On 25 October the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a ‘Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists‘. The guide includes a list of fifteen people, two of whom have caused a great deal of controversy – Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ahnaf Kalam launched a Change.org petition a week ago to have their names removed from the list, which has already garnered over 10,000 signatures!
I wrote a post in support of Maajid Nawaz on 1 November, and yesterday posted one in support of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The same day I wrote the post supporting Maajid Nawaz, I emailed the SPLC directly:
In the past I have been a great admirer of SPLC’s work opposing racism and supporting civil rights. However, I am very disappointed in your recent action of including Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali on your ‘Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists’.
I feel this must have been done without an awareness of the work both do in support of Muslims and wider human rights. There are authoritarian leftists who oppose them and have done much to smear their names, but I would hope that an organization with the reputation for integrity that the SPLC has would have done their research and realized this is the case, and looked only at the facts.
I recently wrote about the case of Maajid Nawaz on my blog, and the post has received nothing but support for Nawaz and opposition to SPLC’s decision. I hope to do one related to Ayaan Hirsi Ali too. In the comments section, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has also received extensive praise.
My post can be seen here: https://www.heatherhastie.com/nick-cohen-adds-his-voice-to-the-defence-of-maajid-nawaz/
I would ask that you reconsider your decision to include Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali on your list of anti-Muslim extremists. Neither fits this description and they should not have such an appellation attached to them.
Two days later I received this response:
Dear Ms. Hastie,
Thank you for writing in about the SPLC’s report, “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.”
We understand that not everyone in this report is equal in their rhetoric and positions on Islam. However, its purpose was to point out that many people who regularly appear on television news shows as Islamic experts routinely espouse a wide range of falsehoods that depict Muslims as intent on undermining American constitutional freedoms or prone to support terrorism.
Promulgating misinformation – whether intentional or not – pollutes democratic discourse, makes it more difficult for citizens to cast informed votes, and limits the ability to participate meaningfully in public debate.
When people use their public platform to make false claims, such as Muslims being responsible for “70% of the violence in the world today,” they give credence to fringe activists and politicians who are pushing extreme anti-Islam policies, such as banning all Muslims from immigrating to the United States.
Remarks like these are not thoughtful criticisms of Islam — they are factually incorrect statements that some people will accept as fact and, as a result, have a distorted view of all Muslim people.
We take your criticism seriously, and will take it under advisement when writing on this topic in the future.
The only claim from their Field Guide that they have reproduced here is the one relating to Ayaan Hirsi Ali about “Muslims being responsible for ‘70% of the violence in the world today’.” As I showed in my post in defence of Hirsi Ali, that figure has a reputable source. Hirsi Ali was not using her “public platform to make false claims” as they contend.
There are people who who use their “public platform to make false claims,” but they do not include Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Maajid Nawaz. What they are both doing is making a point of having an open an honest conversation with all comers about the reality of the situation.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali reiterated this herself in the podcast she did with Sam Harris recorded on the very day that this dreadful list came out. In ‘The Borders of Tolerance‘ Hirsi Ali and Harris talked about how some have managed to take advantage of the political systems in the West to force a form of multiculturalism that denies some of the genuine issues that come with integrating people from a closed culture into one that is open.
They noted how groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have managed to dominate the discourse. They gave the example of CNN going to CAIR whenever they wanted a comment from the Muslim perspective rather than people like Asra Nomani. According to Wikipedia:
Critics of CAIR have accused it of having ties to Hamas. Federal Judge Jorge A. Solis said that there was evidence to show that CAIR has an association with the Holy Land Foundation, Islamic Association for Palestine, and Hamas. However, Judge Solis acknowledged that this evidence predates the official designation of these groups as terrorist organizations.
Critics of CAIR, including six members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, have alleged ties between the CAIR founders and Hamas. The founders, Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad, had earlier been officers of the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) and were described by a former FBI analyst and a US Treasury Department intelligence official as “intimately tied to the most senior Hamas leadership.” Both Ahmad and Awad participated in a meeting held in Philadelphia on October 3, 1993, and this meeting involved senior leaders of Hamas, the IAP, and the Holy Land Foundation (which was designated in 1995 by Executive Order, and later designated in court, as an organization that had raised millions of dollars for Hamas). Based on electronic surveillance of the meeting, the FBI reported that “the participants went to great length and expended much effort hiding their association with the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas].”
