The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) made headlines last week when its quarterly Intelligence Report warned of an alarming spike in hate groups, but some critics are suggesting the SPLC has a double standard when it comes to which organizations it chooses to list as being “anti-gay” hate groups.
The 17 organizations that comprise the anti-gay watch list in the SPLC’s Feb. 23 report are mostly Christian and conservative in nature. Stephen Schwartz, executive director for the Center for Islamic Pluralism, said 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 said. “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.”
The SPLC says an anti-gay hate group is one which states homosexuality is corrupting society and defames the gay community by disseminating information that the SPLC considers to be unfounded.
For instance, the SPLC’s report, which also monitors groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, takes issue with the traditional marriage stance espoused by groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that advocates socially conservative values. Schwartz said the FRC’s inclusion in the report was unwarranted and ideological.
“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.
The SPLC listed more than 1,000 hate groups in its recent report, the highest number since it began tracking hate groups in 1981. But Schwartz said that inflated total includes many groups that do not belong on the watch list.
“A hate group to me is a group that incites violence. They’re not inciting violence. They’re not inciting lawbreaking,” Schwartz said of many of the Christian and conservative groups on the list who reject homosexuality as a moral lifestyle.
Several groups cried foul for their inclusion in the report, saying they were unfairly targeted. Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, said the hate group label is an intimidation tactic used by the SPLC to marginalize those on the other end of ideological spectrum.
“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.”
Bryan Fischer, director of Issue Analysis for the American Family Association, a Christian non-profit named as an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC, rejected the classification. Fischer said the SPLC uses the term hate group irresponsibly as part of its politically-motivated agenda.
“It’s unfortunate that the SPLC is confusing people,” Fischer said. “They belong on their own list because of the vitriol they have for socially conservative groups.”
The SPLC did not return TheDC’s requests for comment.