OVER the past two decades, in the aftermath of 9/11 and the ensuing spread of transnational terrorism in the name of religion, Islamophobia has grown greatly across the globe. Peaceful, hardworking Muslims have been targeted — sometimes in deadly attacks — by bigots due to the acts of some violent actors using the name of Islam for ulterior motives. In this regard, the recent bill passed in the US calling for the appointment of a special envoy to monitor and combat Islamophobia is a positive development. However, the effort to get the bill passed in the US House of Representatives itself reflects the polarisation within America. Sponsored by Muslim lawmaker Ilhan Omar and Jewish Representative Jan Schakowsky, both Democrats, the bill’s intentions appear to be good, though it faced stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers, with 212 voting against it. This perhaps reflects the current ambivalence towards Muslims within the Republican party, particularly after four years of Trumpism. The bill was in part motivated when a Republican lawmaker taunted Rep Omar, labelling her as part of the “Jihad squad”.
As for the objectives of the bill, rampant Islamophobia in the US and other states where Muslims are in a minority has necessitated the need for such laws. The Muslim world has clearly not done enough to check movements that use Islam to promote violence, and unfortunately, peaceful people of Muslim background have had to pay the price for the bloodthirsty violence perpetrated by terrorist groups. Muslims across the world have had to face verbal and physical abuse as well as deadly violence simply because of the religion they profess, and official steps to counter this discrimination are crucial. However, if the bill — which calls for monitoring Islamophobia worldwide — is passed by the Senate and becomes law, one hopes it does not become a victim of geopolitics. For example, as with protecting human rights in general, it has been witnessed that the Western bloc tends to come down hard on geopolitical foes, while looking the other way when allies engage in questionable behaviour. In the case of Islamophobia, two staunch American allies — Israel and India — have indulged in virulently Islamophobic behaviour at the state level. Israel’s atrocious treatment of the Palestinians certainly falls within the description of anti-Muslim violence. Moreover, BJP-led India has also declared open season on Muslims, with Hindutva supporters terrorising Muslims. It is hoped the American anti-Islamophobia envoy calls out these egregious violations.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2021