Robert Spencer on the War on the First Amendment
The ground we've lost during the Obama years -- and the dangerous consequences for national security.
Below are the video and transcript to Robert Spencer’s speech at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2016 Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 10th-13th at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Robert Spencer: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here on this occasion. I’m here year after year and this is certainly the happiest Restoration Weekend I’ve been to and very happy to say we won’t have Chick Nixon to kick around anymore. Come on. The fact is that Hillary Clinton’s defeat is a very, very serious victory not only for the Second Amendment, but for the First and this is something that has been insufficiently appreciated in all the commentary before the election and after. Donald Trump, of course, he went after her many times saying Hillary Clinton is against the Second Amendment, she’s going to stop the sale of lawful weaponry in every way she possibly can, but he never spoke about the threat that she posed to the First Amendment and that is an ongoing threat and a still existing threat and it’s very important to bear that in mind because even though she was defeated, this threat has not gone away. The left is in a full court press and a year’s long effort to destroy the First Amendment and essentially to criminalize any point of view that is not their own and this is a struggle that they are going to continue. Now, there are many, many facets of this. One is, of course, the most notable one I should say, is the organization of Islamic cooperation, which is 57 Islamic governments around the world, 56 states and the Palestinian Authority, the largest voting block at the United Nations, and they of course for years now since the publication of the Danish Cartoons of Mohammed in 2006 they have been working to restrict the freedom of speech and to compel Western states to restrict the freedom of speech at the UN.
I know a lot of you are familiar with that effort and that they have, under the guise of what they call “incitement to religious hatred,” been trying to compel Western governments to criminalize essentially criticism of Islam. Obviously, when you talk about incitement through religious hatred, any kind of incitement, unless it’s absolutely direct and explicit, is a subjective judgment in the first place. Secondly, nobody cares when people put crucifixes in jars of urine or mock Israel and Judaism. Nobody cares about those things. They only care about religious hatred in an Islamic context, and the most insidious aspect of this endeavor, this initiative, is of course that any honest discussion of how Islamic Jihadis use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence is classified explicitly by the OIC as incitement to religious hatred. So, what they want to do is criminalize any discussion of the motivating ideology behind Jihad terrorism and the goal of that, of course, is to enable Jihad terrorists to advance unopposed and unimpeded.
Now, this has been going on for years. It’s been going on since the Bush Administration and the Bush Administration at the UN vetoed these initiatives every year, but then of course came Barack Hussein Obama and twice the United States signed on to these initiatives and actually cosponsored one with Egypt in 2009 and even more notoriously signed on to Resolution 1618 of the UN Human Rights Council, which once again called upon UN member states to criminalize incitement to religious hatred and then had a little asterisk going to a footnote explaining that yes, the UN understood that there were certain countries that had protection for the freedom of speech and they would have to devise other ways to implement this initiative that would not collide with their laws. Now that was the most insidious aspect of the whole thing and Hillary Clinton explained what it was all about not long after that in a speech in Istanbul to the OIC. And she said, and I know many of you have heard this quote, many of you are very well aware of what she said in this, but I think that not many of you are aware of exactly how this initiative is proceeding. What she said of course was that we value the freedom of expression, which she doesn’t, but she said that she did and that in light of protecting the freedom of expression as well as protecting religious sensibilities, in order to compel people not to do what we don’t want them to do, we have to resort to, she said, old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming. Remember when she said that? This is exactly how the Western media has proceeded in order, essentially, not to criminalize, but to rule out of the realm of acceptable discourse any honest discussion of these issues.
What happened to Oleg in his presentation just now is actually a case in point. He’s not facing a felony charge for using the wrong kind of glue. C’mon, we weren’t born yesterday. We know that if he had been putting up posters for the Palestinians there would have been no problem at George Mason University, but because he was putting up pro-Israel posters from the David Horowitz Freedom Center suddenly all these rules about glue kick in and he goes to jail. Now, peer pressure and shaming is essentially a strategy that makes it impossible for us to discuss these matters because of exactly that kind of bias and favoritism. Only one point of view is acceptable and any other point of view is something that we’re going to be shamed out of. You can just think about how many times Trump supporters were mocked, ridiculed.
