Thank you very much for your email.
I appreciate your sharing your concerns about our inclusion of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz in our booklet, “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.” We do, however, respectfully disagree with your critique. Let me explain our position here.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has repeatedly called for the closing of Islamic schools, a fact not taken out of context or interpretation. Hirsi Ali also repeatedly claims that there is no “moderate” Islam, which results in vilifying millions and millions of peaceful Muslims practicing their faith. Additionally, our report does not claim that she advocates violence. Our concern here is the media employing individuals who depict the Muslim community unfairly and stereotypically.
Additionally, Maajid Nawaz’s religion is not the issue here, and there are plenty of Muslims and ex-Muslims in the anti-Muslim movement. Being a believer in the Muslim faith does not mean that you are immune from saying horrible things about Islam or Muslims. The same can be said of people of other faiths.
Let me cite some examples as to why we came to our conclusion that Nawaz is an extremist. For starters, his organization sent a letter to a security official, according to The Guardian, that said, “the ideology of non-violent Islamists is broadly the same as that of violent Islamists.” The same letter also makes other wild accusations, including that Muslim groups, a television channel and a Scotland Yard anti-terror unit share the ideology of terrorists. We make this point in our report.
Last year, Nawaz said something similar about academic institutions in Britain in a piece for the New York Times. He wrote, “In fact, academic institutions in Britain have been infiltrated for years by dangerous theocratic fantasists.” This talk of infiltration and sharing of extremist Islamic ideas within academia and government is a common anti-Muslim trope. Other extremists in our report, such as Frank Gaffney and John Guandolo, have said similar things.
I’d like to add that the calling for a ban of any religious dress is indeed extreme, regardless of the religious institution. Calling for a ban on the niqab is akin to banning a kippah. Daniel Pipes, another extremist on this list, has also called for a similar ban. These calls are contrary to religious freedom.
Finally, Nawaz tweeted the “Jesus and Mo” cartoon. Depicting the Prophet Mohammad in any form is a very offensive thing for Muslims, but of course is protected by the First Amendment, as it should be. Let me be clear though that we do not claim in the report that this was “hate speech.” Other examples of Nawaz’s problematic positions are included in our report.
I’m sorry that you disagree with our conclusions, and we greatly appreciate your support of SPLC.
My reply follows.
Thank you for taking the time to reply — albeit with a form letter that address points I did not raise and ignores points I did.
Unfortunately, your letter only confirms that the SPLC has moved away from the values upon which it was founded. Moreover, your letter illustrates that the SPLC is willing to make dishonest (or at least disingenuous) arguments and engage in motivated reasoning to attempt to justify a patently unfounded and immoral position.
I will not attempt here to refute your arguments, specious and inconsistent though they are. Others have done this job far better than I could hope to do, and I am sure you have read these rebuttals. I can only beg you once more to humbly consider for a moment the possibility that you could be mistaken. Your intransigence on this matter is causing actual harm to the cause we share and the work we aim to do.
It troubles me greatly to admit it, but I fear an implacable and self-righteous orthodoxy has infected the SPLC. I cannot in good conscience support such an organization, no matter how good its intentions. I will instead shift my support to other reputable organizations that have a mission similar to the SPLC’s. I wish the SPLC well, and I hope it becomes again someday an organization that I can support.
My commitment to the cause remains unwavering. In the words of John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”