This month, a fund raiser was held in Springfield, Virgina, an event that attracted speakers from around the country and even Pakistan. A group of Ahmadiya Muslims (who are considered heretics by mainstream Sunnis) managed to attend incognito. What they heard was vitriol aimed at their sect as well as at Shia Muslims, Christians and Jews. A speaker from Pakistan even called on the US Government to outlaw the Ahmadi Muslims, a sect which, like Sufis, has a pretty good track record when it comes to staying away from violence, terror and intolerance within Islam. Both groups are persecuted by mainstream Muslims.
This week, a report surfaced in Algemeiner that a Somali-born imam in Antioch, Tennessee was expressing hatred and calling for death to “Zionists”.
While not condemning every single mosque in America and every single imam, there is a serious problem involving mosques where hate speech directed at non-Muslims and the West is occurring. Some intelligence sources estimate that 80% of US mosques are in this category. It is also a problem in Canada as evidenced by the controversy over a Toronto imam’s sermon that called for killing Jews.
What to do about these speakers in a free society in which free speech is protected-even if it is hateful speech? Due to American laws, it would be very difficult to get approval to wiretap a mosque. Even if perfectly legal and reasonable, it would lead to outrage from the left. Similarly, the government cannot shut down a mosque just because something objectionable was said. It would have to be something directly linked to a violent, terrorist act/plot, such as the prosecution of the “Blind Sheikh”, Omar Abdel Rahman. In reality, we are trying to round up a whole lot of horses after the barn door was left open.
A big part of the problem is that many imams in US mosques are born outside the US and have been sent here. They often, if not usually, come from backgrounds and societies where freedom of speech and religion is not respected. They have no concept of our liberties and traditions. They abhor our freedoms. Many are teaching the Wahhabist version of Islam, which is the most restrictive and intolerant strain.
This is not to suggest that all American-born imams pass muster. After all, Anwar Awlaki was American-born. Yet I believe that American imams, who have grown up knowing our freedoms, are preferable.
Which leads me to a suggestion. How is it that our consulates overseas are granting visas to people to come and speak before a conference in Virginia and call on the US to outlaw a sect of Islam they disagree with? Where was the “maximum vetting” as President Trump calls it? What we can do is check out these imams when they come applying for visas. If they are radical, if they have a history of making intolerant statements against others, if they have questionable associations, they should not be given a visa. Let the American Muslim communities supply their own imams.
Will this solve all the problems? Of course not. There are so many things we need to do to keep Americans safe from Islamic terrorists who carry hate in their hearts against other religious groups. However, any legal measure that can increase safety should be applied. This is one of them.