By Sophia Iliadi, VT Athens
Throughout human history, religion has always gone hand in hand with violence. The martyrs of the first Christians, Crusades, Inquisition, St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, jihadism – these are just few examples of religious identity becoming a reason for murder. In today’s world, faith is a personal choice so less people suffer from their confession. Anyway, there are always those willing to fill their pockets by breeding hatred.
“The author of eighteen books (including two NYT bestsellers) and hundreds of articles, lecturer, expert and US agencies consultant on jihad and Islamic terrorism. His work has aroused the ire of the foes of freedom and their dupes, he has been invited by name to convert to Islam by a senior member of al-Qaeda and has been banned by the British government from entering the United Kingdom,” that’s what Robert Spencer wrote about himself at JihadWatch.org, a blog founded by him in 2003. The ‘About’ section also features the remarks of Spencer’s supporters and foes. Eye-catching. Emotional. Provocative. Robert’s tweets are about Muslims’ violence and the “leftists'” attempts to silence the ones like him, e.g. he performs as a showman trying to draw as much attention to his person as possible.
Spencer quite successfully cashes in on his views. Having promoted his project fairly enough (he has more than 100 thousand followers in Twitter and some 25 thousand on YouTube), its director sells books (their price at Amazon varies from $1 to $87), delivers lectures and provides paid expertise to various organizations. But the lion’s share of Jihad Watch’s revenue is channeled by sponsors, especially by David Horowitz Freedom Center. As found by Politico in 2010, in three years the Center granted the organization almost a million dollars. Moreover, in 2012 Jihad Watch declared the revenue of $492,000, and in 2013 it was $347,000.
A recent scandal showed that money means a lot for Robert. In August, MasterCard and several fundraising services banned Spencer’s accounts used for financing a new video studio claiming they cannot proceed payments related to hate and violence. When it happened, director of Jihad Watch accused the “left” of trying to silence him.
It could seem that a “jihad lobby” or “leftists” are striving to hide the truth about Islam and groundlessly blame Spencer for igniting hatred. But in July 2011, the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik killed 77 people (including 33 children) in Oslo and on the nearby island of Utoya. In his 1,500-page manifest, Breivik cited Robert Spencer 64 times. Jihad Watch director tried to vindicate himself by comparing the massacre in Norway to the mass murder committed by Charles Manson who claimed that he had heard an order to kill in “Helter Skelter” song by the Beatles (later the post was removed). However, the thing is that the British band’s song contains nothing that can urge anyone to kill people of this or that group, while Spencer claims Islam to be a threat to the “free world.”
So, what could unite a businessman, making money by igniting hatred, with orthodox organizations and their subsidiaries? Looks like it’s a desire to discredit Islamic states with Christian minorities.
According to sources close to the Order of St. Andrew, which claims to be defending the interests of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – the leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians, the organization collaborates with Spencer (who is a Catholic by the way). In particular, he writes some of official statements signed by Dr. Anthony Limberakis, the National Commander of archons (as the Order members call themselves). Apart from that, he is responsible for the content of ChristianPersecution.com, the archons’ website on the oppression of Christians around the world. The primary goal of the Order and the website is to protect the rights of the Patriarchate in Turkey. Robert Spencer is one of the best candidates for this job.
As Spencer says, his grandparents come from the town of Tsesme (Turkish ﾇeşme) in Asia Minor, not far from Izmir. The Turkish authorities forced them to leave the country under the threat of Islamization, which may be the reason for Robert’s negative attitude to Turkish politicians. He believes that Erdogan implements an oppressive Islamic policy which negatively affects the religious minorities, including Orthodox Christians.
In March 2017, director of Jihad Watch was a guest speaker at Archons Lenten Retreat in Southampton talking about the dangers of Islam.
Archons leader Dr. Anthony Limberakis commands not just a club of wealthy Greek Americans but a unity of laity interfering in the affairs of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, a body representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the US. Limberakis, several high-ranking archons and Protopresbyter Alexander Karloutsos are playing behind-the-scenes games in an attempt to topple Archbishop Dimitrios. They are trying to influence the Synod (council of hierarchs) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to appoint Metropolitans Elpidophoros Lambriniadis of Bursa or Emmanuel Adamakis of France as the primate of the Archdiocese.
Does the Ecumenical Patriarch approve of the Order’s activity? It’s not an idle question since Spencer’s involvement is not officially declared. Maybe His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew should ask Limberakis about the collaboration between archons and Jihad Watch director and the intrigues against their Archbishop? Hasn’t the Order gone too deep into politics?