Ilhan Omar’s “Combating International Islamophobia Act”

December 31, 2021 • 10:00 am

Reader Debra, in a comment on a recent post about the UN’s ongoing anti-Israel resolution, called attention to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s “Islamophobia Resolution,” which you can read about in the ABC News, the conservative site The Daily Caller, or the The Elder of Ziyon.

But you’ll want to see the latest version of the bill itself, here, or as a pdf by clicking on the screenshot of the latest version below. This bill was approved by the House of Representatives in a strict party-line vote of 219-212 last Tuesday.

A few words before we get to the bill itself.  I will pull no punches in saying that I believe Omar is both an Islamist and an anti-Semite, though I have more confidence in the latter than in the former. Regardless, both she and Rashida Tlaib seem determined to use their power in Congress to promote Islam in America and prevent its criticism. I think that this bill is part of that effort, and you can see its purpose under the words “A BILL” above: to establish a special Office in the U.S. State Department to monitor and report on incidents of “Islamophobia” outside the U.S. (it would never get passed if it incorporated America, but, as we’ll see, it might well do that).

I also think the bill is misguided, ambiguous, pushes a form of blasphemy law (though probably not in the U.S.), and would be unconstitutional in America because it privileges one religion—Islam—over all others.  We need no such bills: no “anti-Semitism department” bills, not “anti-Christian department” bills, no “anti-Hindu department” bills, and so on.  Imagine what would happen if we had a surfeit of such bills. India would be the subject of many reports by the Islamophobia and Hinduphobia departments, every Arab country would be the subject of innumerable reports of anti-Semitism from the “Judeophobia Department”, and so on. So my first objection is that this bill is a big waste of time, accomplishing little but serveing Omar’s political ambitions. I suspect the Democratic approval was a kneejerk reaction to soothe Omar (the Progressive Left is pro-Islam and anti-“Zionism”).

In fact, several sources say that the bill is Omar’s personal reaction to being denigrated unfairly by the even more odious Lauren “Glock-Packing Mama” Boebert, who has repeatedly denigrated Omar as a “terrorist” and a member of the “jihad squad.” Here’s a CNN report on Boebert’s statements:

Boebert is bigoted, unhinged, and “Muslimophobic”. A congresswoman should not be talking this way about a colleague. She may well be punished by the Congress for her statements by being removed from committees, and I hope to Ceiling Cat that she won’t be re-elected.

Apparently Boebert tried to call Omar to apologize, but Omar hung up on her, which I probably would have done as well. Nevertheless, I have to add that Boebert did nothing illegal by her remarks about Omar; her speech is protected by the First Amendment. What she said was unwise and bigoted.

But in response, Omar wrote and sponsored the bill above, and the Dems in Congress, eager to parade their virtue, approved it. That was unwise, because it opens a Pandora’s box of religions and ethnicities competing to get their own “x-phobia offices” established in the Department of State.

Now, read the bill. The latest revision is at the end.

One of the biggest problems of the bill is that it doesn’t define “Islamophobia,” which is something it absolutely has to do. At the end we see its latest construal of Islamophobia, which has problems.  We’ll get to in a second.

The bill establishes an office in the State Department headed by a “special envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia”. The Office will do this:

So, as you see, it monitors acts of Islamophobia only outside the U.S., and prepares an annual report about what the office uncovers. There is no requirement to monitor any other international acts of religious hatred. (Can you imagine the infinite number of acts that could be reported on anti-Semitic activities of the governments of Arab States? Hatred of Jews is part of the government media in many places.) This wouldn’t fly if it included the U.S., for it would be a very clear violation of the First Amendment, for its language, as we’ll see, could act to suppress free speech as well as singling out one religion for special protection from criticism and reporting above all others.

But the following stipulation worries me because of that:

It seems to bring the Islamoph0bia issue to American organizations like CAIR, who could then use their broadly construed definitions of “Islamophobia”—definitions which often include criticism of Islam—to bear on foreign countries, indicting them for what Americans consider free speech.

Now, what constitutes “Islamophobia”? We can tell only by the things that are supposed to be reported. This is from the bill:

Of course acts of physical violence against Muslims should be condemned, but to be considered “Islamophobic” they have to be perpetrated because the victim is a Muslim. Physical violence against anybody in the U.S. is illegal, but if it’s perpetrated because of the victim’s religion, it is also a “hate crime.” (I’m not sure where I come down on whether “hate crimes” should incur extra penalties.) Thus the bill should state that the physical violence should be based on religion.

