Robert Spencer on the 'Islamophobia' Lie

Freedom fighter discusses the dangerous smear attacks on the foes of jihadi terror at Restoration Weekend.

Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript of remarks given by Robert Spencer at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2017 Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 16th-19th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.

ROBERT SPENCER: Thank you very much. A funny thing, I was in the supermarket the other day, and I saw this little boy. He’d gotten separated from his mother, and the manager came by and said, “What’s your name little boy?” “Muhammad.” “And, you lost your mother?” “Yes.” “Can you tell us what she looks like?” “I don’t have any idea,” and that sums up the clash of civilizations that we are embroiled in today. It is two markedly different views of the world. Two markedly different views of society, and they are actively clashing now as some of my recent experiences illustrate.  

As some of you may know, I spoke at Stanford University in Palo Alto on Tuesday night, and I’ll you, before I spoke it was as if Adolf Hitler were coming to campus, and the Stanford Daily Paper, the student paper, was in an absolute uproar. They were absolutely shocked, flabbergasted, that the College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation would have the gall, the temerity to bring someone in who demonizes and dehumanizes an entire community of people, and that’s what they said. Now, dehumanizing an entire community of people, if you step back and thing, well what exactly do I do? I have written about how Jihad terrorists use the Quran to justify violence and to make recruits among Muslims who are peaceful. If the Muslim community at Stanford was actually threatened by that, then they are actually saying, or implying, that they’re on the side of the terrorists, because if they’re not, then why would they oppose anybody who is exposing the motivating ideology of the terrorists?  

I’ll tell you something else. A few months before I arrived at Stanford they had a speaker there named Aarab Barghouti, who is the son of Marwan Barghouti, who is in prison for engineering the murder of five Israeli civilians. He spoke on campus, no problem. No attack articles leading up to his appearance. No protests. Everything was fine. They also had Mads Gilbert, who is very aptly named Mads, and he is a Swedish spokesman for something or other, who has actually said that 911, well the Americans had it coming, and they deserved it. He spoke at Stanford, no problem, but when I spoke at Stanford, there were actual Stanford administrators, Nanci Howe, who is the Dean of Student Affairs or something or other, and her assistant whose name is Snehal Naik, and they were both at the event. They engineered it so that the room was packed about an 80 to 90 percent with people who had no intention of listening, and they actually kept out members of the College Republicans, the sponsoring group. About 5 minutes in, those 80 to 90 percent all stood up and walked out, and then Howe and Naik, the Stanford deans, prevented anybody else from coming in, even though there was a large group of people who wanted to be in, and a whole hall full of empty seats, they wouldn’t let them in.  

Now, why was that? Because I’m this terrible villain. I am an Islamophobe. Now what is an Islamophobe? As a matter of fact, I was speaking at YAF, Young America’s Foundation, one of their conferences not long ago, and I asked that question, and it was this high school girl in the front row. She said, “Someone who knows too much about Islam,” and I thought, you know you’ve got a point, really. That sums it up, but I’ve actually written this new book, and yes this is an advertisement, Confessions of an Islamophobe that is really about this very strange phenomenon. That if actual supporters of Jihad terrorism go to a campus they’re celebrated as heroes, but if a foe of Jihad terrorism goes to a campus, then he’s a terrible villain, and the actual administration of the college itself makes sure that as few people as possible hear what is being said. Now, this is an extraordinary situation, and the contrast between what sanity or reality would dictate, and the situation that we have prevailing on the college campuses, is extraordinary, and that, actually, can best be illustrated by a story that I tell in this book about my own background. How it is that I became such a hated and notorious Islamophobe, and I can tell you it all started back in the Ottoman Empire.  I wasn’t actually there.  

