I used the contact form of the Southern Poverty Law Center website and sent them this letter in reaction to them publishing an “anti-Muslim extremist” list which included Ali and Nawaz. I don’t know if they’ll reply or give the stock reply, but I did what I do. Read my initial reaction here. Enjoy.
To Whom It May Concern,
Southern Poverty Law Center
I recently came across your report on “anti-Muslim extremists” which includes the names of Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I write to you in order to cordially ask you to include my name in the list as an example of an awful extremist. Following you will see my justification for this humble request.
I am an atheist living in Iran. The name you see here is not my real name, that is due to my extremism. As a bigot, I believe that there is no God, and that there should be dissenting voices within the Muslim culture championing freedom and equality, and that some of those voices must challenge religious institutes. Because of these extremist beliefs I face the danger of consequences at the hands of the victims of my bigotry, ranging from execution to losing my livelihood to being ostracized by the society. Therefore I am sure that you forgive me for not lifting my hood. (Here I compared myself with the KKK for your pleasure).
I believe I am far worthier than Mr. Nawaz for the title of “anti-Muslim extremist”. I write for a blog called “On the Margin of Error” on the atheist channel of Patheos network, in which I have three aims: one is to criticize Islamic ideologies, traditions, and institutions. That is, by definition, extremist and bigoted. My second goal is to convince Westerners to support Iranian reformists within the regime and to encourage diplomacy with Iran. (I said I’m a bigot, not a competent one).
But the third reason is the most important: I try to narrate the story of an ex-Muslim. In the report it was said that Mr. Nawaz sharing a cartoon that Muslims consider blasphemous was one reason for being on the list, well, you know what is the ultimate blasphemy according to the Muslims? Apostasy! In fact, apostates are considered unclean by Muslims. That makes me much more extremist than Mr. Nawaz. In fact, Mr. Nawaz can easily rectify his extremist stance by drawing a moral equivalence between the cartoonist and those who want to behead him, but I, this living blasphemy in flesh and blood, can only rectify it by committing suicide.
- I believe that the Qur’an is a violent book. I respect the goals of Muslims who want to advance peaceful interpretations, but I think they’re wrong. While I consider myself an ally of progressive Muslims, I think it’s my right to express my intellectual disagreement with them regarding their scriptures.
- I think Muslim societies are not completely blameless in the violent actions of the few. While terrorists are indeed a minority, they also are symptoms of wider social diseases such as sexism and bigotry toward others. I guess that wanting to reform the society from bottom is extremist, and a moderate try to ignore the social roots of Islamic extremism.
- I think it’s the moral duty of everyone to reject silencing and show Muslims that they cannot expect others to adhere to their religion and to respect a warlord who died 1500 years ago.
Normally when an organization claims to “fight hate” and “teach tolerance”, I expect it to support people like me. Because I think I do those things. But it’s clear that the existence of Islamophobia in the West warrants such a reaction that Islamic societies should have no internal critics, and that “fighting hate”, for someone like me, means simply not existing.
That is why I ask you to include me in your list. I believe it will be mutually beneficial. You will have a more comprehensive list, and I will wear your scarlet letter like a badge of honor.
Ex-Muslim, atheist, reformist, extremist