On February 16 I sent this letter to the Emory Wheel, the newspaper of Emory University, in response to a letter they had printed protesting an advertisement from our Terrorism Awareness Program at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The Emory Wheel printed it a few days later, whereupon I wrote here: “I predict right now that none of the responses will deal with the fact that this letter is made up largely of quotations from Islamic sources, except possibly to claim (falsely) that these sources are “marginal” and that no Muslims pay attention to them. However, while the claim will be made that my quotations are ‘cherry-picked,’ ‘out of context,’ and so on, no actual documentary evidence will be offered that the schools of Islamic jurisprudence do not actually teach warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. No such evidence can be offered, because they do teach this.” I might have added that I would almost certainly be personally attacked as a “hatemonger.”
Anyway, as if on cue, no less than four authors, Sharefa Aria, Ridwan Khan, Huma Mirza and Aneel Naeem, have collaborated to defame me and Jihad Watch in The Wheel: “The Wheel Prints Hate Against Islam,” in the Emory Wheel (thanks to Jihad Watch News Editor Marisol Seibold):
What is the difference between the Internet hate site jihadwatch.com and the Wheel? Not much, if you read Robert Spencer’s commentary on the Wheel’s decision to run an advertisement equating jihad with bigotry against non-Muslims, women and homosexuals (“A Bestselling Author Offers a Different Definition of Jihad,” Feb. 20).
Jihad Watch is in favor of freedom of conscience, equality of rights before the law, and other elements of Western societies that are contravened by Sharia. If that makes it a “hate site,” then the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights are hate literature.
It is apparent that Muslims, including Emory’s sizable Muslim community, have become the new “other” – a scapegoat for terrorism, war, cavities and whatever other ills currently plague society.
What other community could be compared to Mussolini’s black shirts or the Nazis with impunity on the pages of a major university newspaper? Were the same things said about Zionists, the paper would understandably baulk about running such material. Evidently it is acceptable, however, to print such work attacking Muslims.
Who compared Muslims to Fascists or Nazis? Read my letter. It wasn’t I, yet this sizable writing team is only discussing my letter. The writing committee, I suspect, is setting up a straw man, which is easier to knock down than what I actually wrote.
When talking about Spencer, for example, the Wheel demurred from printing the entire title of his book, The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion. As is evident from that title, Spencer has no academic background in Islam, but is rather a polemicist whose expertise is in Islamophobia.
I’d welcome any evidence — from today’s world, not tendentious and politicized historical accounts — that any other religion is more intolerant than Islam. Sharefa Aria, Ridwan Khan, Huma Mirza and Aneel Naeem can send it to me here, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spencer’s specious arguments and David Horowitz’s original ad use cherry-picked quotes without any context to stigmatize a community, which comprises nearly one-fifth of our world population.
This sentence makes me feel like a prophet, but anyway, I wrote in my letter about the teachings of Islam, which are a matter of record. Anyone who wishes to discover what they are can do so. The fact that the teachings of Islam mandate warfare against unbelievers does not mean that all Muslims are pursuing or will ever pursue this warfare, any more than all Catholics will ever forgo contraception. That is why it does not follow from the fact that “a community, which comprises nearly one-fifth of our world population” is stigmatized. If Sharefa Aria, Ridwan Khan, Huma Mirza and Aneel Naeem renounce these teachings and begin to work to convince other Muslims to do so, I will not only not stigmatize them, but I will congratulate them.
When the Wheel first ran Horowitz’s ad, we believed that the paper’s staff simply prioritized revenue before civic duty. However, running Spencer’s editorial suggests a more active agenda to malign Islam and hurt the Emory Muslim community. To see the kind of hate Spencer spawns and which the Wheel facilitates, one need not go further than the comments section of the newspaper’s website. Like-minded bigots across the country congratulate Spencer for exposing “barbaric” Islam, while another claims Islam is not “religion, but a mental illness.” Is this the kind of discourse with which we wish to define Emory?
For both the Wheel’s record as well as Mr. Spencer’s, we’d like to say that we are Muslims, and being maligned by the Wheel is unacceptable. It is our very Islamic beliefs that command us not to threaten or transgress against our fellow man, but rather to be productive members of both the Emory and greater human communities. No Muslim at Emory is proud of Al-Qaeda, but at the same time we can distinguish between the religion and those who exploit it for political motives. This kind of exploitation is not relegated just to terrorists, but is also used by Islamophobes like Spencer – and now the Wheel – to erroneously smear every Muslim….
I have never in my life said or written anything about what “every Muslim” believes or does. To do so would be asinine, but of course to characterize me as having done so is part of how Sharefa Aria, Ridwan Khan, Huma Mirza and Aneel Naeem evidently hope to compel people of good will not to pay attention to what I am saying.
In my prediction I said that “no actual documentary evidence will be offered that the schools of Islamic jurisprudence do not actually teach warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. No such evidence can be offered, because they do teach this.” And indeed, Sharefa Aria, Ridwan Khan, Huma Mirza and Aneel Naeem do not offer any such evidence. They can’t.
Nor does Ammara Abbasi in another letter in the Wheel, “Jihad Isn’t Just Warfare” (thanks again to Marisol). After indulging in some familiar tu-quoque arguments, Abbasi says:
And for those interested in one point of view, by all means go to Jihad Watch’s website. Unfortunately, Robert Spencer’s earnest attempts to make his points are marred by his sensationalist approach. Spencer’s words inevitably dehumanize and ostracize Muslims in what should be a respectful dialogue.
In fact, I’m all for a respectful dialogue. I have invited numerous Islamic scholars to a respectful dialogue, including Ahmed Afzaal, Omid Safi, Akbar Ahmed, Jamal Badawi, and Carl Ernst. All have either declined or never quite gotten around to getting back to me. There have been others also. If I am really the ignorant hatemongering flamethrower of myth, one of these guys ought to agree to debate me, mop the floor with me and show me up before the world, no? But I will be happy to engage in a respectful dialogue with Ammara Abbasi. I can be reached, again, at email@example.com.