The attitude demonstrated in the response from SPLC is, in my opinion, straight out of the Authoritarian Left’s playbook. No one is allowed to say anything bad about Muslims, even if it’s true, in case an anti-Muslim bigot repeats the information in a discriminatory attack.
The SPLC also appears concerned that people will not be able to cast informed votes if they listen to Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali made it clear in the podcast with Sam Harris that she had deliberately kept away from referring to the election, but her comments indicated that she has a very negative view of Donald Trump. Maajid Nawaz has made it clear in multiple fora that if he had a vote in the US election it would be for Hillary Clinton, including in an article in the Daily Beast, ‘When Powerful Men Play the Victim‘.
Perhaps the SPLC wants people to vote for Donald Trump in opposition to the view of Nawaz and Hirsi Ali?
In their email, they further say making any negative comments about Islam “pollutes the democratic discourse.” No. Just No.
What “pollutes democratic discourse” is shutting down voices, and preventing freedom of speech.
What “pollutes democratic discourse” is putting out lists of people to whom you would deny a platform.
What “pollutes democratic discourse” is not checking out the information you are given about people to see if it passes an integrity test for evidence.
What “pollutes democratic discourse” is using fatwas issued against people by Islamists (both Nawaz and Hirsi Ali) as evidence that they are anti-Muslim extremists.
What “pollutes democratic discourse” is not standing up for freedom of speech in the face of death threats from extremists, because if we all stand up for “democratic discourse” there will be too may of us for the extremists to kill.
What “pollutes democratic discourse” is thinking you’re the only one clever enough to made a proper judgment of the evidence, and therefore you have the right to tell everyone else what they should think.
(Actually, on the last one they might have a point given the number of USians who think Donald Trump is a man of high moral character. 🙂 )
So, obviously I didn’t get anywhere by contacting the SPLC. I’m undecided whether I should respond to their email. What do you think?
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I’m sure you’ve read up on the SPLC, but it’s basically a scam.
The founder, Morris Dees, was even named to the Direct Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame.
The article you linked to is sure eye-popping. I had no idea. Stephen Bright, publisher of the site and author of the article has impeccable credentials. No right-wing nut job he. Before all this s* with the “Field Guide” hit the fan, I’d been an uncritical supporter of the SPLC, even though something about the very name of the org. nagged at me because the image it conjured up (a bare-bones, grassroots, storefront activist lawyers’ office going to bat for poor people in the South)seemed increasingly at odds with what it had morphed into. Now I know why that something nagged at me.
Thanks. Eye-opening post!
SPLC appears to be an organisation that takes advantage of their public platform in the way they are accusing others of being in their field guide.
The irony! It hurts! 😎
You sent them a very fine message Heather. Unfortunately, it’s possible they never read it – just threw it in the stack with all the other complaints. Their letter back to you is clearly a form letter. I saw the same reply to another protest.
But, I’m very glad you sent it.
Why not write back and ask them why they think the IISS is not a fair source? I have no idea who the IISS is and whether they are in fact reputable, but since this is the basis of the SPLC response, they should have a view.
No, I don’t think you should reply to their response. Your original complaint was concise and articulate, and more correspondence will not change their attitude. It is far more effective for people to read all the wonderful posts and print articles written in defence of Maajid and Ayan. SPLC will not change their mind . Complaining more will be a waste of your time.
I also think there’s no talking to these people, but I do think it’s worth continuing to pursue this issue publicly. They make a good poster child for the authoritarian left’s failure to understand or support free speech, ignorance of basic issues confronting Muslims today, and inability to construct an argument.
I would not recommend you to send them another email. Your first email to them was sensible, and your posts here about this, which if they have any integrity at all they will have read provide watertight arguments to back up your positions.
Not surprised by the response. Next to be added to the list is “The Onion” because they make “factually incorrect statements that some people will accept as fact”, because they are too stupid to recognize satire.
I have to agree with others above, you received a form response, and sending any further content is a waste of time. They don’t lack information, they lack ethics.
I am in the minority in suggesting that you, at least, send them another note reminding them that you are not satisfied with their “response:” a copy of this post would be sufficient. It can’t hurt, and you might actually get someone to read it!!!
