Notes and Comment Blog


Oct 30th, 2016 10:59 am | By

Taslima tweeted this BBC feature:

Purnima Shil was gang-raped in northern Bangladesh at the age of 13 and she has not been allowed to forget it. Twelve years later, because of the stigma that attaches to rape victims in some parts of the country, someone shamed her by creating a pornographic Facebook page in her name – with her photograph and telephone number. This story is part of the BBC’s Shame series, which examines a disturbing new phenomenon – the use of private or sexually explicit images to blackmail and shame young people, mainly girls and women, in some of the world’s most conservatives societies.

The video is only 3 minutes. It’s powerful.

Maajid responds

Oct 29th, 2016 4:10 pm | By

Maajid has written a response to the SPLC, at the Daily Beast. He wants it widely shared.

Through the counter-extremism organisation Quilliam that I founded, I have spent eight years defending my Muslim communities in Europe, Pakistan  and beyond from the diktats of Islamist theocrats. I have also argued for the liberal reform of Islam today, from within. But, in a naively dangerous form of neo-Orientalism, the SPLC just arrogated to itself the decision over which debates we Muslims may have about reforming our own religion, and which are to be deemed beyond the pale.

Let us call it “Islamsplaining.”

In a monumental failure of comprehension, the SPLC have conflated my challenge to Islamist theocracy among my fellow Muslims with somehow being “anti-Muslim”. The regressive left is now in the business of issuing fatwas against Muslim reformers.

I don’t love the label “regressive left,” because it’s been seized on by people who aren’t left at all and apply it to everything that’s not reactionary, but in this case, it fits.

There are, he points out acerbically, plenty of people who want him dead.

Here in Europe, amid jihadist assassinations and mass terror attacks planned with military precision, we truly are in the thick of it. Meanwhile, from the comforts of sweet Alabama comes this edict that liberal Muslims working to throw open a conversation around reforming Islam today are somehow to be deemed “anti-Muslim extremists”.

It is, indeed, incredibly presumptuous, along with everything else. That’s something I didn’t dwell on enough when I posted about this, because I was too furious about the straight-up wrongness…but I did point out their parochialism in blathering about American constitutional norms in a piece calling Maajid anti-Muslim. The parochialism and presumption are closely connected.

Mind you, I’m over here in the comforts of sweet Seattle…but I’ve done enough research on the subject not to bumble around thinking Maajid is an “anti-Muslim extremist,” let alone call him that in a trumpeted report.

To be able to successfully do what I care deeply about — working toward the emancipation of my Muslim communities from the oppressive yoke of theocrats — it is crucial that reforming liberal Muslims like me are not smeared as “anti-Muslim”. After all, it is in the theocrats’ interests to have us labeled so. It is only they who argue that any internal criticism is but heresy. In a Muslim version of the Inquisition, the punishments meted out by these jihadists to Muslims they accuse of “heresy” are by now so well known that they require no introduction.

Another set that benefits from the smear that reforming liberal Muslims are “not Muslim enough” are the often xenophobic, sometimes racist, but always anti-Muslim, bigots. By advocating that every Muslim is a jihadist in waiting, and must be expelled from the West, these bigots suppport the very religious segregation that Islamist theocrats call for.

ISIS has called this “eliminating the gray zone”.  We reforming liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims who sit between Muslim and anti-Muslim bigots disrupt the narrative of both these extremes. It is no surprise then that as well as being attacked by Islamists, I have been labelled a closet Jihadist by people like Glenn Beck on Fox News, and on various other anti-Muslim online platforms. Imagine for a moment how besieged we reformers feel.

Glenn Beck types on the one hand and SPLC types on the other.

Anti-Muslim extremists often complain that there are no “moderate Muslims” challenging extremism. Then liberal reform Muslims and ex-Muslims stepped up to this challenge, only to be labelled as “anti-Muslim” extremists by those we had hoped were our allies, and who we now call the regressive-left. They are those who talk of progressive values: feminism, gay rights and free speech, and who criticise Christian fundamentalists within their own communities. A long time ago, we liberal reform Muslims had high hopes for this group. Just as they challenge the conservatives of their own “Bible belt” we thought they would support our challenge against our very own “Qur’an Belt”. How wrong we were.

