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Posted on Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

Controversial 'Jihad Watch' blogger headlines Islam debate at Eastern Michigan University

By Sven Gustafson

Eastern Michigan University played host Saturday to a controversial debate over whether Islam is a religion of peace that featured an author whose anti-Islam writings have attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights groups, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.

Robert Spencer, director of the blog Jihad Watch, appeared at the daylong conference that drew more than 500 people. He debated Shadid Lewis, regional director of the Muslim Debate Initiative, who said he agreed to participate out of a need to respond to Spencer and other critics of Islam.

Himself a Roman Catholic, Spencer is the author of 12 books — including two New York Times bestsellers — and has led seminars on Islam and jihad for the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the United States Central Command, among other governmental organizations.

His work has drawn criticism as being Islamaphobic, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has named him to its "Anti-Muslim Inner Circle."

The event was sponsored by Ann Arbor-based Catholic station Ave Maria Radio.

Read the Freep story here.



Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

I wonder if a public discussion could lead to any change in national policy. People have the Freedom of Speech and yet this freedom may not decide the policies pursued by the State. The threat of Jihad looks very insignificant when we compare it with the political ideology imposed by Mao Tse-tung. Never before in human history has a political leader unleashed such massive forces against the system that he created. Mao had manipulated his own Communist Party and the people to push his personal agenda with no concern for human values or human dignity. Mao's disastrous Great Leap Forward policy killed about 30 million people. Tibetans have not yet recovered from the pain, and suffering caused by the Cultural Revolution. This Free Nation must debate about its friendly relations with Communist China. I wonder if people have the moral courage to speak the truth.

Jaime Magiera

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

If folks aren't familiar with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, it's worth checking out. The ICPJ is an organization of people across all faiths working together towards the common goal of a more peaceful, just world.

Jaime Magiera

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Uhhh... you mean like how Saudi Arabian King Abdullah promoted the "Religions for Peace" project? or his Interfaith Dialog conference? or his creation of the "World Interfaith Harmony Week", which is recognized by the United Nations? You need to stop speaking from bias, but from facts.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

Too bad groups like that don't exist in places like Saudi Arabia.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

Any "religion" that asks its members to kill any past members who have chosen otherwise should be labeled a terrorist group for good reason. Sadly Islam seems to believe in tolerance when it goes their way, otherwise it isn't acceptable.

Jaime Magiera

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 5:18 a.m.

There is no such thing as the "official position" of the Muslim world. You're talking about millions of millions of people in various groups and sects. There is no doubt that honor killings and acts of vengeance happen in Muslim and Christian faiths (and every other belief system). However, if you do the math, it is by far the minority.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

This is still the "official position" in many parts of the Muslim world. If you leave the faith you should be killed. Just because it doesn't happen here when the Muslim community is only a few % of the population doesn't mean anything. Honor killings by Muslims happen here and if history is any judge will continue to happen.

Dog Guy

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

Greg, does that include our Christian president?

Jaime Magiera

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

That's weird Greg, becauseI live in Michigan, where there are between 150,000 to 200,000 Muslims. I don't see any Christians being killed by Muslims. I don't see any Christians being harassed by Muslims. In fact, just in Ann Arbor alone, I see many Muslim and Christian holy buildings within blocks of each other. I see many Muslims and Christians working together, doing business together and having fun together. There are extremists in every religion who call for attacks against unbelievers. However, those extremists are the minority. Most people just want to get by in life with a little peace of mind and joy.

Geoff Larcom

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

This was an interesting event, and it might have been fruitful for to cover this vs. reprinting the Free Press story. Many of the viewpoints expressed Saturday were nuanced and sophisticated. There were a variety of experts on BOTH sides of the issue, and the large, respectful crowd showed strong appreciation for each viewpoint for for the speakers' presence at the event.

Julie Baker

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.

We wish that we had been able to cover this event, too, but there were some scheduling conflicts.

Geoff Larcom

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Last sentence should read: "and the large, respectful crowd showed strong appreciation for each viewpoint and for the speakers' presence at the event."


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 4:12 a.m.

Thank you Ave Maria Radio and Al Kresta for your hard work in bringing this open debate to our area.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:59 a.m.

Listening to Christians and Muslims debate about whose religion is more evil would be like listening to Hitler and Stalin criticize each others human rights records.

Jaime Magiera

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 5:13 a.m.

metrichead, I disagree. The evidence is in the daily actions of people of faith. Every day, many people are inspired by their faith and religious belief systems to do good deeds, work hard, etc. Most people of faith don't belong to mega-churches. Most people of faith are rather humble about their beliefs and choose to demonstrate them through action. Religious and spiritual beliefs have given us guidelines for how to live our lives. At the most base level, outside of the metaphysical aspects, religion and spirituality provide parables and fables to guide people. The questions of morals, ethics, etc. are certainly not absolutely quantifiable, but they are worth asking.


Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

Jamie, religion doesn't have a "few bad apples." The infection is at the root of the tree, spoiling the fruit altogether. (I'm Irish, I could've said the "blight" and gone with the potato metaphor - but that'd be a little TOO Irish). Anyway, my point is, all those good deeds don't need to be propped up by religion. I can't prove or disprove the existence of God, so I'm not an atheist. But religions attempt to answer questions we can't possibly know, like if there is one, and what's his/her/its/their word? You can't. I can't. If the megachurches and supermosques of the world were really in to charity, they'd hold sermons in a box and tear those monstrosities down brick by brick and give them straight to the poor. And they'd pay taxes which would fund fire departments, roads, etc.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

OLDTIMER3, Muslims do those things. It's just that they only do them for people who are Muslim.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

Clown - at least the catholic church has condemned what happened; homosexuals, non-believers, and women are still persecuted daily in the name of Allah...............


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

If I could vote this up a 1000 times, I would. The problem with most religions are that they are so focused on what's wrong with the others, that they ignore their own faults and history. Christianity is certainly partly responsible for the genocide of millions of aboriginal Americans, whether directly, or indirectly, via "God's manifest destiny."

Jaime Magiera

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

*faith, not face. Speech Recognition is an imperfect thing.

Jaime Magiera

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

I think it's safe to say that in every religion, there are greedy, narcissistic people who take advantage of others. Likewise, in every religion there are people who are caring, nurturing and attempting to help others. Writing off any religion because of the few bad apples does a huge disservice to potential allies in making the world a better place. Critique those who abuse others under the guise of their faith. Give thanks to those who, inspired by their face, perform good acts.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

@OLDTIMER, Right, because if you haven't heard about it, it must not exist. Have you ever sought out this information? A quick google of "Ann Arbor Mosques" and a click on the very first link has led me to; the Ann Arbor Muslim community provides monetary assistance to those who require it. And the Muslim youths in this group engage in much community service. Those two examples were just found in the first 5 minutes of looking, and only at one group. I would encourage you to continue the search.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

When have you ever heard anything about Muslims helping feed and cloth the hungry and homeless in this world?


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

I would like the speaker to debate some kids that were raped by Catholic priests, and then debate the Bishops that knew about it and covered it up for DECADES. But, that might make me a "hater" for pointing this out. No one expects an Inquisition! Chief weapon? Fear...

Jay Thomas

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

The SPLC is a fraud. They continue to raise money when they are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars and haven't gone to court (as they claim) for decades. Not to mention completely ignoring bigotry and intolerance from left wing groups.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

I should have been more clear. I'm talking about the Klan. They raise money on that basis and haven't done anything for decades. Even then all they did was the get the deed to some worthless building in a civil trial. Morris Dees was actually a Klan lawyer who saw that the winds had shifted direction and so he started this group in order to make a nice living. They raise more money than they will ever spend (including from the gullible people in my own family). They have no interest in the violent occupy wall street group for what they did in Oakland or breaking in and trashing Republican offices. No interest in the guys with anti-racist links who wanted to blow up bridges and got caught after targeting Rahm Emmanuel. No interest in Muslim terrorism. They are only interested in white power groups, militias and anyone they view as being anti-immigrant (especially illegal immigration like the Minutemen). They had to be kicked dragging and screaming to finally list the nation of Islam as a hate group.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

"misinformed, at best." You are being absurdly generous. Its a lie, plain and simple. People this him do this constantly - purposely spread all manner of false information with the hope that some of it will stick. Even if all of it is proven false, the accumulated weight of constant charges tends to cause many people to eventually figure that something evil must be afoot. Fire where there is smoke, and all that. This is evil propaganda, and the modern American right is famous for it.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

I quick check on-line would show JAY that he is misinformed, at best. Dockery, et al., v Epps, et al. Agenda Area(s): Mississippi Date Filed: 05/30/2013 M.C. v. Aaronson Agenda Area(s): Children at Risk Date Filed: 05/14/2013 Jane Doe #1, et al., v. Rich Hobson, et al. Agenda Area(s): Immigrant Justice Date Filed: 02/07/2013


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

Which left wing groups should they label as hate groups? If one part of your story is false, the court lie, I have to question all of it.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 8:50 a.m.

Haven't gone to court in decades? Try less than a week ago: You need to get off your fact-free diet.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 3:46 a.m.

I've supported the SPLC for decades. The truth is this organization has exposed perpetrators of hate crimes and has consistently (and recently) fought and won many legal cases. as well as developing and promoting effective school programs promoting tolerance and understanding. The organization is known for financial integrity, effective action and dedicated pursuance of fairness, justice and tolerance despite threats and risks to themselves.

Superior Twp voter

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 3:21 a.m.

"The SPLC is a fraud. Not to mention completely ignoring bigotry and intolerance from left wing groups". Bingo. Spot on.


Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

As long as EMU agrees to host anti Christian speakers I see no issue with this. And that goes for any religion.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

They hosted both sides, get your facts straight................

Tim Hornton

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

Ugh, if you take classes there you will find many of the professors can't stomach Christains and their beliefs that don't agree with theirs. I heard one say in a grad class that all conservatives were weird. That may or may not be true, I know a lot of non weird ones myself so I took it as intolerant but who was I to judge a class I paid $1500 for LOL

Ivor Ivorsen

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.

