In this latest eruption of hysteria from Stanford, Siena Fay, a columnist for the Stanford Daily, attempts to explain why I should not be allowed to speak at the university, and fails, rather spectacularly. Much more below.
“An ‘expert’ without expertise,” by Siena Fay, Stanford Daily, November 9, 2017:
On Nov. 14, Robert Spencer will speak at Stanford.
He believes Islam is “the only religion in the world that has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers and mandates that Muslims must wage war in order to establish the hegemony of the Islamic social order all over the world,” as he stated in an interview on C-SPAN in 2006.
Funny; I don’t recall Malala Yousafzai advocating for violence and world domination. Must have missed that headline.
Do they teach logic at Stanford? Do they even teach rational thought? Or is it all just wall-to-wall Diversity Studies and Gender Theory and all that? This is so embarrassing for Siena Fay that I am embarrassed myself in commenting on it. Islam doesn’t have a doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers because Malala doesn’t advocate violence? And why does Siena Fay think that Malala is the touchstone of Islamic orthodoxy? Is Malala the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar? Is Malala the Pope of Islam?
In reality, Malala may or may not be following all the doctrines of Islam, but the question of whether Islam has a doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers can only be answered by looking at Islamic doctrine, theology, and law, not at Malala.
So let’s do that. One might get the impression that Islam has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers from the authoritative sources in Sunni Islam, the schools of Sunni jurisprudence (madhahib):
Shafi’i school: A Shafi’i manual of Islamic law that was certified in 1991 by the clerics at Al-Azhar University, one of the leading authorities in the Islamic world, as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy, stipulates about jihad that “the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians…until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.” It adds a comment by Sheikh Nuh Ali Salman, a Jordanian expert on Islamic jurisprudence: the caliph wages this war only “provided that he has first invited [Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians] to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya)…while remaining in their ancestral religions.” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o9.8).
Of course, there is no caliph today, unless one believes the claims of the Islamic State, and hence the oft-repeated claim that Osama et al are waging jihad illegitimately, as no state authority has authorized their jihad. But they explain their actions in terms of defensive jihad, which needs no state authority to call it, and becomes “obligatory for everyone” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o9.3) if a Muslim land is attacked. The end of the defensive jihad, however, is not peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims as equals: ‘Umdat al-Salik specifies that the warfare against non-Muslims must continue until “the final descent of Jesus.” After that, “nothing but Islam will be accepted from them, for taking the poll tax is only effective until Jesus’ descent” (o9.8).
Hanafi school: A Hanafi manual of Islamic law repeats the same injunctions. It insists that people must be called to embrace Islam before being fought, “because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith.” It emphasizes that jihad must not be waged for economic gain, but solely for religious reasons: from the call to Islam “the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war.”
However, “if the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax [jizya], it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do.” (Al-Hidayah, II.140)
Maliki school: Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), a pioneering historian and philosopher, was also a Maliki legal theorist. In his renowned Muqaddimah, the first work of historical theory, he notes that “in the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.” In Islam, the person in charge of religious affairs is concerned with “power politics,” because Islam is “under obligation to gain power over other nations.”
Hanbali school: The great medieval theorist of what is commonly known today as radical or fundamentalist Islam, Ibn Taymiyya (Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya, 1263-1328), was a Hanbali jurist. He directed that “since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.”
This is also taught by modern-day scholars of Islam. Majid Khadduri was an Iraqi scholar of Islamic law of international renown. In his book War and Peace in the Law of Islam, which was published in 1955 and remains one of the most lucid and illuminating works on the subject, Khadduri says this about jihad: “The state which is regarded as the instrument for universalizing a certain religion must perforce be an ever expanding state. The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world….The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state.” (P. 51)
Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Shari’ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad. In his 1994 book The Methodology of Ijtihad, he quotes the twelfth century Maliki jurist Ibn Rushd: “Muslim jurists agreed that the purpose of fighting with the People of the Book…is one of two things: it is either their conversion to Islam or the payment of jizyah.” Nyazee concludes: “This leaves no doubt that the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation” of non-Muslims.
All this makes it clear that there is abundant reason to believe that Islam has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers. It would be illuminating if Siena Fay or someone around her produced some quotations from Muslim authorities she considers “authentic,” and explained why the authorities I’ve quoted above and others like them are inauthentic. While in reality there is no single Muslim authority who can proclaim what is “authentic” Islam, and thus it would be prudent not to make sweeping statements about what “authentic Islam” actually is, clearly there are many Muslims who believe that Islam has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers.
One might also get the impression that Islam has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers from these Qur’an verses:
2:191-193: “And kill them wherever you come upon them, and expel them from where they expelled you; persecution is worse than slaughter. But fight them not by the Holy Mosque until they should fight you there; then, if they fight you, kill them — such is the recompense of unbelievers, but if they give over, surely Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s; then if they give over, there shall be no enmity save for evildoers.”
