Who is Robert Spencer?
Robert Spencer is an anti-Muslim blog writer. He is the founder and director of JihadWatch, a conspiracy theory website.
In 2010, Spencer co-founded the Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative with fellow conspiracy theorist Pamela Geller.
The Southern Poverty Law Center listed Spencer as part of the “Anti-Muslim Inner Circle,” a core group of 10 individuals responsible for the “surge in popular anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.” Dr. Todd Green named Robert Spencer as one of the leading anti-Muslim figures that “have made a huge impact on the misinformation about Islam and Muslims that circulates so freely on the internet, in the media, and in political circles.”
In 2013, the UK Home Office banned Spencer from entering the United Kingdom for up to five years, with the Home Secretary determining that Spencer’s views – along with Pamela Geller – fell “within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviours by making statements that may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”
A self-avowed “Islamophobe,” Robert Spencer has advanced anti-Muslim narratives and conspiracy theories for decades.
Robert Spencer lacks any academic training in Islam, yet his publisher calls him “one of the world’s foremost critical scholars of Islam.” He writes daily about his anti-Muslim views on his blog JihadWatch.org, a site that selectively promotes stories and news reports seeking to center “the role that Islamic jihad theology and ideology play in the modern global conflicts.” He has insisted that Islam is inherently violent and dangerous. He insists that violent ‘jihad’ and commitment to forced conversion are an essential part of what it means to be Muslim.
He purports that Islam “is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers” and that everyday Muslims are “either deceitful or ignorant of their own religion.” Spencer’s Islamophobic conspiracy theories are centered on an alleged alliance of “Islamic Supremacists” and “Multiculturalists” working with one another to destroy “Judeo-Christian” civilization and the West.
Robert Spencer enjoys close association with key players of the Islamophobia network –
Alongside anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, Spencer is the co-founder of Stop Islamization of America, an organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. The group has funded more than a dozen Islamophobic and anti-Muslim messages on public transit ad spaces across the United States, receiving widespread condemnation. Spencer and Geller collaborated with Danish anti-Muslim figure Anders Gravers Pedersen to build an international version of their organization Stop Islamization of Nations.
Spencer’s writing operations are largely financed by David Horowitz, who the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled “the Godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement.” Spencer’s JihadWatch.org is a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Spencer has regularly rubbed shoulders with far-right nationalists such as Tommy Robinson and the English Defense League. His affiliation with said group resulted in him and his associate Pamela Geller being banned from entering the UK in 2013 after government officials declared Spencer’s extremism to be “not conducive to the public good.”
Robert Spencer received a student-initiated invitation to speak at Stanford University in 2017, where he remarked “Islam is not a race. Mass murder is not a race.” In response, a coalition of 20+ student organizations at Stanford published an open letter citing Spencer as an “established Islamophobe” who seeks to “demonize Islam and perpetuate fear-mongering against Muslims.” Part of Stanford University’s administration affirmed that “Mr. Spencer has a track record of actions and speech that motivate hatred towards Muslims.”
In March of 2013, the organizers of the Catholic Men’s Conference in Worcester, Massachusetts rescinded a similar invitation for Spencer after his promotion of hatred and discrimination was brought to their attention. Similarly, in 2012 a prominent New York law firm canceled an event featuring Spencer. The event would have promoted Spencer’s claim that Islam’s Prophet Muhammad may never have existed.
Spencer is also very active on social media sites such as X (formerly known as Twitter), making outrageous claims vis-a-vis Islam, such as “Islam offers non-Muslims conversion, subjugation under Islamic hegemony, or death” and that Islam “makes people do evil.”
Since Indian Prime Minister Modi’s rise to political prominence in the early 2010s, Spencer has increasingly pushed false blog stories and social media posts that frame Muslims in India as imposing “mass conversions” and “love jihad” to oppress the majority Hindu population.
Spencer downplays the extremist nature of the Modi government’s Hindutva ideology and the threat the ideology poses to Muslims and religious minorities in India, claiming that Hindutva simply “means “Hinduness” or the qualities of being a Hindu.
Spencer has hosted several anti-Islam training seminars for the members of the US Intelligence community, including the United States Central Command, United States Army Command, and General Staff College, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the FBI, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Two of his books were reccomended reading for FBI recruits. After advocacy efforts from 57 civil rights advocacy organizations and criticism from U.S public officials, the FBI removed Spencer’s writings and ended the relationship, saying that Spencer’s views were “inconsistent with FBI standards.”
Media Matters for America listed Robert Spencer as one of the leading “extremists” and “notorious Islamophobes [who] appear as guests in discussions about Islam, terrorism, and immigration.”
Anders Breivik, the neo-Nazi mass murderer who perpetrated the 2011 Norway terrorist attacks, referenced JihadWatch over 160 times in his manifesto. Breivik even explicitly lauded Spencer himself, stating that he would “recommend essentially everything written by Robert Spencer.”
Spencer has received glowing reviews from other prominent Islamophobes. Notorious Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders has called Robert Spencer a “true hero.” Andrew C. McCarthy, who infamously claimed former President Barack Obama promoted a “Sharia agenda,” praised Spencer as an “intrepid scholar, commentator, and freedom fighter.”
X CEO Elon Musk boosted a tweet citing a false story of an act of Islamic extremism that was promoted by Robert Spencer, mainstreaming Spencer with a wider audience for his tweets. The CEO has come under criticism for contributing to the rise of far-right extremism on the social media platform.