My grandparents, Stamatios Zompakos and Maria Chrissafakis were born in Tsesmes near Smyrna in what is now the Republic of Turkey, and was then the Ottoman Empire, and they grew up there. When I knew them they were very old and sweet, and I would ask them, they were exotic with their house full of strange pictures and strange odors and strange things, all sorts of exotica. It was foreign, it was unlike what I was used to, or at least the way I was growing up. When I would visit them I would ask them, “Where are you from?” “We’re from Turkey.” “Why are you here?” “We were exiled.” “Why were you exiled?” and they would clam up. Whether they didn’t want to tell me, or they weren’t really clear on it themselves, in any case I was fascinated. My grandmother, actually, was like Barack Obama. One of the two people in the world who say that the sound of the Musim calling the Muslims to prayer is the most beautiful sound in the world, and she said it was wonderful when we were growing up. It was beautiful to hear that, and we were friends with the Muslims, and everything was great. “Well then why were you exiled?” I started to research. I started to try to find out, and what I found out ultimately was that they were exiled because they were offered the choice, as the Ottoman Empire was declining, the subject people in it were offered the choice to convert to Islam or be exiled, and this is because they were considered kuffar harbi, infidels at war with Islam, because you would have the Empire that is based on Islamic law, just like ISIS today, or Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Somalia, or Sudan, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan, it’s based on Islamic law. In Islamic law, if you’re not a Muslim, you have to submit to the rule of Islam. You cannot insult Islam. You cannot say anything critical of Islam. You have to pay the tax, the jizya, you have to submit to various kinds of discrimination. Can’t hold authority over Muslims, and all this, and if you do that they will leave you alone within the bounds of all that discrimination and harassment that is built into the system, but if you rebel, then you are likely to be killed, and you can lawfully be killed.  

In those days, you remember if you have read any history, the Ottoman Empire was known as the “sick man of Europe.” It was collapsing, and the non-Muslim people in Turkey, particularly the Armenians and the Greeks, wanted independent states. The Greeks wanted to unite with Greece in Europe that had won independence from the Ottomans in 1821, and the Armenians wanted their own independent state, so they were infidels at war with Islam, and they could be killed or exiled. As a matter of fact, when the Armenians were exiled, that the conditions were so poor as they were on their way out of Turkey, that a million and a half of them were killed, and this is the Armenian genocide. A similar thing happened with the Greeks in the west which is much less known, and the casualty count was not as high.  

Now, anyway, this is the thing. My grandparents got here, and they were very happy to be here, and they knew what they had come through. My grandfather, when he moved to New York City and he started the Greek diner, that I think is a requirement, he was very proud to become an American citizen, and he was always careful to vote. He knew the value of a free society in ways that, I think, a lot of people who grow up in a free society don’t necessarily know, because they don’t have anything to compare it to. You see, my grandfather’s experience was steeped in his own reality, in the nature of the real world.  

Now you contrast that to the Stanford students who stood up and walked out the other day. These are all people who were born in the United States, probably mostly, born around what, now, 1995 or 1998 or something? So they’ve missed everything, and they grew up in this affluent society, and they’re told that the West is a terrible oppressor, that the United States is based on racism and hatred and oppression, and that they have to stand with the marginalized people of the world, and that the Muslims are among the marginalized people of the world, and so to speak critically about Islamic terrorism is a terrible thing that further marginalizes the Muslims of the world, and therefore, they have to stand against it. Now, this is not reality. This is just plain fantasy.  

People talk about Islamophobia and, actually, in reality, if you look at FBI hate crimes statistics, the hate crimes that are committed against Muslims are far less common than hate crimes against Jews, hate crimes against Blacks. Not only that, but the idea that to analyze the motivating ideology of Jihad terrorism is the same thing as some MAGA hat-wearing vigilante tearing off some poor Muslima’s hijab, that in itself is a propagandistic conflation of two things that are actually quite distinct. Nobody is in favor of vigilante attacks on innocent Muslims, insofar as they genuinely occur, but the idea that to analyze these things properly is the same thing, is just more fantasy.  

