The backlash has been fierce since the Southern Poverty Law Center put Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali — two activists who have risked their lives to help reform Islam — on a list of “Anti-Muslim extremists.”
Sarah Haider, a co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America, knows first-hand how hard it can be to criticize Islam without appearing like you’re attacking all Muslims, and she held nothing back going after the SPLC:
In addition to threats of violence by Islamic fundamentalists, liberal critics of Islam are increasingly abandoned. At best, we are inconvenient afterthoughts, at worst, bigots and hate-mongers.
The intellectual confusion and moral paralysis plaguing the Western Left around the religion of Islam has done much to add credibility to the Western Right…
Perhaps in more competent hands, a report such as this may have been a useful guide for journalists with little time to spend on background research. However, the one produced by SPLC is neither reliable nor factual, and often steers closer to the category of yellow journalism than anything worth serious consideration.
In reality, Maajid Nawaz has been one of the most consistently rational, compassionate, and nuanced voices in an atmosphere brimming with hostility and competing agenda-driven narratives. As an apostate myself, I am grateful he represents Muslims who fight for our right to exist.
You could also feel the jaw-drops on Twitter:
Ayaan survived genital mutilation and her friends murder by a jihadist. Maajid was an Islamist turned liberal. SPLC is extremist, not them https://t.co/8a9GRNRbAW
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) October 27, 2016
Including Maajid Nawaz (and to a lesser extent Ayaan Hirsi Ali) on that blacklist really just undermines the credibility of the blacklist.
— Russell Blackford (@Metamagician) October 28, 2016
1st world American non-Muslims at @splcenter listed me, a liberal reform Muslim, as an "anti-Muslim Extremist". This is a target on my head.
— Radical (@MaajidNawaz) October 27, 2016
— Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) October 27, 2016
— Stephen Knight GS (@GSpellchecker) October 27, 2016
— American Humanist (@americnhumanist) October 27, 2016
The Southern Poverty Law Center, as of this writing, hasn’t responded to any of the complaints. But they have an obligation to defend or apologize for their decision. To call Hirsi Ali and Nawaz “anti-Muslim” — on a list with actual bigots — paints an even larger target on their backs and hurts their efforts to reform the real extremism out there.