CAIR-ful Tampa

A Muslim girl sits for Pledge of Allegiance. A non-Muslim girl asks her why she doesn’t act proud to be an American. Guess who got suspended.

It happened last week in Spring Hill, Florida: Heather Lawrence, a 16-year-old girl who plans to join the U.S. Army, was suspended for five days for insulting her hijab-wearing, seated classmate who refused to stand for the Pledge. This angered Heather, she said, since “our flag represents everything that our country is….You know, I made a not-so-kind remark, and I do sincerely apologize for referring to the thing on her head because that had nothing to do with it. But I told her, ‘Why don’t she act like she’s proud to be an American?’”

Good question. But apparently by asking it, Heather Lawrence has committed a violation of human rights. ABC Action News in Tampa informs us portentously that “despite the open apology to the girl, who wears a hijab, the president of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council says Heather’s actions were harmful and the school was right for taking action.”

An institution with a grave and solemn name like the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council couldn’t be biased, could it? Well, as it happens, the President of this august body is none other than Ahmed Bedier, the former executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group that has had several of its officials convicted of terrorism-related charges, and which was itself named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case.

Bedier displayed breathtaking disingenuousness in 2007 when he characterized two Muslims who were indicted after being found with pipe bombs in their trunk — one of whom later admitted to making a video about how to use remote-controlled bombs against American soldiers — as a couple of “naive kids.” Around the same time he participated in a panel discussion on a Florida TV show, during which he sidestepped numerous opportunities to condemn the barbaric practice of stoning, which is still practiced in hard-line Islamic countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

This newly-minted human rights campaigner has also said that before 1995, when the State Department declared Palestinian Islamic Jihad a terrorist group, there was “nothing immoral” about associating with the group. Yet the anti-terror advocacy group Americans Against Hate notes that “prior to 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad took credit for five terrorist attacks, which resulted in the murders of eight innocent people. This includes a suicide bombing in the town of Netzarim Junction, in November of 1994.”

But now he is a warrior for human rights, and young Heather Lawrence is in his sights. Heather’s Muslim classmate, says Bedier, insists that she actually did stand up for the Pledge. “But whether standing up or not, this issue’s not about the pledge of allegiance or anything else,” said Bedier. “This is about bullying and it’s about discrimination.”

And he’s right: this case is about bullying. But who is doing the bullying, and who is being bullied? If Heather Lawrence behaved obnoxiously toward her classmate, school authorities should deal with the disciplinary issue, and that’s that: the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council, with its unsavory president, has no business getting involved at all.

Its involvement, however, does neatly deflect attention away from what caused the kerfuffle in the first place: the Muslim girl’s unwillingness to stand for the Pledge. Apparently the Pledge in itself is insufficient from an Islamic perspective. The Southern California-based Bureau of Islamic and Arabic Education has accordingly devised an “Islamic Pledge of Allegiance.” Preceding the actual Pledge comes a pledge of “allegiance to ALLAH and His Prophet.”

While it may be gratifying that the Bureau saw fit to include the entirety of the standard Pledge of Allegiance within its own Pledge, one may reasonably wonder about the significance of the allegiance given first to “Allah and His Prophet.” Would such allegiance would ultimately involve bringing Sharia law to the U.S., with its restrictions on freedom of speech and legal equality?

Or would even asking such a question constitute a human rights violation?