- - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On 9/11, in response to an anti-Islam video that went viral on YouTube last week, Obama’s Egyptian embassy released a statement deploring “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” This is beyond imagination: On 9/11, the anniversary of the attacks by radical Islamists on our nation, Islamic protestors compromised the U.S. embassy in Cairo, tearing the American flag to shreds to cries of “We are Usama!” and the Obama administration responds that our concern needs to be the “hurt feelings” of Muslims.

The administration’s response in Libya was not much better, placing condemnation of “denigrating religious beliefs” over outrage at the killing of our ambassador and other diplomatic staff there. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying that while the United States “deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Finally, on Wednesday morning, Obama condemned “the outrageous attack.” The entire administration response is noteworthy for being short on outrage over the blatant attacks against America in the name of Islam. Yet coming from this administration, the weak response should surprise no one.

In June 2009 Obama spoke in Cairo, Egypt, saying he wanted “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.” But this is the part that gave us a clue of what was to come: “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

As he belittles and lectures the Israeli government, vilifies the Catholic church and other Christian organizations as “anti-woman” for seeking religious freedom in the kind of insurance they offer, and as his party (apparently with his knowledge) removes God from their platform, this president believes it his Constitutional obligation to varnish the image of Islam. What’s more, he apparently considers it his duty to ignore offenses committed in the name of Islam against Christians and Jews around the world, and to apologize to Muslims as they storm our embassy for their “hurt feelings.”

Americans are united around the notion that people should be allowed to practice whatever faith they choose; they rightfully express outrage when the freedoms of any religious group or individual are violated. Yet Obama only ever professes outrage when Muslims are offended, and he has no qualms about offending those who hold any other faith.

Obama rarely mentions religious freedom. In fact, he has made it clear it is not a priority for this administration. He allowed the position of Ambassador for International Religious Freedom to remain unfilled for over two years before making an appointment in 2010. He rarely mentions the plight of persecuted Christians in foreign lands, and when he does he equivocates, often presenting the slaughter of Christians as “sectarian violence” between two sides of equal strength. In 2012, the State Department went so far as to purge any mention of religious freedom from its annual human rights report.

Thomas Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University and the former director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious freedom, wrote, “This Obama administration seems to have decided that other policy initiatives - outreach to Muslim governments, obtaining China’s cooperation, advancing gay rights — would be compromised by vigorous advocacy for religious freedom.” But they also seem to have decided in favor of “vigorous advocacy” for Islam itself.

Some of his appointees share this preoccupation. NASA administrator Charles Bolden, in an interview with Al Jazeera, said Mr. Obama told him that “perhaps” his “foremost” duty was “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and math and engineering.” And Mr. Obama’s envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Rashad Hussain, gave Mr. Obama the title of America’s “educator-in-chief on Islam.”

Rarely do this president and his administration acknowledge the obvious link between Islam and terrorism. Recall instead that his Department of Homeland Security told law enforcement officials they should be alert for terrorist acts by violent “rightwing extremists” and “Christian Identity Organizations.”

After radicalized Muslim Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 14 people at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, government agencies warned that it could provoke violence against Arab and Muslim Americans. U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Casey went so far as to say, “I’m concerned that this increased speculation [about Maj. Hasan’s motives] could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers….as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”

That’s right. According to the Obama administration, a fictitious backlash that potentially curtails diversity is a greater tragedy than the horrific deaths of 14 Americans. And hurt feelings of Muslims are to be apologized for as those same Muslims assault our embassy in Egypt and murder our ambassador and three other Americans at the consulate in Libya.

Americans are more tolerant of differing religions than any other nation. Our very existence is premised on that notion, and it is a source of our strength. Yet Mr. Obama, as he does so often, seeks to take that unity on religious freedom and use it to divide us, claiming Americans harbor some sinister internal hostility and negative stereotypes toward peaceful Muslims, while denying the persecution of Jews and Christians worldwide. At the same time, he contributes to animosity toward Jews in Israel and enhances false, negative stereotypes of Christians here at home. Using this divisive strategy, the president cripples decent Americans’ ability to voice concerns about the growing influence of Islam in our country.

There are reasonable concerns about Islam — such as the growing influence of Shariah law — that should be discussed in a free, open and intellectually respectful atmosphere. Mr. Obama is systematically neutralizing our ability to have those discussions by labeling anyone who disagrees with him anti-Islam, anti-woman, anti-middle class, anti-whatever the issue on which they disagree with the president.

To quote our president, “That’s not who we are.” Hurt feelings don’t trump First Amendment rights. And there’s enough division in the world and this country without trying to exacerbate it for political gain.

Kate Obenshain is a member of the Board of Directors of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and author of “Divider-in-Chief” (Regnery, 2012).

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