Denial at Brown · 30 November 2007

By Robert Spencer -
Filed under: Commentary

“Polemics don’t advance the debate,” says the Brown Daily Herald in “Ignoring ‘Islamofascism’ hype,” a vicious little polemic that accuses the organizers of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week of wanting a “fight.” The editorialist preens: “We’re glad that the debate is being carried out at this level, not with signs and shouting.”

Of course, there was shouting when I spoke at Brown last week, although not too much, so the Daily Herald has every right to be proud. There were few disruptions during the talk itself, although there was a loud group of louts toward the back, one of whom during the question period told me angrily that he didn’t want to listen to what I was saying. I assured him that no one was forcing him to listen at all, and that he was quite welcome to leave.

The question period was full of the usual self-righteous lecturing by thoroughly propagandized students who have no training in critical thinking and quite obviously feel deeply threatened when their cherished ideas, which rest on such shaky intellectual and evidentiary foundations, are questioned.

I see that one of the fundamental weaknesses of the Left, and their Islamic supremacist allies, is that they believe their own propaganda, and don’t even have the conceptual apparatus required to help them recover when its inaccuracy and dishonesty is exposed. Even at their best the questioners were clearly playing “Gotcha,” trying to get me to say something they could use against the Week and the perspective I represent, rather than engaging in real intellectual give-and-take. This too is a function of how thoroughly they have been propagandized, for they have been taught that those who oppose them are morally evil, and can’t even conceptualize the possibility that people of good will might disagree with them and thus should be engaged with ideas, not rants and attempted traps.

I didn’t expect anything else at the beginning of the Week, and of course I was nowhere greeted with anything like the reception that Nonie Darwish and David Horowitz received at other universities. In general, the hysteria, the lies about the Week and the intentions of its organizers, and the attempts to silence us all indicate how much the Week was needed, how threatened the Left and its jihadist allies are by our shining this light upon them and pointing out the hypocrisy of their “bigotry” talk, and how vitally important it is that we keep up this kind of pressure.

But Brown students should indeed be very proud, considering the immense provocation they had to suffer through. The editorial says: “Fortunately, despite confrontational remarks made by Robert Spencer, who said in his lecture here Thursday that he does not believe ‘that Islam at its core is a peaceful religion,’ Brown’s campus remained largely calm.”


Anyway, this was not an assertion I made without evidence. I drew a distinction between teaching and practice and explaining the vulnerability of peaceful Muslims to jihadist recruitment on the basis of the jihadists’ use of various passages of the Qur’an and Hadith (which I cited), I explained that all the schools of Sunni and Shi’ite jurisprudence have a doctrine involving warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers.

This was and is a statement of fact. If it is false, the Brown Herald, or the Muslim community at Brown, should refute it. Anyone is welcome to refute it if they can. I can and have (in my books and elsewhere) explained it at length, with abundant citations from the Qur’an and Sunnah, as well as from mainstream Islamic commentaries on the Qur’an and Islamic jurists.

But they don’t refute it. No one ever has refuted it. Instead, here the Herald treats it as if the very statement constitutes incitement to violence against Muslims. And in an unconscious irony, the Herald expresses relief that the campus remained “largely calm,” rather than erupt into violence over someone daring to assert that Islam is not a religion of peace.

Well, bravo, Brown students! What admirable, nay, noble restraint! But if you really want a debate on the key issues, as you say in this editorial, simply heaping abuse and contempt on your opponent and being glad that nobody popped him one is not actually a demonstration of the falsity of his arguments. If you are willing to engage in a genuine discussion and debate of this question — does Islamic doctrine actually teach peace? — I am at your service, and will return to Brown.

If you do not wish to engage in such a debate, as appears clear, then be assured that you will not forever be able to ignore this question, or to act as if the mere asking of it is the equivalent of burning a cross on someone’s front lawn. Unfortunately, those Muslims who do not believe that Islam is a religion of peace, who are the ones who benefit most from the ruling of this question out of polite discourse, will continue — unimpeded by their peaceful coreligionists — to commit acts of violence in order to advance the cause of Islamic supremacism. It is more than likely that this conflict will touch you personally, and your vilification of the anti-jihad movement and your refusal to engage it intellectually may at that point look very different to you from the way it looks today.

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Religion of Peace?.