CNN reports that Representative Ilhan Omar is leading a group of lawmakers to create an envoy to combat Islamophobia. This movement comes after a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric across the world, heightened by Western attitudes towards Islam. The recent decision to allow businesses to ban hijab in the European workforce in addition to many other recent attacks on Muslims have forced many Muslims to fear rising Islamophobic attacks.
Omar and other Democratic representatives are sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to argue for the US to play a “heightened role in monitoring Islamophobic incidents around the world.” The group is asking for Blinken to include state sponsored Islamophobic violence in the annual human rights report, as well as asking Blinken to establish a convoy to fight and investigate Islamophobia (similar to what is done with anti-Semitism).
The lawmakers write, “As part of our commitment to international religious freedom and human rights, we must recognize Islamophobia as a pattern that is repeating in nearly every corner of the globe. It is past time for the United States to stand firmly in favor of religious freedom for all, and to give the global problem of Islamophobia the attention and prioritization it deserves.”
Although the envoy aims to decrease Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric, it also leaves out another crucial element – the idea that the United States is responsible for much of the Islamophobic rhetoric that is in place globally. The global war on terror that the United States initiated has laid the groundwork for policing Muslims. Many countries now use the same rhetoric as the United States to surveill and discriminate against Muslims. The letter from the lawmakers states that there are three countries that have been found to repeatedly mistreat and violate human rights against Muslims – India, China, and Burma. These countries are guilty of violence, ethnic cleansing, and even genocide against Muslims. The report mentions Canada and New Zealand, but fails to mention European countries who have enacted laws that lead to the systemic discrimination and marginalization of Muslims. The normalization of these laws creates a context that allows for further violence against Muslims, as we have seen in Europe, Canada, and even the United States, with rising anti-Muslim sentiment that results in attacks against Muslims.
The convoy is a step in the right direction, specifically a direction that many Muslim organizations have advocated for; however it is pertinent that if implemented, it must be done so in a way that won’t simply increase surveillance on Muslims nor implement tactics of Western imperialism to monitor and interfere in other countries.
For example, to combat Islamophobia and anti-Muslim violence, many mosques and Muslim organizations will utilize the police force to protect their communities, putting Black community members at risk. This step leads to the direct harm of community members rather than solving the issue of Islamophobia. These nuances must be kept in mind if we are to holistically combat Islamophobia.
Although you can support this convoy, it is furthermore necessary to combat Islamophobia in your local communities. Support your local Muslims, build communities oriented with social justice, and take steps to educate your community on their rights as an American.