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Spencer’s Radicalized Mosque Claim Gets Debunked

Reza Aslan debunks Robert Spencer's claim

Robert Spencer is still trying to peddle the myth that 80% of American mosques are radicalized. In a heated post on JihadWatch on March 19, Spencer said the following in reply to Reza Aslan’s claim that all of the studies Spencer cited to support the claim that 80% of American mosques are radicalized have been debunked:

In any case, Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani’s 1998 study was not based on his personal opinion, as Aslan claims. Kabbani actually visited 114 mosques in this country before giving testimony before a State Department Open Forum in January 1999 that 80% of American mosques taught the “extremist ideology.” Has Reza Aslan investigated 114 mosques in the U.S.? Then there was the Center for Religious Freedom’s 2005 study, and the Mapping Sharia Project’s 2008 study. Each independently showed that upwards of 80% of mosques in America were preaching hatred of Jews and Christians and the necessity ultimately to impose Islamic rule.

Let’s break this down one by one. Kabbani said in 1999 that extremists “took over more than 80% of the mosques that have been established in the US.” How did he come up with this number? He didn’t say in his testimony. After the testimony Kabbani began to feel heat from many who were curious as to how he arrived at this “figure” and that is when he finally decided to offer up some “evidence” for his claim.

An under-fire Kabbani explained in 1999 exactly what he meant when he told the State Department that 80 percent of American mosques had been taken over by extremists. His point, he said, was that a “few extremists” were taking over leadership posts, despite a “majority of moderate Muslims,” thus “influencing 80 percent of the mosques.”

Today, he sticks even closer to his guns and adds embellishing data: Kabbani visited 114 mosques in the United States. “Ninety of them were mostly exposed, and I say exposed, to extreme or radical ideology,” he said.

Kabbani bases his exposure conclusion on speeches, board members and materials published. One telltale sign of an extremist mosque, said Kabbani, was an unhealthy focus on the Palestinian struggle.

Alright – let’s be real here. This is not a “study” as Spencer claims. It’s an insult to actual studies out there to call what Kabbani did a “study,” it doesn’t even reach the basic standard of research, documentation or analysis. He conducted a subjective investigation of American mosques, plain and simple. Mosques he went to and where he found or heard things he didn’t agree with were labeled “extremist.” Just because there was a “focus on the Palestinian struggle” at a mosque doesn’t mean it’s “extremist.” What type of absurd methodology is that? It’s remarkable that Spencer would try to pass this off as a “study.” I know, it’s hard to prove that Muslims in America are bloodthirsty jihadists, but even Spencer should be ashamed of himself for trying to pass off Kabbani’s flawed investigation as a “study” to bolster his claim that 80% of mosques are run by extremists.

The next study that Spencer claims proves that 80% of American mosques are radicalized is from the Center for Religious Freedom. What is the methodology and scope of this study?

In undertaking this study, we did not attempt a general survey of American mosques.  In order to document Saudi influence, the material for this report was gathered from a selection of more than a dozen mosques and Islamic centers in American cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Washington, and New York. In most cases, these sources are the most prominent and well-established mosques in their areas. They have libraries and publication racks for mosque-goers. Some have full-or part-time schools and, as the 9/11 Commission Report observed, such “Saudi-funded Wahhabi schools are often the only Islamic schools.”

From their own words, the Center for Religious Freedom says that it “did not attempt a general survey of American mosques.” The study itself was designed “to document Saudi influence.” They went to fifteen mosques to complete this “study.” Fifteen mosques! According to the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, there are at least 1,600 mosques and Islamic centers in the United States. This, too, is not much of a study.

Further eroding Spencer’s point, this study does not even claim that 80% or even a high percentage of American mosques are radicalized in any way. Let me repeat that – the study makes NO claim that 80% or some other percent of American mosques are radicalized. It simply does not say what Spencer claims it says. Spencer is making it up. He is lying. But LoonWatchers shouldn’t be surprised by that.