Not wrong about all of us. I talk of progressive values: feminism, gay rights and free speech, and criticise Christian fundamentalists, and I support Muslims and ex-Muslims who talk of progressive values: feminism, gay rights and free speech, and criticise Muslim fundamentalists. So do most of my friends. There are a lot of us.

Too many on the left not only abandoned us, but took to openly attacking us for advocating these very same progressive values among our own — extremely socially conservative — communities. Ironically, my life epitomises every one of the grievances the regressive left pays lip service to when refusing to entertain rational conversation around Islam. I have faced violent neo-Nazi racist hammer and machete attacks. I am a jailed survivor of the War-on-Terror torture era in Egypt.

Anderson Cooper has said that mine is a “voice I urge you to hear”. 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl considers my story “absorbing” and my work “important”. Kate Allen, UK head of Amnesty International has said my life involves “a passionate advocacy of human rights” and that she “was moved beyond measure”. Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron sought my advice regularly while in office. And against this assault by the Southern Poverty Law Center I have the support and acknowledgement of the UK’s only watchdog against anti-Muslim hate run by Muslims themselves, Tell Mama UK.

And despite all this, white non-Muslim self-appointed inquisitors at a civil liberties organisation somehow found it acceptable to list me as an “anti-Muslim Extremist”.

And they’re standing by it, too. I know many people who have written to them, and received replies saying they stand by it, and repeating the same stupid claims they made in the report.

I am no “anti-Muslim” extremist. I am not your enemy. What I do require is your patience. For it is due to precisely this concern of mine for universal human rights for Muslims, that I vehemently oppose Islamist extremism and call for liberal reform within our communities, for our communities. For we Muslims are the first victims of Islamists and Muslim fundamentalists.  I am no Muslim representative. I am no religious role model (yes, I had a bachelor’s party) but I am Muslim. I am born to Muslim parents in a Muslim family. I have a Muslim son. The “Muslim experience” of liberal, reforming and dissenting Muslim and ex-Muslim voices is every bit as valid, every bit as relevant, and every bit as authentic as anyone else that is touched by this debate. We exist. Allow us to speak. Stop erasing our experiences.

Right? How dare the SPLC basically say that Islamists are the only authentic Muslims? How dare they attack reformist Muslims for defending the same rights we white non-Muslims enjoy? How dare they?

If there was anything we liberals should have learnt from McCarthyism, it is that compiling lists of our political foes is a malevolent, nefarious, and incredibly dangerous thing to do. And this terrible tactic, of simplifying and reducing our political opponents to a rogue’s gallery of “bad guys,” is not solely the domain of the right. As the political horseshoe theory attributed to Jean-Pierre Faye highlights, if we travel far-left enough, we find the very same sneering, nasty and reckless bullying tactics used by the far-right. Denunciations of traitors, heresy and blasphemy are the last resort of diminutive, insecure power-craving fascists of all stripes. Compiling lists is their modus operandi.

True that.

This particular list also makes a major category error, as these white American leftists conflate genuine (according only to my own humble view) anti-Muslim bigots with academic, journalistic and intellectual critics of Islam—including beleaguered ex-Muslim voices like Ayan Hirsi Ali. Unlike Ayan, they have never had to suffer the quadruple discriminatory pressure of appearing Muslim, brown, female, and losing one’s faith. I call these the minority within Muslim minorities.

And setting aside my disdain for naming any individuals on lists, to include me alongside Pam Geller is patently absurd. Pam Geller furiously opposed the Park51 Manhattan mosque project. I supported it. Pam Geller supported the anti-Islam British protest group EDL. By facilitating the resignation of its founder Tommy Robinson, I helped to render it leaderless till it practically fizzled out. Pam Geller has “expressed skepticism” about the existence of Serbian concentration camps. I have repeatedly referred to the genocide in Bosnia as having been a primary factor in my own anger and radicalisation as a youth. Pam Geller has called for Islam itself to be designated a “political system”, and to lose its constitutional rights as merely a religion. I am a Muslim who set up an organisation that campaigns to maintain a separation between Islam, and the theocratic Islamists who seek to hijack my religion. Need I go on?

