Exclusive Interview With New York Times Best Selling Catholic Author And Islamic Expert Robert Spencer. Mr Spencer Addresses Catholic-Islamic Relations, The New Role Pope Benedict Is Playing, Along With Al Qaeda Threats To The Vatican And Specifically Pope Benedict. In Addition, Mr Spencer Discusses What Really Happened During The Crusades As Well As His New Book
I had the privilege of interviewing New York Times best selling Catholic author and Islamic expert, Robert Spencer. Mr Spencer is the director of Jihadwatch, an organization dedicating itself to vigilance over the growing Jihadist movement. In addition he has written several books including Islam Unveiled, Onward Muslim Soldiers, The Politically Incorrect Guide To Islam And The Crusades and Inside Islam; A Guide For Catholics (co-written by Daniel Ali and forward by EWTN television personality Father Mitch Pacwa.) This is the only full length interview ever conducted for a Catholic publication or website with this noteworthy and controversial author. Mr. Spencer is a Melkite Catholic who’s of Middle Eastern descent. The interview below, which was wide ranging in scope, was conducted on Monday, September 19, 2005.
Dave Hartline - Some in the mainstream media and those on the Catholic left have criticized you as being anti-Islamic yet you have been lauded by many on the right, especially the Catholic conservatives, as telling the truth about the Crusades and the Jihadist movement.
Robert Spencer - Well I am certainly not anti-Islamic, I don’t hate anyone. I am just trying to tell the truth about the Crusades and the Jihadist movement. You know my new book The Politically Incorrect Guide To Islam and the Crusades has climbed to number 16 on The New York Times best seller list, and that's with very little publicity. I think people want to know what really happened during the Crusades and all of my information is documented. Many of the sources in my new book are taken from Islamic writers living at the time of the Crusades who wrote extensively about what they were seeing. These Islamic authors lament the fact that many Muslims were happy to live in Crusader controlled areas. The authors describe that Muslims enjoyed their treatment and living conditions better in the Crusader controlled areas than in Muslim controlled areas. Crusaders are portrayed by Hollywood and many history book authors as blood thirsty marauders. You even have modern politicians like President Clinton apologizing for the Crusades. Also, look at how many high school and college sports teams had to change their names from the “Crusaders” to something else in the 1970’s and 1980’s. While there were some evil acts committed by some Crusaders, the majority of Crusaders were devout men trying to retake a small portion of land that Muslim armies took four centuries before the Crusades. Honestly, the Crusades were only a small defensive action taken to reclaim the Holy Land. The Muslim armies that invaded Europe centuries before were much larger. You probably won’t hear that in many Middle Eastern History classes.
Dave Hartline - What caused you to be interested in Catholicism, Islam and the Crusades?
Robert Spencer - Well as you may know I am a Melkite Catholic and my family is from the Islamic world. I remember being intrigued by the Koran and while in college several Muslim students knew of my background and ask me to read the Koran. I was happy to and spent a great deal of time reading the Koran and asking questions. I think my Muslim friends thought because of my interest that they could convert me but I was quite happy in my faith.
Dave Hartline- It seems Pope John Paul II tried to extend an olive branch to Islam during his 26+ years as Pontiff. However, Pope Benedict XVI is taking a little different tone with Islam. He talks of peace and shared beliefs but he also was firm in his remarks at World Youth Day in Cologne that Islam must rein in the militants. Pope Benedict has also met with Italian writer Oriani Fallaci who has harsh words for Islam. Is Pope Benedict going in a different direction than Pope John Paul II with regards to Islam?
Robert Spencer - Pope Benedict is taking a different direction from Pope John Paul II. I don’t think we will see Pope Benedict XVI kiss the Koran as Pope John Paul II did. I think Pope John Paul II tried to reach out to Islam but the Jihadists have made it clear that Rome and much of Europe will eventually be in Islam’s possession. I think Pope Benedict XVI realizes the seriousness of these statements.
Dave Hartline - In the Catholic Report I have linked to several stories in which it’s reported that the Vatican is on Al Qaeda’s target list and that Pope Benedict XVI may be in some danger. Do you believe that and what about the rest of Europe?