Spencer’s deception and lack of intellectual integrity in this instance is blatant, he not only cites the Center’s “study” as proof of the 80%-percent-of-mosques-are-extremists-conspiracy-theory, but he also fails to mention that the only semblance of what he claims in the study is a regurgitation of Kabbani’s (false and discredited) assertion,

Sheikh Kabbani, perhaps the U.S.’s leading moderate Muslim leader, says that a substantial percentage of American mosques have Wahhabi-funded Imams

Isn’t this interesting? What sort of credible “study” perfunctorily sites the non-evidentiary based assertions of a lone individual without questioning his methodology? The language in the above sentence is also cause for alarm, anytime a claim such as “the U.S.’s leading moderate Muslim leader” is made we should view it not only with caution but skepticism. This sort of heavily biased and subjective language is employed now by Right-Wingers and Republicans to describe “Zuhdi Jasser” the Islamophobes favorite Muslim.

Spencer’s last piece of evidence to back up his bogus claim comes from the Mapping Sharia Project led by the loony racist anti-Muslim lawyer David Yerushalmi, David Gaubatz and conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney. The only thing I could find on this “study” was a Jihad Watch link reporting the findings of the Mapping Sharia Project. The Jihad Watch article reports that “An undercover survey of more than 100 mosques and Islamic schools in America has exposed widespread radicalism, including the alarming finding that 3 in 4 Islamic centers are hotbeds of anti-Western extremism…”

Spencer relying on “undercover survey’s” by radical Islamophobes with pseudo-racist beliefs? Just par for the course.

Firstly, there is no web page allowing us access to examine the methodology employed by this study. When I went to the link to the Mapping Sharia Project, I was taken to the web site for David Yerushalmi’s organization, SANE (Society for American National Existence). To gain access, I had to become a member. I did not want to join this loony web site’s membership list, as I am spammed enough as it is. So Spencer’s third study does not even exist, at least out in the public. Even the link he places for the Mapping Sharia Project just takes you to another JihadWatch web page reporting the findings of the study. Guess we’ll just have to take Yerushalmi, Gaubatz, Gaffney and Spencer’s word for it that 80%… err, three out of four American mosques are radicalized.

Actually, we won’t. Spencer tried his best it seems to pass off these “studies” as evidence to support Rep. Peter King’s claim that 80% of American mosques are radicalized. None of these “studies” does that.

Kabbani’s “study” is based simply on his own opinions of the mosques and their leadership, not any objective metric gauging radicalism. If he did not agree with the viewpoints of the mosque, then he deemed them radical. That’s not a study. Spencer, someone who went to graduate school, should know better than that.

The Center for Religious Freedom study says itself that it “did not attempt a general survey of American mosques.” So how does Spencer cite this study as evidence that 80% of American mosques are radicalized? Because he’s not interested in the truth – he just needs something to cite to so he can bamboozle those who won’t actually check his sources. Sorry, Robert, but we did. And this so-called “study” does not even say what you claim it does.

The final piece of evidence Spencer clings to is the Mapping Sharia Project’s “study,” which apparently does not exist in the public domain. But considering its authors – David Yerushalmi, David Gaubatz and Frank Gaffney – I would venture to say that this “study” will not only not be very academic but thoroughly bigoted and prejudiced. Just consider some of the proposals Yerushalmi and his friends at (in)SANE have come up with:

WHEREAS Islam requires all Muslims to actively and passively support the replacement of America’s constitutional republic with a political system based upon Shari’a.

Whereas, adherence to Islam as a Muslim is prima facie evidence of an act in support of the overthrow of the US Government through the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the US Constitution and the imposition of Shari’a on the American People.

HEREFORE, IT IS RESOLVED THAT: It shall be a felony punishable by 20 years in prison to knowingly act in furtherance of, or to support the, adherence to Shari’a.

The Congress of the United States of America shall declare the US at war with the Muslim Nation.

If these “studies” and individuals are the evidence that Spencer claims back up the myth that 80% of American mosques are radicalized, then Spencer has no evidence. For a great source on the history of this myth, see Media Matters’ Zombie Lie: Right Still Clinging To Decade-Old Fabrication About Radicalized Mosques.

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  • “Sheikh” Kabbani just went to different mosques and if they weren’t psuedo-Sufi like him then they were “radical.” The scholars warned us to beware of fake Sufis.

