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.