Todd Green accuses Robert Spencer of “professional Islamophobia” in speech to campus community

Todd Green answers questions from members of the campus community. Photo Credit: Jamie Welch

Todd Green answers questions from members of the campus community. Photo Credit: Jamie Welch

By Joshua Wagner, Staff Writer

Dr. Todd Green, Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College, presented on professional Islamophobia Sunday evening to a packed Mara Auditorium.  Green is a regular contributor for The Huffington Post and has appeared in various media outlets including NPR, CNN, Al Jazeera, France 24, and Reuters to speak on Islamophobia.  

The lecture, sponsored by the Religious Studies Department and the Peace and Justice Studies program, was arranged to develop the idea of Professional Islamophobia before the presentation on “The Political Ramifications of Islamic Fundamentalism” by Robert Spencer on Wednesday.

In opening the lecture, Green posed two moral questions: “What are our commitments to our Muslim neighbors?” and “How do we tell truths about our Muslim neighbors?”  

Green went on to define Islamophobia as “the irrational fear hostility and hatred of Muslims and of Islam. It is also the exclusionary and discriminatory practices that arise from that fear and hatred.”  

Green defined professional Islamophobia as “a cadre of extremist bloggers, authors, some politicians, [and] pundits, who make a living and a career off of dehumanizing and demonizing Muslims.”

He highlighted three full-time practitioners of professional Islamophobia: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and Frank Gaffney.  Geller and Spencer, co-founders of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and noted for their “Defeat Jihad” poster campaign, were both banned from the United Kingdom by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2013.  Green noted that Theresa May, now Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, is not a “flaming liberal.”

A packed house, an impassioned speech, and a contentious Q&A mark Todd Green's presentation on Professional Islamophobia at Gettysburg College Sunday evening. Photo Credit: Jamie Welch

A packed house, an impassioned speech, and a contentious Q&A mark Todd Green’s presentation on Professional Islamophobia at Gettysburg College Sunday evening. Photo Credit: Jamie Welch

Green identified four common themes in professional Islamophobia.

The first theme was a violent Jihad.  Green referenced a quote from Wednesday’s speaker, Robert Spencer: “Traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful.”  In a rebuke, Green cited statistics from the FBI, Triangle Center and West Point which showed that 94 percent of terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil were committed by non-Muslims, and that other, specifically political, demographics were more likely to perpetrate violence in the U.S.

The second theme was that of civilizational Jihad.  This is the idea that Islam is silently entrenching itself throughout the government.  Frank Gaffney, who served in the Reagan administration and since has begun his own think tank, is known for his conspiracies in which a Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the highest echelons of the government.

The third theme involved creeping Sharia.  Green shared a quote from Secretary Ben Carson to demonstrate this theme: “I would have problems with somebody who embraced all the doctrines associated with Islam.  If they are not willing to reject sharia and all the portions of it that are talked about in the Quran – if they are not willing to reject that, and subject that to American values and the Constitution, then of course, I would [not support a Muslim as president].”

The last theme involved Taqiyya, which is an Arabic term which allows Muslims to hide their religion when under threat of persecution.  Green argued that this somewhat obscure facet of Islam has been presented as a central part of the religion allowing people like Spencer to label Muslims as untrustworthy.  He likened this characterization to how anti-Semitic people have maligned Jews as shifty.  Green pointed out that this mischaracterization of Taqiyya allows for the delegitimation of Muslims’ narrative.

Green also showed that Professional Islamophobia is a lucrative business.  $56,900,440 in revenue was brought in by ten anti-Islam organizations between 2001-2012, and over $200 million was raised by thirty-three anti-Islam organizations between 2008-2013 according to research by Fear, Inc, CAIR, and U.C. Berkeley Center for Race and Gender.

Spencer received $186,237 from the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an additional $29,461 from the American Freedom Defense Initiative for his work according to IRS 990 forms.

Green then detailed ways in which Muslims were being discriminated against in the United States. Hate crimes soared in the year after 911, and have normalized to levels five times higher than before 2001.  Mosques experienced a 345 percent increase in conflicts in 2010-2012 compared to 2008-2010 according to the ACLU.  Ten states have enacted anti-Islam legislation mostly referring to Sharia law.

Green then suggested three ideas to avoid Islamophobia.  First, develop “Holy Envy.”  This means that one should admire someone else’s piety, not judge them for it.  Second, “Learn from practitioners, not enemies” or as Green also stated “Learn from practitioners, not from Robert Spencer.” To this point, Green cited that two thirds of Americans believe they don’t even know a Muslim person.  Lastly, “Don’t compare their worst to our best.”

Todd Green speaks with students following the lecture. Photo Credit: Joshua Wagner

Todd Green speaks with students following the lecture. Photo Credit: Joshua Wagner

After the lecture, questions were taken from the audience.

The first member of the audience to ask a question was a Quran-carrying 84-year old member of the Gettysburg community who repeatedly said “I’m nobody.”