I read a piece by Paul Berman from December 2015. I re-read it a few months ago. I recommend that you find it and read it. It was in Tablet Magazine and he explains how Trump gives his poorly educated, redneck racist supporters permission to hate. Now what is that but peer pressure and shaming? People read that in Tablet and they think, “Oh, well, I don’t want to be one of those. I don’t want to have permission to hate. I don’t want to be a racist redneck yahoo,” and so they’re shamed out of it. The objective, the goal is – I would hope that nobody was foolish enough to read that and think, “Oh, I better not support Donald Trump” – but the goal of it was to shame his supporters out of it and this is something that goes on. It manifests itself in all kinds of forms. Of course, the primary vehicles for this peer pressure and shaming is the whole concept of hate speech. Now, hate speech is really pretty straightforward. If somebody is speaking hatefully and saying that you’re a terrible person, you ought to be killed, you ought to be beaten up, that’s pretty hateful, but hate speech as a concept, hate speech as something that ought to be a consideration in determining who gets a platform and who doesn’t is an entirely spurious fiction, an invention of the left in order to silence those with whom it disagrees in order to silence us. That’s what hate speech is all about.
I was speaking a couple years ago at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, wonderful little town, and very nice crowd and some very good questions during the presentation. At one point I said that there was actually restriction on the freedom of speech on the Cal Poly campus and people said, “What? What are you talking about you racist, bigoted Islamophobe That’s not true,” and I said, “Well, take me as a case in point. I’ve written all these books. I’ve written a biography of Mohammed. I’ve written a guide to the Quran. Several studies of Jihad from various angles. I guarantee you,“ I said to the students, “that the point of view that I represent is not discussed in your classes on Middle East studies or Islam and if it is it is only discussed in order to be dismissed if not reviled outright,” and a young lady said, “Oh no, you’re wrong. We did discuss your books. We did discuss your work in a class that I just took.” And I said “Oh that’s very interesting. What was your conclusion?” And she said, “Hate speech is not free speech.” That was the first time I heard that. Have you ever heard that? Hate speech is not free speech. This is an increasingly common slogan that is going to be used and is being used right now to shut us down. What the young lady at Cal Poly was saying was that she had supposedly read my work and decided that it was hate speech and that hate speech in and of itself does not enjoy the protection that the freedom of speech ought to be given, that hate speech is not speech that we ought to respect even to the extent of saying I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. And so I said, “Okay, that’s very interesting.”
I asked the young lady this following question. Then who gets to decide because I don’t think what I’m doing is hate speech, unless the Quran is and I quote it, but you think it’s hate speech. Now, which one of us has the right to determine what’s hate speech? What governing authority, to whom should be entrusted this governing authority so that we know what hate speech is and rule it out of free speech protection? And she said, “Well, the relevant governing authority. That’s not important for this discussion. That would be something that would be determined by Congress and the president.” And I asked her, “You really want to give them that kind of power? Do you realize that to give anybody the right to determine what hate speech is and silence it on that basis is a tool of the powerful to silence the powerless and the tool of the tyrants to silence their critics?” And she said, “That’s just a Hobbesian argument against the powerful.” And I thought, “Oh, now I’m stretched because I had to remember okay who’s Hobbes and what does she mean by that?“ I haven’t been to college in 30 years, but of course she meant Thomas Hobbes, who wrote Leviathan. I had to look it up and Leviathan is a political treaties from the 17th century that posits that the only thing that can save us, because we’re all sort of brutal and violent and selfish and vicious, the only thing that can save us from an all-out war of all against all is a strong government that keeps everybody in line. And there are some countries you can say that’s true about, but what she was saying was that I was manifesting an alarming lack of trust and that really I ought to just relax and let the relevant authorities determine what is hate speech and quietly go to jail with Oleg.
