Stanford student Ben Maldonado complains that I apparently have “nothing better to do than read and rant about college newspapers.” Apparently Ben Maldonado has nothing better to do than read and rant about Jihad Watch, and that’s fine. In any case, this is the way it is with campus fascists, and fascists in general, as well as Islamic supremacists: they feel free to savage one’s name and reputation, but if you dare to respond, they start whining and claim victim status.
Still, I have to hand it to Ben Maldonado: he has gone farther than most other Stanford students who have protested against my scheduled appearance there Tuesday: he has actually read some of what I’ve written, although I doubt that his perusal of Did Muhammad Exist?, The Truth About Muhammad, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) amounted to more than riffing through their pages in the stacks at Stanford, or looking through the Amazon preview pages. Still, I give him credit for attempting to appear more fair than his comrades, although he has an apparent indifference to or inability to meet basic evidentiary standards.
Somewhat off-topic: I’ve just learned that while Stanford has barred non-students from the event, there is room for a small number of invited guests who are not students. If you’re in the area and would like to come, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much more below.
“Let’s talk about Robert Spencer,” by Ben Maldonado, Stanford Daily, November 9, 2017:
Let’s talk about Robert Spencer. As some of you know, Spencer has recently been invited by Stanford College Republicans to give a talk funded by Stanford on November 14 about the dangers of radical Islam. This has expectedly led to criticisms from other campus groups, often portraying Spencer as an Islamophobe who twists historical fact for a political agenda.
What political agenda? Which twisted historical fact? Young Mr. Maldonado is long on assertions and short on evidence. “Islamophobe”: a propaganda term designed to intimidate people into fearing to oppose jihad terror and Sharia oppression.
His credentials are, truthfully, less than astounding: his formal area of study is Catholic history and all of his books have been published by fringe publishers and lack academic peer review.
My formal area of study is not “Catholic history.” Ben didn’t do research himself, he just hit the usual smear sites, and repeated their lies. “Fringe publishers”: “fringe” by what standard? Non-adherence to Leftist propaganda norms? They’re so fringe, they got the books on the New York Times Bestseller List. “Academic peer review”: here is how much academic peer review is worth in these days when universities aren’t institutions of higher learning, but centers for Leftist indoctrination.
However, he has worked with the United States government and military on Islamic issues and has appeared on various news networks. Because of this, I decided to read some of his more recent books for myself.
Young Mr. Maldonado cares not for basic facts. He says he reviewed some of my “more recent books”: the most recent book Maldonado “reviewed” was published in 2012. The other two he hits were published in 2005 and 2006. Since 2012, I’ve published six books, and am working on another now, when not answering Stanford smear propaganda.
Despite the rumors of Spencer’s Islamophobia, I was — daresay, pleasantly — surprised reading this book.
I’ve often received this response from college students who hear the propaganda about me and then hear what I actually say. It is to Maldonado’s credit that he acknowledges this, although he doesn’t maintain his stance on the high ground, and presently starts flinging mud again.
Published in 2014,
In reality, Did Muhammad Exist? was published on April 23, 2012. Ben carelessly checked the publication date of the paperback edition only; that one did indeed come out in 2014. It’s a minor point, but when someone is skewering a writer for supposedly twisting facts, he should get his own facts straight.
“Did Muhammad Exist?” exams [sic] and challenges the orthodox historiography and the historicity of the prophet.
“The prophet”? Are you a Muslim, Ben? If not, why call him “the prophet”? Or would not doing so be “Islamophobic”?
While orthodox historiography argues that the early Muslim conquests of the sixth and seventh centuries were done by a unified Muslim empire, Spencer claims that the theology of Islam only appeared after the conquests and the formation of empire. However, this is essentially all he does: despite the editorialized title, Spencer rarely challenges the actual existence of Muhammad. Furthermore, the actual historical argument is unconvincing, relying on minor documents that merely obscure the conventional narrative instead of disproving it. His claim is simply too large to support with the evidence he supplies. With its editorialized title and unconvincing arguments, the text is simply a weak attempt at a historical analysis.
All this is debatable, and I’ve debated it with Muslims and non-Muslims. Unfortunately, however, Maldonado presents only general, sweeping statements, not any specific inaccuracies on my part. No “twisting historical facts” yet, much less any “Islamophobia” or “hate.”
