FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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 email@example.com.
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 debated imams and Islamic scholars including Anjem Choudhary, Omar Bakri, Moustafa Zayed, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, Mubin Shaikh, and many others. I have discussed and/or debated various aspects of it with, among many others, 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; Ayloush and AbuKhalil, as well as Khaleel Mohammed, in print; and convert to Islam Kevin Barrett on his podcast.
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 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.
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. I am ready to defend my statements about Islam and jihad in discussion or debate with virtually anyone.
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: Of course 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 the jihad in all its forms is not confronted and resisted, it will prevail.
The truth about Robert Spencer: Rebuttals to false charges
The charge: Both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have labeled the group that Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller founded as an anti-Muslim hate group.
The facts: Robert Spencer is no more “anti-Muslim” than foes of the Nazis were “anti-German.” It has become common, because of the efforts of Islamic supremacist and Leftist groups, to equate resistance to jihad terror with “hate,” but there is no substance to this. Spencer’s work has been entirely dedicated to defending the freedom of speech and the principle of equality of rights for all people before the law.
The SPLC keeps tabs on neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. And that is good. But the implication of their hate group label is that the group that Spencer and Geller founded, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, is another one of those, which is false. While the SPLC may have done good work in the 1960s against white racists, in recent years it has become a mere propaganda organ for the Left, tarring any group that dissents from its extreme political agenda as a “hate group.” Significantly, although it lists hundreds of groups as “hate groups,” it includes not a single Islamic jihad group on this list. And its “hate group” designation against the Family Research Council led one of its followers to storm the FRC offices with a gun, determined to murder the chief of the FRC. This shows that these kinds of charges shouldn’t be thrown around frivolously, as tools to demonize and marginalize those whose politics the SPLC dislikes. But that is exactly what they do. Its hard-Left leanings are well known and well documented. This Weekly Standard article sums up much of what is wrong with the SPLC.
The ADL traffics in the same reckless defamation. They have libeled the preeminent lawyer and orthodox Jew David Yerushalmi as an “extremist,” an “anti-Muslim bigot” and a “white supremacist.” The ADL has even condemned Israel for fighting anti-Semitism. According to Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance: “The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – biggest Jewish ‘defense’ organization — admits in private that the biggest danger to Jews since WWII comes from Muslim Jew-hatred, but because it fears offending its liberal donors and being charged with ‘Islamophobia,’ the organization remains essentially silent on the issue. In a study of ADL press releases from 1995 to 2011– a good if not perfect indicator of ADL priorities – we found that only 3 percent of ADL’s press releases focus on Islamic extremism and Arab anti-Semitism.” (For the full study, see www.charlesjacobs.org.)
The ADL has defamed many people. The ADL was successfully sued for over $10 million for defaming a Colorado couple, whom they accused of bigotry. The judgment was confirmed by every court that reviewed it, and was ultimately paid by the ADL. This was the largest defamation judgment in the history of the State of Colorado — paid by the Anti-Defamation League.
The charge: Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller were both banned from Britain because of their founding of “anti-Muslim hate groups.”
The facts: The letter to Spencer from the UK Home Office said he was banned for saying: “[Islam] is a religion and is a belief system that mandates warfare against unbelievers for the purpose for establishing a societal model that is absolutely incompatible with Western society because media and general government unwillingness to face the sources of Islamic terrorism these things remain largely unknown.” This is a garbled version of what Spencer actually said, which is that Islam in its traditional formulations and core texts mandates warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. This is not actually a controversial point to anyone who has studied Islam. 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 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.
A Shafi’i manual of Islamic law endorsed by the most prestigious institution in Sunni Islam, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, says that the leader of the Muslims “makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians…until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax,” and cites Qur’an 9:29 in support of this idea: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden-who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled.” (‘Umdat al-Salik o9.8)
Also, the assumption that the British government is fair, consistent, and judicious in such judgments is false. Just days before Spencer and Geller were banned, the British government admitted Saudi Sheikh Mohammed al-Arefe. Al-Arefe has said: “Devotion to jihad for the sake of Allah, and the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls, and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honor for the believer. Allah said that if a man fights the infidels, the infidels will be unable to prepare to fight.”
That was acceptable in Britain. Spencer’s work, which has consistently been in defense of human rights, was not. He has never advocated for or condoned violence. Spencer and Geller are challenging this capricious decision and are confident they will prevail.
The charge: Robert Spencer inspired the Norwegian terrorist mass murder Anders Behring Breivik, who cited Spencer many times in his manifesto.
The facts: This charge is meant to imply that Spencer calls for violence and that Breivik heeded his call. This is absolutely false. In all his quotations of Spencer, Breivik never quotes him calling for or justifying violence – because he never does. In fact, Breivik even criticized him for not doing so, saying of Spencer, historian Bat Ye’or and other critics of jihad terror: “If these authors are to [sic] scared to propagate a conservative revolution and armed resistance then other authors will have to.” (Breivik, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, p. 743) Breivik explains in his manifesto that he was “radicalized” by his experiences with Muslim immigrants in the early 1990s, before Spencer had published anything about Islam (See Breivik, p. 1348).
