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Advocacy group warns against divestment bill

CAIR tells legislators that free speech would be restricted

By Tracey Tong –

The Arizona chapter of the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in the United States has called on state lawmakers to oppose a bill on grounds that it would restrict freedom of speech.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) opposes HB 2617, which requires that the state’s pension systems divest from any companies that boycott Israel. Because HB 2617 would require companies that wish to do business with the state government to certify that they do not conduct boycotts against Israel, CAIR stated that it believes this particular bill would restrict freedom of speech.

The mission of CAIR is to empower American Muslims and build relationships and understanding between this group and others, as well as open a dialogue.

Bills like HB 2617 are designed to counter and undermine boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts that protest illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian land. But critics of this bill state that if HB 2617 were passed, businesses, major church denominations and organizations including foundations, educational institutions and unions could be alienated.

“The proposed bill violates our right to engage in free speech,” said Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Arizona branch of CAIR. “It would be un-American to deny constituents the right to work to change the illegal and discriminatory actions of a foreign government.”

The boycott addressed by bill HB2617 certainly isn’t the first. There have been numerous civil and human rights boycotts throughout American history. Siddiqi said that these boycotts are considered an integral part of our political process and a means by which to participate in democracy.

Muslims met with state legislators to discuss their concerns with HB 2617 at the recent Arizona Muslim Capitol Day. The event was hosted by CAIR-AZ.

“We are very happy to be launching the Muslim Capitol Day initiative, to engage ourcommunity and empowering them to be part of the democratic process,” said Siddiqi at the event. “With the backdrop of anti-Muslim sentiment plaguing much of the discourse, this is a positive, proactive step to show how diverse our community really is. It is vital, that our voice gets heard – as we are a part of the fabric of America.”

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