But the thing is, of course, that she only thinks that because her position is the dominant one that’s in power. The problem that she manifests however, the problem of which she is an example, is the fact that there’s a whole generation of young people who are growing up with the idea that there is a concept of hate speech and that we are it and that we are way beyond the pale and ultimately to be criminalized and this is happening. As a matter of fact, no less a constitutional authority that Chris Cuomo articulated this last year when we dared to try to stand up for the freedom of speech in Garland, Texas and, of course, in January 2015, 13 people who had dared to draw Mohammed were murdered by Islamic Jihadis in Paris and in response to that we thought we have two choices. When they say we’re going to kill you for drawing Mohammed you either have to draw Mohammed or you have to submit and say yes you can get me to do what you want by threatening to kill me, and so you can manipulate me into silence and slavery. And so to stand up for freedom and for freedom of speech of course we had a Mohammed art exhibit and cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. Jihadis attacked it and there was a great deal of media coverage there for a while about it at which time Chris Cuomo actually stated that the First Amendment does not apply to hate speech and what we were doing was hate speech and therefore it was ruled out.
Now, actually, if you read the First Amendment it doesn’t say anything about hate speech nor is there any legal thing in United States law called hate speech. There is no such concept because of course what’s hateful to you is not hateful to me. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. Everybody has a different evaluation of what is true and good right and what is evil and hateful for that matter, but just the advance of this idea, that Chris Cuomo could think that, a major commentator on a major network, that in itself indicates how deep the rot has gone and how far advanced this concept is, that there is an idea of hate speech and that we are it. Now, the peer pressure and shaming advances of course by charging us with this hate speech and recently – there are so many examples of this I could talk all evening (I promise I won’t) – but there are so many examples of this where opinions that are perfectly valid and have a claim to truth and in an earlier and saner age would have been evaluated on their merits are instead dismissed as hate speech, labeled as such and that is all part of this overall initiative of peer pressure and shaming that Hillary Clinton told us they were going to do.
One example of course is our friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that actually did valid work in the ‘60s for civil rights, but now has completely gone off the rails and become a tool for the left. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently, as you may know, issued a report on the 15 top anti-Muslim extremists in the United States, which included of course David Horowitz and me, Frank Gaffney, Pamela Gellar, many others, 10 or 12 others obviously and two of the people on the list of these anti-Muslim extremists were a reformist Muslim from the UK, Maajid Nawaz and the ex-Muslim from Somalia, the famous freedom fighter Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Now, this made this all very interesting because Frank, David and I and the others we’re used to being defamed in this way, although this was a new one. To call us anti-Muslim extremists, if you think about that for a minute, what does the Obama Administration call terrorists? Extremists. Their whole program to fight Jihad terrorism doesn’t say “Jihad” or “Islam” because that’s forbidden in the Obama Administration and it’s called “countering violent extremism.” So, to call us extremists the SPLC is saying we are terrorists. We are the equivalent of Baghdadi, the ISIS Caliph and Osama Bin Laden and Al Laki and all the rest of them. We are just the flipside of the coin. Now actually it’s true. David and I do plan to fly a plane into a high-rise building later on tonight, but in the meantime, I do think that that is an absurd categorization, but what happened in the wake of this was that Maajid Nawaz, in particular because he is very prominent on the left and particularly popular among the atheist critics of Islam and Jihad, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and so on, the atheists’ spokesmen who have actually spoken about Islam, there was a petition to get Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan off the list and of course the implication was it was perfectly fine for us racists and bigots to be on it, but now they had crossed the line. Now, there was a certain touching naïveté to this.
You see, these supporters of Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali were thinking that those 13, those terrible deplorables, they belong on the list, but our friends, they don’t. These people, no, they’re just unjustly maligning Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan. They’re taking their statements out of context and misrepresenting them. They are claiming guilt by association, indicating that they have associations with unsavory types and they’re questioning their motives and so on. Well, what do you think happened to the rest of us? This is just what the SPLC and its allied groups have been doing to us for years. It’s exactly the same thing. It’s all been a large-scale effort at peer pressure and shaming, making it so that we are toxic so that nobody else wants to speak out in the same way because they don’t want to be toxic and the whole idea of speaking out is stigmatized so that everybody is mute and silent as the Jihad advances. It’s very well thought out. I’ve really got to give them credit. It’s a very skillful plan. It’s very clever and very imaginative and deeply evil, but there’s always a silver lining, and the uproar about Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan being included among us anti-Muslim extremists it woke up a lot of people who I think had no idea that the SPLC is just a propaganda machine, but it is part of this propaganda machine that is working to extend the peer pressure and shaming to every honest critic who explores the motivating ideology of the Jihad terrorists and so we see it in all kinds of contexts. Quite aside from the Southern Poverty Law Center. We even see it at ESPN.
