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$3M Settlement: SPLC Apologizes for Branding Muslim Reformer an 'Anti-Muslim Extremist'

On Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced that it had settled a lawsuit filed by Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz and his nonprofit, the Quilliam Foundation. The SPLC offered Nawaz a sincere apology and awarded his foundation $3.375 million as a settlement.

"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," SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement.

The SPLC published its "Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists" in 2016, listing Nawaz for an ever-changing list of reasons. The left-wing group first falsely claimed Nawaz had called for "an outright ban on the niqab," or veil. This first charge disappeared from the website, and Quilliam accused the SPLC of "reverse engineering their justification to keep Maajid Nawaz on their list." The SPLC later justified attacking him because he visited a strip club for his bachelor party.

Worse, the Islamist Muslim owner of the strip club who leaked the story to the press said he wanted to punish Nawaz for "being an atheist." The SPLC, Quilliam argued, was "acting like religious police."

"I've memorized half of the Quran, I am a Muslim, I am born and raised a Muslim, I learned classical Arabic, I've spent time in prison," Nawaz declared last year, shortly after announcing his lawsuit. "You know who else lists heretics? The jihadists. We know what happens when you list heretics among Muslims in this way: They end up dead."

In a statement, the Muslim reformer highlighted the connection between the SPLC and James Hodgkinson, the Bernie Sanders supporter who shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) last summer. Hodgkinson had "liked" the SPLC on Facebook, and the SPLC had repeatedly tarred Scalise.

In 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins III broke into the Family Research Council (FRC), aiming to kill everyone in the building. He admitted to targeting the FRC because the SPLC listed it as an "anti-gay group" on its "hate map."

The SPLC has not apologized to FRC or to Steve Scalise. Even so, the apology to Nawaz proved quite notable.

"The Southern Poverty Law Center was wrong to include Maajid Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation in our Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists," Cohen said. "Since we published the Field Guide, we have taken the time to do more research and have consulted with human rights advocates we respect."

Coehn went on to even praise the man his organization had branded an "anti-Muslim extremist." "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," he said.