Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the misguided behavior of the Southern Poverty Law Center

Although I usually watch only the NBC news and “60 Minutes” on television, I’ve started leaving the t.v. on after the news when I do my shoulder-therapy exercises, which take some time. As last night’s news segued into an entertainment show, I was shocked to hear that George and Amal Clooney had donated a million dollars to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to “fight hate groups.” Their action is well motivated, of course—she’s a human-rights lawyer and he’s somewhat of a liberal activist—but over the years, and especially recently, the SPLC has morphed into a big money vacuum cleaner exaggerating and distorting “threats” to swell their $320 million endowment. Further, they spend much more than other activist organizations on fundraising, and their top execs have bloated salaries; here are the stipendiary emoluments of the SPLC’s two top dogs, taken from “Watching the watchdogs“:

Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $349,843
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $354,727

Well, it may be a poverty law center, but the top brass are pulling in salaries (remember, these are for 2014) that put them well over the poverty line. This is what the SPLC spends their huge endowment on, for they have far too much money to actually spend it on their mission.

For a critique of how the SPLC’s mission has been corrupted by the drive for dosh and the tactic of fear mongering, see articles (cited by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who we’ll get to shortly) in Harper’s, Politico,  The Nation, and The Weekly Standard.

Anyway, last year the SPLC created “A field guide to anti-Muslim extremists” to alert journalists to those people who, said the organization, incite hatred against Muslims and do the following:

Fueling this hatred has been the propaganda, the vast majority of it completely baseless, produced and popularized by a network of anti-Muslim extremists and their enablers. These men and women have shamelessly exploited terrorist attacks and the Syrian refugee crisis, among other things, to demonize the entire Islamic faith.

Here’s the list of anti-Muslim extremists with links to the SPLC’s descriptions, which include quotes selected to show how “hateful” each person is:

Now I know of some but not all of these people, but I’m much more familiar with two of them: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz, who I consider not hatemongers but Muslim reformers (Hirsi Ali has given up her faith while Nawaz still says he’s a Muslim). Both people are admirable and brave, risking death every day to criticize the extremist form of Islam and its treatment of women, apostates, gays, and the “wrong kind of Muslim”, which of course includes liberal Muslims and “apostate” reformers. Hirsi Ali still has a 24-hour bodyguard to protect her from attacks by Islamists.

Yet the SPLC put both of them on its list. I find that reprehensible, and in October wrote a post here showing how ludicrous it was for the SPLC to categorize at least these two as “anti-Muslim extremists.” With the right quotes taken out of context, or cherry-picked, you can make any Muslim reformer look like a “hater,” and that’s what the SPLC did to Nawaz and Hirsi Ali; my article gives some examples. I don’t know the other 13 well enough to evaluate whether they too were mischaracterized; I’ll leave that to more knowledgable readers.

In a new op-ed piece in the New York Times (click on screenshot below to see it), Hirsi Ali criticizes the SPLC for targeting “liberals” (she mentions herself and Nawaz, not the others on the list) while completely ignoring Muslim extremists, who purvey far more hatred (given their stand on apostates, gays, and women) as the people named on the list above.

Hirsi Ali begins with the caveat we’ve come to expect, and one necessary to prove that you’re not a white supremacist or bigot: “Like every other decent American, I was outraged that the president of the United States equivocated in condemning neo-Nazi activity in this country. Nazism — not to mention white supremacy and racial bigotry — has no place in a civilized society.”

She then gets to the heart of the matter, and she’s right:

But is donating money to the S.P.L.C. the best way to combat this poison? I think not. If Tim Cook and Jamie Dimon had done their due diligence, they would know that the S.P.L.C. is an organization that has lost its way, smearing people who are fighting for liberty and turning a blind eye to an ideology and political movement that has much in common with Nazism.

I am a black woman, a feminist and a former Muslim who has consistently opposed political violence. The price for expressing my beliefs has been high: I must travel with armed security at all times. My friend and collaborator Theo van Gogh was murdered in broad daylight.

Yet the S.P.L.C. has the audacity to label me an “extremist,” including my name in a “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” that it published on its website last October.

