Durbin: Leaders Have ‘Moral Responsibility’ to Criticize 'Hate Speech'

By Patrick Burke | September 24, 2012 | 5:30 PM EDT

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (AP)

(CNSNews.com) -- Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, said that U.S. leaders have a “moral responsibility” to condemn hate speech, citing in particular the obscure video critical of Islam that the Obama administration says is responsible for the protests overseas in some Muslim-dominant countries.

Durbin applauded President Barack Obama for speaking out against the anti-Islamic film, entitled “Innocence of Muslims.”

“In recent weeks we have been reminded that many around the world do not appreciate America’s unique approach to hate speech and blasphemy. So let me be clear: Under our Constitution, we punish criminal acts, not free speech, no matter how offensive or hateful it might be,” Durbin said on Sept. 19 during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism.”

“But our leaders still have a responsibility to speak out against hate speech,” said Durbin.  “That’s what President Obama did in condemning the anti-Islamic movie that sparked the protests in the Muslim world,” he said.

Although most of the hearing centered on the August 5th Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisc., Durbin took some time to discuss the amateurish anti-Islam video and what he viewed as its negative ramifications.

Along with Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), Durbin called on the FBI to start compiling data and increase monitoring of crimes and attacks directed towards Sikhs.

Before a largely Sikh audience in the hearing room, the Committee heard testimony from representatives of the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, FBI Counterterrorism, and private citizens.

Harpreet Singh Saini -- whose mother was fatally shot during the attack -- delivered emotional testimony that recounted the memory of his mother and repeated the senators’ call for data collection of Sikh-related attacks.

“Senators, I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic. The FBI does not track hate crimes against Sikhs. My mother and those shot that day will not even count on a federal form. We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognize,” Singh Saini said in his written testimony.

“Because, you see, despite everything, I still believe in the American dream. In my mother’s memory, I ask that you stand up for it with me. Today, and in the days to come,” he said.

Testimony from Michael Clancy, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, mentioned other 2012 terror-labeled incidents such as the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and the shooting at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C.