House Democrats Call on Blinken to Appoint U.S. Islamophobia Envoy

In a letter co-led by a Muslim lawmaker and a Jewish one, Democrats say the U.S. is past due for the position in light of the 'dramatic increase in violent Islamophobia and the persecution of Muslims' around the world

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in April.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in April.Credit: Morry Gash,AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON – Twenty-five House Democrats urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to establish a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Islamophobia in a letter released on Wednesday.

The letter, led by Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois also urges Blinken to include anti-Muslim violence per se in next year's annual human rights report.

"In recent years, we have seen a dramatic increase in violent Islamophobia and the persecution of Muslims manifesting itself around the world," the letter reads, highlighting both the rise of state-sponsored Islamophobia throughout the world and growing incidents of Islamophobia violence "committed by individuals connected to larger transnational white supremacist networks."

The letter specifically mentions crimes being committed against Uyghurs in China and the Rohingya in Burma, violence stoked by political actors in North America and Europe and human rights violations against specific Muslim sects in Pakistan and Bahrain.

"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 lawmakers wrote.

The proposed role mirrors that of the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, a position established nearly two decades ago. Schakowsky told Haaretz that the United States is past due for establishing a plan for "combatting this hatred worldwide, and that includes the creation of a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Islamophobia."

Schakowsky, who is Jewish, added that she joined her colleagues in May in calling on President Joe Biden to quickly nominate an antisemitism envoy. "Along with developing an inter-agency strategy for the Administration to combat antisemitism, and implementation of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, as a nation we must combat this hate both at home and around the world,” she said.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.Credit: Joy Asico,AP

"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," she said.

Aside from Omar, two other Muslim members of Congress — Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Andre Carson — signed onto the letter as well.

Besides for Schakowsky, six other Jewish lawmakers signed the letter, including Reps. Steve Cohen, Sara Jacobs, Mike Levin, Dean Phillips and Brad Schneider.

Phillips and Schneider were recently among the lawmakers to criticize Omar for allegedly equating Israel, Hamas, the United States and the Taliban, though Phillips directly praised Omar for highlighting the generations-old Black-Jewish solidarity in the fight against discrimination.

Omar has recently attempted to proactively engage with Jewish colleagues, particularly following the controversy related to her prior comments on the ICC. This recent proposal, for example, is considered to be a continuation of Omar and Schakowsky's years-long joint work on combating white supremacy.

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