Bill Maher interviews Maajid Nawaz

June 24, 2017 • 12:15 pm

In this 17-minute video, Bill Maher, who’s in bad odor with Lefists for using the n-word, interviews someone who’s even more demonized: Maajid Nawaz. Nawaz is a man I much admire, as he began his adult life as an extreme Islamist but now runs the think tank Quilliam, devoted to tamping down extremism—especially among Muslims. Because he’s a moderate Muslim in a suit instead of a bearded imam clutching a Qur’an, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) named him, along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, as one of several “anti-Muslim extremists”. That decision was ludicrous, and the SPLC really should have reversed it.

Here Nawaz announces that he’s taking the SPLC to court for defamation. I doubt whether that’ll succeed:  I don’t really know libel law except that the statement made has to be “knowingly false” and must damage someone’s reputation (for damages, it has to reduce your worth or income). But isn’t it a judgment call to say he’s an “anti-Muslim extremist”? Even if he’s a Muslim, which he is, I suppose some twisted mind can find a way to call him “anti-Muslim”, although you’d have a hard time characterizing Nawaz as an “extremist.”

At any rate, Nawaz’s criticism of the SPLC and its decision is right on the mark. (You can read the SPLC’s indictment of him here and see what you think. Most if its reasons aren’t compelling; I found one of them disturbing, but still not rising to the level of “anti-Muslim extremism”).

Nawaz goes on to indict the high level of homophobia (about 100%) among British Muslims, which should be a matter of concern to liberals, and even more so to what must be the many gay Muslims who must cower in the closet. At 15:25, Nawaz proffers what he sees as “the only long-term solution” to Islamist terrorism.

Say what you will about Maher and Nawaz (I get weekly emails from deranged loons trying to convince me that Nawaz is really a closet terrorist, sympathetic to ISIS), you have to agree that this is a rational and reasonable discussion of the sort you don’t hear on Leftist television and journalism, outlets largely devoted to not uttering “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same breath.

h/t: BJ

52 thoughts on “Bill Maher interviews Maajid Nawaz

  1. Nawaz is calling out the regressive left for their hypocrisy, and criticizing fundamentalist Islam. Like Maher said, he’s getting it from both sides. Courageous man.

  2. Maajid also sat down with Dave Rubin earlier in the day yesterday as well.

    I know Rubin has his critics here but this was a good conversation IMHO.

    1. It’s been awhile since I’ve listen to a Dave Rubin podcast. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll have to give this one a listen as I adore Maajid. It’ll be interesting to hear how it goes.

  3. Excellent interview. Maajid Nawaz is always worth listening to. I’ve been following him for several years now, and he consistently argues the classical liberal case intelligently and persuasively.

    I hope his suit against SPLC is successful.

    1. I suspect the purpose of the suit is to raise awareness of just how badly the SPLC has jumped the shark. In that, it should succeed regardless of the strictly legal outcome.

      1. I agree. I think if it raises awareness that SPLC has changed from what it used to be then it will be a success regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome.

        I think Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are particularly egregious examples of SPLC’s increasing ideological partisanship. I don’t think Charles Murray should be on their lists or any of the other academics either. The list would have more impact if they didn’t mix people who advocate violence with those who do not.

      2. Perhaps the lawsuit’s target goes beyond just the SPLC, and to the overall climate of ‘soft bigotry of low expections’? However this skew has become entrenched into the default mindset of too many liberals, it needs to be addressed, it needs to be educated to, and hopefully it will begin to be shifted away from, so that a significant majority of liberals will instead begin doing smart and humane work under the guise of classic liberalism.

  4. Agree. I watched Maher, too – and appreciated Nawaz’s POV. He is brave to take the, at the moment, unpopular side, the rational one.

  5. It was a good interview! I watch Bill Mahar every week! And as you can see the list of people making mistakes is growing! Steven Cobalt, Kathy Griffin, Johnny Depp, the Julius Ceaser play guy looking like Trump get ting assassinated, and the list goes on!

