Am I being unfair to Spencer?
(Note: Further down in this entry, I reply to Robert Spencer’s charge, made in an e-mail in September, that I committed a “calumny” against him. Since I recently asked him several times to retract the charge, and he several times refused, I feel it is now appropriate to discuss the matter publicly.) Robert Spencer has sent several e-mails over the weekend challenging my characterization of his views in the blog entry, “Muslim wants to take oath of office on Koran; Prager is shocked.” For readability, I am abridging and condensing four of Spencer’s e-mails to get at the substantive points:
A question regarding your latest posting: why do you continue to represent my views in ways that are at variance with what I have told you directly? Is it possible that you believe that your personal dislike of someone justifies your stating falsehoods about that person? I do hope not…Spencer then copied the main part of an exchange that took place between us in August. I’ve added the first two e-mails in the exchange to provide the context.
LA to RS, August 17
I’m sorry I’ve forgotten this, but could you direct me to your most explicit statements on what ought to be done about Muslim immigration? I’d appreciate it. Thanks.RS to LA:
I don’t mean to be unhelpful but I don’t keep track of things in this way. Perhaps I should. In any case, it should be made subject to detailed stipulations making it clear that the jihad ideology is not welcome here. This is a tactic, not a philosophy.LA to RS:
How would this translate into practice? Currently Muslims can immigrate to the U.S. on the basis of the same laws and rules as everyone else, under all the same categories as other immigrants. Are you speaking of close personal examination of all persons with identifiable Muslim characteristics (i.e., either they come from a Muslim country, or they come from a Western country but have a Muslim name, etc.) to determine their beliefs, allegiances, etc.?RS to LA:
Yes. I’ve developed a 30-question questionnaire for immigration applicants, designed to focus on the elements of Sharia that are incompatible with American society and law. Of course honest answers would not be expected, but applicants would be put on notice that deportation would follow any actions to the contrary.LA to RS:
Are you saying that the overall numerical quota for Muslim countries should remain the same as it is now, and that we should simply screen them more carefully, or are you saying that the numerical quota for Muslim countries should be reduced or eliminated? If the latter, what about Muslims coming from non-Muslim countries? Should they continue to be admitted, but just with closer screening for their beliefs, or should they be prevented from coming?RS to LA:
I’m not in the least interested in what country Muslims come from. I’m interested in making it impossible for Sharia adherents and jihadists to come to or remain in the U.S. This will ultimately involve bans on Muslim immigration from wherever, unless Muslims come up with a reliable way to screen out Sharia adherents and jihadists—but they haven’t, and won’t. No one, of course, as you have so well argued, has any natural right to live in the West. The questionnaire I mentioned above is a means by which the specifics of the problem can be brought into the public debate in a way that shows that such measures are, I believe, not incompatible with Constitutional provisions regarding free exercise of religion.My reply
Let me respond first to Spencer’s accusation that out of personal dislike I am knowingly stating falsehoods about him. It’s amazing how often people make this kind of accusation of me. Just the other week, John Derbyshire said that my criticisms of him over his immigration position were motivated by a desire to get back at him for something he once said to me. Apparently it hadn’t occurred to Derbyshire that I have been criticizing pro-open immigration advocates since the 1980s, so that when Derbyshire, a supposed anti-immigration conservative, said that conservatives should stay home on election day and let the Democrats take over Congress, which would most likely lead to the passage of Bush’s open-borders bill, I naturally criticized him for that.
In this instance, Spencer doesn’t seem to have noticed that I faulted Dennis Prager at least equally with himself. Yet I have never had any contact with Prager, so I couldn’t have any personal grudge against him. Does Spencer believe that my criticism of Prager is impersonal and honest, while my same criticism of Spencer, for expressing the same views as Prager, is personally motivated and dishonest? In fact, Prager is more blameworthy, since he is a promoter of open borders, which Spencer is not.
Now to the substance.
I told Spencer last summer that I was favorably impressed by his questionnaire and that I saw it as a move in the right direction. But, as I’ve also said, by itself the questionnaire is inadequate to meet the Muslim threat. Muslims can dishonestly reply that they are not supporters of jihad and sharia. They can answer sincerely that they are not jihad and sharia supporters, but later change their minds. They can have children in this country who grow up to be supporters of jihad and sharia. Meanwhile, a vast apparatus—the equivalent of an American Inquisition—would be necessary to keep track of and examine the Muslim population, even as it keeps increasing. Thus Spencer’s questionnaire does not solve the Islamization problem. Only the actual cessation of Muslim immigration and the actual departure of Muslims from this country (whether voluntary or forced, and it doesn’t have to be all at once, it can be gradual), can solve the Islamization problem.
