Robert Spencer is excellent when analyzing the problem of Islam. He falters, however, when tackling the less appreciated corollary problem of Muslims.
Case in point: his recent, almost surreal criticism of Bill Maher's latest controversy in a string of controversies he has been having by blurting out politically incorrect statements about Islam. Ordinarily, Spencer has offered up sound approval of Maher. This last incident, however, proved to be revealing -- revealing, that is, of a pocket of nougaty softness inside Spencer's otherwise no-nonsense Counter-Jihad bona fides.
When I first began reading the article in question, it became immediately apparent that Spencer was couching his latest report on Maher with a “big but” -- that he has appreciated Maher lately, but... Naturally, I assumed that this meant that Maher, unsurprisingly (being solidly in the PC MC mainstream), must have leavened his recent expostulation with some PC MC spasm that revealed he hasn’t really freed himself from the PC MC paradigm on the topic of Islam, even as he has showed encouraging signs of struggling to free himself from its Box.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the one thing about Maher that Spencer was complaining about was not that he was too soft on Islam, but that he was too hard on Muslims!
This one part of Spencer’s introduction to the piece, for example, in particular reads like it was composed by a garden-variety liberal. Out of context, one would be hard pressed to distinguish such asymptoticism from a neo-con PC MC that prides itself (up to a point) on being anti-Islam:
Maher, Spencer wrote, is “failing to distinguish between Islam and Muslims. What people continually fail to grasp is the distinction between the texts and teachings of a faith, which are matters of record, and the many different ways in which people understand those texts and teachings. To say that all the schools of Islamic law teach violent jihad and the subjugation of unbelievers under the rule of Islamic law is simply a statement of fact. It can be proven or disproven with reference to the actual teachings of the schools. But if they do all teach this, and they do, that doesn’t mean that every Muslim follows those teachings, any more than the fact that the Catholic Church teaches against contraception means that every Catholic opposes contraception. There is a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor among Muslims as there is among believers in every belief system, religious or not.”
As usual, most of the Jihad Watchers who deposited their comments noticed nothing amiss and merely parroted their praise of Spencer (and among them no doubt were many who actually agree with Spencer’s softness on Muslims). It’s nice to know, nevertheless, that there was a pitiful handful among them who are able to notice this problem, and to take the time and trouble to point it out. As I have noticed before, the further phase of graduation on the LCPOI (the Learning Curve of the Problem of Islam) is to graduate beyond all this chest-thumping self-congratulatory I’m-so-wise-and-I’m-such-a-no-nonsense-observer-of-the-problem-because-I-see-how-bad-Islam-is posture and move on to being robustly anti-Muslim.
I recall when the refreshingly brash Andrew Breitbart died Robert Spencer took the time to write an appreciative article in his honor & memory, in which he demonstrated the good sense to notice that one of the chief qualities of Breitbart was precisely his “take no hostages” attitude in the face of the PC MCs and his refusal to tiptoe on obsequious eggshells around them -- which makes all the more ironic how Spencer in this specific context does exactly that, suddenly shrinking back from his bravery to be oh so careful about Muslims (and at the time, I deposited a tart lemon drop there in this regard under the moniker “LemonLime”).
It’s long past time for us to be worrying about the precious sensibilities of Muslims or of the PC MCs who dictate what we should be worrying about when this problem of Islam comes up. Islam is only a concrete problem for the world when Muslims put it into practice. Why is that such a difficult concept for so many in the Counter-Jihad? And, of course, when I say “when Muslims put it into practice” we then have to factor in whether the reader has himself gone through the LCPOI (the Learning Curve of the Problem of Islam) with sufficient diligence & intelligence to fully appreciate the full horror of the systemic and the metastasizing nature of that seemingly casual phrase “when Muslims put it into practice” -- for, if he has, he reaches the threshold of a dilemma where he has only two options at that point: either to recoil and shrink back into a defensive posture defending innumerable Muslims from our searingly appropriate condemnation, or to boldly go where no Jihad Watcher has gone before.
And no, I don’t mean “going there” down that slippery slope to genocide -- that’s where the shrinking violet PC MCs irrationally fear we are compelled to go if we follow our ruthlessly intelligent nose having the “mental pencil” (as Hugh Fitzgerald put it) to connect the dots; but that’s not where we rational Jihad Watchers know it has to lead us. The only problem is, where are the rational Jihad Watchers in this regard…? There are a few. One can count them all perhaps on the left hand of a Muslim thief.
Many years ago I had another blog (what I have called my “sister blog”) dedicated to analyzing what I perceived to be analytical deficiencies in Robert Spencer's view (and often also those of his then right hand man, Hugh Fitzgerald) -- Jihad Watch Watch -- more often than not revolving around precisely the problem I highlight here today -- the distinction between being anti-Islam and being anti-Muslim (though I also explored a fundamental incoherence in Spencer's anti-Islam stance). I wrote so many essays there, and many were so long and detailed, it would take a reader forever to get through it. I recommend they browse among the titles and only pick out the ones that interest them as relevant.