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Here is the problem. By including in both Obama’s and Clinton’s statements a condemnation of speech such as the offensive film that “denigrates” religious beliefs, the Obama administration is denigrating the First Amendment protection of free speech no matter how offensive it may be. This is reinforced by the fact that Obama and Clinton evidently waited for confirmation of the loss of American diplomats’ lives before addressing the violence head-on, and they still refused to link Islamism with the violence. Apparently, destroying the American flag hanging at half mast on 9/11 and replacing it with an Islamist flag associated with jihad was not worthy alone of unequivocal condemnation by either the president or the secretary of state.
This is not an inadvertent lapse. It is part of the Obama administration’s relentless campaign to deny that we are at war with Islamist jihadists. At its highest levels, the Obama administration insists on using euphemisms and general references to terrorists and extremists rather than accurate language describing the Islamist ideology we are fighting. And it has sided with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in trying to marginalize those who dare criticize this ideology and its sources rather than defend the First Amendment.
Clinton met with OIC officials in Istanbul in July of 2011, at a conference she co-hosted, to embark on what has become known as the “Istanbul Process.” The ostensible purpose of the Istanbul Process is to work with Muslim-majority countries, the OIC and other interested nations on exploring specific steps to combat intolerance, negative stereotyping, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion or belief. This was followed up by a three-day closed door meeting hosted by the State Department last December in Washington, D.C.
In other words, behind closed doors, the Obama administration has been working with the OIC to find acceptable ways to stifle speech offensive to Muslims without going so far as outright censorship of Americans’ speech — at least not yet. Indeed, Clinton assured her OIC partners that she was perfectly on board with using “some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.” Hillary is right in line with Barack Obama’s vow to the Muslim world in his June 2009 Cairo speech: “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam whenever they appear.”
Hence, the Obama administration’s responses to the attacks in Egypt and Libya that de-couple the violence from Islam and include condemnations of speech considered offensive to Muslims. As a result, our First Amendment right of free expression – starting with expression that the Obama administration and the Islamists “abhor” – are in jeopardy of being whittled away. The Obama administration’s willingness to use government mechanisms to apply “old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming” is already in full swing. But it may be just the beginning. We must remain vigilant against efforts by the Obama administration to pursue legal mechanisms such as hate speech laws and vigorous enforcement of very broadly interpreted anti-discrimination laws, supplementing its “shaming” campaign, to curb any speech the administration and its OIC partners think may “denigrate” Islam.
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