Anti-Muslim Extremists: The SPLC’s Field Guide

Based in Montgomery, Alabama, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has been at the forefront of the fight against racism and for civil rights since 1971.  More recently, in its efforts to track and eliminate hate and extremism in this country, it has provided some invaluable resources on anti-Muslim bigotry.

You may remember SPLC’s astounding report, The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nations Schools. It provided the results of an online survey that found widespread anxiety in and increased harassment of Muslim students and other students of color.  The report is an important tool for parents, educators, and activists who are on the front lines, arguing that the changes in their children’s school environments must be met with proactive anti-hate messaging, diversity training, and Islam education and awareness.

SPLC has just released their Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, which profiles 15 prominent anti-Muslim extremists.  Many of these people are associated with known hate groups, but have successfully marketed themselves as media and training “experts” on the supposed threats of Islam and Muslims.   By demonizing Islam and Muslims, these extremists effectively fuel hate crime attacks against Muslims, and broader anti-Muslim bigotry and rhetoric:

To give an example: One of the extremists profiled in this guide has said that 480 million to 640 million Muslims “support the notion that it’s okay to bomb the World Trade Center”; another claimed that 180 million to 300 million Muslims “are willing to strap a bomb on their bodies … and blow us all up.” In fact, terrorism expert Peter Bergen polled other extremism experts in 2014 and concluded that the real number of Muslims in terrorist groups was between 85,000 and 106,000. That means that fewer than one in every 15,000 Muslims is part of such a group.

It doesn’t stop there. The anti-Muslim extremists profiled here have, between them, claimed that Islamic extremists have infiltrated the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and other agencies; asserted that there are “no-go zones” in Europe where non-Muslims including police are afraid to enter; suggested that there is a Muslim plot to impose Sharia religious law on U.S. courts; and claimed that President Obama is a secret Muslim. These claims, along with many others, have been shown conclusively to be false.

The anti-Muslim extremists profiled in the report include Ann Cocoran, Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, Pamela Geller, John Guandolo, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, David Horowitz, Ryan Mauro, Maajid Nawaz, Robert Muise, Daniel Pipes, Walid Shoebat, and Robert Spencer.  After evaluating the sources and the talking points of these extremists, the report goes on to explain the political impact of their efforts:

News consumers need to know that these groups and their leaders are far outside the mainstream, and that their factual assertions are very often completely baseless. As the Columbia Journalism Review pointed out in “Countering Misinformation: Tips for Journalists,” political misinformation “may pollute democratic discourse, make it more difficult for citizens to cast informed votes, and limit their ability to participate meaningfully in public debate.” The magazine added, “Use credible sources; don’t give credence to the fringe,” and pointed out that the more false claims are repeated, the more difficult it is to undo their pernicious effects. In the case of anti-Muslim extremists, false claims about a whole range of issues have the effect of fueling hatred of Muslims and, ultimately, criminal hate violence against them.

The report concludes by listing four recommendations for hosts, reporters, and editorial boards to avoid giving legitimacy to anti-Muslim extremists.  It explains how they can research the background and evaluate the sources of spokespeople, point out the extremism of anti-Muslim spokespeople, prepare to challenge hateful rhetoric and misinformation, and avoid relying on opposing guests to challenge extremism.

SPLC has done much of our work for us.  This report provides all of the information we need to expose the affiliations of anti-Muslim extremists and to provide recommendations for more objective, less destructive reporting to our media outlets.

Sofia Ali-Khan is a Muslim American public interest lawyer and writer. Her recently viral post, “Dear Non-Muslim Allies,” and other writings can be found at sofiaalikhan.com.

8 Comments

  • I can understand how Pamela Geller is an “extremist” and “far outside the mainstream”. But Maajid Nawaz? Really??? Is anti-Islamist (not anti-Muslim) advocacy now “hate speech”??? Should Western democracies now emulate Islamist countries and enforce laws against apostasy on their Muslim populations? The blacklisting of Maajid Nawaz certainly implies these extreme positions.

  • Surely anyone with a brain will realise how absurd and stupid this list is, particularly with Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali in it.

