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Will the US Criminalize Free Speech ?

Eighty-two leading Democrats have cosponsored a House Resolution (H.Res. 569) "Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States".

The Resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives by Democrat Donald S. Beyer (Virginia) on December 17, 2015 -- a mere 15 days after Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook gunned down 14 innocent Americans and wounded 23 in an ISIS-inspired terror attack at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California.

The House Resolution states, "the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes and rhetoric have faced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse because they were Muslim or believed to be Muslim," and the House of Representatives "expresses its condolences for the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes."

What victims? Of all 1,149 anti-religious hate crimes reported in the United States in 2014, only 16.1% were directed against Muslims, according to the FBI. By contrast, over half of all anti-religious hate crimes were directed against Jews – 56.8%. The fewest, 8.6% of anti-religious hate crimes, were directed against Christians (Protestants and Catholics).

The Resolution goes on to denounce " the strongest terms the increase of hate speech, intimidation, violence, vandalism, arson, and other hate crimes targeted against mosques, Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslim."

The House Resolution singles out Muslims in the United States as an especially vulnerable religious group that needs special protection to the extent that the Resolution "urges local and Federal law enforcement authorities to work to prevent hate crimes; and to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those perpetrators of hate crimes."

The reason for the introduction of this House Resolution at this point in time makes more sense if seen in conjunction with statements made by Attorney General Loretta Lynch on December 3, at a dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Muslim Advocates -- an organization that, according to its own website, has "powerful connections in Congress and the White House" and ensures that, "the concerns of American Muslims are heard by leaders at the highest levels of government." Muslim Advocates goes on to say, "As a watchdog of justice, we use the courts to bring to task those who threaten the rights of American Muslims."

At the dinner, Attorney General Lynch stated that she is concerned about an

"incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric... The fear that you have just mentioned is in fact my greatest fear as a prosecutor, as someone who is sworn to the protection of all of the American people, which is that the rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence. Now obviously, this is a country that is based on free speech, but when it edges towards violence, when we see the potential for someone lifting that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric -- or, as we saw after 9/11, violence directed at individuals who may not even be Muslims but perceived to be Muslims, and they will suffer just as much -- when we see that we will take action."

Is this House Resolution a prelude to the Attorney General taking that action? Has she seen the potential for someone lifting her "mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric"? And what is "anti-Muslim rhetoric" exactly? Criticizing Islam? Debating Mohammed? Discussing whether ISIS is a true manifestation of Islam? Who decides the definition of what is considered hate speech against Muslims?

Are the Attorney General and the eighty-two House Democrats out to destroy the First Amendment and introduce censorship?

A House Resolution could be reintroduced later as binding legislation. Americans should be deeply concerned about this. The part of the House Resolution that should most concern Americans is the urging of "local and Federal law enforcement authorities to work to prevent hate crimes; and to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those perpetrators of hate crimes."

What is a hate crime in this context? The law already prohibits violence and threats of violence, and law enforcement authorities are supposed to prosecute those -- intimidation, destruction, damage, vandalism, simple and aggravated assault. However, as this resolution includes "bigotry" and "hateful rhetoric" in its title, Americans should worry that it is those that the House Resolution is really alluding to, when it urges law enforcement authorities to prevent and prosecute hate crimes.

Why would the House of Representatives find it necessary to make such redundant statements, if not in order to redefine the concept of a hate crime?

Notably, no similar House Resolution has appeared condemning the much higher percentage of hate crimes against Jews -- over three times as many as against Muslims. As long as the House is going down the road of condemning hate crimes, why does it not even mention once the much more widespread hate crimes that American Jews are experiencing? Why does it not mention the hate crimes against Christians, which after all are only 7.5% percent fewer than those against Muslims? Why this lopsided, discriminatory House Resolution in favor of a religious group that statistically needs it the least?

The House Resolution is unsettlingly similar to the UN Human Rights Commission's Resolution 16/18, which is an attempt to establish Islamic "blasphemy laws," making criticism of religion a criminal offense. The UNHRC Resolution would apply internationally (non-binding as of yet, except, presumably, for the countries that want it to be binding), and infractions would be punishable by law. In some Islamic countries, at the moment, the punishment is death -- a sentence often handed down in trials that use questionable jurisprudence. Last year alone, a Saudi court sentenced a blogger, Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes ("lashed very severely," the court order read) and ten years in jail. Outside of any courts, in 2015 alone, in Bangladesh, four secular bloggers on four separate occasions were hacked to death by people who apparently did not agree with what they said.

The UNHRC Resolution, originally known as "Defamation of Islam," was changed in later versions -- it would seem for broader marketability -- to "Defamation of Religions."

Long sought by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, UNHRC Resolution 16/18 was co-sponsored by the United States, along with Pakistan. During a series of closed-door meetings over at least three years, it was spearheaded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"At the invitation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton," begins the document of the US Mission in Geneva, "representatives of 26 governments and four international organizations met in Washington, D.C. on December 12-14, 2011 to discuss the implementation of United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution (UNHRC) 16/18 on 'Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.'"

UNHRC Resolution 16/18, also known as the "Istanbul Process" (where the original meeting on the topic took place), is an Orwellian document that claims to protect freedom of religion, while attempting to criminalize internationally anything that might be considered "incitement to violence." The late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat used to tell his people, "I don't have to tell you what to do. You know what to do." Each word could be in Pat the Bunny. Would Arafat's statement be considered incitement to violence?

UNHRC Resolution 16/18 was passed on March 24, 2011, without a vote.

According to the journalist Abigail Esman, writing in Forbes:

Resolution 16/18 seeks to limit speech that is viewed as "discriminatory" or which involves the "defamation of religion" – specifically that which can be viewed as "incitement to imminent violence... [T]his latest version, which includes the "incitement to imminent violence" phrase – that is, which criminalizes speech which incites violence against others on the basis of religion, race, or national origin – has succeeded in winning US approval – despite the fact that it (indirectly) places limitations as well on speech considered "blasphemous."

In answer to a reproof -- from the U.S Department of State, no less -- Esman wrote, "By agreeing to criminalize 'incitement to violence' and to use all means at its disposal to prevent and to punish such actions, the US has – however unwittingly – enabled the OIC to use the measure against us – and other members of the free world."

Many extremist Muslims, however, seem to have no problem criticizing other religions, as well as other Muslims. Some "criticize" Christians, as we have witnessed, by slitting their throats, or by burning or drowning them alive. Many extremist Muslims also seem to have no problem criticizing Jews – starting with calling them descendants of apes and pigs (Surah 5. Al-Maida, Ayah 60). Some Muslims write that all Jews should be killed:

the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

One therefore cannot help wondering -- and one should wonder – to what extent H.Res. 569 is the "nose of the camel under the tent."

As of now, H.Res. 569 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Americans had better hope that the House Committee will see it for what it is: An attempt to destroy the First Amendment, shield Islam from criticism, and bring "Death to Free Speech."

Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.

© Gatestone Institute -

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