Today U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo introduced the "Jihad Prevention Act." The description on Tancredo's website is a bit vague, but this seems to be the gist of it:
Tancredo’s bill, dubbed the “Jihad Prevention Act,” would bar the entry of foreign nationals who advocate Sharia law. In addition, the legislation would make the advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims already in the United States a deportable offense.
The first part sounds great. I certainly support barring foreigners who advocate Sharia. It's the second part that has me worried -- banning "advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims." What exactly does that mean? Does Tancredo also propose to ban advocacy of Sharia by "moderate" Muslims? How do we distinguish between "radical" Muslims and "moderate" Muslims? And what to do about advocacy of Sharia by sympathetic non-Muslims, e.g., Lynne Stewart? Or does advocating Sharia ipso facto make one a "radical Muslim"?
To be coherent, the legislation must necessarily ban any advocacy of Sharia by anyone. And that scares me. Don't get me wrong; I hate Sharia. I also hate Nazism, Holocaust denial, white supremacism, black supremacism (Reverend Wright), etc. But as deplorable as these things are, the solution is not to stifle free speech, but to encourage it. Indeed, it is free speech -- robust, uninhibited, and non-politically correct -- that is our best defense against Sharia. For if today radical Islamic websites are shut down because of the content of their speech, what is to stop the government censors tomorrow from shutting down sites that criticize Islam? Shall we resign ourselves to a Brave New World where no one can say anything deemed "too radical" one way or the other about Islam?
I say no thanks. Totalitarianism stinks, no matter the nature of the political content sought to be banned.
Of course, this is likely much ado about nothing -- if I understand Tancredo's bill correctly (and perhaps I do not), it would almost certainly violate the First Amendment. But the mere fact that Tancredo would even propose such a bill is troubling.
What do you think?