I’m A Muslim Reformer. Why Am I Being Smeared as an ‘Anti-Muslim Extremist’?

Oct 31, 2016

By Maajid Nawaz

I am a brown, liberal, reform Muslim. I have survived violent neo-Nazi racism and served as a former War on Terror political prisoner in Egypt, witnessing torture. Yet, in a trip that takes us through the looking glass, the largely white American non-Muslim “progressive” leadership at the pro-civil liberties group Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) has just published a “journalist’s field list” naming me as an “anti-Muslim” extremist.

Through the counter-extremism organisation Quilliam that I founded, I have spent eight years defending my Muslim communities in Europe, Pakistan  and beyond from the diktats of Islamist theocrats. I have also argued for the liberal reform of Islam today, from within. But, in a naively dangerous form of neo-Orientalism, the SPLC just arrogated to itself the decision over which debates we Muslims may have about reforming our own religion, and which are to be deemed beyond the pale.

Let us call it “Islamsplaining.”

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21 comments on “I’m A Muslim Reformer. Why Am I Being Smeared as an ‘Anti-Muslim Extremist’?

  • Why? Because there are Muslims who find you threatening. These people are quite scary. Cowards don’t want to offend them no matter what silliness they promote.

    They must be very insecure in their beliefs if they cannot bear to hear anything not 100% compliant with them.

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  • The Southern Poverty Law Centre has a “Contact Us” page where you can leave a comment about content. The fact they would include Ayaan Hirst Ali in particular on their “hate list” is utterly appalling. Please comment to SPLC.

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  • I’ve followed Nawaz through YouTube appearances. His story will knock your socks off. His arguments for reforming Islam, denouncing Islamists and Jihadists are persuasive, his support for liberal democracy and human rights, impeccable.

    Any approach to understanding leftist extremism must synthesize symptoms and causes. Symptoms are manifest most pathologically on college campuses where social justice warriors try to shout down, ban or “dis-invite” speakers who oppose their views. Major themes include an obsession with “marginalized people” including people of color (notably blacks), Muslims, immigrants, women, and LGBT members believed to be oppressed, denied opportunity, and “disrespected.”

    The major cause, correctly inferred from the setting and the demographic that advance leftist extremism, is YOUTH. The angry adolescent brain is especially vulnerable to appeals that the establishment largely manned by their evil parents’ generation is responsible for all social injustices and overtly or covertly works to oppress women and minorities. Especially toxic has been the disproportionate influence of third-wave feminist and LGBT advocates. Radical feminists have launched minor but high profile efforts to purge older white male (scientists and intellectuals) from positions of “leadership” in the “atheist movement” and install a new regime comprised largely of unforgiving women SJWs.

    None of this implies that people of color, women, immigrants and youth do not have legitimate grievances.
    The infantile hysteria that infects the youthful brain to screech out the bizarre and disturbing (authoritarian) expression of such grievances certainly discredits them in the long run.

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  • Those damned young people! And the regressive left! And the social justice warriors, and the radical, third wave feminists, and these virulent LBGT activists, and all these people – many blacks, for example – who think they’ve been marginalizes but really aren’t! —They’re all so bad. Boo-hoo. Some of “them” are okay, but I think I’ll fulminate about all of these bad people. Better yet, why don’t we just round them up and put them all in prison? I have a better idea….

    Nawaz, why don’t these critics like you and understand you? Why do they say you’re an extremist? (Ever tried asking one?) How the hell should we know why they hate your guts. There’s a lot of hate out there. A lot of misconceptions and prejudice. Too bad everything can’t be the way we want it to be.

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  • Dan: You need to go to sources where you can view leftist college youth throwing tantrums screaming incoherently with tears streaming down their faces. Mass infantile hysteria that needs to be endured until
    these folks grow up and come to a public square where ideas are respectfully exchanged.

    It might be helpful for you to view some appearances, lectures, and debates with Maajid Nawaz on YouTube. He’s a brilliant intellectual who measures his criticism against some pretty harsh experiences on a path to secular humanism.

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  • Spot on Melvin!