He questioned the ethos of the lecturer by asking specific questions about Islam, and claimed that Green mischaracterized and trivialized the danger of Islam.  

Although the event was largely restricted to attendees with college IDs, Bill Lafferty, Director of the Department of Public Safety, said that certain non-members of the campus community were permitted to attend with prior approval.

After the lecture, Green commented that there is usually one person, usually carrying a Quran, who makes such an appearance.

Later, Brittany Russell, a sophomore, asked whether it is better to go to the Robert Spencer lecture and engage him in debate or to protest outside and attend the Muslim Solidarity Rally.  Green noted that no matter what decision students made, Spencer would construe it to fit his narrative. He recommended supporting Muslims on campus however they need it.

Senior Julie Davin asked how history might remember Gettysburg’s decision to bring Spencer to campus and students who went.  

Green responded: “He is free to hate, [but]… does he have the Constitutional right to come? No he does not.” He suggested the campus should raise the bar for prospective speakers, which drew applause from the audience.

One of the final questions of the evening came from first-year Otis Pierce and was directed to President Janet Morgan Riggs, who, along with many college administrators and faculty members, was in attendance for the event.

Pierce read from an email President Riggs sent after the November election: “Our conviction that a residential college best promotes the sense of community, central to a liberal arts education, in which personal relationships between students, faculty, and staff can flourish,” before asking Riggs: “How do you expect us to flourish in fear?”

Riggs responded: “I do want to remind you that this is part of the deal this week.  It’s not to have one speaker here, but to have someone here that I hope will provide all of you with the toolbox to respond to what’s coming next. That was the point of having this lecture tonight. I am not interested in cultivating a community of fear.  You see Jerome sitting next to you, who I know is putting together a gathering at the same time as Spencer is here on the same night.  I’m sure all of you have heard about that.  If you haven’t, there’s your advertisement.  That is a way to come together. […] It’s not protesting the speaker, but it’s demonstrating solidarity with the Muslim members of this community. My fantasy is that we will have four or five people sitting in a room with Robert Spencer, and the other 2,500 members with Jerome at his rally.  I think that’s what we can do to counter the fear that a speaker like this can bring to this community.”

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Author: Joshua Wagner

Josh Wagner '19 is a chemistry and mathematics double major who enjoys bike rides on the battlefield and waving around a red pen as the Gettysburgian's Managing Opinions Editor. When not editing for the Gettysburgian, he can usually be found working in the College Life Office, helping students with calculus as a PLA, or studying in the library.

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  1. This article was responded to by Robert Spencer, and I would urge all people to read and digest his response. In a saner times, the author of this article would be dismissed for intellectual dishonesty, ethical
    fraudulence, and libelous self perception disorder. Seriously.
    The author has a tyranny on his side which is almost entirely against reasonable and rathional enquiry and analysis. The Jihad is very real, and very important to Islam, to Mohammed and to it’s history. To deny all this is his ‘right’, but to prevent the delineation of all that to sudents is indeed fasle unto being criminally negligent

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    • Green uses attacks on US soil as a rebuke. That is just laughable. Here is what’s happened in the name of Islam in the past week:

      Religion of Peace
      Germany: Woman Stabbed to Death for Converting to Christianity
      Other Recent “Misunderstandings
      of Islam”
      2017.05.09 (Afghanistan)
      At least eight children and a teacher are sent straight to Allah by a bomb planted in their seminary classroom.
      2017.05.08 (Bangladesh)
      An Ahmadi imam is hacked to death in his own mosque by three seminary students.
      2017.05.08 (Somalia)
      Islamists stage a suicide bombing and a shooting attack on an Italian coffee café, killing eight patrons.
      2017.05.06 (Egypt)
      A Coptic minority is shot to death by radical Muslims at a barber shop.
      2017.05.06 (Egypt)
      A father and two sons are found beheaded a few days after being kidnapped by the Islamic State.
      2017.05.04 (Nigeria)
      Two Shahid suicide bombers murder five others, including a young girl.

      Yep…it’s real irrational to be concerned about Islam. This happens day in and day out. How convenient to point out the US statistics as a rebuke. Todd? How about expanding your analysis a little?

      Todd then uses the enactment of anti-Sharia provisions in 10 states as evidence of “discrimination” against Muslims. Sharia law, Todd? That isn’t discriminating against Muslims. It’s upholding the law of the land.

      Todd Green – with the degree – won’t debate Robert Spencer. And, it’s not a “lucrative business” – Spencer had an attempt made on his life.

      It should be clear there are so many problems with Islam, yet the likes of Todd Green decide to focus on so-called Islamophobes.

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  2. I have a questions for Todd Green. If Robert Spencer is a liar spreading lies about islam, why won’t Todd Green agree to debate Robert Spencer so that he can expose all the lies Robert Spencer tells about Islam? This is where crickets chirping comes in. I mean if Mr. Spencer’s statements are based on lies, wouldn’t Todd Green love to smash those lies with the truth from the koran, hadith and sira and the wrtings of muslim scholars from the 4 schools of islamic jurisprudence?

