A supply problem

Amjad Khan at Sedaa suggests that the SPLC’s grotesque claims about Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are rooted in an inadequate supply of racists at a time when the demand is higher than ever before.

Without the demand left-wing activists that organise themselves as anti-bigotry activists can’t justify their work and, more importantly, request for donations. 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.

I think the first three words should read “Without the supply” but we get the idea – there aren’t enough racists to keep anti-racism organizations busy and well funded. I don’t actually think that’s true – there are plenty of racists out there, as we know from news coverage of Trump rallies and the Brexit campaign, just for a start. It’s an interesting idea though.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), founded in Montgomery Alabama in 1971 as a civil rights organisation, is a prime example of an activist outfit that may have begun with noble aims but has now resorted to stretching definitions along with credulity. This group has decided to branch into anti-Muslim bigotry without any clear understanding of what that term really means. According to their website:

Anti-Muslim hate groups also broadly defame Islam, which they tend to treat as a monolithic and evil religion. These groups generally hold that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.”

The above quote illustrates the problem with SPLC’s approach to this subject. Individuals are well within their rights to dislike Islam as a religion, just as they are free to dislike any other religion or political ideology. Dislike of a faith is not tantamount to bigotry if it is not accompanied by demonisation of an entire people. Disliking Islam is not the same as disliking all Muslims; just as disliking smoking is not the same as disliking all smokers.

Yes, that passage does indeed illustrate the problem. God damn. “Defame” Islam? They sound like the enraged mobs in Pakistan, demanding the death of Asia Bibi or killing people on rumors of looking cross-eyed at a Koran. There’s no such thing as “defamation” of a religion, or a political party or a philosophical view or an opinion about economics.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the SLPC report is the inclusion of British former-extremist and pro-reform campaigner Maajid Nawaz, a man who was never critiqued when he was an actual extremist but widely denounced by the regressive left when he spoke out against extremism. In the report, Maajid is accused of demonising Muslim groups in the UK by producing a ‘terror list’, insisting it is reasonable to ask women to remove the niqab in security sensitive environments, tweeting a blasphemous cartoon and visiting a strip club whilst claiming to be a devout Muslim and a feminist.

The ‘terror list’ in question was actually an appendix titled ‘The British Muslim Scene’ that categorised a range of prominent British Muslim organisations. It placed groups like the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain in the Muslim Brotherhood camp, which is accurate and widely acknowledged. None of the groups in question have publicly challenged this categorisation to my knowledge.

Muslim women are already expected to reveal their faces in security sensitive environments across the Muslim world. Try getting through Saudi customs dressed in a niqab — you will be asked to remove it so that they can see who you are. Is Saudi Arabia also anti-Muslim?

How is tweeting an image of Muhammad anti-Muslim? Many Muslims do consider images of Muhammad blasphemous but equally many do not. For example, in Shia Islam images of holy figures are allowed and even encouraged. Furthermore, Islamic history is replete with images of Muhammad being drawn and painted, as this piece explains.

It’s mind-boggling that the SPLC saw fit to include that tweet as a reason to label Maajid an “anti-Muslim extremist.”

Maajid also accompanied his tweet with the words ‘As a Muslim, I am not offended’, meaning the purpose of his tweet was to challenge the idea that Muslims are keen to take offence at bland cartoons. This was an important point to make in the wake of various cartoon controversies that led to the death of many people around the world and garnered bad publicity for Muslims in the process. To deem such a tweet ‘anti-Muslim’ is ignorant, immature and quite frankly dangerous.

Finally, visiting a strip club or having a lap dance is not anti-Muslim bigotry. I can’t believe I have had to type that sentence. It is a personal choice that says very little about one’s political or religious views. Maajid does not claim to be a devout Muslim; in fact he is often at pains to point out that he is non-devout.

It has nothing whatever to do with anti-Muslim bigotry, and including it made the SPLC sound like an angry child listing all the reasons “I hate you I hate you I hate you!!!”

It seems the SPLC gathered a list of political commentators that it did not like and who have been critical of the regressive left and their narrow ideological goals, and decided to smear them. Whilst their list does include some genuine anti-Muslim bigots they have failed to distinguish between those critical of extremism and those who dislike Muslims per se. In doing so, they have put lives at risk in a cheap ploy to create demand, garner support and remain relevant.

It’s a sad irony that they did it the day before the Bundy verdict came down. There’s plenty of real racist extremism for them to report, they don’t need to inflate the lists with people who don’t belong there.

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