Now, ESPN is where I go when I want to not think about this, but it intruded even there. Of course you probably know that Curt Schilling, the great baseball pitcher, after his pitching years were over he joined ESPN as a sports analyst of some kind. I guess he probably talked about baseball and Curt Schilling actually is a conservative. He now has a conservative talk show in the Boston area and he’s got very sound views on pretty much everything as far as I know and he actually dared to tweet out on his Twitter account some statements about Islam, most notoriously one where he said you say that only a tiny percentage of Muslims are Jihadis. Well, only a tiny percentage of Germans were Nazis. How did that work out? For daring to say that he was suspended. For saying other things that were outside the realm of what is acceptable he was ultimately fired by ESPN. So, apparently, in order to talk about baseball on ESPN you have to have the right opinions or you will be shamed out of your job and the wrong opinions are of course the ones that probably most of us hear hold today. It’s being taken for granted that we represent hate speech and it’s being extended into every aspect of society.
The ultimate goal of course is to make everyone afraid to hold these opinions because everyone will be afraid of losing their job, of being stigmatized as a racist and a bigot and so on and of course we’re so used to this we’ve heard ourselves called this for so many years, but it has never been so far advanced into the mainstream. It is a tremendous blow to this whole initiative that Donald Trump was elected president. Above all, because it shows that people don’t just buy this off hand. I actually started to get some hope. All summer and all fall the news was so bleak, the polls were so bad and Hillary was saying, “Why aren’t I ahead by 50 points?” And everything was so bleak, but I saw one thing that made me just dare to hope that things might turn out better and that was that trust in the media was at the lowest point it had ever been since anybody started keeping track of this sort of thing. And so while they are working to shame us and to apply peer pressure to silence us and while they are working to label what we do as hate speech, more and more people are waking up to it and 60 million of them did not buy it and voted for Donald Trump. What we have now, however, is a president of the United States who commits hate speech and is subject to peer pressure and shaming and it’s an extraordinary position because after working so hard to delegitimize half of the American electorate and half of the spectrum of opinion that Americans legitimately hold, now that opinion is in power against their best efforts.
Now things are really going to get interesting and one of the best things actually that’s come about in this election cycle besides the election of Donald Trump was also the WikiLeaks exposure of just what the media really is and that’s one of the reasons why the trust in it is so very low because we grew up – I remember my father yelling at Walter Cronkite. Walter was not in the room. He was on the screen, but it was just what he was saying, and I remember Nixon, the first one, saying that he had faced bias from the press when he was running against John Kennedy in 1960. Now that’s an awfully long time ago and that’s a lot of elections. We’ve all grown up taking for granted media bias, but now we know that it’s far worse than that. I took an online tour of the major news outlets in the early fall and the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Politico, The Hill, all the major names, and every last one of them had story after story after story about what a dangerous scoundrel Donald Trump was and stupid to boot. There is an inherit self-contradiction in how they classify all conservatives. They did this with George W. Bush, too. He was a monkey, he was a marginal idiot, but he was also an evil genius who had somehow thwarted all their plans while being an idiot monkey. Really astonishing talents. And of course Trump is the same way. And every last media outlet had anti-Trump, anti-Trump, anti-Trump stories. Not even the pretense of trying to be balanced news outlets anymore. Not even pretending to have any objectivity. It was just all wall-to-wall anti-Trump all the time and then it came out in WikiLeaks.
George Soros-funded organizations paid those august, trusted news outlets, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, you name it, they paid them for favorable coverage of the Iran nuclear deal. They paid them for favorable coverage of the Muslim migrant influx into Europe. They paid them for reports on the terrible Islamophobes. They probably paid for that Southern Poverty Law Center anti-Muslim extremist list, but they certainly paid for other reports about how David Horowitz and I and others are these terrible, hateful, evil people who no decent person should have anything to do with. And so we now know this is not news outlets at all. These are bought and paid for propaganda outlets and their hegemony has been broken. Even if Hillary Clinton had won, they would never have the hold that they had. They will never have it again. And so, we have every reason to be upbeat. This is an ongoing initiative, as I said, and it’s not going to go away. There are going to be continued efforts to stigmatize us, continued efforts to smear Trump as he becomes president, as he does anything, continued efforts to say that this is just some anomaly, sunspots, an accident of the Electoral College, something happened so that this maniac got to be president, but he’s still a maniac and any decent ordinary person will think he’s a maniac. Nonetheless, the blades of grass have broken through the concrete, and it can’t be repaired, and so there’s every reason for hope.
