Why Americans Should Worry About H.R. 5665
A few weeks ago (December 14, 2021), the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill identified as H.R.5665. The bill, "Combating International Islamophobia Act," is not a law yet, but moving in that direction. In the United States, a proposed regulation must be passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the President. As to H.R.5665, should the Senate vote to pass the bill and the President sign the bill into law, the Department of State would set up an office with a special envoy to monitor and combat Islamophobia and address related issues. On the surface, this sounds legitimate, but when you start looking at the details, it becomes a political stepping stone that would promote and protect Islam to the detriment of other established religions.
Let's finish looking at the facts about the bill. The bill requires specific existing annual reports to Congress about human rights and religious freedom in foreign countries to include information about Islamophobia, such as information about (1) acts of physical violence or harassment of Muslim people, (2) instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that attempt to justify or promote hatred or incite violence against Muslim people, and (3) actions that a country's government took to respond to such acts.
The vote to pass the bill was straight party-line (219 to 212). No Democrats voted against the bill, and no Republicans voted for the bill. Just for the record, there are 222 Democrats and 213 Republicans in the House of Representatives this year. In other words, one political party passed a bill that had no support from the other side.
When a bill is initially submitted to Congress for passage, it is usually presented to a committee for study and revision. This bill was no different. The Committee on Foreign Affairs took up the task, and they too passed the bill out of Committee on a straight party-line vote (27 to 16). Committees are made up of fewer members of Congress so they can get more work done. Because there are more Democrats than Republicans in the House of Representatives, the Committee is set up to reflect that ratio. There are 27 Democrats and 24 Republicans on the Committee for the record.
So, why would Republicans not vote for such a bill?
There are several reasons, the first starting with the bill's sponsor. The bill's sponsor was Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota. Representative Omar is a Muslim, and she came from Somalia as a child. Her history as a representative in Congress includes blaming the U.S and Israel for committing unthinkable atrocities against the Palestinians and leading an economic boycott against Israel. In one committee meeting, one Republican, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, brought up past statements by Omar that he said were anti-Semitic and supportive of terrorism. There is strong conjecture but unproven evidence that Omar married her brother to circumvent immigration laws. Ms. Omar does not seem to be a good model of American values.
The bill does not condemn persecution or gross violations of internationally recognized human rights against Muslims. Democrats voted down an amendment that would have appropriately focused the bill's efforts on the plight of the Uyghurs in China and the Rohingya in Myanmar.
In addition, the bill fails to describe or delineate what Islamophobia is or is not. In other words, should a person criticize the Islamic State, a designated terror group, that person could be identified as causing Islamophobia. One reason I am concerned is that my forthcoming book, Muslim Mechanics, which explains Muslim ideas and concepts, could be considered a form of Islamophobia by any Muslim who doesn't like me or my rationale. 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.
There is another more profound concern that has been voiced. If the U.S. government passes such a law to rein in international governments, it can not be far from passing such a law to rein in domestic freedom of speech and free press. In 2017, Canada passed a law against Islamophobia that restricts domestic expression.
As I close this blog, I add that Christian persecution is the elephant in the room. Internationally, Muslims may experience some Islamophobia, but not to the extent that Christians are persecuted worldwide. In round numbers, 340 million Christians live in places with high levels of persecution. That's as many people as the population of the U.S. According to the NGO Aid to the Church in Need, 22 of the worst offending countries are Islamic. I wonder if Ms. Omar knows that her home country, Somalia, is one of those countries? While most Democrats belong to the Christian religion, it's puzzling why they don't enact laws that focus on combating international Christianophobia?