    1. What’s wrong with the Julius Caesar play? Or Griffin or Depp’s remarks, for that matter. Overreaction to all of them as far as I’m concerned.

  6. “…you have to agree that this is a rational and reasonable discussion of the sort you don’t hear on Leftist television…”
    I don’t have to agree with that because Bill Maher’s show is Leftist television. Maher’s views skew mostly left.

    1. What I meant was mainstream television except for right-wing venues like Fox News. And no, you’re not going to hear that discussion on mainstream leftist tv like PBS or the Young Turks.

      1. I’m unaware of any Rightist TV that would have a rational, thoughtful discussion such as this. As for PBS and YT: the choice between a ‘both siderist’ blend of flavorless mush I call rootmarm and uninformed, PC natterers, respectively, is no choice at all.

  7. The main thing I’m mad at Bill Maher about at the moment is that he had Breitbart’s editor on last week. They both agreed smugly that if someone had done a Julius Caesar production with a Caesar costumed like Obama that the left would go crazy. This fundamentally misses the difference between left and right. Leftists understand art.

    Don’t believe me? Indeed there was such a production of JC during the Obama administration, a fact widely known by the time of Maher’s interview, and liberals made no complaints about it at the time.

    I’m not saying liberals don’t censor – they obviously do, as documented here many times – but at least they mostly get the concept of a Shakespeare play. Trump fans have phoned in death-threats in the wake of the Caesar debacle to far-flung theater companies that simply have Shakespeare in their name. It’s hard to fathom that level of primitive stupidity.

    1. Yeah, that bothered me that Maher didn’t point out that the play had previously portrayed Obama the same way. If there’s one thing I don’t enjoy about Maher’s show is that he often lets libertarian and tea party lies by his guests go unchallenged.

      I don’t mind him having alt-right guests just so long as he calls them out on their lies. He doesn’t always keep ahead of them.

      1. He may have simply not known about the previous iteration of the play. Usually, when he’s aware of countervailing information, he takes his right-wing guests to task.

      2. As one of the few resident libertarians, I’ll lodge the requisite objection to libertarians being lumped in with either the tea party (whatever that may be these days) or the alt-right. Just as I do on more conservative sites where the denizens are eager to lump us in with the left.

      3. I generally like Maher, but he is a classic narcissist. He’s not a delusional malignant sociopathic narcissist like our president, but his traits are not subtle.

        As a result he has a messianic belief that he can have self-serving professional liar right wingers like Milo, the Breitbart guy, and Ann Coulter on his show and contain/correct their rhetoric. This almost never works out.

        1. One of the reasons I actually watch his show is because his panels aren’t just a collection of sycophants and yes men. I can tune into any old news channel for that. I like that nearly every panel has guests from both sides on it. I enjoy hearing what both sides have to say, even if I find the people from one side particularly out of touch or (sometimes) even heinous.

          1. Who wants sycophants and yes-men? At the same time, who wants predictable paid liars? Ann Coulter pretty clearly doesn’t even believe half the things that come out of her mouth since she’ll quickly contradict them to make a different argument. Yet Maher has had her on many times. All she does is interrupt the other guests with wild statements and misinformation all meant to enhance the character she plays on TV and in books.

            1. She is a combination of comedy, right wing absurdity, and brinkspersonship.

              Coulter is easy to take if you take her with a grain of your favorite condiment.

              She expects to be countered, but countered well.
              It is a game.

              Milo too.

            2. sub. Coulter’s aim is to keep herself in public view so as to get booked on Fox News and Breitbart and to sell her books. She’ll say anything outrageous to accomplish that. So listening to her offers no insights, and countering her with logic is an exercise in futility. Pretty much like Alex Jones.

