Southern Poverty Law Center Puts Muslim Reformer and Ex-Muslim Atheist in “Field Guide”

ali-nawaz-splcIn a misguided attempt to protect Muslims from bigotry and harm, the venerable Southern Poverty Law Center has gone off the rails—so say former Muslims and moderate Muslims working for reform within their own communities.  The SPLC has a long history of fighting racism and holding public figures accountable for inciting violence. In 1981, their legal team bankrupted the United Klans of America after Klan leaders incited the racist murder of a young black man. But the group recently published a document that some say borders on their own version of racism and incitement.

At the heart of the controversy is a media blacklist under the title “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.”  The title itself is indisputably dehumanizing and indirectly threatening. “Field guides” typically describe plants and non-human animals, and the term is associated with hunting.  An online search brings up “2016 Hunting and Trapping Field Guide” and “Field Guide for Buck Deer” and “Field Guide: Duck Hunting the Skagit County Coastline.” The title may or may not constitute incitement, but it is at best surprising coming from an organization that has built its legacy by calling out dangerous innuendo.

But outcry against the list—including a petition that garnered 8000 signatures in three days—centers on the fact that the SPLC list of 15, which does include some deplorable racists also includes two well-known and widely respected (if controversial) critics of Islam, Aayan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz. Ali, is a former Dutch politician of Somali descent and a harsh critic of Islam whose foundation opposes honor killing, forced marriage and female genital cutting—which she faced in her own family and community. She recounts this history in her book, Infidel. Nawaz is a practicing Muslim reformer, founder of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank in London.

One Iran-based atheist who blogs under an assumed name, Kaveh Mousavi, for safety reasons, expressed how many former Muslims and reformers see Ali and Nawaz:

If only Ali was on this list, one could somehow squint and say they missed the point because of ignorance and lack of nuance. While I firmly believe she is a very important voice that shouldn’t be ignored, and while I think reading her quotes in context would show that when she used to say things like “there are no moderate Muslims” would show that ultimately her positions do not mean to paint all Muslims as bad (she has gotten much better at communicating nuance recently), I could be charitable and consider this an example of poor research.

But there’s no excuse when it comes to Nawaz. This is simply atrocious. This is simply poor arguments, and it simply equates being critical of Islam as being an anti-Muslim “extremist”. Nawaz is a Muslim himself, he is just an honest and ethical reformist who prioritizes reforming Islam over “saving face” for Islam.

Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist offered a glimpse of Ali’s story and provided context for some of her more provocative statements. Nawaz spoke to a Jewish media outlet, Tablet Magazine in response to the SPLC list, describing himself as a proud Muslim:

I learned Arabic in order to read my holy book,” he said. “In an Intelligence Squared debate, I defended the proposition that Islam was a religion of peace. This was the same week that the man who attempted to bomb Times Square was sentenced, so it wasn’t the friendliest New York audience. I hosted Morgan Freeman in a mosque for his documentary The Story of God.”

Mousavi suggested in a tongue-in-cheek letter, that the SPLC should put add him to the Field Guide in the interest of completeness, and the creator of the petition, Ahnaf Kalam, has created a hashtag, #SPLCaddmetoo. But the tone of their reaction doesn’t imply that they find the list a laughing matter. Blacklists pose a real and potentially lethal threat to critics of Islam. In 13 countries where the Quran holds sway, apostasy is punishable by death; and squads of young men sometimes take it upon themselves to carry out the sentence. In 2013, Bangladeshi jihadists published a list of 84 atheist bloggers. To date, ten of them are dead at the hands of assassins.

Last year, Bangladeshi American blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death on the streets of Dhaka, and his wife was seriously injured.  The problem isn’t only extrajudicial killings. Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years in jail and a potentially-lethal 1000 lashes for announcing his atheism and insulting Islam online. He is due for more lashing, and his family in Canada has pleaded unsuccessfully for his release.