    I have likened Nawaz to Hitchens before now, certainly the Hitch of Hitch 22. He may not have the literary flourishes and education but he has a huge amount of real political experience and insight. He strives to be scrupulous and fair in his judgment of others. He often ends up treading that altogether honourable but unsexy sinuous middle way.

    I like that he has made an “honest woman” of Hirsi Ali, bringing her from a fully understandable howl of bitter personal complaint to a pragmatic engineer of progress. Awesomely bright women, its a testament to the power of his argument to concentrate on supporting and expanding the space available for the moderate Muslim., that he has brought her of all people to this understanding also.

    I feel he is rehabilitating Sam Harris in similar ways.

    He is exactly what we need and the SJWs, well meaning but hopelessly wrong in their identification of the oppressed, need to start using their head rather their heart and ears latching on to Toxic Werdz, and properly hear the deep humanity of his ideas.

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  • @ OP – Yet, in a trip that takes us through the looking glass, the largely white American non-Muslim “progressive” leadership at the pro-civil liberties group Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) has just published a “journalist’s field list” naming me as an “anti-Muslim” extremist.

    Let’s see what the Southern Poverty Law Center makes of this Sharia reply to political criticism?


    Indonesian police have named Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, as a suspect in a blasphemy investigation.

    Popularly known as “Ahok”, he is accused of insulting the Koran while campaigning in governorship elections.

    Mr Purnama is a Christian from the Chinese ethnic minority and the first non-Muslim to lead the city.

    The case has prompted fears of a rise in tensions in the largely Muslim country.

    The naming of Mr Purnama as a suspect means prosecutors can bring him to trial. If found guilty he faces up to five years in prison.

    Police said they would not detain the governor despite calls for his arrest from Islamist groups, but barred him from leaving the country during the investigation. They also recommended that the case be tried in an open court.

    He has not been barred from the February governorship election, in which he is seeking a second term.

    Mr Purnama told reporters: “This is not the end, there will be a court process which we hope will be open. We will still take part in the election.”

    In a September speech Mr Purnama said Islamic groups who were using a Koranic verse to discourage support for him were deceiving voters. The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim.

    Islamic groups said he had criticised the Koran and lodged complaints with the police. Mr Purnama later apologised.

    Earlier this month, at least 100,000 people took part in a protest led by a hardline Muslim group in Jakarta calling for his resignation and prosecution.

    The movement against Mr Purnama has taken on anti-Chinese overtones. Police said that ahead of the protest there were “provocative statements and images” on social media which called for violent action against Mr Purnama.

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  • To Maajid Nawaz:

    I’m A Muslim Reformer. Why Am I Being Smeared as an ‘Anti-Muslim

    Attacking all Muslims as extremists is a mistake. It is RELIGION that is the problem. As Richard Dawkins stated in his book The God Delusion:

    “Voltaire got it right long ago: “Those who can make you believe
    absurdities, can make you commit attrocities.”

    You see, as I said, the attack on only and all Muslims is aa mistake. The attack should be against ALL religions. Most people are afraid to attack religion per se, as that would mean attacking their own absurd beliefs.

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  • cbrown

    The attack should be on immoral thinking. Dogma in the moral sphere is the enemy. The less dogmatic the better. If you make crude judgment calls (religion is the enemy) you lock up personal improvements generation upon generation and miss important other errors (economic libertarianism with its crass model of human psychology). You wrongly accuse, say, UK Quakers, often in the moral vanguard and having a rather aesthetic and wholly diffuse sense of God that obliges them merely to use their powers and learning for good…”Hell, I don’t know …figure it out for yourself.”

    The answer is you can’t use dogma yourself to sort this out. You will have to put the effort in that Nawaz and now Hirsi Ali are putting in.

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  • cbrown

    Ask yourself if Colbert is a problem?

    (For me he is a narrow and specific problem…how he may have brought up his kids, f’rinstance. But in the public space, he seems to be on my side.)

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  • phil rimmer

    Religion is defined as a belief in and worship of a superhuman (supernatural) controlling power, in particular a god or gods. That is immoral by itself.