Acts of vandalism against mosques are prima facie acts of anti-Muslim activity and are properly reported.

What bothers me most about this bill, both in terms of the international community and the U.S., is not the violence, but the requirement to report “instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that incite such acts, and statements and actions relating thereto.”  As we know, some Muslims are easily driven to violence if they perceive an insult (“propaganda”) against Islam. That’s why a fatwa was pronounced on Salman Rushdie, why 12 people were killed in the Charlie Hebdo acts, why Theo van Gogh was murdered (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali requires around-the-clock protection), and why the Danish cartoons satirizing Muhammad resulted in widespread violence, including murder. Those could all have been construed as “incitement” to violence, and thereby excused—as they have been for some.

And what about internecine intolerance among Muslims? Is the violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims to be considered violence perpetuated because of the victim’s religion? Such violence is a regular occurrence in the Middle East, and results from warring sects within Islam.

Is it a reportable offense to criticize the tenets of Islam, like the forced veiling and covering of women, their oppression in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, their own state-run propaganda against Jews, and so on? These are valid criticisms of Islam, some Muslims and Muslim states, but do they fall under “Islamophobia” in this bill? We don’t know.

For, in the end, unlike anti-Semitism, “Islamophobia” is a recently confected term whose purpose, I believe, is primarily to prevent criticism of Islam. Yes, criticisms of Muslims because they are Muslim are rightfully criticized as bigotry, but remember that the word is “Islamophobia,” not “Muslimophobia”.

That brings me to why Omar confected this bill. Why should we care if it applies only to other countries? We should care because the bill, which requires public reporting, has the potential to chill criticism of Islam in other countries, and we should try, I think, to export our First Amendment rights to countries which don’t have such laws. Also, Omar’s bill constitutes a sort of “blasphemy law”, which could chill speech in other countries. (I believe Israel is one of Omar’s prime targets of this bill. Imagine if the bill was about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism together!).

Finally, it has the potential to chill speech against Islam in America, for if we’re holding other countries to standards that we don’t hold ourselves—for we are free to criticize Islam or any other faith whenever we want—the U.S.might be pressured to consider some kind of blasphemy regulations.  Shouldn’t we be held to the standards that Omar’s bill is trying to enforce on other countries? What Omar is trying to do, in the end, is to prevent, worldwide, criticism of her own faith. And that’s not a good basis for a bill.

The bill will now head to the Senate, where I hope it will be tabled or voted down. It is, as they say, a “problematic” piece of legislation.

22 thoughts on “Ilhan Omar’s “Combating International Islamophobia Act”

  1. I’m not irrationally afraid of it – I simply find religion to poison everything. Islam is not an exception in this regard.

    1. In the “woke” view of the world (promulgated by today’s most fervent zealots), opposition to Christianity or Judaism or even perhaps Hinduism is likely to be perceived as acceptable (even obligatory), while opposition to Islam can only derive from xenophobia or racist hostility to the faith of brown and black people (the existence of “white” Muslims notwithstanding).
      This is certainly the result of one religion being “privileged over all others”, but the same problem, with the privileging of certain groups over others, exists with rules pertaining to so-called “hate speech” and with laws pertaining to so-called “hate crimes” (both concepts being absurd as well as unconstitutional), yet this is the logic (or, rather, lack thereof) behind “wokeisim”.

      1. ‘Abeed’, meaning slaves as well as black people in Arabic, should tell the Woke it is not always what it sppears in their delusions. I guess that Arabic, despite their smooching with fundamentalist Islam, is not their forte.

  2. I read this as an effort of Democrats to become the new Cold Warriors, by rattling the sabres towards China. This will then become pretext for all sorts of naked US capitalistic interests, disguised — as usual — as matters of principle or human rights. New year, same business as usual. Only that nobody buys it anymore.

    It looks like many modern democracies realise that they don’t get as much out of the deals with China as promised (or hoped). It dilligently learned the recipes freely offered by western countries, in exchange for access to a massive consumer market and books full of commisions for decades. But now the Chinese apprentices grew out of the shadow of their western masters and can do it alone. Paired with techno-totalitarianism, it can also scale much faster. That‘s why the US and many countries look for levers, pretexts and excuses to change course. This bill looks like one to me.


    The State Department adopted the non-legally binding IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. This does not include criticizing the Jewish religion. It’s aim is violence, verbal abuse, violent acts of Jewish property, Holocaust denialism and the right of Israel to exist.
    It is not aimed at the Jewish religion.

