An Analysis of the CAIR-Endorsed “Exposé" of Robert Spencer
by Glen Reinsford, TheReligionofPeace.com
Who CAIR’s about Jim Sutter?
The “Reverend” Jim Sutter would like you to believe that he is a courageous champion of tolerance, but he is actually nothing more than a megalomaniac in search of a résumé.
for Internet fame has led this otherwise obscure
Sutter also finds plenty of time to talk about himself in his many postings, which is turning out to be a personal liability given his affinity for tall tales. So intent is he on making a name for himself that there is actually an independent blog dedicated to exposing the many lies that he has spun about his background and fictitious accomplishments.
Exposing Sutter and PhonyRev.com reveal plenty of amusing details about this sad, little man, including the fact that the religious credentials and degrees that he has honored himself with are as fraudulent as his claim to being a decorated Navy Seal. It seems that this convicted felon is having a real problem telling the truth about his criminal background as well.
For about 15 years Sutter has claimed to be a man of the cloth. As to which “cloth” this is exactly, well, let’s just say that the story evolves with each telling. A 2005 photograph shows him posing in priest’s garb, trying to bolster his claim as a “Catholic Minister.” Unfortunately for him, the Catholic clergy has no such position (and the shirt can be purchased for $29.50 on-line). Sutter has recently declared himself to be a Baptist pastor - largely it seems, on the strength of a mail order certificate. He has also claimed to have three doctorates.
Sutter currently says that he has “multiple disabilities,” of which he is surprisingly unforthcoming (given his relentless effort to inspire others into sharing his fascination with himself). The man who recently used the tragic death of a critic’s child to enhance a false accusation of mental illness probably hopes that claiming an unspecified “disease” will work to his advantage. Even if one takes him at his word, however, he is still in remarkably good health for a man who passed away from heart disease eleven years ago (or was it a brain tumor?).
Given his efforts to cover his tracks, and the fact that he has an obvious motivation in fibbing to impress others, Sutter may not fit the clinical definition of a pathological liar. On the other hand, this convicted felon has no apparent convictions when it comes to integrity. If caught in a lie he will either ignore the situation or try to cover it up with another story.
Sutter’s blog postings are usually little more than superficial ranting spiced with damning accusations of bigotry and intolerance that are rarely supported by the rhetoric that he manages to squeeze in between liberal uses of the word “hate” and the equally ubiquitous soliloquies about himself. With reckless abandon, he seamlessly lumps critics of Islam together with racists and neo-Nazis, even while admitting to being “no expert” on the religion itself.
Not surprisingly, Sutter’s attempts to keep critics of Islam as silent in the West as they are under Sharia has won him an audience with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic supremacist organization with documented ties to terrorism. Like the good “Reverend,” CAIR is self-serving, arrogant and rigidly unapologetic. The group is also not above reaching deep into the bottom of the barrel to smear a critic, as spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper has done several times with Robert Spencer of JihadWatch.org.
In fact, it is their shared hatred of Spencer that brought CAIR and Sutter together, and a big reason why the latter is enjoying his 15-minutes of fame.
On August 8th, the CAIR Website briefly featured Sutter’s purported 63-page “exposé” on the JihadWatch founder called “The Spencer Spin.” This was picked up by other Muslim sites, causing Mr. Sutter’s main blog traffic to temporarily spike from less than a dozen hits a day to about a hundred (interestingly, he doesn’t appear to have figured out that the IP tracker on his sidebar reports his true readership to be substantially less than the “thousands” that he often claims).
That CAIR would take the pathetically mendacious Jim Sutter seriously speaks to their desperation. That they would quote from and post a link to his document on their website speaks to their complete lack of credibility. The document is full of lies, errors and sensational but unproven claims about Robert Spencer. It will be very interesting to see if CAIR continues to stand by Sutter’s work following this analysis.
Sutter’s 63-page “exposé” is very much like a freshly fertilized field in that it is best appreciated from a great distance. I would be willing to bet that few if any of those critics of Spencer who have been breathlessly linking to Sutter’s rant have bothered to scratch the surface of it, much less to have read the whole thing.
Needless to say, Sutter’s product is not what it appears to be. The closer one stands to it, in fact, the less impressive it becomes. What seems, at first glance, to be a sophisticated collection of damning evidence against Spencer turns out to be a drawn-out opinion that is supported by a long string of links to further opinions that are, for the most part, unsubstantiated.
Even the quotes of Robert Spencer that are included in the piece are generally benign and irrelevant, existing merely for the sake of appearance. Sutter uses sleight-of-hand tactics to try and convince us that we are seeing confirmation of whatever point he is attempting to make, but his logic and style are sophomoric and immature.
Much like the ranting on his website, Sutter uses the gravest of language disingenuously within the document. Accusations of “racism” and “ethnic cleansing” appear quite casually, while Sutter feigns naivety to the necessity of providing justification. His intention is to fool others into believing that he is presenting something meaningful.
There are two possible ways to go about building a response to Sutter’s work. The first is to bring a wealth of information from Muslim sources and from Robert Spencer’s own writing in a line-by-line refutation. But this assumes that Sutter’s document merits the dignity of such a response, which it most certainly does not. The wildly disorganized and redundant characteristics of Sutter’s work also ensure that a line-by-line response would be just as tedious and unpleasant of a read as the original.
more time analyzing Sutter’s document than probably even he, I realized that
this is an “exposé” begging for an “exposé” of its own. The document can be adequately
discredited merely from the irrelevancies, self-contradictions, inconsistencies,
errors and lies that are contained within it.
It is not a serious work, nor should it be taken seriously. Those who cite it would do better to read
it, rather than continue embarrassing themselves.
The bulk of Sutter’s effort is in building a façade of academic achievement around what is mostly insignificant or irrelevant. Endlessly citing one’s own opinion or that of others is entirely meaningless unless hard evidence is presented in support.
For this reason, I boiled the document down to its hard points and attempted to focus my response appropriately. Unfortunately, this left very little to report on, and I realized that I would need to provide my own readers with at least a general feel for the tactics and priorities that comprise the better part of Sutter’s writing.
