The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit progressive civil rights watchdog organization, was in the news again last week when its quarterly “Intelligence Report” warned that membership in hate groups was see rise. But a tendency to exclude certain groups from its outspoken criticism has many accusing the SPLC of having serious double standards.
“For a second year in a row, the radical right in America expanded explosively in 2010, driven by resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government’s handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at various minorities,” SPLC claims. On a list of over 1,000 organizations labeled “hate groups,” 17 “anti-gay” are singled out, the majority of which being Christian and conservative in nature.
According to SPLC, an anti-gay hate group is one which states homosexuality is corrupting society and defames the gay community by promoting information the SPLC considers to be unfounded. In this light, the SPLC treats groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC), a Washington-based conservative think tank that advocates social conservatism, in the same way it treats groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
But Stephen Schwartz, executive director for the Center for Islamic Pluralism, says the SPLC’s failure to include Muslim groups on the report exposes its double standard.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center has adopted the attitude that Muslims are only victims of hate,” Schwartz told the Daily Caller. “They’ve adopted a paradigm that groups can be divided between victims and haters. There are Muslim hate groups in the United States. There’s no question about that. [The SPLC is] not going to address the fact that there are Muslim radicals, Muslim extremists, in the United States.”
“To call the Family Research Council a hate group is unacceptable,” Schwartz said. “It’s inaccurate. It’s using the phrase in an ideological way.”
Among the Muslim groups that escaped being named in the report as an anti-gay hate group, like the conservative FRC, is the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which is outspoken in its condemnation of homosexual lifestyles. Its website calls same-sex relationships a “deviation” from Allah’s laws and refers to homosexuality as “ignorance.”
“There are divine laws for faith groups to adhere to and accept,” said Naeem Baig, ICNA vice president.
Baig said religious groups of any faith should not be labeled hate groups for their beliefs unless they actually promote violence or hate.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has also been unequivocal in its moral rejection of homosexuality, yet it too was not to be found in SPLC’s report. In a 2006 Religion News Service story, Muzammil Siddiqi, a former president of ISNA who later served on its board of directors, said, “Homosexuality is a moral disorder. It is a moral disease, a sin and corruption . . . No person is born homosexual, just like no one is born a thief, a liar or murderer. People acquire these evil habits due to a lack of proper guidance and education.”
The Fiqh Council, an ISNA affiliate, advocates a similar viewpoint. Dr. Jamal Badawi, who serves on its executive council, called gay lifestyles “strange and contradictory” and lamented the West’s acceptance of homosexuality as a “setback and decline” in the world’s moral standards, according to an article on islamawareness.net.
“A hate group to me is a group that incites violence. They’re not inciting violence. They’re not inciting lawbreaking,” Schwartz said.
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, also criticized the SPLC’s report and accused the group of using the “hate group” label as a way to intimidate ideological enemies.
“They are naming anyone who doesn’t agree with them as a hate group,” Lafferty said. “This is how they deal with their enemies – they scare them.”