During the recent visit to Pakistan of the ever-winsome and fiercely patriotic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Islamabad), she made sure to visit Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party proudly tweeted: “US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) called on @ImranKhanPTI in Bani Gala. They discussed Islamophobia & related issues. Ilhan Omar expressed her admiration for Imran Khan and his work for Muslims globally.” That’s right: there is war in Ukraine, the U.S. Southern border is nonexistent, crime is rampant, inflation has skyrocketed, and an American elected official found the time to travel halfway around the world to discuss “Islamophobia.”
This is an issue that is dear to both of their hearts. Omar is a cosponsor of the Combating International Islamophobia Act, which the House passed in December. The bill calls upon the president to appoint a “special envoy” to fight “Islamophobia”; this envoy will head up a State Department that will monitor the phenomenon. Omar’s bill, however, is wrongly focused in all kinds of ways, not least of which is the fact that it will combat efforts to “promote racial hatred” against Muslims, even though Islam is not a race and there are Muslims among people of all races. Meanwhile, the raucous House debate raised other problems with the bill as well, including the likelihood that it will inhibit counterterror efforts.
“The office,” says the Washington Post, “would record instances of Islamophobia, including violence against and harassment of Muslims and vandalism of their mosques, schools and cemeteries worldwide, in reports created by the State Department.” That’s fine, although it’s striking that there is no similar call for the State Department to create reports about violence against and harassment of Christians and vandalism of their churches, schools, and cemeteries worldwide, or violence against Hindus or any other religious group. Why the special treatment for Muslims? It can’t be because Muslims are uniquely the victims of persecution around the world; Christians are by far the most persecuted religious group.
Of even greater concern, however, is that the new “Islamophobia” office would target “propaganda efforts by state and nonstate media ‘to promote racial hatred or incite acts of violence against Muslim people.’” As noted above, Islam is not a race, so “racial hatred” against Muslim people is not even possible. But if the way that the word “Islamophobia” has been used up to now is any indication, what is considered to be propaganda or incitement will be based entirely on subjective criteria, and include even reporting about jihad activity and honest analysis of its motivating ideology.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) noted this, saying: “It is so vague and subjective that it could be used against legitimate speech for partisan purposes. Even the term ‘phobia’ [connotes] irrational fear, not discrimination.”
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania) also warned that the bill would be used “to silence dissent and critiques of terrorism.” He added: “By intentionally leaving the definition of ‘Islamophobia’ blank in this bill, the gentlelady and my friends on the other side of the aisle are creating an office in our State Department that will likely spew antisemitic hatred and attack Western ideas throughout the world under the farce of protecting Islam.”
That would be just fine with Imran Khan, who has been doing just that for quite some time. For years, he has been campaigning for the West to adopt Sharia blasphemy laws and restrict the freedom of speech under the guise of prohibiting “Islamophobia.” In October 2020 at the UN, he justified Islamic violence in reaction to perceived insults of Muhammad, saying: “It is important to understand this: the Prophet lives in our hearts. When he is ridiculed, when he is insulted, it hurts the—As we human know, we human beings understand one thing: the pain of the heart is far, far, far more hurtful than physical pain. And that’s why the Muslims react.” Oh, well, then it’s okay. Jews, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists have grown accustomed to insults to their faith in the public square, but Khan didn’t think Muslims had any obligation to do so; rather, all others were expected to bow to the sensibilities of Muslims.
That followed his words at the UN in September 2019, when Khan said: “The human community lives together; there should be an understanding. But Islamophobia is dividing the world. Muslim women have been asked to take off their hijab in other countries. A woman can take off her clothes in other countries but cannot put on Hijab.” He said nothing about the many women who have been threatened, brutalized, or even killed for not wearing hijab, or about the ongoing persecution of Christians and Hindus in Pakistan. For him, Muslim victimhood is all that matters, as a tool to intimidate the world into adopting Sharia prohibitions on criticism of Islam. Apparently that is Ilhan Omar’s goal as well.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.