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Is America Finally Facing Islamophobia?

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The efforts of the US Congress to fight Islamophobia are positive, but the urgency of the situation requires not only symbolic gestures
Image Credit: Gulf News

The result of a December 14 vote in the United States House of Representatives on tackling Islamophobia may, perhaps, seem like a positive sign of change, that Washington is finally facing this evil. socio-political. However, the conclusions should not be too hasty.

Worryingly, Congress was almost divided on the vote. While 219 voted in favor of the resolution, 212 voted against. What is so reprehensible about the resolution that elicited a “no” vote from so many American representatives?

The resolution – “Law on Combating International Islamophobia” – simply called for the establishment of the post of “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia”. Arguably, HR 5665 would not have passed, had it not been for the embarrassing episode of last September, when Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado spoke such obscene and racist language.

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The fact that Boebert is publicly making racist references, while being aware of the special cultural sensitivity that exists in his country at the moment, speaks volumes about the utter contempt that many Americans, whether in power, in the media. or on the street, have towards their fellow Muslim Americans.

However, the derogatory and racist comments, thanks to the tireless efforts of many activists across the country, had enough impact to allow a semi-official indictment of such vile behavior to be registered. Of course, much more work should be done to convince the 212 representatives who oppose it that we must not tolerate degradation and discrimination against their own people on the basis of religion, culture or dress. .

Hold Islamophobes Accountable

Whether HR 5665 is decisive in condemning Islamophobia or holding Islamophobes to account is another story. Therefore, we should not hesitate to confront the term itself, the misleading reference that what Muslims in the United States and around the world are experiencing is some kind of pathological phenomenon, that of fear, itself provoked. , as some suggest, by Muslims themselves.

Anti-Muslims are downright racist. Although Islam is a religion, in the minds of these racists, Islam is affiliated with brown and black people and therefore hatred of Islam and Muslims is part of anti- racism. black that continues to define many parts of the world. , especially in the United States and Europe.

Anti-Muslims are also capable of being criminals, as figures have shown that so-called Islamophobia has resulted in massacres, as has happened in Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

The thousands of incidents where Muslims are targeted because of their religion, cultural symbols and values ​​are less reported than these horrific massacres.

According to a report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) last July, hundreds of anti-Muslim incidents were reported across the country in the first half of 2021. These incidents range from hate crimes, hate speech, targeting mosques and bullied Muslim children at school.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise

The United States is not the only Western country where anti-Muslim prejudice and hate crimes are on the rise. Canada, too, which witnessed the horrific attack on the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec in January 2017 – in which six Muslims were killed and 19 others injured – is also guilty.

According to a report by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) in September, anti-Muslim incidents in Canada are increasing exponentially. Fatema Abdalla, NCCM communications coordinator, called anti-Muslim hatred in Canada “systemic”. “Not only is it growing, but it is also evolving,” she told Global News after the report was released.

As in the United States, anti-Muslim hatred is also fueled by politicians, but not just any politician. In 2015, for example, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper lobbied for a “barbaric cultural practices hotline” where Canadians could call the police to report “disturbing rituals.” of their neighbors. The reference was widely understood to target Muslims, especially since equally disturbing anti-Muslim measures were proposed or adopted in Canada during this period.

Likewise, in the UK and the rest of Europe, anti-Muslim prejudice and hate crimes have been reported, based on extensive study and research as well as the daily experiences of ordinary Muslims.

While the vote in the US Congress to “monitor and combat Islamophobia” is a positive step, the urgency of the situation demands not only symbolic gestures, but outright criminalization and prosecution of anti-Muslim hate crimes.

It is time that we stop perceiving “Islamophobes” as people with an irrational fear or, in the minds of some, rational, Muslims – similar to “claustrophobia”, “arachnophobia” or “agoraphobia” “. Indeed, people belonging to these latter categories rarely kill innocent people in the streets to overcome their fears. Anti-Muslim hatred is real and the racists behind it should be punished for their words and actions, as all racists surely deserve.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and editor