UPDATE: Hemant Mehta writes in to say, “I focused on those two because they’re well known in atheist circles.”
Sam Harris thinks it’s “unbelievable” that Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali made it to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hit list of “Anti-Muslim Extremists.” He said nothing about me or the other people whom the SPLC included, which is not surprising, since he has quite recently expressed willingness to acquiesce in other contexts to the demonization that the SPLC list exemplifies.
Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist blog ably sums up the outrage over Nawaz and Hirsi Ali being included: “If criticizing religious beliefs makes them extremists, then it won’t be long before other vocal atheists end up on that list too. And make no mistake, that’s what Nawaz and Hirsi Ali are doing. That’s all they’re doing. They’re not anti-Muslim; they work with moderate Muslims. They’re critical of the worst aspects of Islam.”
The problem with being angry about Nawaz and Hirsi Ali being on the SPLC list, but silent about everyone else who is on it, is that what Mehta says about Nawaz and Hirsi Ali can quite accurately said about everyone else on the list. If criticizing religious beliefs makes them “extremists,” then it won’t be long before everyone who dares to utter a critical word about Islam will be on the list — and that is indeed the objective of the list: to stigmatize and marginalize any and all such critics. Mehta protests that Nawaz and Hirsi Ali are “not anti-Muslim; they work with moderate Muslims. They’re critical of the worst aspects of Islam.”
But no one would think that the other 13 were “anti-Muslim” if it hadn’t been for the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and their allied groups insisting that we were all these years, in their avidity to conflate opposition to jihad terror and Sharia oppression with hating a group of people — a tactic designed to discredit opposition to jihad terror and Sharia oppression. Mehta and co. are falling for and validating the same smear tactics hey are decrying when used against their friends. And as for working with moderate Muslims, for 13 years Jihad Watch has contained this invitation: “Any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude is welcome to join in our anti-jihadist efforts.” It is Nawaz (as well as other moderates) who has attacked me, in what appears to have been a cynical attempt to gain support for himself among Muslims; I never attacked him, and would have have been happy to work with him otherwise.
In complaining that Nawaz and Hirsi Ali are merely “criticizing religious beliefs” and are “not anti-Muslim,” Mehta is strongly implying that the others on the SPLC list are doing something beyond “criticizing religious beliefs” and are indeed “anti-Muslim.” On Twitter the last couple of days I’ve seen many people express outrage that Nawaz has been lumped in with the likes of Spencer; but when I ask them what the big difference is between us, or for quotes from me that are actually “bigoted,” they go silent.
Mehta, Harris, Haider and the rest are, by their selective outrage, acquiescing to and legitimizing the SPLC’s demonization of the other people on the list. This is a self-defeating choice for them to have made, for the SPLC has never identified anyone whom it considers to be a legitimate critic of Islam, and never will: the point of lists such as the one they released yesterday is to demonize and silence everyone who dares say something about Islam that is not warmly positive. The turn of Mehta, Harris, and Haider will come for the same treatment. One wonders if, when this happens, there will be anyone left to speak for them who has not already been smeared as “anti-Muslim,” with their tacit approval.
“Atheists Outraged by SPLC Branding Atheist Critics of Radical Islam ‘Anti-Muslim Extremists,'” by Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post, October 28, 2016:
Sam Harris and several other prominent members of the atheist community have condemned the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent decision to brand atheist authors critical of radical Islam as “anti-Muslim Extremists.”
Harris, who himself has written books, articles, and made numerous commentaries on the dangers of Islamic extremism, described the SPLC’s move as “unbelievable,” and retweeted several messages by other atheists and supporters who also could not understand why Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz have found themselves of the “extremist” list.
As the SPLC notes in its report, Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born activist who says that she suffered female genital mutilation and fled civil war in Africa, but questions key parts of her persecution story, and argues that “she now positions herself as an ex-Muslim champion of women’s rights, her anti-Muslim rhetoric is remarkably toxic.”
SPLC also brands Nawaz as a former radical who uses his experience to “savage Islam,” and also accuses him of fabricating parts of his experience in order to present a negative image of Islam.
Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist blog noted that both Nawz [sic] and Hirsi Ali believe that Islam is “uniquely problematic compared to other religions,” and have encouraged moderate Muslims to help steer the religion in the right direction.
Mehta wrote that the SPLC’s decision to brand the authors as “anti-Muslim Extremists” makes him wonder “why anyone should take the SPLC seriously at this point.”
He added: “If criticizing religious beliefs makes them extremists, then it won’t be long before other vocal atheists end up on that list too. And make no mistake, that’s what Nawaz and Hirsi Ali are doing. That’s all they’re doing. They’re not anti-Muslim; they work with moderate Muslims. They’re critical of the worst aspects of Islam.”
Sarah Haider of Ex-Muslims of North America noted that both Nawaz and Hirsi Ali have been targeted by radicals and threatened with violence for speaking out against real extremists, and warned that the SPLC’s decision will make it even harder for critics to speak out.
“Already, too few are willing to stand up to religious privilege for the sake of human rights. When that privilege belongs to a religion whose followers include some ready to die (and kill) for the honor of their faith, activists face devastating costs,” Haider wrote.
“This report is an example of the careless, reactionary response by the American media (on both the right and the left) to the challenge posed by this religion.”…