If you can’t tell by the title, this book has a far more apparent agenda. Published in 2006, this text has three goals: to show the truth of the prophet’s life and actions, to explain how the prophet’s life influenced the development of Islam, and to advocate for these two discussions to influence our modern relationship with Islam. Like in “Did Muhammad Exist?” Spencer uses certain texts and documents to poke small holes in the orthodox historiography while failing to really reveal anything groundbreaking. Despite the editorialized title (a common trend with his works), this is not a biography of Muhammad. Instead, it’s merely an outline focusing on the more negative and controversial aspects of the prophet’s life without making any new developments in the historiography of Islam. The attempt to discuss America’s current involvement with the Middle East, however, is far more interesting: completely ignoring literally centuries of political, material, and religious developments, Spencer attempts to directly link Muhammad’s life and contemporary Islamic developments to the United States’ relationship with Islam and the Middle East today. This is an obvious example of bad historiography.
How? If Muslims are committing acts of violence and justifying them by invoking Muhammad’s example, as I demonstrate in the book, how is that “bad historiography”?
While the events of the sixth century
Ben, Ben, Ben. “The prophet,” as you call him, was, according to Islamic tradition, born in 570 and died in 632. He didn’t proclaim himself a prophet until 610. So absolutely nothing that has to do with Islamic teachings took place in the sixth century. Couldn’t you have cut your Diversity Seminar just for one afternoon and done some basic reading up on Islam?
of course have influence on our modern cultures and politics, to draw a straight line between the two while not even mentioning anything that has happened in between is at best misguided and at worst disingenuous.
Ben, what you’re neglecting here is that it is not actually I who am drawing a “straight line” between Muhammad and contemporary events, but jihad terrorists who are doing so. In any case, as for “what has happened in between,” you’re in luck: I’m currently working on a book called The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it should be out next year. Just yesterday I finished the section about the Battle of Manzikert, and I’m happy with how it’s coming along. Ben, send me an address (write to email@example.com) and I’ll send you a copy when it comes out, free of charge.
Furthermore, it is poorly written and quite redundant: Spencer feels the need to repeat himself countless times over the text, perhaps making up for his lack of actual content.
Aw, that one really hurts, Ben. Any examples of this poor writing or repetition? No? Hmmm. In any case, people can read the book for themselves. It’s based on the earlier Muslim biographies of Muhammad, by Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Sa’d, as well as the biographical material in the canonical hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim. Plenty of content in there for those who are not disposed to reject it without consideration.
If the previous two books were the entirety of Spencer’s bibliography, I’d be willing to agree that he is simply a bad historian instead of a bad historian with an overwhelming political agenda against Islam. This guide, however, makes it clear where his opinions on Islam lie: Spencer openly claims that Islam is a fundamentally violent religion and that both historic and modern conflicts of the West with Islam are justified responses.
Leftists frequently employ this tactic: they state something that is true as if it were self-evidently false, without bothering to provide any evidence. I suppose it’s a good rhetorical trick, as it cows the unwary reader into thinking that any sane or informed person would agree with the assertion. Unfortunately, however, the claim that Islam is peace remains, at best, unproven. I set out some evidence here.
Written less like an academic text and more like a manifesto, this 2005 text is an addition to the “Politically Incorrect Guide” (or “P.I.G.”) series which includes gems such as the unapologetically unscientific “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design” and the Neo-Confederate “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War.”
This is guilt by association, another cheap rhetorical trick. I didn’t write those books.
Spencer’s addition fits in perfectly with this motley crew: though never explicitly false,
Game over, Ben.
this guide twists legitimate historiography and neglects to mention anything that would potentially harm his argument. For example, Spencer argues that Islam spreads through violence while Christianity spreads peaceful conversion. However, this section of the book (which does not contain a single citation, an all too common theme in this text)
In reality, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) contains 357 citations in 228 pages.
completely neglects to mention the enslavement and forced conversions of the native peoples of the Americas by Christians.
Right. You know what else, Ben? It also doesn’t mention the procedures of open heart surgery. The book is about Islam and the Crusades, not about the native peoples of the Americas.
Spencer also attempts to construct an intricate retelling of the Crusades. He claims that Christians were forced to defend themselves from an expanding Muslim empire — an exciting theory which has the potential to be groundbreaking historiography if only he supported it with any actual evidence.
Poor Ben: did the Amazon preview pages not include pages 121-125? There is a detailed explanation of the Seljuk Turks’ advances in Anatolia, leading the Emperor Alexius Comnenus to appeal to the Pope for aid, as well as details about the persecution of Christians in the Holy Land. The book also contains expositions of the 450 years of jihad attacks that preceded the First Crusade, and conquered and Islamized what had been half of Christendom. If our intrepid researcher had actually read the book, he would know all this was in there.