In that guide, the S.P.L.C. claims that I am a “propagandist far outside the political mainstream” and warns journalists to avoid my “damaging misinformation.” These groundless smears are deeply offensive, as I have dedicated much of my adult life to calling out the true extremists: organizations such as Al Qaeda and ISIS. Yet you will look in vain for the S.P.L.C.’s “Field Guide to Muslim Extremists.” No such list exists.

Hirsi Ali takes a clever and effective tactic here, comparing Muslim extremists to the white supremacists that the SPLC abhors and publicizes:

That’s a shame, because Islamic extremism — a movement that aims to impose a caliphate and Sharia law by violent means — is as toxic as white supremacy. In the past two decades, it has certainly been responsible for many more deaths.

Like neo-Nazis, Islamic extremists despise liberalism. They deny the equality of the sexes, justify wife-beating and, in some cases, even the enslavement of female unbelievers. The Islamic State and groups like it regularly murder gay people in the most heinous ways. Islamic extremists are also virulently anti-Semitic, like the Nazis before them. And like today’s American Nazis, they brandish swastikas, chant slurs and peddle conspiracy theories.

The terrible consequences of Islamic extremism are on display on a weekly basis around the world. In the days after Charlottesville, five men in Barcelona used a van and knives to kill 14 and injure scores of innocent people. Another Islamic extremist went on a stabbing rampage in Finland. In wealthy societies like the United States, most plots to kill in the name of Islamist supremacy are foiled. But poorer societies in the developing world lack the means to do that, which is why the majority of victims of the extremists are in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.

It is not surprising that, when I point out such facts, I am viciously attacked and threatened by those who are dedicated to Islamic extremism. But it has always struck me as odd that so many supposed liberals in the West take their side rather than mine, as happened three years ago, when Brandeis University rescinded their offer to me of an honorary degree. I would have expected a civil-rights organization supposedly committed to justice to speak out against those who would oppress women, gays and people of other faiths. But the S.P.L.C. has nothing to say about Islamic extremists; only about their opponents.

Hirsi Ali cites the terrible worldwide consequences of such extremism in her piece, but the SPLC is concerned mostly with the U.S. Now who are the Islamic extremists in this country? Well, there are clearly some. How about Amar Shahin, the imam of a mosque in Davis, California, who called for the destruction of the Jews (he later apologized, but not convincingly).  There are a fair number of imams in the U.S. who often preach hate as bad as that uttered by any Nazi, and they’re not hard to find. How about Suleiman Anwar Bengharsa of Maryland, for example, who regularly endorses ISIS and their gruesome methods, but hasn’t been charged with a crime. Isn’t he an Islamic extremist?

The Clarion Project has a page of “Islamist organizations in the United States,” but I can’t figure out how to use it (readers?). The Clarion list, however, seems to be reproduced on this page.  Now it’s not Hirsi Ali’s place to provide such a list, which many people would consider invidious, but if the SPLC makes a list like the one above, it’s shameful that they don’t make a similar list of Islamic extremists who endorse the most vile forms of hatred and oppression. We know, of course, why there isn’t such a list: Muslim extremists get a pass in the U.S. because, being perceived by the Control-Left as oppressed people of color, their hatred isn’t really “hatred,” and anyway it’s the fault of U.S. imperialism.

Hirsi Ali does mention one organization that, while it doesn’t endorse terrorism, does engage in constant whitewashing of Islam and, I think, has been detrimental in helping prevent a reasoned discussion of Islamist terrorism and of the influence of religion on Muslim violence:

Muslims today cannot freely debate the role of their religion in most Muslim-majority countries, where the charges of heresy or apostasy can mean a death sentence or a lynch mob. Here in the West, too, free discussion of Islam is getting harder not least because Islamic organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations pounce on any criticism of Islam, branding it “hate speech,” the modern word for heresy. Unwittingly or not, the S.P.L.C. is abetting Islamic extremists by branding critical thinkers like Mr. Nawaz and me “extremists.”

She goes on to defend Nawaz, but you can read that bit for yourself. You may recall that he’s suing the SPLC for defamation, though I don’t know the status of that lawsuit.