In an article published by the Daily Beast, Nawaz defends his track record. He pleads for patience from those of us who work on social change from the relative safety of the U.S., the distant intellectual vantage of feminist or racial theory, and the reactive polarization of American politics. At the end, he utters a cry of betrayal:

Nothing good ever comes from compiling lists. And so I say to the Southern Poverty Law Center: You were supposed to stand up for us, not intimidate us. Just imagine how ex-Muslim Islam-critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali must feel to be included in your list of “anti-Muslim” extremists. Her friend Theo Van Gogh was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam in 2004. And back then there was another list pinned to Theo’s corpse with a knife: it too named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The irony—that two people of color, a former Muslim and practicing Muslim, are being accused of racism by white Western liberals under a dehumanizing title—seems to have gotten missed by the folks who compiled the SPLC Field Guide. So do the psychological implications of blacklisting people who live constantly under the shadow of death, whose friends and colleagues have been jailed and lashed or hacked or stabbed for the very same kind of social critique that they themselves engage.  Putting the names of ex-Muslims and reformers in a blacklist is the psychological equivalent of doxing feminists or publishing the names and addresses of abortion providers. It is scary.

How the Southern Poverty Law Center will address this debacle remains to be seen. I, for one, am hoping they will be able to say they were wrong, fix the list, and get back to the important work they have been doing for decades, because the current state of affairs is beneath them.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at






About Valerie Tarico

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59 Responses to Southern Poverty Law Center Puts Muslim Reformer and Ex-Muslim Atheist in “Field Guide”

  1. tildeb says:

    I’m glad you added your voice against this blacklisting. Thanks, V.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I understand what you’re saying- but I also understand why they made the list. Both of them, and unfortunately some of our other fellow atheists, propose arguments against Islam that imply causality. Meaning being Muslim = this, that or the other. That’s a standard we don’t generally apply to any other religion.

    Liked by 1 person


      possibly we should attribute belief systems to clear outcomes where there is a solid case. i personally think christianity is given a pass all too often when ‘being a christian’ means believing in a core set if ideas where some of these ideas lead directly to behaviours that cause great suffering. we of course must be rigours and cautious in our black listing of ideas but it is essential to have some social selection process on ideas that are damaging.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think we should give any religion a pass, and I focus most of my writing on Christianity–the religion I know best–but i have to be honest here. I think there’s evidence to suggest that Islam is objectively worse. It is more tightly coupled with misogyny and violence, more resistant to reformation, less tolerant of apostasy, and by the evidence of Islamist theocracies, more crippling of scholarship and intellectual inquiry. Can you think of any atheist who would rather live in a country infused with Islam over a country infused with Christianity at this point in history? No question Christianity was equally vile when it was in power, but there have been centuries now of gradual secularization and moral evolution that have modified Christianity itself.

      Liked by 5 people

      • People say that, except my family lived under Nacionalcatolicismo in Francoist Spain. People were killed, tortured, babies were stolen. Gays were put in prison almost until I was born (I’m 38.)
        My grandmother wasn’t allowed to sign a check or travel on her own. Any and all ills were the fault of the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy. The scientific and academic communities were decimated- many forced into exile. So when people say Islam is objectively worse, you understand I have questions :)

        Liked by 3 people

      • P.S. I put it in those terms because technically my mother and grandmother would have had more rights had they been born- at that particular time, in Egypt or Turkey. Countries of Islamic culture, but secular laws. So the real issue is Enlightenment. It’s the separation of church and state. Not which religion is easier to use as a tool to control power. They can all be used for that.

        Liked by 2 people

      • tildeb says:

        This change in rights over time is evidence that Catholicism is capable of moderation and liberalism. There is simply no evidence that Islamism – not the religion per se but the political embodiment of it – is similarly able. That’s certainly the main thesis of Maajid Nawaz, who writes extensively about this problem attached to Islamism in particular. This is where he and other liberal moderate Muslims tell us repeatedly and loudly and for many years that we need to do a better job supporting Muslims who are on the front line of this battle to moderate Islam and by extension it’s political wing.

        When we go along with this kind of misrepresentation of liberal Muslims critical of Islamism and then go after these Muslims and vilify them for saying what needs to be said about Islam (and why it’s so difficult to moderate and liberalize), we are stupidly and condescendingly stabbing ourselves in the back and for all the wrong reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “This change in rights over time is evidence that Catholicism is capable of moderation and liberalism.”

        What? You mean the change between when I was a child and now is a change within Catholicism? Voluntary? Or was it a forced political change in countries that sidelined Catholicism? I put to you that Catholicism hasn’t changed at all. They’re still responsible for bans on abortion in Ireland, Chile and Brazil as we type these comments. They oppose contraception when and wherever they can. When possible they go for legal bans, otherwise they try influence and social pressure. What people like Nawaz do is imply Islam is special. In giving Islam special status they negate or at least diminish the fact that the issue is religion- not a specific religion.