  • Aaaliyah says:

    Oh just stop it. Your “you’re with us or against” line implies that if we don’t accept Nawaz as some brave anti-Islamist activist, then Muslims are guilty of fanaticism is utter rubbish. And yes when Nawaz’s writings and lectures paint ordinary Muslims as a collective bogey-man which leads to things like mass surveillance, and attacks based on irrational fears from our non-Muslim neighbours then he is being anti-Muslim.

    But since you asked, I judge Nawaz by the friends he keeps. He counts Tommy Robinson as an associate and has even written a book with Sam Harris called “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” . Robinson heads the British chapter of the Anti-Islam organisation Pegida, and Harris is an Islamophobe who is remarkably tolerant of bombing and torturing Muslims & Muslim nations.

    Those who know him admit he thrives on the attention and publicity that being controversial gives him. He paints himself as a knight in shining armour who’s willing to bravely put himself on the frontline to tell Muslims the truth about themselves.

    In reality, Nawaz’s organisation has received funding from the UK government and questionable private donations from individuals and foundations some of which originate from Tea-party Conservatives. Imagine that…right-wingers and conservative non-Muslim figures funding the reformation of Islam , and Nawaz happily accepting it?

    He has no influence or standing in the Muslim community, and this is blamed on the belief that Muslims are once again too stubborn to listen and accept we’re practicing a savage 7th century religion. Instead most of us think he’s just another opportunist who has placed himself in a prime position post 9/11 to garner attention as an enlightened celebrity reformer. This self-anointed “reformer” spent his stag night not in religious contemplation but at a strip club and admits he’s a non-practicing “cultural” Muslim (whatever that means) –yet Muslims are expected to hold him in esteem.

    Unsurprisingly, his audience are not ordinary Muslims but Non-Muslims and ex-Muslims who treat him as their darling and with near reverence simply because they believe his past gives him credibility to lecture Muslims as though being an ex-extremist, and being a knowledgeable practicing Muslim are all the same thing. Something along the lines of “Oh I’ve been there, so I know best”. And of course he proposes a vision of a “reformed Islam” which is more easier for his adoring non-Muslim fans to swallow.

    Rather than the British government directly engaging with trusted Muslim leaders and ordinary Muslims, they deliberately engage over our heads and to someone who “speaks their language”. In effect, he is “their” man, not ours. We as Muslims don’t expect Western governments to be like Saudi Arabia as you so sweetly suggested but the UK is emulating ex-Communist nations like Russia when it selects who should be our microphone and then attempts to guilt us when we don’t accept it.

  • Leila99 says:

    I’ve never been more disgusted with so-called moderate Muslims than after this. Extremists have gunned down the likes of Salman Rushdie, Theo Van Gogh and the editors of Charlie Hebdo in an effort to silence anyone that mocks or criticizes Islam. Supposedly those are extremists who don’t represent “moderate muslims”, but it turns out that when organizations like SPLC and British Gymnastics censor people who mock and criticize Islam, these pretend moderates show their true colors, and it tuns out they have the same values as the extremists; they celebrate the censorship of criticism of their religion. Where are the moderate Muslim organizations standing up for the fact that Louis Smith shouldn’t be banned for 2 months just because he broke the blasphemy laws of their religion by mocking it??? Where are the moderate Muslim organizations standing up for people like Hirsi Ali? Why aren’t the out there recognizing that atheists who criticize Islam shouldn’t be demonized as leaders of a hatred movement?

    Nawaz said many Muslims organizations expouse the same values as the extremists. In the case of upholding free speech, turns out Nawaz was right on.

  • Aaaliyah says:

    Salman Rushdie is alive and well so I’m not sure why leila99 thinks he’s passed on but equating the murderers with the Charlie Hebdo editors and van Gogh with Muslims who believe that Nawaz and Hirsi Ali are dangerous Islamophobes who give a false picture of Islam and Muslims is pure laziness. All the question marks and exclamation marks, claiming that there are no moderates and that we are all similar to terrorists compounds that the commenter is obviously an angry bigot.

