- The law regarding freedom of speech and of religion, as it exists in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, is already compelled to protect all citizens and to extend that protection to non-citizens who come to American shores.
- Are Muslims in need of greater protection? According to the FBI’s 2014 Hate Crime Statistics, there were 1,140 victims of anti-religious hate crimes in the U.S. that year: Of those, 56.8% were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ anti-Jewish bias. 16.1% were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ anti-Muslim bias.
- “We cannot agree that prohibiting speech is the way to promote tolerance, and because we continue to see the ‘defamation of religions’ concept used to justify censorship, criminalization, and in some cases violent assaults and deaths of political, racial, and religious minorities around the world.” — U.S. Ambassador Eileen Donahoe.
- Again and again, Muslim individuals and organizations have released documents to define Islamic human rights, and in each instance, all rights are restricted to those given by God and are subject to the phrase “according to the Shari’a.”
House Resolution 569 was introduced to the U.S. Congress on December 17, 2015 and was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. The resolution is headed: “Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.” The problem is that the law regarding freedom of speech and of religion, as it exists in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, is already compelled to protect all citizens and to extend that protection to non-citizens, be they businessmen or tourists who come to American shores: “Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” No democracy should believe otherwise.
The House of Representatives’ Resolution 569 introduces the following Whereas clauses:
(1) expresses its condolences for the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes;
(2) steadfastly confirms its dedication to the rights and dignity of all its citizens of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures;
(3) denounces in the strongest terms the increase of hate speech, intimidation, violence, vandalism, arson, and other hate crimes targeted against mosques, Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslim;
(4) recognizes that the United States Muslim community has made countless positive contributions to United States society;
(5) declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all United States citizens, including Muslims in the United States, should be protected and preserved;
(6) urges local and Federal law enforcement authorities to work to prevent hate crimes; and to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those perpetrators of hate crimes; and
(7) reaffirms the inalienable right of every citizen to live without fear and intimidation, and to practice their freedom of faith.
The resolution seems above criticism — every clause in it could seemingly have the wholesale approval approbation of anyone — yet something feels incredibly wrong. That something is the question of why the U.S. House of Representatives has issued such a resolution for Muslims and Muslims only. They and everyone else — Christians, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, and Scientologists, right through to the adherents of satanic cults — are already granted the full protection of the law so long as they do not break it.
Are Muslims, then, in need of greater protection than everyone else? Are they more subject to assaults, hate speech, arson attacks than any other religious community? If they were, this resolution might be welcome, even though it would not add a single article to existing legal protections. However, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports: 2014 Hate Crime Statistics, of the 1,140 victims of anti-religious hate crimes that year in the U.S.:
- 56 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.
- 16.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ anti-Muslim bias.
- 6.2 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).
- 6.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ anti-Catholic bias.
- 2.5 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ anti-Protestant bias.
- 1.2 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
- 11.0 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders’ bias against other religions (anti-other religion).
On that basis, we might expect there to have been quite a few House Resolutions concerning Jews. All I have been able to find are: H.Res.293 “Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority” and H.Res.354 – “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the safety and security of Jewish communities in Europe.”
Again, both Senate and Congress have issued resolutions to condemn the persecution of the Baha’i religious minority in Iran. But as the Baha’is are not persecuted in the U.S., one might not expect a resolution concerning their protection under U.S. law. These might be worthy resolutions, but have no relevance for the United States as such.
Surely, then, there should be laws protecting Jews! However, neither H.Res. 293 nor H.Res. 354 addresses that issue in distinction to H.Res. 569, which specifically concerns Muslims “in the United States.” The disparity between anti-Jewish hate crimes and the much smaller incidence of anti-Muslim crimes stands in stark contrast to the indifference of Congress towards Jews in an age of rapidly rising anti-Semitism and what appears excessive (though decent) concern for Muslims.
In reality, of course, there is no need for extra legislation to protect Jews. They are already protected by existing laws, as are all other religious communities, as noted above.