        Liked by 3 people

      • tildeb says:

        You know I’m not trying to defend Catholicism; it is a pernicious influence that has been de-fanged by many but not yet all Western liberal democracies and it has found itself being curtailed one law at a time (because many values align with enlightenment values), whereas Islamism seems impervious to this process and responds to calls for moderation with totalitarian vigour and brutality. In other words, it’s qualitatively different (possessing anti-enlightenment values in the mainstream religion) and, because of this difference, I think deserves a different treatment and criticism than Catholicism.


      • If you want to go from a purely mathematical perspective, then when you say:
        -This change in rights over time is evidence that Catholicism is capable of moderation and liberalism.
        then you have to also say
        -Women’s rights under Nasser and Ataturk are evidence that Islamic nations are capable of moderation and liberalism.
        math is math is math.

        Liked by 4 people

      • tildeb says:

        Well that’s exactly my point, Pink: neither Turkey nor Egypt were Islamic governments under which this change occurred. And both Ali and Nawaz criticize Islamism as the culprit, the politicization of Islam in law and in need of reform. That’s exactly what’s happening in Ireland: a reformation of the Catholic Church’s role in law without its supporters for this necessary change being blacklisted by misguided ‘liberals’ elsewhere in the West under claims of intolerance and bigotry towards Catholics. yet this is what happens to liberal Muslims trying to do the same in Islamic countries.

        The same point about women’s rights advanced by secularists in Arab countries is not true for countries that have Islamic governments, meaning government that implements Islamic religious law. There is zero evidence for tolerance of these enlightenment values being promoted and instituted in an Islamic country (enlightenment values meaning legal equality, legal protection for individual autonomy rights and freedoms, and governmental policies based on an official recognition of the dignity of personhood of its citizens). Catholicism can survive these enlightenment laws (fighting them tooth and nail, of course, but yielding nevertheless without issuing calls for mass murder of unbelievers) and remain a viable and popular religion.I think Islam is too brittle.


      • Turkey and Egypt were countries where Islam was/is the majority religion and they transitioned into democracy. That means that just as with Catholicism or Judaism, the question is how much or how little people adhere to it- not the religion itself. And just so we’re clear during Franco there was zero tolerance of anything anti-Catholic in Spain. News, television, music- all censored by the (Catholic) state.

        What I take issue with is putting Islam under a special variety of scrutiny not applied to any other religion. I’m sure you’ll recall the Vatican never condemned IRA bombings- and still we never called them catholic crimes. An extremist Orthodox Jew killed a teenage girl participating in a LGBT Pride event in Jerusalem (where Pride events are now not permitted) and no one called it a Jewish crime or called on the Orthodox community to come out and declare their disdain for the crime.

        As for remaining a popular and viable religion… that’s not really what happened to Catholicism. What happened was people decided to ignore most of it. They take birth control, have abortions, get divorced and even get gay married. And the same is true for the vast majority of the many millions of Muslims who live in the free world.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tildeb says:

        A third of British born, economically stable, university educated under-35 Catholics don’t agree that it’s okay to kill in defense of the faith. The same cannot be said of Muslims. So what is it about the faith that makes Islam so radically different from every other religion in this acceptance of such rates violence in its name? Advocating that there is no difference is not an auspicious beginning to addressing this tremendous Islamic problem.

        Liked by 1 person

      • What’s your definition of Muslim?Who are they? Do they practice the religion? Do they go to mosque? Do they wear veils? Are the part of the vast majority of western *Muslims* who aren’t really religious?
        How was the question asked exactly?

        The format of your argument continues to be spurious. How many Catholics in Northern Ireland didn’t condemn IRA killings? Does that mean they believe killing in defence of their socio-cultural/religio-politcal group is okay?

        Liked by 1 person

      • tildeb says:

        The format is spurious? The format of my argument here is to point out that these two selected targets – Ali and Nawaz – are the very people we should be supporting, that they are subject to misrepresentation and vilification by terribly misguided Western liberals not because their arguments against Islamism actually promote bigotry against Muslims but because these misguided liberals believe criticism of Islamism really is synonymous with bigotry against Muslims.

        You are falling into the same trap by constantly confusing the two, by falsely assuming that the issue criticizing the religion when politicized is really criticism about Muslims being different than Catholics as people.

