So, everything began with a Twitter exchange between me and Robert Spencer. Reacting to the letter I had written to SPLC, protesting their choice to include Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz by asking them to include me on the list. Someone asked me if I thought anyone deserved to be on the list, and I named Robert Spencer. Robert Spencer himself showed up to ask me why, and I gave some answers. Check out our discussion below:
So, here you can read the justification I promised him. I wrote it as an open letter.
I am writing this open letter to you in order to give you my reasons for thinking that you do indeed deserve to be listed as an “anti-Muslim extremist”. That is, frankly, I believe that your ideas regarding Muslims and Islam are harmful, bigoted, and can be characterized as conspiracy theory.
Obviously you can see that our disagreements regarding this issue are strong and the gap between our worldviews is too wide. I cannot claim that our disagreement is a “respectful” one, one in which we can agree to disagree. Honestly, I don’t respect your views. However, our Twitter exchanged led me to have respect for one aspect of your behavior, and that is your willingness to engage someone like me in a debate. I am a random blogger and you are a celebrity. So, that is the one compliment I can pay you.
Dear Robert, thank you for wishing me good health. However, I wonder if you would wish me well if the ruthless randomness of history had written my life story with a different pen. If Iran was ruined in war, if it were overrun by IS or it was engulfed in civil war, and if I were misplaced, and if I were fleeing violence and I was desperately seeking a safe haven in Europe, you wouldn’t wish me well then: you would suspect me of being a jihadist, and you would wish me to return into danger.
Dear Robert, I am an atheist. I am an anti-theist. I am an anti-nationalist. But despite all of this, I belong to the Muslim community. I do not have any other community. I cannot have any other community. Therefore when you constantly demonize the Muslim minorities and Muslim majorities I have to take it personally. I am one of those people.
Of course, whenever an overcompensating leftist (and they are overcompensating for people like you, by the way), who tries to claim that there are no problems within Muslim communities, no problems with homophobia, sexism, racism, intolerance, hatred of apostates, etc, I have to point out that these problems are real and present within Muslim communities and they shall be fought against. But at the same time, it is very unfair to equate Muslims with these problems, to reduce the deep complexity of Muslim communities, to ignore the hard struggle of reformists and democracy activists are going through, and to make caricatures of evil out of people.
Muslim communities are communities of human beings. Deeply flawed and authoritarian – yet also struggling on the difficult path of progress. Your enemies reduce this complex picture by pretending that progress is all there is, and your allies simplify it by pretending that only problems exist. Both are wrong, but you are wrong and hateful. Both are wrong, but only you turn people from complex being into evil caricatures and make them villains just because of the group they belong to. That is the very definition of bigotry.
In our Twitter exchange I mentioned three reasons that qualify you for the title of “Anti-Muslim extremist”. I think the main theme of them is what I said above.
When you warn of the “Islamization” of the West, you are basically putting forth a conspiracy theory, and you are pretending that a small minority is powerful and it’s taking over the host communities. While there are obviously problems regarding issues such as honor killings in Muslim communities, instead of treating them like actual people, people who need to be changed and reformed like all other communities (racist white communities of USA and Europe included), you reduce the community into these problems, you make all people into conspirators, the other, the enemy. This is bigoted.
When you oppose the Ground Zero Mosque: you are, first of all, opposing the freedom of speech and religion. Secondly, you are implying that all Muslims were responsible for 9/11. There is no other way to justify this. I wouldn’t say there should be no churches built in the vicinity of Auschwitz, although the Holocaust was committed by Christian extremists. Muslims as a community are not culpable in 9/11. Al-Qaeda are. And to say that Muslims should have their religious practices limited is the very definition of discrimination. That is bigoted.
And on opposing immigration: evidence has never shown that immigrants are more prone to being criminals, but actually less. These are downtrodden people fleeing war and – ironically – Islamic extremism, and you kick them while they’re down.
I want the west and the Islamic societies to be open to each other. Only exposure to different ideas and only an exchange of intellectual thought can lead to openness in countries like Iran, but you, like far right Iranian Islamist extremists, want Muslim majority countries to be isolated.
I support Muslim moderates and reformists such as President Hassan Rouhani, whose great achievements I have witnessed myself, I have seen how he has improved the lives of people in Iran, how he has saved our country from war and certain destruction. But you always try to undermine such reformists, in your coverage of Rouhani you only focus on weak spots, whether fictional or real. Your website, Jihad Watch, covers some faulty stories about Rouhani, such as the statues being covered in Italy [he didn’t ask for that, it was completely the fault of the Italians], or human rights being worse under him [those human rights violations are committed by his political enemies and mainly to unable him, so it’s ludicrous to blame him], you call Iran’s popular and elected president a terrorist, and you completely ignore his struggles for better situation in Iran, how he has opened academia, how he has stood for women’s rights, and many others of his achievements.
I am an Iranian who had an election stolen from me, I went to the streets, almost got killed, and I demanded my votes. Four years later the regime was forced to accept a reformist president. Why are you so intent on creating a false image of this reformist? Selective and untrue coverage of Rouhani serves what goal? Do you think that if Rouhani is defeated, democrats and seculars will be empowered? Of course not. You just don’t want there to be a Muslim reformist. You want Iran to be a monster. You want a villain.
You constantly tell lies about the Nuclear Deal with Iran. What are you trying to achieve here, Robert? War? Crippling sanctions? You want Iran to become another Syria?
And then you claim to wish me well?
No, Robert, you’re not trying to make the world a better place. If wanted to make the world a better place, you would stick to criticizing Islamic ideology and tradition, and wouldn’t have demonized people and wouldn’t have told lies and would have advanced conspiracy theories and wouldn’t have tried to isolate Islamic societies instead of opening them up and wouldn’t have undermined reform instead of encouraging it and wouldn’t have attempted to destabilize the region further. You are an extreme conservative, and your ideology requires an evil enemy, a hated group of people, and you only want Muslims to be that enemy.
Robert, I am that enemy.