Why, then, did not a single member of Congress get up on the floor to point out this manifest discrepancy? Surely it must be obvious that, should the resolution pass into law, Muslims will be the only group (religiously, politically, ethnically, or what you will) in the United States to be ring-fenced from anything that might offend them.
We know that Muslims and Muslim authorities are not robust in taking criticism or satire, but are, rather, seemingly hypersensitive to almost anything non-Muslims say of them.
The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 seems to have influenced Congress. Do not forget that the OIC is the only international religious body to have campaigned ceaselessly for legislation to protect believers of Islam from physical and verbal abuse, with verbal abuse determined according to shari’a principles rather than the traits of international or national democratic values.
In Great Britain, a landmark judgement was passed on January 5, 2016, in a court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when a judge ruled that evangelical pastor James McConnell was not guilty of hate speech directed at Muslims. McConnell had been arrested last May after remarks during a sermon about Islam at his church. In his sermon, he had spoken of Islam as “satanic,” “heathen” and “a doctrine spawned in hell.” These may be sentiments with which most of the world would not agree, but entirely within the bounds of evangelical Christian theology, not least in that frequently bigoted region of fundamentalist, belief, where even the majority of fellow Christians are despatched to hellfire, with Catholics at the bottom of the heap. It is also not that different from what many Muslim clerics say about Jews and others.
As his sermon had been posted online, McConnell was charged under the Communications Act 2003 of making improper use of a public electronics communications network and of causing a grossly offensive message through those channels. But even though the judge found his remarks offensive, he was exonerated and walked out of a court a free man.
In Europe, criticisms of Islam have been met with a range of penalties. Individuals have been prosecuted and sometimes been found guilty of “Islamophobic” speech or writing — notablyElizabeth Sabatisch-Wolff and Susanne Winter in Austria, Geert Wilders and Gregorious Nekschot in the Netherlands, Lars Hedegaard and Jesper Langballe in Denmark, Michel Houellebecq and Brigitte Bardot in France, Oriana Fallaci in Italy, and others elsewhere. Some have been exonerated, others jailed or fined. Pastor McConnell has been fortunate in avoiding jail. So far the UK has been tolerant, but further trials — very often for what really amounts to nothing more than blasphemy as perceived by Muslim groups or individuals — are very likely. Today, more than ever, there are forces at work that seek to make these prosecutions a certainty, not just in Europe, but in the United States, Canada, and other countries in the West.
The threat to freedom of speech a comes mainly from one quarter: an international body known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In recent years, one of the core activities of the OIC has been repeated attempts to introduce via the United Nations Human Rights Council a law forbidding any form of blasphemy, criticism, or negative comment, especially about the Islamic religion. To understand this, it is important to note that, from the time of the prophet Muhammad to the present day (and more strongly within modern radical Muslim movements), the Islamic religion has been predicated on a call for domination over all other religions and political systems. Here, for example, are some explicit expressions of that demand in radical websites: a YouTube video and a website linked to the British extremist, Omar Bakri Muhammad.
In the video, Omar Bakri declares “We must live by and make a domination and die (?) on in ourda’wa (missionary work) and jihad in order to spread it [Islam] all over. The video page is entitled “Proclaim openly for Izharudeen”, meaning “proclaim openly for making the faith victorious over all others,” and displays a photograph of several Muslims carrying placards declaring “Islam will dominate the world: Freedom go to hell. A website publishing extracts from the classical Qur’an commentary of Ibn Kathir is headed with the words: “Islam is the Religion that will dominate over all Other Religions” and below that cites a Qur’anic verse declaring that God will “make it [Islam] victorious over all religions” before quoting several traditions declaring the same thing in various formulations. Finally, a Facebook page titled “In sha Allah, Islam will dominate the world” from which several more sites with the same statement are revealed below the main heading.
Denis MacEoin is a scholar of Islam and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
- What You Can (and Can’t) Say in Europe Today (clarionproject.org)