        That’s not the issue, Pink.

        The issue is that Islam when politicized and made into law is in fact different than other major religions like Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism. How is it different? Because unlike Catholicism and the rest of the major religions, there is no evidence that it can be moderated and made more liberal from within… without a bunch of Western liberals sanctimoniously and stupidly vilifying the liberal and moderate Muslim as bigots for trying to do so!

        In effect, these misguided Western liberals are protecting politicized Islam from this necessary criticism by moderate and liberal Muslim reformers under the spurious banner of ‘bigotry against Muslims’. I have heard many Muslim reformers complain about exactly this and how absurd is the warped reasoning that denies support for their efforts from their natural Western allies and the degree of patronizing is required to rationalize it… as if human rights and freedoms are okay for Westerners but for those living under Islamic rule, well, they should remain pure from such tainted colonialist and values or risk – gasp! – being called bigots.


      • There’s no evidence Islam can be controlled and moderated? I think King Mohammed VI would disagree. As would the Tunisian Nobel Peace prize winners. of last year. What there’s no evidence for is that it can’t be moderated. Why not?

        The evidence that’s out there is that when religious groups are in control they abuse their power. They indoctrinate. They use violence. They rehome babies, if they can get away with it. Islam just as much as any other authoritarian group, whether Catholic or North Korean- or Soviet.


      • tildeb says:

        Well, Pink, I stand corrected. Morocco is indeed a Muslim country with a Constitution that endorses Islam as the official religion (with the King as its head, namely, the Defender of the Faith) and family sharia. This reminds me of Britain under King Henry (VIII) who became the head of the Anglican church… a version of Catholicism but without all the fun bits… the first step in dismantling the One True Faith.

        I wonder what will happen when he dies? PEW indicates a significant difference of public support from other Islamicized countries about all kinds of issues. It’s a model worth looking into.


      • It’s a model that should be seriously considered worldwide. Tunisia put in place a ministry of religion (MAR) which is responsible for monitoring mosques and teaching imams that religion cannot interfere with constitutional rights.
        Why in the world we haven’t adopted a version of this in the West I simply don’t understand.


      • the claim that somehow Catholicism and Christianity can change and magically Islam can’t is nothing more than 20/20 hindsight. As for Christianity being any better than Islam, that requires a willful ignorance of what the religions have advocated and still advocate. Christianity was just as “tightly coupled” with misogyny and violence, just as resistant to reformation, and let’s not forget how apostates were regularly burned alive by TrueChristians(tm). I’d be quite happy to have lived in Grenada etc when the Moors ruled rather than ever live when Isabelle et all ruled.

        Liked by 5 people


    as a long time supporter of the SPLC this news has shaken me, i have written to them about this but wonder if you have reached out to them as well and if so have they responded. now, with Trump looming large over us all, is definitely the time to stand up to intolerance wherever and however it may exist. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Howard Karten says:

    Another excellent piece. You consistently do good stuff.

    Sadly, the past few years have seen an effort to de-legitimize any criticism of Islam. Hirsi Ali is an important, rational, intelligent critic of Islam; anyone who’s read her work knows that she is not some anti-Muslim nut.

    Equally sadly, SPLC has consistently done good work; let us hope it revises this sadly misguided blacklist.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Couldn’t agree more. I am a member of the SPLC and strongly support their efforts. When I saw the names of Nawaz and Ali on a list of morons who can be viewed in no other way than as alt-right miscreants, I was stunned.

    So far, the SPLC has doubled-down on its pronouncement. I hope they’ll wake up soon and see the problem w/ the inclusion of those two names.

    “Nothing good ever comes from compiling lists?” Really? I don’t fully understand what you were attempting to convey w/ that sentence but I for one am thankful to the SPLC for compiling and maintaining lists of people who, by any measurable standard, threaten to wreck democratic, free speech discourse and work overtime to tear down the wall of Church/State separation, regardless of where they reside. Without those lists, we’ll likely forget (or overlook) exactly who the enemies are to free speech and the democratic/egalitarian ideal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Rev. El Mundo. My husband and I are strong supporters too. The sentence you mention was part of a quote from Nawaz, who is reacting to the fascist use of lists against dissidents. When I first hit publish on this, the formatting broke so that you couldn’t tell which words were his and which were mine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Claro. Gratci’.

