White House needs strategy for combatting Islamophobia, say rights groups

Nearly 100 organizations joined Muslims for Just Futures on Tuesday in calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to introduce a White House Islamophobia Strategy that centers government accountability and solidarity with Muslim and Arab American communities, demanding that the Biden administration honor the “lived experiences” of people who have faced Islamophobic attacks that have ramped up since Hamas attacked southern Israel last October.

The coalition’s 26-page community memorandum, dated April 2024, was publicly released on Tuesday, the same day Biden spoke about fighting antisemitism in a speech marking the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance.

Biden’s conflation of antisemitism with protesters’ and voters’ demands to end U.S. support for Israel in order to save the lives of Palestinians in Gaza, said the community memorandum, has had “profound negative effects” on Muslim and Arab Americans.

The coalition said that organizations involved in drafting the memorandum—including Afghans for a Better Tomorrow, American Muslim Bar Association, and the Center for Constitutional Rights—”emphasized the direct role of the White House in perpetuating Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian racism, and anti-Arab racism through its ongoing support for the genocide and occupation in Palestine,” among other military campaigns.

“Any genuine attempt to combat Islamophobia must start with the government acknowledging the harm it continues to inflict both domestically and internationally, and offering adequate redress to affected communities at home and globally,” reads the memorandum.

The document includes a number of recommendations for agencies across the federal government, including a call for all agencies to vet potential employees “for affiliation with white nationalist or white supremacist” groups.

In the first weeks of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza last fall, one high-profile alleged Islamophobic attack was perpetrated by a former State Department official who had served in the Obama administration and was filmed harassing a food cart vendor in New York.

The document makes other recommendations including:

  • Biden to call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza and end U.S. support for Israel’s bombardment of the enclave;
  • The closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center;
  • The U.S. intelligence community to “stop weaponizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act against Black, Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian (BAMEMSA) communities by surveilling citizens and non-citizens and collecting communications without a warrant;
  • The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to consult with Black, Muslim, Arab, Palestinian, and South Asian communities about their needs and concerns, amid a surge in Islamophobic attacks that was recorded by the Council on American-Islamic Relations last year;
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation to end its use of “secret and discriminatory watchlists,” which includes 1.5 million people in 2019—95% of whom had Muslim names; and
  • The government to ensure that universities and schools end the targeting of “Muslim, Arab, Palestinian, and allied students supporting Palestine,” who have been “discriminated against by their universities, and physically attacked, doxxed, and intimidated in efforts to silence their advocacy for Palestinian rights and opposition to Israel’s genocide.”

The memorandum was released as a research scholar at Arizona State University, Jonathan Yudelman, was reported to be on leave after cellphone video last weekend captured him intimidating and yelling at a women wearing a hijab.

Other Islamophobic attacks in recent months have included the stabbing of a young Palestinian American man in Austin, Texas and the shooting of three Palestinian students in Burlington, Vermont.

“By embracing a framework that honors lived experiences and acknowledges the diverse impacts within Muslim and related communities, we can begin the urgent task of dismantling systemic barriers that harm Muslim communities and those racially perceived as such,” said Muslims for Just Futures. “Additionally, the government must take decisive action to dismantle policies that perpetuate Islamophobia while actively involving affected communities in decision-making processes.”

Taken from Common Dreams.
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