LLast Wednesday, the House passed the Tackling International Islamophobia Act, which would create an office within the State Department to monitor and report violence, harassment and abuse against Muslims, schools and centers religious.
A number of Republican lawmakers opposed the bill, fearing that it would hijack or even hamper the fight against anti-Semitism. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem. Islamophobia is dangerous and intolerable, religious freedom is a fundamental value, and we can and must monitor the spread of both diseases. As Rep. Scott Perry noted during the debate, we all agree that no one should be persecuted for their faith. But Republicans are not It’s wrong to worry about the specific ways in which this new position might be abused given the sponsor of the bill, and if Democrats are surprised by this reaction, they have only themselves to blame.
The law was drafted by Representative Ilhan Omar, a hate-maker who works to mainstream anti-Semitism. To this day, she has avoided any real censorship from her party leaders, who seem to content themselves with letting her get away with it. When it comes to this bill, Omar has a personal history of making vile anti-Semitic comments and then blaming his Jewish critics with bogus accusations of Islamophobia. This is true even when those critics are his own Democratic colleagues.
Perry was lambasted for claiming that Omar was associated with terrorist organizations. He wasn’t entirely wrong though, and context really matters. Omar is closely associated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the organization Perry mentioned. She has spoken at her fundraisers and this year alone has she been honored as “2021 American Muslim Public Official”. CAIR has a long and problematic history of affiliation with Hamas, which the United States has called a terrorist organization, as well as with Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. CAIR has been singled out as a full-fledged terrorist organization by the UAE, and as Perry pointed out in his comments, it was also an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorist financing case in the United Arab Emirates. history of the United States.
Zahra Billoo, senior CAIR official, recently gave a public speech in which she defamed Zionist Jewish organizations and synagogues as “enemies” as part of a “plot” behind Islamophobia. She specifically called the organizations that to want to have good relations with the Muslim community, rallying firmly to the idea of interfaith cooperation and understanding. She also, quite senselessly, blamed everything from border issues to police brutality, Jews and the Jewish state. CAIR pulled a page out of its award-winning Omar’s playbook by predictably refusing to apologize, calling the indignant response to Billoo’s anti-Semitic comments a “smear campaign.” A few years earlier, when Billoo was kicked from the Women’s March board of directors for anti-Semitic tweets, she also responded by calling anyone who opposed her “Islamophobic.”
In 2019, after Omar sparked outrage by first claiming that his colleagues who support Israel only do it for money, and then accusing them of double loyalty, two classic anti-Semitic tropes, Billoo praised his Breathless girlfriend for “widening the conversation” about ways people can criticize the Jewish state. Billoo and Omar’s CAIR relationship goes back several years and last month they once again shared a stage at a CAIR event.
To be clear, Islamophobia is always bad no matter who it is directed against. But this is not, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described it, an attack on the Faith for a member of Congress to point out that she is associated with CAIR – in the same way Omar insisted it was not anti-Semitic when she called a Jewish member of the Trump Organization “nationalist” White “. More importantly, he is not indifferent to a debate on surveillance Islamophobia, as Omar and CAIR, an enthusiastic supporter of the bill, have been known to turn false accusations of Islamophobia into a weapon and a shield against their “enemies” – and in particular to reinforce anti-Semitic hatred. Perry’s comments were made after Democrats called him “Islamophobic” for proposing amendments that would prevent U.S. taxpayers’ money from going to organizations linked to terrorism. In this context, and given the author of the bill, his concerns are not unfounded.
Monitoring Islamophobia is important, but Republicans are right to be wary of Omar’s involvement and be concerned about any influence he may have on the way “monitoring” is carried out. No one wants to hear a talk about the harms of racism from an unrepentant racist. In his speech in support of the bill, Omar mocked “cynics who would rather see us divided” instead of “stand united against all forms of sectarianism”. If only she and her friends at CAIR really thought so, perhaps this bill could have bipartisan support when it goes to the Senate.
Dr Mark Goldfeder is an international lawyer and the director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center.