Washington, DC — 12/16/2021
Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) expresses strong concern over the recent passage of H.R. 5665, the Combating International Islamophobia Act, through the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, passed on December 14th, 2021, establishes an Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia within the U.S. Department of State, whose primary responsibility will be “[m]onitoring and combating acts of Islamophobia and Islamophobic incitement that occur in foreign countries.”
“Combating anti-Muslim bigotry is a worthy goal that EXMNA shares. From rising rates of hate crimes in the West to China’s barbaric genocide of the Uyghurs, persecution of Muslims is unacceptably alive and well. Nonetheless, the language of this bill leaves open an alarming vulnerability to abuse and overreach,” said Muhammad Syed, President of EXMNA. “Nowhere does the text define ‘Islamophobia’—a term that religious authorities and fundamentalists have weaponized to conflate criticism of Islam as a belief system with discrimination against Muslims as people. This leaves the Office to carry out its actions in accordance with nothing but its own interpretation of the bill’s vague provisions.”
EXMNA maintains that the bill as written will undermine rather than strengthen international human rights. The purpose of de facto blasphemy laws in the Islamic world is often framed as combating “religious hatred” or “incitement,” a pretext frequently invoked against ex-Muslims and other individuals exercising their right to free expression by criticizing Islamic doctrines or customs.
Such laws also regularly target religious minority groups like Christians and Ahmadi Muslims.
Thus, EXMNA contends, this bill creates the alarming possibility that the State Department could become a collaborator in authoritarian regimes’ attempts to quash religious dissent, absent any clarification of its terms.
“When the Senate considers this bill, it must amend the text to provide a clear definition of ‘Islamophobia’ that explicitly excludes criticism of the Islamic religion,” said Executive Director Sarah Haider. She noted that section 3 of the act, which establishes new reporting requirements for annual State Department human rights reports, provides specific guidance that references violence and incitement “against Muslim people.” “If no such clarifications are added to the rest of the bill in the amendment process, the Senate must reject this legislation,” said Haider.
EXMNA continues to firmly condemn anti-Muslim bigotry while advocating for the right of freethinkers and apostates to speak their minds, and it hopes that Congress can arrive at a solution addressing both of these issues.
Since 2013, Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), an IRS registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit, has stood for the rights and dignities of those who leave Islam. Ex-Muslims of North America advocates for acceptance of religious dissent, promotes secular values, and aims to reduce discrimination faced by those who leave Islam.