Why Our Contest Is About the First Amendment

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Illustrative picture. (Photo: Public Domain)
Illustrative picture. (Photo: Public Domain)

As part of our commitment to improve the debate surrounding issues of radical Islam and human rights, Clarion launched an essay contest. After writing extensively about how the First Amendment was the key to fighting Islamism, we wanted to hear from you. So, the topic we chose was:

Assessing the First Amendment: Religious Freedom, Hate Speech and Extremist Incitement

You can read about the contest and the prize here.

We spent some time coming up with the exact topic and want to share a few of our reasons for the choice with you.

Firstly, we wanted something that would capture the complexity of the issue at hand. The debate over radical Islam and the debate over religious freedom and anti-Muslim bigotry go hand in hand. At Clarion, we feel they are actually the same conversation. We oppose radical Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry for the same reason: We believe in freedom of conscience for the individual.

But where to draw the line has become a critical question. When does a theological objection to homosexuality become hate speech against the gay community? When does a reasonable objection to religious supremacism spill over into unfairly demonizing an entire community? When is a hijab a forced symbol of female oppression and when is it a symbol of identity, personal liberty and empowerment?

Many different policies to tackle these issues have been proposed by the government. During his election campaign, President Trump called for surveillance of certain mosques. The NYPD set up a Demographics Unit which monitored the Muslim community in New York to gather intelligence. Meanwhile hate preachers in mosques around the country have called for the deaths of Jews.

All of these issues are First Amendment issues, touching on the acceptable limits of government interference into people’s lives in the name of national security. This is the real root of the Islamism question, and it’s what Islamists want to remove by replacing freedom of religion with one religious law: sharia.

Focusing on the First Amendment gives contestants an opportunity to explore the multifaceted nature of the problem and to highlight the specific elements they are most worried about.

We look forward to reading the entries to the competition and publishing the winning submission here on our website.

Click here to read more about the contest and our prize for the winner.



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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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