No plans to admit any mistakes

PRI, Public Radio International, did a story on the SPLC report yesterday.

The list is primarily meant to be a resource for journalists, says Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the SPLC. He says it is especially intended to help producers who schedule experts for TV appearances.

“There are an awful lot of people out there who present themselves as ‘experts’ on terrorism or on Islam, who really are people who make it their business simply to savage Islam,” Potok says.

That’s true…but Maajid is not one of them, so why is he on that list?

The list is only 15 people after all. With such a small number why include at least two people who don’t belong there? Think of all the actual nasties they left off.

PRI notes that the inclusion of Maajid and Ayaan Hirsi Ali raised some eyebrows.

Nawaz is a British Muslim and a self-declared ex-jihadist. He is a writer and activist, far better known in Britain than the US, and the co-founder of a think tank in London called Quilliam, which describes its mission as countering the narratives put out by Islamist extremists.

But the SPLC describes Nawaz as a self-promoting hypocrite. And worst of all, the SPLC’s Potok says, is that Nawaz has accused peaceful Muslim organizations of being connected somehow to extremist groups.

“We think that Nawaz is very wrongheaded and under the appearance of only attacking radical Islam, in fact, is attacking Islam in general,” Potok says.

But they shouldn’t “think” that, when there’s plenty of easily available evidence that he is not attacking Islam in general, and pretty much no evidence that he is. They shouldn’t think it and they sure as hell shouldn’t issue a report saying it.

And it’s not “somehow.” A group can be peaceful and still advocate a bad, coercive, theocratic ideology. There’s no mystery in that, no need to say “somehow” – we’re all quite familiar with the phenomenon.

Nawaz has his defenders, though. They say his voice is exactly what is needed to stand up for Muslims and confront the real Muslim extremists.

“Maajid Nawaz … is a liberal in the greatest sense of the term,” says James Kirchick, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a conservative think-tank in Washington. Kirchick is also a correspondent for the Daily Beast.

That’s rather sloppy journalism. It’s factually untrue that Maajid “is attacking Islam in general” and PRI should have had the guts to say so. They shouldn’t be helping Potok throw more shit at him.

In a robust self-defense in the Daily Beast, Nawaz writes that, “Nothing good ever comes from compiling lists.” And he accuses the SPLC of engaging in McCarthyist tactics.

Nawaz says Muslim radicals already want him dead, because he’s a liberal Muslim challenging Islamic extremism from within the Muslim community.

But Omid Safi is not buying it. Safi is the director of the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University.

“Someone like Maajid Nawaz is … a very complicated person,” Safi says. “It’s not so much that Maajid Nawaz hates Islam or that he hates all Muslims.

“He actually has a very specific agenda, and it’s an agenda that actually fosters the process of doing surveillance, not on the basis of what people have done, but on the basis of who they are ethnically and religiously.”

Oh please. That’s like saying it’s an agenda that fosters surveillance to pay attention to what Trump supporters do and say and think. It’s like saying it’s an agenda that fosters surveillance to pay attention to the Bundy gang and their fans, or Trump himself, or the KKK, or the Vatican, or the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, or you name it. Yes, actually, we do need to pay attention to ideologies that would rule over us if they attained power.

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal has come out in support of Nawaz and Ali, calling both of them Muslim reformers. There is also a petition calling for both of their names to be removed from the SPLC’s list.

But the SPLC says it has no plans to make any changes to its list of anti-Muslim extremists.

The SPLC has no plans to admit its gross errors of fact and try to undo the damage it’s done. The SPLC stinks.

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