SPLC Apologizes for Wrongly Naming Activist, His Group as Anti-Muslim Extremists, Pays Millions in Settlement

Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center / Getty Images

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Monday apologized for wrongly naming the Quilliam Foundation and its founder, Maajid Nawaz, as anti-Muslim extremists and has paid them a $3.375 million settlement.

"Today, we entered into a settlement with and offered our sincerest apology to Mr. Maajid Nawaz and his organization, the Quilliam Foundation, for including them in our publication A Journalist's Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists," the SPLC said in a statement.

SPLC's field guild profiled Nawaz as an anti-Muslim extremist and questioned whether aspects of his biography are true.

SPLC President Richard Cohen issued a video apology and said Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank and self-described "counter-extremism organization," have done important work to fight against radicalization and Islamophobia.

"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. 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."

The Quilliam Foundation released its own statement in which the organization said it would use the settlement funds to fight anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism.

"The SPLC also agreed to pay a $3.375 million settlement, which Quilliam and Nawaz intend to use to fund work fighting anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism," the statement read.

"With the help of everyone who contributed to our litigation fund, we were able to fight back against the Regressive Left and show them that moderate Muslims will not be silenced," Nawaz said. "We will continue to combat extremists by defying Muslim stereotypes, calling out fundamentalism in our own communities, and speaking out against anti-Muslim hate."

Nawaz was himself a member of a global Islamist group when he was younger, but while in Egypt, he turned away from the group. He founded the Quilliam Foundation to prevent other Muslims from being radicalized and to fight Islamophobia.

"Quilliam is the world's first counter-extremism organization. We have a full spectrum approach to promote pluralism and inspire change," the foundation describes itself on its website.