Rick Perry and Sharia, and Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer posted an attack against me on this site regarding a series of articles I wrote last summer debunking the meme that Governor Rick Perry foisted "pro-Sharia" classroom materials on children in Texas schools. Although I hadn't planned to revisit the Perry/Sharia debate, the sheer nastiness of Spencer's attack has, in the words of Michael Corleone, "pulled me back in." 

As I'm a guest here on AT, I can't be as verbose as I am on my own site. What I'll do, though, is provide a brief overview of this manufactured controversy.

In 2008, Perry inked a deal with the Aga Khan Foundation to create the Muslim Histories and Culture Project (MHCP), the goal of which was to help Texas teachers create classroom lesson plans about Islam. It was a voluntary program in which teachers would attend a series of MHCP seminars, the end result of which would be the creation of lesson plans. The Aga Khan Foundation represents Ismaili Muslims, who follow a moderate, peaceful interpretation of Islam (a fact confirmed by experts on Islamic extremism from Daniel Pipes to Spencer himself).

In August, Salon's Justin Elliott ran a piece which claimed, with no factual backing, that the Perry/Khan deal suggests that Perry is the "pro-Sharia candidate." Elliott had previously accused Perry of being a "pro-porn candidate." These articles were nothing more than provocations -- attempts by a liberal to create friction among conservatives. And immediately, Pamela Geller took the bait. Within days, she was breathlessly proclaiming that Perry was introducing pro-Sharia materials into Texas schools. Geller offered no evidence beyond the Salon piece.

So here's where I came in. To me, it was clear that neither Salon nor Geller had any desire to actually examine the claim; both were merely using it for political purposes (Salon from the left, Geller from the right). So I thought I'd look into it myself.

Here's what I found:

The MHCP site contained three things: a mission statement, a series of abstracts detailing the seminars that the volunteer teachers would attend, and one complete lesson plan available for download, written by a teacher who had taken the seminars.

That lesson plan was written by Ronald Wiltse, a retired Texas history teacher. Mr. Wiltse runs a website that offers downloadable history lessons to homeschoolers. He's a self-described Christian Zionist with a great love of Israel, and the lesson plan he submitted to the MHCP -- which was the only lesson plan made available to teachers via the MHCP site -- is anti-Sharia, pro-Israel, and critical of Muslim history and culture (even Spencer calls the lesson plan "reasonably good").

I interviewed Mr. Wiltse (something that no one else had bothered to do). He told me that during the MHCP seminars, no one attempted to push a pro-Islamic agenda. The seminars were freewheeling exchanges of ideas, with no bias.

If the Perry/Sharia "debate" was about what materials were being used in public schools as a result of the MHCP program, I could now say, to the best of my knowledge, that the classroom materials were not pro-Sharia. I have no way of knowing how many other teachers submitted lesson plans to the MHCP as a result of having taken the seminars. What I can say is, Ronald Wiltse's lesson plan was the one that the MHCP chose to offer to teachers.

I soon discovered two things: Pam Geller doesn't like to be told she's wrong, and if Pam Geller's angry at you, Robert Spencer is, too. Geller -- displaying true class -- responded to my article by publicly calling me a "no-name asshat." Both she and Spencer claimed that the Wiltse lesson plan -- you know, the classroom material that was the end result of the MHCP seminars -- is irrelevant! They now claimed that what really matters is the description of the seminars!

Geller and Spencer purposely muddy the waters by confusing the abstracts of the seminars (which were only attended by the volunteer teachers) with the classroom materials that resulted from the seminars (the Wiltse lesson plan being the only one that was officially offered on the MHCP site). Spencer might believe that the training seminars were biased, but he never bothered to interview anyone who'd actually attended them, which is what someone who's genuinely interested in the truth of the matter would've done.

Spencer has suggested I'm a "paid" agent (for whom, he hasn't said). He devoted the bulk of his recent AT post to personal attacks against me, calling me as an "obscure blogger" with "no readership, no history, and no reputation for credibility," adding that "in June 2011, just before the Perry firestorm, (Stein's blog) had all of 179 visitors all month."

Not surprisingly, Spencer isn't showing great fidelity to the truth.

I'm certainly not "obscure." I co-run the Republican Party Animals (RPA). We've held events in L.A., Vegas, and D.C., featuring such speakers as Larry Elder, Rep. Thad McCotter, Frank Gaffney, Rep. Mike Kelly, Bill Whittle, Stephen Kruiser, Zo Rachel, Trevor Loudon, Sonja Schmidt, Tony Katz, Larry Greenfield, and many others.

