Saturday, 29 September 2012

- Critique of Robert Spencer

Review of a critique of Robert Spencer

By Igor Slamoff

Review of Dr. Robert Dickson Crane: “Fascist-Islamophobia”: A Case Study in Totalitarian Demonization, published in 4 parts by The American Muslim in 2007. 

I was alerted to Dr. Crane’s work by one of the numerous book-length critiques of so-called islamophobia published in the US in the last few years by “progressive” political organizations. I was eager to see a full-dress critique of Robert Spencer by an actual islamic scholar such as Dr. Crane. All the criticism I had read of Spencer’s work hitherto was merely name-calling by writers ignorant of the issues.

It was therefore with great expectation that I began reading Dr. Crane’s 4-part article, whose title is seriously melodramatic.

Dr. Crane defends Islam from many of Robert Spencer’s charges, stating that Spencer distorts the Koran and other ancient writings to make islam look extremist, when it really isn’t.

I haven’t had time to check any of the  bits of the Koran that Crane quotes. However Crane denounces Spencer in exactly the same terms as he denounces Al Qaida, Wahhabism, Salafism, etc. I rapidly began to suspect that the peaceful, tolerant Islam that Crane describes as the authentic islam exists only in his imagination.

Crane claims that the death penalty for apostasy has no confirmation in the Koran. According to  Crane, Spencer  belittles Ibrahim B. Syed, President of the Islamic Research Foundation in Louisville, Kentucky, for concluding in his scholarly research paper posted on March 26, 2006, in that, “There is no historical record indicating that Muhammad or any of his companions ever sentenced anyone to death for apostasy.”  Spencer writes, “This kind of assertion may be comforting to non-Muslims who would prefer to believe that the notorious capital charges levied in early 2006 against the Afghan convert from Islam to Christianity, Abdul Rahman, were some sort of anomaly.”[1]

Perhaps Crane is right, but the current foremost authority on Sunni Islam, Al Azhar University in Cairo, proclaims the death penalty for apostasy as unquestioned dogma. So, who cares what the Koran REALLY says? What counts is how it is currently interpreted by the top dogs in Mohammedan dogma. And on most of the issues cited by Crane, Spencer’s reading seems to match prevailing currents in contemporary Mohammedan thought.  

For example Crane denies that Mohammed ordered the beheading of hundreds of captives of the Banu Qurayzah tribe in Medina about 627 A.D. Indeed, he calls it the “spurious story about the massacre of the Banu Qurayzah,”[2]. Spencer’s argument against the classical Islamic scholars, including the modern scholar, W. N. Arafat, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, is that they rejected the very possibility of such a slaughter “chiefly for the anachronistic reason that it would have violated Islamic law.” 
Respected Islamic scholars argue that this story has to be apocryphal because the strict rule in Islamic law is to punish only those who are responsible for the sedition.  The large number of those allegedly beheaded contradicts the Qur’anic prohibition of collective guilt ordained in Surah Fatir 35:18: “No soul shall bear another’s burden.”[3] The leaders of the Banu Qurayzah even in the apocryphal story were well known and even named. 
Crane then inveighs against the abrogation doctrine that Spencer takes for granted:

“The worst heresy among Muslims is evidenced by the official Saudi translations of the Qur’an, which assert that the above two verses and all like them have been abrogated by verses that say only Muslims can enter heaven.[4] …. This doctrine of abrogation has functioned like a computer virus and has multiplied into the abrogation of hundreds of verses.  Those who justify their new, hate-filled religion by asserting that God changed his mind through abrogation are playing God.  This process of selective interpretation and deletion eventually would gut the entire Qur’an of all meaning."

"This bias is strikingly evidenced in the contrast between Spencer’s unquestioning acceptance of falsehood and his rejection of truths that are beyond question.  He accepts the Banu Qurayzah massacre, because doing so serves to prove the points he is trying to make throughout his book, but he is skeptical about the very existence of the Medina Covenant and Constitution which granted equal rights to Jews, Christians, and Muslims."[5]

However that is not to say that all of Crane’s objections to Spencer are fatuous. He cites many ancient Mohammedan scholars who seem to favor a relatively mild form of Islam.  Perhaps Spencer DOES paint too dark a picture.

But there can be no doubt that extremists have taken control of Islam world-wide and consequently Islam will be in practice an extremist doctrine for the foreseeable fyooch.

Accordingly, even though Spencer may err on certain points -- perhaps even intentionally distort Mohammedan writings, as Crane charges  – he offers the inestimable advantage of pointing out the threat posed by contemporary extremist islam, which is the islam we must actually deal with, and that he counteracts the soothing stories of so many pro-islam propagandists who – for whatever reason -- wish to banish our justified fears. 

In a nutshell, islam is today, in Crane’s words, a “new, hate-filled religion“.

[1]  Perhaps Spencer misconstrues the ancient writings, but all contemporary  Moslem scholars agree that apostasy must be punished by death. If Spencer is wrong, then so are all contemporary Mohammedan scholars. Igor Slamoff
[2] Ayatollah Khomeini used the Banu Qurayzah story to threaten those who questioned his authority. Hence Khomeini does not appear to doubt the Banu Qurayza story. Igor Slamoff
[3] This alleged ban on collective guilt contradicts historical accounts of punishment of dhimmis, where  all dhimmis paid for the transgressions of a few of them. Indeed, transgressions by individual  dhimmis against the Pact of Omar have regularly been the occasion for mass slaughters of dhimmis. In 1945 Moslem mobs in Libya murdered many local Jews – why? Because they were incensed at acts that  Jews in Palestine allegedly committed against Moslems in Palestine . The Jewish survivors of the Libyan pogrom were promptly deported. Igor Slamoff 
[4] The author claims that abrogation is merely a Wahhabi heresy that Spencer misrepresents as the authentic Moslem doctrine. But the important point is not whether it is a heresy or not. The important point is that the Wahhabis’ “new, hate-filled religion” dominate Moslem discourse in the US & Europe, and consequently abrogation appears now to be the predominant view.  It appears that most mosques built of late  in Europe and North America were funded by Saudi petrodollars and staffed by fanatical Saudi zealots. Igor Slamoff
[5] Even if the Medina Covenant existed, Mohammed violated it by turning Medina into a homogeneously Mohammedan city through terror. Igor Slamoff

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