The Southern Poverty Law Center recently put out a ‘Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists‘ that included Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Even the name of the report is absurd – a ‘field guide’ sounds like we’re talking about a trail guide or hunting manual, instead of people who are supposedly dangerous extremists.
That aside, I’ve gone through the entire report and I believe it needs to be vehemently opposed. Not only does it attempt to slur the character of two moderate critics, but it does so with very little evidence.
In my opinion, this ‘field guide’ is the latest failure of the regressive, authoritarian Left to come to grips with reality, and demonstrates their seemingly inexhaustible ability to bend over backwards in defense of the indefensible.
Instead of denouncing the very real oppression of women, LGBT, moderate Muslims and minority religions in theocratic Islamic countries, they have instead decided to denounce those who are actively trying to criticize and modernize the religion that is at least in part responsible for their oppression.
In case you think I’m overreacting, I’m going to go through some of what this guide says about both Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and explain why I think they have been wrongfully maligned.
Before we get started, here’s a little bit about Nawaz:
Maajid Usman Nawaz (Urdu: ماجد نواز, [ˈmaːdʒɪd̪ naːwaːz], born 2 November 1978) is a British activist, author, columnist, radio host and politician. He was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for London‘s Hampstead and Kilburn constituency in the 2015 general election. He is also the founding chairman of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank that seeks to challenge the narratives of Islamistextremists.
Born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex to a British Pakistani family, Nawaz is a former member of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. This association led to his arrest in Egypt in December 2001, where he remained imprisoned until 2006. Reading books on human rights and interacting with Amnesty International, which adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, resulted in a change of heart. This led Nawaz to leave Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2007, renounce his Islamist past and call for a “Secular Islam“.
In this post I will talk about Maajid and in another post I will do the same for Ayaan.
The Claims Made Against Maajid Nawaz
I’m going to start with Maajid because of the two, I think he took the harshest blow.
The report said:
In the list sent to a top British security official in 2010, headlined “Preventing Terrorism: Where Next for Britain?” Quilliam wrote, “The ideology of non-violent Islamists is broadly the same as that of violent Islamists; they disagree only on tactics.” An official with Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit told The Guardian that “[t]he list demonises a whole range of groups that in my experience have made valuable contributions to counter-terrorism.”
This isn’t even very controversial. Here’s the definition of Islamism: “Islamism, also known as Political Islam (Arabic: إسلام سياسي islām siyāsī), is an Islamic revival movement often characterized by moral conservatism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life.”
Within that movement, there are people who don’t believe in violence in order to achieve their political aims, and there are those who do. To deny this would be to deny reality, and to use this to call someone an extremist is just absurd.
The statement quoted from Quilliam is not controversial and completely true.
Moving on to the next point made against Nawaz:
In a Nov. 16, 2013, op-ed in the Daily Mail, Nawaz called for criminalizing the wearing of the veil, or niqab, in many public places, saying: “It is not only reasonable, but our duty to insist individuals remove the veil when they enter identity-sensitive environments such as banks, airports, courts and schools.”
Here’s what he actually said, from the link provided by the SPLC:
It is not only reasonable, but our duty to insist individuals remove the veil when they enter identity-sensitive environments such as banks, airports, courts and schools. Legally speaking, there is no basis for any exception to be made, but the sad fact is exceptions are being made because we have become too spineless to do anything about it.
Let me make this clear: it is our duty to adopt a policy barring the wearing of niqabs in these public buildings. Here’s my test: where a balaclava, motorcycle helmet or face mask would be deemed inappropriate, so should a niqab. It’s simple really.
In other words, he wants to hold people to an equal standard, no matter what head gear they’re wearing. I hardly find this to be controversial, although I can understand why some people might disagree with this stance.
But to call it an extreme view is just crazy. It’s not extreme and in no way should qualify someone as an extremist.
According to a Jan. 24, 2014, report in The Guardian, Nawaz tweeted out a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad — despite the fact that many Muslims see it as blasphemous to draw Muhammad. He said that he wanted “to carve out a space to be heard without constantly fearing the blasphemy charge.”
Here’s the tweet in question.
First off, it shouldn’t matter who finds it offensive. It’s irrelevant, really. We have freedom of speech and while some people may be offended by such a tweet, that in no way means they can or should be able to silence people from making them.
Second, this tweet is so very benign. Worse tweets are sent every day satirizing Christianity and no one gets put on a list (rightfully so I might add) of Anti-Christian extremists as a result. In fact, I’d be willing to bet some people who have applauded the decision to put Nawaz on a list of extremists have done similar things towards other religions without batting an eye.
Third, this would mean that anyone who took part in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day is an extremist.
How utterly ridiculous.
Last but not least, we have this gem, which I consider to be the most ridiculous of them all:
Nawaz, who had described himself as a “feminist,” was “filmed repeatedly trying to touch a naked lap dancer,” according to an April 10, 2015, report in the Daily Mail. The paper apparently got the security film from the owner of a strip club who was incensed by Nawaz’s claims to be a religious Muslim.
So he broke some sort of feminist law and that makes him an anti-Muslim extremist? The two don’t even have anything to do with one another, and is clearly just an attempt to smear Nawaz’s character.
The lap dance they are talking about was during his bachelor party.
How extremist of him! I mean no one goes to a strip bar for their bachelor/bachelorette party. The man is clearly a monster and must be stopped.
Nawaz had this to say:
In his Facebook post, he said: “In current times, our moral uproar is best reserved for those who aspire to stone men or women to death, not those who consensually watch women, or men for that matter, dance. In fact, please be prepared to see me again around London some time, you may even catch me dancing.”
Sounds reasonable to me.
If getting a lap-dance is something you find objectionable, that’s your opinion. However, it’s perfectly legal and it’s unethical to use as justification to label the man an anti-Muslim extremist.
Maajid Nawaz literally argued in a debate that Islam is a religion of peace. To frame him as a hater of Muslims is irresponsible and reprehensible.
You can read part 2 by following this link.