The Appendix of Doom Part One - Definitions
The final fourteen pages of Sutter’s document is composed of a collection of definitions, statutes, and (of all things) a logic tutorial. Although intended to give his writing a scholarly tone, the information is immaterial and pompous.
One such definition, for example, is of something called an “Allport’s Scale.” Mr. Sutter, in the role of pseudo-academic, tells us that:
Allport's Scale is a measure of the manifestation of prejudice in a society. It is also referred to as Allport's Scale of Prejudice and Discrimination or Allport's Scale of Prejudice. It was devised by psychologist Gordon Allport in The Nature of Prejudice (1954).
This is quite captivating, of course, but the problem is that there is no reference to Allport’s Scale anywhere outside of the definitions section.
Neither does the body of the document lend any reason to define the word “racist” in the appendix… other than to project an illusion of association between Spencer and racism.
The Appendix of Doom Part Two – “Logic”
Interestingly, Mr. Sutter spoils the pretentious list of logic fallacies within his appendix by attempting to provide examples for each, leading one to wonder just how well he truly understands the subject matter.
The Straw Man argument is a case in point. Sutter correctly defines it as an attack against a distorted version of an opponent’s premise. The example that he offers, however, is this:
“Example: Spencer is presented with an overwhelming number of condemnations of terrorism from current Muslim leaders, worldwide. In response, he uses a Strawman argument that Muslim jurists from 1,200 years ago said something else.” (p. 53)
But this is not an example of a Straw Man argument because “Spencer” is not distorting the premise in Sutter’s hypothetical example, he is simply ignoring it.
Mr. Sutter would have done much better to direct readers to page 47 of his own document, where he provides an excellent demonstration of the Straw Man method in practice.
Here (according to the full text in the linked article), one finds Hugh Fitzgerald stating that the U.S. is capable of seizing Saudi oil fields and then speculating about the effect that this might have on America’s allies. But Sutter pretends that Fitzgerald is actually advocating the seizure of oil fields: “Let’s seize all of our allies’ oil fields – another Spencer/Fitzgerald idea!” (p. 47).
This is an irrefutable example of a Straw Man argument, because Sutter is deliberately distorting his opponent’s position to make it appear to be something other than what it is.
Spencer Surrounded by a Charlatan
Here’s a quick question. If you have three enemies around you, are you surrounded? Most people might say yes, but technically the answer is no, according to the strict definition of “surround,” provided that there is any possible space between the enemies.
Lest we have any doubt that Sutter has left no stone unturned, the good “Reverend” questions Spencer’s credentials as a scholar on the basis of this single statement (p. 48):
"Now that Hamas has complete control
Sutter takes great pains to point out that the usage of the word “surround” is technically incorrect in this case:
“If we look at a map of
I have a map
as well, and I have verified that this is true (sans the part about Abbas and Fatah being “moderate”).
But if you squint real hard at my map, the words,
“Who gives a rat’s ass?” appear superimposed somewhere over the
Here’s the problem, Sutter spends so much of his time taking Spencer to task on minor issues while leaving far more serious accusations dangling without any proof. Couldn’t his time have been better spent?
More than likely, Spencer just used the wrong word in this case, as Sutter himself does on page 4 when he refers to JihadWatch as a “blog sight” (sic).
Sutter the Scholar
The disorganized nature of his document often makes it difficult to tell which words are Sutter’s and which are borrowed. In my e-mail correspondence with him, Sutter would sometimes plagiarize entire pages from other sources and insert them into the text of his message without reference, as if they were his own words, in an apparent attempt to impress me with his “knowledge.”
There are cases in which he does the same thing in his “exposé” of Spencer as well, with a minor example being found on page 30, where he “comes up” with a clever string of violent verse fragments from the Bible, assuring us that this is what Jihadis do with the Qur’an (a mistaken assumption, by the way). But this list was actually lifted, letter-for-letter, from an uncredited source (my guess is Mohamed Elmasry’s article, which is referred to in an entirely different part of Sutter’s document).
displays an unnatural obsession over a small detail presented in Spencer’s
biography - the claim that his grandparent’s fled Muslim persecution in
That Sutter has been caught red-handed padding his own biography with sensational fabrications just makes his relentless interest in this minor detail that much harder to take seriously. Ironically, one of Sutter’s favorite words these days is “ad-hominem.” He accuses others of making arguments against the person rather than the message… which helps put his own attack against Spencer in perspective.
Still, this doesn’t necessarily prove him wrong.
Sutter’s presentation of this point is verbose, the underlying research is
hardly exhaustive. It is also a bit
of a stretch to believe that there was no persecution against Christians in
Much like Sutter’s own claim that he has the ability to “read, speak and write Arabic,” there is no way to disprove what Robert Spencer may or may not have heard from his grandparents, which makes this an insignificant point.
Perhaps Spencer has a better answer to the issue raised. My personal feeling is that he probably knows his own grandparents better than does Sutter.
The Lesser Sutter
Sutter’s hubris is least suitable during the times that he tries to prove himself the superior to Spencer in the area of Islamic theology. This includes episodes such as the following, in which Sutter tells us:
“The other major faulty premise on which Spencer bases many of his arguments is the call for jihad, by these 7th Century scholars. In Islam, there are two basic types of jihad, the lesser jihad - which is (defensive only) fighting off an invader of a Muslim country, and the greater jihad, which is the struggle within yourself to be humble, to not be greedy, to live a good, charitable, and gentle life. The greater jihad is taken originally from a hadith which quotes Muhammad talking about how it is more important than the lesser jihad.” (p 42)
Spencer cuts short Sutter’s fantasy by noting:
“THE "GREATER JIHAD" HADITH IS WEAK. IT DOESN'T APPEAR IN ANY OF THE SIX MOST ACCEPTED HADITH COLLECTIONS”
Not to be outdone, Sutter responds:
“However, while Spencer is correct in pointing out that this Hadiths authenticity is somewhat controversial, he completely fails to mention that while considered "weak, it is not ignored.”