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 at that time: it too named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The SPLC should not be pinning people’s names up, and especially not names like Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Image result for charlie hebdo muhammad


Oct 29th, 2016 11:33 am | By

Ah the priorities of the Catholic church. When it’s about compensation for victims of child-raping priests? Then it’s bankruptcy, or transfer of funds to the protected Cemetery Account, or a quick trip to Vatican City. But when it’s legalization of marijuana? Money is no object!

The Boston Archdiocese is pouring $850,000 into a last-minute effort to defeat a state ballot measure to legalize marijuana, calling increased drug use a threat to the Catholic Church’s health and social-service programs.

“It reflects the fact that the archdiocese holds the matter among its highest priorities,” archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon said of the donation. “It’s a recognition that, if passed, the law would have significantly detrimental impacts on our parishes, our ministries.”

In 2012, the church helped lead the fight against a ballot measure that would have allowed doctor-assisted suicides. The Boston Archdiocese and its affiliated entities contributed about $2.5 million, and the proposal failed.

So they perhaps helped ensure that people in pain cannot choose to exit life in Massachusetts. They perhaps helped ensure that people afraid of dying in pain cannot have the reassurance that the choice is available in Massachusetts. People for whom marijuana is medically helpful in controlling pain or nausea or both – they can take a hike too. Nice job, archdiocese.


Hilarious genocide joke enlivens football game

Oct 29th, 2016 10:42 am | By

This one made my eyes open wide in shock. A high school football game in Ohio between the Greenfield-McClain Tigers and the Hillsboro “Indians” (can we please retire all those names now?) – the cheerleaders for the not-“Indian” team made a banner saying

Hey Indians Get Ready for A Trail of TEARS Part 2

That’s as if the Greenfield-McClain Tigers were playing the Hillsboro “Jews” and the Tigers cheerleaders made a banner saying Hey Jews, get ready for a holocaust part 2. The Trail of Tears is what happened when Jackson kicked all the Native Americans out of desirable fertile land in the southeast and forced them to walk west until they got to a place nobody wanted. Many of them died. It’s a horror-name, like Tuskegee or Auschwitz or the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It’s not a joke for football fans to bandy about.

Notice (as I just belatedly did) the eye in the corner, with the tear coming out.

The Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails

Oct 29th, 2016 10:03 am | By

A tiny history lesson via Kevin Lamarque at Newsweek/Reuters.

Clinton’s email habits look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration. Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails. This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America’s recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and, later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—its was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails. “It’s about as amazing a double standard as you can get,” says Eric Boehlert, who works with the pro-Clinton group Media Matters. “If you look at the Bush emails, he was a sitting president, and 95 percent of his chief advisers’ emails were on a private email system set up by the RNC. Imagine if for the last year and a half we had been talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails set up on a private DNC server?”

Most troubling, researchers found a suspicious pattern in the White House email system blackouts, including periods when there were no emails available from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. “That the vice president’s office, widely characterized as the most powerful vice president in history, should have no archived emails in its accounts for scores of days—especially days when there was discussion of whether to invade Iraq—beggared the imagination,” says Thomas Blanton, director of the Washington-based National Security Archive.

Welllll maybe there was a lot of football to watch during those days. No, maybe he had a cold. No, maybe the Internet was down. No, maybe he just did everything over the phone.

…in 2003, a whistleblower told the National Security Archive that the George W. Bush White House was no longer saving its emails. The Archive and another watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (which had represented outed CIA agent Valerie Plame in her case against the Bush administration), refiled their original lawsuit.

The plaintiffs soon discovered that Bush aides had simply shut down the Clinton automatic email archive, and they identified the start date of the lost emails as January 1, 2003. The White House claimed it had switched to a new server and in the process was unable to maintain an archive—a claim that many found dubious.

Bush administration emails could have aided a special prosecutor’s investigation into a White House effort to discredit a diplomat who disagreed with the administration’s fabricated Iraq WMD evidence by outing his CIA agent wife, Plame. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who was brought in to investigate that case, said in 2006 that he believed some potentially relevant emails sent by aides in Cheney’s office were in the administration’s system but he couldn’t get them.

But that’s ok because REASONS.

