What is Jihad Watch?
Jihad Watch is a far-right anti-Muslim conspiracy theory blog that has been identified as a prominent node in the “Islamophobia Industry” in the United States.
Established in 2003, the website claims it is “dedicated to bringing public attention to the role that jihad theology and ideology play in the modern world and to correcting popular misconceptions about the role of jihad and religion in modern-day conflicts.”
Jihad Watch employs a selective and biased approach to news reporting, cherry-picking headlines and news clippings to perpetuate a stereotypical representation of ‘jihad’, characterizing Islam and Muslims as inherently violent and dangerous.
The primary figure behind Jihad Watch is Robert Spencer, a prolific anti-Muslim writer funded by from the David Horowitz Freedom Center for many years.
Spencer profits from his promotion of anti-Muslim tropes. According to the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2021 IRS Form 990, the most recent filing available at the time of our writing this update, Spencer received $282,518 in reportable compensation from the organization.
Jihad Watch’s Islam101 classifies Islam as totalitarian and claims that the religion is “intrinsically violent.”
The website frequently references the obscure practice of “taqiyya” to suggest that Islam promotes deception and lying among its followers. These representations play on racist themes about Muslims “hiding their identities” to support anti-Western conspiracies.
In 2021, the site purported the theory that Islam is “unique in its promotion of violence” as opposed to other Abrahamic faiths and therefore encourages “more of its followers to support terrorism.” In 2022, JihadWatch asserted that domestic violence has “divine sanction” in Islam, and continues to insinuate that Muslim women are denied equality and dignity due to “sharia provisions.”
Over the years, Robert Spencer has openly identified himself as an “unrepentant Islamophobe.” He has stated that there is no distinction between peaceful Muslims and ‘jihadists’ and has argued that Islam “is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.” Additionally, Spencer has expressed support for former President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and has even proposed the explicit profiling of Muslims in airports.
Spencer’s advocacy has involved spreading conspiracy theories regarding “Islamic Supremacists” and “Multiculturalists” working together to destroy “Judeo-Christian” civilization and the West. He has associated with far-right nationalists such as Tommy Robinson and the English Defense League, resulting in a ban from entering the UK in 2013 due to his extremism being deemed “not conducive to the public good” by British government officials.
Jihad Watch is popular on social media platforms that host right-wing extremist networks and white nationalist communities. It maintains a strong presence on Gab, a social media platform known for its far-right userbase, ranking as the third most shared link on Gab after YouTube and Twitter in 2019.
Anders Breivik, the neo-nazi responsible for the 2011 Norway terrorist attacks, referenced JihadWatch over 160 times in his manifesto and praised Robert Spencer explicitly, recommending “essentially everything written by Robert Spencer.”
Despite his self-proclaimed Islamophobic views, Robert Spencer has been invited to give seminars on Islam and jihad to various US intelligence and law enforcement entities, 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.
Spencer’s writings have been recommended readings for FBI recruits. After advocacy efforts from 57 civil rights advocacy organization and criticism from U.S public officials, the FBI removed Spencer’s writings and ended their relationship from their federal training programs, saying that Spencer’s views were “inconsistent with FBI standards.”
Jihad Watch’s influence has extended beyond the United States, with the website increasingly promoting false stories about Muslims in India, framing them as imposing “mass conversions” and “love jihad” to oppress the majority Hindu population. Spencer has downplayed the extremist nature of Hindutva and the threat it poses to Muslims and religious minorities in India and beyond.