The bill primarily seeks US sanctions against foreign non-Islamic countries or entities who are supposedly Islamophobic.
HR 5665, titled “Combating International Islamophobia Act”, was introduced by Rep Ilhan Omar (D- MN05) on 21 October 2021 in the US Congress. The official title of this bill is “To establish in the Department of State the Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, and for other purposes”. While the title makes the purpose of the bill clear, there is a vagueness in the title, which raises questions about what this bill means for international non-Islamic communities. The last part, “and for other purposes”, opens up the possibility of this bill being misused by the State Department if this ever passes on the floors of both the Senate and the Congress. What are these “other purposes”? This bill is redundant even before it is introduced because it ties the US government to a religion which goes against the Constitution of the United States. The bill also gives preference to a religion which the majority of Americans do not adhere to. This bill also makes US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a State Department entity under USAID, redundant.
Why was this bill introduced in the first place? The intention of this bill is problematic. The bill primarily seeks US sanctions against foreign non-Islamic countries or entities who are supposedly Islamophobic. However, this goes against the non-sanctions diplomacy initiative of the Biden Administration. The bill targets American allies such as India, Israel, UK, Australia and probably even China. To the international community, this bill appears faulty because it doesn’t define the aggressors and also because it directly interferes in the internal affairs of sovereign states.
This bill is co-sponsored by 56 Representatives, including the usual coterie of Rep Rashida Tlaib (D-MI13), Rep Brad Sherman (D-CA30), Rep Sara Jacobs (D-CA53), Rep Pramila Jayapal (D-WA7), Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14) and others. Most of these Democrat Representatives get their support from large Islamic organisations that have maintained their connections to terrorist support groups across the world. This bill is a fulfilment of the election campaign promise by most of these Representatives to their constituents who helped them win the elections in 2020. The full text of the bill also shows the divisions within the Democrats on the usage of this bill. Due to the religious nature of the bill, it may be offensive to other religions in the United States. It ignores the rights of Jews, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists in the United States. The Representatives of other religious groups in the US may also ask the US Congress to pass “Combating International Hinduphobia Act”, “Combating International Judaism-phobia Act”, “Combating International Buddhist-phobia Act” and other such Acts. The controversial Rep Ilhan Omar, who introduced this, is known for her extremist views. Her anti-Semitic views were widely criticised in the media and by the international community. Rep Rashida Tlaib, another controversial Representative, has been in the news for her open support to Hamas, which has been declared a terrorist organisation by the State Department of US, the European Union, Canada and UK.
US’ sanctions diplomacy has been rejected by many countries in the world. USCIRF reports have been usually rejected by many, particularly, Russia, India and China for the ingrained bias. And now this Act will further isolate the United States internationally on this issue. The foreign policy of the US has often rewarded dictatorships to support its own military sales. Inconsistent US foreign policy over the years has alienated American allies and strengthened American adversaries. This bill further alienates American global business interests and therefore must be rejected by Republicans as well as other Democrats. The bill also seems to have created a division within the Democrats. We do not know yet whether the Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer factions will support the bill, for it clearly goes against the interests of their support base. As far as the Republicans are concerned, the bill clearly goes against the majority of their supporters.
Overall, this religious bill must be rejected in the US Congress by all the remaining Representative in the US Congress because it is redundant. The USCIRF is already performing the role that this bill is supposed to do. The bill directly impacts US’ relations with India, China, Russia, New Zealand and the UK. The word “Islamophobia” is a grossly misused term by international terrorist organisations to hide their acts of terror and therefore, the bill to support their actions is a non-starter in the first place. This proposed Act makes US an indirect supporter of actions of terrorist groups internationally and therefore it will bring further disrepute to the State Department. The whole rationale behind this bill is suspect and the misuse of this bill against the rights of Jews, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian minorities cannot be ruled out.
Aditya Satsangi is the author of nine books and a political commentator.