In 2010, former Big Hollywood writer John Romano hired me as editor-in-chief of his website YesButHowever (YBH!). By the end of my tenure, we were beating Big Hollywood in the Technorati rankings (no small feat).

In 2011, I began my own blog, CounterContempt. My work has been featured on or cited by Big Journalism, Big Government, Commentary, RedState, Ace of Spades, Gateway Pundit, The Blaze, FrontPageMag, Pajamas Media, RightNetwork, Newsbusters, The History News Network, WND, The Investigative Project on Terrorism, Moonbattery, The Larry Elder Show, Eyeblast, Creeping Sharia, IslamistWatch, NewsReal Blog, Right Pundits, and even Geller's own Atlas Shrugs.

Spencer seems perplexed that such sites would carry the work of an "obscure" blogger. I fail to see the confusion. I not only have a reputation for credibility, but also for investigative reporting. When Southern California Edison hired a pro-suicide bombing Holocaust denial-advocate as their new in-house counsel, I was the one who broke the story. When a top NAACP official co-sponsored a pro-terrorism rally at which President Obama was repeatedly called the "n-word," I broke that one too. When I exposed a DOJ/DHS training video that instructs law enforcement officials to obey Sharia gender discrimination, even Pam Geller found room on her site for the work of this "no-name asshat." When I uncovered secret letters between Noam Chomsky and a Holocaust denier, FrontPageMag covered it twice (here and here). And if you want to hear Rep. John Conyers' speech at a conference aimed at curtailing First Amendment rights, my site is the only source.

Finally, regarding Spencer's claim that my site got only 179 visits in June, that's completely false. I average about 7,000 visits per month, but what Spencer neglected to mention is that I took a vacation from my blog over the summer, to work on the annual RPA summer event. I posted nothing between May 23 and August 16. But still, the visits for June were 1,740 (down from 7,306 in May). Spencer knew full-well that I was on vacation in June, as he had earlier replied to a post of mine in which I prominently mentioned it.

I thank American Thinker for allowing me this opportunity to set the record straight.

Robert Spencer posted an attack against me on this site regarding a series of articles I wrote last summer debunking the meme that Governor Rick Perry foisted "pro-Sharia" classroom materials on children in Texas schools. Although I hadn't planned to revisit the Perry/Sharia debate, the sheer nastiness of Spencer's attack has, in the words of Michael Corleone, "pulled me back in." 

As I'm a guest here on AT, I can't be as verbose as I am on my own site. What I'll do, though, is provide a brief overview of this manufactured controversy.

In 2008, Perry inked a deal with the Aga Khan Foundation to create the Muslim Histories and Culture Project (MHCP), the goal of which was to help Texas teachers create classroom lesson plans about Islam. It was a voluntary program in which teachers would attend a series of MHCP seminars, the end result of which would be the creation of lesson plans. The Aga Khan Foundation represents Ismaili Muslims, who follow a moderate, peaceful interpretation of Islam (a fact confirmed by experts on Islamic extremism from Daniel Pipes to Spencer himself).

In August, Salon's Justin Elliott ran a piece which claimed, with no factual backing, that the Perry/Khan deal suggests that Perry is the "pro-Sharia candidate." Elliott had previously accused Perry of being a "pro-porn candidate." These articles were nothing more than provocations -- attempts by a liberal to create friction among conservatives. And immediately, Pamela Geller took the bait. Within days, she was breathlessly proclaiming that Perry was introducing pro-Sharia materials into Texas schools. Geller offered no evidence beyond the Salon piece.

So here's where I came in. To me, it was clear that neither Salon nor Geller had any desire to actually examine the claim; both were merely using it for political purposes (Salon from the left, Geller from the right). So I thought I'd look into it myself.

Here's what I found:

The MHCP site contained three things: a mission statement, a series of abstracts detailing the seminars that the volunteer teachers would attend, and one complete lesson plan available for download, written by a teacher who had taken the seminars.

That lesson plan was written by Ronald Wiltse, a retired Texas history teacher. Mr. Wiltse runs a website that offers downloadable history lessons to homeschoolers. He's a self-described Christian Zionist with a great love of Israel, and the lesson plan he submitted to the MHCP -- which was the only lesson plan made available to teachers via the MHCP site -- is anti-Sharia, pro-Israel, and critical of Muslim history and culture (even Spencer calls the lesson plan "reasonably good").