But I will close with noting what exactly it is that we’re up against, what the effect of this stigmatization really is. We have heard for decades now, and particularly after 9⁄11, that any honest discussion of how Islamic Jihadis use the text and teachings of Islam, which you can see in my Guide to the Koran and biography of Mohammed, available now, any honest discussion of that is hateful in itself, bigoted, racist, beyond the pale of acceptable discourse. No. This is how this works. A few years back there was a Jihad plot against Fort Dix in New Jersey, and a group of Muslims were going to go into Fort Dix and shoot as many American soldiers as possible before they themselves were killed because the Koran promises paradise to those who kill and are killed for Allah. It’s the only promise of paradise in the Koran. It’s Chapter 9, Verse 111 if you want to look it up, and it says you’ll go straight to paradise if you kill and are killed. These Muslims were going to go into Fort Dix and kill and be killed and go straight to paradise. But they were foiled. Now, they were only foiled – it was on a shoestring. As it happened, these guys were Islamic Jihadis. Islamic Jihadis love death. They always tell us that. They love death, they love bloodshed, they love gore. And they went to a video store because they had their bloody Jihad videos, their beheading videos and their bombing videos, they had them on VHS tapes, and so they asked the young man at the video store, 17-year-old boy, they asked him to transfer their VHS Jihad tapes to DVD. As he’s doing the job, he saw what was on the tapes and he got alarmed, and he went to his boss, and he said, “Dude, I’m seeing some very weird shit on these videos. Should I call the police or would that be racist?“ Now, I should tell you, these Jihadis were Albanians; they were Albanian Muslims. Albanians are blond-haired, blue-eyed white guys, so there was nothing remotely racist about what they were doing, not by any stretch of the imagination. The idea that turning them into the cops would be racist was just something that had been drummed into this young man’s head all his life, that Muslims are victims and that any movement against Jihad terrorism, there’s something wrong with it. And you think that that’s outlandish; it’s not.
A very successful program of surveillance in Muslim communities, a completely legal program that had been challenged in court and held up to the challenge, in New York City, was shut down by Mayor de Blasio on the grounds that it was hateful. Now, what’s hateful about trying to defend ourselves against these people? If you think about it, you know, how Trump is Hitler because he had proposed a temporary moratorium on Muslim immigration. Now, you may recall the real Hitler, in 1940, he banned the immigration of Jews so that he could kill them. And Trump, not Hitler, wants to ban the immigration of Muslims so they won’t kill us. Those two things are not exactly equivalent. But the idea that it’s a terrible anti-Muslim thing completely obscures the fact that he doesn’t have something against Muslims. He doesn’t have something against brown people. That’s the way it’s always put. He does not have some racist agenda here because, for one thing, he’s not saying let’s have a ban on Hindu or Buddhist or any other kind of immigration of people of the same brownness as supposedly the Muslims are. The problem is that he’s trying to address in suggesting this ban is that there are going to be Islamic Jihadis among the Muslims who get into the country. How do you keep them out? You can’t tell the Jihadis from the peaceful Muslims. They don’t carry membership cards in Al-Qaida. So how are you going to tell? There’s no way to tell to distinguish the one from the other, so you either have mass immigration of Muslims into the United States or more Jihad massacres or you have a ban on the immigration, but the idea that it’s racist and hateful is just more of this peer pressure and shaming that almost worked with that young man at Fort Dix. He did turn them in. He decided to go ahead and be racist, and so he saved a lot of people from being killed, but the stigma had already worked or he wouldn’t have hesitated, and the stigma is what they are trying to apply to any and every form of resistance to Jihad terror, that it’s anti-Muslim, it is hateful, and therefore, it must be ruled out of polite society.
