Type of site
|Registration||501(c)(3), non-profit organization|
|Created by||Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald|
|Launched||September 23, 2003|
|51,426 (April 2014[update])|
Jihad Watch is a blog affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center (an organisation described as being far-right by the Southern Poverty Law Center). Run by Catholic blogger Robert Spencer, it has been described as one of the main homes of the anti-Islamic, right-wing counterjihad movement on the internet.
According to the website, a theology of violent jihad, which denies non-Muslims and women equality, human rights, and dignity has been present throughout the history of Islam. Jihad Watch says that it is "dedicated to bringing public attention to the role that jihad theology and ideology plays in the modern world, and to correct popular misconceptions about the role of jihad and religion in modern-day conflicts."
The site features commentary by multiple editors, although its most notable and frequent publisher of content is Robert Spencer. It has been affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, as a subsidiary project. Dhimmi Watch was a blog on the Jihad Watch site, also maintained by Spencer, focusing on allegations of acts by non-Muslims in defence of the Muslim world.
The Horowitz Freedom Center has paid Spencer, as Jihad Watch's director, a $132,000 salary (2010). Jihad Watch has also received funding from donors supporting the Israeli right, and a variety of individuals and foundations, like Bradley Foundation and Joyce Chernick, wife of Aubrey Chernick.
Influence and stances
Most of the effective surveillance work tracking jihadi sites is being done not by the FBI or MI6, but by private groups. The best-known and most successful of those are Haganah ... SITE ... and Jihad Watch.
Jihad Watch (or Spencer, as director of Jihad Watch) has been quoted in, among other publications, The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, The Daily Mail, and the Toronto Sun. He is a frequent guest on news channels such as CNN and Fox News.
Jihad Watch said that the English Defence League (EDL) "deserve the support of all free people" and described its opponents in Unite Against Fascism as "fascist." Spencer has withdrawn his support as of June 2011. Arun Kundnani, research fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, groups Jihad Watch with other counterjihad blogs and calls them "paranoid conspiracy theorists", strongly accusing them of providing a false worldview which he writes has served as legitimisation of violence for far-right groups, such as the EDL.
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The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) called Jihad Watch an "Internet hate site" and claimed it is "notorious for its depiction of Islam as an inherently violent faith that is a threat to world peace." Guardian writer Brian Whitaker described Jihad Watch as a "notoriously Islamophobic website", while other critics such as Dinesh D'Souza, Karen Armstrong, and Cathy Young, pointed to what they see as "deliberate mischaracterizations" of Islam and Muslims by Spencer as inherently violent and therefore prone to terrorism. Spencer has denied such criticism.
Benazir Bhutto, the late Pakistani Prime Minister, in her book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, wrote that Spencer uses Jihad Watch to spread misinformation and hatred of Islam. She added that he presents a skewed, one-sided, and inflammatory story that only helps to sow the seed of civilizational conflict.
Response to criticism
Spencer has responded to accusations that Jihad Watch is Islamophobic by declaring the term "Islamophobe" a label, "a tool used by Islamic apologists to silence criticism." He says that his work is
"...dedicated to identifying the causes of jihad terrorism, which of course lead straight back into the Islamic texts. I have therefore called for reform of those texts... I have dedicated Jihad Watch to defending equality of rights and freedom of conscience for all people. That's Islamophobic? Then is the fault in the phobe, or in the Islam?"
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