“I have been made victorious with terror.” ∼ Muhammad
It couldn’t have been much more than a week after 9/11 when he emailed me an article, “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?,” that he’d written for an obscure Catholic magazine. I was then editor of the Conservative Book Club, and he helped write ads for our books. I was anxious to find, or get published by the Club’s sister company, Regnery Publishing, a book that would refute President Bush’s ridiculous assertions that “Islam is peace.”
The article was scholarly and persuasive. I asked him where he acquired his expertise on Islam; he said it was a focus of his graduate studies in religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I asked him to write a book proposal I could submit to Regnery. He did, but Regnery rejected it (I got the impression they bought the Bush line on Islam). So I brought it to another publisher, Encounter Books; they published it as Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, and it sold over 40,000 copies. This woke up my colleagues at Regnery, and they signed him to write the second in the Politically Incorrect Guide series I’d conceived for them, this one to be called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). It jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list, quickly topping 100,000 in sales—and Robert Spencer was off to the races.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Today, Spencer is the author of 18 books on Islam—that’s over one per year—including The Truth about Muhammad (another NYT bestseller); The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran; Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is, and Islam Isn’t; and the just-published A History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS. But this just scratches the surface. He’s also the director of Jihad Watch, an online chronicle (which also posts YouTube videos) of jihadist activity around the world (including the “stealth jihad” by which Muslims are transforming Western nations through mass immigration), and a platform from which he refutes, with over 40,000 posts to date, the Islamophilic propaganda that pours from not only Muslim sources but Western ones, notably the media. His public appearances—lectures, debates—have numbered about 400 over fifteen years. He is also co-founder of Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI).
With all that, it’s no wonder Spencer has been subject to hundreds of death threats, and must hire security guards or be under heavy police protection whenever he speaks publicly. At a no-doubt deliberately provocative “draw the prophet Muhammad” exhibition and contest sponsored by AFDI in Garland, Texas, in May 2015, jihadis opened fire in the parking lot outside the event. “If they had gotten in,” Spencer told me, “I would certainly have been killed.” And at a speaking event in Stuttgart, Germany, “a young Muslim was standing with the organizers of the event. I shook hands all around, and shook his, taking him for one of them. Then he said to me, ‘If it weren’t for all these police around, I would have killed you already.’”
But it’s not only jihadis who are out to get him: the Left—united with Islam in its hatred of everything Western, especially Christianity, yet oblivious to its own inevitable fate whenever and wherever Muslims achieve critical population mass, as they soon will in parts of Europe—has been relentless in attacking and attempting to silence him. Indeed, they almost succeeded in murdering him after a talk he gave in Reykjavik, Iceland, in May 2017. Here’s his account of what happened:
After the event, my security chief, the organizers of the event, Ms. Williams, and I went to a local restaurant to celebrate its success. But I was quickly recognized: a young Icelander called me by name, shook my hand, and said he was a big fan. Shortly after that, another citizen of that famously courteous land likewise called me by my name, shook my hand, and said “f*** you.”
Back in my hotel room, I began to feel numbness in my face, hands, and feet. I began trembling and vomiting. My heart was racing dangerously. I spent the night in a Reykjavik hospital.
A hospital test confirmed that I had been poisoned—Ritalin mixed with MDMA (Ecstasy). One of the local Icelanders who had approached me (likely the one who said he was a big fan, as he came much closer to me than the “f*** you” guy) had dropped drugs into my drink. I was ill for several days afterward.
“At an emergency room in Reykjavik,” Spencer later wrote, “I was treated by Dr. Hjalti Mar Bjornsson, whose Facebook page reveals him to be a hard-Left ideologue: it’s filled with vicious blood libels of Israel, puerile attacks on Donald Trump, and fervent endorsements of Europe’s policies of mass Muslim migration. This doctor apparently recognized me as well (which is not surprising, since my coming had been presented in the far-Left Icelandic media as the imminent advent of Jack the Ripper), and proceeded to neglect to perform basic tests: although my heart was racing, he neither performed an ECG nor took any steps to normalize my heart rate, and neglected other basic procedures as well.”
Needless to say, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the hard-Left hate-group that purports to identify and monitor hate-groups, has declared Spencer a hate-group leader. This despite his repeated protestations, as he writes in The History of Jihad, that although “there are elements within Islam that pose a challenge to free societies … this does not mean that every individual Muslim, or any given Muslim, embodies that challenge and is posing it individually.” But, he continues, “the Islamic jihad imperative remains regardless of whether or not any Muslim individual decides to take it up.” (And it’s worth noting that a significant percentage of U.S. Muslims support violent jihad to make sharia the law of the land and “punish” those who “give offense” to Islam.)
Opposition to Spencer and his message is now official government policy in the U.S. and elsewhere. For some years, he was a consultant on jihad to various government and defense agencies, including the FBI, the United States Central Command, the United States Army Command, the army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Justice Department’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, and the U.S. intelligence community. But all that changed in 2010, as Islamic advocacy groups in the United States began claiming that counterterror training was “Islamophobic” and demanding that the Obama administration scrub training materials of all mention of Islam and jihad in connection with terrorism and stop bringing in “Islamophobic” trainers. Spencer and his books were promptly purged from federal training programs on the order of the once-Communist, then-Homeland Security advisor, later CIA director, and now Anti-Trump Resistance lunatic John Brennan.
