The House has rejected an amendment that would have required the Pentagon to study the use of violent strains of Islam to justify terrorism.
The House defeated Arizona GOP Rep. Trent Frank’s amendment Friday morning by a vote of 208-217, which not only would have required the Pentagon to study the link between Islamic doctrine and terrorism, but also would have mandated that the Pentagon make a list of extreme Islamic leaders and peaceful ones.
In other words, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis would have to “conduct two concurrent strategic assessments of the use of violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging and justification.”
“Right now, there is a certain spectrum within the Islamist world that is at the root of the ideological impulse for terrorism,” Franks said. “Ironically, Muslims are the prime targets of these groups. To suggest that this is anti-Muslim is a fallacy, and I think that anyone who really understands it knows that.”
Democratic Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who himself is a Muslim, was particularly incensed by the proposal and also met with Franks to discuss his objections in more detail.
“Rep. Franks’ NDAA amendment ordering a ‘strategic assessment’ on Islam goes against everything we strive to be,” Ellison said in a statement. “By ordering the Department of Defense to scrutinize a single religion, identify leaders for some unknown purpose, and determine an acceptable way to practice, Congress is ‘abridging the free exercise of religion,’ which is constitutionally impermissible.”
Despite criticism, Franks did not see the proposal as a violation of the First Amendment. Members of Congress went back and forth Thursday evening debating the issue, with Democrats largely calling the plan bigoted. Muslim interest groups and the American Civil Liberties Union have also blasted the idea.
In the past, Franks has warned of the “creeping threat of Sharia.”
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