Now, when you have people who are more attached to fantasy than to reality, then they will act the way that they did in Stanford the other night, because they really have no clue about what the real world is like, and so I did try to bring them a dose of reality, and one of the things I said, actually in the very few minutes before they all left, was, “I want to thank the most marginalized community at Stanford University, the College Republicans.” That’s absolutely true, because, if you think about it, if you followed the story, or if you followed the story like what Ann was just talking about, or any story of any conservative who tries to speak on a college campus, it’s the same thing, that not only is the speaker defamed and vilified, but also the sponsoring students. The dinner that night before the event, I said to all of them, “I really have to commend your courage, because I get to leave tomorrow and you have to stay here,” and they have to stay in that environment where they are hectored and bullied and mocked and ridiculed, not just by their fellow students, but by the administration, and where they are told that they are transgressing the bounds of what is polite discourse and decent society, by bringing in speakers who are hateful, racist, bigoted Islamophobes, and so you have the administration saying we have to stand up for the marginalized students, and they are marginalizing the Republicans far more than the Muslims on any campus, or any other group on campus has ever been marginalized.  

What we are talking about really is the larger war that is the war that we face today, and that is a war between fantasy and reality. The left is clinging to various fantasies and demonizing and vilifying anybody who refuses to hold to these fantasies. The whole idea of so many things that are staples of the leftist discourse, that the war on poverty that if we tax people very highly and put a lot of people on welfare, they won’t be poor anymore, and they will join the society and become productive members thereof, even while we are incentivizing them not to work. It’s ridiculous. It’s fantasy-based and it’s the same thing as in this case, that when we have 30,000 jihad terror attacks around the world since 911, and we have an international organization that is still very much alive, although it must be noted that President Trump has rolled it up and deprived it of its base in Iraq and Syria, that is, ISIS.  

We have ISIS coming to the United States vowing to kill American civilians, and saying that especially since they’ve been deprived of their base, that they’ll be returning home. I don’t think they should be allowed in, but European governments and all too many American officials believe well, they’re American citizens. They have to be allowed back in. Can you imagine the thought experiment about that just for a moment? Imagine if there were a bunch of British Nazis in 1940 and they left Britain and went to Germany to fight against the British, and then in 1944 when things are going bad they went back to Britain, and they said “We’re British citizens. Let us back in.” Do you think the British would have let them back in? They might have let them back in to prison, but they wouldn’t let them back in to walk the streets, but, yet, the latest estimates are that there are at least 400 returning jihadis from ISIS who are walking on the streets in Britain because they’re citizens. So you have them coming back and they’re going to kill Europeans. They’re going to kill Americans. They have vowed to do so. They have done so, and they will continue to do so, and you have an international organization of other groups that have the same motives and the same goals. You also have very powerful states that are dedicated to the same goals.  

The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the two chief sponsors of terrorism in the world today. They have Hizballah working with drug cartels right across the Mexican border, and why are they there? They’re not there just for that. They’re there ultimately to cross the border and to wreak havoc here. In the face of all this and so much more, Stanford is upset about an Islamophobe. Somebody who is speaking out against all that. It’s a topsy-turvy world. You remember the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland who could believe five impossible things before breakfast? They got nothing on the students at Stanford University.  

The idea of Islamophobia is actually a propaganda construct that was developed in the 1990s by the International Institute of Islamic Thought, which is a Muslim brotherhood Saudi-funded organization, and the International Institute of Islamic Thought had a meeting where they were specifically discussing ways that they could attach a stigma to resisting jihad terror, and they came up with this term: Islamophobia. It’s based on the idea of homophobia. The idea is that if you oppose jihad terror, there’s something wrong with you, and it is some sort of an irrational hatred, probably racist, based on simply disliking Muslims and wanting to cause them harm.  This we know because actually somebody who was there at the meeting, a member of the IIIT, International Institute of Islamic Thought, Abdurahman Mahmohammed, he actually spilled the beans later. He had a change of heart, and he said that the whole construct of Islamophobia is a thought-crushing device designed to intimidate people. Now, how well does it work? Well, look at what happened at Stanford, and that’s no isolated incident.  