    Nawaz and Hirsi Ali were listed as Islamophobes simply because they fit the definition. I see that none of the commenters had a problem with the rest of the bigots on the list, even though they all indulge in the same behaviour, hold the same views and associate with the same people. I can only assume its’ because one being a current self-labelled Muslim and the other being an ex-Muslim gives them a free pass and some dubious credibility.

    According to Leila99, we should “stand up” for Ayan Hirsi Ali. On what grounds should I stand up for someone has openly expressed dislike of Islam, who aligns herself with Geert Wilders and receives funding from openly right-wing figures and organisations who support the banning of Muslims, mosques and the Qur’an in Western nations? Further compounded is that she has deliberately lied about many aspects of her own personal experience during her time as a Muslim and regularly spouts false nonsense like claiming that female genital mutilation originates from Islamic law. But of course the facts obviously mean nothing when Hirsi Ali is spouting exactly what a lot of non-Muslims and ex-Muslims feel about Muslims and the Islamic faith.

    The problem with Hirsi Ali and other ex-Muslims is that they want to have their cake and eat it too. They leave the community and then arrogantly demand to be heard and be a part of the “Muslim conversation”. The reason why many Muslims see ex-Muslims as a vehicle of hatred is because many of them (not all) make it their calling to campaign about the “evils of Islam and Muslims”. Freedom of speech comes with responsibility. I am all for freedom of speech but when that speech leads to the humiliation and persecution of any maligned minority group and is used as a tool to pass sweeping laws which suppresses their rights that are afforded to everyone else then I must exercise some caution. Another falsehood I must debunk is Louise Smith was not banned from sport because of Islamic blasphemy laws but because the British Gymnastic Federation found his behaviour as role model and professional athlete in breach of the standards of conduct by which he is required to abide by. The procedure and punishment would have been the same if he had mocked any other religious or racial group, and was in accordance with Federation laws.

    Freedom of speech is a two way street. if Islamophobes want to have the right to their vitriol under the guise of freed of speech then others should have the right to call out Hirsi and Nawaz as frauds without fear of being smeared as extremists on forums like this.

  • Susette says:

    The victimology you espouse, Aaaliyah, is astounding. Your refusal to “stand up” for Ayan Hirsi Ali because she has “openly expressed dislike of Islam,” only tells me that you are intolerant of open, truthful discussion of islam and how it is so horrendously practiced in the 21st century. Bill Maher is an atheist who repeatedly mocks all faiths, but I count him as my hero because he frequently speaks the truth about the evils of religion, yours included. The fact that he “openly expresses dislike of [my religion]” is of no consequence. I propose that you fear Hirsi’s words because they are truthful, and you would need to consciously and sincerely re-examine your belief in islam. Hirsi, Rushdie and Nawaz are not attacking moslems, they are exposing dangerous ideologies.

    FGM originated from, or at least has been sanctioned by islamic law. Have you not read about the woman who performed female “circumcision” in Medina. She asked Muhammed if he forbade it and he replied: “Yes, it is allowed… if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband.” (what bullsh*t, btw…no scientific evidence, whatsoever.) Most clerics use this hadith to say circumcision is recommended, but not obligatory for women. But some say it is obligatory. What say you?

    You say “Freedom of speech comes with responsibility. I am all for freedom of speech but when that speech leads to the humiliation and persecution of any maligned minority group…” Your victimology is showing again! Have you called out the moslems who condemn Christians and Jews? Those who call them “infidels”? When people speak out against your ideology, they are not humiliating or persecuting YOU. They are speaking about their personal experience with or studied knowledge of islam. It is not a guise. You have every right to “call them out as frauds”, as you say, and others have the right to “smear you as an extremist” if they want. Face it, Aaaliyah, there are evils in islam, just like there are evils in other religions. When Catholic priests were committing pedophilia, did Catholics play the victim card? NO! This evil was called out and rectified within the Catholic Church, and the community at large. Some people left the Church. Some still believe. No one has damned those that left the Church. They are not being executed for apostasy. Sadly, the islamic community has not adequately dealt with the evils that exist within islam, which are being perpetrated upon innocent people world-wide. We need Hirsi and Rushdie and Nawaz to speak out for the silent moslem majority that appears to be complicit or condoning of these evils. Where do you fall?