I’ve written off the SPLC and am now worried about the ACLU, at one time one of my favorite organizations—one to which I donated and also volunteered for. Who on the Left is standing up for reason these days?


Cate Plys, one of several readers who sent me the link, added this in her email:

One thing disturbing: the comments. Usually I find NYT commenters on these types of op-eds make me feel better that most readers see through regressive Left stuff, etc. Not so here. Last night the comments seemed to be mostly against Ayaan, pro-SPLC. Most people had no idea that the SPLC has been exposed by credible journalistic outlets for some time now.

Well, there are now 483 comments, and yes, most of them are pro-CAIR, pro-SPLC, and anti-Hirsi Ali.  But there are also a number of supportive comments as well. I won’t give examples; see them for yourself by clicking the balloon with the number at the article’s upper right (i.e., the right icon in the screenshot below):


  1. Jenny Haniver
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Last night, I happened to catch this BBC Hardtalk interview with Richard Cohen http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csty0s. I found it very interesting and infuriating. Toward the end, at about 19 min., he’s asked some about the SPLC’s demonization of Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and his weasely response is predictable.

  2. Historian
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that several commenters at the NYT misunderstand fundamentally Hirsi Ali’s critique of the SPLC. They seem to think that she is attacking all Muslims as extremists, which, of course, is not the case. Rather, she is pointing out that in the U.S. there is a segment of Muslims (and probably a very small segment) that are extremists and need to be called out. In other words, the SPLC needs to direct their efforts to pointing out Muslim extremists as well as anti-Muslim extremists. In addition, she is calling on the SPLC to retract their characterizations of Majiid Nawaz and herself as anti-Muslim extremists. It is shameful that the SPLC will not do this.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    “stipendiary emoluments” — Wow, that’s a mouthful. I’ma hafta practice that one, I ever wanna give it a try out loud. 🙂

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      spare yourself, just say ‘wages’… 😎

  4. Kevin
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    As Cate Plys notes it is depressing to see so many NYT commenters that would stand with the SPLC over Hirsi Ali. I can only guess that there are a lot of people who will defend Islam because they feel like Muslims are being persecuted. That is not justification for the SPLC to condemn Nawaz or Hirsi Ali.

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    It seems a bit “rich” for the SPLC, which has defended the rights of illegal immigrants, to cavil about Ayaan Hirsi Ali have lied on her immigration application to Holland.


    David Horowitz most likely really IS an anti-Muslim extremist. He’s one of the worst of the ex-60s-radical-left-turned-conservatives around.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      I cannot agree. Of course, David Horowitz is a conservatist but it definitely doesn’t mean automatically that he is anti-MUSLIM extremist. A person fighting for the rights of Muslim women, Muslim gays, Muslim dissidents etc. cannot be called anti-Muslim. He definitely is very strong oppnent of radical Islam and of Islamic terrorism. This can be enlightning: http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/267663/freedom-center-confronts-cnns-blacklist-frontpagemagcom

      I don’t know all people on this list but of those I know not one deserve such a slur.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, That is a revealing read. I had in mind DH’s own attacks on the Muslim Student Union.
        I said “most likely”. I will have to research this further.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      “David Horowitz most likely really IS an anti-Muslim extremist”

      Could you please explain.

    • Historian
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I cannot speak directly of Horowitz’s views on Muslims. But, you are right that he is one of the worst of 60s lefties who turned right.

      Sol Stern is another 60s lefty who turned conservative. He has known Horowitz quite well for more than half a century. In February, he posted an article on the Daily Beast site in which he condemns Horowitz for becoming an adoring fan of Trump. I find the article enlightening because as a creature of the 1960s(although not a far left radical), I wonder often what happened to the radicals whose dreams of revolution turned out to be pure delusion.


      • Ann German
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        As a fellow creature of the 60’s, and very active politically at that, my take then and now is that quite of few of the “radicals” were/are motivated by ego, not egalitarianism, and many of the organizational screw-ups were simply turf wars for personal aggrandizement. Frankly, quite of few of these “radicals” were the male children of upper middle class parents and substituted radical activism for, say, doctoring and lawyering. My experience with women’s groups has been was much more positive and inclusive . . . we shunned the notion of “leaders” and “big dogs” and that became a model for feminism.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Dang, first the ACLU, now the SPLC — couple pillars of my youthful idealism takin’ hits today (as well they should).

