U.S. Trying to Criminalize Free Speech - Again
On April 4, 2017, the US Senate passed Senate Resolution 118, "Condemning hate crime and any other form of racism, religious or ethnic bias, discrimination, incitement to violence, or animus targeting a minority in the United States". The resolution was drafted by a Muslim organization, EmgageUSA (formerly EmergeUSA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). On April 6, 2017, EmgageUSA wrote the following on their Facebook page:
"Thanks to the hard work of Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Susan Collins and Senator Kamala Harris we have achieved the approval of Senate Resolution 118, an anti-hate crimes bill drafted by Emerge-USA. It is days like this that Americans are reminded of this country's founding principles: equal opportunity, freedom, justice. We are proud to help support the protection of these rights #amoreperfectunion #theamericandream".Senate Resolution 118 calls on
"...Federal law enforcement officials, working with State and local officials... to expeditiously investigate all credible reports of hate crimes and incidents and threats against minorities in the United States and to hold the perpetrators of those crimes, incidents, or threats accountable and bring the perpetrators to justice; encourages the Department of Justice and other Federal agencies to work to improve the reporting of hate crimes; and... encourages the development of an interagency task force led by the Attorney General to collaborate on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities..."The resolution refers to hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Hindus, and Sikhs and was sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris and co-sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Susan Collins.
On April 6, almost the exact same text was introduced as House Resolution H.Res. 257, "Condemning hate crime and any other form of racism, religious or ethnic bias, discrimination, incitement to violence, or animus targeting a minority in the United States". A House Resolution can be reintroduced as legislation.
H.Res. 257 urges
"...the development of an interagency task force led by the Attorney General and bringing together the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education, the Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to collaborate on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities". The House Resolution was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on April 6 and from there it was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on April 21.Americans should be concerned about these resolutions, especially the part of the House Resolution, which urges the establishment of an "interagency task force led by the Attorney General ... on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities."
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. What do "strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime" entail, and again, what "hate crimes" are not already covered by the law? In other words, 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? Perhaps by including "hate speech"?
The US has been in a similar situation before. In December 2015, House Resolution H.Res. 569 "Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States" was introduced. That resolution never went any farther, but it was problematic: it favored Muslims over everyone else. The current resolution includes most of the major ethnic and religious minorities in the United States, so it will have a far better chance of passing, as it will more easily fool Representatives into thinking that the contents of the resolution are harmless.
The drafters of Senate Resolution 118 and House Resolution 257, are two Muslim organizations, EmgageUSA (formerly known as EmergeUSA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. This is what EmgageUSA published on its website on April 6, 2017:
"We are excited to report that EmergeUSA and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) worked with Senator Kamala Harris to introduce Senate Resolution #118, which was passed unanimously today. The historic resolution is the first of its kind to condemn hate crimes and other forms of racism. The hate crimes extend beyond targeting just Muslim and Jewish Americans to also include religious minorities such as Hindu and Sikh Americans... EmergeUSA is committed to engaging, and empowering the Muslim American community via the political process by working towards making federal and state legislation and policies more equitable for the Muslim American community".EmgageUSA goes on to tell its members to thank senator Kamala Harris and her co-sponsors, as well as to urge their congressmen to support "similar resolutions" when they come up, and to also urge their local representatives to adopt such resolutions. In other words, this campaign is to be a nationwide effort.
In a blog post in The Hill, Chief Executive Officer of EmgageUSA, Wa'el Alzayat, wrote:
"On April 5, the Senate unanimously adopted Resolution 118... As a Muslim American, I am grateful for this welcome gesture to help address the troubling rise in hate crimes against immigrants and ethnic and religious minorities... The Muslim American community has been on the receiving end of a long-running campaign of Islamophobia that pre-dates the current political climate... Senate Resolution 118 is a welcome and necessary step from our national leaders, but much more needs to be done; not only by our government, but also by average citizens, especially Muslim Americans..."On May 6, EmgageUSA published the following on its Facebook page:
"Representative Barbara Comstock, second term Republican from Virginia's 10thDistrict is teaming up with EmergeUSA and MPAC to successfully pass a House Resolution which condemns ethnic, religious and racial hate crimes. The bi-partisan resolution was co-sponsored by Representatives Dingell, Taylor and Curbelo and mirrors its Senate Counterpart, S. Res. 118... The Resolution is now in the House and we need you to help pass it. Take action and contact your Representatives today and urge them to sign on to pass this resolution".Would it not be appropriate for the politicians sponsoring and voting for these resolutions first of all to find out what drives the organizations responsible for drafting them?
EmgageUSA likes to describe itself as a civil rights style organization, "non-partisan" with the innocent sounding purpose of:
"...develop[ing] the capacity of the Muslim voter to ensure that our narrative is part of the American fabric. Our programs include civic educational events such as issue forums and town halls, voter initiatives including Get Out The Vote (GOTV), and specific programs for the youth in order to mentor and support the next generation of leaders".The co-founder of EmgageUSA (founded in 2006 as EmergeUSA), Khurrum Wahid, a South Florida attorney, is the organization's National Board Co-Chair. In a 2011 interview with The Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Wahid listed the numerous cases in which he has represented terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda, such as Omar Ahmed Abu Ali, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2006 for joining al-Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush, Shahawar Matin Siraj, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2007 for conspiring to plant bombs in New York City; Dr. Rafiq Sabir, who was convicted of conspiring to treat injured al-Qaeda fighters and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2007; Syed Hashmi, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2010 for providing supplies and money to a senior al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan. He also represented Hafiz Khan, who was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 2013 for funneling tens of thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban.
Khurrum Wahid appears to have a positive view of the terrorists he has represented, despite their proven guilt. According to a 2012 interview with Miami New Times:
He [Wahid] believes terrorism cases are, in many ways, the civil rights battles of his generation. While outsiders might paint his clients as criminals, he says people... are being prosecuted for giving money to groups the U.S. government doesn't like. "I think these things are not so black-and-white... I think innocent people get caught up in the politics."In 2011, Wahid himself was put on a terror list. Asked by the Miami New Times about this fact Wahid said, "It tells me that the system is broken."
Khurrum Wahid is a former board member of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR has repeatedly been identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front group.
EmgageUSA has hosted Islamic lecturer Sayed Ammar Nakshawani repeatedly at its yearly events. Nakshawani, has called for the destruction of Israel, saying "It is barbaric that this Zionist state is allowed to continue".
EmergeUSA has collaborated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to "engage American Muslims" in last year's elections. Like CAIR, ISNA was one of the unindicted co-conspirators of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) named by the US government in the HLF, with offenses including conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, namely, Hamas.
According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism:
"Far from being the zealous champion of civil rights that it presents itself to be, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has followed a consistent pattern of defending designated terrorist organizations and their supporters, opposing U.S. counterterrorism efforts and spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric".The Investigative Project on Terrorism has authored a damning 88-page report about MPAC. American politicians do not seem to have taken much interest in it.
The question that all Americans ought to ask their representatives is this: Why do they let themselves be duped by policy initiatives driven by terrorist sympathizers and activists associated with Muslim Brotherhood front groups?
Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.