As the director of the Jihad Watch blog and co-founder of Stop Islamization of America, Robert Spencer is one of America’s most prolific and vociferous anti-Muslim propagandists.
About Robert Spencer
Spencer is one of the most prolific anti-Muslim figures in the United States. An incessant blogger, author and activist, he insists – despite his lack of academic training in Islam – that the religion is inherently violent and that extremists who commit acts of terror are simply following its most authentic version. His writing was cited dozens of times in a manifesto written by the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik. Spencer was banned from the United Kingdom as an extremist in July 2013.
In his own words
“For while Americans may ignore these unpleasant passages of the Qur’an, Islamic jihadis are not ignoring them at all. To allow such a book to be used by American officeholders is to imply that loyalty to this nation and its principles is meaningless, or that Islamic scripture is meaningless, or both. A wiser path would be to respect what the Qur’an says, and take it seriously, and accordingly disallow the use of the book for swearing in American officials.”
– What’s Wrong With Being Sworn in on the Qur’an?, 2022
“If Western Europe does become Islamized, as demographic trends suggest, before too long America will be facing a world that is drastically different and more forbidding than today’s. And that same process of Islamization will proceed here – unless enough people wake up in time to head it off. The Muslim population in the United States is much smaller than that of Western Europe. The active supremacists among them are even smaller in number. Nonetheless, the same things that have happened in Europe could easily happened in the United States.”
– Mass Migration in Europe: A Model for the U.S.?, 2020
“I have written about how Jihad terrorists use the Quran to justify violence and to make recruits among Muslims who are peaceful. If the Muslim community at Stanford [University] was actually threatened by that, then they are actually saying, or implying, that they're on the side of the terrorists, because if they’re not, then why would they oppose anybody who is exposing the motivating ideology of the terrorists?”
– Speech at David Horowitz’s “Restoration Weekend,” Nov. 16, 2017
“At some point, Western officials are going to have to face the contents of Islamic teaching and recognize that bringing large numbers of Muslims into the West is only going to increase the number of beheadings and exhortations to kill Jews, as both those things are taught in Islamic texts.”
– “Oklahoma Beheading Trial: Is Obeying the Qur’an a Form of Mental Illness,” PJ Media, Sept. 27, 2017
“When they crafted the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers did not envision a religion that mandated warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers; nor did they intend to lace the Constitution or Bill of Rights with time bombs that would ultimately destroy the republic they were trying to create.”
– “Willful Ignorance: House Rejects Rep. Franks’ Proposal to Study Islam,” PJ Media, July 20, 2017
“Everybody’s avid to find moderate Muslims and say, ‘See these people are the ones we can trust and everything’s okay.’ The thing is that there certainly are moderate Muslims. In other words, Muslims who are not interested in beheading us or asserting political supremacy and hegemony and destroying the American system and imposing Islamic law, there’s millions of such Muslims. The thing is that there were millions of Germans who were not Nazis. There were millions of Russians who were not Soviet Communists. But they did not do anything. And for many reasons they were not able to do anything to stand up against the people who were the organized and energized vanguard. And that’s what we have today.”
– Spencer speech at David Horowitz’s “Wednesday Morning Club,” April 14, 2015
“There has never been in the history of the world before, large scale immigration of a people from one place to another with a ready-made model of society and governance that they consider to be superior to the model to the place in which they’re coming, no interest in integration, no interest in assimilation. All they want to do is Islamize and transform the society that they are coming to.”
– Appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity,” Jan. 9, 2015
“We also have to end immigration from Muslim countries into the United States. This is a simple matter of national security. It will of course be condemned as racism, but the harsh reality is that you cannot tell peaceful Muslims from Jihadis in any discernible manner. And so it is simply ridiculous and suicidal to continue to import whole communities of Muslims from hot Jihad areas like Somalia and Syria and Pakistan into the United States and drop them down into American communities.”
– Spencer speech at David Horowitz’s “Restoration Weekend”
“Islam is not a religion of peace. It has an inherently political character that is being brought to the West by immigrants and will cause more trouble in the future. The jihadists have not hijacked it. Peaceful Muslims should be encouraged but do not have a sufficiently influential voice in the Islamic world to allow them to be counted on. The jihadists will not be bought off by negotiations or concessions. This is the revival of a 1,400-year-old war, and we need to be prepared for the fact that it will not end anytime soon – and prepared to defend ourselves militarily and ideologically.”
– Spencer interview with the Liberal Institute, September 2007
“Of course, as I have pointed out many times, traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful. It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.”
– “What is a moderate Muslim?”, Jihad Watch, Jan. 14, 2006
“I have written on numerous occasions that there is no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists. While Americans prefer to imagine that the vast majority of American Muslims are civic-minded patriots who accept wholeheartedly the parameters of American pluralism, this proposition has actually never been proven.”
