House Of Representatives Passes Law To Combat “Islamophobia”

Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The key sentence in the AP story about HR5665, which passed the House on a strict party-line vote (219–212) vote is this: “The bill is unlikely to advance in the Senate.” The second salient fact about this bill is that it offers no definition of “Islamophobia.” As it is, this bill, should the Senate pass it and the president sign it into law, would appoint a “Special Envoy” of the President of the United States “to monitor and combat Islamophobia,” whatever that is. We may surmise, given that the bill emerged from the office of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), that Islamophobia includes virtually any criticism of Islam. §3(a)(B) of the text of the law requires the Envoy to add to the annual State Department Report: “(B) instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that attempt to justify or promote racial hatred or incite acts of violence against Muslim people…”. The State Dept. is concerned with foreign affairs—the bill came out of the foreign affairs committee—but once the precedent is set that the USA opposes “Islamophobia,” a paving stone is in place for future legislation. The committee’s minority report acknowledges the problem of the subjectivism inherent in the term “Islamophobia:”

…HR5665, creates a duplicative office and a new special envoy position in the State Department, which it charges with combating “Islamophobia and Islamophobic incitement,” two deliberately vague terms that appear nowhere in federal statute and are defined nowhere in the bill.

It is also reasonable to wonder what the unintended consequences will be of asking the Federal Government to monitor “propaganda” in “nongovernment media” of which Rep. Omar and the Democrat majority in congress disapproves? Might that also establish a precedent that Americans come to regret? The minority report argues, “…Representatives Chabot and Zeldin, among others, have pointed out, there are genuine concerns that the vague, undefined terms of the bill could capture legitimate speech and make critics of radical Islamist extremism the targets of the new special envoy and its office.”

In 2008, Alexander Benard, of the Hoover Institution, argued that there is popular support in some Muslim nations for a separation of Mosque and State but what he does not address is the fact that there is no separation of Mosque and State in the Qur’an or in Shari’a. He appeals to parallels between Islamic states and the those pre-Revolutionary American colonies, which quoted Scripture and established churches but he does not seem to recognize the difference between the New Testament (and early post-apostolic Christianity) and the the Qur’an and the early Islamic history. The Qur’an advocates violence against non-Muslims and Islam spread at the point of the sword. That is the history of Islam. The spread of Islam was stopped by military force and restrained by colonial expansion by the West. Resurgent Islamism in the post-colonial world has persecuted Christians and others and sponsored violent attacks across the globe (e.g., 9/11). Surveys of Muslims across the globe show strong support for laws that suppress any criticism of Islam, the Qur’an, or the prophet. As Benard acknowledges, most predominantly Islamic nations in the world do not enjoy religious liberty.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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  1. Another interesting aspect of this proposition is whether or not it opens the door for heavily populated areas of the country (mostly in dense urban settings) to impose Shari’a Law. Contra discrimination against Muslims, Shari’a law would enable extremist Muslim groups to carry out their own punishment against transgressors of their established rules and regs (per the Quran and other sources) without interference by civil authorities (per Rep. Omar’s proposal).

    What if the “church” (Christianity) continues to be pushed to the sidelines by Leftists, LGBTQ, BLM, etc. groups to the point where hostile persecution begins to take place. Would that mean that yet another law would need to be passed that would prohibit “Christian-phobia”?
    This whole business is going too far.

    • I could see this leading to that outcome. Once “Islamophobia” is “outlawed” then anything goes for them. “What? You don’t like Dearborn Michigan being under Shari’a law? What are you…ISLAMOPHOBIC?!?! That’s a violation of federal law and I am now telling the FBI on you!”

      Sounds crazy and kooky…but after what I’ve seen in the past few years in America, it seems to be that America is just too far gone at this point and anything goes.

      But one thing I would push back against: the whole idea that anyone out there will do something similar and come up with legislation to protect Christians is probably off the table. Most Republicans are too timid and afraid to do so and would sooner throw Christians under the bus in order to continue to virtue-signal towards all the leftist pet groups and causes. Embracing Christians might cause them to be called bad names like “bigot” and “intolerant” by their leftist enemies and Republicans can’t stomach that.

    • BrianT has a point, and it’s important.

      If Dearborn (in my home state of Michigan, and a place where I once knew a number of people, including Christian Arabs who had fled Islamic countries and thought they had found a safe refuge in Dearborn with a supportive Arab immigrant population living under American law) can effectively implement some form of Sharia at some point in the future based on either a majority vote, or a decision by the majority to tolerate an aggressive minority, what would prevent the same from happening in someplace like Moscow, Idaho?

      Or what about situations that have already happened with school districts in which the overwhelming majority of residents are Orthodox Jews?

      I’m not unaware of our early American history including the early 1800s with three of our states that, even after the adoption of the US Constitution, still had officially-established state churches, the last of which persisted until the 1830s when it was the conservatives, not the liberals, who pushed for disestablishment since it was primarily benefitting the Unitarians on the eastern seaborn of Massachusetts.

