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May 4, 2015 2

Garland Shooting Overshadows Anti-Muslim Event Featuring Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Police shot and killed two sus­pects who opened fire at a Gar­land, Texas, cen­ter host­ing a “Muham­mad Art Exhibit and Car­toon Con­test.” The Amer­i­can Free­dom Defense Ini­tia­tive (AFDI), an anti-Muslim orga­ni­za­tion headed by Pamela Geller, orga­nized the event, which fea­tured anti-Muslim Dutch Par­lia­men­tar­ian Geert Wilders as the main speaker.  Geller also heads Stop Islamiza­tion of Amer­ica, which oper­ates under the aus­pices of AFDI and seeks to rouse pub­lic fears about a vast Islamic con­spir­acy to destroy Amer­i­can values.

The shoot­ing over­shad­owed the Muham­mad car­toon con­test which AFDI billed as an event “in defense of free speech.”  AFDI asked peo­ple to sub­mit car­toons of Muham­mad and promised $10,000 to the win­ner of the con­test.  The con­test was also AFDI’s response to the ter­ror attack in Paris in which 12 peo­ple who worked for the satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Char­lie Hebdo were killed by Mus­lim ter­ror­ists angry over the depic­tion of Muham­mad in the pub­li­ca­tion.  It is also evi­dent that the con­test would incite the Mus­lim com­mu­nity and oth­ers opposed to anti-Muslim big­otry. AFDI chose to hold it at the same venue where the Mus­lim com­mu­nity recently held a “Stand With the Prophet Against Ter­ror & Hate” event.

In his speech at the car­toon con­test, Wilders asserted that “We will never allow Islam to rob us of our free­dom of speech.” He said that the con­test was held “in defi­ance of Islam” and that “depict­ing Muham­mad is an act of lib­er­a­tion.”  Wilders declared, “Let us de-Islamize our soci­eties! No more Islam, no more mosques, no more Islamic schools. It is time for our own cul­ture and heritage.”

It is no sur­prise that Gellers invited Wilders to be the keynote speaker at the car­toon con­test. Both have pro­moted an anti-Muslim agenda for years and have worked together pre­vi­ously. Like Geller, Wilders has made it his mis­sion to “warn peo­ple of the Islamiza­tion of our West­ern societies.”

The car­toon con­test was one of four events at which Wilders spoke over the past week in the United States. On April 29, two mem­bers of Con­gress, Steven King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), invited Wilders to speak at two sep­a­rate events in DC. At one of the events, a meet­ing of the Con­ser­v­a­tive Oppor­tu­nity Soci­ety, founded by for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, Wilders com­pared Islam to Nazism and declared that the West should end all immi­gra­tion from Islamic coun­tries. The next day, Wilders spoke at a press con­fer­ence in front of the Capi­tol in Wash­ing­ton, along with Rep­re­sen­ta­tives King and Gohmert. Wilders once again spoke out against Islamic immi­gra­tion and argued that Islam has tried to sub­ju­gate the coun­tries where there is a Mus­lim majority.

Wilders brought up sim­i­lar themes in his speech at the car­toon con­test, which he deliv­ered before the shoot­ing. No mat­ter how offen­sive an event or pro­gram may be, there is no place in our com­mu­nity or our coun­try for the vio­lence that took place out­side the event. 

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April 27, 2015 12

Members of Congress Invite Anti-Muslim Bigot Geert Wilders to DC Events

Geert Wilders, the Dutch Free­dom Party leader and one of the most noto­ri­ous anti-Muslim big­ots in the world, announced that this week two Mem­bers of Con­gress will host him at events in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Steve King and Louie Gohmert are report­edly help­ing pro­vide a plat­form for Wilders at two events, a break­fast spon­sored by the Con­ser­v­a­tive Oppor­tu­nity Soci­ety, founded by for­mer Speaker of the House Newt Gin­grich, and later in the day at a reception.

ADL wrote to Rep­re­sen­ta­tives King and Gohmert to make sure they know that Wilders’ rhetoric, com­par­ing the Mus­lim reli­gion itself to Nazism, crosses the bound­aries of civil­ity and reli­gious tolerance.

Wilders rou­tinely says “Islam is evil” and calls for the clos­ing down of Mus­lim schools and mosques, as he did in Novem­ber 2014 at the most recent David Horowitz Free­dom Cen­ter Restora­tion Week­end in Florida. Wilders con­sid­ers every Mus­lim an extrem­ist, stat­ing that “accord­ing to the Qur’an, there are no mod­er­ate Mus­lims.” He fur­ther claims that the fact most Mus­lims are law-abiding cit­i­zens and have no con­nec­tion to ter­ror­ism is irrel­e­vant, because Islam is an expan­sion­ist and aggres­sive ide­ol­ogy.  His pro­file as a pur­veyor of ugly anti-Muslim big­otry went global in March 2008, when Wilders released an online film called Fitna. The film sim­plis­ti­cally depicts Islam as a vio­lent reli­gion, inter­spers­ing verses from the Qur’an with footage of ter­ror­ist violence.

Even a rad­i­cally anti-Muslim law­maker like Wilders is enti­tled to express his opin­ions.  But Amer­i­cans are enti­tled to expect their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives to avoid pro­mot­ing and legit­imiz­ing those odi­ous ideas.

