UPDATED With Video Bill Maher and the Southern Poverty Law Center seem to be on opposite sides with regard to Maajid Nawaz, a British activist described by HBO’s Real Time host as the founder of the “world’s first counter-extremism think tank.”
The SPLC has included Nawaz on a list of anti-Muslim extremists.
On Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher, the host offered to contribute to a crowd-funded defamation suit that Nawaz said he plans to file against the SPLC.
Saying he was “sick and tired” of “well-meaning liberals,” Nawaz announced his plans to sue the non-profit hate-group monitor and finance the legal action via crowd-funding.
“I’d like to be part of that crowd,” Maher said, an offer Nawaz accepted with a handshake.
“It’s funny,” Maher said, “you’re fighting extremists but they call you an extremist.”
That’s not all they call him.
Nawaz is a self-described former Islamist who condemns what he calls the “Regressive Left” for ignoring the threat of global jihadism (he warns of right-wing populism too). On Real Time, he cited figures indicating that 23,000 jihadists live in Britain, as do, he estimated, three times as many Islamists, who Nawaz describes as ideologically committed to theocracy but who would not participate in violence.
Nawaz told Maher that being included on the SPLC’s list of anti-Muslim extremists endangers his life. “We know what happens when you list heretics,” Nawaz said. “They end up dead.”
So, how does the SPLC see it? Last October, the hate watch organization posted a media guide “countering prominent anti-Muslim extremists,” and has more than a little to say about Nawaz. Here’s a taste:
“Maajid Nawaz is a British activist and part of the ‘ex-radical’ circuit of former Islamists who use that experience to savage Islam. His story, which has been told repeatedly in the British and American press and in testimony to legislators as well, sounds compelling enough — Nawaz says he grew up being attacked by neo-Nazi skinheads in the United Kingdom, spent almost four years in an Egyptian prison after joining a supposedly nonviolent Islamist group, but had a change of heart while imprisoned and then returned to England to work against the radicalization of Muslims. But major elements of his story have been disputed by former friends, members of his family, fellow jihadists and journalists, and the evidence suggests that Nawaz is far more interested in self-promotion and money than in any particular ideological dispute.”
“After starting the Quilliam Foundation, which he describes as an anti-extremism think tank, Nawaz sent a secret list to a top British security official that accused ‘peaceful Muslim groups, politicians, a television channel and a Scotland Yard unit of sharing the ideology of terrorists,’ according to The Guardian. The same newspaper reported that in 2009, a Quilliam official said that ‘gathering intelligence on people not committing terrorist offences … is good and it is right,’ discounting civil liberties concerns. His Quilliam Foundation received more than 1.25 million pounds from the British government, but the government eventually decided to stop funding it.”
Maher, who at one point said the SPLC “are being assholes” about Nawaz, didn’t say how much money he’d contribute to the planned defamation suit.