        IMHO, the SPLC has been an excellect “list keeper.” However, I also believe that the SPLC falls short in at least one very significant way: the SPLC needs to expand and refine their lists a little more to highlight the plethora of morons, masquerading as messengers of gawd, who work day and night to profit from their efforts to obscure, obfuscate, ignore, deny, minimize redirect blame and otherwise detract from their close alignment w/ neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and others in similar fraternities.

        Glenn Beck, David Barton, Jerry Falwell Jr, Jim Bakker, Lance Wallnau, Gordon Klingenshit, Pat Robertson and the rest must be monitored w/ a lot more scrutiny than is currently given them. These idiots have a lot more influence in the cultural and political affairs of the nation (and the world) than they are credited. They are a very dangerous force.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Paula Fraser says:

    glad you are bringing this up!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android


  7. garytribble says:

    This one is tremendously sad. “Off the rails” is the least that can be said for this egregious error.

    How does one “fix the list” when by its very nature the list is a death sentence?

    I think, rather, they must rescind the list and then expend very considerable effort first to convert their own perspective and then to set about campaigning against this kind of action wherever it rears its head, and for whatever excuse There can be no justice while there is no peace (that is the reason for the rule of law, as the Southern Poverty Law Center must surely realize); and this kind of action — in a situation of extremist violence — breaches the peace of all who are identified implicitly as targets for violent extremists.

    Rather than “fix”: rescind, convert and campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. says:

    As a long time- and continuing- strong supporter of SPLC, I have to go with Gary above. Is there a way to send this Post, and all the Comments TO DATE- (the current array is sufficient, and loooong comment chains lose it)- to Morris Dees personally, with a supportive intro emphasizing that the respondents are all SPLC supporters. I’m not completely opposed to “lists,” but this one needs to be retracted, and perhaps completely reconceived.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. docatheist says:

    The news bowled me over when I read it at WEIT (Jerry Coyne’s site). I am glad to see it here, too. Word needs to get out. I cannot afford to financially support SPLC, but I have told others about them, spreading their influence whenever I could, so perhaps I, too, can be counted as a supporter. I am a huge fan of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and of Maajid Nawaz. The two are heros, to me, for their incredible courage, intellect, and sense of justice. I am shocked that SPLC would risk losing supporters like Valerie, Jerry, Pinky, and all the rest of us, over such a turn-about in perspectives over right vs. wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Diane G. says:

    Subbing to follow conversation.


  11. The SPLC has placed these people on a list for making factually incorrect statements about Islam and its followers. Are you suggesting that the organization misquoted them?


    • I doubt that. I do think that the SPLC quoted them out of the context of their broader positioning and advocacy. More significantly, I think that their staff failed to make the distinction between Islam as an ideology and Muslims as people. Deploring one (or working to reform it) and hating adherents are two different matters.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It actually says in the report why they compiled the list and quoted people specifically who were on it. Is your position then that the SPLC is not being truthful about its intent?


      • I should apologize if my questions might seem misleading here. What I’m asking about is whether your critique of the report is based on grounds that they’re being too broad in the application of “Islamophobia” here, or whether they misapplied their own thinking.

        From my reading of your article, I am thinking that you’re doing the former (i.e., they’re making it too broad). I just wanted to be sure.


  12. Ah. Yes, I think that they are casting too broad a net, which doesn’t allow for imperfect critique or a muddy movement toward reform. That said, I may be biased given that the things I say about Christianity –as an ideology and social institution–are comparable to what Ali and Nawaz say about Islam, and I don’t experience myself as hating Christians nor trying to stir violence against them. In fact, i’m in the process of working on an article to that effect.


    • Having followed your blog for a good while now, and also observing Nawaz and Ali, I really wouldn’t be able to compare what you say with what they say.
      When Ali frames Islam as being at war with us, that’s problematic because ideologies aren’t really at war. People mould them to suit what they want. What they do would be the equivalent of taking the worst of Christianity, from Catholic child abuse to Westboro protests and then saying Christians at large are guided by those principles. And even though people, even in this very forum, say they make a distinction between Islam and Muslims I see comments implying Muslims are incapable of living in democracies and all manner of things that closely resemble the ideology of white supremacists. The kind who used to say blacks were incapable of the skills necessary to make decisions- or vote.