    The SPLC began losing its way sometime in the Eighties, you ask me, when its prime mission turned from defending poor people against the death penalty to pursuing civil litigation against the likes of the Klan. Mind you, I’ve got no love lost for the Klan or the Aryan Brotherhood or the others they were suing. But some of the law they were making on behalf of their very sympathetic civil clients, especially as to the RICO statute, got turned around and applied against some of my clients in federal criminal cases, and it wasn’t pretty. I stopped donating regularly to them around then — not because of the bad law, but because I figured they should be more self-sufficient, same as any other plaintiffs’ lawyers suing for money damages.

    I know Morris Dees a little bit, just from hotel barrooms after-hours at a couple legal conferences. I still like ol’ Morris personally; he done some good back in his day — especially for a good old boy from Alabama. But I can’t abide what he’s allowed the SPLC to become.

    • Ann German
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      Why should the ACLU take a hit today?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

        Referring to Jerry’s previous post, about the twittering. (I’m still a card-carrying supporter, though; it’d take a lot more to shake that.)

  7. Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    It is very sad that Hirsi Ali has to spend so much time and energy defending herself rather than building and advancing the cause for Muslim reform. Doubly so to have to defend herself against those who should be on her side.

  8. P. Puk
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Christians have their “love thy neighbour” stick. It is doctrinally mandated in their religion. Muslims have their “Hate everybody and everything” and it is also doctrinally mandated.

    They live their lives with a seething hatred of everything that Allah hates. It’s called Al Wala’ Wal Bara’. Gays Jews dancing alcohol music pigs. The list is long.

    It’s really tiresome when people try and defend or justify this hatred or worse, pretend it doesn’t exist.

    • Historian
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Such blanket statements uttered with complete certainty discredit anything you say.

      • P. Puk
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Like I said, it’s really tiresome.

        Why is it 100% acceptable to mention how Christians love their neighbours and the sinners and hate the sin? Nobody calls these ‘blanket statements’. We are also free to criticise Christians for holding these beliefs, point out where they fail and how they are so often hypocrites for saying one thing and doing antother.


        And why is it okay to dismiss criticism of a similar doctrine of a different religion? A doctrine which is more ardent and destructive and insidious? Why do we offer protection for the disgusting doctrine of Al Wala’ Wal Bara’ and not have an open and honest conversation of the effect it has on Muslims and non-Muslims alike?

        Pray tell.

        • Historian
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          Muslims “live their lives with a seething hatred of everything that Allah hates.”

          My goodness, isn’t there one Muslim who don’t live his or her life without a seething hatred? I may be way off base here, but I would bet if you tried really hard, you might even find two.

  9. Randy schenck
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I think Clooney spends to much time with his fellow actors like Batman Affleck who can’t find a bad Muslim anywhere.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Clooney is a complete airhead.

  10. Tom
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Decades ago somebody said “follow the money” this may be a useful tip today since the Gulf states have spent a fortune burnishing Islams very tarnished image.
    Western Governments need to look into where all that money has beeen spent and how many previously respected Rights organisations it has corrupted.
    What evidence do I have?
    None, apart from how similar, as if from a script, is the the literature of these organisations when it comes to Islams critics.

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s time for SPLC to remove Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz from their ‘Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists’. There is a precedent. For example, they removed Dr Ben Carson from a list of hate speakers following political pressure. To have them on the same list as someone like the head of the Alt-Right, Richard Spencer is unconscionable. Spencer, of course, is the person who coined the term “Alt-Right” to sanitize the white supremacist views he holds.

    As an aside, the corrupt paedophile-shielder but popular Catholic conservative Cardinal Dolan has come out in support of Richard Dawkins in recent days. (In the story on Fox yesterday the clip included Dawkins on stage recently with our Jerry.) He agrees with Dawkins that he should be able to criticize Islam in the same way he criticizes Christianity.

    • Ann German
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      SPLC, like any other organization that is “successful,” becomes isolated and inbred and intolerant of dissent. Needs a good shake up.

