Obama Appointee Linked to Howard Univ. Event on Dismantling First Amendment

Qasim Rashid, a HuffingtonPost blogger and member of the Muslim Writers Guild, spoke to students at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., about making changes to the First Amendment and limiting Americans' right to freedom of speech during a lecture at the campus on March 19.

Karamah, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization comprised of Muslim women lawyers for human rights, hosted the event titled "The Limits of Free Speech in a Global Era: Does America's Free Speech Model Endanger Muslim Americans?"

The founder and chair of Karamah is Azizah al-Hibri, who was appointed by President Obama in 2011, to serve on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Rashid based his lecture on a paper he wrote, titled "In Harm's Way: The Desperate Need to Update America's Current Free Speech Model." Karamah invited Rashid to speak about the issue of free speech in an effort to answer a question they posed, which is: "At what point does freedom of speech infringe upon the rights of individuals' and communities' rights to dignity and safety?"

According to the Karamah website, Rashid's "proposed model of free speech reform has no similitude to anti-blasphemy legislation. Instead, his argument focused on two vital criteria used historically in American jurisprudence when determining what is protected as free speech and what is not: Proximity and degree."

During his lecture, Rashid cited the example of the Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., who promoted an event where he planned to burn copies of the Quran to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

According to Rashid, Jones' actions were an overreach of his right to freedom of speech.

In a post-lecture analysis, the Karamah website states that Rashid's "case-by-case analysis-as already employed in cyber-bullying and true threat cases" will "resolve both the constitutional and the safety concerns around events like the Qur'an burnings."

Daniel Greenfield, a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, attended the event and wrote on the conservative website that during his lecture, Rashid stated that the "'American current free speech model is archaic.' This model had the effect of 'leaving innocent third parties dangerously exposed to harm' while the 'instigator has zero responsibility.' Thus a model change was 'necessary.'"

Greenfield noted that although Rashid said he believes speech that causes emotional distress or words that can be classified as hate speech should be restricted, not protected, under the First Amendment, he declined to comment on "numerous free speech controversies such as Christian blasphemy."

"Rashid analyzed American history and foreign law to support his general conclusion that 'reasonable restriction' of speech is 'not unwarranted,'" said Greenfield.

Karamah staff told The Christian Post they don't have plans, at this time, to release a video or transcript of Rashid's comments to the public. A Karamah representative also declined to comment about the event and the organization's opinion about the First Amendment. CP also contacted Qasim Rashid but did not receive a response at time of publication.

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