Robert Spencer - I certainly believe that is the case. There was even a supposed moderate Sheik in Qatar that recently said the Vatican had put itself in great danger for even suggesting to Islam that Jihadists have to be condemned. Many Islamic leaders have spoken against Pope Benedict XVI for his opposition to admitting Turkey into the European Union. One must understand that Islam teaches that once a land is controlled by Islam it has to remain so and if it is lost it must be retaken. Spain and parts of Eastern Europe were once in Islam’s hands so it would be natural for Al Qaeda to assume these lands have to retaken or at least attacked. Also to a Jihadist, Rome is the capital of an apostate faith so it would naturally be a target.
Dave Hartline - It has been said that if Saudi Arabia would have elections Osama Bin Laden would easily win. Do you believe that?
Robert Spencer - Yes, I believe that. If you look at the Muslim world and see the popularity of Osama Bin Laden tee shirts, dolls and action figures you see his popularity. You wouldn’t find that type of glorification with a terrorist in the western or Christian world.
Dave Hartline - What about the future of Christians in the Middle East? It seems from Bethlehem to other famous locations in the Middle East, Christians are leaving in droves.
Robert Spencer - Yes, they are, and it’s no wonder, look at Islamic radicalism in the Middle East and especially Palestinian territories. I don’t know how long Christian communities can survive under that hostile environment. In my discussions with Christians in the region it looks dire. Some suggest Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian President) is weak and can’t control the radicals like Hamas. However, he may not be as diabolical as Yassar Arafat but he could at least try to stop Hamas. I mean look at how many millions of dollars and Euros US and European taxpayers have poured into the Palestinian Authority since Abbas was elected. Where is that money going and what is being done with it? Well the Palestinian Christians are voting again, this time with their feet and they are heading to the United States.
Dave Hartline - I have heard it said that if a Catholic or some other Christian feels a religious awakening he or she might talk more about their faith maybe even drive their friends a little crazy but they aren’t looking to do anything violent. That is not what we saw with the 19 hijackers of September 11. It seemed like Mohammad Atta saw his sister become a professional success and he was just a professional student. It seemed to blow the old model out of the water that suggested terrorists are poor people with their backs against the wall using the only weapon they have to use, terror.
Robert Spencer - You would think that the old terrorist model, as far as Islam is concerned, of the downtrodden rising up to take on the well educated and powerful would have been disregarded after September 11, 2001. Yet it still is believed by some in academic and media circles. The September 11 hijackers were all better educated and wealthier than the majority in the countries from which they came. The same thing holds true for the suicide bombers who attacked Israel; they were on the whole better educated and wealthier than most other Palestinians. As for new found religious zeal, look at an Evangelical Christian or Catholic. The Evangelical Christian may talk about their new found faith with their friends and their friends may think they are being somewhat of a pest but their friends aren’t threatened by them. The same holds true for a Catholic who finds their faith again. They may drive their friends crazy with trying to get them to volunteer at the soup kitchen or even talk about the various aspects of their spiritual rebirth, yet they won’t threaten them with their own punishment. They leave that up to God. This is not so with someone in Islam who experiences a spiritual rebirth. They read the Koran intently and take serious the words that exhort one to spread the faith, if necessary, by the sword.
Dave Hartline - How was your book Inside Islam: A Guide For Catholics received by the mainstream Catholic media? I noticed Father John Neuhaus and Father Mitch Pacwa gave it a positive review.
Robert Spencer - To be honest I was hoping for a better reception. It is really odd to me, I don’t say anything to contradict Vatican II. My views aren’t that different than Pope Benedict XVI yet it seems people think if you are anti-Jihad you are anti-Islam. I am not anti-Islam, just anti-Jihad. I wish it were different. However, I do notice a new atmosphere under Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. I really think he understands the Jihadist threat and that is comforting.
Dave Hartline - Finally do you see the threat from Jihadists lessening or spreading? What about the role of the Church?
Robert Spencer - As I mentioned before, I think Pope Benedict XVI understands the threat and I am glad for that. However, in our politically correct world I don’t think our country, and especially Europe, understands the threat. I see more attacks like we saw earlier this year in London and Sharm El Sheik. In addition, I see more subtle attempts to attack the laws we have that aid law enforcement and intelliegence officials in their ability to gain intelligence from radicals. I wish I had better news.
Dave Hartline - Thank you for your time and insights
Robert Spencer - Thank you for the opportunity
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