by Robert Spencer
The Roman Catholic diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts invited me last June to speak at their Catholic Men’s Conference this coming March 16; however, under pressure from the Boston Globe and Islamic supremacists in the area, the diocese has canceled my appearance. I am planning to buy an exhibitor’s table and be at the confence anyway, but the whole episode raises important questions about who exactly constitutes an authority to speak on issues of jihad and Islam (and, indeed, any other issue as well), and how that authority is accorded to people in contemporary society.
The diocese folded after receiving a heated and defamatory attack on me from Abdul Cader Asmal, cochairman of communications for the Islamic Council of New England, wrote a libelous and hysterical screed to the diocese of Worcester, labeling me a “hatemonger” and demanding that they cancel my appearance at the conference coming up this March 16. I posted it in full here. Among Asmal’s many claims were these: “Mr Spencer has a very deep rooted Islamophobia and argues by selective quoting of sacred passages taken totally out of context, and exploits any and every opportunity he gets to link the lunatic act of a Muslim in any part of the world as a direct consequence of Islam. He is not an academician, nor does he have a modicum of understanding of Islam.”
Says who? I don't actually do any of these things, but for the diocese of Worcester, it was apparently enough that Abdul Cader Asmal said I did. But who is Abdul Cader Asmal? He is a Boston-area endocrinologist who in 2011 was stripped of his license to practice medicine for reasons unexplained. Even worse, according to Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, he is a self-proclaimed friend and supporter of the convicted jihad terrorist, Tarek Mehanna, who is at this moment in federal prison for aiding al-Qaeda.
So why would the diocese of Worcester hasten to do the bidding of Abdul Cader Asmal? Because despite his affinity for al-Qaeda terrorists and his own questionable ethics, he represents politically correct opinion, which virtually everyone in the U.S. today – Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, atheist, whatever – desperately fears to offend.
Consider, in a similar vein, the case of Omid Safi. In her story on the cancellation of my talk in Worcester, the Boston Globe’s Lisa Wangsness wrote this in response to my observation that the Koran contains numerous texts exhorting Muslims to commit violence against unbelievers:
Omid Safi, an Islamic studies scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that there are indeed references like that to holy war in the Koran and that some Muslims in different periods of history have used them to justify their actions.
That does not mean, he said, that most modern Muslims accept them literally.
“If we go flipping through each other’s scriptures to persuade ourselves that other people’s scriptures contain violent elements, then that’s a losing game for all of us,” Safi said. “The question is: How do we make sense of them, and which ones do we call upon to live our lives today?”
In the Gospel of Matthew, he notes, Jesus says, “I come not to bring peace, but the sword.
Yeah, that’s why we see armed Christian groups making war against non-Christians worldwide, and quoting this verse. Of course, in reality we don’t see any such thing, and yet we do see armed jihadis all around the world making war against non-Muslims and justifying their actions by reference to the Qur’an. The difference is stark, and shows up the dishonesty of Safi’s remarks.
“Safi also said,” according to Wangsness, “that Spencer has no formal training in Islamic studies or Arabic.” But this is an obvious dodge. Does Safi really expect us to believe that “slay the idolaters” becomes “give the idolaters a hug” when rendered in Arabic?
Anyway, here again: why does Wangsness turn to Omid Safi as an authority? Omid Safi is an extremely dishonest pseudo-academic of extraordinarily low character. He has falsely claimed that I threatened to kill him and his family. He has a long-standing hatred of me based on my daring to challenge his dismissal of me with the manipulative Muslim Brotherhood neologism of “Islamophobe” and my outrageous offer to come to the class where he was discussing my work and engage in discussion and debate with him and his students.
Threatening to kill someone is a felony offense. Yet Omid Safi has never brought charges against me. Why? Because he is lying. I never threatened him or anyone. He is merely engaging in defamation. I complained to officials at the University of North Carolina about his highly unethical behavior, but got no action, of course, because his opinions are politically correct and mine aren’t. So now we have an academic liar being cited as a source by a highly biased advocacy “journalist.”
Also, how did Wangsness dig Safi up? Why did a Boston Globe reporter writing about a Massachusetts conference go to an academic in North Carolina to get comment on me? Why not someone from Harvard or Boston University or Tufts or any number of local universities? Was it because someone tipped her off that Safi would reliably provide negative comment on Spencer? Who did the tipping off?
But however she found him, she thought his comments worth featuring not because he has any notable achievement, or any connection to the events in Worcester. She obviously wasn’t concerned about the manifest absurdity of what he said about violent passages in the Bible and the Qur’an. Nor did she express any concern when I wrote to her to notify her about Safi’s reprehensible dishonesty – it simply doesn’t matter, because Safi has the proper politically correct opinions, and I don’t.
Such is the low state of the public discourse these days.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His upcoming book, Not Peace But A Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam, will be available in March.