      • Ann German
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        RE: Dolan and Dawkins . . . these days make strange bed fellows.

    • jay
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Their concept of ‘hate’ is madly biased. If it’s even mild disagreement with some left wing shibboleth, it’s HATE. Even mild criticism of the behavior of Muslims is ‘hate’ but criticism of Catholics is not.

      What they (and much of the left) do is not allow for a concept of tolerance in between actual hatred and full bore approval. But on any hot button issue, anything short of full bore affirmation, is hate.

      I don’t buy into this at all. No one has to *approve* of homosexuality, or atheism or Catholicism as long as they don’t interfere with the rights of these people.

      Let’s bring back the REAL meaning of the word hate, instead of using it as contrived weapon to force a sense of unity based on fear of shaming.

      BTW. After showing Gone With the Wind for decades, apparently it’s no longer safe for the historic Memphis theater to do so now.


      • jay
        Posted August 26, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Side thought. When the film was redone and colorized back in the late 60s, it was a black friend of mine who urged me to see it.

        • Craw
          Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          Restored not colorized. It was always in color.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Hirsi Ali did a good job!

    Here in the West, too, free discussion of Islam is getting harder not least because Islamic organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations pounce on any criticism of Islam, branding it “hate speech,” the modern word for heresy.

    I note in passing that here may be a reason to *have* clearly defined hate speech laws. Analytic criticism would not be hate speech in Sweden. The attempted branding should fall flat, and a free speech discussion can be had without undue effort.

  13. Nilou Ataie
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I bet the SPLC has some closet Islamists in its wings that are catalyzing the Ayaan hatred. The breadcrumbs of Ayaan hatred always seem to lead there…

  14. Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Continuing on Hirsi Ali’s point on SPLC ignoring Muslim extremists. I think if “white supremacist” was recognized to be just one variety of what I would call “ingroup supremacist”, I think it would give a better perspective on the problem.

    There are so many issues that the post-colonialist influenced left tries to portray as unique problems with Western culture that are actually problems that plague all of humanity. There are many atrocities that white supremacy would not explain that could be covered by ingroup supremacy. Hutus killing Tutsis in Rwanda, Catholics killing Huguenots at St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, or Isis killing Yazidis in Iraq.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Well observed. I think ‘xenophobia’ or ‘chauvinism’ are probably the applicable words.


  15. Addie Pray
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Gaffney and Gellar are, from all I have read, genuinely anti-Muslim bigots. Shoebat (as well as his son Theodore) are odious beyond measure, genuine theocrats calling for death not only for muslims, but gays, and any one else who doesn’t adhere to their brand of Goddity.

  16. Diane G.
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 3:03 am | Permalink


  17. ploubere
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    I stopped donating to SPLC after they published that list. I wrote to them asking them to explain themselves, but they never responded. Well, with that endowment, they won’t miss my paltry contributions.

  18. bbenzon
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Where’d you get that $2 billion endowment number, Jerry? It kinda’ knocked me out, so I did some checking. According to their 2016 Audited Financial Statement (p. 4) their endowment is $300+, still healthy, but nowhere near $2B. The 2015 salary figures are a bit above what you report for 2014 (IRS Form 990, p. 7).

    • Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:47 am | Permalink

      Yes, you’re right. I thought it was in one of the article Hirsi Ali cited, but, checking back, yes, you’re right. The slaries are ok abut I’ve changed the figure. Thanks.

  19. klong
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    This is pure conjecture on my part but it looks like SPLC is pandering to tap into money from big moneyed interests that support Islam. It would be interesting to see who is sending money into their coffers from the Middle East. It might be even more interesting to see those organization’s agendas. I’m really struggling to continue to support LGBT and feminist organizations on the left that remain silent against their own self interest. The SPLC appear to have joined that group. Any organization that is willing to sell its soul for money is lost to me forever.

    The irony is there are other people that are more demonstrative against Muslims. Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins come to mind first but the SPLC are a bunch of cowards and don’t want the backlash that would come their way by taking on people with huge public followings. They only want the appearance of doing something to get the money.

  20. Posted September 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

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