Southern Poverty Law Center apologizes to Maajid Nawaz, pays out a $3.4 million settlement for labeling him an “anti-Muslim extremist”

June 18, 2018 • 12:00 pm

We’ve talked before about how the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has abandoned its historically useful mission, now taking after “hate speech” and including among the purveyors of said speech—on a list of “anti-Muslim extremists”—both Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Nawaz is a practicing Muslim, and Hirsi Ali a former Muslim and now a Muslim reformer whose latest book lays out a peaceful series of steps (granted, mostly impractical ones, like “getting people to stop taking the Qur’an literally”) to defuse Islamist extremism.

Nawaz threatened to sue the SPLC for labeling him as an anti-Muslim extremist. The SPLC then quietly removed its “field guide to anti-Muslim extremists” from its website, but now they’ve had to do more. Here’s a tweet from Nawaz’s foundation, Quilliam, detailing how the SPLC had to apologize and pay big bucks to settle the issue.

Here is the SPLC’s statement, issued today, which I’ve interrupted with parenthetical and splenetic remarks:

Today, we entered into a settlement with and offered our sincerest apology to Mr. Maajid Nawaz and his organization, the Quilliam Foundation, for including them in our publication A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists. Given our understanding of the views of Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam, it was our opinion at the time that the Field Guide was published that their inclusion was warranted. But after getting a deeper understanding of their views and after hearing from others for whom we have great respect, we realize that we were simply wrong to have included Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam in the Field Guide in the first place.

An interruption: any rational person who wasn’t a rabid social justice warrior, and who followed Quilliam or read Nawaz’s writings and listened to his radio show, would know that he wasn’t an anti-Muslim extremist. He is a reformer, committed, as is Quilliam, to countering extremism, including that promoted by Islamism. What kind of “field work” is the SPLC doing to create its field guide? If a superannuated biologist can spot the lunacy of how the SPLC characterized Nawaz, how could the SPLC, a big organization, not? (Well, we know the answer to that one: they were on a mission from Mammon to raise the specter of “Islamophobia” and thereby raise money.)

Among those who contacted us were human rights advocates affiliated with the United Nations who emphasized that Mr. Nawaz’s work combatting extremism “is actually analogous to that of the SPLC over the years in the South.” Indeed, one of the reasons Mr. Nawaz has said that he was so troubled by our listing was the fact that he had respected our work for many years. Although we may have our differences with some of the positions that Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam have taken, we recognize that they have made important contributions to efforts to promote pluralism and that they are most certainly not anti-Muslim extremists.

Well then why did you call them that? It wasn’t rocket science to do a little bit of investigation.

As part of our settlement, we have paid $3.375 million to Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam to fund their work to fight anti-Muslim bigotry and extremism. It was the right thing to do in light of our mistake and the right thing to do in light of the growing prejudice against the Muslim community on both sides of the Atlantic. We will look to our insurance carrier to cover the cost of the settlement.

LOL! The SPLC doesn’t care about the “right thing to do” was; they settled only after a threatened lawsuit (or perhaps one that was filed; I’m not sure) by Nawaz. Maybe they could also cover the costs of the settlement by pulling money out of some of the millions the SPLC has shielded in offshore bank accounts. Finally, there’s this:

In addition to apologizing to Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam, we offer our sincerest apology to our supporters and all those who depend on our work. We pride ourselves on the accuracy of our reports and, although we know we are not perfect, it pains us greatly whenever we make a mistake. As we move forward, we are committed to redoubling our efforts to ensure that our work is always carried out with the utmost care and integrity. The stakes in the battle against hate and extremism are simply too great to be satisfied with anything less.

Maybe they should start by reducing the ridiculously high salaries of SPLC directors. Richard Cohen, shown in the video below, makes over $345,000 per year, exclusive of benefits. And this is for an organization devoted to rectifying inequality!

Here’s the SPLC’s apology video; click on the screenshot to hear it. The speaker is Richard Cohen, SPLC President, and I’ve put a transcript beneath the video:

The Southern Poverty Law Center was wrong to include Maajid Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation in our Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists. Since we published the Field Guide, we have taken the time to do more research and have consulted with human rights advocates we respect. We’ve found that Mr. Nawaz  and Quilliam have made valuable and important contributions to public discourse, including by promoting pluralism and condemning both anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism. Although we may have our differences with some of the positions that Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam have taken, they are most certainly not anti-Muslim extremists. We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Mr. Nawaz, Quilliam, and our readers for the error, and we wish Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam all the best.

Is it too much to hope that perhaps they can apologize to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, too? Of course they won’t pay a settlement to fund her work unless she threatens to sue them. I wish she would!