– “2 Men, in New York and Florida, Charged in Qaeda Conspiracy,” Jihad Watch, March 30, 2005
“Osama [bin Laden]’s use of these and other [Koranic] passages in his messages is consistent … with traditional understanding of the Quran. When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent actions against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretative traditions that have moved them away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretative tradition.”
– The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), 2005
Robert Spencer is the director of the anti-Muslim Jihad Watch website, a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is also the co-founder, along with Pamela Geller, of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI).
Self-taught in the study of Islam and its religious texts, Spencer has been widely criticized for a lack of scholarly credentials and espousing selective ultra-literal readings of scriptures. He considers these texts to be innately extremist and violent and refuses to acknowledge nonviolent passages and centuries of adapted interpretations. According to Spencer: “Traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful. It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.”
Spencer received Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees (religious studies) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published over 25 books (as of January 2023), most of which focus on his intolerant and warped version of Islam. At least three have been New York Times bestsellers. Despite Spencer’s bias, he has given seminars on Islam and terrorism to the U.S. Central Command, Army Command and General Staff College, the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the U.S. intelligence community. He also appears regularly on Fox News.
In 2003, the David Horowitz Center launched Jihad Watch. Spencer spends most of his days aggregating and populating the blog with negative news stories involving Islam and Muslims – seemingly the more violent the article the better, which serves Spencer’s overarching goal of perpetuating a narrative of Islam as an inherently violent and threatening religion. He averages anywhere from five to 10 posts daily.
As a practiced public speaker, Spencer also travels the country spreading his anti-Muslim message. His speaking invitations range from fellow anti-Muslim organizations to conservative and Tea Party groups. Conservative-leaning college student groups have also invited Spencer to speak on campus, which is usually accompanied by controversy. His speaking events have faced protests and backlash. After students peacefully walked out of his presentation at Stanford University in 2017, he responded by calling them the “children of Brownshirts and Nazis.” In 2015, he spoke alongside then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz at a New Hampshire event organized by the Young America’s Foundation.
Spencer is a mainstay at events organized by his parent organization, the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is a regular speaker at Horowitz Center’s “Restoration Weekend” and “Wednesday Morning Club.” He is also a frequent contributor to FrontPage Magazine, another project of Horowitz Center that publishes anti-Muslim and far-right content.
In July 2011, Wired reported that two of Spencer’s controversial books were listed in FBI training materials. The Truth about Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam were recommended for agents hoping to better understand Islam. Following the report, 57 Muslim, Arab and South Asian civil rights and advocacy organizations sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s John Brennan urging a task force be established to examine anti-Muslim biases within federal law enforcement training materials. Spencer and his works were later dropped from federal training programs.
He lamented the Muslim advocacy groups who worked to rid bias from law enforcement training materials have only “purged” anything they found “offensive – that is, any honest discussion of how Islamic jihadists use Islamic teachings to justify violence.”
Spencer argues that such extremists as Osama bin Laden and the Islamic State group are the most authentic interpretation and practice of Islam, despite being actively rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. He brushes this fact off by bombastically claiming the majority of Muslims either do not understand their own holy book or are masking their extremism. He depicts incidences of extremism as normative and representative of the entire group. Critics have been quick to point out that Spencer’s argument requires an exceptionally narrow reading and that it exempts Islam’s texts, hypocritically, from the benefit of interpretation granted to other religious texts, like the Bible.
One example of this tactic can be seen in Spencer’s and Geller’s treatment of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the American-born project leader of the Park51 project aiming to build a mosque in lower Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 attacks. By painting Rauf as an extremist who was striving to build a “victory mosque” to celebrate the destruction of the World Trade Center, the two leaders of SIOA sought to block the project while portraying all Muslims as radical – an assertion simply not supported by facts.
Spencer also attacks individuals and organizations that claim to represent mainstream Muslims. This is most commonly done through accusations of those entities acting as secret operatives to destroy the West. Spencer engages in fearmongering through steady reference to theories including “stealth jihad,” eminent “Islamization of America,” and the infiltration of Congress by “Muslim spy interns.”
Spencer is known to have associations with European racists and neo-fascists. He claims, however, that his contact with them is merely incidental. On June 25, 2013, Spencer and Geller were banned from Britain after planning to attend a rally organized by the English Defence League, an anti-Muslim extremist group. According to a letter issued by the Home Office of the United Kingdom, “The Home Secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviors by making statements that may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.” Spencer’s response to the announcement was to accuse the British government of being a “de facto Islamic state.”
Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who slaughtered 77 people, mostly teenagers, in Oslo and the nearby island of Utoya on July 22, 2011, referenced Spencer’s writings dozens of times in his 1,500-page manifesto. Breivik believed that Islam was destroying Western civilization. In response to media reports about the connection, Spencer likened the situation to Charles Manson’s statements about drawing inspiration from the Beatles.
This is not the only racist piece of writing associated with Spencer. In 2011, Spencer wrote an article for Crisis Magazine with a recommended reading list that included Jean Raspail’s 1973 The Camp of the Saints, a racist novel that depicts France overrun by swarthy hordes of non-white immigrants from India. In his Crisis article, Spencer described multiculturalism as a “heresy” that is intent on “denigrating and ultimately destroying the Judeo-Christian West.”
