Free Speech vs. Islam: Democrats’ Bill Is ‘The Bridge to No Where’

by LT. COLONEL JAMES G. ZUMWALT, USMC (RET) January 7, 2016

As the final minutes of 2015 ticked away, America held her collective breath that celebrations would not be marred by a terrorist attack.

Sixteen years earlier, with the final minutes of 1999 ticking away, there was a similar fear-this one that planes might fall from the sky, electrical grids might shut down, food supplies might be interrupted, etc. The concern then was not terrorism-related but machine-related-i.e., our own computers might fail us with the dawn of a new millennium.

The "Y2K" (Year 2000) scare arose because early computer coding used two, rather than four, digits to identify calendar years. The fear was computers would be unable to transition to 21st century four-digit dates.

In response, Congress passed legislation imposing burdens upon industry. However, like a lit gunpowder fuse fizzling without generating the anticipated explosive ending, so too did Y2K. The 21st century transition went smoothly and history now remembers it as the disaster that never was.

The Y2K incident should remind us we sometimes create unnecessary issues, hyping fear, and leading to burdensome legislative action seeking to contain non-existent problems.

But recent legislation introduced into Congress suggests this lesson was not learned; for, if passed, it will impose an intolerable burden limiting free speech. The legislation's approach to dealing with a non-existing problem is to create a problem with its legislation.

On December 17, House Democrats introduced House Resolution 569, "Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States." The sponsors' justification is "victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes and rhetoric have faced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse because they were Muslim or believed to be Muslim."

Astonishingly, the bill seeks to memorialize a 10-year effort by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to criminalize all criticism of Islam.

The benefit H.R. 569 seeks is limited to Muslims alone, making no mention about protecting other religious groups from hate speech. Thus, it effectively and "officially introduced the first resolution to recognize legislation that Sharia-governed countries have all implemented...(and) will serve as a test by which further criminalizing of ‘Islamophobia' may be introduced."

This bill is particularly worrisome as it "conflates violence-attacks on innocent civilians, which have no justification under any circumstances-with ‘bigotry' and ‘hateful rhetoric,' which are identified on the basis of subjective judgments."

It is unconscionable the bill's sponsors equate, under the rubric of something clearly unprotected (i.e., a criminal act of violence) with something that is protected (i.e., free speech.)

U.S. courts have not looked favorably upon legislation that is religion specific. Thus, while efforts by individual states specifically banning shariah have been held unconstitutional as discriminatory, statutesbanning foreign laws in general that violate state or federal laws have been upheld.

It will be interesting to see if H.R. 569 undergoes similar scrutiny or whether sponsors will remain blindly committed to outlawing all criticism of Islam-period.

Like the Y2K issue, the need for H.R. 569 arises from false perception.

Muslim advocacy groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have done a tremendous job of promoting the misperception Muslims increasingly and disproportionately are being targeted by hate groups.

By way of background, CAIR has a dark side. It has been named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2009 terror-finance trial against the Holy Land Foundation. It also has been banned as a terrorist organizationby the United Arab Emirates.

Within this mindset, CAIR erroneously promotes the above misperception-one totally contrary to FBI data showing Muslims are far less victimized than members of other groups such as Jews and blacks.

Of 1,092 victims of religion-bias crimes in 2014, the FBI's "Uniform Crime Reports: Hate Crime Statistics, 2014" noted a whopping 58.2 percent targeted Jews and only 16.3 percent targeted Muslims.

Evidently, our legislators suffer an affliction of "Islamophobia phobia"-the fear of being called Islamophobic for not maximizing Muslim interests to the detriment of all others. Thus, they protect Muslims only claiming victimization while ignoring Jews who are victimized by a 41.9 perent greater margin.

This smacks of Jewish discrimination.

Interestingly, CAIR-which obviously supports H.R. 569-remains silent about this despite its website's assertion it has a "high profile and very public record of principled advocacy of civil liberties, interfaith relations and justice for all people."

Unsurprisingly, two of H.R. 569's sponsors, Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), are Muslim.

Contributing to the misperception anti-Muslim hate crime is the current rage is overzealousness of the media and CAIR by claiming such before investigations are completed. CAIR is always in the forefront of such claims. Most recently, it raised the Muslim hate crime banner after the Christmas Day arson of a Texas mosque-only later having to lower it (unapologetically) upon discovering the fire was set by a Muslim mosque attendee.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has spurred on this misperception as well. Speaking before a Muslim American group in the aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre, she said her greatest fear was anti-Muslim fallout. She actually threatened prosecution of anyone engaging in anti-Muslim speech.

Lynch and H.R. 569 sponsors should read "America leads rest of the world in tolerance of Muslims"-anarticle reporting Americans have been most tolerant towards Muslims despite the lack of reciprocity shown by Islam's followers.

It points out the actual number of anti-Muslim murders by Americans since Sept. 11, 2001 is extremely low, citing only two-one in 2001 claiming a single life and another in 2011 claiming two.

In 2005, Congress earmarked $223 million in funding for a highway bill to build a 21-mile long bridge to an Alaskan island having only 50 residents but with adequate ferry service.

Critics nicknamed this unnecessary project "the bridge to nowhere" for its lavish cost and minimal benefit. The federal earmark was later withdrawn.

Similarly, H.R. 569 is a "bridge to nowhere." It offers minimal benefit-protecting a group not in need of such overly broad protection-at great cost-banning free speech about Islam by others.

A version of this piece previously appeared on http://www.theblaze.com/

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking." He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.


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