      • tildeb says:

        I have Ali’s books and have followed her speaking engagements whenever posted. She is not anti-Muslim. She is anti-Islamism.

        If the vast majority of Christians were to measure themselves as good or bad Christians by how closely they adhered to the commands from and injunctions laid out in the Bible as Muslims do regarding the Koran, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion and we could safely equate the two. But this is not the case in most liberalized Christianity. It is a false equivalency to claim the very small minority of Muslims who are ‘poor’ Muslims – poor in the sense they ignore anti-enlightenment values in the Koran in order to share fundamental Western liberal values – make Islam equivalent to Christianity, that this minority is equivalent to the majority of Christians who consider themselves ‘good’ Christians even if they don’t follow the biblical prescriptions for behaviour as well as belief.

        Ali talks about this, as does Nawaz as does Harris. And they do so because they notice an obvious connection between the pool of recruits for ‘radical’ Islam just so happens to be the same pool made up from ‘moderate’ Islam. We do not see this in any other major religion. And we don’t see the same rates for ‘extremism’ to commit mass murder from any other major religion nor the same rates of violence, nor the same level of intimidation of those who call for some moderation and evolution.

        Why is that?

        Well, the standard excuse is to blame everything and everyone except Islam. That’s like trying to blame medicine for the Catholic response to euthanasia and abortion. There;’s something not right about blaming those who call for liberalization of Islam as ‘extremists’ worthy of blacklisting while defending and excusing extreme illiberal behaviour as ‘just’ religion like any other.


      • The problem with that theory is it ignores all other factors and attempts to single out what we could call the One True Motivation for a crime.
        If we look at the profiles of the people involved in the recent attacks in France, religion is by n means the only thing that connects them. Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers were marginal figures, delinquents. In and out of prison. In fact Coulibaly was at one point a small time drug dealer and party boy entirely uninterested in religion. His “radicalization” occurs in prison. Suddenly his girlfriend goes from wearing bikinis on the beach and going to night clubs to wearing the full veil.
        So religion is there, but for us to blame Islam we have to be able to isolate it as the proximate cause of the crime, and it’s just not possible to do that. I can read the bible or the koran or mein kampf and resist the urge to go out and blow people up. The same is true of most people. Saying Islam is the proximate cause is like blaming a video game for committing a crime.


      • tildeb says:

        If we were able to somehow connect, say, drunk driving to alcohol consumption – but received criticism for pointing out this obvious link in the name of demonstrating bigotry towards people who drank any alcohol – I think you can better appreciate the absurdity of blacklisting Ali and Nawaz for pointing out the same regarding Islam’s central role in motivating religious attacks done in its name.

        Yes, many people drink responsibly and many Muslims wouldn’t dream of engaging in violence against civilians to defend the faith, but the obvious connection to the root causes of each cannot be waved away as either unimportant or merely a tangent in the name of tolerance if – and it seems to be a Big If here in the West – we want to reasonably and effectively address the specific resulting problems. And the point is that there IS a problem directly connected with Islam and violence done in its name that is not equivalent to any other major religion.

        By denying this link between Islam and violence done in its name against civilians in the name of tolerance and respect for Muslims, and accepting the labeling those who point out the direct connection as worthy of being blacklisted for intolerance and bigotry, we are denying ourselves the understanding of why this connection exists, which then translates into a lack of support for measures to mitigate and change the connection. This is a uniquely Western problem created by us in our rush to defend intolerance in the name of tolerance. This is the Regressive Left in action.


      • I’m glad you chose an example like drinking alcohol because it illustrates the point well. Pointing out a link is one thing. Causality is quite another. Many gay men had AIDS in the 80’s. That didn’t mean that being gay would lead to having AIDS. Despite that, it’s precisely how the Christian Right stigmatised gay men.
        And this is precisely what Ali and Nawaz do. To take your example they say drinking alcohol is inherently evil. Someone who drinks alcohol won’t be able to do it without driving and killing.
        The second she says something like there’s a connection between the fundaments of Islam and terrorism she’s made a jump that taints innocent people. ..I’ve looked through much of what she (they) says and I can take any of her anti-Islamic formulations and adapt them as to apply to Jews or Christians. That’s how spurious they are.
        And there’s nothing regressive about being responsible with words or wanting to assign responsibility with some degree of fairness. The issue remains that this standard is only being applied to Islam.


