U.S. Urges Saudis to Practice Shelf-Control

U.S. Urges Saudis to Practice Shelf-Control

December 04, 2018

No one wakes up one morning and decides to become a terrorist. It's a gradual process that can start almost anywhere: online, in school, or at a mosque. The 19 men who hijacked planes on 9/11 didn't roll out of bed and resolve to kill 3,000 Americans -- they'd been radicalized. "By what?" is a difficult question. But it's one that the world has spent 17 years trying to get to the bottom of.

At the United States Commission on International Religious Liberty (USCIRF), there isn't anything we can do to turn back the clock on 9/11. But there is something the government can do to prevent another one: stem the tide of indoctrination. It begins with Saudi Arabia reforming and reprinting their textbooks.

For the last several years, USCIRF, where I was sworn in as a commissioner earlier this year, has been monitoring the content of curriculum in the Arabian Peninsula. The school's books have been a problem that the West has focused on since 9/11, when it was obvious that more children were being taught to hate as nonchalantly as American kids were being taught to read. When the U.S. government and other countries got their hands on the textbooks, they were shocked. At most of the country's modern schools, teachers were encouraging nothing short of jihad. More alarming is that the distribution of Saudi's inciting material went well beyond their borders.

In 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed Farah Pandith, as the first ever U.S. special representative to Muslim communities around the world. In 2015, after visiting Muslims in 80 countries, she wrote in the New York Times that the Saudi "Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence, changing the local sense of identity; displacing historic, culturally vibrant forms of Islamic practice..." Among the means the Saudi's accomplished this, according to Pandith -- textbooks.

When the West leaned on Saudi Arabia to do something in 2006, Saudi leaders promised they would by 2008. Ten years later, USCIRF found, almost nothing's changed. Yesterday, I talked with USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Kristina Arriaga on "Washington Watch" about our new report and what can be done to stop the spread of radicalism. As she reiterated, the problem isn't isolated to Saudi Arabia. These textbooks, which threaten non-Muslims, are used in countries all over the world. At one point, Kristina told our listeners, USCIRF found a school in Virginia using one!

"Let me give you a couple of things that this year's book still says... One of the hadiths [it] quotes is 'Hitting your wife is only permitted when necessary'... 'Anyone who makes fun of [Allah], his verses, or his prophets, is an apostate. No excuses are acceptable from him regardless of whether he repents' ... These passages are found all over Africa, the United Kingdom, in Pakistan. In fact in 2010, in England, 15-year-olds who attended over 40 private Muslim schools were given diagrams on how to cut the hands of individuals who broke Sharia law by saying something like 'Mohammed is not the last prophet.'"

In the 3,000 pages of text the commission analyzed, they found only two places encouraging religious tolerance. What's worse, Kristina points out, is that the textbooks are very specific about their hatred for Christians and Jews. In recent years, the rhetoric has only gotten more inflammatory. That's a huge problem when you consider that six million students are reading these textbooks in Saudi Arabia every year -- 200,000 of whom are streaming into the U.S. as part of the Saudi education program.

Across Algeria, Austria, Indonesia, Thailand, Somalia, China, France, Tanzania, and other countries, older versions of the textbook are still being used -- and in many places, it's destroying the tolerant Islamic tradition. The moderate voices that could bring about change and progress are being stamped out by a chilling return to fanaticism. Unfortunately, this problem is nothing new. Back in the mid 1990s, Saudi Arabia was funneling these textbooks into Afghanistan, turning an already tenuous situation into a breeding ground for the Taliban.

In the Trump administration, Ambassador Sam Brownback and others keep raising this issue -- in part because other countries are asking for our help in keeping the curriculum out. "It would be very easy," Kristina argued, "for Saudi Arabia to recall these textbooks and print others." But America's relationship with its biggest Arabian ally is complicated. It's become less so thanks to President Trump, who recognizes the importance of making the U.S. independent from foreign oil. After all, that's where the wealthy Saudis get their money to build madrassas and distribute their curriculum all over the world.

It's time, the president insisted last year, for Saudi Arabia to start "honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires." And textbooks, USCIRF would tell you, are the ideal place to start.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Kennedy on Changing Marriage in One Obergefell Swoop

December 04, 2018

When Justice Anthony Kennedy became the deciding vote on same-sex marriage in America, he surprised a lot of people. Including, apparently, himself. Three years after the Supreme Court ruling that rocked the world, the retired justice sat down to talk about the Obergefell case -- and how little the Constitution had to do with it.