  • Dawood

    I wonder how the Shaykh feels about this statement today, being that it is 12 years old or so (from 1999).

  • I think it is really dangerous when US policymakers focus on ideology instead of temperament. And unfortunately I think this is something which Shaykh Hisham has inadvertently encouraged by his testimony. I like Shaykh Hisham and have many friends among his murids. And in alot of ways I identify with his “camp” (orthodox, traditional, Hanafi, Sufi) (if not always as devout as I should be). And I’m definitely not Wahabi/ Salafi. But I also don’t think that the polemics between Sufis and Wahabis is any business of the U.S. governemnt or law enforcement generally. Even apart from that, it isn’t even relevant. The Saudis are “Wahabi” but the Taliban are “Hanafi and Sufi”. Iran is obviously Shia. But ideology is beside the point.

    The question is whether a person has enough patience and faith in the system to express themselves non-violently.

    I want to compare it to abortion for Christians. I mean, if you are pro-life then life begins at conception and abortion is murder. So if that’s what you believe, there are some terrible things going on in the US. Murder is legal everywhere and you can’t really do much about it. You can join groups like Operation rescue or vote for pro-life political candidates but according to the Supreme Court (since Roe v Wade) the Constitution actually protects a woman’s right to murder her children.

    Now, if you are a devout Catholic or a devout evangelical then the above all applies to you but obviously only a small fraction lose patience with the system, take matters into their own hands and start attacking and threatening abortion clinic personel. Furthermore, even though the pro-life position pretty directly feeds into the extremism, we don’t demonize the people just for being pro-life.

    By a similar token, one can be a Muslim who is politically active and critical of US foreign policy (in Israel/ Palestine, illegal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, sabre rattling against Iran, drone attacks etc. feeling tragic about the plight of Muslims worldwide and the U.S. role in that situation. All that is fair game. What makes a person a “radical” isn’t about ideology. Its about whether they can deal with the emotional reality and have patience with the system.

    Just my $0.02

  • Khushboo

    I guess I must be a radical if I sympathize with innocent Palestinians dying. I didn’t know Palestinians were considered terrorists??

    *scratches head*

  • Lo

    This Kabbani that Spencer cited decided whether a mosque is extreme or not based on its support for the Palestinian struggle. If that’s how you get an extremist stamp, everyone with a conscience is an extremist.

    Oxford University, one of the many universities occupied by students in soladirity with the Palestinians (http://bit.ly/fWO2aq); an extremist university. 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Reuven Moskowitz, who attempted to sail to Gaza with his harmonicas for Gazan children only to have his harmonicas tossed around the deck in front of him by Israeli soldiers (http://bit.ly/cAsQYY); an extremist harmonica player. South Africa, for showing soladirity with the Palestinians through support of the BDS movement (http://huff.to/fKIQCr); an extremist apartheid victim.

    To cite an idiotic man who clearly does not possess the aforemention conscience, Spencer must be either an even bigger idiot than him, or just really desperate.

  • Tarig
  • Saladin

    Hey LW here is a good article for you Sen. Dick Durbin announced his own hearings on threats to American Muslims’ civil rights.

    Muslims welcome Senate hearings on civil liberties

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2011-03-24-muslim_23_ST_N.htm?csp=34news

    It is nice to see Anti-Loons who fight the bigotry

    I can already guess the type of reaction Islamophobes will have to this.

  • Anj

    This Hadith sums up the state of the Muslims right now. The prophet (pbuh) said
    “The People will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their food.” Someone asked, “Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?” He replied, “No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be froth and scum like that carried down by a torrent (of water), and Allah will take the fear of you from the breasts (hearts) of your enemy and cast al-wahn into your hearts.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is al-wahn?” He replied, “Love of the world and dislike of death.” [An authentic hadith recorded by Abu Dawud and Ahmad]

  • “Muhammad abd al Haq, I think you’re right about the Shaykh. He is a Sufi, and whilst that isn’t a bad thing, it just means that he might have a bias against what he deems to be “Wahhabis”.”