  • Aaliyah says:

    What tripe, Susette. Your bigotry in shades of red are showing. I’m not sure why you think I am suffering from “victomology” as I present my arguments based on facts not emotive opinions like you appear to be doing. In all honesty your call for me to re-examine my belief in Islam is arrogant and patronising. Furthermore ,you have already decided that Nawaz and Hirsi Ali should be speak on behalf of all “Moslems”. Sorry but who elected them to speak on our behalf? I would suggest you follow your own advice : borrow a copy of the Qur’an and study it with the assistance of an actual reputable Islamic scholar in order to challenge your own beliefs.

    I had a l look at all your comments on this site and see nothing but perpetual angry trolling and verbal attacks on Islam and Muslims. Your tone is angry, negative, aggressive and downright rude (insert all your tasteless cursing here) suggesting that you were probably frothing at the mouth when you typed your reply.

    For God’s sake, these people that you are defending are not scholars of Islam and neither do they have “studied knowledge of Islam”. After all the evidence I have presented regarding Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Nawaz, you have not bothered to refute a single lie they have told or any of my comments which again shows how blind you are in your dislike of Muslims. As I stated I am all for free speech but when angry bigots like yourself live off a diet of Hirsi Ali’s writings to further your “Islamic education” and understanding of Muslims then I become concerned as it proves to me why these two are so dangerous. Why do you accept the evilness of Islam and Muslim as a fact? Because Hirsi Ali told you so in one of her books? And pray tell, what makes you an expert on Muslims and Islam that you claim that Hirsi Ali’s writings are the “truth” about Islam? Are you an Islamic scholar? You claim that people who talk against Islam are not talking against Muslims yet you are happy to state on this site that Muslims are complicit in condoning evil which means that you see Islam and Muslims as one and the same. At the same time Hirsi Ali and Nawaz support things like the mass surveillance of Muslims, the banning of mosques and Muslim registers and yet I’m supposed to believe that what they say has no effect on me as a Muslim. Now how stupid is your reasoning?

    You do not know me, yet you’re upset because you claim that I don’t condemn violence against non- Muslims. Where have I ever said that I condone such behaviour? The article I commented on had no reference to violence against non-Muslims, therefore I didn’t mention it. Again you have no logic and have made an assumption about my personal beliefs. For the record, I do not condone any violence against any person, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation – or for that matter against apostates.

    You claim that I see myself as a victim for simply refusing to accept someone’s lies who enjoys spreading misinformation in exchange for celebrity status. When is something true for you Susette? When it fits into your neat little stereotypical box of what you believe Islam and Muslims to be? Let’s look at your arguments to analyse your logic. First FGM is a cultural practice, not a religious one. Christians in many parts of the world like Africa and ME practice it as well, including some Jews in Ethiopia. The “hadith” that you carelessly quoted (and probably googled) is considered by scholars to be a “weak narration”. Now if you’re as knowledgeable in Islamic jurisprudence as you think you are, you would know that weak hadiths cannot be submitted as serious religious evidence. Unfortunately for you, a lot of the hadiths used in support of FGM are considered weak so please do excuse me if I don’t take you seriously. Second, you use the Catholic church and its example of paedophilia as an example of how Muslims choose to see themselves as victims and about the matter of apostasy. What are you hoping for? That more Muslims who listen to Hirsi Ali and Nawaz will have a wake-up call and realise how bad Islam is and renounce it?