    That is not so for the Intl. definition of Islamophobia. That is a blasphemy law.

    1. Oh, I’m very much aware that “Islamophobia” and antisemitism are very different (despite the best efforts of Islamists to conflate them). This is primarily because antisemitism is an ethnic hatred while “Islamophobia” is a criticism of religion. My point was that while Jerry is right to criticize the proposed bill on these grounds, in the mind of many (Democratic) supporters of the bill they’re just following the example of the “antisemitism tsar”. (Yes, ironically enough given the historical connotations of tsars and antisemitism, in the UK similar offices are called antisemitism tsar by the media.)

    2. I still haven’t investigated the State Dept. office for anti-Semitism, but Holocaust denialism of claiming that Israel shouldn’t exist are protected by free speech and thus should not (and cannot) be illegal.

  4. The proposed office of Islamophobia hunting will of course be used against Israel and India, but it will be applied elsewhere as well, particularly against Denmark and France. Danish authorities permit the continued publication of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper which published the famous blasphemous Mohammed cartoons. In France, President Macron has proposed legislation which dares to regulate the mosques, just because of the little problem of periodic Islamist murder sprees in Paris. In all countries of western Europe, political parties (and political speeches) exist which do not accord Islam’s claim to be the final, definitive word of God the indulgence its clerisy expects.

  5. If “Islamophobia” is an irrational fear of Islam how will this bill work? How can this irrationality be proved?
    I am not by the way located in the USA, so just asking.
    Looks like an attempt at a “Blasphemy “ law indeed. Perhaps we should be fearful of the growth of Islam. All religion is just bad news!

    1. > How can this irrationality be proved?

      One of the key distinctions between ‘murder’ and ‘manslaughter’ in many jurisdictions is the requirement of ‘intent’. Intent cannot truly be exhaustively proven, either, but legal systems trust that courts can still ‘prove’ it.

      This looks like another case where governments are granting themselves excessive leeway to determine what constitutes ‘intent’ or ‘irrationality’ or ‘fear’ or ‘hatred’. It’s more of the same, and subject to abuse by whoever is in power.

    2. Islamophobia is a misnomer, most probably intentional. There is, of course, bigotry against muslims, but that has little (no, not nothing) to do with the fear of Islam.
      I fear Islam, nothing irrational about that (if needed I can expand), so the ‘phobia’ part is just wrong.
      Moreover, I’m sure this ‘bill’ is completely anathema to the first. As Jerry pointed out , prima facie

  6. There are a lot of important things the democrats in the Senate need to do in January. This is most certainly not one of them. Simply a waste of time. The house was really stupid to pass this.

  7. Tangential, but I just went down the rabbit hole about whether ‘combatting’ or ‘combating’ is correct. It turns out that they both are, but ‘combating’ seems to be more American, but not consistently so. Some American dictionaries list ‘combatting’ as the primary spelling. “Combatting” looks more correct to me.

  8. The conflict between Reps. Omar and Boebert reminds me of a fight between two mean girls in middle school. They both act as though they’re righteously right, they have no sense of proportion, and they simply want to wound and score points off each other. It’s a disgusting display of childishly inappropriate behavior that made me ashamed of my gender. They should both be made aware of the damage they are causing to the reputations of the people who elected them and to Congress as an institution. Instead, one team seemed to ignore the behavior of its member and the other team passed a bill to placate its member. Both members need a time out in which they lose privileges like eating in a Congressional cafeteria or using staff to drive them hither and yon. Stuff that actually matters but doesn’t impede their ability to serve their constituents. Better yet, they could both choose to grow the f**k up.

  9. May one reasonably (if not realistically) anticipate/hope for a bill monitoring Islamofascism outside (if not also inside) the U.S.?

  10. Apropos islamophobia:

    This is a great resource, as Richard Dawkins expalins in the intro :‘Islamophobia is an otiose word which doesn’t deserve definition. Hatred of Muslims is unequivocally reprehensible, as is hatred of any group of people such as gay people or members of a race. Hatred of Islam, on the other hand is easily justified, as is hatred of any other religion or obnoxious ideology. Muslims themselves are the main victims of Islam.’

  11. The conflation of particularly “islamophobia” with racism is irrational. Last I looked there were lots of Black Christians in Africa and Hispanic Christians in Latin America. Both Islam and Catholicism are structurally discriminatory against women and as such should be highly “problematic” for the “woke”.

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