Spencer’s Islam contradiction, boiled down to its essentials

Here is the mission statement posted at Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch:

Because the West is facing a concerted effort by Islamic jihadists, the motives and goals of whom are largely ignored by the Western media, to destroy the West and bring it forcibly into the Islamic world—and to commit violence to that end even while their overall goal remains out of reach. That effort goes under the general rubric of jihad.

Jihad (in Arabic, “struggle”) is a central duty of every Muslim. Modern Muslim theologians have spoken of many things as jihads: the struggle within the soul, defending the faith from critics, supporting its growth and defense financially, even migrating to non-Muslim lands for the purpose of spreading Islam. But violent jihad is a constant of Islamic history. Many passages of the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad are used by jihad warriors today to justify their actions and gain new recruits. No major Muslim group has ever repudiated the doctrines of armed jihad. The theology of jihad, which denies unbelievers equality of human rights and dignity, is available today for anyone with the will and means to bring it to life….

The mission statement provides an exceptionally clear and concise account of Spencer’s view of the Islam problem. Yet I don’t think I have previously focused on it in the context of my long-running argument with Spencer over his failure to call for a numerical reduction of Muslim immigration into America and other Western countries. Spencer’s policy for reforming Muslim immigration consists of his proposal that prospective Muslim immigrants be examined for jihadist associations and sympathies, to the end that persons who are established to be, or who are considered at least reasonably likely to be, jihad supporters be barred from entering the U.S. Let’s leave aside the most obvious practical flaw in this proposal (it has more than one): that the U.S. simply lacks the manpower and the deep expertise in Islam to investigate, let alone to investigate competently, the thousands of Muslims in Muslim countries and elsewhere who seek U.S. immigration visas every year. Let’s focus instead on the logic of the proposal, from the point of view of Spencer’s own statements about the nature of Islam.

The basic premise underlying the proposal is that Muslims are not the problem for the U.S., jihadists are the problem. Yet according to Spencer’s own mission statement, (1) Islamic jihadists are in a war to destroy the West, (2) jihad is a “central duty of every Muslim,” and, (3) “No major Muslim group has ever repudiated the doctrines of armed jihad.” What then is the use of screening out individual Muslim immigration applicants who have an explicit jihadist background, and letting the rest in, when every Muslim is at least a potential jihadist? Since Islamic jihadists are in a war to the death with us, and since all Muslims are enjoined to wage jihad (whether they do it actively or not), and since there is no authoritative non-jihadist Islam to forbid Muslims from waging jihad, it is a no-brainer that all mass Islamic immigration must cease, period.

Spencer’s position on Islamic immigration, which allows for continued Islamic influx into this country in the same numbers as at present with only certified jihadists screened out, flagrantly contradicts his own teachings about Islam. The position can be sustained and defended only by the massive practice of doublethink, in which two contradictory thoughts are forcefully kept apart, preventing the contradiction from being exposed. The contradiction at bottom could be described as follows: on one hand, Spencer’s deep knowledge of Islam tells him that Islam as such is our mortal enemy bent on our destruction; on the other hand, Spencer subscribes to America’s ruling liberal creed, which tells him that the cultural and religious differences between non-Western peoples and ourselves do not matter politically, and cannot be allowed to matter politically. As I’ve often said at VFR (quoting Jim Kalb’s illuminating observation), liberalism requires people to be irrational.

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

A couple of months ago, in the midst of the last Spencer-Auster “explosion,” reader Mark J. (in the comment beginning with the words “I’d like to offer my two cents”) took me to task for getting into personal arguments with Spencer, which, he felt, distracted from the real issues. In the same comment Mark also disagreed with my insistence that Spencer ought to take a definite stand for the reduction of Muslim immigration. He wrote:

Personally I don’t feel that Spencer, Phillips, and the rest are being intellectually dishonest or facile by not spelling out that Muslim immigration should be stopped. Yes, it should be. But you have to start by laying the groundwork, by establishing in the public mind that Islam is a serious problem. The prevailing anti-discrimination mentality is so ingrained in our cultures that people are not going to take seriously anyone who proposes expelling Muslims until the Zeitgeist has been changed enough by warnings about Islam that Western people—who are almost all liberal to some extent—are open to that option. We need Paul Reveres like you to be courageous and say the hard things, but we also need people with large public followings to build the foundation even if that means they only point out the dangers of Islam without explicitly calling for the expulsion of muslims. I don’t think it is constructive to criticize these people in such a way that they feel their integrity has been impugned. You are a passionate and intelligent writer and sometimes your criticisms of them do seem to take on the character of a personal insult.

After I posted this current blog entry last night, I sent it to Mark J. with this note:

I hope this article sufficiently avoids the personal, though I understand (from your earlier comments) that you feel it is unreasonable of me to expect Spencer to take a position on Islamic immigration that is consistent with his views of Islam. My response to that is: Spencer is not an office holder. Spencer is not the president of the U.S. who cannot get too far ahead of public opinion. Spencer is a writer and intellectual, whose value to society is in explaining truths that are important to society. He’s not supposed to act like a politician. He’s supposed to speak the truth. For him to contradict himself the way he does undermines the truth and makes it harder for everyone to understand the truth.

Mark J. replied:

You make an excellent point about Spencer not being a politician. And I don’t see anything “personal” in what you wrote. It seems to me an airtight argument that Spencer can’t ignore and still maintain credibility.

I thank Mark. However, some people, particularly students of Leo Strauss, would dispute my comment that the job of a writer and intellectual is to speak the truth. They would point out that in a charged and dangerous ideological environment, where having the wrong views can lead to the loss of one’s job and career, or even of one’s liberty and life, of course a writer has to conceal and modify what he really believes and thus behave like a politician. Now, I’ll grant that that may be true in a dictatorial regime. I’ll grant that it may be true if you’re an untenured conservative professor on today’s left-wing campus. But it’s not true if you’re Robert Spencer whose readers and conference audiences are the most Islamo-critical conservatives in the United States. It is absurd to imagine that Spcncer’s career and influence would be damaged if he simply said that given the problems we have with Islam it would be a good idea to reduce the number of Muslim immigrants entering the U.S. If he doesn’t say it, the reason is not that he’s afraid of saying it, the reason is that he doesn’t believe it.

Conservative Swede writes:

My take on the Spencer thing: Even if Spencer talks like a Usual Suspect, he does not act like one, since he provides a platform for Hugh Fitzgerald and Fjordman at his site. And as I said before, with reference to Paul Belien, acts speak louder than words.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 15, 2007 08:47 PM | Send

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