racism and supremacism of all kinds -- otherwise, I wouldn't oppose the global jihad. See here for more on this.
Q: I've read that you are actually ignorant of Islam.
RS: Such a charge is a common, albeit empty, rhetorical tactic of jihadist apologists. Here are two examples of how it is used.
Q: Why do so many people convert to Islam?
RS: There are many attractive elements of the religion. Its adamantine certainties appeal to many people who are disgusted with the current relativism and amorality of the Western world. Also there are many rich and grand aspects of Islamic history and culture which also make the religion attractive today. The global jihad against the West today also helps Islam gather converts in the West from among groups that feel themselves to be oppressed or marginalized. Conversions have been stimulated by successful, if often fanciful, Muslim efforts to present Islam as a religion free of the sins of the West -- particularly racial discrimination.
Q: Do you hate Muslims?
RS: Of course not. Islam is not a monolith, and never have I said or written anything that characterizes all Muslims as terrorist or given to violence. To call attention to the roots and goals of jihad violence within Islamic texts and teachings, and to show how jihadists use those texts and teachings, says nothing at all about what any given Muslim believes or how he acts. Any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude is welcome to join in our anti-jihadist efforts. Any hate in my books comes from Muslim sources quoted, not from me. Cries of "hatred" and "bigotry" are effectively used by American Muslim advocacy groups to try to stifle the debate about the terrorist threat. But there is no substance to them.
It is not an act of hatred against Muslims to point out the depredations of jihad ideology. It is a peculiar species of displacement and projection to accuse someone who exposes the hatred of one group of hatred himself: I believe in the equality of rights and dignity of all people, and that is why I oppose the global jihad. Those who make the charge use it as a tool to frighten the credulous and politically correct away from the truth.
Some time ago here 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.
Q: Do you think all Muslims are terrorists?
RS: See above.
Q: Are you trying to incite anti-Muslim hatred?
RS: Certainly not. I am trying to point out the depth and extent of the hatred that is directed against the United States, because efforts to downplay its depth and extent leave us less equipped to defend ourselves. Anyone who targets innocent Muslims in the USA is not only evil, but is playing into the hands of the jihadists who are trying to fan the flames of anti-American hatred. Also, one of the reasons why the war on terror is so important is that those who would destroy Western civilization do not believe in the principles of due process and justice that are central elements of the American system.
Q: Are you deliberately ignoring more liberal schools of thought in Islam?
RS: Certainly not. Any Muslim individual or group who works for genuine reform of the Islamic doctrines, theological tenets and laws that Islamic jihadists use to justify violence, is to be commended. But this reform must be undertaken honestly and thoroughly, confronting the texts of the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira that are used to justify violence against unbelievers, and decisively rejecting Qur'anic literalism. Not all self-proclaimed moderates are truly moderate: many deny that these elements of Islam exist at all -- hardly a promising platform for reform. It is important to make proper distinctions and speak honestly about the roots of the terrorist threat.
Q: Can you recommend a good English translation of the Qur'an?
RS: N. J. Dawood's is the most readable in English. However, most versions do not mark the verse numbers precisely. Some non-Muslims don't like it because he uses "God" for Allah, although since Arabic-speaking Christians use "Allah" for the God of the Bible, and have for over a millennium, this is a problem for poseurs and pseudo-scholars but is not really a serious objection to anyone who knows both languages. Also, many Muslims dislike this translation because Dawood was not a Muslim, and doesn't sugarcoat any of the passages. Two translations by Muslims, those by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, are generally reliable, although both write in a stilted, practically unreadable pseudo-King James Bible English. Of the two, Ali's contains more liberties with the text -- such as adding "(lightly)" to Sura 4:34 after the directive to husbands to beat their disobedient wives. The Arabic doesn't say to beat them lightly, it just says to beat them. Pickthall's is generally accurate.
There are other good translations. For years I have liked Arberry's for its audacious literalism and often poetic English. Compare, for example, 81:15-18:
فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالْخُنَّسِ الْجَوَارِ الْكُنَّسِ وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا عَسْعَسَ وَالصُّبْحِ إِذَا تَنَفَّسَ...in Pickthall and Arberry: Pickthall: "Oh, but I call to witness the planets, the stars which rise and set, and the close of night, and the breath of morning..." Arberry: "No! I swear by the slinkers, the runners, the sinkers, by the night swarming, by the dawn sighing..." Shades of the Symbolists. Arberry gives a hint of how the book sounds in Arabic, in which it is full of beguiling rhymes and rhythms.
Q: What can we do about this threat?
RS: Many things, but what we must do above all is remain true to our principles of freedom and equality of rights and dignity for all. These ideas and related ones are what set us apart from global jihadists. If we discard them in order to fight the jihadists, we risk erasing the distinction between the two camps.
Q: What is Jihad Watch?
RS: Jihad Watch is an attempt to raise awareness about the activities of the global jihadists. We are a 501c3 organization affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Q: Why are you doing this?
RS: The doctrines of jihad and Islamic supremacism threaten the peace and human rights of all free people. If it is not confronted and resisted, it will prevail.
Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer is available to speak to your group or on your program regarding current events and/or other issues relating to jihad and dhimmitude. Contact him at director[at]jihadwatch.org.