The supposedly lost emails also prevented Congress from fully investigating, in 2007, the politically motivated firing of nine U.S. attorneys. When the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed related emails, Bush’s attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, said many were inaccessible or lost on a nongovernmental private server run by the RNC and called The White House, meanwhile, officially refused to comply with the congressional subpoena.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the president’s actions “Nixonian stonewalling” and at one point took to the floor in exasperation and shouted, “They say they have not been preserved. I don’t believe that!” His House counterpart, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), said Bush’s assertion of executive privilege was unprecedented and displayed “an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government.”

In court in May 2008, administration lawyers contended that the White House had lost three months’ worth of email backups from the initial days of the Iraq War. Bush aides thus evaded a court-ordered deadline to describe the contents of digital backup believed to contain emails deleted in 2003 between March—when the U.S. invaded Iraq—and September. They also refused to give the NSA nonprofit any emails relating to the Iraq War, despite the PRA, blaming a system upgrade that had deleted up to 5 million emails. The plaintiffs eventually contended that the Bush administration knew about the problem in 2005 but did nothing to fix it.

One rule for them, and another rule for everyone else.

Find and delete the word “women”

Oct 29th, 2016 9:34 am | By

Now it’s the National Women’s Law Center.

Starting in just 10 minutes we’ll be tweeting with @ABetterBalance to support pregnant people in the workforce! Join us with #PDA38!

The National Women’s Law Center avoiding the word “women.” When talking about pregnancy.

38 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, too many people are still forced to choose between a paycheck & a healthy pregnancy. #PDA38

It’s the National Women’s Law Center. They’re allowed to talk about women. They have to talk about women, if they’re going to do what their name indicates they’re going to do.

Tell Congress to ensure reasonable accommodations for all pregnant people at work: #PDA38

They’re helping to erase their own constituency.

Who else does this? Who else is this stupid and masochistic and self-abnegating? No one! Anti-racism activists don’t do this, LGB rights activists don’t do this, labor activists don’t do this, nobody does this except women. And everybody else looks on approvingly as women compliantly erase themselves at the behest of others.

The National Women’s Law Center is going to have to re-name itself the National People’s Law Center. No feminism for you.

Russia gets the boot

Oct 28th, 2016 5:55 pm | By

Russia has lost its seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Russia narrowly lost its seat on the main United Nations body devoted to human rights on Friday, signaling international dismay over the military power’s conduct in Syria.

The vote was to select countries to represent Eastern Europe on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Russia lost by two votes to Croatia and by 32 votes to Hungary. All 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly voted, and when the results were announced, there was a “small intake of air” in the large hall, said the New Zealand envoy, Gerard van Bohemen.

He said he believed that Russia’s conduct in the war in Syria, including the aerial bombardment of Aleppo, “must have played a part.”

The US got kicked off during the Bush administration.

The Human Rights Council is politically influential. Its responsibilities include establishing panels to investigate human rights abuses in specific countries. Human rights advocates had hoped that the council would impanel an inquiry into rights abuses in Yemen. It was vigorously opposed by Saudi Arabia, which was re-elected Friday for another three-year seat.

“It’s hard to imagine the atrocities happening in Aleppo were not on the minds of those casting their ballots today,” said Akshaya Kumar of Human Rights Watch, which had vigorously lobbied against both Russia and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks. The group called for competitive elections for all geographic blocs.

Saudi Arabia is still on it (which is outrageous), Russia isn’t. Inches.


Oct 28th, 2016 5:37 pm | By

Robert Reich on Facebook:

Yesterday I spoke with a former Republican member of Congress whom I’ve known for years.

Me: What do you think of your party’s nominee for president?

He: Trump is a maniac. He’s a clear and present danger to America.

Me: Have you said publicly that you won’t vote for him?

He (sheepishly): No.

Me: Why not?

He: I’m a coward.

Me: What do you mean?

He: I live in a state with a lot of Trump voters. Most Republican officials do.

Me: But you’re a former official. You’re not running for Congress again. What are you afraid of?

He: I hate to admit it, but I’m afraid of them. Some of those Trumpistas are out of their fucking minds.

Me: You mean you’re afraid for your own physical safety?

He: All it takes is one of them, you know.