Remember at San Bernardino on December 2, 2015. Two Muslims, Said Rizwan Farouk, and Tashfeen Malik, married couple. They went to a Christmas party and they murdered 15 people while screaming “Allahu akbar.” They were affiliated with ISIS. They did it in response to the Islamic State’s call for the murders of American civilians. After that their neighbors were interviewed, and the neighbors said, “Yeah, you know, we saw a lot of suspicious things. We did. We saw strange looking people, unsavory looking types going in and out of their house at all hours, and trucks pulling up and going out at all hours. Strange goings-on.” “Well, did you report them?” “Oh no, we didn’t want to be racist.” That’s how Islamophobia works. It’s something that goes back years.  

Remember Nidal Malik Hasan? The Fort Hood shooter. An American Army major. He, on November 4, 2009, started screaming “Allahu akbar” and murdered 13 Americans at Fort Hood. Now, he had been known. He was on the radar for a long time.  As a matter of fact, he had given ground rounds. He was an Army psychiatrist, and grand rounds is when one of the experts in a field gives a talk to the other experts in the field about the latest developments in the field.  So all the Army psychiatrists are gathered around and Nidal Malik Hassan has his turn to give grand rounds, and instead of speaking about the latest developments in psychiatry, he speaks about jihad. He explains to the audience all about how Muslims must not fight against other Muslims, and so if there are Muslims in the military and they are sent to Muslim countries, it is perfectly reasonable for them to strike out and kill American soldiers. He said many other things in this vein, such that he was reported by a lot of the other psychiatrists. They went to the superiors, and they said this guy is scaring the daylights out of us. We’re afraid he’s going to go jihad one day. The Army psychiatrists, whoever their superiors were, they did nothing. It was even worse. Nidal Malik Hasan was in touch with Anwar Awlaki.  

You know Anwar Awlaki? He was the imam who was celebrated right after 911 as a beacon of moderation and what Islam can be in the future by the New York Times, and there’s a wonderful documentary about Muhammad on PBS. You can find this on YouTube. It’s not a wonderful documentary in that it says anything that’s true, but you can’t expect that from PBS. In it, at one point, they’re profiling this congressional staffer who is a Muslim, and so they’re following him around during his day, and, at one point, he goes to Capitol Hill to the Muslim prayers at Capitol Hill, and the camera goes around the room and if you follow these guys, you know: you see Nihad Awad and Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American Islamic Relations and Randall Royer, who was also with CAIR at that time and then served 15 years in prison for terror plotting, and you see other prominent Muslims in the room, and then the camera pans back and who’s the imam? Anwar Awlaki. Right on Capitol Hill. Anwar Awlaki, of course, was a jihad terror mastermind. He was not only in touch with Hasan. He was in touch with the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day, 2009, over Detroit, with the bomb set off in his underwear. Jerry Lee Lewis has a song about that. In any case, he was also in touch with 911 hijackers and with other jihad plotters. Here is Nidal Hassan and he’s in touch with Anwar Awlaki, and the Army knows about it. An FBI agent who’s tracking this correspondence calls his superiors. He was in San Diego. He calls his superiors in Washington and he says, “This guy’s in touch with this jihad terror mastermind and he’s an Army major,” and the FBI said, “We’re not interested.” The correspondence kept up. He wrote again. The FBI said, “Not interested.” This happened a few times. Finally, the agent in San Diego was so disturbed, he went to Washington himself. He went to the offices of the higher-ups in the FBI, and he set out the evidence about Hassan, and you know what they said to him? They said, “If we kept track of every Muslim in the military who was in touch with terror leaders, we would do nothing else.” Okay, well then, never mind. And, that it would look bad for them to take action against Hassan because there would be bad consequences in the media.  

Now that’s where it gets to it. Can you imagine, if when they people who were hearing Hassan and were disturbed, if when they went to their superiors, if Hassan had been disciplined, or fired, or court-martialed or whatever, what would have happened? Can you see it? CNN:  “Islamophobia in the Military. Army major shares his faith, speaks about Islam and is demoted,” or whatever. They would be ruined. Careers flashing before their eyes. I’m sure that’s what kept them from saying anything. That’s the power of the Islamophobia idea.  

