I haven’t even left the Jihad Watch offices in Kalispell, Montana to make my way to St. Louis yet, but the editorial staff of Student Life, the independent paper of Washington University in St. Louis, has already decided that my speech there tomorrow is going to be “inflammatory,” and they’re taking action — including calling on students to protest.
The editorial is called “In response to inflammatory speech, listen and question.” It’s in Student Life, March 23 . And in response to this inflammatory editorial, I’m going to listen and question.
Tomorrow evening, author Robert Spencer will speak in Graham Chapel about Islam and the threat of jihad.
Actually, no, I won’t be speaking in Graham Chapel after all. I’ll be speaking in a room called “Lab Sciences 300,” where the event has been moved because of security concerns and indications that plans were afoot to disrupt the event. It’s interesting that the paper is calling my talk, which they haven’t heard, “inflammatory,” while failing (so far) to notice the thuggery that is already coming from the other side.
He is, to say the least, a controversial figure.
We live in a sad age when simply telling the truth and reporting the facts accurately renders one “controversial,” but that’s the way it is.
To Spencer’s supporters, he is a voice of reason, willing to tell the truth about Islam and call attention to what he argues are the roots and goals of jihad violence as expressed in the source texts of Islam.
The “source texts of Islam” are public. They are open to inspection. What I “argue” about the “roots and goals of jihad violence as expressed in the source texts of Islam” can be easily verified or refuted. But it is easier just to call names:
To his detractors, he is an Islamophobe who incites hate through rhetoric and inaccurate research.
“Inaccurate” in what way? Unspecified, as always. And there’s that manipulative neologism “Islamophobe” again. And yet the people who sling this word around never seem to ask themselves why there are no Buddhophobes, or Hindupohobes, or Sikhophobes. Why is it that the bigoted racists always seem to fasten on poor old misunderstood Islam?
Though his views are charged, Spencer””like every lecturer who visits campus””has an inalienable right to speak and express his views. The ultimate way to respect a person’s right to speak is to consider his ideas and their implications, and to engage with the speech by further developing the ideas presented or by criticizing them.
High-minded, this, but contradicted by their call for protests that comes a bit later in the piece. Read on.
Spencer’s arguments, like those of Daniel Pipes, who spoke at Washington University in October, have the potential to stir up hatred and bigotry in others.
This kind of criticism is symptomatic of our age of muddled thinking. The sole criterion for evaluating arguments should be whether or not they are true. For arguments like this, although they’re always wielded by Leftists against those whose ideas they dislike, cut both ways: after all, the Student Life editor’s arguments in this editorial have the potential to stir up hatred against me. But so what? The only thing that matters is whether or not it is accurate, which of course it is not, not remotely. The emotional effect it may have on those who read it is beyond the control of the author, and irrelevant to its quality.
In a book review posted on the Jihad Watch blog, Spencer writes, “traditional Islam contains violent and supremacist elements, and”¦its various schools unanimously teach warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers.”
Uh huh. And? Apparently the Student Life author thinks this is an inflammatory or patently inaccurate statement. Unfortunately for him or her, it happens to be perfectly accurate — and no one can produce a recognized Islamic school of jurisprudence (madhhab) that does not indeed teach warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers. Once again, it’s a sad age when simply stating an unpleasant fact gets you labeled an inciter of hatred and bigotry.
And here comes the best part, where the author explains that I don’t actually say a number of inflammatory things, but, well, by golly, it’s my fault that other people think them:
Though Spencer himself does not claim that the United States should discriminate against Muslims, many who engage with his argument reach that conclusion because of him. And though Spencer does not claim that Muslims uniformly embrace dangerous ideologies, this essentialization of Islam has the effect of essentializing all Muslims. And because this effect can quickly lead to hasty cultural discrimination, it is extremely important to challenge Spencer in this respect.
Righto. Challenge me on what I don’t say because other people think things you don’t like. And you say you’re a university student?
As we said in our staff editorial published prior to Pipes” appearance on campus, it is important to remember that the most effective challenges to essentialist, reductive arguments like Spencer’s are complex discussion and continuing dialogue.
Yes, and you appear to have mastered these skills beautifully!
Students ought not blindly accept Spencer’s opinions as fact.
Indeed not. I hope that every assertion I will make will be carefully checked by everyone in the audience. Then a few eyes would be opened.
Instead, they should make full use of the question-and-answer period following his speech and, if they deem fit, of any protests of Spencer’s visit, thereby ensuring that Tuesday”s event becomes a spark for a larger conversation about Muslims, the globe and our society.
The student paper here is calling upon students to protest against a talk they haven’t heard, based on things I don’t say, and they’re calling me inflammatory!
Whatever one thinks about Spencer, it is important to weigh the larger context and implications of his remarks. Specifically, we must consider how global conflict””real or imagined””affects us, how our society plans to respond and what that response says about our social character. A gross, simplified dichotomy between Islam and the West is neither an advanced nor a productive framework, and in reality eschews the “Western” values of tolerance and liberty that such a division purports to defend.
Fine. Come on out tomorrow night, and let’s talk it over. I’m all for opposing the “gross, simplified dichotomy between Islam and the West” proffered by the likes of Osama bin Laden, Anjem Chaudary, and the like. Are you? Or would doing so be “essentialist”?
As students listen to Spencer’s speech, it important that they remain focused on how his arguments fit into their vision for an ideal society.
Yeah, we all want peace, guys, so let’s bury our heads in the sand, ignore this threat, and blame the messenger!
I expect better from the students at Washington University in St. Louis. Is a genuine discussion of the issues too much to ask? We’ll see, but based on the intellectual quality of this editorial, I won’t be going in expecting much.