When five men and women overturn thousands of years of human history -- and tens of millions of American votes -- most people want to know why. In the U.S., the 2015 ruling still stings, especially in a country still very much divided over the question. The liberal media, of course, would like everyone to think the issue has been decided. But as recently as last month, the numbers told a different story. Even in a survey with more Democratic-leaning voters, natural marriage was still polling ahead of the Supreme Court's version -- 48 percent to 45.

For years, LGBT activists had insisted America was outside the mainstream. Now, after votes in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Taiwan, it's obvious that the only ones outside the mainstream were justices like Kennedy. So why, Bloomberg TV asked, did the Ronald Reagan appointee side with an agenda that runs so contrary to the Constitution, nature, and human tradition?

"[I surprised] myself," he said to David Rubenstein, especially, he pointed out, because of his religious beliefs." But "the nature of the injustice," Kennedy insisted, "is you can't see it in your own time." "As I thought about this, and I thought about it more and more, it seemed wrong -- unconstitutional -- to say that over 100,000 adopted children could not have their parents married."

As social science will tell you, Justice Kennedy has it all backwards. "The Court's unprecedented redefinition of legal marriage harms the very children it was designed to protect," Nancy Pearcey fired back in an American Thinker column, "and indeed, all children." Although he said he tried to take everything into consideration, he obviously neglected the one thing that judges in his position are called to consult: the Constitution.

"Your duty in every case is to ask why you are doing what you are about to do," Kennedy said. "If you make up your mind in advance, you are not following that oath." In other words, FRC's Peter Sprigg says, it was a policy decision. "He decided he thought it was a good idea, so he decided to impose it on the country. The problem, of course, is that judges are supposed to interpret what the Constitution actually says, not impose their own preferences."

Fortunately, the court can't change an institution God created. Unfortunately, more judges seem intent on trying. That's what makes the Republican Senate's work so important. Thanks to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and President Trump, conservatives are finally balancing out -- not just the Supreme Court -- but benches across America with true and strict constructionists. These are men and women who, when they ask themselves "why they're doing what they're about to do," the answer is simple: their job is to interpret the law, not write it.

Meanwhile, if Justice Kennedy and his four activist colleagues thought they'd resolved the issue, they're mistaken. Kennedy may be clueless about the destructive nature of Obergefell, Pearcey writes. But Americans aren't. Like the pro-life movement, people have started to see the real-life consequences of the court's decision. And it doesn't feel like "progress" to them.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

U.C. Berkeley Meets Conservatives YAF Way

December 04, 2018

Here are two things you never thought you'd hear in the same sentence: "conservative victory" and "U.C. Berkeley." But, thanks to Young America's Foundation (YAF) and the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR), that's exactly what students are celebrating after a legal win that will bring true diversity back to campus.

For YAF, the idea that students would have to pay more just to host conservative speakers was outrageous. But that was the ultimate effect of the school's Major Events Policy that did its best to block people Ben Shapiro,Ann Coulter, and David Horowitz from campus. First, Berkeley officials tried to relegate these events to "remote or inconvenient lecture halls." Then, they put a 3 p.m. curfew on conservative speakers to try to limit the number of students who could attend. When that didn't work, they tried to impose a $20,000 security fee, which they insisted was necessary because of the "controversial" nature of talks by conservatives like Shapiro.

YAF and BCR sued in April of last year, insisting that the university was violating their free speech rights. The clash with school leadership was so unconscionable that even the Justice Department got involved, filing a statement of interest on behalf of the College Republicans. "[We] will not stand idly by while public universities violate students' constitutional rights," it wrote.

After months of back and forth, U.C. officials delivered the news conservatives had been waiting for: they would settle the lawsuit and rewrite its Major Events Policy. As part of the deal, Berkeley will cover $70,000 of the plaintiff's attorneys' costs and revise the school's rules to accommodate its diverse population. "This landmark settlement means that all students at U.C. Berkeley now have the exciting opportunity to hear a variety of viewpoints on campus without the artificial tax of security fees selectively imposed on disfavored speech," said the groups' attorney.

But just because Berkeley called off the legal fight doesn't mean officials are ready to admit they did anything wrong. In a statement, the school insists it was only trying to be stewards of the college's money. "...[W]e see this as the least expensive path to successful resolution of this lawsuit," officials explained. "While we regret the time, effort, and resources that have been expended successfully defending the constitutionality of U.C. Berkeley's event policy, this settlement means the campus will not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable defense costs to prove that U.C. Berkeley has never discriminated on the basis of viewpoint."

Well, they may not be sorry, but they certainly are guilty! Maybe next time Berkeley tries to marginalize conservatives, U.C. will think twice. Until then, we're just as thrilled as YAF, who knows better than anyone that the battle for free expression on our campuses is a necessary one.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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