The term "regressive left" was originally coined by Maajid Nawaz to describe those supposed progressives who abandon all their liberal principles when it comes to Islam. Terrified that some more-virtuous-than-thou comrade will call them out as racist, they side with all manner of extremists and religious fascists against their critics, happily throwing around accusations of "Islamophobia". One of the most outrageous recent examples of the regressive left in action is now aimed, ironically enough, at Nawaz himself.
The case of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and their decision to include Nawaz (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali) in their Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, has been covered at length - at Harry's Place, by Douglas Murray, and, not least, in a response by Nawaz himself - I’m A Muslim Reformer. Why Am I Being Smeared as an ‘Anti-Muslim Extremist’?
As so often, it's Nick Cohen who provides the most eloquent riposte:
In the liberal orientalist world view the only ‘authentic’ Muslim is a barbarian. A battery of insults fires on any Muslim who says otherwise. They are ‘neo-conservatives,’ ‘native informants,’ and ‘Zionists’: they are as extreme as jihadists they oppose, or, let’s face it, worse.
In short, a section of the Western left has adopted the ideology of the Salafists, Khomeinists and Islamists. It supports their blasphemy codes, and apologias for murder. Not for white leftists, you understand, only for ‘the other,’ for we are in a culture where racist double standards abound. I have no doubt, for instance, that Alabama’s Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) would be appalled if white supremacists hacked to death writers on the New York Times for challenging racial prejudice, as Islamists hack Bangladeshi liberal writers to death for challenging theocratic prejudice.
What makes SPLC’s embrace of what it would in other circumstances correctly call fascist politics heart-breaking as well as contemptible is that it was once a great civil rights institution in the American south with a proud record of fighting the Ku Klux Klan.
It has turned McCarthyite now, and issued a blacklist of men and women it accuses of being ‘anti-Muslim extremists’. Pamela Geller, and a few other rabble rousers on the list are just that. As Amjad Khan shows, others are merely journalists and academics who have raised inconvenient facts conventional wisdom would rather ignore. Of course they could not leave alone Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who became an atheist and denounced the faith of her childhood, and is hated by a section of the white left for doing what they do all the time. That Hirsi Ali needs bodyguards to protect her from Islamist assassins in no way restrained our Alabama witch finders.
But the name that has jumped out at everyone is the Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz. The text underneath oozes malice. The SPLC tries to make out that Nawaz’s stag night makes him an extremist. It misrepresents the work of his Quilliam Foundation so thoroughly I no longer recognised the organisation I knew. All these tricks and non-sequiturs, just so it can turn a liberal Muslim anti-extremist, into a reactionary ‘anti-Muslim extremist’.
I asked the SPLC’s Mark Potok, ‘one of the country’s leading experts on the world of extremism,’ according to its website, if he was Muslim himself. ‘No.’ Was he happy, then, branding a liberal Muslim ‘an anti-Muslim extremist?’ Well, Potok said, the head of Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit had accused Nawaz of ‘demonising a whole range of groups that have made valuable contributions to counter-terrorism,’ and that was good enough for him.
I tried to explain that the then head of the Muslim Contact Unit was Bob Lambert, one of the most notorious agent provocateurs British policing has produced. He stole the identity of a dead boy and infiltrated left groups. Pretending to be one of them, he got an activist pregnant then vanished from his partner and child’s lives. He had a shadowy part in the ‘McLibel’ case, which led to two environmental activists being persecuted for years in the courts, and is under investigation for allegedly smearing the campaign for justice for the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. There are reasonable grounds for suspecting that, when Lambert attacked Nawaz, he was trying to ingratiate himself with Islamists as he had tried to ingratiate himself with leftists.
Did Mark Potok, ‘one of the country’s leading experts on the world of extremism’ if you please, know he was relying on the word of a stool pigeon? ‘I don’t know the details.’ Would the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is after all meant to defend the Stephen Lawrences of the world, reconsider its condemnation of Nawaz? With the braggart self-confidence of a liberal Donald Trump, Potok was not about to let facts change his mind. ‘No,’ he replied. Did Potok think he was putting Nawaz’s life in danger. ‘No’
Of course he is. He and his colleagues have issued the white left’s first fatwa: a blacklist that could be a deathlist....
Do these jerks not think about the consequences of their rote-learned, pseudo-leftist bombast? Have they not heard that, across the world, lists circulate of ‘apostates’ along with invitations to the faithful to kill them when they can?
Update: Lee Smith is also worth a read.