Me: Wait a minute. Isn’t this how dictators and fascists have come to power in other nations? Respected leaders don’t dare take a stand.

He: At least I’m no Giuliani or Gingrich or Pence. I’m not a Trump enabler.

Me: I’ll give you that.

He: Let me tell you something. Most current and former Republican members of Congress are exactly like me. I talk with them. They think Trump is deplorable. And they think Giuliani and Gingrich are almost as bad. But they’re not gonna speak out. Some don’t want to end their political careers. Most don’t want to risk their lives. The Trump crowd is just too dangerous. Trump has whipped them up into a goddamn frenzy.

That’s pretty contemptible. We’re all afraid of the Trumpistas, but the Republicans are responsible for Trump. We wouldn’t be in danger of seeing him in the White House if it weren’t for the Republicans, so I think they should be thinking about the safety of all of us more than their own at this point.

Withdrawing room 5

Oct 28th, 2016 5:32 pm | By

Silentbob alerted us to a juvenile elephant (not a baby) making sure her favorite human isn’t getting swept down the river.

Two of the loudest cheerleaders

Oct 28th, 2016 5:08 pm | By

Of course the first thing that everyone said, including me, when the Bundy verdict came out was that it will send a message to all the other “public lands are for us to exploit!!” crowd that they can get away with it. Of course.

The shocking acquittals of Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with five other militants, in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife preserve is already emboldening anti-government extremists.

Two of the Bundy militants’ loudest cheerleaders, Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and blogger Gavin Seim, are already signaling that additional actions may be taken against the federal government.

Let’s secede! And have a civil war! That was so much fun last time, and now the carnage would be massive.

Fiore, who lost her re-election campaign in the Republican primary, told a reporter that the not-guilty verdicts were a message that Americans need to stand up to unlawful behavior by government employees.

Like working in wildlife refuges and unlawful shit like that. Yee-ha!

Ignore them, they’re lying again

Oct 28th, 2016 3:40 pm | By

No, the investigation into Clinton’s emails hasn’t “re-opened.” The FBI is trying to fuck with the election.

FBI Director James Comey alerted Republican members of Congress on Friday that bureau investigators would review some additional emails that might relate to Hillary Clinton’s email server. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee who has already vowed to spend the next several years investigating Clinton should she be elected president, quickly rushed to announce the news, falsely claiming that the case had been “reopened.”

And other Republicans followed suit, and news outlets took the bait, and Trump  gloated, and yadda yadda.

Though nothing in Comey’s letter said the case was being reopened, an array of news outlets repeated Chaffetz’s incorrect characterization. NBC News initially posted a story with this framing, later changing the headline and ledeto drop the claim. USA Today tweeted, falsely, that the FBI director had said the probe was being reopened. The Hill and Bloomberg also got the facts wrong.

But hey, that’s ok – it’s no big thing. It’s only whether or not the lying thieving sexually assaulting narcissist gets access to scary levels of power or not. No worries.

Despite the initial overreaction to the news, NBC’s Pete Williams has already reported that the newly found e-mails were not originally withheld by Clinton nor her campaign, the emails are not from Clinton, and the letter was sent to the Congressional leaders “out of an abundance of caution.” The AP reported that the emails did not come from Hillary Clinton’s private server. NBC’s sources called the story less than a game-changer.

But that did not stop Clinton’s critics from trying to turn it into one.

Because an exciting, though false, news item is always worth risking the fate of a country of 350 million people.

Mother Russia

Oct 28th, 2016 2:46 pm | By

Via Pink News on Twitter:

Gay pigs in a concentration camp, at that – and cowering before a huge, biceps-displaying Russian bear.

Because they would have been arrested immediately otherwise

Oct 28th, 2016 11:36 am | By

More Bundy trial.

Federal prosecutors took two weeks to present their case, finishing with a display of more than 30 guns seized after the standoff. An FBI agent testified that 16,636 live rounds and nearly 1,700 spent casings were found.

During trial, Bundy testified that the plan was to take ownership of the refuge by occupying it for a period of time and then turn it over to local officials to use as they saw fit.

Bundy also testified that the occupiers carried guns because they would have been arrested immediately otherwise and to protect themselves against possible government attack.

