War in Ukraine, an essentially nonexistent Southern border, out-of-control inflation, rising crime, deep societal divisions, and what does the de facto leader of the Democrat Party, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Islamabad), who can always be counted on to have her finger on the pulse of the American people, decide to tackle? Why, “Islamophobia,” of course. Come on, man! Is there something more important that she could be focusing on? “Islamophobia” is, after all, a free speech issue. The only problem is that Omar is on the wrong side.
That was significant in light of the kind of work Imran Khan has been doing for Muslims globally. 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.” Yes, that sounded like a justification for violence because that was exactly what it was. 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.
Nor was that the first or only time Khan had directly attacked the freedom of speech. At the UN in September 2019, 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. The ever-charming Congresswoman was, after all, a co-sponsor 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,” said 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.’” “Racial hatred” against Muslims as such is not even possible, as they’re not all of one race. Even worse, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) noted that the word was “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-Penn.) 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.”
Freedom of speech is under attack everywhere. While Elon Musk fights for it on Twitter, it is under fire on many other fronts. Ilhan Omar is working hard to destroy it under the guise of protecting us all against “Islamophobia.” That’s why she went to Pakistan.
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.