Robert Spencer remains, at bottom, an ameliorative liberal, not an Islam realist

In an item about a Muslim honor killing in Australia, Robert Spencer writes:

Yet another inconvenient incident for those who wish to deny any Islamic connection to honor killing. That denial can only result in more girls being murdered, because no one is calling upon Muslim communities anywhere to do anything to combat the attitudes and beliefs that give rise to this phenomenon.

Got it? Spencer thinks that the reason more Muslim honor killings are going to occur is that Westerners are failing to try to persuade Muslims to stop believing in honor killings. He says that it’s up to us to make Muslims, uh, stop being Muslims, or at least stop being serious Muslims.

So, after writing, with one hand, a hundred thousand blog entries saying that he is still waiting, waiting, waiting for evidence of an authoritative moderate Islam (meaning that he thinks that an authoritative moderate Islam doesn’t exist, because the only authoritative Islam is extremist Islam), with the other hand he writes entries saying that Islam can be rendered moderate, by well-meaning Westerners “calling on” Muslims to reform their religion!

Spencer’s deep-seated liberal belief in amelioration prevents him from forming a clear, consistent, stable picture of the nature of Islam, and from forming any realistic concept of what needs to be done about the threat of Islam. When it comes to waging a cold war against Islam, he is half Scoop Jackson, half Adlai Stevenson. Too often, the second half cancels out the first.

What do I mean by this somewhat whimsical-sounding comparison? While Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Washington) and Stevenson were both anti-Communists, Jackson was a hardliner and Stevenson an ameliorist. In general, Stevenson thought that ideological adversaries and criminals could be reformed, through rational dialogue. Thus he played, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, a significant role in the founding of that ultimate talk shop, the United Nations, where enemies and tyrants have an equal vote with ourselves. As the U.S. delegate to the UN, reports Wikipedia,

Stevenson was hit by an anti-United Nations protester in Dallas, Texas, on October 24, 1963, one month before the assassination of Kennedy in that same city. A woman carrying an anti-United Nations sign hit Stevenson in the head with the sign. A man spat on him and on a policeman. Amid the furor, Stevenson said of his assailants: “I don’t want to send them to jail. I want to send them to school.”

By that instinctive reaction, Stevenson showed that didn’t want to remove malefactors from society, he wanted to reform them.

Similarly, Robert Spencer does not want to protect America from Islam by stopping Muslim immigrants from entering America or removing the ones that are here; he wants us to keeping “calling on” them to moderate their religion, even as their numbers and power in our society keep increasing.

It should be noted that while in past years Spencer repeatedly called me a liar and a crazy person for pointing out that his occasional, passing, and often parenthetical remarks against Muslim immigration did not add up to a serious position, when he formed his own activist organization, the Freedom Defense Initiative, in February 2010, it had, among its 23 planks, not a single reference to stopping or even slightly reducing Muslim immigration, thus proving that my criticisms of him had been correct all along.

- end of initial entry -

February 24

Kevin H. writes:

As a relative newcomer to blogs such as those of Spencer, Geller and others, I see clearly the point you are making. There seems to be a collection of “whiner sites” that complain about Islam and never really encourage a deeper discussion of the issues and their implications. The hosts of such sites become frequent guests on talk shows and get invited to comment in news articles but no-one knows where they are trying to go.

Ample evidence of this can be found in the comments sections of those blogs. Nothing that I have seen there is worth reading.

LA replies:

Well, I wouldn’t call Spencer a “whiner.” He writes serious things about Islam. Yes, the commenters at his site are mostly unreadable because they compulsively keep repeating, “Yes, Robert, you’re right! Islam is terrible, terrible, terrible!”

For a few years I consistently criticized him and other Islam critics for warning that Islam threatened our destruction, while they declined to propose a single action to stop this threat. Spencer was actually better than the typical Islam critic, because he did from time to time say something about stopping immigration from Muslim countries. But his heart wasn’t in it, and he would immediately revert to the idea that we somehow had to change the Muslims once they were here. Meaning that our survival depends on Muslims changing into something else, rather than on our defending ourselves from Muslims.

The position of these phony Islam critics—and again, Spencer was better than the others, who never mentioned Muslim immigration at all—was so self-defeating, and delusive to their conservative readership (who were given the false impression that someone was “standing up to Islam”), that I felt a great need to change this and I kept saying that these Islam critics had to advocate what to DO about the Islamization of the West if they were to be taken seriously. But they didn’t. Nothing changed. The only good I accomplished is that I woke some people out of the illusion that the Islam critics stood for something real. But as far as moving the debate toward something real, I did not succeed. The debate is as unreal as ever.

LA continues:

I was about to say that Spencer’s excuse is that he sees his function as that of a scholar telling us about Islam, not as an activist trying to do something about it, and that he thinks it’s up to others to propose policies based on the information about Islam that Spencer brings forth. But that theory is disproved by the fact that Spencer founded an activist organization in 2010, an activist organization that did not mention the word immigration.

February 26

Kevin H. replies:

You’re right, I should not have called Mr. Spencer a whiner. But I liken his work to that of Dalrymple and to an extent Mark Steyn, as noted in the VFR entry entitled “On the Empty Conservatism of Theodore Dalrymple,” in which Rick Darby comments on Dalrymple: “His writing is lazy; he can’t be bothered to think beyond clever pathology reports.” I see Spencer in the same way. [LA replies: Again, I have to defend Spencer. His writings on Islam are not limited to clever pathology reports. He identifies the formative principles, doctrines, and traditions of Islam, or at least of the jihadist aspect of Islam, that make Islam, or at least jihadism, what it is. At the same time, if by pathology you mean describing an illness but not prescribing any cure, then there is justice in what you are saying about Spencer.]

Interestingly, later in that entry Jonathan C. remarks that Dalrymple played a role in moving him away from liberalism. Perhaps that is the role performed best by the writers we mention; that they serve as a starting point or at least a stepping stone in the journey some of us have just begun. They get us thinking about the problem, they illustrate it well, and send us searching for the solution, perhaps even inspiring us to propose our own.

I have felt myself moving along a continuum of sorts in this regard, not having reached any kind of conclusion, but of wanting a deeper knowledge of the issues and the implications for our existence. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave may be apropos in the sense that the readers may move on to higher levels, but by the quality of the comments on those blogs, it is not happening. [LA replies: What do you mean by “those blogs”? If you mean Jihad Watch, I would agree. The people there recognize that Islam is a problem, but they seem to lack any larger civilizational / moral / spiritual perspective in which to understand the problem and respond to it. It’s the weakness of all single-issue websites.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 23, 2012 09:45 PM | Send

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