Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) ranked Robert Spencer as the second leading Islamophobe in the country, losing out the number one position to his boss and financier David Horowitz. Former Nixon advisor Robert Crane calls out Spencer as “the principal leader…in the new academic field of Islam-bashing.” Even though Horowitz can be credited with funding the modern day online Crusade against Islam, it is Robert Spencer who fights on the online battlefield, attacking his Muslim foes and their liberal dhimmi allies. In order to bolster his credibility, Spencer and his allies not only claim that he is a scholar, but his own website touts him as “the acclaimed scholar of Islam”. Because these words are boldly emblazoned on his own site, we can only assume that he takes such claims seriously. It is thus fair game to call him to task for this.
His claims notwithstanding, Robert Spencer simply does not possess any scholarly credentials. To be seriously considered a scholar in the academic world in this day and age, one must at minimum possess some rudimentary academic education in the field in which one is claiming scholarship. In order to be considered a scholar, one must have published numerous peer-reviewed articles in reputable journals, the articles being subjected to rigorous critique by established authorities before being accepted. First year students in Ph.D. programs have published far more of such articles than Robert Spencer ever has. There is good reason for that: Spencer has published no such articles, contenting himself with reproducing work in non-academic and populist publications. Spencer does not even possess a Master’s Degree in anything related to Islam, let alone a Ph.D. and post-doctoral fellowship. Spencer does have in M.A. in the field of early Christian studies; does that make him a scholar of Christianity? If not, then why is he considered a scholar of Islam without even an M.A. in Islamic studies?
It seems that Spencer wishes to bypass the minimum of eight years of studies needed to even be considered a serious student (let alone a scholar) and wishes simply to anoint himself the title of “scholar.” It is difficult to take any of his supporters seriously when they claim someone is “the acclaimed scholar of Islam” when he does not even have a Master’s Degree in the subject. Spencer’s followers, fans, and sister sites refer to him as a “scholar” and that’s enough of a credential for him. Ahmed Rehab wrote an excellent article on the Huffington Post that succinctly sums up Robert Spencer’s (lack of) “qualifications” as a scholar:
There is a good reason for this: his “scholarly” methodologies would not jive in any of our nation’s accredited PhD programs let alone a path for tenure where he would have to get his papers peer-reviewed and have his methodology checked by notable scholars for objectivity and a lack of bias (unless, of course, David Horowitz decides to build the David Horowitz Freedom University).
Spencer dismisses such criticism as follows: he is right, and all of the tenured professors of Islamic studies, with their inconvenient knack for unbiased scholarship, are wrong. After all, universities are the establishment of the left-wing liberal conspiracy.
Besides who needs peer-reviewed papers, Spencer seems content to receive rave reviews from Weasel Zippers, Nice Doggie, Atlas Shrugs, Muslims are Terrorists, and of course, frontpagemag.com, that other gem of a creation, and bastion of objectivity, by the guy who cuts his checks.
Now, I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of problems in the Muslim world. I welcome an honest and responsible critique any day. But honest and responsible Spencer’s agenda-driven hatemongering is not. I am not not the only one to take issue with Spencer’s technique. Most objective scholars and professors of Islamic studies dismiss the guy as laughably fraudulent and amateur."
The fact that Robert Spencer posits himself as a “scholar” calls to question his credibility, and one cannot escape the conclusion that he is nothing but an intellectual huckster. Just as we would view a person as a quack for claiming to be a physician without having gone to medical school, likewise we must declare Spencer a fraud. Quite frankly, he is a boldfaced liar, for claiming to be something that he is not. His claims to scholarship ought not be taken seriously, and his title of “the acclaimed scholar of Islam” ought to be considered the epitome of hilarity.
Neither is Robert Spencer’s methodology scholarly. Because he is not accustomed to nor subjected to scholarly peer review, Spencer can use populist arguments that appeal to the layperson but not to the serious student or scholar. Ahmed Rehab explains Spencer’s basic methodology:
The Set Up: Spencer and his associates scour the web for the most sensational and extreme expressions within the Muslim world. They may be related to a certain extremist interpretation of Islam, or may not even have anything to do with Islam altogether, but that won’t matter, so long as the perpetrator is a Muslim, it will do.
The Performance: Spencer then supplants his own commentary on the story which he meticulously crafts with the ultimate goal of convincing his readers that the bizarre incident in question is representative of the faith of Islam and Muslims at large. This subtle leap of faith that he hopes no one notices is the key to his magic act.
The Prestige: He can then rightly claim, with the innocence of a schoolboy, that he does not make up the material he produces, that he is merely quoting things as is, hoping no one notices that he uses the aberrant to define the normative.[/QOUTE]
Rehab’s analysis is good, but it seems necessary to add the missing element. Yes, it is true that Spencer points to the most extremist interpretations of Islam and then claims they represent the faith. But he also points to ultraconservative interpretations of Islam (which ought not be considered exactly synonymous with “the most extremist interpretations of Islam”) and then reinforces the authority of these interpretations by quoting texts from the classical Islamic texts. It does not matter to Spencer or his audience that these medieval texts were written hundreds of years ago; these views become the “normative” understanding of the religion. He ignores the fact that, like Judaism and Christianity, Islamic thought is not static and has developed over the last century. It is thus that a contemporary Muslim can read an ancient legal text without taking it as the Gospel truth, perhaps agreeing with it in general but disagreeing on certain points. But to Spencer, a Muslim who picks up any such book must automatically agree with it 100%, without question.
Spencer’s work involves labeling the extremist or ultraconservative views of Islam as “the real (and only) Islam” 70% of the time, and wholesale fabrication 30% of the time. This 70/30 strategy works well for him, because he can claim that he didn’t make up the 70% by quoting REAL Muslims who say such. And the remaining 30% is slipped in between the 70%, requiring an astute and informed mind to catch it. Let’s see this article of Spencer’s to see the 70/30 strategy in action. He makes two arguments on that page, as follows:
(Read rest @ http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/08/is-robert-spencer-a-scholar/ )
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