Potok was not about to let facts change his mind

Nick Cohen on the SPLC’s fatwa.

Nick is no fan of UK libel laws, and has put in a lot of time campaigning against them. But yesterday he advised Maajid to sue, and gave him the names of some lawyers.

The attack he is facing is so grotesque, ferocious remedies seem the only response.

Nawaz’s enemy is not the usual user of the libel law: a Putin frontman or multinational. It is an organisation that ought to share Nawaz’s values, but because of the crisis in left-wing values does the dirty work of the misogynists, the racists, the homophobes, the censors, and the murderers it was founded to oppose. It does it with a straight face because, as I am sure you will have guessed, the fascism in question is not white but Islamic. And once that subject is raised all notions of universal human rights, and indeed basic moral and intellectual decency, are drowned in a sea of bad faith.

Quilliam and Nawaz support women’s rights and gay rights. They believe that there is no respectable reason why men and women with brown skins should not enjoy the same rights as men and women with white skins. They think they should try to stop young Muslims joining Islamic State, not just for the sake of the Yazidis they will take into sex slavery, or the civilians they will tyrannise and kill, but for the sake of the young Muslims themselves.

A significant faction on the left hates them for upholding the values they have forgotten,  and will use any smear to denigrate them. As my secularist friend Faisal Saeed Al Mutar observed, when he, Nawaz and hundreds of others step forward and try to liberalise Muslim communities from within, they are attacked, ‘for being not Muslim enough, not Arab enough, not Pakistani enough, not filled with enough revenge and enough hatred’.

It’s all about Different Standards for Different Communities.

I have no doubt, for instance, that Alabama’s Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) would be appalled if white supremacists hacked to death writers on the New York Times for challenging racial prejudice, as Islamists hack Bangladeshi liberal writers to death for challenging theocratic prejudice.

It’s still not clear to me whether the people at the SPLC are too thick to see that, or too cynical to act on it.

Of course they could not leave alone Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who became an atheist and denounced the faith of her childhood, and is hated by a section of the white left for doing what they do all the time. That Hirsi Ali needs bodyguards to protect her from Islamist assassins in no way restrained our Alabama witch finders.

But the name that has jumped out at everyone is the Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz. The text underneath oozes malice. The SPLC tries to make out that Nawaz’s stag night makes him an extremist. It misrepresents the work of his Quilliam Foundation so thoroughly I no longer recognised the organisation I knew. All these tricks and non-sequiturs, just so it can turn a liberal Muslim anti-extremist, into a reactionary ‘anti-Muslim extremist’.

And why why why would they want to do that? Why do they not want to join forces with him instead of telling evil lies about him?

Then Nick’s reportorial background knowledge comes into play:

I asked the SPLC’s Mark Potok, ‘one of the country’s leading experts on the world of extremism,’ according to its website,  if he was Muslim himself. ‘No.’ Was he happy, then, branding a liberal Muslim ‘an anti-Muslim extremist?’ Well, Potok said, the head of Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit had accused Nawaz of  ‘demonising a whole range of groups that have made valuable contributions to counter-terrorism,’ and that was good enough for him.

I tried to explain that the then head of the Muslim Contact Unit was Bob Lambert, one of the most notorious agent provocateurs British policing has produced. He stole the identity of a dead boy and infiltrated left groups. Pretending to be one of them, he got an activist pregnant then vanished from his partner and child’s lives. He had a shadowy part in the ‘McLibel’ case, which led to two environmental activists being persecuted for years in the courts, and is under investigation for allegedly smearing the campaign for justice for the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. There are reasonable grounds for suspecting that, when Lambert attacked Nawaz, he was trying to ingratiate himself with Islamists as he had tried to ingratiate himself with leftists.

I didn’t know all that. That’s highly relevant information. Couldn’t the SPLC have done a little due diligence before maligning Maajid?

Did Mark Potok, ‘one of the country’s leading experts on the world of extremism’ if you please, know he was relying on the word of a stool pigeon? ‘I don’t know the details.’ Would the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is after all meant to defend the Stephen Lawrences of the world, reconsider its condemnation of Nawaz? With the braggart self-confidence of a liberal Donald Trump, Potok was not about to let facts change his mind. ‘No,’ he replied. Did Potok think he was putting Nawaz’s life in danger. ‘No.’

Oh god. That is infuriating. It is exactly like Trump, and it’s infuriating.

Sue the bastards.

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