In our e-mail exchange last summer that he quotes above, Spencer said: “This [the questionnaire] will ultimately involve bans on Muslim immigration from wherever, unless Muslims come up with a reliable way to screen out Sharia adherents and jihadists—but they haven’t, and won’t.” This is Spencer’s strongest statement on immigration that I have seen. But there are several problems with it. First, he said it to me in a private e-mail. He has never to my knowledge said this in a published article, though he is now quoting the e-mail in the evident expectation that it will be posted here. Thus he is only going public with this position in order to respond to my criticisms; he did not take this position publicly of his own motion, which suggests that this is not a position he strongly stands behind. I repeat: Spencer had never made his desire for a ban on Muslim immigration public until after I had written the blog entry he is now complaining about.
Second, how would the questionnaire lead to the bans on Muslim immigration that Spencer says he ultimately favors? The questionnaire assumes that as long as Muslims can (honestly or dishonestly) keep convincing U.S. authorities that they are not sharia supporters, they are welcome in America. Spencer himself has said that we can expect Muslims to lie, but then at least we have a sword hanging over them that if they engage in jihadist activity, we can deport them. But what if they don’t engage in openly jihadist activity? It becomes evident that the only way to ban Muslim immigration would be to ban Muslim immigration, not to approach the issue indirectly through a questionnaire.
Spencer asks that I justify my statement, “Prager and Spencer both believe that Muslims, with the exception of those nasty radical Muslims whom they want to screen out, can be assimilated into America.”
I base what I said on what Spencer said about his questionnaire. It is aimed at screening out supporters of jihad and sharia, which means that other Muslims could enter and stay in America and presumably assimilate. But the problem that we now see for the first time, as a result of the Keith Ellison story, is that any Muslim elected to public office in this country is probably going to want to take his oath on the Koran. Spencer and Prager were “aghast” at that prospect (a characterization by reader David G. that Spencer did not contradict). That means that Spencer regards such an oath as totally unacceptable. He regards a Muslim wanting to take such an oath as a failure of assimilation and a violation of the very character of our country. Now, as I’ve noted previously, Keith Ellison is not an immigrant, but there is no reason to believe that Spencer would not be equally aghast if Ellison were an immigrant, even a non-jihad-supporting immigrant. Therefore, given Spencer’s total opposition to a Muslim taking his oath on the Koran, the only consistent position for him to hold is that there must be no Muslims in this country, whether jihad-supporting or non-jihad supporting, and if there are Muslims in this country they must be deprived of the right of free exercise of religion, namely that if they adhere to Islam they are barred from public office.
My own position is consistent with this. For years I have repeatedly stated publicly that Muslims do not belong in significant numbers in any Western society. Spencer’s position is that we should subject Muslims to a questionnaire. To my knowledge he has never publicly advocated reducing or ending Muslim immigration. He has never advocated policies aimed to removing Muslims per se (that is, Muslims apart from certified terror- and jihad-supporters) from America. Yet, given that he finds the thought of a Muslim public official in this country taking his oath on the Koran to be totally unacceptable, the total exclusion of Muslims from this country is the only policy consistent with his idea of what is acceptable in this country.
The Ellison situation brings the problem of Muslim assimilation into sharper focus than ever before. Conservative immigration advocates say that immigrants including Muslims can all assimilate and are assimilating. But if Muslim mayors and state senators and Congressmen took their oath on the Koran, would these same advocates see that as assimilation? Would they regard that as acceptable? Some no doubt would. George W. would. Condi and Karen and Laura and Harriet would. But many conservative or right-liberal supporters of our current immigration policies—such as Dennis Prager—would not. Yet these same Prager types, when they kept assuring the country that Muslims were assimilating, never asked themselves what this meant. Did it mean that Muslims would give up Islam? That thought never occurred to them. It never occurred to the immigration advocates that for a Muslim to assimilate into America required that he stop being a Muslim. The immigration advocates imagined that Muslims would remain Muslims, yet somehow never publicly express their identity as Muslims. But now we realize that no believing Muslim can assimilate fully into this country, because any Muslim on entering into a government position would naturally insist on taking his oath of office on the Koran, which even open borders advocates like Prager regard as a violation of the meaning of our country.
But Prager hasn’t yet realized that. He wants Muslims to immigrate, yet he is aghast when a Muslim in this country simply acts like a Muslim.
Spencer is also aghast, which clearly suggests that he, like Prager, has assumed that non-jihadist Muslims could assimilate into this country. He had not fully taken in the reality that no Muslim can assimilate into America. Now perhaps he is realizing it.