Now, you understand, we still have the First Amendment. We still have the freedom of speech. But we now that there are certain things that can be said in the mainstream and certain things that will immediately be branded as hateful, and that is how Hillary Clinton’s program of peer pressure and shaming works just absolutely so well, and is going to continue to do so, unfortunately, despite her defeat. The upshot is, however, that we do have every reason to be optimistic not just with Trump’s election, but with the breaking of the stranglehold of the mainstream and the possibility that truth might now actually even breakthrough somewhere like CNN. I’m not counting on it. I suspect that these great news conglomerate industries will go out of business before they would moderate what they’re doing, but the people have had enough and that is our hope. What we have is an ongoing struggle that we have to be very aware of and resolute in whatever fashion that we can be in our own sphere in life to resist, and to identify this as an insidious attempt at the peer pressure and shaming to stigmatize what is a legitimate point of view and indeed a necessary one for our common defense. And because, ultimately, we do have the truth on our side, we know that we will, in the final instance, be victorious. Thank you very much.
Question and Answer Session
Audience member: Robert, could you tell us how do you undo Resolution 1618 that has been signed by Hillary Clinton?
Robert Spencer: Well, resolutions in the UN are not iron dogma, but they can be reversed. They can be repealed just like in any other parliamentary body, and one thing that I think the Trump administration ought to do is make sure that the United States is clearly and explicitly and defiantly on record defending the freedom of speech at the UN. And –
Audience member: Because in fact, they’re going forward with this 1618 resolution and making it larger and bigger, all of the states at the United Nations, so it’s something perhaps –
Robert Spencer: Hillary probably would have tried to implement it. All you needed was a ninth justice who was a foe of the freedom of speech. The four leftist justices on the court right now have all gone on record saying they would be in favor of various kinds of restrictions on the freedom of speech. And so all you needed was one more. We really dodged a bullet here. All you needed was one more to say hate speech is not free speech and does not enjoy First Amendment protection and actually codify that in a Supreme Court decision and the First Amendment would have been dead.
Audience member: One more question. There’s 1.7 billion Muslims according to your very, very thorough research. What percentage would you say of that 1.7 billion are a threat to the world?
Robert Spencer: There’s no way to answer that question. The reason why is because the teachings about Jihad warfare against unbelievers and subjugating them under the rule of Islamic law, which denies the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience and equality of rights of women and so many other things, all that is in Islamic law. It is not negotiable. It’s not some extremist opinion. It’s basic mainstream ordinary Islam. Those who tell you otherwise are lying.
Now, that said, does every Muslim believe that? Is every Muslim bound to carry those things out? No. Absolutely not. Just like in any other religious tradition, there’s some people who are very serious about it and some people who aren’t and every gradation in between. So you have in the Catholic church, contraception is illegal, is immoral according to the Pope, but surveys show most Catholics practice contraception. Does that mean that the Catholic church does not teach that? No, it really does, but most Catholics don’t pay attention.
Now, in Islam, it’s the same thing. Does Islam in all its various sects and forms teach Jihad warfare against unbelievers? Yes. Does that mean every Muslim is a Jihadi? Absolutely not. Many, many Muslims don’t know about that, don’t care about that, are never going to put it into practice. They would rather live a comfortable life than go blow themselves up, but they’re not going to lift a finger to stop the guys who are blowing themselves up because they know that it’s in there.
Who has the mic?
Audience member: I do. This is a question I wanted to ask Anne Coulter and probably would have gotten a flip, funny answer, but I’d actually rather ask it to you, which is what would you like to see happen to the UN in a Trump world? I’d appreciate your perspective on that.
Robert Spencer: What would I like to see happen to the UN in a Trump world? Was that the question? Well, can you imagine the mushroom cloud? Seriously, what I would like to see happen to the UN is that certainly the U.S. should withdraw all funding from it and evict it from the United States. We can’t shut it down because there are a few other countries in it, but we can keep it out of New York and the United States in general. They can go to Geneva and they can raise their own money. It’s a propaganda arm for the global Jihad, for the OIC. It’s a propaganda arm to hit Israel above all and so we have no business allowing our ally to be subjected to this or to continue with this pretense that it’s something that actually brings anything good to the world. It doesn’t.