Breivik also hesitantly but unmistakably recommended making common cause with jihadists, which neither Spencer nor any other opponent of jihad would ever do: “An alliance with the Jihadists might prove beneficial to both parties but will simply be too dangerous (and might prove to be ideologically counter-productive). We both share one common goal.” (Breivik, p. 948). He even called for making common cause with Hamas in plotting jihad terror: “Approach a representative from a Jihadi Salafi group. Get in contact with a Jihadi strawman. Present your terms and have him forward them to his superiors….Present your offer. They are asked to provide a biological compound manufactured by Muslim scientists in the Middle East. Hamas and several Jihadi groups have labs and they have the potential to provide such substances. Their problem is finding suitable martyrs who can pass ‘screenings’ in Western Europe. This is where we come in. We will smuggle it in to the EU and distribute it at a target of our choosing. We must give them assurances that we are not to harm any Muslims etc.” (Breivik, p. 949)
Investigative journalist and author Daniel Greenfield explained:
Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic goes so far as to call a prominent researcher into Islamic terrorism, Robert Spencer, a jihadist. The Washington Post admits that Spencer and other researchers are not responsible for the shootings, but sneers nonetheless. And the New York Times and a number of other outlets have picked and touted the “64 times” that Spencer was quoted in the shooter’s manifesto…
The “64 times” cited by the Times and its imitators reflects lazy research since the majority of those quotes actually come from a single document, where Spencer is quoted side by side with Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice….
Many of the other Spencer quotes are actually secondhand from essays written by Fjordman that also incorporate selections of quotes on Islam and its historical background. Rather than Breivik quoting Spencer, he is actually quoting Fjordman who is quoting Spencer.
Quite often, Robert Spencer is quoted providing historical background on Islam and quotes from the Koran and the Hadith. So, it’s actually Fjordman quoting Spencer quoting the Koran. If the media insists that Fjordman is an extremist and Spencer is an extremist — then isn’t the Koran also extremist?
And if the Koran isn’t extremist, then how could quoting it be extremist?
The New York Times would have you believe that secondhand quotes like these from Spencer turned Breivik into a raging madman….
Breivik was driven by fantasies of seizing power, combined with steroid abuse and escapism. He used quotes from researchers into terrorism to pad out his schizophrenic worldview, combined with fantasies of multiple terrorist cells and an eventual rise to power.
This is not so different from lunatics who picked up a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” and then set off to kill a celebrity. A not uncommon event, for which J.D. Salinger bears no responsibility whatsoever.
The charge: Robert Spencer denies the Srebrenica genocide and justifies Serbian war crimes against Muslims.
The facts: This charge implies that Spencer approves of violence against innocent Muslims, which is absolutely false. It is based on two (out of over 40,000) articles published at Jihad Watch in 2005 and 2009 questioning whether the massacre of Muslim civilians in Srebrenica in 1995, which was unquestionably heinous, rises to the level of an attempt to exterminate an entire people. Neither was written by Spencer and neither approves of the killing of Muslims or anyone. In “Srebrenica as Genocide? The Krstić Decision and the Language of the Unspeakable,” published in the Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal, Vol. VIII in 2005, Katherine G. Southwick writes:
In August 2001, a trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) handed down the tribunal’s first genocide conviction. In this landmark case, Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstić, the trial chamber determined that the 1995 Srebrenica massacres—in which Bosnian Serb forces executed 7,000-8,000 Bosnian Muslim men—constituted genocide. This Note acknowledges the need for a dramatic expression of moral outrage at the most terrible massacre in Europe since the Second World War. However, this Note also challenges the genocide finding. By excluding consideration of the perpetrators’ motives for killing the men, such as seeking to eliminate a military threat, the Krstić chamber’s method for finding specific intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslims, in whole or in part, was incomplete. The chamber also loosely construed other terms in the genocide definition, untenably broadening the meaning and application of the crime. The chamber’s interpretation of genocide in turn has problematic implications for the tribunal, enforcement of international humanitarian law, and historical accuracy. Thus highlighting instances where inquiry into motives may be relevant to genocide determinations, this Note ultimately argues for preserving distinctions between genocide and crimes against humanity, while simultaneously expanding the legal obligation to act to mass crimes that lack proof of genocidal intent….In order to take over areas for the Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serbs pursued a process of “ethnic cleansing,” using military means to force non-Serb populations to flee.
If Spencer is guilty of “genocide denial,” so also is the Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal. In reality, neither are. The raising of legitimate questions does not constitute either the denial or the excusing of the evils that Serbian forces perpetrated at Srebrenica or anywhere else.
The charge: Robert Spencer blames all Muslims for the crimes of Islamic jihad terrorists who are condemned by the vast majority of peaceful Muslims.
The facts: This charge is never accompanied by any quote from Robert Spencer, because it has no basis in reality whatsoever. He has never blamed all Muslims for the crimes of jihad terrorists. He has called upon peaceful Muslims to acknowledge the fact that Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism, and to take action to mitigate the ability of these texts to incite violence. This call has not generally been heeded.
The charge: Spencer has argued that there is no distinction between American Muslims and radical, violent jihadists.
The facts: What Spencer actually said was that U.S. Muslim organizations have been slow to expel violent jihadists or report their activities, and so they move freely among peaceful Muslims. He was referring to the fact that there is no institutional distinction between Muslims who reject jihad terror and those who embrace it, so jihadis move freely in Muslim circles among those who oppose them and claim to do so. In other words, there are no “Islamic supremacist” mosques and “moderate” mosques. There are just mosques, and there are both peaceful Muslims and jihadis in some of them. The Tsarnaev brothers, who bombed the Boston Marathon in April 2013, were members in good standing of the Islamic Society of Boston. The Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s most vocal Muslim organization, has counseled Muslims in the U.S. not to speak to the FBI.
The charge: Spencer and Pamela Geller sponsored ads that equated all Muslims with savages.
The facts: In reality, the ad said: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” The savages to which the ad was referring, obviously, were those jihadis who have massacred innocent Israeli civilians such as the Fogel family and celebrated those massacres.