Robert Spencer

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.

Key takeaways

  • A career anti-Muslim figure, Spencer has devoted much of his life to writing books, countless articles, and producing other content all with the goal of vilifying and maligning Muslims and the Islamic faith.

  • Spencer works closely with his allies, most notably Pamela Geller and David Horowitz, to broadcast his intolerant message.

  • As a practiced public speaker, Spencer also travels the country speaking about the alleged threat of Muslims. In 2017, he called students who peacefully walked out of his presentation at Stanford University the “children of Brownshirts and Nazis.”

In his own words

“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?”
—Spencer speech at David Horowitz’s “Restoration Weekend”, November 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, September 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”, January 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,” November 16, 2014

“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, January 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

Background

Robert Spencer is the director of the Muslim-bashing 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).

Spencer received bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees (religious studies) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published 17 books (as of February 2018) focusing on radical Islam, three of which are New York Times best-sellers. Spencer has given seminars on Islam and jihad 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 Network.

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.”

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, in which to 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.

Spencer is also active on the anti-Muslim speaking circuit. He spends a good amount of his time traveling the country to speak at the invitation of other anti-Muslim organizations as well as conservative and Tea Party groups. Conservative-leaning student groups often invite Spencer to speak on campus, which is usually accompanied by controversy. 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 Horowitz’s Freedom Center, including the “Restoration Weekend” and “Wednesday Morning Club.” He is also a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine, another project of Horowitz.

In July 2011, Wired reported that two of Spencer’s controversial books were listed in FBI training materials. Both 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, something he remains bitter about to this day.

Spencer argues that extremists, like Osama bin Laden and ISIS, 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 particular 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 fear-mongering through steady reference to theories like “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. However, he claims 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 would not be the only racist piece of writing associated with Spencer. In 2011, Spencer wrote an article in Crisis magazine with a recommended reading list that included Jean Raspail’s 1973 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 a number of 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 recent years, Spencer has become a consultant for the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a hate group headed by anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney. Spencer produces a Jihad Watch video series that he claims is co-sponsored by CSP. He is also a regular guest on Gaffney’s “Secure Freedom Radio.”

In one such video, Spencer claimed Christmas and other holidays celebrated in the West are now “under siege because there are large numbers of Muslims in the west. That is the sole and only reason. The responsibility lies with those who admitted them without regard for Islam’s doctrines of religious warfare and supremacism.”

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, he 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 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 Spencer’s 2017 book Confessions of an Islamophobe, a memoir that among other things dives into the nuances of being an anti-Muslim hate monger, he reveals he has no plans of slowing down.

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.