The Pentagon won’t be conducting a threat assessment of Islam after all.
Tucked into a massive military spending bill was a provision that would have required the Department of Defense to study “the use of violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging.” A narrow majority of the U.S. House of Representatives — including all but one of the members from Minnesota — stripped that proposal out of the bill on Friday.
The idea of government scrutinizing people’s faith, rather than their actions, “goes against everything we strive to be,” said U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minneapolis DFLer and the first Muslim elected to Congress.
The amendment to the $696 billion National Defense Authorization Act asked military and outside experts to identify “Islamic religious doctrines, concepts, or schools of thought used by various extremist groups” and then come up with ways to counter them.
Ellison questioned why a study of religious extremism would focus on just a single faith.
“Nobody is saying you can’t study terrorism,” Ellison said during floor debate. “You can study what motivates people to commit acts of terrorism. And we should. But we don’t — not equally. The fact is that this amendment singled out and stigmatizes one religious group.”
American Muslims face enough stigma, Ellison said, pointing to a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes since 2015. The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., argued that his proposal “will save American lives; it will save Muslim lives; it will save lives across the world.”
Unpersuaded, the Republican-controlled House voted the amendment down 217-208. The tally included “no” votes from almost every member of the Minnesota delegation — including Republican Reps. Jason Lewis and Erik Paulsen, and all the DFLers.
Rep. Tom Emmer voted in favor of the amendment. The Sixth District Republican represents St. Cloud — a city with a growing Somali-American population — and he co-founded the House Somalia Caucus with Ellison.
“The safety and security of the American people is paramount,” Emmer said in a brief statement after the vote. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress, defense officials at the Pentagon, and religious leaders from all faiths to better understand and combat radical extremism around the globe to keep our country safe.”