Readers should note that Robert Spencer was very recently banned from entering the UK and taking part in a rally of the of the extreme far-right group the English Defense League (EDL). The British Home Office commented on his banning: "We can confirm that Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are subject to an exclusion decision … We condemn all those whose behaviours and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form." (source: The Guardian, 6/26/2013) It should be further noted that the EDL group that Mr. Spencer planned on addressing has been implicated in vandalism of mosques in Britain, intimidation of British Muslims, and frequent acts of street violence.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 2:10 a.m.

The UK also banned a popular US radio host from English soil because of his "radical" views and supposed violent leanings against Islam (which did not exist except in the head of a liberal English bureaucrat). So, apparently in the UK you can't express views that don't sit well with the government, unless you are a radical Islamist who hates Jews and Christians (and then it is hands off).

Usual Suspect

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 1:55 a.m.

"Will EMU be inviting David Duke anytime soon?" Why do you ask that? EMU didn't invite Spencer.

Steven Taylor

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

You realize that MLK was also considered a radical and an extremist in his own time by his own government right. Along with Malcolm X... etc.. The Brits have become slaves to the nanny state anyhow.


Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

David Irving was not prosecuted in Britain. He had the gall to sue for libel in Britain an American academic who had listed him as a Holocaust denier in a scholarly book. In Britain, libel extends to any statement that may damage a reputation, even if it is true. The judge threw out the case on the basis that Irving is a Nazi apologist who has no reputation left, and had him pay costs. Irving then went on a lecture tour in continental Europe. He was prosecuted in Austria for Holocaust denial (Germany and Austria, among others, have made that a crime, in understandable repentance). He spent six months in jail.

Ivor Ivorsen

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

Exactly! But we don't invite those guys with the bloody knives in London to a debate on a stage at EMU--why? Because they are extremists who advocate and commit violence. Mr. Spencer chose to appear at a rally of extremists who not only advocate violence, but frequently carry it out--but somehow it is okay to give him a stage and a microphone at EMU. Explain to me why that is okay with you.

Tim Hornton

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

Like those extreme Muslims who hacked up that UK soldier on the street in England. I doubt spencer has ever even advocated violence but he stirs the pot.

Ivor Ivorsen

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 10:44 p.m.

a2citizen: I was merely pointing out that Mr. Spencer has been identified as an extremist with extremist associations by the British government. While I don't agree with the exclusion order, in much the same way I don't necessarily agree with the British prosecution of Holocaust denier David Irving, I do understand the revulsion the British might have to such hate-mongers. Mr. Spencer and Mr. Irving are certainly entitled to express their repulsive opinions, we are under no obligation to give them a platform. Will EMU be inviting David Duke anytime soon?


Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 10:13 p.m.

I assume you have never been to Speaker's Corner.

Usual Suspect

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

I don't agree with the opinions of this Spencer guy, but unlike the people of tolerance and keepers of the one and only allowed opinion on every issue (the left), I welcome open dialog an dam not afraid of it.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:18 p.m.

I never knew only (the left) allowed once side to be heard. Perhaps you missed the GOP passing, or trying to pas, laws that restrict people from using Sharia Law in personal contracts? Or "Free speech zones" set up by the former GOP president? Or the House holding hearings on birth control, with an all male panel? Or Andrew Shirvill? Shall I go on...?


Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 8 p.m.

Thanks to the authors of the First Amendment, we can have have brisk & thought-provoking dialog in this country about such things. Thanks to both sides for showing up and debating!!

Tim Hornton

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

I've read a lot books on this from ex-Muslims from the middle east. A guy named "Mark Gabriel" was by far the best auther. He is from Egypt and was a prof. Athe top Univ and had the Koran memorized by age 12. Long story short he questioned Islam and became a Christian. His father tried killing him and he had to change his name and move to Florida just so other Muslims would not kill him. He depicts specific verses in the Koran and the history of Islam to make his point that modern terrorists are following Islam but he insists most Muslims are loving people and are not radical. His books are very enlightening and gave a good historical account issues regarding terrorism, Muslim women, and Islam and the Jews. This guy is a scholar and objective.... In short a must read for this modern issue facing the world.

Tim Hornton

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 10:58 p.m.

Thanks Linda. Mr. Gabriel was also a chaplin in the Egyptian army and had a brother captured by Israel in one of their wars. He has a great background and it was interesting his change of heart for the jews over many years

Linda Peck

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

Tim Horton, thanks for the information. I will take a look at this.

Linda Peck

Sun, Aug 11, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

So glad you brought this to the attention of readers. I was quite interested that this event took place at EMU. I have wondered why it is that while we are receiving "incoming" from islamic type thought-made weaponry, comparisons are often made to the christian crusades for example. It is the same type of argument that descendants from slaves should be paid retribution by descendants of slave owners, or something like that. How can we change the past? We can move forward with enlightened minds and hearts. That is the only way forward. An eye for an eye leaves both sides blinded. Let's live right now and fix right now. That is enough to do.