SPLC: And Then They Came for the Atheists

Hemant Mehta of the “Friendly Atheist” blog was recently aghast that Ayaan Hirsi Ali — a Somali born woman who grew up Muslim but is now an atheist and outspoken critic of Islam — was added to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of “anti-Muslim extremists.”

The SPLC, of course, is famous for its list of “hate groups.” They’ve affixed that label to certain conservative Christian organizations that say homosexuality is an evil that can and should be cured — but not churches that merely believe it’s a sin…

But now, a couple critics of Islam have joined the club, which makes me wonder why anyone should take the SPLC seriously at this point.

Mehta is blind to his own irony: He says it’s fine for the SPLC to designate “hate groups” who speak out about homosexuality, but he’s suddenly offended when those who speak out about Islam are included in the list.  Apparently, he’s influenced not by principle, but by the ideology of those attacked by the SPLC.  He’s now upset only because they’re after atheists.

He almost realizes what he’s said, though he still doesn’t understand the world is bigger than atheists:

If criticizing religious beliefs makes them extremists, then it won’t be long before other vocal atheists end up on that list, too.

The SPLC is making the mistake of equating fair criticism of Islam with unfair bigotry against Muslims. No one has to agree with what Hirsi Ali and Nawaz say about Islam, but it’s absurd to claim that they hate Muslims to the point of being extremists.

No kidding, Hemant. Christians have been saying the same thing about the SPLC for years.  No one has to agree with a Christian’s fair criticism, nor does Christian criticism equate to being a “hate group.”  There’s a reason for Martin Niemöller’s famous quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The SPLC has been coming for people who “criticize” — to use Mehta’s word — others’ beliefs or lifestyles for a long time. Not only have atheists failed to protest that, they’ve actually supported it — because the SPLC was conveniently aligned with the atheist agenda.

Now that they’re coming for you, though, it’s different, isn’t it?

If it makes atheists feel any better, those who are principled about religious freedom actually agree with you. You’re right. The SPLC shouldn’t be “designating” someone an “extremist” because they criticize someone, whether they’re atheist, Christian, Muslim, or anything else.

Of course, why anyone pays any mind to the SPLC is another question altogether.

(As an aside, its worth noting that atheists are quick to overlook the fact Ali admitted to lying about her persecution in Africa — she was actually living comfortably — before she was granted asylum in the Netherlands. These same atheists are quick to berate Christian activists who are accused of “enhancing” their own backstories.)