Another instance of such deroga­tory and hate­ful rhetoric by Mem­bers of their cau­cus about immi­grants drew swift con­dem­na­tion by House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and then Major­ity Leader Eric Can­tor (R–VA) as well as Judi­ciary Immi­gra­tion Sub­com­mit­tee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC).  Speaker Boehner called on leg­is­la­tors to reject hate­ful com­ments that he said were “deeply offen­sive and wrong and said they did “not reflect the val­ues of the Amer­i­can peo­ple or the Repub­li­can Party.”

We hope Speaker Boehner and the House lead­er­ship take note of this page from their own play­book and fol­low their own exam­ple again.

Con­fronting vio­lent extrem­ism from Islamist move­ments is an urgent and seri­ous task for gov­ern­ments and law­mak­ers all over the world.

Pro­vid­ing a plat­form for the basest kind demo­niz­ing of Mus­lims, or of any faith, does lit­tle to make Amer­i­cans safer. America’s high­est ideals of reli­gious lib­erty and the need to con­front ter­ror­ism from groups like ISIS and al Qaida with real pol­icy solu­tions com­pels Con­gress to do better.

 

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April 3, 2015 6

Arkansas’ and Indiana’s Fixes to “Religious Freedom” Laws are Illusory

Arkansas’ and Indiana’s pas­sage of dis­crim­i­na­tory “reli­gious free­dom” laws was met with national back­lash from civil rights groups, the busi­ness com­mu­nity, and oth­ers.  Under intense pub­lic pres­sure, both state leg­is­la­tures made “fixes” to these laws, which their respec­tive Gov­er­nors promptly signed.   But these revi­sions are illu­sory and do lit­tle to mit­i­gate the harms of these laws.

Nei­ther of the orig­i­nal Arkansas or Indi­ana mea­sures men­tioned sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or dis­crim­i­na­tion. Under the guise of reli­gious free­dom, how­ever, both allowed busi­nesses and employ­ers to dis­crim­i­nate against the LGBT com­mu­nity, as well as against reli­gious and eth­nic minori­ties, by pro­vid­ing them with a vir­tu­ally insur­mount­able religious-based legal defense.Arkansas-StateSeal.svg

Pro­po­nents of these laws erro­neously claimed that they were mod­eled on the 1993 fed­eral Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion (“RFRA”).  That RFRA, which the Anti-Defamation League sup­ported, was much nar­rower and explic­itly designed to pro­tect indi­vid­u­als and faith-based insti­tu­tions’ reli­gious exer­cise from gov­ern­ment infringe­ment.   It was never meant to apply to for-profit enti­ties or pri­vate dis­putes, or to enable enti­ties to dis­crim­i­nate against indi­vid­u­als in the name of “reli­gious freedom.”

Indiana’s fix to its law pro­hibits busi­nesses from deny­ing ser­vices to cus­tomers based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.  And Arkansas’ revi­sion now tracks the lan­guage of RFRA and states that it should be inter­preted con­sis­tent with the fed­eral law.  While these fixes may make good media sound bites, they are misleading.

The revised Indi­ana law does not pro­vide statewide civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity or pre­vent its use to harm oth­ers.  Because the state does not have an inclu­sive anti-discrimination statute, and because the vast major­ity of Indi­ana cities and towns lack local civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, busi­nesses and employ­ers remain free to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.   Even with this fix, the Indi­ana law still pro­vides a pow­er­ful religious-based defense to indi­vid­u­als and busi­nesses in civil and crim­i­nal actions, and infringes on the rights of oth­ers.  For exam­ple, a police offi­cer could refuse to pro­tect a casino, liquor store, phar­macy, butcher shop, lend­ing insti­tu­tion, or women’s health clinic.

Indiana-StateSeal.svg

The amended Arkansas law is per­haps more disin­gen­u­ous.  Although it is now con­sis­tent with RFRA, the U.S. Supreme Court’s deeply dis­turb­ing Hobby Lobby deci­sion expands RFRA’s pro­tec­tions to for-profit, closely held cor­po­ra­tions (rang­ing from small busi­nesses to nation­wide com­pa­nies like Hobby Lobby).  And a 1999 fed­eral U.S. Court of Appeals deci­sion applic­a­ble to Arkansas ruled that RFRA applies to pri­vate disputes.

So a fam­ily owned busi­ness, large or small, can invoke the new law’s pow­er­ful defense in vir­tu­ally any civil action, includ­ing claims of dis­crim­i­na­tion or wrong­ful denial of ser­vice, employ­ment or hous­ing.  Keep in mind, 96.6% of Arkansas’ employ­ers are small busi­nesses.  Trans­la­tion: the vast major­ity of Arkansas’ busi­nesses can use the law to deny ser­vices, employ­ment, and hous­ing to the LGBT com­mu­nity and other minori­ties.  Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Arkansas has no state-wide civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, and it recently enacted another law bar­ring local gov­ern­ments from pro­vid­ing such pro­tec­tions for their residents.

To truly rem­edy the harm­ful effects of their so-called “reli­gious free­dom” laws, Arkansas and Indi­ana must enact statewide anti-discrimination pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, insert addi­tional safe­guards against use of the laws to harm oth­ers, and limit their appli­ca­tion to indi­vid­u­als, reli­gious insti­tu­tions, and religiously-affiliated non-profits against gov­ern­ment action that sub­stan­tially bur­dens religion.

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