Islamophobia 101: Episode 11–Pseudo-Experts Muddying the Truth about Islam: The Cases of Robert Spencer and Craig Winn

Posted on February 10, 2007


by Rafik Beekun

Robert Spencer is a self-proclaimed expert on Islam.  Khaleel Mohammed, Louay M. Safi and Carl Ernst assert that Spencer has no academic training in Islamic studies at all–his M.A. degree was in the field of early Christianity–, that he does not have any understanding of Islam, and that he is very selective in his interpretation of Islam.  Please click here to read Khaleel Mohammed’s rebuttal of Spencer’s article on Muslim feminism.

Spencer’s method usually consists of taking some Muslim interpretations and then using them to characterize all Muslims or all of Islam.   Several areas where he has done so include: apostasy, women, etc).  Often he totally misrepresents the historical context in which these verses were revealed.

Listening to the interviewers in the above video, clearly the religious wars in Europe, the intolerance shown by Christian Europe towards Jews and Muslims during the Inquisition, the genocide committed by the Crusaders upon their conquest of Jerusalem, etc. have been conveniently forgotten both by Spencer and the interviewers.   What is also amazing in the above video clip is that no Muslim counterpoint was presented in that interview by that far right media source, FOX News.

Reflecting upon the trend of relying on pseudo-experts or former Muslims to talk about Islam, Louay Safi in his excellent article titled, “Will the Extreme Right Succeed? :Turning the War on Terror into a War on Islam“, states the following:

The anti-Islam campaign is carried by self-appointed experts who have little understanding of Islam and Muslims, yet are bent on depicting the faith of 1/5 of humanity as intolerant, violent, and anti-western. Having little insight into Muslim societies and Islamic faith and history, they often rely on the crude and faulty logic of generalization about Muslims from the experiences of fringe Muslim groups, and of reading Islamic texts out of context, both the socio-political and the discursive.

Robert Spencer, a prolific anti-Islam writer and a leading Islamophobe who is bent on distorting Islam and demonizing Muslims, has persistently argued that violence and terrorism employed by Muslim extremists is rooted in the Quran and its message. Spencer calls the Quran, a book sacred to Muslim, “the jihadists’ Mein Kampf,” in reference to Hitler’s memoir. He openly blames the Quran for giving impetus to the terrorist open war against the West. “So is the Qur’an the Mein Kampf of the totalitarian, supremacist movement that is the global Islamic jihad? If we take seriously the words of the book itself and how they are used by jihadists, then it clearly is their inspiration and justification.

Safi challenges Spencer’s portrayal of Islam as an inherently violent religion:  “Spencer insists that the Quran is the source of the violence perpetrated by Muslim extremists against civilians. “Nor are these jihadists misrepresenting, twisting, or hijacking what the Quran says,” Spencer contends. [He then adds, ] “There are over a hundred verses in the Qur’an that exhort believers to wage jihad against unbelievers. ‘O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed’ (Sura 9:73). ‘Strive hard’ in Arabic is jahidi, a verbal form of the noun jihad. This striving was to be on the battlefield: “When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly” (Qur’an 47:4). This is emphasized repeatedly: ‘O ye who believe! Fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.’ (Qur’an 9:123).”

As you notice above, Spencer selectively picks a few out of the hundreds verses that deal with issues of peace and war, and distorts Islam by arguing that the Quran directs Muslims to fight non-Muslims on the account of having different faith. He does that by obscuring both the textual and historical contexts of the verses he cites. The Quran is unequivocal that fighting is a last resort and is permitted to repulse aggression and stop oppression and abuse: “A declaration of disavowal from God and His Messenger to those of the polytheists (Arab pagans) with whom you contracted a Mutual alliance.” (9:1) The reason for this war against the pagans was their continuous fight and conspiracy against the Muslims to turn them out of Medina as they had been turned out of Makkah, and their infidelity to and disregard for the covenant they had made with the Muslims: “Why you not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and attacked you first.”(9:13)””  

Here is a vivid example of Robert Spencer in action:

As can be seen in the above videoclip, Spencer loves to focus his audience’s attention on one verse in the Qur’an: Chapter 9, verse 29 to the exclusion of many other verses in the Qur’an. Verses from the Qur’an that he conveniently omits to talk about are those that enjoin Muslims to start fighting only to defend against aggression and urge them to work towards peace the moment the other party is seeking peace: “Fight in the way of God those who fight you, but do not commit aggression, for God loves not aggressors. And fight them wherever you meet them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for persecution is worse than slaughter. But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no oppression and the religion is only for God, but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.” (2:190-193)

A brave Muslim, Jalal Abu Alrub,  finally responds to pseudo-expert Craig Winn:

Another pseudo-expert is Craig Winn with an entire Islamophobic website.  To give an example of just how uninformed pseudo-experts are, listen to Craig Winn stumble over himself when a Muslim took the time to challenge him in a debate on August 16, 2005. You can listen to the audio version (in MP3 format) of the whole debate by clicking here.

More on Craig Winn’s fabrications about Islam can be read by clicking here.