    Let me use the church as an example of the double standard Muslims live with. The Catholic church has been supporting child abuse and silencing its victims for decades. The only reason why the Church chooses to act now is because of the media’s spotlight on the issue and because the Church simply has no choice. In fact had the victims not come forward the abuse and silence would have continued for many more years. Also, there is a double standard: whereas Catholicism and Catholics and their priests have not been made synonymous with the abuse and not affected by stereotyping, Muslims have been conflated with terrorism to the point in which all Muslims are generally perceived as potential terrorists. There is a saying, if a white man is running he is exercising but if a black man is running he’s probably running away from the cops. If you were say Black, and then due to your skin colour wrongly perceived as a potential thief would you say you were a victim of bigotry or victimology? I would think the former, rather than the latter. Lastly, who cares about Bill Maher and if he’s your hero? The man has the same opinions as most neo-conservatives when it comes to Muslims. Personally I think you’re confused – he is a comedian and entertainer not a scholar and why you would take him seriously is beyond me. But if you think he walks on water then good for you. Rula Jibreel the journalist and by no means a religious Muslim narrated a story a few years back. In it, she says she gave Maher a book about the Prophet Muhammed’s life in the hope he would read it. Instead he thanked her for the book, then promptly left it on his seat and walked away. How does this hero of yours speak the truth about Islam when he can’t bring himself to read a book about its founder? From your comments it appears that you have the same problem. You believe your ignorance is a virtue. You are happy to mock and attack Muslims as long as what you know comes from Hirsi Ali and Maher and other dubious sources.

    Well, you’re welcome to your comedians and entertainers for your information; leave the scholars and religious texts to me.

  • Susette says:

    Your reply to me was filled with personal insults…you called me an angry bigot, emotive, arrogant, patronising, negative, aggressive, rude, tasteless, blind, upset, illogical, stereotypical, careless, confused, ignorant, mocking, and attacking. In my field, this is called projection. May I suggest a bit of self-refection to root out this hostility towards me, or anyone who questions or rejects islam?
    But to your points…I did not say that Hirsi and Nawaz speak on behalf of all moslems. But who does speak on behalf of moslems? Nearly 3100 people have been killed by moslems since 9/11 in the USA. The toll world-wide is astronomical, including moslems killing moslems. Why aren’t reputable islamic scholars flooding the media calling out these evil moslems that perpetrate murder and mayhem nearly every day in the name of their religion?
    I have read some of the quran, and I have no interest in sitting down with an islamic scholar. There are many good verses, and there are many noxious verses (as in any religious text). Some are contradictory. Love is not mentioned much, although muhammed likes to tell you who allah does not love…the aggressors, the disbelievers, the wrongdoers, the arrogant boasters, etc. But did muhammed mention murderers? Because it seems murder is cool with muhammed if it’s committed upon an infidel, apostate, adulterer, homosexual. In my belief system, God is all-loving. Hell only exists in our hearts, if we allow it to reside there. It is not a place where “bad” souls go. Because my God is all-forgiving, as well.
    You wrote that I did not refute a single lie of Hirsi’s. Actually, her FGM was the only one you cited, and I refuted your explanation, which you promptly passed off as a “weak narration of a hadith.” It makes me wonder how many other islamic practices are passed off as “weak narrations” when they don’t fit with your narrative.
    I don’t get my information from comedians and entertainers. It is all over every medium the mayhem that is caused by moslems. It is only those countries that aren’t islamic, or don’t permit massive migration or immigration that are safe from islamic evil – sanctioned, public beheadings, floggings, stonings, rapes, child brides and kidnappings, murders and terror attacks. You don’t hear about these in countries such as China, Japan, Russia, all of South and Central America. But many European countries, USA, Canada, and Australia are plagued by crimes committed by moslems. What is happening in Europe is an atrocious invasion and trampling of freedoms that have allowed for the intellectual and cultural advancement of humanity for millenia. Followers of islam have ceased to benefit humankind in any meaningful way for centuries. Considering their large numbers, there are few Nobel laureates, few artists and writers, inventors and educators. Moslems comprise 23% of the world’s population, yet only 0.8% have received Nobel prizes. Compare that to the 0.2% of the world’s Jewish population that have received 20% of Nobel prizes. Christians and non-religious make up about 50% of the world’s population and they have received 75% of Nobel prizes. Three of the five Nobel Peace Prize awardees since 2003 have been given to moslem women (bravo!), and why? For their work on the struggle for the rights of women and children. No other religion has this struggle! Seven of 10 countries with the worst human rights violations are moslem-majority countries, most with islamic theocracies. Moslems are growing in numbers, but they are losing in influence and they are failing in producing advancements that benefit humanity. That is the sad truth about islam that plays out day after day.

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