I interviewed Mr. Wiltse (something that no one else had bothered to do). He told me that during the MHCP seminars, no one attempted to push a pro-Islamic agenda. The seminars were freewheeling exchanges of ideas, with no bias.

If the Perry/Sharia "debate" was about what materials were being used in public schools as a result of the MHCP program, I could now say, to the best of my knowledge, that the classroom materials were not pro-Sharia. I have no way of knowing how many other teachers submitted lesson plans to the MHCP as a result of having taken the seminars. What I can say is, Ronald Wiltse's lesson plan was the one that the MHCP chose to offer to teachers.

I soon discovered two things: Pam Geller doesn't like to be told she's wrong, and if Pam Geller's angry at you, Robert Spencer is, too. Geller -- displaying true class -- responded to my article by publicly calling me a "no-name asshat." Both she and Spencer claimed that the Wiltse lesson plan -- you know, the classroom material that was the end result of the MHCP seminars -- is irrelevant! They now claimed that what really matters is the description of the seminars!

Geller and Spencer purposely muddy the waters by confusing the abstracts of the seminars (which were only attended by the volunteer teachers) with the classroom materials that resulted from the seminars (the Wiltse lesson plan being the only one that was officially offered on the MHCP site). Spencer might believe that the training seminars were biased, but he never bothered to interview anyone who'd actually attended them, which is what someone who's genuinely interested in the truth of the matter would've done.

Spencer has suggested I'm a "paid" agent (for whom, he hasn't said). He devoted the bulk of his recent AT post to personal attacks against me, calling me as an "obscure blogger" with "no readership, no history, and no reputation for credibility," adding that "in June 2011, just before the Perry firestorm, (Stein's blog) had all of 179 visitors all month."

Not surprisingly, Spencer isn't showing great fidelity to the truth.

I'm certainly not "obscure." I co-run the Republican Party Animals (RPA). We've held events in L.A., Vegas, and D.C., featuring such speakers as Larry Elder, Rep. Thad McCotter, Frank Gaffney, Rep. Mike Kelly, Bill Whittle, Stephen Kruiser, Zo Rachel, Trevor Loudon, Sonja Schmidt, Tony Katz, Larry Greenfield, and many others.

In 2010, former Big Hollywood writer John Romano hired me as editor-in-chief of his website YesButHowever (YBH!). By the end of my tenure, we were beating Big Hollywood in the Technorati rankings (no small feat).

In 2011, I began my own blog, CounterContempt. My work has been featured on or cited by Big Journalism, Big Government, Commentary, RedState, Ace of Spades, Gateway Pundit, The Blaze, FrontPageMag, Pajamas Media, RightNetwork, Newsbusters, The History News Network, WND, The Investigative Project on Terrorism, Moonbattery, The Larry Elder Show, Eyeblast, Creeping Sharia, IslamistWatch, NewsReal Blog, Right Pundits, and even Geller's own Atlas Shrugs.

Spencer seems perplexed that such sites would carry the work of an "obscure" blogger. I fail to see the confusion. I not only have a reputation for credibility, but also for investigative reporting. When Southern California Edison hired a pro-suicide bombing Holocaust denial-advocate as their new in-house counsel, I was the one who broke the story. When a top NAACP official co-sponsored a pro-terrorism rally at which President Obama was repeatedly called the "n-word," I broke that one too. When I exposed a DOJ/DHS training video that instructs law enforcement officials to obey Sharia gender discrimination, even Pam Geller found room on her site for the work of this "no-name asshat." When I uncovered secret letters between Noam Chomsky and a Holocaust denier, FrontPageMag covered it twice (here and here). And if you want to hear Rep. John Conyers' speech at a conference aimed at curtailing First Amendment rights, my site is the only source.

Finally, regarding Spencer's claim that my site got only 179 visits in June, that's completely false. I average about 7,000 visits per month, but what Spencer neglected to mention is that I took a vacation from my blog over the summer, to work on the annual RPA summer event. I posted nothing between May 23 and August 16. But still, the visits for June were 1,740 (down from 7,306 in May). Spencer knew full-well that I was on vacation in June, as he had earlier replied to a post of mine in which I prominently mentioned it.

I thank American Thinker for allowing me this opportunity to set the record straight.