British author and politician Maajid Nawaz announced he is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling him as an “anti-Muslim extremist.”
The former Islamic extremist revealed the defamation lawsuit on Friday’s broadcast of HBO’s “Real Time,” telling host Bill Maher he is “sick to death” of liberals deciding what he can say about his own heritage.
“There’s a bunch of well-meaning white men sitting in sweet Alabama,” Nawaz began, “liberal and left-wing, usually white men, who decide that I am saying the — what they don’t agree with, don’t allow for me to say about my own community, my own religious heritage. And as a result, listed me as an anti-Muslim extremist. So, I’m going to take them to court for defamation.”
Nawaz, who is the author of “Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism,” was listed on the SPLC’s page, “A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” last October.
The page called into question the work Nawaz has undertaken to reform his religion, stating that “evidence suggests that Nawaz is far more interested in self-promotion and money than in any particular ideological dispute.”
The 38-year-old radio host and columnist was a Parliament candidate as a Liberal Democrat in 2015 and has served as an adviser to Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and David Cameron. The British activist is the founder of the anti-extremism thinktank, the Quilliam Foundation.
“I’ve memorized half of the Koran. I’m a Muslim. I’m born and raised Muslim to a Muslim. I’ve learned classical Arabic and spent time in prison as a political prisoner for what I then thought was my religion. I’ve changed my views as to the interpretation of my religion, and along come these people…and decide that I don’t have the right to speak about my own heritage and critique it from within,” Nawaz told Maher.
I use the Voldemort effect to speak to our inability to name and shame and isolate Islamist extremism from the mainstream Muslim community. pic.twitter.com/WXiyFHjOLB
— Real Time (@RealTimers) June 24, 2017
He blasted the SPLC’s “hypocrisy” of slamming Christian fundamentalism in “their own Bible Belt,” while saying he should not criticize the “Koran Belt within my own community.”
Nawaz pointed out the group’s “bigotry of low expectations” in which “the same causes that they fight for within America are somehow deemed illegitimate for people like me to fight for within our own communities.”
He plans to crowdfund the lawsuit, he told Maher who announced that he would like to contribute.
— Maajid (@MaajidNawaz) June 24, 2017
The Southern Poverty Law Center and groups like it put Muslim reformers in danger, Nawaz argued.
“You know who else lists heretics who are deemed to be speaking against the accepted custom within Muslim communities?” he asked Maher. “The jihadists. We know what happens when you list heretics among Muslims in this way. They end up dead.”
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