A few days ago I discussed the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC’s) descent into blacklisting, reminiscent of the days of Joe McCarthy. The SPLC compiled a “Field Guide to anti-Muslim Extremists,” which included the names of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz, both Muslim reformers, the former now an atheist and the latter a believer. I won’t reprise the SPLC’s stupid accusations and trumped up “evidence” against these people, but I urged readers to sign a petition removing these two from the list. At the time I mentioned that petition had 1952 signers, but now there are 7979.
Of course the SPLC will ignore the petition, but perhaps they’ll become at least dimly aware that they should be careful about whom they demonize—or about making blacklists in general. Several readers objected in general to such blacklists, and I can see the point of their objections. As my friend Malgorzata commented:
I’m sorry but I’m not going to sign this petition. The idea that an SPLC took upon itself the right to libel and smear people is abhorrent as it is. To defend just two people listed there because their opinions are similar to my own would be the same as endorsing their right to issue such lists. There are other people on that list; I do not have to agree with everything they say to think that placing them on such a list is a scandal. The existence of this “hit list” should be condemned.
If you object to such blacklists in general (I’m on the fence, for while I see nothing wrong with calling out real anti-Muslim bigots, I now agree that an official “list” with the imprimatur of the SPLC is over the line), I’d urge you to email the SPLC directly at this link.
In the meantime, pushback against the SPLC’s bonehead move has begun. Yahoo! News describes many who have objected, including Nawaz’s own eloquent response in The Daily Beast and tweets by Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, and Michael Nugent. Nawaz’s eloquent column agrees with Malgorzata; an excerpt:
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.
. . . . Nothing good ever comes from compiling lists. 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: it too named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Meanwhile, Nick Cohen, the unsung hero of true, non-regressive Leftism, let the SPLC have it with both barrels in his Spectator column, aptly titled “The white left has issued its first fatwa.” (Now that’s an attention-grabber!)
Cohen notes that, for the first time, he’s actually urged someone to take advantage of the British libel laws, and even gave Nawaz the name of lawyers willing to help. I’d love to see the SPLC have to defend their allegations in court, though I suspect this won’t come to pass. But clearly the SPLC’s petition can be taken, as does Cohen, to be a death list.
[The SPLC’s Mark Potok] and his colleagues have issued the white left’s first fatwa: a blacklist that could be a deathlist.
As Nawaz said,
“It’s not as if there’s any shortage of Muslim extremists who want me dead. They exist in numbers so plenty that former jihadists have even taken to calling in to my live LBC radio show to confess to once having made plans to assassinate me. Europe has witnessed around 6,000 of our fellow Muslims leave to join ISIS. 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.’”
Do these jerks not think about the consequences of their rote-learned, pseudo-leftist bombast? Have they not heard that, across the world, lists circulate of ‘apostates’ along with invitations to the faithful to kill them when they can?
Maybe they have but do not care, and it will take drastic action to shake them out of their spiteful stupor. A court action could do it. If Nawaz sues, SPLC’s work in fighting the white far right will suffer grievously. But, as it is so eager to be on the wrong side in the fight against the religious far right, I think we could call it evens.
For another take on these issues, Heather Hastie has posted her usual thorough analysis of the Nawaz/Cohen/SPLC fracas.