        1. I think the point is that both sides have people who understand art, and both sides have people who don’t understand art. After all, it’s not like we haven’t seen plenty of attempts at censorship (of varying success) of artistic works from regressives on college campuses in the past few years (the window at Yale, the painting of Emmett Till, the Vagina Monologues incident, etc.).

          1. I understand what you mean, and I agree that both sides try to censor.

            Where I part ways is the implication in your statements that there is any comparison between right and left in terms of cultural sophistication. The right is actively, explicitly, proudly anti-intellectual. Trump actually said “I love the poorly educated!” The feeling is wildly mutual.

    2. You refer to the production of Julius Caesar by the Guthrie Theater in Minnesota.

      I understand that the production made the stabbers out to be right-wingers…so perhaps no outcry because it confirmed its audience viewpoint.

  8. I had been supporting the SPLC for over 30 years, They used to do good work. I think they’ve gotten too big and lost their focus. They dropped the ball by listing Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali on their extremist list. I was particularly incensed with their opening sentence describing Ali i.e. the “who says” part. What evidence do they have she is lying? None. It’s a smear plain and simple. I don’t support them anymore. Still makes me mad.

    1. The SPLC has been engaging in dishonesty and regressive ideology for several years now. For example, it released a report soon after Trump’s election claiming there had been over 800 hate incidents against Muslims in the wake of Trump’s win. How did they arrive at this number? Most of these incidents were social media posts criticizing Islam. The actual number of legally defined hate crimes didn’t rise at all, but they had a narrative they wanted to push, so they found a way to do it. They don’t care about the truth; they only care about their narratives.

      It’s a shame that an organization that was once so respectable has fallen so far.

      1. I should also note that when the SPLC pulls such stunts, far-left media outlets (like PuffHo) then print the results, naturally without talking about the methodology involved or problems with the information. So it’s a cycle in which the SPLC purposefully produces BS for regressive narratives, and this in turn allows regressive outlets to then publish the BS to confirm said narratives to their audiences. The SPLC clearly knows what it’s doing.

      1. Wow, I had no idea about most of the stuff in that article. So it seems like the SPLC is more of a money-making scam that uses leftist politics to con people into donating.

  9. “But isn’t it a judgment call to say he’s an ‘anti-Muslim extremist’? Even if he’s a Muslim, which he is, I suppose some twisted mind can find a way to call him “anti-Muslim”, although you’d have a hard time characterizing Nawaz as an ‘extremist.'”

    He really doesn’t have much of a chance in this suit, especially since he’s clearly a public figure, thus making the hurdle he has to clear for a successful libel suit significantly higher. Simply put, not only would he have to prove the statements untrue (and they seem more a matter of opinion), but also prove “malice” on the part of the organization (malice in such cases can mean either knowing falsity or negligent disregard for the truth of the claims).

    1. BJ is correct. I’ve litigated a few of these defamation cases under California’s anti-SLAPP “strategic lawsuit against public participation”) statute; most U.S. states have similar statutes. They trace their heritage back to the SCOTUS case of Sullivan v. New York Times, (1964) 376 U.S. 967.

      One small quibble, but a critical one; under the rule of Sullivan, and these statutes, NEGLIGENT disregard of the truth of the claims isn’t enough; it has to be RECKLESS disregard, a much more difficult standard, which makes Nawaz’s case more problematic. See

      1. Gack. Just saw that I failed to open the paren that I closed. How I wish that there were an “edit” button for these comments.

      2. Yes, reckless disregard. Sorry, I used the wrong word.

        Also, regarding anti-SLAPP: it would depend on the venue for the trial. Since Nawaz lives in Great Britain, I imagine the trial couldn’t take place anywhere else but in the SPLC’s home state of Alabama, which doesn’t have anti-SLAPP.

    2. 1) Nawaz may well be filing suit in the UK;

      2) SPLC made several specific charges against those listed, including the incitement of acts of violence;

      3) Whereas the NYT just printed someone else’s ad (in Sullivan), SPLC did its own supposed comprehensive research into Nawaz;

      4)The expressed intent of the list is to damage the speaking careers of those listed.