Quite. Just what I said. They would have been arrested immediately otherwise because they had broken into a closed (for the weekend) federal facility, so the guns were to enable them to commit the crime, and then to continue committing it for weeks.

Just a protest, folks

Oct 28th, 2016 11:28 am | By

The Washington Post has more on the Bundy gang verdict.

While a jury acquitted the Bundy brothers, most of the people charged with the Oregon takeover already pleaded guilty or still have to stand trial on federal charges — a group that includes both Bundys, who are still in custody because they are facing another federal trial in Nevada stemming from a different standoff between the family and the government.

During the trial, prosecutors described the takeover as a long-plotted occupation, while attorneys for the occupiers — who did not deny they were there — insisted they were not trying to prevent people from doing their jobs, but were instead protesting government actions.

More than two dozen people involved in the Malheur takeover were charged with conspiring to use “force, intimidation, and threats” to keep federal employees from working at the refuge during the takeover. So far, 11 people have already pleaded guilty to this charge, a series of pleas entered during the months before the Bundy trial got underway.

I daresay they’re all wishing they’d gone to trial.

The most high-profile people charged for the takeover were the two Bundy brothers, who were among the group of seven found not guilty of the conspiracy charge as well as a count of possessing firearms in a federal facility. (That one seems odd to many people, given the voluminous evidence of the occupiers wandering around the refuge with guns, but the charge was specifically for having a gun in a federal facility with the intent that it “be used in the commission of a crime.”)

So…they had the guns just for the fun of it, and not as a way to prevent anyone from strolling in and arresting them?

Come on. If they hadn’t been heavily armed, they would have been promptly evicted. Law enforcement held off because they didn’t want a shoot-0ut.

But then they would say they weren’t committing a crime, they were protesting.

Jim Urquhart/Reuters

The guns are just paperweights.

The narrative must not be disturbed

Oct 28th, 2016 10:26 am | By

Sarah Haider on the SPLC and that list.

Nuance is lost where the religion of peace is concerned, and the SPLC paints its targets with a broad, clumsy brush.  Those profiled range from pundits who believe that radicals have “infiltrated the CIA, FBI, Pentagon, and State Department” to activists who offer compassionate, empathetic, and exceedingly balanced views on the faith. The latter is exemplified by the Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, who spent his formative years in the service of an Islamist organization working to re-establish a global caliphate. After disavowing his former associates, he has spent the past decade working to encourage reform and secularization in Muslim countries and communities.

Nearly every charge against him in the report is patently absurd. His act of solidarity with students who wore a benign cartoon of Prophet Muhammad on a t-shirt is a cited as a qualification for his “anti-Muslim extremism”. Nawaz tweeted a picture of the cartoon, declaring that such trifles don’t offend him.

She too wonders what the SPLC is doing policing such things.

If mere tweeting of cartoons is tantamount to bigotry, one wonders how they would judge the actions of the actual cartoonists. Perhaps the SPLC list should include the creators of the show South Park for their depictions of Jesus and Mohammed. In the same vein, Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’ surely also qualifies him as an anti-Christian “extremist”, along with the National Endowment for the Arts that presented him with an award. But I won’t be holding my breath for the latter. In the eyes of some my fellow liberals, blasphemy is bigotry only when Islam is the target.

Nawaz’s entry reads like a gossip blog written by his most paranoid enemies, repeating debunked claims and rumors as factual evidence. In reference to his account of his journey to deradicalization, SPLC ominously contends that “major elements of his story have been disputed by former friends, members of his family, fellow jihadists and journalists”, neglecting to substantiate this damning assessment in any form whatsoever.

Let’s break that down, shall we?

Nawaz is a “reformist” Muslim, that is to say, he wishes to make changes to the way his fellow Muslims practice their faith. Anyone who takes on such a task (especially where Islam is concerned) will find themselves the target of smears and attacks from the religious conservatives.

In Nawaz’s case, the denunciations are by his former allies and associates – many the same conservative, even jihadi(!), persons and groups who he now challenges.

Reactionaries, in short. What is the SPLC doing citing them as a reason to malign Maajid?

She does an excellent take-down of the SPLC’s snide claim that he’s more interested in self-promotion than the substantive dispute with Islamism.