      • Have you ever read about Spain’s White Terror?


    • Hello –
      I think that we can isolate the paranoid, triumphalist, jihadist, and explicitly violent teachings in the Quran as *a* proximate cause of terrorism. Complex causality doesn’t require that we deny the power of religion to inspire or direct acts of altruism, including terrorism. I also have to challenge you a bit on the parallel you draw between the terrorists groups in Northern Ireland and the Islamists. In contract to many Islamists, I’ve never heard of those Catholic groups explicitly claiming that they were following religious commands or seeking to establish a theocracy. Religious tribal identity is different that theology motivating or justifying violence.


  13. John Zelnicker says:

    For those unfamiliar with the story, the SPLC win for Beulah Mae Donald over the United Klans was a major high point in their history. Her son, Michael Donald, was one of the last blacks lynched in the Deep South in 1981. He was picked at random while walking home in Mobile by two Klansmen who were upset that an interracial jury had failed to convict a black man of killing a white policeman in Birmingham. He was tortured and hung from a tree. Ms. Donald not only won a $7 million judgement, the Klan was forced to turn over their property in Tuscaloosa to her as partial satisfaction of the judgement. It was also the first time, IIRC, that a civil suit against the Klan as an organization had been so successful.

    I am severely disappointed at the inclusion of Ali and Nawaz in the SPLC list of extremists. Being passingly familiar with their work, I don’t think they are extreme at all. Someone at the SPLC really dropped the ball on this one and I find it hard to believe that Morris Dees let this pass.


  14. Argus says:

    Badawi isn’t all bad news.
    Apparently the Most Compassionate and most Merciful (etc etc, lay it on thick) Islamics have reduced his sentence to a mere fifty lashes.

    Every week for the next twenty weeks … (gives him in his prison something to look forward to on Fridays, breaks the monotony too).

    Allah is good, kind, merciful—no?


  15. says:

    Wow. What a Great debate. Really. But do we have a Winner and Loser? Or a Consensus? Anyhow, my last comment before I write to M. D. on his web site. Concerning Christianity: I suspect there are some who are overtly violent in the name of their God. Apparently comparatively few. So Christianity has been comparatively successful in that regard. And apparently more so than a couple of other “major” religions we all could name. However with regard to those “unrepresentative” ardent Christians, I don’t recommend setting them up to be targeted or picked off, wittingly or unwittingly. One more viewpoint. A strong case can be made that the unprecedented breadth and scale of Christian Missionary intervention throughout the World over, say, the past two centuries to date, has been injurious to freedom of conscious and thought, in a way that’s in the same family as those we we reject in Islam (and other religions).


  16. Pingback: Southern Poverty Law Center Puts Muslim Reformer and Ex-Muslim Atheist in “Field Guide” | | Tiffany's Non-Blog

  17. Lighten Up says:

    A recent check of the SPLC website shows a shortened list of just 6 “anti-Muslim extremists.” I don’t see Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Majiid Nawaz today. Don’t know who else they removed. I have to wonder about such lists, though, of either organizations or individuals. Is there enough value in creating such a list to justify the effort of carefully evaluating “nominees?” Some names might seem obvious, but I suspect that most are not.

    FWIW, while the SPLC did bankrupt the Klan over the 1981 murder, it’s less clear that the Klan was actually culpable in that case. “Incitement” is a tricky business. Sometimes, we applaud a result we like without caring if it was justified.

    Today, I fear that I could easily be considered an Islamophobe depending on how irrational you consider my concerns about Islam. While I think I’m rational, many might disagree. Hence, I think it’s important to preserve our right to commit blasphemy, to speak ill of any and all religions (and ideologies). Yet even our wonderful neighbor to the north has passed a motion (M-103)(not a law)( asking the government to police Islamophobia. I wonder if I dare voice my thoughts aloud in public when I next visit BC.

    Were it not for the recent craziness affecting college campuses wherein students demand to be protected from words and speakers that make them squirm, we could perhaps ignore lists of extremists and motions condemning words and thoughts and ideas. But I truly fear that our ability to voice thoughts that make others uncomfortable is threatened. We cannot shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, but neither can we ignore increasing pressures to self-censor.


    • Good information. Thank you. And yes, watching Republicans cheer outcomes they want no matter how those outcomes were achieved–and no matter the price to our democracy–i find myself not wanting to engage in the same behavior.


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