A controversy erupted last week in Chicago after it was publicly revealed that a noted anti-Islam blogger, Robert Spencer, had been invited to an American Library Association panel advertised as "dispelling stereotypes about Islam."
Ultimately, the panel was canceled after all the other panelists withdrew. I'll get into that in a minute, but first, who is Robert Spencer?
In his own words:
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and the author of eight books on Islam and jihad.
Spencer is a weekly columnist for Human Events and FrontPage Magazine.
Spencer has also written eleven monographs and well over three hundred articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism. Along with the bestsellers The Truth About Muhammad, Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion (Regnery) and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Regnery), he is the author of Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter); Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery); and Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't (Regnery), a refutation of moral equivalence and call for all the beneficiaries and heirs of Judeo-Christian Western civilization, whatever their own religious or philosophical perspective may be, to defend it from the global jihad.
More recently he has also written monographs for the David Horowitz Freedom Center: What Americans Need to Know About Jihad; The Violent Oppression of Women In Islam (with Phyllis Chesler); Islamic Leaders' Plan for Genocide; and Muslim Persecution of Christians.
In case his one-sided tone and unabashed slant has left you a little queasy, Spencer is sure to add:
"Spencer has been studying Islamic theology, law, and history in depth since 1980."
Longevity equals credibility, eh? (Or put another way, it's been ample time for him to perfect his bias.)
Spencer postures himself as an "Islamic Scholar." But unlike most people we tend to call "scholars," Spencer did not burden himself with the traditional scholarly route that puts an emphasis on objectivity and academic rigor.
There is a good reason for this: his "scholarly" methodologies would not jive in any of our nation's accredited PhD programs let alone a path for tenure where he would have to get his papers peer-reviewed and have his methodology checked by notable scholars for objectivity and a lack of bias (unless, of course, David Horowitz decides to build the David Horowitz Freedom University).
Spencer dismisses such criticism as follows: he is right, and all of the tenured professors of Islamic studies, with their inconvenient knack for unbiased scholarship, are wrong. After all, universities are the establishment of the left-wing liberal conspiracy.
Besides who needs peer-reviewed papers, Spencer seems content to receive rave reviews from Weasel Zippers, Nice Doggie, Atlas Shrugs, Muslims are Terrorists, and of course, frontpagemag.com, that other gem of a creation, and bastion of objectivity, by the guy who cuts his checks.
Now, I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of problems in the Muslim world. I welcome an honest and responsible critique any day. But honest and responsible Spencer's agenda-driven hatemongering is not. I am not not the only one to take issue with Spencer's technique. Most objective scholars and professors of Islamic studies dismiss the guy as laughably fraudulent and amateur.
The independent national media watch group, FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), identifies Spencer as one of the "Dirty Dozen: America's leading Islamophobes" who systematically "spread fear, bigotry, and misinformation." The special report, entitled "Smearcasters" provides examples of Spencer's sensational views.
So let us take a quick look at the crux of Spencer's methodology which is as disingenuous as his conclusions are sensational. In fact, it can be analogized to the three acts of a magic trick as described in the movie The Prestige. (More)