Audience member: Robert, thank you. First of all I want to thank you profusely for all of your efforts in the cause of freedom. Your courageous efforts. Now, could you kind or explain or expound upon and assess the following two assertions that we hear all too frequently? One of them, we are not at war with Islam and the second one, the ideology of takfirism is an existential threat to the United States.
Robert Spencer: Well, the ideology of takfirism is kind of an incoherent thing to say because takfir is the practice of one Muslim group declaring that another Muslim group is not Muslim and can therefore be killed as heretics or apostates because heresy and apostasy carry the death penalty in Islam. So many of the groups that are more entrenched in holding on to their wealth and power, like the Saudi government, the Iranians, they declared groups like Al Qaeda, they call groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS takfiris, which means these are the people who are saying that the rest of us are not Muslims and trying to kill us, but that doesn’t mean that, of course, the Saudis or the Iranians – the Iranians say it because they’re Shiites and the Al Qaeda and ISIS people are Sunnis, but in any case, nobody should get the idea that the takfiris or that is Al Qaeda and ISIS and the other Jihad groups are the only people who hold to the view that there should be warfare against unbelievers.
This is, as I said, standard Islam, kill them wherever you find them. It’s three times in the Quran, Chapter 2:191, 489 and 95 if you want to look it up. Chapter 9, Verse 29 says to wage war against the Jews and Christians and subjugate them as inferiors under the rule of Islamic law, paying a special tax. All these things are in basic Islam.
So if somebody says that it’s just these takfiri groups, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf and so on, that practice this, that’s just completely false on the face of it. It’s taught by all the mainstream sects of Islam.
And the first question, we are not at war with Islam. That also is sort of a false statement. I mean, we’re not at war with Islam, but large portions of Islam are at war with us and the Muslims who are at war with us, they point to the Quran and Sunnah the example of Mohammed to justify what they’re doing and they recruit some unpeaceful Muslims and unless and until we recognize that, we’re never going to get anywhere.
The Obama administration in 2011 outlawed any honest discussion of the motivating ideology of the terrorists. It actually is forbidden. If you joined the FBI today, which I would not recommend, maybe when Trump is in, but not right now, if you joined the FBI today and you say I want to go into counterterror, you will not learn anything about Islam, anything about Jihad, even though that’s the largest global threat the U.S. faces. You will hear about right-wing extremists and militias and constitution groups, but it is official policy of the Obama administration that there be no mention of Islam and Jihad in connection with terrorism. The upshot is that our agents are completely unequipped to deal with what they are seeing with the Jihadis. You can’t defeat an enemy you don’t understand and to get the intel about these people they don’t know what it means.
The Tsarnaev brothers who blew up the Boston Marathon, Russia reported them to the FBI. They said these guys, actually Tamerlan the older one, he went to Jihad groups, he joined Jihad groups in Dagestan. Now this was right around the time that the FBI under orders from John Brennan and Obama were erasing all mention of Islam and Jihad from counterterrorism. So they get the intel from the Russians that says these guys joined Jihad groups right when the United States is blinding itself as official policy to the idea that Jihad is benign, nothing to worry about, nothing to be concerned with. How could they possibly have followed through on that intel? It went against the state policy of the administration and so the marathon blew up.
And so we have to understand that Islam, to a tremendous degree, is at war with us and that if we don’t realize that, it’s just going to get worse, but of course, Trump he made a big deal during the campaign of the fact that he would say that there was a threat from what he called radical Islam. It’s actually mainstream Orthodox ordinary Islam, but even saying radical Islam after these 8 years of denial and willful ignorance is refreshing and one would hope that he will change the institutional culture in the FBI and the CIA and Homeland Security and all the rest of them. It’s drastically needed.
Who has the mic? Yes, sir.
Audience member: Hi. So I go to a high school where 99 percent of the students their parents are lobbyists or work in government. I guess you could say I live in the swamp. So I recently wrote something reflecting on the results of the election and as you can probably imagine it’s pretty positive and also as you can imagine I received a slew of peer pressuring shaming as you’d say. I was told that Trump validates the KKK and white supremacy and I said no, the only reason they latched onto the campaign is because of the media’s lies and character assassination that told everybody that Trump was racist even though that’s not the case.
