The SPLC Gets Its Comeuppance

June 21, 2018 | Douglas Murray
About the author: Douglas Murray is an associate editor at the Spectator and author of, most recently, The War on the West

Once a highly regarded American organization devoted to monitoring and combating neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has in recent years adopted an ever-broadening definition of what it considers bigotry. Its list of ostensible bigots includes such figures as the sociologist Charles Murray, the ethicist Christina Hoff Sommers, and the former presidential candidate Ben Carson. After it labeled Quilliam, a British organization dedicated to combating radical Islam, and its founder, Maajid Nawaz, as “anti-Muslim extremists,” Nawaz retained a team of libel lawyers. The SPLC recently settled, paying him $3.375 million and apologizing. Douglas Murray comments:

Two years ago, the SPLC published one of its typically poorly put-together hack jobs. It described this one grandiloquently as a “field guide to anti-Muslim extremists.” Like their opposite numbers in the UK (the misleadingly titled “Hope Not Hate”), the SPLC has decided in recent years that it has the ability to judge not merely what is a correct interpretation of Islam and what is an incorrect interpretation of Islam, but also (mirabile dictu) who may criticize Islam with some legitimacy and who may not. In both cases the general sense is given off that in fact nobody can criticize any aspect of Islam legitimately without being named in a “field guide” put together by a gaggle of people who are overfunded and underinformed.

Even by its own standards the SPLC’s 2016 report was more than usually sloppy. For among the many other people they incorrectly labeled “anti-Muslim extremists,” the SPLC listed Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Which, given that Hirsi Ali was born a Muslim and Nawaz still is a Muslim, is really the sort of thing would give any sensible person pause. Or, to put it another way, how many more [non-white] people do the white far-leftists at the SPLC have to target before having to put themselves on one of their piss-poor “field guides”? . . .

A “designation” by the SPLC that a Muslim reformer is in fact, secretly or otherwise, an “anti-Muslim extremist” is the sort of thing that might scare away all but the most robust and rigorous foundations and individuals from supporting said outfit. The SPLC’s actions were also a serious warning note sounded against any other Muslims keen to get into the realm of counter-extremism. After all, now they must know that if they do dedicate their lives and careers to the cause of battling the extremists in their faith, then they not only face the potential retributions of the jihadists—as Nawaz has done—but the anathematizing and target-selection practices of the SPLC. . . .

Every person who wishes for a cleaner debate on the issues around Islamic extremism (issues that the SPLC has again shown itself wholly uninterested in exploring) will welcome the news [of the award and apology to Nawaz and Quilliam]. Everybody who has seen through the baleful effect that the SPLC has had on public life will rejoice with Nawaz and Quilliam in their victory over an entity many hundreds of times better endowed than they are.

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