This is par for the course for confused regressive types: deny the individual the autonomy to name their own motivations, ascribe instead those more convenient to the narrative. A terrorist swears that it is his dedication to the religious faith that motivates his violence – regressives frantically search for other answers. Anti-fundamentalists like Nawaz declare a desire for a secular world as the fuel for their activism – regressives grasp at straws for evidence of a more nefarious agenda.

To the politically-motivated, it is of the utmost importance that the “narrative” around the religion of Islam remain undisturbed by critical voices. The good word has already been revealed: The ideology of Islam is, and always will be, entirely peaceful and good. The effect it has on its believers is, and always will be, entirely peaceful and good. When the faithful act in grotesque ways, the blame can only be placed on politics, poverty, or disposition. The mandates of the religion itself are beyond reproach, even by former or current Muslims.

How simple and delightful everything would be if only it were true that the ideology of Islam is, and always will be, entirely peaceful and good. But this is the real world, not the pink fluffy one in our dreams, so it’s not true.

Nawaz’s entry may have been the most clearly ludicrous, but other profiles are similarly problematic. SPLC points to valid, factual claims made by those profiled as “evidence” of their extremism as often as it identifies falsehoods. Worse, it pools compassionate, anti-war Muslims with the likes of those who really do want to bomb the Muslim world – enacting terrible harm to the public discourse in the process.

Consistently, the report conflates criticism or dislike of the religion as “hate” against its believers – effectively granting this particular religion a privilege no other ideology maintains. In this sense, the SPLC, considered by many to be a progressive institution, allies itself with the right-wing theocrats of the East.

80 years ago it was Uncle Joe; now it’s the Khalifa.

A supply problem

Oct 28th, 2016 9:29 am | By

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.


Oct 28th, 2016 8:07 am | By

Nicholas Kristof:

I’m staggered that a bunch of armed men can take over federal property, maintain their siege–and then get off scott free. Does anybody think the outcome would be the same if armed Muslims, black men, or Native Americans tried this? And I fear it may encourage others to try similar stunts. Thoughts?

My thoughts: yes, no, yes. I too am staggered and horrified that they got off. I don’t for a second think the outcome would be the same if armed Muslims, African Americans, or Native Americans tried this. I fear that it’s overwhelmingly likely that this idiotic verdict will encourage others to try similar and worse violent crimes against our national parks and refuges. The assault on Malheur was no stunt, it was a long string of crimes committed by heavily armed gang members.

A man with an assault rifle

Oct 28th, 2016 7:57 am | By

Peter Walker posted this yesterday evening. He later said in a comment that he’d love the photo to be on the front page of every newspaper in the country, so share it widely if you’re so inclined.

To all my Harney County friends, and friends of Harney County: I feel gut-punched, like you probably do. Here’s a photo I took at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 12. A USFWS vehicle is blocking the entrance and a man with an assault rifle is on guard. I had to ask for permission to enter. How can this not have impeded FWS employees from doing their job???? Here’s my promise to Harney County: regardless of the Bundys there will be a book that tells what happened. The agony these people inflicted on a wonderful community will NOT be lost to history. Love you guys.

Look at that guy with the gun. He looks like an official, like a cop or a military guard. He’s not: he’s a civilian with an assault rifle blocking entry to a federal, publicly owned wildlife refuge. But hey, no conspiracy to impede anyone here – it was all totally spontaneous moment to moment. And I’m Marie of Romania.

Not guilty

Oct 27th, 2016 5:13 pm | By

This day really has been a package of horrors.

The Bundys and their friends have all been acquitted.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five of their followers, charged in the armed takeover of a federally owned Oregon wildlife sanctuary in January, were acquitted Thursday of federal conspiracy and weapons charges.

The verdict brings to a close a case that gripped the nation earlier this year with its public debate about government powers, public lands and constitutional rights.

And sends a message to all white right-wing fanatics that they can probably grab a national park or wildlife refuge and get away with it, if they go in heavily armed enough. It sends a message to all non-white people that we are one fucked up country.

This makes me sick.

A new study shows

Oct 27th, 2016 1:06 pm | By

By way of a shout-out to blasphemy and a fuck you to the SPLC – the new Jesus and Mo:


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