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  3. Sounds like an intentional, institution-driven attempt to quell free speech. The obvious answer is to hear both sides of the story and decide for yourself, who poses a more cogent argument. Anything less is academically disingenuous and an exercise of intellectual laziness.

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  4. “Green referenced a quote from… Robert Spencer: “Traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful.” In a rebuke, Green cited statistics from the FBI, Triangle Center and West Point which showed that 94 percent of terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil were committed by non-Muslims, and that other other, specifically political, demographics were more likely to perpetrate violence in the U.S.”

    Citing statistics about terrorist “attacks” does not constitute a rebuttal of an assertion regarding the nature of the Islamic faith as revealed by it scripture.

    If you take the time to actually read what Spencer has written, (instead of relying on hysterical characterizations of it) you will discover that his thesis is really quite simple, not to mention factually irrefutable: The Quran is replete with assertions that are fundamentally antithetical to western notions of rule of law, freedom of speech, and religious liberty. You will search in vain for any expression of hatred toward Muslims, either collectively or individually.

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  5. It’s refreshing to see people with common sense commenting here. The worst kinds of fascism has taken over our schools and universities. I’m 60 years old. I was raised surrounded by the Greatest Generation. Including a gra’mom who passed on her love of books and reading to me.

    Liberals are too stupid and too lazy to actually read and study the issues. We’ve gone from the Greatest Generation to the Generation of Degenerates.

    It’s like the world’s gone insane. Europe is on the brink of collapse. The same countries that barely survived the Nazis are laying out the red carpet to Muslims who were the ideological soul mates of the Nazis. And this “legacy” has run straight from there into the Islamic versions of the Hitler Youth; the Muslim Student Association and the genocidal Students for Justice in Palestine. Spewing the kinds of Jew hatred and antisemitism on college campuses not heard since 1930’s Nazi Germany. Along with their vile Nazi styled anti-Jewish boycott (BDS) movement.

    What are these idiots thinking?

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  6. I echo the comments above and hereby accuse Mr. Green of professional intellectual dishonesty. If Spencer so clearly has it wrong, why not engage with him substantively and let critical minds decide for themselves?

    A simple question for you Mr. Green. What’s the difference between Saudi Islam and ISIS Islam? You can answer in as many or as few words as you want.

    You want to talk numbers? OK, Muslims make up about 1% of the population of the US but are disproportionately represented in homicidal terrorist acts, by a ratio of more than 62 to 1 since 9/11. Can we talk about the fact that virtually every single one of the perpetrators of these acts has j(confidently) justified his actions with (accurate) citations to Islamic scripture? Can we talk 9/11, Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernandino, Orlando, Paris, Munich and the other daily atrocities committed in Islam’s name? You sir, are a disgrace.

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  7. Todd Green and his “islamophobia” industry is a bunch of hooey. There’s no such thing. The word was invented by Muslims to muzzle and silence criticism of Islam. Robert Spencer is not hateful, it’s Islam that’s hateful. Perhaps you’ve noticed, Mr. Green? Islam has Jihad — war against non-Muslims. It’s RATIONAL to despise Islam and Jihad. Muslims demonize themselves by slaughtering innocent people worldwide in accord with Islam’s “Kill the Infidels” Jihad doctrine (see Quran).

    Theresa “Sharia” May is an idiot who permits the murderous Muslims into GB but keeps out truth-tellers like Spencer, Geller, and Gaffney who have never harmed anyone. It’s to Theresa Sharia’s SHAME that she banned the aforementioned three truth-tellers about Islam. How’s that hijab working out for you, Theresa, you GROVELER. Britain is finished. It will be an Islamic heck-hole within this century, as the Muslims like to point out.

    “Al-Taqiyya” isn’t obscure. It’s a central tenet of Islam meaning “The Concealment.” Lying to the Infidels about Islam. As Muhammed declared, “War is deception” (Hadiths). Taqiyya is specifically Shia. However, deceiving unbelievers is universal in Islam. Which is why I don’t believe one word a Muslim says. Islam isn’t peaceful, Islam is war and conquest. Anyone who still buys into the Geo W Bush “rop” balderdash after 9/11 is a few ants short of a picnic. Peace in Islam is when Islam has achieved world hegemony and only Islam’s moon deity allah is worshipped. All other religions have been eradicated. That’s Islam’s definition of peace. But, you moonbats keep fooling yourselves about Islam!

    “Al-Taqiyya” is not comparable to Jews being “shifty.” Taqiyya is a defined concept within Islam. Jews being “shifty” is not a defined concept within anything. Green! Stop brainwashing naive students!

    Learn from Robert Spencer. Don’t learn from the “practitioners” (Muslims) — they lie. “War is deception” declared Muhammed (Hadiths). Also don’t learn from Mr. Green unless you’re interested in outright lies and deceptions. He’s a professional dunce who shouldn’t be permitted to wrongly instruct naive students with PC BS about Islam.

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