Now, for those of you following along at home, this is a bit like taking your astronomy professor to task for giving a sound lecture, but “failing to mention” that the moon isn’t made out of green cheese.
A weak hadith is one that is rejected by the consensus of Islamic scholars, usually on the basis of a disreputable chain of narration or an inconsistency with something that is known to be reliable. However, by definition a weak hadith is one that someone wanted to believe was legitimate at some point in history, so Spencer is not saying that it was ever ignored altogether.
Sutter goes on to mention that a 13th century Sufi (mystic) scholar took the hadith seriously, but this is immaterial to the fact that few other true scholars do. (Here is the reason why, from a Muslim source).
Sutter the Arabic Warrior
This section wouldn’t be complete without a tip of the hat to Sutter’s remarkable ability to insert wild claims about himself throughout his writing. Even an article ostensibly dedicated to Robert Spencer is an excuse for Sutter to brag about his suspect background and accomplishments.
One particularly questionable talent that Sutter credits himself with is the ability to “speak, read and write Arabic” (p. 14) This was a personal surprise to me, since he forgot to mention it when we were arguing over the meaning of particular Arabic words only a few weeks earlier (perhaps he was just being modest).
I don’t suppose there’s any real way to prove that someone doesn’t know Arabic, but, considering the source, this should certainly be categorized as ‘extremely unlikely’.
On the same page, Sutter also claims to have “fought side-by-side with Muslim members of the U.S. military,” which brings to mind an image of Seaman Jim standing on deck, grittily hammering away on his 50-caliber at Viet Cong scaling up the sides while Ahmed feeds him the ammo belts. One suspects, however, that this is more of a circuitous association that probably requires a overburdened flowchart and a very loose definition of the word “fight.”
If the world loved a hypocrite, then Sutter would be as popular with the rest of us as he is with himself. His writing reeks of double standards and implied contradictions, all of which seem to have eluded his mighty mental prowess.
Double Standards, Part One – In it for the Money
Sutter claims several times (p. 1, 6, 45, 48-50) that Robert Spencer has a “vested, financial interest” in criticizing Islam, but he bases this on the mere fact that Spencer makes money from his activities. There is no evidence offered to support either the implication that Spencer is making significantly more than he would be in other circumstances (particularly when factoring in a time-cost ratio), nor the allegation that financial gain is a primary motivation.
Still, there is no other reason to bring this up other than to imply that Spencer should be disregarded, since he makes an income from pushing a particular view of Islam.
The problem here is that Sutter himself relies heavily on the favorable opinions of clerics and employees of Muslim organizations throughout his document, even though these individuals can also be said to have a financial interest in promoting a particular view of Islam, at least according to the same standards that are applied to Spencer. This is also true of Dinesh D’Souza and Karen Armstrong, both relied on by Sutter, but both of whom make money from their activities defending mainstream Islam.
Sutter makes no attempt to explain this glaring inconsistency.
Double Standards, Part Two – It’s Only Wrong When You Tell the Truth
Another example of double standards occurs when Sutter praises the Pakistani prime minister for blaming the linkage between Islam and terrorism on “Islamophobia” (p. 40). At the same time, he castigates Spencer for attributing the same linkage to the terrorists themselves (who kill explicitly in the name of Islam) and calls it a “blame someone else” argument in the same league as Joseph Goebbels.
Again, this is presented without explanation. Why is it praiseworthy for a Muslim leader to scapegoat critics of Islam for Islamic terror, while these same critics are likened to Nazis for pointing out that terrorists are the ones making the association between violence and Islam when they openly credit their religion?
When the Messenger Forgets the Message
A 63-page document that pulls together nearly every negative thing ever said about a person who has written and spoken publicly in the prolific fashion that Robert Spencer has is bound to hit on a few good points. In this digital age of political correctness, it is simply impossible to comment, day in and day out, on a controversial subject without giving the critics something to run with at some point along the way.
I did not analyze every critique linked to by Sutter, since he usually provided the excerpts that he felt were relevant. My interest was in trying to extract fact from accusation and then establish its significance. I don’t care about the opinion that someone has about Spencer, nor how gracefully they express it. I only care about whether it is pertinent and grounded in fact.
A section entitled “Spencer’s Critic’s State:” starts on page 17 and appears to run until page 21. It is a compilation of links to nearly every negative article that exists on the Internet about Robert Spencer. For the most part, the blurbs that Sutter quotes are noteworthy for their damning eloquence and lack of substance. In some cases the critics express their own opinion, sometimes they assure us of the opinion of others.
Behind the blurbs are links to articles, some of which are as superficial as their title while others make good-sounding (if somewhat obscure) points which then become the foundation for exaggeration. Since my interest is in Sutter’s document, I mainly focused on what he quoted directly within it.
In my opinion, the closest that anyone comes to making a good point is this excerpt from Karen Armstrong:
“…Spencer is not interested in balance. He picks out only those aspects of Islamic tradition that support his thesis. For example, he cites only passages from the Koran that are hostile to Jews and Christians and does not mention the numerous verses that insist on the continuity of Islam with the People of the Book: ‘Say to them: We believe what you believe; your God and our God is one.’"
This is not entirely true. To use just one example, in his book Islam Unveiled Spencer does speak of Muhammad’s charter with the monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery and even quotes verse 2:256 from the Qur’an (“no compulsion in religion”). But he also memorializes the victims of Jihad and Dhimmitude by letting his readers in on the other side of the story. Like most authors, Spencer does pursue an agenda in his writing, which is to counter the popular misconceptions about Muhammad and Islam.
The real problem with Sutter picking Karen Armstrong to deliver what seems to be a reasonable sounding message is that Armstrong has much larger problems of her own in this area. Her “biography” of Muhammad, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, is a highly romanticized whitewash that either glosses over, or omits altogether, the less-than-flattering parts of his life. Just like a Muslim apologist, Armstrong disregards reliable hadith and accounts from respected biographers that appear to conflict with her interpretation of the Qur’an.
Even in the
very process of reprimanding Spencer for writing with a bias, Armstrong is
incapable of setting aside her own.