4:34: “Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that Allah has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for Allah’s guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them; Allah is All-high, All-great.”
4:89: “They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of Allah; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and kill them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”
5:33: “This is the recompense of those who fight against Allah and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement.”
8:12: “When thy Lord was revealing to the angels, ‘I am with you; so confirm the believers. I shall cast into the unbelievers’ hearts terror; so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them!”
8:39: “Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s entirely; then if they give over, surely Allah sees the things they do.”
8:60: “Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to strike terror thereby into the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not; Allah knows them. And whatsoever you expend in the way of Allah shall be repaid you in full; you will not be wronged.”
9:5: “Then, when the sacred months are over, kill the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.”
9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, and do not practice the religion of truth, even if they are of the People of the Book — until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.”
9:111: “Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of Allah; they kill, and are killed; that is a promise binding upon Allah in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Koran; and who fulfils his covenant truer than Allah? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him; that is the mighty triumph.”
9:123: “O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you; and let them find in you a harshness; and know that Allah is with the godfearing.”
47:4: “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then, when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds; then set them free, either by grace or ransom, till the war lays down its loads. So it shall be; and if Allah had willed, He would have avenged Himself upon them; but that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will not send their works astray.”
There are some tolerant verses in the Qur’an as well — see, for example, sura 109. But then in Islamic tradition there are authorities who say that violent passages take precedence over these verses. Muhammad’s earliest biographer, an eighth-century Muslim named Ibn Ishaq, explains the progression of Qur’anic revelation about warfare. First, he explains, Allah allowed Muslims to wage defensive warfare. But that was not Allah’s last word on the circumstances in which Muslims should fight. Ibn Ishaq explains offensive jihad by invoking a Qur’anic verse: “Then God sent down to him: ‘Fight them so that there be no more seduction,’ i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion. ‘And the religion is God’s’, i.e. Until God alone is worshipped.”
The Qur’an verse Ibn Ishaq quotes here (2:193) commands much more than defensive warfare: Muslims must fight until “the religion is God’s” — that is, until Allah alone is worshipped. Ibn Ishaq gives no hint that that command died with the seventh century.
The great medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350) also outlines the stages of the Muhammad’s prophetic career: “For thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to God through preaching, without fighting or Jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God’s religion was fully established.”
In other words, he initially could fight only defensively — only “those who fought him” — but later he could fight the polytheists until Islam was “fully established.” He could fight them even if they didn’t fight him first, and solely because they were not Muslim.
Nor do all contemporary Islamic thinkers believe that that command is a relic of history. According to a 20th century Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, “at first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory.” He also distinguishes two groups Muslims must fight: “(1) against them who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims) . . . (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah . . . as mentioned in Surat Al-Baqarah (II), Al-Imran (III) and At-Taubah (IX) . . . and other Surahs (Chapters of the Qur’an).” (The Roman numerals after the names of the chapters of the Qur’an are the numbers of the suras: Sheikh Abdullah is referring to Qur’anic verses such as 2:216, 3:157-158, 9:5, and 9:29.)
Here again, obviously there is a widespread understanding of the Qur’an within Islamic tradition that sees it, and Islam, as mandating violence against unbelievers.
Spencer is a blogger, author and director of the website Jihad Watch. He travels the country offering his “expertise” on Islam and jihad to universities, news channels and politicians. Except he is not an expert. He does not hold a Ph.D., master’s or bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies. He has not published any peer-reviewed academic papers, the most basic criterion to be a serious academic scholar.
Siena, what you have made here is called an argument from authority. Logically, it is the weakest of all arguments. Why? Because a degree does not automatically confer expertise, and the lack of one does not immediately equate to a lack of knowledge. There are plenty of fools with doctorates and wise people without them. There are plenty of peer-reviewed academic papers that are full of appalling nonsense and gobbledegook. In the real world, arguments aren’t judged by the number of degrees possessed by those who are making them, but by their intellectual and evidentiary merits. My arguments stand or fall on exactly that: the evidence. Do you have the courage to evaluate that evidence for yourself?
His opinion has been cited by numerous news outlets, but most of his work appears on his blog. That’s right: His blog.
Here again: the truth or falsehood of a statement cannot be determined by the location where the statement was made. The truth or falsehood of a statement can only be determined by examining the salient evidence, wherever it appears.
It’s true he has been featured on The New York Times bestseller list, but so has Snooki from MTV’s Jersey Shore. Popularity does not in itself make credibility.
At last, Siena, you have made a true statement.
Spencer is largely “self-taught” on the Qu’ran and Islamic history. He majored in religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with his master’s thesis on Catholic history.
Oh, once again, how embarrassing for you, Siena: when you’re busy detailing my abject ignorance of Islam, it’s important to get your facts straight. It’s “Qur’an,” not “Qu’ran.” And my master’s thesis was not in “Catholic history.” Siena, you’re reading hit sites instead of researching for yourself.
