Before reversing itself this afternoon amid rebukes from commentators and Republican leaders, the Obama Justice Department undertook to bleach the Islam out of Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen’s statements about his Islamist mass-murder attack — specifically, his pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State terror network and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the effect of which was to claim an Islamic doctrinal justification for the killing of 49 people, and the wounding of 53 others.
Even the White House appeared to be distancing itself from Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s original decision to release an edited version of one of Mateen’s 911 calls to the public. Obama, after all, had earlier conceded Mateen’s pledge of allegiance.
Still, the Justice Department’s action was predictable. The purging of the transcript was a straightforward application of the Obama administration’s counter-constitutional U.N. Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, which purports to mandate the suppression of speech that could cast Islam in a bad light — regardless of whether the speech is accurate or the negative impression it creates is justified.
Lynch had said the Justice Department would edit out Mateen’s effort to fit his atrocity in the Islamic State framework. This purge was rationalized by the attorney general as a refusal to abet the spread of Mateen’s propaganda.
In fact, it was a promotion of the administration’s own propaganda — much like the whitewashing of references to Islam in instructional materials used to train American law-enforcement, military, intelligence agents.
From his first days in office, President Obama has forged a collaborative relationship with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The OIC is the largest United Nations bloc. It includes 56 nations with significant Muslim populations plus the Palestinian Authority (which these Muslim nations regard as a fellow sovereign). Throughout her four years as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was Obama’s point-person in the administration’s collusion with the OIC.
Among the most significant “achievements” of this partnership — and, from a constitutional perspective, the most appalling one — has been the adoption of Resolution 16/18. In blatant violation of the First Amendment, this provision calls on Western governments to outlaw any speech that “constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” toward religion, on the rationale that such speech could provoke “religious hatred.”
The resolution, if honored, is a drastic violation of First Amendment free-speech principles, which protect speech that constitutes political debate and promotes the introduction of accurate information in discussions of public policy. These are cornerstones of a self-governing, properly functioning republic.
Let’s put aside the fact that Islamic supremacism, a mainstream interpretation of Islam, is not really a religion in the strict sense, but rather a radical, totalitarian political ideology with a religious veneer. Even if we were talking purely about religion, the First Amendment does not permit the government to prohibit speech or expression that could potentially incite mere hostility. There are many beliefs that deserve to be condemned; the Constitution safeguards our right both to be hostile to them and to engage in speech that promotes such hostility.
(Indeed, that is just the most obvious principle. Besides inciting hostility, the resolution purports to prohibit speech that incites violence and discrimination. There is no need for an international resolution to prohibit the incitement of violence; it is already against American federal and state laws. As for speech that could incite discrimination against religion, the First Amendment would not permit a prohibition. We outlaw certain categories actual discriminatory action against religious believers, but not the mere statement or thought that a religion should be discriminated against.)
The joint Obama-OIC Resolution 16/18 effectively imposes sharia blasphemy standards on American law. As I’ve previously outlined, sharia proscribes not only expression that is arguably insulting to Islam (e.g., burning the Koran, or cartoons that poke fun at Islam’s prophet Mohammed); it further forbids any speech or expression, by anyone, that constitutes an unflattering portrayal or belittling of Islam; and Muslims are forbidden to renounce Islam (which is deemed to include dissenting speech that denies any Islamic principle that is supported by scholarly consensus).
Yet speech critical of religion is unexceptional in a free, pluralistic society — it is the kind of provocative or even infuriating expression that those provoked or infuriated are expected to tolerate for the greater good of promoting a marketplace of ideas. In fundamentalist Islamic societies, to the contrary, such speech is routinely met with brutal punishment, including death for blasphemers and apostates.
The Obama administration purports to frame Resolution 16/18 as obligatory international law (in much the same way as Obama’s Iran deal is pitched as obligatory, despite its lack of American statutory or constitutional underpinning, because it is the subject of a Security Council resolution). This strategy of superseding the Constitution and American law by purported international legal consensus is outrageous in its own right. But the point of this post is to address what it means with respect to the public’s understanding of, and ability to examine and discuss, radical Islam.
The Obama administration, in conjunction with the OIC, has adopted a narrative that defies reality and common sense: There is only one valid interpretation of Islam, to wit: Islam is a religion of peace — so unwaveringly so that acts of violence are not merely un-Islamic but anti-Islamic. Any construction of Islam that endorses violent jihad is therefore a “false Islam” and a “perversion of Islam” — regardless of how mainstream such interpretations of Islam may be throughout the world, or of how many centuries’ worth of authoritative scriptural and scholarly support they have.
Obviously, speech that suggests a causative nexus between Islamic scripture/doctrine and violence is speech that would cast Islam in an unflattering light. Such speech is thus impermissible under Resolution 16/18, which — to repeat — the Obama State Department co-sponsored, notwithstanding its constitutional invalidity.
Note moreover that, contrary to the American law of libel and slander, truth is not a defense to the “offense” of inciting hostility to religion. The point of the resolution is not to promote the search for truth. Precisely the opposite: the point is to impose an incontestable, official government-approved version of Islam, and to discourage dissent by the apparent force of law. (Note that the same technique is at work in efforts to use federal law — civil or possibly even criminal lawsuits — to effectively outlaw the denial of “climate change.”)
This is as un-American and counter-constitutional as it gets. It smacks of Soviet tyranny: There is an official state version of “truth” and it is not to be challenged; dissent will not be tolerated, and contrary facts will be erased from the record. Indeed, in defending the Obama administration’s effective acquiescence in sharia blasphemy standards, then-Secretary Clinton declared — chillingly — that the government was prepared “to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.”
Translation: In order to establish its fantasy version of Islam as the only acceptable version of Islam, the government is prepared to use its raw power — its ability to use vexatious legal processes and promote extra-legal pressure — in order to quell dissent and extort compliance.
That is why the Obama Justice Department decided to airbrush speech that connected the mass-murder in Orlando to a Muslim organization that endorses, incites and commits violent jihad based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.