    That’s exactly what i meant. I love the Sufis and if the “neo-Wahhabis” who have hijacked the Salafiyya movement had any real knowledge, they would see the Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab actually had very positive things to say about Tassawuf, as did all the Salafiyya intellectuals, including *gasp* Ibn Taymiyya. So it intrigues me why Shaykh Kabbani has such a bias towards the Salafiyya, unless his bias is really towards “neo-Wahabbis”, which is understandable.

    Oh I forgot to ask in my ealier post how in the world do these Islamohobes know that certain masjids and schools are Saudi-funded, and even if this were true, how does this *automatically* make them Extremists masjids and Islamic schools?

    Allahu A’lam
    ————–

    “This sacred knowledge shall be borne by reliable authorities from each generation, who will preserve it from the distortions of extremists, the plans of the corrupt and the false explanations of the ignorant.” (Narrated mursal by Al-Bayhaqi in Kitab al-Madkhal on the authority of Ibrahim bin ‘Abd al-Rahman al-’Udhri.)

  • Dawood

    @Mosizzle: He looks very uncomfortable there. Remember the one of him posing outside Park 51?

  • Mosizzle

    If Spencer keeps making blunders like these, he will have absolutely no credibility left.

    Here he is collecting evidence in a mosque 🙂 :
    http://www.loonwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/pict0228.jpg

    Muhammad abd al Haq, I think you’re right about the Shaykh. He is a Sufi, and whilst that isn’t a bad thing, it just means that he might have a bias against what he deems to be “Wahhabis”.

  • Uh… the subjectiveness znd non-academic character of Kabbani’s investigations/visits notwithstanding, it is easy to see that the Shaykh is being misrepresented here I think even Rousseau unwittingly misrepresents part of the Shaykh’s views.

    “Just because there was a “focus on the Palestinian struggle” at a mosque doesn’t mean it’s “extremist.” ”

    That’s not what the Shaykh said. My friends know the Shaykh well, as he has visited Florida on numerous occasions. Case in point:

    “he said, was that a “*few extremists*” were taking over leadership posts, despite a “*majority of moderate Muslims,*” thus “influencing 80 percent of the mosques.””

    This quote doesn’t say what Spencer and Co. want it to say. It says that extremists are taking over leadership positions in “moderate Muslim mosques”. How that equates to the masjid itself being radicalized is beyond me, and Islamophobes simply do not say. Besides 114 is a far cry from 1,600+ and makimg a claim about all the masjids in the US. Why don’t “surveys” say what they are really supposed to say?

    e.g: “In the 114 masjids that *I* visited,*I* found that approximately 80% of them have extremists in attendance and in leadership positions”. The wording makes all the difference in the world!

    “Today, he sticks even closer to his guns and adds embellishing data: Kabbani visited 114 mosques in the United States. “Ninety of them were mostly *exposed*, and I say *exposed*, to extreme or radical ideology,” he said.”

    Exposed to extremism or extremist/radical ideology is quite different from accepted/internalized/operated using/spread extremist/radical ideology.

    “Kabbani bases his exposure conclusion on speeches, board members and materials published. One telltale sign of an extremist mosque, said Kabbani, was an *unhealthy* focus on the Palestinian struggle.”

    Key words here are “unhealthy” and “exposure”. Also one would think that people would mention the fact that the Shaykh is a Sunni Sufi of the Naqshbandiyya Sufi Order and how that factors into his conclusions.

    “The only thing I could find on this “study” was a Jihad Watch link reporting the findings of the Mapping Sharia Project. The Jihad Watch article reports that “An undercover survey of more than 100 mosques and Islamic schools in America has exposed widespread radicalism, including the alarming finding that 3 in 4 Islamic centers are hotbeds of anti-Western extremism…””

    I don’t know about you but when i hear of infiltrations into and undercover operations in mosques by Islamophobes, my BS meter self-destructs because the reading is too high. They really expect us to believe that someone who hates Muslims, could fake being Muslim long enough to fool real Muslims, and then overhear conversations that indicate “radicalism”. Besides the fact that words and phrase like “extremist”, “moderate”, “radical” and “Anti-Westrn extrremism” are defined through an hyper-Islamophobic prismatic understanding of the terms, I know that in the two masjids i attend if someone new shows up and starts talking that “jihadi bullshit”, as we call it, we get very suspicious. I wonder if it isn’t the same in other masjids.

