BY calling for the appointment of a special envoy to counter Islamophobia, American lawmaker of Somali origin Ilhan Omar has raised a pertinent issue at a time when anti-Muslim incidents are on the rise in many countries. In a letter to the American secretary of state calling for creating such a position, the Democratic lawmaker from Minnesota has said it must be recognised that “Islamophobia as a pattern ... is repeating in nearly every corner of the globe”.

Ms Omar has singled out China, India and Myanmar as state actors responsible for “violations against ... Muslims”, while also calling out white supremacist groups for spreading anti-Muslim hate.

Ms Omar has herself been the target of anti-Muslim abuse in her own country; the outspoken lawmaker has faced online abuse, including from other American legislators. In fact, Donald Trump, while in the White House, told her and other progressive Democratic women lawmakers of colour to “go back” where they came from.

Read: Countering ‘Islamophobia’

Islamophobia has taken many ugly forms across the globe. In Europe and North America far-right groups have indulged in anti-Muslim violence, deadly in some cases, emboldened by demagogues and populist politicians looking to grab a few votes by demonising the other. Meanwhile in India, Hindu zealots have lynched Muslims for eating beef, knowing they can get away with their crimes as the state is sympathetic to their hateful ideology. Myanmar and Sri Lanka have also seen incidents of mass violence against Muslims, often instigated by extremist sections of the Buddhist clergy.

Therefore, an effort on the global level against Islamophobia is clearly needed. Instead of the US taking the lead — as it may punish geopolitical enemies such as China and look the other way when friends such as India persecute Muslims — perhaps the effort should be led by the UN. Prime Minister Imran Khan has raised the issue of Islamophobia at the multilateral body, and it is through the combined efforts of the international community that the menace of anti-Muslim hate can be confronted.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2021

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