Maajid Nawaz – a pro-Western Muslim who opposes extremism and ‘Islamophobia’ – has been named as an “anti-Muslim extremist” by a leading civil rights group, a move which he claims has put a “jihadi target” on his head.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) listed Mr. Nawaz – the co-founder of counter-extremism think tank Quilliam and a reformed Islamist – as one of the world’s 15 most prominent “anti-Muslim extremists”.
The SPLC is one of America’s most powerful legal advocacy organisations, frequently bringing legal action against “hate groups” to have them censored and criminalised.
According to their website, “anti-Muslim hate groups” are guilty of “broadly defam[ing] Islam” by “fueling hatred… the vast majority of it completely baseless”, and they “typically hold conspiratorial views”.
On his Facebook page, Mr. Nawaz wrote: “The non-Muslim led Southern Poverty Law Center placing a jihadi target on my head by listing me (a reforming liberal Muslim) as an ‘anti-Muslim extremist’ on their hit list published today.”
As evidence in support of Mr. Nawaz’s alleged bigotry, the SPLC falsely claimed he had “called for criminalizing the wearing of the veil” and pointed to the fact he has worked with the government to tackle extremism, once attended a strip club, and “tweeted out a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad — despite the fact that many Muslims see it as blasphemous”.
Secular blogger John Sargeant questioned this reasoning: “Being ‘blasphemous’ makes you an extremist it seems. The Southern Poverty Law Centre is devoid of context that Maajid Nawaz said he did not find a cartoon picture of Mohammed and Jesus saying hello together to be blasphemous or a challenge to his faith.
“Two students at a London School of Economics student freshers fayre were ejected for wearing them to advertise their Atheist Humanist Secular society, and this was discussed on a BBC show. Hence [the] Maajid Nawaz tweet.”
Mr. Nawaz appeared on the list alongside fellow Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a feminist who endured FGM and fled a forced marriage, left-winger David Horowitz, and right-wing anti-Islamisation campaigner Pamela Geller.
Mr. Nawaz has stood for parliament with the Liberal Democrat party and frequently works with left-wing groups to counter what he calls “Islamophobia”. Consequently, his appearance on the list, alongside well-known critics of Islam, was greeted with surprise.
Rather than tackling bigotry, therefore, critics argue the SPLC is essentially defending the Islamist, terrorists, and Muslim bigots that Mr. Nawaz and others seek to criticise, as well as endangering their lives by including them on the “jihadi target” list.
Commenting on the story, Muslim journalist Amjad Khan observed that the “regressive left [has] a supply and demand problem with bigotry… Hence, the definition of bigotry needs to be stretched, new sources of bigotry need to be found and, eventually, critics of the regressive left find themselves being accused of bigotry.”