The question of the Crusades and their justifications is a large debates in Western historiographic tradition. Unfortunately, Spencer adds nothing to it. He oversimplifies the Crusades to a Muslim versus Christian conflict (a clear result of him trying to make a political statement about the two religions as a whole) while the actual contemporary political and religious milieu was far more nuanced. Spencer simply refuses to use the nuance necessary to perform historical research and relies on ham-handed oversimplifications and generalizations to make his point.
Once again, nary a single example. We’re supposed to take the august Mr. Maldonado’s word for it.
I could go on, but I won’t. The rest of his books follow the same pattern: pseudo-intellectual texts that add nothing to the current discussion (e.g. “A Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity is and Islam Isn’t”)
Actually, the title is Religion of Peace?, not A Religion of Peace?. Details, like black lives, matter — especially to someone who is claiming a superior knowledge and commitment to accuracy.
alongside polemic manifestos with no academic or historical significance (e.g. “The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Free Speech (and its enemies)”).
One day, sooner than he knows, Ben Maldonado may regret so cavalierly dismissing the war against the freedom of speech, but by then he won’t have a platform upon which to voice his regret.
Spencer seems to be continuing this trend of manifesto-esque drivel with his upcoming book: “Confessions of an Islamophobe.” (Isn’t it a little odd that all this controversy is occurring right before Spencer’s book drops? Almost like he needs controversy to convince people to buy it, since no one would buy it based on merit and quality.)
Who created the controversy? It was you and your fellow Stanford fascists, not I. You’re the ones who have published no fewer than eight articles in the Stanford Daily, and more in the Stanford Review, attacking me and ascribing all sorts of evils to my name without a shred of evidence or justification. If you fascists hadn’t been so hysterical and so outrageously mendacious, there would be no controversy: I would have just gone to Stanford and spoken, offered some thoughts for consideration of thoughtful people, and left. You have made that impossible. I’m still coming, and I will stand and confront anything you fascists throw at me, but to blame me for a controversy that you are entirely responsible for stoking and creating is simply more of the baseless victimhood propaganda that you folks have been shoveling by the bucketload.
It is painfully clear that Robert Spencer is only popular due to the topics of his books and not their quality.
I like to think it’s because of my dashing good looks.
Because of this, I’d like to address Mr. Spencer directly, who, judging by his website, apparently has nothing better to do than read and rant about college newspapers.
Thank you for visiting Jihad Watch! I hope you keep coming back. You might learn something!
You severely lack academic credentials and have the historical nuance of an elephant.
Prove it. You haven’t in this piece.
It is completely understandable why none of your texts have been academically peer reviewed and published, since they would be shot down in seconds.
As for peer review, see the link above. And if your claim is true, then why couldn’t you yourself produce even one specific example of an inaccuracy in the books you perused?
However, despite this, I must congratulate you on your success commodifying the anger and hate pervading this country with your manufactured controversies.
Ask Mohamed Atta, and Nidal Malik Hasan, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and Omar Mateen, and Syed Rizwan Farook, and Tashfeen Malik, and Sayfullo Saipov, and all the rest about who exactly is manufacturing a controversy over Islam and jihad.
It truly takes some form of talent to sell such shoddily written and poorly researched texts.
Thanks, dude! Judging from your research skills as evidenced in this piece, I am not going to be crying myself to sleep tonight.
I also have a question for the Stanford College Republicans who actually bought Spencer’s snake oil: Why him? All religions including Islam should be discussed and criticized in an academic environment, and there are countless scholars and academics critical of modern Islam, some of whom were even raised in the religion and have firsthand experience with the negative aspects.
Pious posturing. I am certain that if Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Ibn Warraq or Wafa Sultan or Nonie Darwish or any other ex-Muslim came to speak at Stanford, you’d be just as much in a froth.
You could have had your choice of any of them and held an insightful and respectful talk that actually contributes to the discussion of religion on campus.
We could have done that Tuesday, if you and your fellow fascists had not poisoned the environment.
Yet, you elected to invite someone whose books add nothing besides generalizations and spite.
Why couldn’t you quote even one example of either one?
Have you simply not read his books?
You know what they say about glass houses, Ben.
Is this an attempt to be controversial instead of providing actual intellectual content? Do you seriously believe Robert Spencer is the best face for conservatism at Stanford? If so, go ahead. But don’t complain when no one takes you seriously.
Again, you know what they say about glass houses. I hope you come Tuesday. In fact, I hope you will come early, Ben, and we can have a cup of coffee and crack open some of my books, and you can show me the inaccuracies in them that you have failed to provide any details of here. But you won’t.