The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released their “Year in Hate and Extremism” report for 2013. The report was met with criticism from anti-Muslim activists who found themselves listed in the document, the most vocal being blogger Robert Spencer who felt undeserving to be included in such a list.
Spencer took issue that the organizations he belongs to have been designated as hate groups. He became even more agitated after learning an Ohio chapter of the Nation of Islam had not made the list. Spencer’s website along with the groups American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and Stop Islamization of Nations (SION), which he co-runs with Pamela Geller, were all included. He claimed this to be part of SPLC’s agenda to stifle free speech.
Spencer invoked free speech, deploying the increasingly common tactic used by those in the organized anti-Muslim movement, a thinly veiled attempt to distance themselves from other hate groups and avoid accusations of bigotry. Spencer continually tries to vindicate himself by claiming his fight is about defending Constitutional rights, rather than being rooted in anti-Muslim paranoia. He also refuses to take responsibility for what stems from this type of rhetoric.
“The very label ‘hate group’ conjures up images of KKK members in robes,” he wrote at FrontPage Magazine, “Not columnists, commentators, and human rights activists dedicated to defending the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the principle of the equality of rights of all people before the law.”
To prove his point, Spencer highlighted that his colleague, the “mild-mannered” Daniel Greenfield, has also been a victim of SPLC’s smear campaign. Mild-mannered is one way to describe Greenfield, who has referred to Islam as a “gang religion” and warned of Somali refugees bringing their “Islam-induced mental illness” into the country.
However, Spencer spent all of last year trying to deny others the very rights he claims to advocate for based on their religion. Below are just some of Spencer’s recent actions making him deserving of SPLC’s list:
AFDI continued their efforts to fundraise for and run anti-Muslim advertisements on public transit vehicles in cities across the nation.
AFDI came out with an 18-point platform advocating for ongoing profiling and surveillance of Muslims in places such as mosques and airports. The organization also called for an “immediate halt of immigration by Muslims into nations that do not currently have a Muslim majority population.”
Writing for Jihad Watch, Spencer mocked the Department of Justice’s expansion of its definition of racial profiling to include religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation. He also claimed the need for the ongoing surveillance of Muslims in the name of counter-terrorism.
AFDI mobilized its supporters to oppose legislation that would help end persecution of the minority Muslim population in Burma.
SION announced an international anti-Islam symposium where prominent anti-Muslim activists will convene in Australia to express their opinions of the religion.
Spencer and Geller turned an event in Tennessee aimed at building bridges between local Muslims and the greater community into a unruly shouting match. Their efforts to rile up protesters immediately before the event resulted in aggressive interruptions on numerous occasions as well as cheers when the arson of a mosque was mentioned.
Spencer’s attempt to justify why he shouldn’t be on SPLC’s list is nothing short of absurd. His ongoing efforts to marginalize Muslims in the name of free speech proves he is more than deserving and shows hate-mongers are not only those wearing white hoods and robes.