69 thoughts on “Southern Poverty Law Center apologizes to Maajid Nawaz, pays out a $3.4 million settlement for labeling him an “anti-Muslim extremist”

  1. What kind of “field work” is the SPLC doing to create its field guide?

    It’s notable how feeble their original “reasons” for including Maajid in the list were — things like the fact that he’d visited a lap-dancing club on his stag night.

    What they really meant was the SJW line that anyone who suggests that Islam is not entirely peaceful, entirely benevolent, entirely perfect and entirely a Good Thing, must be an “extremist”.

    It’s the same reasoning that anyone who disagrees with any aspect of SJW ideology must be “alt right”.

  2. This, really, is the only way to get to the regressive left – neither reason nor appeals to decency, fairness and tolerance of differing views will work. They are immune to all those approaches. Only suing their pants off or -as some schools are now finding out- denying them a source of income, will get to them. The movement can’t be strangled with reason, only with money.

  3. Sad that the SPLC has lost its way and has had to squander money that it could otherwise have spent on legitimate objectives. Of course, Cohen’s salary is dwarfed by those of Franklin Graham and his ilk.

    1. I think it would be better if they did have to spend their own money. This might have a bigger effect on them. Instead, their insurance company pays, and premiums rise for everyone because of it.

    2. “has had to squander money that it could otherwise have spent on legitimate objectives.”

      Fortunately, it isn’t squandered, it’s gone to further the work of the Quilliam Foundation which I’m assuming is equally beneficial and legitimate.

      cr

  4. $3.4M is an incredible sum, but more important is that SPLC and other regressive left organizations will think twice before slandering someone in the name of Islamophobia.

    1. To me 3.4 million is a lot of money -more than I can dream of making. But to the SPLC with an endowment of more than 430 million, it is little more than a slap on the wrist. The public apology cost them far more.

      Anyone want to take bets that this story will be buried in the MSM? SPLC has much of the media in their pockets.

      I hope Nawaz and Quilliam can make good use of their share of the money.

        1. For what it’s worth, in the Popehat link below FTB’s own lawyer in its ongoing defamation suit with Richard Carrier, Marc Randazza, chimes in to say he thinks the SPLC was probably correct to settle rather than try to fight this one out.

    2. I find myself contemplating Bill Gates’s (Big Brother Internet disagrees with the NY Times Style Book on possession) net worth (approx. $90B) and the endowment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (approx. $23B), and the net worth of Jeff Bezos (approx. $140B). I wonder if they also have offshore accounts.

      1. Being a Bayesian at heart, I based my phrase “incredible sum” not on Bill Gates’s net worth, but on my expectation of what the likely settlement might have been, which asymptotically approached zero.

  5. One would hope that they are now revisiting all of the persons and groups in their Field Guide in order to make sure that the rest of their work isn’t so shoddy.

  6. I was so happy about this I posted it in an earlier thread. I hope I didn’t derail it too much.

    I don’t like ‘lawfare’ in general as it favours those who can afford the best lawyers, and in Britain in particular, it has been widely abused. But you have to draw the line somewhere and being put on a list of people that Islamists would like to kill is definitely out of order.

    This success comes at the same time regressive colleges are being hit financially by falling numbers of students. If logic and reason don’t work then maybe economics will.

  7. Let me make a couple of pure speculations about the SPLC case. My guess is that their “field work” on “anti-Muslim extremists” consisted of talking with one or two of their young staffers, presumably sub-literate SJAactivists with a degree in Critical Race Theory and an inability to read anything but Salon and HuffPo. I further speculate that higher-ups in the SPLC, such as possibly Richard Cohen himself, eventually (after Nawaz’ threatened suit) took a closer look, and actually are contrite about the original, grossly ignorant defamation.

    1. ” … sub-literate SJAactivists with a degree in Critical Race Theory and an inability to read anything but Salon and HuffPo.”

      Nice phrasing!

      “… and actually are contrite about the original, grossly ignorant defamation.”

      Except that it got criticised immediately and there was no sign of contrition early on.

    2. It worries me that ‘well meaning’ organisations and hashtag campaigns are sometimes so committed to ‘the cause’ that they are careless about the implications of ‘friendly fire’, such as the effect on innocent people’s lives.

      As far as I can see, every accusation that is later shown to be false causes far more reputational damage to the original intent than the numbers might suggest.

      Is it too old fashioned to say that the ends do not justify the means?

    3. Surely the higher-ups, if they weren’t involved in the first place, knew soon after of the mistake. There was quite the uproar, and the list remained…and remained…and remained…until a lawsuit was finally threatened.

      The SPLC has shown in recent years that it has no problem with lying and prevaricating in its mission to get donations and oppose anyone it views as even slightly out of line.

    4. Surely the higher-ups, if they weren’t involved in the first place, knew soon after of the mistake. There was quite the uproar, and the list remained…and remained…and remained…until a lawsuit was finally threatened.