Raspail’s dystopian novel has been lauded by white nationalist and nativist “intellectual” thinkers including John Tanton, the architect of the contemporary anti-immigrant movement. The book has been translated into English and published in the United States five times, with its most recent publisher being The Social Contract Press, a white nationalist publication founded by Tanton.
In 2017, Spencer came out in favor of President Donald Trump’s attempted Muslim ban and suggested adding Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to the list of banned countries. He offered an oversimplified justification of the ban, writing, “Some harmless people will be kept out, or some harmful people will be let in.” Spencer has long advocated curtailing Muslim immigration to the United States and other Western nations. In 2015, he and Pamela Geller, via their organization American Freedom Defense Initiative, released an 18-point plan for “preserving and defending free societies.” The plan, among other things, calls to for “an immediate halt of immigration by Muslims into nations that do not currently have a Muslim majority population.” It also outright advocates “profiling of Muslims at airports” and the “surveillance” and “regular inspections” of mosques in America.
In September 2017, Spencer wrote the script for Pamela Geller’s latest anti-Muslim film, Can’t We Talk About This, and was also featured. He said, “Stay quiet and you’ll be okay is what the Islamic world is saying to the US … if we stay quiet they will think it’s okay until we are completely subjugated under Islamic law.” Spencer’s group AFDI paid for a provocative billboard in New York City’s Times Square promoting the film.
On top of writing at his blog Jihad Watch, a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Spencer also writes columns for FrontPage Magazine and PJ Media. In one article at FrontPage, also a Horowitz Center project, Spencer claimed Trump’s controversial Warsaw speech in July 2017 showed that unlike Obama, this president is “working very hard to ensure that Judeo-Christian civilization survives.” The speech was also celebrated by neo-fascists, and the event where it was delivered attracted factions of Poland’s far-right in support of Trump’s message.
In 2017, Spencer published Confessions of an Islamophobe, a memoir diving into the nuances of being an anti-Muslim hatemonger and the ways he tries to justify it. The book states:
There are, in short, very good reasons to be an Islamophobe, that is, to be concerned about Islam for the devastation that it brings into the lives of human beings both Muslim and non-Muslim. It is not hatred and bigotry to be the right kind of Islamophobe; indeed, the only chance for the survival of free societies into the latter part of the twenty-first century may be if large numbers of people join me in becoming this kind of unrepentant Islamophobe.
In 2020, Spencer was officially hired as a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a hate group founded by anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, after consulting with them for a few years. Spencer produces a Jihad Watch video series he says is co-sponsored by CSP. In one of these videos from 2017, Spencer claimed Christmas and other holidays celebrated in the West are now “under siege” from terrorist threats because “there are large numbers of Muslims in the West.” According to Spencer, this is due to the “feckless to the point of suicidal immigration policies in Europe and North America.”
“The responsibility,” he adds, “lies with those who admitted them without regard for Islam’s doctrines of religious warfare and supremacism.”
Spencer is a frequent guest on Gaffney’s “Secure Freedom Radio” and “Securing America TV.” Spencer appears frequently to swap conspiracy theories with Gaffney ranging from the Biden administration’s alleged efforts to criminalize dissent to the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to implement Sharia law in America.
In August 2020, the Center for Security Policy published a book by Spencer titled Mass Migration in Europe: A Model for the U.S. In the book, Spencer fearmongers about Muslim immigration and demographics in Europe and the U.S. He writes:
If Western Europe does become Islamized, as demographic trends suggest, before too long America will be facing a world that is drastically different and more forbidding than today’s. And that same process of Islamization will proceed here – unless enough people wake up in time to head it off. The Muslim population in the United States is much smaller than that of Western Europe. The active supremacists among them are even smaller in number. Nonetheless, the same things that have happened in Europe could easily happened in the United States.
The Center for Security published another book by Spencer in 2021 titled Who Lost Afghanistan? The book says the “American foreign policy establishment’s bipartisan consensus refused to take seriously the theocratic ideology of the Taliban and Al Qaeda or the religious and cultural character of Afghanistan.”
In 2022, the David Horowitz Freedom Center published a monograph by Spencer called What’s Wrong With Being Sworn in on the Qur’an? Keeping in line with Spencer’s Islamophobia, he argues elected officials should not be sworn into office using the Quran as some Muslim politicians have done. Spencer deploys his go-to anti-Muslim tropes, such as claiming the Quran is a violent text that “teaches values that are vastly different from American and Judeo-Christian values.”
Another trope he deploys is Muslims cannot be trusted to take the oath of office “faithfully and honestly” using the Quran because it commands them to lie. This is based on an obscure Islamic concept of “taqiyya” used by anti-Muslim propagandists to frame Muslims as being untrustworthy and to be always viewed with suspicion.