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. He insists, despite his lack of academic training in Islam, that the religion is inherently violent and that radical jihadists who commit acts of terror are simply following its dictates. 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:
"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
"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."
— Jihad Watch blog, Jan. 14, 2006
“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.”
— Interview with the Liberal Institute, September 2007
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 12 books (as of July 2013) focusing on radical Islam, two 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.
In July 2011, the Gawker website 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.
Self-taught in the study of modern Islam and the Koran, Spencer has been widely criticized for espousing ultra-literal readings of the text. He considers the text to be innately extremist and violent, and refuses to acknowledge nonviolent passages and centuries of adapted interpretations. He also refuses to accept moderate Islamists who do not explicitly denounce the portions of the Koran he finds objectionable. 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 argues that radical Muslims, like Osama bin Laden, are interpreting the Koran properly. Peaceful and moderate Muslims, according to Spencer, either do not understand their own holy book or are faking their moderate stances. He depicts isolated 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 the Koran, 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 a radical Islamist 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 moderate Islam. 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 behaviours 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 teens, 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. He 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.
In her 2008 book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, the late prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, pointed out that Spencer is “falsely constructing a divide between Islam and West,” and that he presents “a skewed, one-sided, and inflammatory story that only helps to sow the seed of civilizational conflict.”