He attributes “a great deal” of what he knows to his mentor, Paul Weyrich, who advocated for the resurrection of the House Un-American Activities Committee, claimed gays and feminists were sinners and believed “not everyone should vote.”
Siena, this is called “guilt by association.” What Paul Weyrich may or may not have said and done has no bearing whatsoever on what I say and do now. Unless you can establish that I have called for the reestablishment of HUAC and the limiting of the right to vote, and said that gays and feminists were sinners, Paul Weyrich’s alleged opinions have nothing to do with me.
He has written 17 books that contain such gems as accusing President Obama of “doing the bidding of Islamic overlords” and the Muslim Brotherhood of having “a plan to … conquer the United States” and establish a global caliphate. Conspiracy theorist? I don’t know her.
I’m calling BS on the first one. I just searched the manuscript of The Post-American Presidency by Pamela Geller, which I helped write, and the word “overlords” does not appear. Nor is it in any of my own books, although there is no doubt that Obama indefatigably pursued a foreign policy that was in line with the Muslim Brotherhood agenda — to the extent that Egyptian protestors against the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 2013 held up signs saying “Obama supports terrorism.” And as for the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan, according to a captured internal Brotherhood document, the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. is engaged in a “grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” I didn’t write that document; a high-level Brotherhood operative named Mohammed Akram did.
Spencer cofounded Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), both of which have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
Is the Southern Poverty Law Center a reliable arbiter of what does and does not constitute a hate group? No, it isn’t.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a national watch group challenging media bias, ranked Spencer America’s second leading Islamophobe (second only to his boss David Horowitz).
Only second? I demand a recount! Seriously, “Islamophobe” is a propaganda term designed to intimidate people into fearing to oppose jihad terror and Sharia oppression. I detail this at length in my new book a — preorder your copy here now, Siena.
Anders Behring Breivik, the Oslo terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011, cited Spencer’s work 64 times in his political manifesto.
Breivik actually seems to quote me extensively because he included in his manifesto the text of a documentary film in which I appear. Every time I speak, my name is given in the text, to make it clear who is speaking. That is not really quoting me extensively. Aside from the documentary script, Breivik actually referred to me only a few times. Siena, you did not mention that one of those references upbraids me for not calling for violence. Of course, if you had mentioned that, your readers would have realized that your implication, that my work incites violence, was false. You also omitted mention of the fact that Breivik says in his manifesto that he was inspired to commit violence not by me, but by al-Qaeda and Hamas – that is, by two Muslim entities, one of which is funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nor did you mention that Breivik said in that manifesto that he decided to commit a massive act of violence in 1999. I published my first book about Islam in 2002.
Spencer has been banned from the United Kingdom. Yes, that’s right, this man has been banned from an entire country; that’s a little bit impressive, in a twisted kind of way. According to the U.K. Home Secretary’s office, Spencer “is not conducive to the public good.” Keith Vaz, chairman of the British Home Affairs Select Committee, says of Spencer, “the U.K. should never become a stage for inflammatory speakers who promote hate.”
Odd statement for Vaz to make. The UK really bans inflammatory speakers who promote hate? Yet while I am banned from the country for the crime of noting — correctly — that Islam has doctrines of warfare against unbelievers, Britain has a steadily lengthening record of admitting jihad preachers without a moment of hesitation. Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri’s preaching of hatred and jihad violence was so hardline that he was banned from preaching in Pakistan, but the UK Home Office welcomed him into Britain. The UK Home Office also recently admitted Shaykh Hamza Sodagar into the country, despite the fact that he has said: “If there’s homosexual men, the punishment is one of five things. One – the easiest one maybe – chop their head off, that’s the easiest. Second – burn them to death. Third – throw ’em off a cliff. Fourth – tear down a wall on them so they die under that. Fifth – a combination of the above.” May’s government also admitted two jihad preachers who had praised the murderer of a foe of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. One of them was welcomed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Meanwhile, the UK banned three bishops from areas of Iraq and Syria where Christians are persecuted from entering the country.
So no, the UK ban doesn’t trouble me at all, and given Britain’s long record of allowing in actual hate preachers, it shouldn’t trouble anyone else, either.
And yet, oddly enough his book has been used as training material for the FBI. He has “led seminars” for the United States Central Command, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and other various intelligence agencies. This is not a reflection of Spencer’s credibility or scholarship but of the U.S. agencies’ lack thereof. In 2011, the FBI apologized “for its offensive training materials,” and Joe Lieberman, former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, called Spencer’s work “inappropriate” and “inaccurate.”
Did he really? Citation, please? Example? Could we get even one example of my supposed inaccuracies? Not from anyone at Stanford thus far.
It’s curious, then, that Spencer is coming to Stanford. It’s curious that the students of a university that values scholarship and academic accuracy would invite someone devoid of both.
What’s even more curious is that a student such as Siena Fay would be able to think she is a standard-bearer of scholarship and academic accuracy despite the shoddy thinking she displays here.