I think I probably will reply at least once. I’m not that good at letting this sort of thing go, and their response did annoy me rather a lot! (Could you tell? 🙂 )
The fact that they’ve developed a form letter to send to people about this says they must be getting a fair bit of push back, so maybe it’s a good idea to keep up the pressure.
The trouble with this sort of thing is they just absorb the pressure for a few days, and go back to normal. It reminds me of the umbrella protestors in Hong Kong. The Chinese central government largely ignores them knowing they can’t keep it up forever, and continue to break their promises re democracy.
Let em have it! It’s good stress relief too if they’ve pissed you off. You sent them a carefully reasoned and courteous letter and they answered with a form letter that ignored every single point you made. I assume they won’t change, so the next thing would be, I think, to make them uncomfortable and try to force a new response from them.
I also sent the SPLC an e-mail to express my disgust at this travesty. Other than having my name at the top, the reply I received was word-for-word, the exact same worthless, content free horse ordure.
Judging by the fact that they have made a standardized/form reply, they must have gotten a hell of a lot of flak for this blunder.
That makes me want to reply more, as it says to me they’re not taking complaints seriously.
People need to get over the form response. Any org that receives a lot of mail will do this. It’s not sinister. The alternative is to not respond. The problem is the content which I agree deserves follow up but not because it came in a form letter.
Quick, somebody warn SPLC never to accept an invitation to go fishing at Heather’s compound on Lake Tahoe.
Tom Hagen: “You won, Michael. Do you feel you have to wipe everybody out?”
Michael Corleone: “I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom, just my enemies.”
You think I’m bad, you should meet my mother! 😀
On 1 Nov. Ahnaf Kalam, re his change.org petition, states:
“Today, I was informed that the Southern Poverty Law Center has no intention of removing Maajid Nawaz from their list. Heidi Beirich, a director of the Intelligence Project at the SPLC, maintains that Nawaz will not be removed because his rhetoric consists of “conspiracy theories” which are problematic, and incite anti-Muslim bigotry. Her statements are as follows:
“That kind of talk is not what we want people to discuss when discussing Muslims. These are conspiracy theories and it’s dangerous to portray every Muslim essentially as an infiltrator,”“My problem with that is he’s muddying that image with these conspiracy theories, so it’s hard for me to believe that that is his goal when he’s doing these other things,”
“He doesn’t sound much different from Pamela Geller or David Horowitz or some of these other people about how Muslims are infiltrating everywhere. So my suggestion would be, if that’s what he’s trying to do, then he should ditch the conspiracy theories.”
In this regard, it is worthy of note that in 2014 the SPLC placed Ben Carson on its “Extremist Watch List” because of his views on gay marriage and associating homosexuality with paedophilia. In 2015, they removed his name from the list and tendered a fawning, sycophantic apology https://www.splcenter.org/news/2015/02/11/splc-statement-dr-ben-carson.
Speculation, of course, but after reading the article J.A.C. linked to, I suspect that they must have been put under some kind of (undoubtedly economic) pressure from unnamed persons or groups, which made it politic for them not only to remove Carson’s name from the list, but give boot-licking praise to this dangerous man with crackpot ideas, who, if president, would have tried to institute an apocalyptic Christian theocracy. If the SPLC had the courage of its convictions, Carson’s name would remain on the list. I think this exposes their mercenary motives and the hypocrisy of their morals.
No way in the world the SPLC would act in a similar manner re Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and re-evaluate their condemnation. In fact, this act will surely fatten their coffers. And if the SPLC had the true courage of its convictions it would place the writer Alice Walker on its list of Anti-Semitic extremists because of her public espousal of the most lurid and delusional anti-Semitic beliefs imaginable and her public espousal of the crackpot conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who is on one of their watch lists. But Walker is a revered figure worldwide, and if the SPLC did that, it would be economic suicide. Another example of their bankrupt morality. To use a biblical phrase, the SPLC is nothing but a whitened sepulchre.
Beyond this, I’m not a psycho- or sociolinguist but there is something exceedingly peculiar about Ms. Beirich’s language, and a lot of the language on the SPLC website. It’s strangely simplistic, curiously idiomatic, and squishy. I wonder if this is her natural mode of expression or if this is in some way calculated and if so, why and who’s the audience. I wish that a George Lakoff would weigh in on this.
