Unlike any other time in U.S. history, our First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion are in jeopardy. As if recently passed “hate-crime” laws and a politically correct culture weren’t bad enough, now our president is using international pressure and possibly law to establish a prohibition against insulting Islam or Muslims.
Let me remind us how we got here.
Speaking for most founders in his day, John Jay, America’s first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, appointed by George Washington himself, said, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
Two hundred years later, President Obama has already denied America’s rich Judeo-Christian heritage before the eyes and ears of other countries, as he publicly declared in Turkey on April 6, 2009, for the whole world to hear: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”
Then there was Cairo in June 2009, when President Obama vowed to establish “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world … I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. … I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. … And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. … So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.”
He goes on to say, “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”
That last line is really one of the most unique U.S. presidential religious passions and missions stated to date: “And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”
Another big question is: What did the president mean when he said, “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t”? It makes no sense at all to refer to a partnership between a country and religion – America and Islam. Why not say partnership between America and Muslim nations or a partnership between Americans and Muslims or even a partnership between Christianity and Islam? That comment is very strange to me and has a much deeper meaning.
Roughly six months later, in February 2010, Obama appointed Rashad Hussain to serve as his special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, an inter-governmental body of 56 Muslim countries that also forms an official body represented in the United Nations. (Where is the same treatment from this White House for countries that uphold Judeo-Christian values to unite and have the same treatment that allows them to form an official body represented in the U.N.? Or any religion, for that matter? There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark!)
Obama rejoiced, “I’m proud to announce today that I am appointing my special envoy to the OIC – Rashad Hussain. As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Quran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work.”
In 2007, then President George W. Bush explained the initial purpose for a OIC representative: “Our special envoy will listen to and learn from representatives from Muslim states, and will share with them America’s views and values. This is an opportunity for Americans to demonstrate to Muslim communities our interest in respectful dialogue and continued friendship.”
But Obama has considerably upped the OIC ante. Today, the White House purports from its website that special envoy, Muslim and hafiz of the Quran, Rashad Hussain, “will deepen and expand the partnerships that the United States has pursued with Muslims around the world since President Obama’s speech in Cairo last June.”
Again, notice the differences between the Bush and Obama plans with the special OIC envoy: from Bush’s mission to “listen and learn from representatives” to Obama’s mission to “deepen and expand the partnerships.”
The OIC members (including U.S. Special Envoy Rashad Hussain) pledge to its charter mission to rid the world of “the defamation of religion.” But the “defamation of religion” translates to mean “defamation of Islam.” An article on the OIC website explains, “Western foreign policy is considered to be the single most significant factor determining the attitudes of many Muslims toward the West. … Unfortunately, Islam often conjures in the Western minds images of authoritarian government, subjugation of women, cruel punishments of Shariah law and violence in the popular Western mind.”
The world also just learned recently from the assistant secretary for public affairs in the State Department, P.J. Crowley, that the White House has repeatedly sent out as an American ambassador of peace the Islamic fundamentalist and executive director of the Ground Zero mosque, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is being sponsored by the U.S. State Department for repeated trips to the Middle East, where he is teaching on Muslim life in America and promoting religious tolerance.
But doesn’t one who called the U.S. an “accessory” to Sept. 11 just a few weeks after the tragic event and one who still refuses to call Hamas a foreign terrorist organization seem a strange choice for a U.S. ambassador of peace who promotes religious tolerance?
The president explained the next day, “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”
White House spokesman Bill Burton reiterated the next day about Obama’s stance on constructing the mosque: “Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way from the comments he made last night. It is not his role as president to pass judgment on every local project. But it is his responsibility to stand up for the constitutional principle of religious freedom and equal treatment for all Americans. What he said last night, and reaffirmed today, is that if a church, a synagogue or a Hindu temple can be built on a site, you simply cannot deny that right to those who want to build a mosque.”
But I could not agree more with Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11: “As an Obama supporter, I really feel that he’s lost sight of the germane issue, which is not about freedom of religion. It’s about a gross lack of sensitivity to the 9/11 families and to the people who were lost.”
And Debra Burlingame, a spokeswoman for some Sept. 11 families and the sister of one of the pilots killed in the attacks, summed it up perfectly: “Barack Obama has abandoned America at the place where America’s heart was broken nine years ago, and where her true values were on display for all to see.”
Obama is not just rebooting America’s image in the Muslim world. He’s deepening and expanding Islamic belief, practice, culture around the world, like a Muslim missionary.
(Next week in Part 2, I will discuss how the Obama administration has changed course in just this past year regarding passing anti-First Amendment defamation of religion resolutions, as well as demonstrate how Obama has been prejudiced in his treatment of Islam versus Christianity).