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              U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton FILE (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)
              U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton FILE (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)   

Hillary Clinton suggests Islamic governments fear religious debate

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used an international conference on religious freedom Wednesday as a platform to suggest that Islamic governments which suppress Christianity are secretly afraid Islam will lose out in a public debate.

“Every one of us who is a religious person knows there are some who may not support or approve of our religion, but is our religion so weak that statements of disapproval cause us to lose our faith?” she asked the attendees, who included national representatives from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

“Especially when one person’s speech seems to challenge another person’s religion’s belief, or maybe even offends that person’s religious beliefs … we defend our beliefs best by defending free speech for everyone,” she said, while citing her own experience as a Methodist — a Christian movement made up of many Protestant denominations, and where debate is common.

Clinton’s senior aide, the Saudi-born Huma Abedin, said the speech was largely unscripted. “Mostly, it was off-the-cuff,” Abedin told The Daily Caller.

Among the attendees were representatives of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Clinton did not mention any country by name, nor did she specifically mention Islam.

But her diplomatic rebuke of Islamic governments was daring and novel, partly because it may prompt a violent response, or even a careful counterargument, from advocates of Islam in the Arab world.

However, Clinton’s speech did not address similar sensitivities in the United States, where cooperating progressives and Islamists frequently say Islam’s critics are mentally ill, and typically refuse to debate the context and meaning of their own religious texts.

In August, for example, the liberal Center for American Progress issued a report titled “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.” The report was aimed at several critics of Islam, including Robert Spencer, a best-selling author whose repeated requests for debates have been ignored by allied progressive and Islamic advocates in the United States.

Similarly, Department of  Justice officials have described American critics of Islam as mentally unstable, a danger to national security, or similar to the Ku Klux Klan, whose history includes frequent murders of black and Republican legislators and activists.

“Materials that portray Islam as a religion of violence or with a tendency towards violence are wrong, they are offensive … will not be tolerated,” and are a threat to national security, Dwight Holten, a top DOJ official, said on Oct. 19 at a Washington, D.C. event scheduled by the department.

Muslim immigrants to the United States may turn away from integration because of “Islamophobia” or racism, Holton added. When a reporter for TheDC asked Holton to explain his charges, he pushed a door shut in the reporter’s face.

At the same event, Mohamed Magid, a Sudan-born Islamic advocate in the United States, asked for criticism of Islam to be criminalized. One member of the audience was Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, who did not rebuke or even respond to the request by Magid, who now serves as president of the largest Islamic umbrella group — the Islamic Society of North America. (RELATED: Progressives, Islamists huddle at Justice Department)

Secretary Clinton’s speech was delivered at the close of a closed-door conference intended to begin implementation of a 2011 U.N. resolution dubbed “16/18.”