Reps. Omar, Schakowsky Lead Letter Calling for the Creation of Special Envoy to Combat Islamophobia
WASHINGTON—Today, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), along with 23 Members of Congress led a letter calling on Secretary of State, Antony Blinken to create a special envoy to combat Islamophobia. The letter addresses the rise in attacks against the Muslim community.
“Anti-Muslim hate is on the rise both here at home and around the world,” Rep. Omar said. “This year has seen over 500 incidents of hate in the U.S.—and those are just the ones that have been reported. Last month, we witnessed a deadly attack wipe out three generations of a Muslim family in Canada. In countries around the world—from China to India to Myanmar—Muslim communities are being discriminated against. We must all stand united against this horrific rise in hate. I am proud to lead this letter with Congresswoman Schakowsky pursuing a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Islamophobia, and am working legislation to formalize this position.”
“Throughout the last decade we have seen an increase in violent Islamophobia around the globe – from the genocide of the Rohingya in Burma, and Uyghurs in China, to the attacks on Muslim refugees in Canada and New Zealand,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). “It is past time for the U.S. to establish a comprehensive plan for combatting this hatred worldwide, and that includes the creation of a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Islamophobia. I am proud to join my friend and colleague Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in calling on the Administration to dedicate the resources necessary to ensure that human rights and religious and cultural freedom are respected around the world.”
The letter calls for a comprehensive strategy for establishing U.S. leadership in combatting Islamophobia worldwide. The lawmakers are also asking Secretary Blinken to include state sponsored Islamophobic violence and impunity for Islamophobic violence in next year's annual human rights reports.
This letter comes after the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)’s new findings on the increase in anti-Muslim hate, including over 500 documented complaints in 2021 alone. This included a sudden rise in anti-mosque incidents in May and June involving cases of vandalism and an attempted stabbing, and several physical assaults targeting Muslim women wearing hijab (religious head covering). This also comes in the wake of a terror attack that killed three generations of a Canadian Muslim family in June—and an increase in anti-Muslim repression around the world.
"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," the Members wrote. "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."
The letter was signed by Representatives Rashida Tlaib, André Carson, Karen Bass, Julia Brownley, Judy Chu, Emanuel Cleaver II, Steve Cohen, Mark DeSaulnier, Debbie Dingell, Jesús G. "Chuy" García, Raúl M. Grijalva, Sara Jacobs, Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr., Mondaire Jones, Mike Levin, Alan Lowenthal, James P. McGovern, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Dean Phillips, Mark Pocan, Bobby L. Rush, Bradley Scott Schneider, and Adam Smith.
A PDF of the letter can be found here and the full text of the letter is below.
The lawmakers will also hold a press conference on the letter that you can watch here.
Dear Secretary Blinken,
July 20, 2021
In recent years, we have seen a dramatic increase in violent Islamophobia and the persecution of Muslims manifesting itself around the world. In its 2021 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) identified three Countries of Particular Concern primarily for their treatment of Muslims. Several additional countries listed by USCIRF were identified as having patterns of mistreatment and human rights violations against either their entire Muslim populations or particular sects of Muslims. This includes several Muslim-majority countries.
In addition to state-sponsored policies of Islamophobia, we have seen a disturbing rise in incidents of Islamophobic violence committed by individuals connected to larger transnational white supremacist networks, including but by no means limited to the mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019 and the recent murder of a Muslim Canadian family in London, Ontario.
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. From the ongoing atrocity crimes being committed against Uyghurs in China and the Rohingya in Burma, to the significant restrictions on Muslim populations in India and Sri Lanka, to the stoking of Islamophobia by political actors that is leading to violence in North American and Europe, to the severe human rights violations against certain sects of Muslims in Pakistan and Bahrain, this is a genuinely global problem that the United States should tackle globally.
For this reason, we are writing to strongly urge you to appoint a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting Islamophobia, and to specifically include anti-Muslim violence per se in next year’s annual human rights reports. 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.
We look forward to working together to pursue our shared values of religious freedom and human rights.
Emanuel Cleaver II
Jesús G. "Chuy" García
Raúl M. Grijalva
Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr.
James P. McGovern
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Bobby L. Rush
Bradley Scott Schneider