Is Jihad Seditious?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

IN AN ARTICLE entitled, The Jihad-Sedition Law, Paul J Cella writes:

My call last week for a Jihad-sedition law stirred up a hornet’s nest. While it was not a new idea, I often forget that what is old hat to me may be new and shocking to others. I also must take some blame for some misinterpretations — because the simple fact is that my writing, in one paragraph in particular, was a convoluted mess.

So here, in legal and more precise language, is what I propose:

An amendment to 18 U.S.C. § 2385 which, taking specific cognizance of the current threat from Islam, establishes that the preaching of Jihad is tantamount to knowing and willful advocacy of “overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States”; that whoever, in accordance with the doctrine of Jihad, “prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States” shall be “fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.”

(An additional method of accomplishing the same object would be to outlaw the promotion of sharia law. The Constitution guarantees a republican form of government; the establishment of sharia would perforce overthrow that form of government; it follows that our sedition law may criminalize the promotion of it. In short, sharia is incompatible with the republican form of government. However, for the purposes of this post, I will limit myself to the prohibition of Jihad)

Now in point of fact such an amendment to Title 18 would not change the law very much. Indeed, it seems to me reasonable to interpret current sedition law as proscribing the doctrine of Jihad. The vital thing, in my judgment, is that we declare that Jihad is unacceptable to our society; that we establish in law our intolerance of this wicked doctrine. The purpose is not just to jail Jihad-seditionists. As with any law governing morals, there is an important element of symbolism. If anyone rises to object to symbolism, let him investigate the common activity of the Congress of the United States, or indeed the common activity of any legislature.

Let him also consider well the controversy that would greet the introduction, and ultimate passage, of such a bill. Let him consider how the world would interpret it. Let him consider, finally, how our enemies would interpret it.

I would like every radical imam, preparing to deliver his Friday sermon, to be keenly aware that ranging into a discussion of the Jihad, as a “collective duty” for the whole ummah, or as an “individual duty” for all “able-bodied” Muslim men (in the classical formulations), could land him in prison or subject him to a considerable fine. I would like every online recruiter or pamphleteer, whose task is to radicalize and propagandize the apolitical Muslim and transform him into an agent of the Jihad, to know that his treachery has no protection under our First Amendment. As I wrote last week, I would like that faction I have called Totalitarian Islam to “stand naked” before the law “without the shelter of the civil liberties which it seeks to obliterate.”


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