      The SPLC has shown in recent years that it has no problem with lying and prevaricating in its mission to get donations and oppose anyone it views as even slightly out of line.

  8. Spot the difference:

    As part of our settlement, we have paid $3.375 million to Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam to fund their work to fight anti-Muslim bigotry and extremism

    – SPLC

    https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/06/18/splc-statement-regarding-maajid-nawaz-and-quilliam-foundation

    The SPLC also agreed to pay a $3.375 million settlement, which Quilliam and Nawaz intend to use to fund work fighting anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism.

    – Quilliam

    https://www.quilliaminternational.com/southern-poverty-law-center-inc-admits-it-was-wrong/

    1. SPLC’s version makes it sound like the money will go to fighting extremism against Muslims, and none of the money will go toward fighting Muslim extremism. Very clever.

  9. What a wonderful sentence!!

    “What kind of “field work” is the SPLC doing to create its field guide?”

  10. The disingenuity (is that a word? It is now!) of the SPLC apology disgusts me. Many people contacted them quite quickly about Nawaz and Hirsi Ali. I’m a nobody and it’s arrogant to say so, but my communications to them were comprehensive and well-researched. They responded, but it was clear that anything in support of the two was just getting a standard reply.

    The many of us demonstrating why Nawaz and Hirsi Ali shouldn’t be on the list couldn’t counter the extremism of the authoritarian left. Even the UN (which itself has regressive tendencies in relation to Islamaphobia) couldn’t make them look at themselves. It took a lawsuit for anything to happen. That’s a disgrace. And Quilliam/Nawaz had to crowd fund that.

    So much for SPLC looking out for victims. Quilliam/Nawaz are at least in a position to crowd fund. Most people could never get enough support that way. Even they appeared to be struggling. I wonder how much of this settlement they’ll even get?

    Pleased as I am with the outcome, I’m also sickened by the whole thing. It should never have happened. The SPLC, like the rest of the authoritarian left, are a bunch of effing bullies.

    1. Indeed and if you can’t afford a lawyer you just get slandered by these bullies. They have no intention of doing the right thing.

      1. Yep. They just make stuff up, or wildly twist is. Mud sticks. There’s always someone who says, “There’s no smoke without fire.”

    2. “The disingenuity (is that a word? It is now!)”

      Yes, and I think I know what you mean, but I do not think it means what you think it means.

      ‘Ingenuity’ comes from ‘ingenious’, not ‘ingenuous’ (they’re almost antonyms).

      The word you want is ‘disingenuosity’, I think.

      (That’s been bugging me for hours)

      cr

      1. It’s just “disingenuous.” I didn’t want to be stuffy and correct anyone, but since the conversation has begun…

  11. In this case, the SPLC made an opinion statement about Nawaz, for which they cited the evidence they were using. Suing them for defamation is a complete violation of their free speech rights, and the payout is likely to have a chilling effect on other people drawing accurate conclusions about public figures (such as that Donald Trump doesn’t care about immigrant children). While the SPLC was wrong here, their wrongness should never have opened them up to legal liability, and we shouldn’t be cheering on this settlement.

    (I promise, by the way, that I’m not just concern trolling. I know I’ve only made a few comments and all of them disagreed with you, but I strongly believe in an absolute right to free speech. I also think the SPLC is well intentioned but overly zealous.)

    1. My guess is that’s going to be the party line going forward. The Regressives are going to say the defamation suit is an assault on free speech. These are the same folks who insist that while speech may be free it’s not without consequences. So long, of course, that their speech isn’t subject to any.

      1. I go back and forth on this. I think a lot of what gets classified as defamation would be better solved by more speech rather than legal consequences. But I don’t think there’s any moral basis for maliciously lying about what someone else has said or done. On the whole, I would tend to support very limited defamation laws.

        In this case, though, I don’t even think it’s close. The SPLC did not lie, at all, unless you count “anti-Muslim” as a lie. And if that sort of statement is illegal, then a huge swath of political commentary becomes legally precarious. Instead, they presented true information from which they inferred an opinion with which I disagree.

      1. One of his commenters hits on the essential point though: When you criminalize certain beliefs via hate speech laws, then accuse a person of holding those beliefs, you are effectively accusing them of a crime. The sword cuts both ways.

      2. I agree with him, but it’s not like this is a lawsuit Nawaz won, and it’s not like this is a new standard of people using defamation suits. This happens all the time, but usually it’s in the far worse reverse: a powerful entity suing to shut up a nigh-defenseless entity.

      3. Really, I think what Nawaz managed to do — perhaps what he really intended all along — was use the lawsuit to keep this in the spotlight, greatly lengthening the amount of time during which this could tarnish the SPLC’s public relations.

