On July 13, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) offered an amendment to H.R. 2810 which would have required the Secretary of Defense to “conduct two concurrent strategic assessments” on “the use of violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging and justification” in order to better understand the root of modern day terror at the hands of radical Muslims.
House Amendment 185 was defeated the following day, 208 to 217.
The usual suspects cheered the amendment’s defeat. Politico quotes Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN): “If you have an amendment that says we’re going to study one religion and only one, we’re going to look at their leaders and put them on a list — only them — and you are going to talk about what’s orthodox practice and what’s unorthodox, then you are putting extra scrutiny on that religion.”
Franks hit back, saying: “Right now, there is a certain spectrum within the Islamist world that is at the root of the ideological impulse for terrorism. … 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.”
He added that “it is important that we empower America to identify those heroic Muslims within the world that will help us begin to delegitimize this ideology of global jihad.”
Upon the defeat of the amendment, Ellison took to Twitter:
The Daily Wire spoke with Rep. Franks to better understand his thought process regarding the amendment, how it would have functioned, and how he plans to move forward following its defeat.
Franks, who chairs the Religious Freedom Caucus, said the notion that the amendment was an attack on religious freedom is “ridiculous beyond articulation.”
Franks stressed the importance of dissecting motivations, noting that “in the case of almost every major enemy we’ve ever had in America, we’ve tried to study the ideological impulses behind it so that we could more effectively combat it.”
If the United States doesn’t “engage this on a strategic level; if tactics are all that we employ, then it becomes a matter of killing the enemy without trying to prevent new combatants from taking their place.”
Regarding what the amendment would have sought to achieve, Franks said:
This amendment would have empowered the Department of Defense to study the kind of ideological impulses that animate Islamist terrorism so that we can more effectively fight it, not just on a tactical level, but on a strategic one as well.
The DoD would “study individuals who have been captured on the battlefield, or study the background of terrorists. They would also examine their writings, and the things that they proclaim in their manifestos, so that we could begin to ascertain the patterns that foment terrorism or foment terrorists.”
Digging up the ideological roots of the enemy is paramount, because “if you can take away the motivation,” asserted Franks, you can unravel the larger structure.
We do this in every other area of criminal activity. Why can’t we study the ideological genesis and impulses of an activity that leads to the murder of innocent men, women, and children all over the world?
Going further, the congressman stated:
Once we understand the impulse behind jihad, it becomes incumbent upon us to find those heroic individuals within the Muslim community to be the best voices to counteract, condemn, and eviscerate it. The legislation specifically said that we would seek out courageous individuals within the Muslim world to be able to strategically defeat, rhetorically and ideologically, that spectrum of Islamist ideology that animates most of the terrorism we see in the world.
In a territory as sensitive as faith, it’s “going to be difficult for typical American voices to be as effective as people within that particular religious community.”
Speaking of the 208 to 217 defeat, Franks said: “If this weren’t a life and death situation, I suppose I could countenance either the ignorance or the cowardice much more willingly — but the fact is that the amendment, had it been adopted, would have, over time I believe, saved many lives. It would have saved Muslim lives, as well as lives from every major religious persuasion one could imagine.”
When asked why he believed the amendment was defeated, Franks did not hold back:
The Democrats have found a magic recipe. If they vote against America every time, all the time, in every way that they possibly can, they’ll remain within the confines of their newfound party identity.
As for the Republicans who voted against it:
A few simply buy the ridiculous propaganda that if you want to ideologically combat terrorism, you have to be against everyone in the broader religious faith that some of the terrorists cite when they murder the innocent.
The congressman would like the amendment to be proposed again, adding: “I believe it would have saved lives, and maybe would have catalyzed a concept in the minds of a broader spectrum of experts that could have led to the unraveling and effective combating of this ideology.”
The Daily Wire also spoke with Eugene Volokh, UCLA professor of law and First Amendment scholar.
We asked the professor if Rep. Franks’ bill was a violation of the First Amendment, as Rep. Ellison suggested. Volokh flatly stated that such a study “would be constitutionally permissible.”
He continued: “I think the government is entitled to study the strategic impact of any important ideological movements and belief systems, especially ones that have undoubted effect on the world and on America. That includes religious movements and belief systems, either narrow ones (such as jihadist branches of Islam) or broader ones (such as Islam more broadly). I certainly hope parts of the government are already studying this.”
You can read the text of the amendment in its entirety here.