The verse that she quotes (in Sutter’s excerpt) is found in the 29th
Sura, which was written at a time when Muslims were migrating from Mecca to
Medina and needed the protection of more powerful Jewish tribes there. It is also at this time that Muhammad had
his followers temporarily pray toward
changed once Muhammad had the power to enforce his will on the other tribes.
In fact, one of the last things he ever did was order the eviction of Christians
and Jews from the entire
Armstrong could also just as easily have quoted from Sura 109, which states, “I worship not that which ye worship, nor will ye worship that which I worship,” or at least included in her article… you know, for the sake of balance.
Of course, if Armstrong is truly as concerned about balance as she insists, and has any confidence in her research, then one has to wonder why she refuses to accept Spencer’s invitation to debate. One suspects that her grand and flowery opinions of Muhammad and his taste for liberal 21st century values would contrast poorly to the hard data that Spencer unearths from Muslim sources.
Ethnic Cleansing for Dummies
The casual manner in which Sutter accuses Spencer of supporting ethnic cleansing without providing any real justification for his claim is downright creepy. Wouldn’t such a serious topic at least be worth an entire section in his document?
In the popular consciousness, ethnic cleansing is nearly synonymous with genocide. The phrase is used in reference to the forced removal or murder of a people based on their race or ethnicity. It brings to mind images of the Holocaust and the numerous Muslim massacres of Hindus on the Indian subcontinent.
Sutter disingenuously preys on this public connotation in order to smear Spencer. The actual connection that he makes between Spencer and true ethnic cleansing is more of a “Sixteen Degrees of Kevin Bacon” sort of game, with about twelve steps missing.
Although the accusation is made several times, there are only two places in Sutter’s document where any attempt to justify associating Robert Spencer with ethnic cleansing is found.
The first is so obscure that it appears even Sutter himself missed it. On page 46, a mysterious editor relays a note letting Sutter know that putting a stop to Muslim immigration and deporting all Muslim non-citizens is “ethnic cleansing.”
The second reference is contained in an entirely different part of the document. On page 17, Sutter provides a link to a Web posting that quotes Hugh Fitzgerald of JihadWatch using the example of the Czech deportation of Sudeten Germans following World War II at the end of a long list of alternatives to dropping a nuclear bomb on Mecca in the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the U.S. (something that an objective reader might think to be more generous then genocidal).
Both of these references are by Hugh Fitzgerald and not Robert Spencer. Incredibly, Sutter justifies attributing these words to Spencer by theorizing that they are the same person (p. 46)!
The biggest problem with defining a halt to Muslim immigration and the deportation of non-citizens as “ethnic cleansing” is that it sure doesn’t sound like it. Even if Islam is dubiously defined as an ‘ethnicity’ unto itself, ethnic cleansing would have to be the forced removal of all Muslims, not just the tiny minority who aren’t citizens.
Secondly, let’s just say that if telling Muslims that they have to live in their own Muslim countries is akin to forcing them into concentration camps, then this sounds more like an excellent argument for resisting the spread of the very religion that makes these nations so unlivable in the first place.
there is absolutely nothing that obligates the
But, in fact, Sutter is simply smearing Spencer with big words, while pretending to be oblivious to the implied gravity of them.
As a rule, in fact, it is the Muslim world that does not accept non-Muslim immigrants. In our time, we have seen the forced eviction of a million Jews from these nations along with the horrible abuse of religious minorities. Either of these would far better qualify as ethnic cleansing than simply telling non-citizens that they cannot stay.
Sutter’s heightened sensitivities are, of course, nowhere to be found when it comes to Muslim bigotry…
Imagine a supremacist political ideology in which:
1) The highest form of distinction is made between those who follow it and those who don’t.
2) Rights and privileges are assigned to its members that are not extended to non-members.
3) Discrimination against non-members is hard-coded into the creed, and members are told to actively pursue the subjugation of non-members.
4) Members revere propaganda that arrogantly refers to non-members in the most hateful terms, calling them “perverse,” “vile,” and “cursed by God.”
5) Members revere propaganda that advocates violence to those outside the faith, using the graphic language of beheading, amputation and torture. Slavery, wife-beating and polygamy are all permitted practices.
6) Radical members of the group are responsible for more than ten thousand violent deaths each and every year explicitly in the name of their ideology, despite the billions of dollars and thousands of lives that are spent trying to prevent the killing.
Now, imagine a person, who fancies himself a knight in armor against hate and bigotry… but who actually spends his time attacking people who try to check the spread of this hateful, bigoted, supremacist ideology by educating others as to the threat that it poses.
Viola! You have Jim Sutter carrying water for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the open bigotry of Islam.
Here is a man who sweats the mosquito with the Robert Spencers of the world, making the dubious association with ethnic cleansing using a tenuous array of obscure definitions and tortuous logic, while at the same time, maintaining the highest credulity for a religion that has an on-going history of putting the Qur’anic command to kill non-submissive unbelievers into practice.
This is simply not a person who takes himself seriously, so why should anyone else?
The healthy opinion that Jim Sutter has of himself is rivaled only by the pretentiousness with which he expresses it:
“At first I thought Spencer was either misinformed or just ignorant on the subject of Islam, as is common of those who "self-teach" themselves on complicated topics, especially those involving theology, the evolution of culture, and how these affect the reality of contemporary society
I patiently read the voluminous email sent by Spencer (A for Effort, F for Accuracy) approaching them with an open mind, carefully researched each topic he raised and responded to as many as I could. When I realized how mistaken most of them were, I successfully refuted them using a vast number of authoritative sources…” (p. 2),
Sutter’s sense of self-importance becomes even more amusing when considered within the context of a document that is riddled with bad logic, mathematical errors, intellectual shallowness, faulty reasoning and downright falsehoods. Distinguishing these from each other proved to be such a challenge that I eventually decided merely to try and categorize them into two groups: errors and lies.
Admittedly, this is an imperfect science. Determining whether Sutter is being deceitful or just ignorant is harder than merely telling whether or not something that he says is false, particularly since he is so good at lying.
