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SPLC Apologizes, Pays Settlement to Islamic Reformer It Wrongly Labeled ‘Anti-Muslim Extremist’

Maajid Nawaz on the April 18, 2018, edition of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. (via YouTube)

The Southern Poverty Law Center has reached a settlement with liberal Islamic reformer Maajid Nawaz and his organization, the Quilliam Foundation, for wrongly including them on its now-defunct list of “anti-Muslim extremists.”

The SPLC announced Monday that it has agreed to pay Nawaz and Quilliam $3.375 million “to fund their work to fight anti-Muslim bigotry and extremism.” The settlement was the result of a lawsuit Nawaz filed in April over his inclusion on the SPLC’s “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.”

The list, which was published in 2016 and was intended to serve as a resource for journalists, was deleted shortly after Nawaz filed the suit. The deletion came roughly two years after Nawaz first demanded a retraction.

“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,” SPLC president Richard Cohen said in a statement. “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.”

The list prompted backlash from free-speech advocates and the creation of a petition on Change.org, which drew thousands of signatures. It accused Nawaz, a liberal Muslim and former Islamic extremist, of “savaging Islam,” and similarly branded Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali- and Muslim-born critic of the religion, as an “extremist” for advocating the abolition of cultural practices like female genital mutilation, which she herself was subjected to in childhood.

“It’s a shame that it took impending litigation for the Southern Poverty Law Center to finally set
the record straight and admit it was wrong all along,” Megan Meier, a partner at Clare Locke — the law firm that represented Nawaz, said in a statement provided to National Review. “Quilliam and Mr. Nawaz do admirable work, and we are honored to have restored their reputations and achieved this victory on their behalf.”

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