My apologies to J.A.M. I inadvertently wrote J.A.C, when I meant J.A.M.
I saw that update on the Change.org website. It’s very depressing.
And if they’re going to take Ben Carson off despite his views and comments on marriage equality, they’re going to have to take off the ghastly Family Research Council too. They make almost exactly the same comments.
I agree it would be great to see a language analyst look at their website. Even if it’s the natural way they talk people, especially your intelligent lawyerly types, naturally absorb what types of language have a particular effect and use it unconsciously. So even if it’s not deliberate, I think it does reflect on their character.
I think a response pointing out that the one specific issue they address and claim is bogus has a reputable source, with some backup to support that, would be well worthwhile. I agree that it is extremely unlikely that such a response from you will move the SPLC off their position even a tiny bit, but if you put it all on the internet, as you’ve done so far, then other people will see it and it might thereby have some positive affect.
Something else that I notice, is that normally the authoritarian left (as well as decent people trying to do the right thing) uses the term “Islamophobia”, conflating criticism of Islam with attacks on Muslims. They refuse to acknowledge a distinction between Islam and Muslims themselves. Until now. Suddenly now the are willing to make the distinction and use “anti-Muslim” rather than “Islamophobic” for Ayaan & Maajid, because that term would make them look like there were indeed criticizing Islam.
Unbelievably, apparently even David Lean has tweeted in favour of Maajid Nawaz. Because of how closely the SPLC condemnation mirrored a hit piece against Nawaz that Lean wrote, I thought there might even have been some collusion there. I was obviously wrong there. For Lean to come out on Nawaz’s side is a big deal.
Who is David Lean? All I come up with is the dead film director and an athlete.
I expect she means Nathan Lean.
Yes I did. Sorry. Am I remembering correctly that Nathan Lean was the one who originally called Maajid Nawaz a “porch monkey?”
No that was Murtaza Hussain, but Nathan Lean is someone who wouldn’t support Maajid Nawaz if he thought there was good reason to believe he was anti-muslim.
That’s the one.
I use “Islamophobia” where it makes sense to do so, when people are demonstrating a fear of Islam, rather than racism for a particular group. Sam Harris, who is no racist, sometimes fits this description. I also know people who are happy to take Syrian refugees so long as they are Christians, but would ban all Muslims. No other word fits these people.
And one should note that that 70% is disproportionate.
Muslims constitute ‘only’ about a quarter of the world’s population. And the ones creating -or secretly* or openly supporting or apologising- the havoc, even less.
* [C.f. Kitman and Taqiyya (a Shia concept, but Sunni Islam allows it too, since condoned in the Scriptures, albeit only against ‘infidels’).
Although originaly meant (?, that is a matter of content) for saving one’s skin, it is generally allowed now, if it serves ‘Islam’. I think Reza Aslan may be a good example of the latter.
Much of it has become a bit like ‘lying for Jesus’, it seems, although the latter is not condoned by the Christian scriptures. But I guess I’m digressing.]
The dust has settled a bit. The GOP has stolen the US elections and the ‘civilised’ world will be ruled by Don the first.
“…falsehoods that depict Muslims as intent on undermining American constitutional freedoms or prone to support terrorism.” Now there is some conflation there.
Islamists (-ISTS) actually are intent on undermining not just American constitutional freedoms, but ‘western’ democratic values and states, according to their own words and actions, that is. And many an Islamist supports terrorism -if it targets non muslims (and even then).
Question is how sympathetic the wider Muslim population (and organisations) is to Islamism. That famous PEW research paper, which even excluded the more fanatic Islamic countries such as Saudi, shows ‘pretty much’.
Hence the claim that Islam is trying to undermine the secular West is far from a ‘falsehood’, it is kinda supported by the opinion of a wide swath of Muslims. Maajid and Ayaan, unlike Heidi, know what they are talking about. It is the likes of Heidi Beirich (never heard of her before, btw) that spread false information and bigotry, the standard ‘animal farm’ info of the struthious left.
And I think that CAIR has been exposed as an Islamist stooge, if I’m not mistaken?
Just a question, not an accusation or so, but has the SPLC some big funders from the Middle East?