Qutb, Islam’s Methuselah?
On page 17, Spencer is accused of not quoting scholars who “lived past 1406,” yet, on page 30, he is criticized for “frequently citing” Sayyid Qutb, an Islamist scholar who died in 1966.
All Means All (except when it doesn’t)
One of Sutter’s “proofs” that Spencer “trashes all Muslims” (emphasis mine) is a blurb of a JihadWatch article (p. 10) in which Spencer praises the “valiant Muslim women” who are working to rid their societies of honor killings.
Sutter does not undermine himself quite as overtly when referencing other Spencer writings, but the links provided to the original text do occasionally refute the point that he is trying to make.
Sutter the Scholar, Part Deux
The ironically-titled section, “Spencer has been Criticized for His Poor Understanding of Muslim History,” (ironic, because the “Reverend” Sutter exhibits such a poor understanding of his own history) contains just one item. In response to his challenge, Dinesh D’Souza takes Spencer to task for being able to name only one Shia-Sunni conflict in the past 350 years (aside from Iraq) (p. 22).
Sutter evidently thinks that this is a criticism of Spencer’s inability to name Shia-Sunni conflicts that did occur during that time frame, but this is not at all the point that D’Souza is making. In fact, rather than disparaging Spencer’s knowledge of Muslim history, D’Souza is agreeing with it and drawing conclusions from it.
How Sutter manages to fill an entire section with something that completely undermines its advertised thesis is beyond understanding.
Oops… Sutter Trashes Islam
Sutter accuses Spencer of arguing that the Qur’an is immutable but then claiming that violent verses abrogate peaceful ones. While this certainly constitutes a logical contradiction, it is one that is firmly rooted in the Qur’an itself (see Sura 2:106) and Spencer can hardly be blamed for bringing it to light.
There are verses of peace and tolerance in the Qur’an. There are also verses of hate, violence and intolerance. Unfortunately there are more of the latter than of the former.
There is also a chronological progression in the Qur’an from peace to violence that is inversely related to the oppression that Muslims were under at the time. In other words, tolerance was the rule of the day when Muslims were under true persecution at Mecca, but commands to slay unbelievers only appeared later under far less justifiable circumstances.
Which verses take priority over others? The rule of thumb in Islam has always been that later verses abrogate earlier ones in cases of contradiction (Sura 16:101). This is because it makes no sense for Allah to refer to an earlier verse as a “better” replacement for a later one. Why issue the later one at all if it is immediately inferior to its earlier substitute?
As an example of why abrogation is a necessary part of Islam, consider that in Sura 2:221 and 60:10 Allah commands Muslims not to marry idolaters and unbelievers. In 5:72 and 9:28-31, the Christians are presented as being both. Yet, in 5:5, permission is given to marry Christians (in a command that happens to coincide quite curiously with Muhammad’s personal desire to take a Christian girl as a wife). Muslims usually resolve the contradiction by noting that Sura 5 was a later “revelation.”
The simple fact that condemning Spencer on the issue of abrogation actually means condemning an accepted Islamic tradition appears to be lost on Sutter, who launches into a spasm of self-congratulation by running down a pretentious list of eleven logical fallacies that have supposedly been violated (p. 34).
No Sharia Here, Mate
To disparage any public discussion of dhimmitude, Sutter claims that “the only country under Islamic (Sharia) Law is Iran” and that therefore “dhimmitude is not required practice anywhere except Iran” (p. 15) Sutter’s mistaken assumption is that an entire country must be under Sharia law in order for it to be practiced anywhere within its borders.
In fact, Sharia courts exist in many places, including
there is also pressure to bring about Sharia in the
West (which always rises with the proportion of Muslims within a population) in
dhimmitude and Islamic law would appear to be entirely
appropriate topics for discussion.
(I’d like to begin the conversation by asking whether Sutter is out of
his ever-loving mind by saying that “the ‘dhimmitude’
Karen Armstrong: English Nun or American Bad-Ass?
On page 18,
the erudite Jim Sutter informs us that Karen Armstrong is “America’s Foremost Expert on Islam.” Evidently, he does not know the first
thing about this former English nun, since she is not American and doesn’t live
Breaking News: Sutter and Mrs. Sutter the Same Person!
I can’t actually say that Sutter accuses Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald of being the same person, because he merely raises the suggestion that they are (p. 46). Unfortunately, this becomes a premise in larger arguments, in which conclusions are drawn about Spencer based on the writings of Fitzgerald.
Sutter’s journalistic bombshell that Fitzgerald and Spencer are the same person is actually based on nothing more than the apparent fact that they share both a mailing address and similar opinions.
Let’s hope that there are at least some married couples out there who are unimpressed by this line of reasoning.
Sutter claims to provide a list of “4,200 Muslim scholars” on record as rejecting terrorism. Later, he refers to the list as 4,200 “Muslim leaders.” Later still, he throws in “writers” and “journalists.” Regardless of who these people actually are, however, Sutter assures us that they “all of whom without reservation clearly condemn… terrorism, violence, suicide bombings and militant Jihad” (p. 34).
Except that they don’t.
In the first place, many if not most of the individuals listed are responding to a specific event, such as September 11th or the 7/7 bombings. Those who do appear to issue blanket denunciations of terrorism against innocent persons, for the most part, do not define what these terms mean.
This is significant because the list includes several individuals who also happen to be advocates of terrorism, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who (in stark contradiction to Sutter’s introduction) actively supports the suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians, Omar Bakri Muhammad, who praises the 9/11 terrorists as “magnificent” and has encouraged Muslims to “cut the throats” of British soldiers, and Muhammad Khatami, the former president of Iran, one of the world’s leading exporters of Islamic terror.