  10. People can say what they will about Nawaz; I’ve never heard him speak anything but moderate commonsense. And for this, as he observes, he gets it from three sides. (There’s a “Triple Alliance” against him, it appears, comprised of the alt-right, control-left, and Islamic theocrats.)

    Dapper dresser, too, if I do say so. (Like one of those old-time Brits turned out by a gentleman’s gentleman.) 🙂

  11. I’ve written to SPLC asking them to reconsider their stance on Nawaz and Ali, or at least justify it. They never replied. I won’t be donating to them anymore.

  12. Offtopic, but worth reading

    To the editor of the New York Times

    Your article on Catalan secession is biaised and superficial. Most of catalans are fed up with our local government. The Catalan regional government has enormous powers and autonomy, it is financially broke, its politicians are the best paid in Spain, the main nationalist party is flooded with corruption scandals, … and Catalan nationalists accounted only for 32% of the votes in last year´s election.
    The next time you write an editorial about Spain, do not forget to read the Spanish Constitution before. We, the great majority of the Spaniards, as you Americans, have in great consideration our Constitution, that was voted and backed in 1978 by 90% of catalans.

    Best regards,

    (Pls, check FACTS and writte to de NYT telling them than they are lying!)

  13. Was the SPLC not exposed as a money-making scheme by Morris Dees?

    Whether or not, their decrying of Maajid Nawaz (and Ayaan) as anti-muslim extremists is not just ludicrous -this interview but a good illustration of that-, it puts him (them) into extra physical danger.
    I consider the SPLC a hate-group now, they should put themselves on their own list.

  14. Indeed, it seems difficult to argue with Nawaz, who is so clear and forthright about the issues. I only wish he recognised that it’s not a triple threat we face, but a quadruple threat. He leaves out the impact aspects of Western foreign policy have in increasing terrorism. When innocent Muslims are killed by the West in the ME, it’s not surprising that there would be blow back. When we turn a blind eye to Saudi funding and promotion of Islamism so that we can sell them arms, it’s not surprising Islamist groups would prosper and use Western wrongs to propagandise and radicalise people outside the smaller group for whom religion is enough reason to become violent. Ignoring this seems almost like another Voldemort effect and undermines his programme just as much.

  15. OMG. Watch till the end.

    You do not have to be black to challenge racism. You do not have to be homosexual to challenge homophobia. And you do not have to be Muslim, to challenge Isalmic Extremist.

    1. You beat me to it. This was about the most important thing that was said. It is the corollary of , “First they came for the Socialists . . . .”

  16. Re some of Maajid/Quilliams positions being disturbing and link provided to Guardian article. I personally do not find this disturbing and have no problems with what Maajid/Quilliam proposed on the list sent to Britain’s “terror chief” (Guardian phraseology) The fact is too many groups in Britain sympathise with the idea of a single worldwide political islamic entity, and there is infiltration in part of government and well meaning groups. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood are extreme but not generally considered so. What Quilliam never did, (but the Guardian implies) is call for the groups that do not advocate violent means to be listed as terrorist groups – just that the government should work less with them and try to counter their narrative. Maajid has been explicit he has never proposed putting non violent groups on a terror list. Quilliam never advocated silencing non violent extremists but just undermining/countering their influence. Maajid’s philosophy has always been that they are towards the worst part of a spectrum that encourages some to progress to violence.

    Also on evidence of undermining of society by extremist groups. Sedaa our voices, Iram Ramzan sites/twitter, Mariam Namazie. eg
    Godless spellchecker
    Faith to Faithless – Imtiaz Shams and Aliyah Saleem vidoes/articles

  17. Finally got a chance to watch the full interview. Maajid really nails it ( except for pronouncing Berkeley, Barkley, as in A Nightingale Sang in Aforementioned Square..)

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