However, what other advice would you give to someone like me who lives in the midst of all those people to defend myself against such claims?
Robert Spencer: I think that mockery is awfully undervalued and that there’s a tremendous potential for it, particularly on college campuses. I didn’t quite hear everything that you were saying. Are you in a college right now or –
Audience member: No, high school.
Robert Spencer: High school, okay, even better. Same thing really at this point. The colleges are high schools and the high schools are middle schools and so on. But the Muslim groups, I don’t actually know about high school, but I know that when you get to college you’ll see, the Muslim groups or the anti-Israel groups, the Students for Justice in Palestine and so on, they make a great show of their victimhood and their grievance theater is always featured on campuses. So, for example, they have Israeli Apartheid Awareness week and they build a wall and have a checkpoint and you have to go through the mock IDF soldier to get to your class and it’s supposed to show you how terrible Israel is.
Well, we can have a lot of fun with that kind of thing if we turn it around on them and have, for example, they have Islam awareness week, well, why don’t we have Quran awareness week and put up “kill them wherever you find them” and “if you fear disobedience from your wife, beat her,” and all these things from the Quran. And they’ll say how could you have this terrible Islamophobia? Well, it’s just the Quran. I thought you wanted us to be aware of Islam. And you play their contradictions back on them.
They talk about being feminists and being in favor of women’s rights and yet they are in bed with and in league with the most misogynistic and absolutely violent ideology toward women on earth. So you have honor killing victim awareness week and put up the pictures of the unattractive women who have been killed by their fathers or their brothers for not wearing the hijab. Actually, they have hijab week now on campuses and I’m seeing that all these non-Muslim girls are wearing the hijab to show solidarity with the poor Muslim girls who are yelled at for wearing hijab by racist, Islamophobic Trump supporters and, well, what about all the girls that have been killed for wearing hijab? I can give you a long list and give you pictures of them. And what about them? Do they have any rights? Can we have an awareness week for them? What, you don’t care about these women? It’s only those women? And so on.
You see what I mean, that you have to in the first place have a very thick skin and be ready to be called everything that there is and understand that this is their tactic, to shame us out of doing what we’re doing, but you bring it back on them and shame them for their own contradictions and hypocrisy.
Audience member: Why are you so racist? No, that wasn’t my question. My observation first of what you last said. There are student groups working on colleges planning just that. Saudi Arabia apartheid week. And planning to do street theater with gays hanging from – in Iran week. But the question now, if I can remember, it was about changing the culture in our security services. I know people from the intelligence and FBI community. On a personal level, they are highly aware of this, but their investigations cannot be geared that way. How long do you think it will take after 1:00 or 2:00 on January 20 for that to change? And how do we go about doing it?
Robert Spencer: You’re absolutely right. I also know many people in the FBI and other agencies who are well aware of the nature and magnitude of the Jihad threat, but they’re keeping their head down, they’re doing their job, they’re biding their time and so things will get better very quickly. But there’s also 8 years’ worth of agents who don’t have a clue and who have been completely misinformed. I have a local FBI agent whenever I get death threats. He calls me or I call him and he says they’re on it and I say yes and then we go back to our business and nothing happens.
But I talk to him now and again and he was reassuring me the other day, last time I got a death threat and he’s saying, “I want you to know that I’m well aware of this problem with these guys that you’re tracking and also, we’re right on top of the other guys on the other side” and I said, “What do you mean, the other guys on the other side?” And he said, “The people upstate, the right-wing militias, they’re just as dangerous as the guys you’re talking about,” and I thought, do they smoke opium now in the FBI as a matter of training?
Can you imagine, he thinks right-wing, when have you heard of right-wing militias, I mean, 30,000 terror attacks around the world by Islamic Jihadis acting explicitly in the name of the Quran, Islam, Mohammed since 9⁄11. How many right-wing militias have done that? And you can say, oh, yes, well, this fella or that fella or this guy had a Confederate flag, the psychopath with the bowl haircut in South Carolina. This is hardly proportionate and hardly remotely the same magnitude of threat, but this is what they’re being taught nowadays and they can only explore the ideology of the one group and not the other. So we can hope and I have every confidence now that that’s going to change and change quickly when the new administration comes in.
Thank you so much for being here.