John Hagan writes:
The immigration\race question in the West is so explosive that it creates some kind of cognitive dissonance where someone like Spencer can accuse you of a personal animus, as your e-mail shows, instead of dealing with the facts as stated.Ben writes:
Here we go again.LA replies:
You don’t know a fraction of it. Every time a comment about him appears at VFR, I get a flurry of e-mails from him accusing me of deliberately misrepresenting and smearing him out of personal hostility. His intent is evidently to intimidate me from making any intellectual criticisms of him, no matter how mild they may be. The worst came in September, when he told me that I had committed a “calumny” against him. I asked him what this calumny consisted of. It turned out that it consisted of the below comment, which appeared in my discussion of Ralph Peters’s attack on the Islam critics as genocidal bigots:David H. writes:
In one of his emails to you, Spencer writes that his questionnaire is intended to exclude jihadists without running afoul of the Constitutional guaranty of freedom of religion. The problem with this argument should be clear: a Muslim living in a foreign country has no right to freedom of religion under our Constitution. If Spencer’s only point is that the ACLU will claim that any immigration restriction based on religion is a per se violation of the First Amendment, then why does he allow this prospect to determine his policy recommendations? Wouldn’t the ALCU have to prove either (i) that our prohibiting a foreign Muslim from immigrating violates a domestic Muslim’s freedom of religion, (ii) that the Constitution protects foreign Muslims who have never even set foot on U.S. soil, or (iii) that a relgious restriction on immigration is an unconstitutional government entanglement with relgion? To your knowledge, has any court adopted one of these positions?Stephen F. writes:
You might point out that the position in favor of ending and reversing Muslim immigration is that held by Hugh Fitzgerald on Jihad Watch itself. Fitzgerald specifically and repeatedly cites the problem that you do, that anyone who is born a Muslim and holds a Muslim identity can “revert” to Islam at any time, no matter how liberal, secular, privileged, or content he is. As I recall, Spencer has referred to this position as Fitzgerald’s personal opinion, and defended his right to hold it, but not stated it as the position of the site per se. He appears to find it necessary to distance himself from it for political reasons.Clark Coleman writes:
I think that a big part of this problem is that most Americans blithely assume that everyone in the world is pretty much like us. They all secretly share our values and want to be Americans, you know.LA replies:
That’s the whole point. That’s the new and definitive clarity on the issue brought out by Keith Ellison’s election to Congress, and that’s why Prager’s and Spencer’s response to it was so significant and why I wrote about it. The assimilationist assumption is that anything specific to the immigrants’ culture or religion is of purely secondary importance, of the order of ethnic foods, and apart from such secondary ethnic artifacts Muslims can become a part of American public life. But Muslims who identify themselves AS Muslims, even if they are not “radical” Muslims, view the Koran as their holy book and are going to take their oath of office on it. This blindingly obvious fact never occurred to the people who thought that everyone can assimilate into America. Prager and Spencer, by being “aghast” at the prospect, indicated that they were among those to whom this little problem had never occurred.Ben writes:
Mr. Auster, it’s obvious this man has no use for any real debate of ideas, at least on the right side of the aisle anyway. I’m actually amazed at this since I would think a man who is willing to take on Islam like he does would be willing to stand like a brick wall against any criticism. He gets way too uptight about it, almost abnormal. How could a man like this who can stand no criticism rise in the ranks such as he has. Well, one reason is that he is the only one (in the mainstream of course) making any kind of intelligent discussion about Islam. It has gotten so bad that whenever you hear some form of truth, even if it’s distorted, it’s like a breath of fresh air.LA replies:
I think Ben’s analysis of Spencer’s thought process is basically correct, and it’s the same with Phillips. They are on the front lines on the Islam issue and see themselves attacked by the left and by Muslims. So they think of themselves as being at the rightmost edge of (respectable) human thought. So criticism of them from the right strikes them as absurd, instantly dismissible, and only explicable in terms of the critic’s personal vendetta against them (Spcncer’s take on me) or the critic’s sheer willful ignorance (Phillips’s take on me).Mark P. writes:
You wrote:Spencer Warren writes:
I thought about all this last evening. It is a defining moment in our crisis—the crisis of liberalism. The continuing refusal of such “conservatives” to face up to the issue of discrimination against Muslims on immigration, of the necessity of keeping them out, and the conservatives’ almost hysterical hostility against you for calling them on it, is mind-boggling. You advocate what is verboten in the Orwellian liberal world view. Keep after them. Note by contrast Fjordman’s gentlemanly response to you.12/2/06. LA writes:
Since six days have passed since this entry was posted and Robert Spencer has—very uncharacteristically—not replied with renewed complaints about how I am misrepresenting and smearing him, I must assume that on reading over the material in this entry he has realized how absurd and wrong was his “calumny” charge, as well as his other complaints. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t have it in him to retract the “calumny” charge.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 26, 2006 11:11 PM | Send