        1. Don’t forget that neither this admission nor any finding against them in court could put them in the remotest danger of financial trouble. They are a very wealthy not-for-profit. The real trouble would come long term if they lose control of their reputation.

          They were not forced to concede for the threat of financial ruin, nor did they do it out of contrition for so badly misrepresenting someone. In fact I believe they have learned nothing here (except perhaps to have better oversight on what they publish) and instead simply cut their losses. The longer this kept making the news, the more their support would decline and that seems to me where the real danger lies. Better to get it behind them.

      4. It is similar to why I am always ambivalent about suing schools and school boards to get them to stop teaching creationism. The good stuff is at risk by the financial impact …

  12. “Well then why did you call them that? It wasn’t rocket science to do a little bit of investigation.”

    They did do their investigation. They knew what they were doing. The only thing their investigation didn’t tell them was that Nawaz might actually stand up for himself to the point of filing a lawsuit and damaging the SPLC’s reputation. Make no mistake: the SPLC does not like what Nawaz does.

    Anyway, why did they include the following sentence in their apology: “We will look to our insurance carrier to cover the cost of the settlement”? It seems strange to say that out loud. Maybe to tell their donors that they money won’t be coming out of their pockets?

    “We pride ourselves on the accuracy of our reports and, although we know we are not perfect, it pains us greatly whenever we make a mistake.”

    Considering how willfully inaccurate many of their reports have been in recent years, this line is hilarious.

  13. As a long-term (now former) donor to SPLC, I had several back-and-forths with them over this matter. In a handwritten note, one of their staff told me they had “consulted with leaders of the Georgetown University Muslim-Christian Center,” which would be the Prince Alwaleed bin Tala Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, which is funded by the Saudi royal family. The Saudis being Wahabbis, they’re probably only to happy to dump on Nawaz.

    The director of the Center is one Jonathan Brown, who once wrote: “It’s not possible to say that slavery is inherently, absolutely, categorically immoral in all times and places, since it was allowed by the Quran and the Prophet. Slave women do not have agency over their sexual access, so their owner can have sex with them.” I found it ironic in the extreme that the SPLC, based on Montgomery, Alabama, was allying itself with an apologist for slavery.

  14. Don’t forget the motley crew of creeps, smear-grifters, regressives, and anti-liberals who crowed (or agreed) when the SPLC came up with their original decision.

    PZ Myers and ** ********, were two of them.

  15. This was a huge, well deserved dope slap for SLPC. I hope they learned something from this loss and fired the person who made up the original list.

  16. This is rather bizarre, as there would be a near-zero chance that Nawaz would win a lawsuit. He’s a public figure, and what the SPLC said was composed entirely of opinion – they made no hard factual claims, in the legal sense.

    So why did they settle, when there wasn’t even an actual lawsuit?

    This is a political move by the SPLC, possibly designed to repair damage to their reputation in certain quarters.

  17. As Jerry says, it is not really about the literal reading of the texts: Ayaan and Maajid can say all they want about non-literalism, allegory and the rest, but it is about the accumulation of centuries of culture. The majority of Muslims really does think it has a magic book: that is not just a sneer by Sam Harris, but a genuinely-held opinion by influential “moderate” Muslim “thinkers”.

    Marx, especially in his insights, got a few things right: the past weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. Like so many C19th thinkers when first introduced to Mohammedanism, he could have been talking about Islam.

    I could easily invent a more maladaptive and immoral religion than Islam: one can always imagine the worst of all possible worlds, that in which the more extreme ISIS Hashimis executed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And one can always imagine a world in which the moderate Muslims fatwa ISIS by misquoting the Koran to pretend that it is a pacifist document. This they did in the Amman declaration of 2005. As the kingdom of Jordan did, by signing up the Republic of Iran’s top man, Imam Khamanei, before he funded the genocide of the Syrian Sunnis, Christians, Druze and any other poor bugger.

    And these problems will require a political and economic solution, before we get to a reasonable conversation: up to 5 years ago, if you ignore the oil revenues in the Arab world, its total GDP was the same as that for Finland. Imagine what it will be like in 100 years’ time, when the oil runs out: consider the regional impoverishment & the authoritarian governments’ humiliation narrative, assuming their continuing domination.

    I see nothing but reactionary ideas from the ME for the next century or half.

  18. Hopefully this diminishes the SPLC’s sacred cow status. Too many people, especially in the media, take their word as gospel.

  19. Although we may have our differences with some of the positions that Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam have taken, we recognize that they have made important contributions to efforts to promote pluralism and that they are most certainly not anti-Muslim extremists.

    This is a very clear statement that *should* be adopted and adjusted by all those who call the new atheists, and similar critics of Islam, Islamophobic. Until they learn to differentiate between genuine Islamophobia and efforts to counter and reform Islam’s regressive tendencies, they will continue to lose credibility.

Leave a Reply