In fact, some of the links that Sutter provides actually contain open support for terrorism. One such group of scholars, for example, describes “acts by the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation as a form of jihad and legitimate self-defense.” Of course, these “legitimate acts” have included the deliberate bombing of Israeli shopping malls, cafes, hotels, discos and buses that have killed hundreds of men, women and children and left thousands more with debilitating mental and physical injury.
so-called “condemnation” of terror that is liberally quoted by Sutter actually
authorizes the Taliban to “defend” their illegitimate government against “
It turns out that the line between Jihad and terrorism is really quite ambiguous, despite the confidence that every Muslim seems to have in his or her own opinion. CAIR, for example, has a dubious “fatwa against terrorism” posted on their site, but it adamantly refuses to condemn Palestinian terrorist organizations as such. Neither has it ever denounced the murder of Americans in uniform at the hands of the Taliban or al-Qaeda overseas (to my knowledge). Amazingly, in the last six years, the organization has only seen fit to acknowledge and condemn less than 30 of the more than 9,000 Islamic terror attacks that have taken place during that time.
This is why real definitions are so important. It isn’t enough for Muslim leaders to use general terms like “terrorism” and “innocent life” without explaining what they really mean. And when they don’t, it’s usually for good reason.
Although Sutter repeatedly accuses Spencer of ignoring Muslim voices against terrorism – to the extent that it is a premise in nearly every one of the “logical fallacies” listed in the appendix of his document – the real source of contention is that Spencer is actually paying far more attention to these voices than Sutter.
In fact, it does not appear that Sutter has devoted himself to even the slightest analysis of the list on which he so confidently relies. This is based partly on the fact that the “condemnations against terror” actually contains sanctions of terrorism and the names of terror advocates, and partly on the fact that it does not contain the 4,200 unique names that he is advertising.
Without citing his sources, it seems that the good “Reverend” blindly copied the pieces of his list from multiple providers and made little apparent effort to cull redundancy, fix broken links or even tally the names. While this makes it nearly impossible to verify the actual count, a spot check indicates that the number of unique individuals listed is much closer to a few hundred than to 4,200. How many of these are true leaders versus ordinary Muslims quoted by journalists is also difficult to determine.
To be sure, there are sincere leaders within the Muslim community who do reject terrorism in the unmitigated sense that the rest of us do. Unfortunately, there are many more that do not, and pretending otherwise won’t make it any different.
So disingenuous is Jim Sutter that it is difficult to tell when he really is lying. He has a habit of saying things that are not true with such confidence, that it often appears as if he really believes himself. He is also deliberately unwilling to see and hear beyond what he wants to, even in the face of persuasive contrary evidence.
It is terribly ironic that Sutter accuses Spencer of nearly everything that he is so deliberately guilty of himself, including deception and falsehood. I begin this section with some of these accusations against Spencer then gradually move into Sutter’s own little world of make-believe.
Where’s the Beef? - Part One
In his many rants, Jim Sutter often accuses Robert Spencer of telling “glaring” and “deliberate” lies. One would therefore expect to find at least an entire section of his “exposé” dedicated to presenting these alleged lies in blistering sequence…
No such luck.
Amazingly, in 63 pages Sutter only provides two instances of what he calls a “deliberate lie.”
The first is on page 13, when Spencer is quoted as saying “Note once again that we have never seen this kind of rage against Osama bin Laden or any of the others whom we are endlessly told have "hijacked" Islam.”
Spencer is referring to the Muslim outrage over Salman Rushdie’s knighthood by Queen Elizabeth. He also quotes an article in which several Muslim groups offer rewards for killing Rushdie as other Muslims worldwide burn flags and effigies of the British author. A Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister is even quoted as saying that a suicide bombing against Rushdie might be necessary to “protect the honor of the Prophet.”
According to Sutter, it is a “deliberate lie” to suggest that “we have never seen this kind of rage against Osama bin Laden,” because there are Muslims leaders who have condemned terror and (following 9/11) there were a handful of rallies against terror in parts of the Muslim world.
But Sutter knows that Spencer never said that there aren’t Muslims who say they condemn terror. Spencer’s point was that the horror perpetrated by Islamic terrorists does not inspire the sort of outrage that the Muslim world exhibits over other, less significant, events, such as the knighting of Salman Rushdie or the drawing of a Muhammad cartoon.
Spencer is absolutely correct on this point and Sutter is dead wrong. There were no embassies attacked or flags burned, even following 9/11. No one suggested suicide bombings against al-Qaeda to “defend the honor of the prophet.” There are no Muslim groups offering bounties for Osama’s assassination. I am not even aware of a single burning of Osama’s effigy by an outraged Muslim mob - certainly nothing that would compare to the many times that Rushdie’s image has been put to the flame, at least.
Why does killing in the name of Allah not produce the sort of general outrage among Muslims that other “insults” to the faith do? Probably because it was something that Muhammad himself did and encouraged others to do, even if today’s believers tepidly disagree with one another over the conditions that authorize beheadings and bombings.
Where’s the Beef? - Part Two
The second lie that Sutter attributes to Spencer is on page 42:
“What Islamist extremists and Spencer have most in common is that they both lie when they cite 7th Century jurists as if they were relevant to and binding on the contemporary world - all Muslims everywhere, in today's society.”
Sutter overextends himself quite a bit on this, reflecting a poor understanding of Islamic fundamentals as well as Spencer’s personal challenge to Muslims.
Sutter as a “Christian” (and I use the term loosely) is probably confusing his 7th century with Islam’s. While the teachings of the Christian church were well established by the 600’s, Islam was in a stage similar to the decades following the time of Jesus.
How ridiculous would it sound for someone to say that the writings and opinions of first century Christians are irrelevant and arbitrary to Christians today? This would of course exclude the Gospels and the letters of the apostle Paul, without which there is no body of Christian theology.
Muhammad died in 632 (which is the 7th century, for any Sutterites reading this). It was in the decades following that the traditions (Hadith) and the Qur’an were compiled. The fundamental policies of the religion were formed during that time by the very people who either personally knew their prophet or personally knew those who did. The Shia sect was formed in these years (in blood) and the four major Sunni schools were all founded within the first two centuries.
Today’s devout Muslims are very serious about the opinions and writings of those who lived during that time. It is quite generous of Sutter to declare that their interest is unnecessary and to let Muslims know just how capricious their religion is really supposed to be, but I’m not too sure that very many would care to have him speak for them.