      It wasn’t just happening at the state level, but also at the local level. At least in theory, a case can be made that our Founding Fathers would not have had a problem with a minority religious group carving out a faith-based religious enclave for itself within a state, as happened with Baptists in parts of Massachusetts in the 1600s when the Congregationalists decided to tolerate Baptists and allow the establishment of Baptist towns due to Baptist military service in warfare. Even after the adoption of the US Constitution, the history of the Mormons in Illinois shows a level of (initial) toleration by the state government for a faith-based government-supported religious enclave that would make anything going on today in Moscow or Dearborn look very mild by comparison. There is also at least one case — the Mormon Battalion — of the federal government allowing the recruitment of a religion-based military unit to serve in the Mexican-American War.

      My point is not to say any of this was a good idea. My point is there are precedents in American history, and not just in colonial days before the adoption of the Constitution.

      Liberals who attack any criticism of Sharia law as “Islamophobia” need to ask themselves some hard questions. How long will it be before Muslims cite these precedents, and use majorities of voters in certain places, to say what they want is not new? Is that **REALLY** where liberals want to go, and if they tolerate such things for Muslims, are they willing to tolerate the same for Orthodox Jewish enclaves of observant Jews who, for religious reasons of the Sabbath Day journey, often choose to live in close proximity to each other and to their synagogue, and therefore can have significant political power if they choose to use it?

      (Full disclosure — I’m not at all anti-Jewish, and in fact am very supportive of the Orthodox Jewish desire to allow their tax dollars to be used for support of religious education in the public schools for students who want it. But I understand the consequences of setting a precedent that can and will be used by other religious groups.)

      We aren’t yet at the point where Islamic groups have become absolute majorities of the population in any major American cities and have taken over the government by means of the ballot box.

      But that has already happened in significant parts of Europe.

      Voting is the right of every American citizen, and a right that I have to support as an American citizen. I know the history of anti-Catholic attacks on new immigrants in the 1800s that claimed Catholics couldn’t be good American citizens. Too many Americans back then argued that Irish and especially Italians weren’t capable of being loyal Americans, and no American today should want to repeat the religion-based anti-immigrant bigotry of the late 1800s.

      Our Constitution and our Supreme Court will probably prevent formal adoption of Sharia law by a local city council no matter how high the majority may get of people in that city who want it. But are liberals willing to tolerate de facto Sharia zones where informal constraints on what people do, while not having the formal status of law, can be just as effective?

      Before people say, “it can’t happen here,” think of the role of the Roman Catholic Church back in the early to mid 1900s when the Irish and Italians ran Boston, and “banned in Boston” was a synonym for a book or movie that the local religious leaders — often for good reason — put strong pressure on local bookstores and movie houses not to sell or show, with serious economic consequences if they defied Catholic religious leaders and then lost most of their Catholic customers to an economic boycott.

      As evangelicals, we certainly understand the power of the pocketbook to support businesses that support our values, and to defund businesses that don’t. We have to acknowledge the right of other religious groups to do the same.

      If current trends in family size continue — and that’s not a given since second-generation immigrants not uncommonly reject the values of their parents — it’s going to be the liberals, not the conservatives, who are forced to face the consequences of bans on “Islamophobia” as some American cities follow the pattern of what has happened in Europe, and what historically happened in a number of places in the United States.

    • I agree that the constitution would not allow sharia law. The Establishment Clause is in the First Amendment, and, along with this, the Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause forms the constitutional right of freedom of religion. The part of the Establishment Clause that we are interested in prohibits Congress from preferring or elevating one religion over another. Thus, if any part of sharia law were allowed, it would be at the disadvantage of Catholic canon law, Jewish halakha, or even Hindu or Buddha dharma. The State laws that are passed restricting sharia are unnecessary, and Muslims perceive them as discriminatory.
      However, tenets of sharia are currently being used in our country. There are a couple of ways that all religious adherents can informally utilize religious laws without going through civil courts in the United States. Frequently, litigants can petition a course for arbitration. Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other religious groups, according to the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act, can use ecclesiastical tribunals to arbitrate conflicts, and “state and local courts give the judgments that result in the force of law. There are also non-legitimate sectarian courts in use in the Muslim community to handle domestic issues such as inheritance, marriage contracts and child custody. Our British cousins are on track to make specific sharia issues legal and transparent, subject to appellate appeal.

  2. This is nothing more than a trial balloon floated to get the intended result. The left (and right) do this in order to get their finger “on the pulse.” Each know the validity of the HR they’re propping up and each know the results beforehand. Short and simple, it’s click-bait. Generate a reasonable storyline by a somewhat well known Rep., introduce a segment from the appropriate news affiliate and see how much attention it grabs by means of how many clicks it can get. Much like the machinations Gloo uses in the article Dr. Clark wrote recently.
    Sorry about being so glum…

    • Nick,

      Trial balloon? Well, it passed the House.