So, in a certain sense, the people at Stanford are right. Islamophobia is a much bigger problem than jihad terrorism, but they’re not right in the way that they think. They think that poor innocent Muslims are being harassed and persecuted and victimized on some large scale in the United States. That’s a lot of hogwash. They think that to analyze the motivating ideology behind jihad terror is some sort of Islamophobic offense that threatens Muslims who are peaceful. That, too, is hogwash, but they are right in one sense. Islamophobia is a bigger problem than jihad terror because it’s the chief enabler of jihad terror. What did Stanford University do when it got me shut down? It was enabling the people who I am opposing. It’s not hard. If it is a terrible, heinous thing that makes you on par with Hitler, walking onto campus to oppose jihad terror, then nobody’s going to oppose jihad terror. They can say, oh it’s all about racism or dehumanizing or all that nonsense, but, in reality, all I do is oppose jihad terror, and oppose the oppression of women and gays and non-Muslims that is under Sharia, oppose Islamic anti-Semitism and so on.  

So if all that is wrong, if all that is hateful, if all that is out of bounds, then all those things can go on unchecked because nobody will have the guts to stop them, to stand up and say yes, I’m going to be racist and bigoted and Islamophobic and oppose you. So Stanford is enabling jihad terror, and of course Stanford is just one school. This is happening in universities all over the country, but they are, in fostering this Islamophobia narrative that is intrinsically fantasy-based, they are aiding and abetting the forces that are vowing to destroy us, and destroy our freedoms. Now, the only problem that they have is that they are at war with reality, and reality always wins. The reason why propaganda is propaganda, why it has to be dinned at us all the time, why we always have to hear that Islam is a religion of peace, why it’s constantly repeated, after every jihad attack then there’s 10 articles in the New York Times and CNN and the Washington Post and MSNBC all telling us how Islam is peace. Why do they have to keep doing that? Because it’s false. And a lie can only be gotten over by constant repetition. Otherwise you’re going to believe your lying eyes instead of what they keep telling you. They have to keep repeating it so that reality doesn’t break through, but reality always does break through.  

This is why, ultimately in the final analysis, things are in a deep state of crisis in the United States, and we do have a shot to win this, but the biggest weapon that we have on our side is not Trump, and it is certainly not the Republican Party, and it is not anything but the fact that we are the real reality-based community. Every morning when the news headlines come in, they confirm that what we are saying about the world is true. They show, insofar as they are at all telling the truth themselves, which is, of course, by no means assured, then we know that our world view will be confirmed. If the Stanford students were to pay attention they would see jihad attacks regularly in the United States and around the world and people being killed. If they were to pay attention, they would see there aren’t any people being killed by rightwing Islamophobes, and Muslims are not being demonized and marginalized in the United States. The thing is, some of them are going to pay attention because you can’t keep reality out forever. It’s just not possible.  

I want to conclude with exactly that. That we have a tremendous reason to hope. We have to stand firm and we have to keep going no matter what names they throw at us and no matter what they come up with next to try to stop us and to block us. Ultimately, as long as we hew to the truth and have reality on our side, we cannot lose. Thank you very much.

MIKE FINCH: We have 5 minutes left for a couple of questions and then we’re going to take a quick break, so a couple questions here.

QUESTIONER: Yes, thank you for your presentation.


QUESTIONER: A few months ago at one of our organizations we had Dr. Zuhdi Jasser and I asked him these questions, because several of us in this audience have taken courses in the Quran at FAU several years ago, and I asked him, how do you get around the 124, we had to notate this in the course, anti-Christian and Jewish statements in today’s Quran? And how, Dr. Jasser, do you get around the 3 surahs that say if you don’t convert in 30 days you die or you become a so-called dhimmi? Allowed to live as you espouse. So, my question is, how does a modern American Muslim go to a mosque and read this, when he then brought his answer he said, well, if you’re a thief it said you should cut off your arm. We don’t think of that anymore. We’re more Americanized and said we will sever a friendship. Do you believe that’s how they think in a mosque today?  