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  • But what if the one dogma attached to this suspected god is have no dogma in moral matters but daily make your best efforts to do good as you see it?

    The definition used here a year ago which I thought good was that a religion has at least one super-empirical idea at its heart by which to live. Controling gods figure in only some religions. The harm is dogma. Quite a number of religious folk hold their religions as aesthetic takes on the world, which confer value or peace of mind.

    My aesthetic is entirely anti-theist. How hideous a world, pre-approved for my particular use, an obstacle course to prove myself. Stifling. How petty and small. My aesthetic is wild, windswept, dangerous, unlimited. These are personal coping strategies. Without dogma and not offered to children in their indoctrinatable years as truth, they are as harmless as any aesthetic.

    Tackle moral dogmatists and idealists to do most good. The scientific method shows us truths are directions not achievable destinations.

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  • The question has come up before among atheists about how does an atheist define what is best for all of us if we have no central dogma as part of a religion. I think we can define fairly well what is “moral” using the scientific method as long as we do not have a preconceived social agenda to bias our findings. Were can only do our best to be objective.

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  • Yes, dogma is actually the death of any moral discerning ability. Are people harmed by x? Are their behaviours harming us?

    Dogmas, particularly of the moral sort, are like Dawkins meme’s and memeplexes seemingly having a life independent of us. They are most configured not to detect harms to people but to detect harms to themselves.

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  • 18
    Pinball1970 says:


    We also have 5-6000 yrs to look at, we should start with that.

    Where do we want to be? The stone age? The Roman Empire? The French revolution? The industrial revolution? The 60s?

    Lets cherry pick, we are lucky we can do that now.

    We also have an innate need to bond, help cooperate be altruistic and be friendly to our fellow human beings.
    Because we are inherently good? Alas no, because we are inherently selfish and be we I mean our genes.

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  • phil rimmer #15
    Nov 16, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Tackle moral dogmatists and idealists to do most good. The scientific method shows us truths are directions not achievable destinations.

    While science cannot in itself give us moral answers, it can show us that dogmatic “answers”, arrived at without the scientific method producing predictions of outcomes, the outcomes are at best, likely to be a random irrelevance in effect, and as such, more likely to be harmful than those where calculated high probability outcomes are judged equitably in terms of the interests of the parties involved and affected.

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  • I see Islamic theocrats are playing the blasphemy card again!


    Tens of thousands of people have turned out for what was billed as a unity rally in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, held to counter demonstrations against the city’s governor.

    Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as “Ahok”, is accused of insulting Islam during election campaigning.

    Two protests against him, the last bringing together 200,000 conservative Muslims, have been held in the city.

    Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

    Mr Purnama is Christian and ethnic Chinese – a double minority in Indonesia, where ethnic Chinese are about 1% of the population.

    Sunday’s counter-rally was pitched as a “parade of Indonesian culture”.

    It featured traditional dances from across the country and a giant flag proclaiming “We Are Indonesia”. Police said 30,000 people attended the rally.

    The Jakarta Post said the rally was organised by two parties that are part of President Joko Widodo’s coalition. Mr Widodo is a political ally of Mr Purnama, but turned up for the last rally against him on Friday.

    Speaking from the stage on Sunday, Surya Paloh, the chairman of the National Democratic Party, said Indonesians could not work together if they were “scattered, blaspheming, humiliating each other and no longer trust each other”.

    In a campaign speech in September, Mr Purnama said Islamic groups who were using a Koranic verse to discourage support for him were deceiving voters. The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim.

    Islamic groups said he had criticised the Koran and lodged complaints with the police.

    Mr Purnama later apologised but denied committing blasphemy, which carries a maximum five-year jail sentence.

    On Wednesday, Indonesian prosecutors confirmed his case could go to trial.

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  • To phil # I agree that:

    The harm is dogma.

    Dogma, of course, is a set of ideas considered to be the absolute truth but no one can ever be absolutely certain about anything. All that we can do is to attempt to explain things for now but never forever. We are always at the edge of uncertainty. It appears that most people can not accept that we must treat knowledge with humility. It seems easier to strut around claiming to have the absolute truth.

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