      Click bait? Other goofy and untenable bills have passed the House. We shall have to wait and see what happens but I posted the story because this is how changes happen. People aren’t pay attention or they dismiss a bill (that passed the house) as a stunt. What if the Dem majority in the Senate were more than just one vote? What if they had a 10 vote majority, then what? We’re past the time when we could count on Senators and representatives who would say, “Now wait a minute…”.

      The assumption that we may safely ignore such developments belongs to another time and another place.

      Now it behooves us to pay attention and, as I’ve said before “Get a lawyer.”

    • Dr. Clark is right.

      This isn’t clickbait.

      This isn’t something from the Gateway Pundit, or Breitbart, or even FOX News. This is a link to an article by the Associated Press on a bill that actually managed to get a majority of the US House of Representatives to adopt it.

      Two decades ago this would have been unthinkable. Can any of us imagine the US House passing a bill against “Islamophobia” twenty years ago, near the end of 2001? Even when Ronald Reagan was encouraging support for the Saudi-funded mujahadeen in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet Union, a bill like this wouldn’t have gone anywhere in the House or the Senate.

      Our political spectrum has seriously shifted. What was once unthinkable is now not only getting serious attention in Congress but actually **PASSING** in the House. If it weren’t for the filibuster (which might be on its way out as well) this bill might stand a realistic chance of getting close to 50 votes in the Senate.

      We all know this bill isn’t going to pass the Senate. That’s not the point.

      The point is that our political leaders are now not only tolerating but normalizing things that not long ago would have been unthinkable.

      When the spectrum shifts and once-unthinkable things actually pass in one of the two houses of Congress, we need to wake up and pay attention. We also need to recognize that as the spectrum shifts, it’s not only that unthinkable things become tolerable, but also that things on the other end of the spectrum — including what evangelicals hold to be core beliefs — are becoming intolerable.

      It would be one thing if the spectrum of acceptable political discourse were getting broader. That’s got its own problems, but American history shows we can handle a broadening spectrum of political views.

      What we’re seeing today is not only that what was once unthinkable is now acceptable, but also that what were once widely accepted views are now attacked as hate speech and deemed unacceptable.

      The spectrum of acceptability isn’t just broadening, it’s shifting leftward.

      That should concern all of us — including those liberals who still believe in freedom of speech and freedom of association.

  3. One thing sticks out about HR 5665. Muslims like to think that Islam is above reproach. Thus, any criticism or examination of it is intolerable. Muslims feel uncomfortable with critical thinking. Critical thought questions everything looking for the best solution out of numerous alternatives offered. Islam experienced a Golden age from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries in which they tolerated and benefited from critical thought. But they closed the door on that process, and now, many of their laws and society remain feudal and underdeveloped. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the same could apply to Islamophobia. It will be up to the special envoy in the State Department to determine what is true Islamophobia and what is a legitimate response to radical terrorism.
    In any case, any religion that cannot stand up to critical thinking does not fully share the American values of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism. First, a century ago, in 1905, Max Weber, a renowned German sociologist, argued that Christianity, after the Reformation, helped spur capitalism’s rise. Capitalism is the best economical means for allocating resources in a society, and it needs liberal democracy, free speech, and unregulated markets to work effectively. Second, there is statistical evidence that Protestant missions and missionaries were the most significant and best source of liberal democracy worldwide. These freedoms are the source of American exceptionalism.
    Most Islamic countries do not have and do not want institutions that focus on individuals’ rights. Islam is a community-based religion. The needs of society are placed ahead of the needs of the individual.

    • Charles,

      FWIW, I’ve come to doubt the “Islamic Golden Age” narrative. Rodney Stark, among others, has challenged that narrative.

      It’s true, however, that for Islamists, virtually any criticism of Islam qualifies as “Islamaphobia,” which is just one of the dangers of this legislation.

      As to Weber, his thesis has been discredited. For an introduction see this. Is there a Protestant work ethic? Yes and no. There is a Protestant doctrine of vocation etc. I’ve been working on the eighth commandment and the Reformed certainly did value thrift, industry, and even (to a fairly limited degree) a kind of capitalism but Weber’s account was grossly over-simplified and bears little resemblance to the historical picture on the ground in Reformed cities or to what one finds in the Reformed writers of the period.

  4. Hi Dr. Clark, thanks for the reply.
    My intention (and maybe too vaguely put) was to indicate the methodology/machinations of how the house and it’s coordinated rep’s, of either stripe, advance a position or tactical proposition. Mea culpa.
    The situation we find ourselves in presently (to address the what if’s) is deplorable. I agree with Dr. Godfrey in his estimation of the decline of the west. I say this to my brothers and sisters in the PCA church I attend and am met with blank stares. Maybe I’ve grown a bit more cynical in my old age. I’ve jettisoned the idea of present hope in the form of representative republic reformation (pardon the alliteration) yet I still vote and am glad to do so.
    It’s an interesting thing to have; the idea of our unregenerate rep’s and senators meeting our regenerate expectations.

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