ROBERT SPENCER: No, I can assure you that they don’t. As a matter of fact, you know I started with a joke. I’ll end with one. You know what they call a first-time offender in Saudi Arabia? “Lefty.” The amputation for theft is in the Quran, chapter 5 verse 38. It has not been abrogated. It has not been reinterpreted, and it is in force wherever Islamic law is enforced. Islamic law is not enforced in the United States. So of course they don’t cut off the hands for theft because they’d get arrested, but if you have Sharia in the United States, you will have amputation for theft. The fact is, Zuhdi Jasser may be a beautiful guy, but his Islam has no basis in Islamic tradition or theology. There has never been an Islam like his, there has never been any basis of, in the Quran, for what he’s saying. There has never been an Islamic sect that teaches Zuhdism. If some of you are Christians, okay, if I were to come to you and say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian, and I believe in the Trinity, the Father, the Son and Mickey Mouse, and I’m the real Christian and those people who say the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, they’re out to lunch and I repudiate what they say. I’m the genuine Christian.” Imagine a world in which the people who were saying Father, Son and Holy Spirit were committing acts of violence in the name of Christianity. Nobody wanted to condemn the whole thing as a whole, so I became a media star, and every TV show would feature me, and I would say, “The Trinity is the Father and the Son and Mickey Mouse, and that’s the true Christianity.” And people who had not read the New Testament and had no idea of Christianity, they would buy it, because they don’t know. They would think, oh good, most Christians are like him, so we don’t have to worry about those violent ones. Well, actually, that’s a made-up Christianity, and Zuhdism is a made-up private Islam that he has. I’m glad that he’s going around denouncing CAIR and all that, that’s great, but to pretend that he represents any kind of broad mainstream in Islam simply has no basis in fact. It’s also misleading when people see him and they say, oh, most Muslims must be like this guy. We got nothing to worry about.

MIKE FINCH: One more question, anybody? This will be our last question.  Thank you.

QUESTIONER: I’m just wondering if you have any insight into the way the Las Vegas massacre is being handled.  

ROBERT SPENCER: The Las Vegas massacre is extraordinarily curious. For one thing, the official story has changed so often, I can’t keep track. First we heard the guy committed suicide, then we hear he didn’t. First we hear that there was the security guard coming down the hall and he shot him, then he shot himself. Now it turns out he shot the security guard a completely different time, and so on and so on. So in the first place, the authorities themselves have deliberately sown confusion about this, whether by their own incompetence, or whether by some active plan, but they have made it so that nobody can figure out what’s really going on. That’s one thing. The other thing is, of course, the Islamic State, ISIS, has claimed credit for it. Many people made fun of them and said ISIS, they claim credit for the weather. They claim credit for everything. Not actually true. There is actually no record of them ever claiming credit for something that didn’t turn out to be theirs. There were two main incidents. One was the shooting down of the Russian airliner in Egypt, and they said that was theirs, and all the authorities in the world said no, no, no they’re lying, they had nothing to do with it. They could not have had anything to do with it, and then a few weeks later ISIS produced proof that they had done it. Another one was a shooting, incidentally, in a Filipino casino. Here again, they said that was our guy, and this was an ISIS operation, and that this was immediately dismissed. A few months later the terror experts in the Philippines start saying, yep, it looks like it was an ISIS operation. Now, in this case they said it was an ISIS operation, universally dismissed. Maybe this is the first time they’ve lied about being responsible for an attack, but you notice there were recent shootings by non-Muslims in various areas and they didn’t claim credit for those. They don’t go around claiming credit for everything. Now, I’m not saying maybe this is the first time that they are claiming credit for something they’re not responsible for, but if they did that, consider that they have a following. Their following has to believe in them. They’ve taken a lot of hits lately because of all their losses in Iraq and Syria, and so if they are shown up to be lying about this, they’re going to lose among their own followers. I think the jury is still out about that. I don’t think that the ISIS claim can be discounted immediately, but what is even of greater concern is that whether it’s ISIS or not, something is being covered up here in a very large way by the authorities, and that this is yet another sign of how much the swamp needs to be drained.  

Thank you very much.