If the sophomoric Sutter were to actually browse through his list of Muslim “condemnations” of terror (rather than simply post headlines), he would not find a single denouncement of any of these 7th century jurists that he thinks Spencer brings up unfairly, and there are excellent reasons for this.
Spencer, on the other hand, has a much deeper understanding of the tension between contemporary Western values and the dark history and teachings of Islam. His challenge is for peaceful Muslims to reform their faith by openly rejecting (rather than passively disregarding) the elements that are fundamentally incompatible with true tolerance and civil liberty.
Sutter believes that Islam is just another religion because that is what Muslims tell him. He has no business attacking someone who takes the time to dig beneath the surface.
Pulling Numbers Out of His…
Sutter claims that Spencer “denies that any other form of terrorism exists in today’s world other than Islamist” (p. 36). This is flatly false. Nowhere does Spencer say this and nowhere does Sutter attempt to prove it. In fact, the assertion seems to be internally contradicted by an e-mail that Sutter himself includes in which Spencer says that the threat from non-Islamic terror is minimal (p. 38). Minimal does not mean non-existent.
To try and prove that America’s greatest threat of terrorism in “today’s world” comes from domestic terror organizations (presumably non-Islamic), Sutter flashes a list of 70 domestic terror groups that he says are responsible for “3,328 fatalities” that do “not include casualties from the 9/11 attacks.”
The majority of organizations on the list are defunct and Sutter does not say how he arrived at his figure of 3,328 deaths. Does it include all murders from domestic terrorists since 1812 or since 1998?
Since the list includes the Ku Klux Klan, the only truly prolific American terrorist group, my first assumption was that Sutter included the number of recorded lynchings since 1882 to arrive at his total. But the number of lynchings alone is actually higher than Sutter’s overall number, even if one excludes non-African-Americans.
Intensely curious, I searched on the Internet for some justification of Sutter’s statistic. The only source that I could find was Sutter himself! In a June 19, 2007 posting on a third-party website, Sutter clarifies his numbers:
“Since 1998, domestic Christian terrorist groups have carried out 546 terrorist incidents, 4,170 injuries, 3,228 fatalities attributed by the FBI to Christian terrorist groups.”
3.228 fatalities committed by ‘Christian terrorist groups’ since 1998…? In what universe might this be?
Suddenly it becomes evident that Sutter’s real source is what he happens to be sitting on most of the time. Even the allegation that the groups on his list are “Christian” is quite a stretch. There are a couple of Christian extremist organizations, such as the Army of God, but the majority of the list is composed of groups like Weather Underground and the Black Panthers, who have never defined Christian goals in their agenda. (I’m pretty sure that the Islamic Salvation Front wouldn’t qualify, either).
As for the
Klan, they have been responsible for fewer murders in the last 50 years combined
than Islamic terrorists rack up every
single day. Their last recorded
killing appears to have taken place over twenty-five years ago. By contrast, Muslim extremists have
killed 32 people in 24 terror attacks on
Worse than Bad Math
In the section entitled, “Deceit on Spencer’s Part” (p. 43) Sutter takes Spencer to task for saying that “300,000 American Muslims support suicide attacks” when the actual number (according to Sutter) is really 3,600 “based on only 3 Nation of Islam members.” Interestingly, both of these wildly different estimates are based on the same Pew Research Poll.
Here’s how Spencer arrived at his number:
1) According to the poll, 13% of all U.S. Muslims believe that suicide bombings can be justified.
13% of the 2.35 million total Muslims
And here’s how Sutter arrived at his number (p. 43-44):
1) 317 of the respondents are between the ages of 18 and 29. This age group represents 30% of the total number of Muslims.
2) 1% of these (representing “3 young Nation of Islam members”) say suicide bombings are justified in “fighting off an invader.”
3) 1% of 30% of 1.2 million (adults) is 3,600
As one might suspect, there are enormous problems with Sutter’s methodology:
First, Sutter disregards the Muslims who say that suicide bombings can be justified in some circumstances. The actual figure is 13%. Oops… suddenly Sutter’s 3,600 becomes 46,800.
Secondly, Pew places the number of adult Muslims at 1.4 million, not 1.2. This bumps Sutter’s number up a bit to 54,600.
Third, Sutter completely disregards the other adult age groups, automatically dismissing 70% of the sample. This is a problem because the figure of 1% that he uses comes explicitly from the entire sample (Pew p. 59). Ay Caramba, now we’re talking 182,000.
Let’s pause for a second and consider that 182,000 is a lot closer to 300,000 than it is to 3,600. Spencer is off by a factor of 1.6, Sutter by about 50! In Spencer’s case, he neglected to exclude the non-adult portion of the population in reaching his overall estimate (a point that Sutter failed to pick up on, interestingly). Sutter, who accuses Spencer of having “poor math skills,” apparently just misread the report altogether.
Actually this may be putting it too kindly. In fact, Sutter goes well out of his way to fabricate several details that don’t exist in the Pew report, leading one to believe that his mathematical lapses were probably by design.
In the first
place, Sutter says that the sample of young adults is “primarily consisting of Nation of Islam members.” Not true.
Nowhere does the document say this.
In fact, only 26% of Muslims in the
Sutter lies again when he says that those in the sample who support suicide bombings agreed that they were “justified in fighting off an invader.” Elsewhere he uses the phrase “repel invaders.”
But, in fact, the Pew Research poll never mentions invaders or foreign armies. This is an invention of Sutter’s. The issue of suicide bombings in the poll is only within the context of “defending Islam” and the targets of the suicide bombings are explicitly defined as civilian.
Now, how ironic is it that Sutter accuses Spencer of using “deceit, creative interpretation and outright lies” when interpreting the results of this research poll to a broader audience!
Spencer Guilty of Assuming Sutter to Be Reasonable
Sutter repeatedly accuses Spencer of “trashing” and “condemning” “all Muslims and all of Islam.” I have classified this (ample) part of his document as a lie because it is patently false, as even the very material that he includes makes clear.
