US watchdog to pay anti-extremist UK group in settlement

US watchdog to pay anti-extremist UK group in settlement
SPLC President Richard Cohen released a video in which he apologizes to anti-extremist UK group. (Source: SPLC video)

By JAY REEVES
Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - An American liberal watchdog group apologized and will pay more than $3 million under an agreement announced Monday after labeling a British organization and its founder as anti-Muslim extremists.

The nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery issued written and video statements saying it was wrong to include the London-based Quilliam and Maajid Nawaz in a "Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists."

Law center president Richard Cohen said his organization has done additional research and talked with human rights advocates since releasing the publication in 2016.

"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," said Cohen's statement. "Although we may have our differences with some of the positions that Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam have taken, they are most certainly not anti-Muslim extremists."

An agreement released online by Quilliam shows the Alabama-based law center is paying $3.4 million, which Quilliam says will be used to fight anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism.

Quilliam had threatened to sue, but its policy director David Toube said in an email the settlement offer came before any suit was filed.

Nawaz was once involved with radical Islamist groups but changed his views and started Quilliam, which describes itself as challenging both Islamist extremism and anti-Muslim bigotry. Nawaz tweeted a video in which he asked the law center to join its cause.

"Too much and for too long ... many on the left have been trying to shut down any debate or critique or criticism around Islam especially by Muslims within Muslim communities," Nawaz said. "Well, this moment should teach us all a lesson and allow us to work together to challenge the triple threat facing the world at the moment and that's far-right extremism, far-left extremism and, from the heavens above, Islamist extremism."

The Southern Poverty Law Center is best known for tracking United States-based radical groups including the Ku Klux Klan. Federal tax records show the nonprofit organization reported revenues of $132 million and net assets of $450 million for 2017.

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