    Allahu A’lam
    ————–

    “This sacred knowledge shall be borne by reliable authorities from each generation, who will preserve it from the distortions of extremists, the plans of the corrupt and the false explanations of the ignorant.” (Narrated mursal by Al-Bayhaqi in Kitab al-Madkhal on the authority of Ibrahim bin ‘Abd al-Rahman al-’Udhri.)

  • MrIslamAnswersBack

    Man, loonwatch, I gotta give it to you guys. Thorough is all I can say.

  • AJ

    As if this short fat ugly midget scum has personally visited all the 80% mosques in USA.

  • Dawood

    Spencer is looking (and sounding) a bit worn. I guess hustling to make a dollar in the Islamophobesphere isn’t as easy as it once was. Keep up the great work Reza Aslan and Loonwatch!

  • NassirH

    I’ve visited at least a dozen mosques in the United States and none of them were radicalized. This is another absurd claim Spencer believes he can exploit by repeating constantly, which of course is simply his modus operandi.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_09R4odVgJw4/SgltdnG2EbI/AAAAAAAABc8/EoUt_KqHvzs/s1600-h/Picture+65.png

  • JD

    Democrat Announces Alternate Hearings On U.S. Muslims

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/23/democrat-announces-altern_n_839787.html

    By Richard Yeakley
    Religion News Service

    WASHINGTON (RNS) Barely two weeks after House Republicans held hearings on the threat posed by radicalized American Muslims, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat announced his own hearings on threats to American Muslims’ civil rights.

    Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., made no mention of the March 10 hearings by the House Homeland Security Committee that reduced the first Muslim elected to Congress to tears.

    Instead, Durbin cited a spike “in anti-Muslim bigotry,” including the burning of Qurans and an increase in hate crimes and hate speech toward Muslims. Durbin will convene the hearings on March 29 as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

    “During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance,” said Durbin, the assistant Senate majority leader, in announcing the hearings on Tuesday (March 22).

    “It is important for our generation to renew our founding charter’s commitment to religious diversity and to protect the liberties guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.”

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which helped lead the opposition to the House hearings convened by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., welcomed the change in tone from the other end of Capitol Hil

  • Awesome

    “witch hunt” – an intensive effort to discover and expose disloyalty, subversion, dishonesty, or the like, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.

    In modern usage, it refers to the act of seeking and persecuting any perceived enemy, particularly when the search is conducted using extreme measures and with little regard to actual guilt or innocence. It is used whether or not it is sanctioned by the government, or merely occurs within the “court of public opinion”, and often involves moral panic, mass hysteria and lynching.

    It seems that Gadaffney, Yershalooni, etc. however, want to take the extra step and make it state-sanctioned.

  • By these standards, there is an unhealthy degree of Nashville influence on Southern Baptist chuches in America. A significant portion of the literature used in these churches is published by Broadman Press, sure evidence of the radical nature of these congregations!

  • TheDemiprist

    Nicely done Rouss.

  • Awesome

    Spencer, Gaffney, etc. will always make big claims about Muslims and Islam, but are always going to be lacking with the specifics and the details. They claim “radicalism” and “extremism” without objectively defining either term, and without objectively defining what constitutes either. They claim their is a problem, yet they can’t define the problem properly. So what sensible solution could their possibly be to solving such an undefined phantom problem? Not surprisingly, their solution is nothing more than a “witch hunt”.

  • Dawood

    Does Spencer accept Shaykh Hisham Kabbani’s words on other issues? Say, when the Shaykh convincingly shows that Islam as a religious tradition is not violent, not extreme and rejects extremist interpretations?

    That would definitely be interesting to find out, especially as Shaykh Kabbani cites more solid evidence than his assertion, quoting from the religious tradition etc.

  • Pingback: Spencer’s Radicalized Mosque Claim Gets Debunked | Spencer Watch()

  • Mumija

    There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics. What an absoulte fail on spencers part and he has the audacity to call himself a scholar. Great aritcle Rousseau 🙂

  • mindy1

    There seems to be little evidence of major radicalism-those numbers are an insult to REAL scientific studies.

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