Sutter is not a stupid man, but to make his points, he often pretends to be incapable of profound thought. He assumes that the reader is as intellectually lazy as he is, perfectly content to exist in a black-and-white world without digging beneath the surface to discover and grapple with the competing complexities and inconvenient particulars that are a part of reality.
Islam, according to Sutter, is just like other religion. For him, it is Christianity with an alternative vocabulary. Why? Well because Muslims assure him that it is and this conforms to what he wants to believe. In Sutter’s simple world, there is no room for ambivalence or for considering that the fundamental teachings of Islam may be wildly at odds with modern values.
This becomes the foundation for one of the longest sections of Sutter’s document, which (although not clearly defined) appears to begin on page 7 and end on page 13. In between, there is an ambiguous meandering that incorporates nineteen links falling mostly into two categories: either something that Robert Spencer has said about a specific part of Islam, or something that someone is saying about Robert Spencer.
An example of the former is a JihadWatch article in which Spencer takes issue with the statement that “there is nothing in the Qur’an that violates human rights.” Spencer responds by quoting Qur’anic verses in which men are allowed to keep women as sex slaves and to torture to death unfortunates who “make corruption in the land.”
Examples of someone else’s opinion about Spencer can be found in most of the cited articles by Bob Pitt of “Islamophobia Watch,” which generally criticize Spencer for opposing the spread of Islamic influence in the West or for saying that terrorism is “deeply rooted in Islam.”
However, neither the criticism of certain elements of Islam nor the claim that Islamic terrorism is “rooted” in Islam is a condemnation of all of Islam, nor all Muslims. In fact, several of the JihadWatch articles quoted by Mr. Sutter either defend the cause of Muslims who are suffering under the extreme elements of their religion or praise those Muslims who are fighting for rights. Still others clarify his position as not being anti-Muslim in the sense that Sutter means for us to believe.
Out of the nineteen links provided, only one appears to be relevant. It is to a May 30, 2005 posting on JihadWatch in which Spencer starts by saying, “"I have written on numerous occasions that there is no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists."
Taken by itself, this is a ridiculous remark. In my personal life, I have known quite a few Muslims who are not even remotely comparable to terrorists. I’m sure that my experience isn’t much different from other Americans. Can Spencer really be that dense?
But, of course, there is more to this snippet than meets the eye. If we isolate the statement, we can see that it is self-contradictory. How can Spencer say that there is no distinction while at the same time necessarily implying one? Obviously it is because he is not speaking in absolute terms, but only within a certain context – in this case, the shared reliance on the Qur'an and Sunnah (which becomes clear from the balance of his remarks).
As Sutter himself admits, “Spencer claims, over and over, that he never, ever condemns all Muslims or all of Islam” (p. 7). It is never explained why a man would try to get people to believe something by constantly insisting on the exact opposite, however.
And, although Sutter did not see fit to provide us with any of these examples, in his introduction to Islam Unveiled Spencer writes that he does not intend to “indict Muslims in general or Islam as a whole. Indeed, there is a great deal to love in Islamic culture, literature and music. Islam is not a monolith, and the culture that it has inspired has bestowed great beauty upon the world.”
Spencer goes on to say that, “Any reasonable person understands that a criticism of Islam is not an attack on all those who adhere to that faith. If the seeds of terrorism are found to lie at the heart of Islam, that does not make every Muslim a terrorist, nor does it excuse any injustice toward Muslims.” (emphasis mine)
The problem, of course, is that Mr. Sutter is not being reasonable.
Nor is he being logically consistent. Interpreting any sort of criticism of Islam as an attack on all of Islam means having to assume that Islam is a monolith. In the same way, pretending that all Muslims are being attacked by pointing out the less tasteful elements of Islam (such as the policy of putting apostates to death) means stereotyping all Muslims as having the same beliefs.
Sutter is proof that honesty is the best policy, as being intentionally naïve often makes a person look plain stupid.
One of the drawbacks to the digital age is that it allows just about anyone to publish just about anything, regardless of merit or truth. Problems develop when such information is then referenced by others if it were fact, as is the case with Sutter and CAIR's union of convenience.
Sutter’s “exposé” of Robert Spencer is really just a compilation of every negative thing that has ever been said about Spencer on the Internet, thrown together in one jumbled mass. His work is egotistical, intellectually shallow and blatantly misleading. Even his own commentary around the quotations of others belies an immature understanding of the very issues that he pretends to have mastered.
If not for CAIR’s fleeting endorsement and his own success at censoring opposing viewpoints from the Internet there would be absolutely no reason to take either Jim Sutter or his “research” seriously. He is a mendacious character with a comical sense of self-importance. Like a little boy banging on a pan, Sutter’s loud noises tell us nothing more than his personal desire for the attention of others.
This small-time con man is a legend only in his own mind, however. Consider this July 13th posting from his site:
“Also in the past couple of weeks, I have received numerous compliments on this site, and have heard from (currently) 141 former hate mongers, followers of hate mongers, and former members of hate speech sites, including former Jihad Watch members. All have stated that this blog helped them become aware of the dangers of hate speech, the fallacies used by hate mongers, and the danger this presents to society. Several have offered to help in the battle against hatred.”
During the four weeks prior to this, a period in which numerous fans and “141 former hate mongers” were supposed to have contacted him, Sutter posted 24 lengthy blog entries on his site, to which there were a grand total of zero comments.
Of the eight comments received during the four weeks that followed this grand claim, three were from the same person and only one was even remotely complimentary. Fewer than a dozen people a day were bothering to visit his site and (according to the IP tracker on his sidebar) most appeared to be the same small handful of critics.
Beyond the lies, Sutter the pretender compensates for his obscurity by trying to destroy those who have put legitimate effort into their work and are enjoying greater success because of it. He is not a maker; he is a taker, and a dangerous one at that because of his work to suppress the free exchange of ideas from the public arena.
Jim Sutter is a small man who is trying to inflate his impact on the world merely by tearing down the accomplishments of those greater than he. As Ayn Rand might put it, he is not a producer, but a looter of those who do produce.