Then, in June 2013, Spencer was permanently banned from entering Great Britain for having stated, incontestably, that Islam “is a belief system that mandates warfare against unbelievers.” Ironically, the week before Spencer was supposed to enter the country, the UK Home Office allowed in a Saudi sheikh named Muhamad al-Arefe, who had said, “Devotion to jihad for the sake of Allah, and the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls, and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honor for the believer.” “So, apparently,” Spencer observed, “one can enter Great Britain if one believes that violent jihad is a tenet of Islam—as long as one is in favor of it.”
Corporate America and Big Tech have also gotten into the act against Spencer. This August, the fundraising service Patreon removed his account, which he had set up just weeks before to finance a new video studio, claiming Mastercard had forced their hand on the advice of the SPLC. Scarcely a week later, GoFundMe, where he had then moved his fundraising efforts, began canceling and refunding donations users had made to him, explaining that they were “unable to process payments related to hate, violence, racial intolerance, terrorism, the financial exploitation of a crime, or items or activities that encourage, promote, facilitate, or instruct others regarding the same.” American Airlines, his long-time airline of choice for his frequent travels, had begun harassing him with so many time-consuming extra security checks that he finally switched to Delta.
Campus appearances, as one would expect nowadays, are a particular trial for Spencer. In April 2017, he was shouted down for 1½ hours at the University of Buffalo; he never did get a chance to be heard. That November, student protesters at Stanford University packed a talk sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation and staged a walkout shortly after he started speaking; the administration then refused to admit others who wanted to get in, and barred the YAF from streaming the event. Rarely have his campus appearances not been preceded by demands—not only by students but by faculty, administrators, and even alumni—that he be forbidden to speak, or greeted with noisy protests and threats of violence when he does.
But the nadir in anti-Spencerism, as I see it, has been reached by Catholic churchmen. In recent years, several Catholic bishops have stepped in to cancel his appearances at Catholic events where he was invited to speak, including Robert McManus of Worcester, Mass., Jaime Soto of Sacramento, and Kevin Farrell of Dallas. The Melkite Greek Catholic Eparch of Newton, Mass., Nicholas Samra, refused permission for him to speak when the hosts of several events approached him for it.
Then, in an August 2016 radio debate with Spencer, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, accused him of being “a dissenter from the papal magisterium” for disagreeing with recent papal statements to the effect that Islam is a religion of peace, such as Francis’s 2013 declaration that “authentic Islam and a proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” The cornerstone of Swetland’s case was this statement from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium: “In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.”
“But is the affirmation that Islam is a religion of peace really a matter of Catholic faith or morals?” Spencer wrote afterward. “I don’t see how: it’s a statement about the teachings of a different religion altogether. Is the content of the Buddhist or Hindu faith also a matter of Catholic morals?”
If “this religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra,” and “must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will,” the question then becomes, which Roman Pontiff? Pope Francis, who declared that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence,” or Pope Callixtus III, who in 1455 vowed to “exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet in the East”? Are Catholics to believe that Islam is a “diabolical sect” because Pope Callixtus III said it was, and simultaneously believe that it is “opposed to every form of violence” because Pope Francis said so? Or must Catholics go with Francis and reject Callixtus as a “dissenter from the papal magisterium” because he believed Islam to be diabolical? What authority does Francis have that Callixtus did not have? Or does Francis trump Callixtus solely by virtue of being of the present day and not forgotten?
Several prominent Catholic writers weighed in in defense of Spencer, including William Kilpatrick, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad and other books on Islam. Kilpatrick spelled out the stakes:
When a prominent orthodox Catholic theologian and churchman like Msgr. Swetland confidently (but falsely) asserts that taking a positive view of Islam and rejecting opinions like Spencer’s are nothing less than matters of binding Catholic doctrine, he threatens to give grave scandal. For some Catholics who sincerely think that Spencer’s views are well-supported might mistakenly conclude that the Church requires the faithful to accept falsehoods, and may for that reason even consider leaving the Church. And some non-Catholics otherwise attracted to Catholicism might refrain from entering the Church, on the mistaken supposition that doing so would require them to assent to something they sincerely believe to be false.
Now I come to my ulterior motive in writing this—not to boast of my role in launching Spencer’s career (though I confess it makes me proud), but to solicit your prayers. In 2016, shortly after his exchange with Swetland, Spencer himself left the Catholic Church, reverting to the Greek Orthodoxy of his upbringing (he’d become a Melkite-rite Catholic in 1984). It would be unjust to reduce his reasons for doing so to his mistreatment by bishops and having been declared, in effect, a heretic—he argued his case at a high level of historical and theological sophistication in a lengthy (long enough to make a good-sized booklet) email exchange with former CUF president (and himself a convert from Greek Orthodoxy) James Likoudis. But, Spencer has admitted to me, “It was clear from all this that I was not welcome in the Catholic Church and could make both the hierarchy and myself happy by leaving it.”
Robert Spencer is by far the bravest man I’ve ever known—and that in the sense St. Thomas Aquinas defined the cardinal virtue of Fortitude: the willingness to die in combat. Because every time he ventures out into public to tell the truth about Islam, as he continues to do often, he risks being punched, stabbed, poisoned, or simply shot point-blank in the head.
We need him—and he needs to be—back in the One True Church.
(Photo credit: Spencer talk at Westminster Institute / Youtube screenshot)