Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar is leading a group of Democratic lawmakers in calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to create a special envoy to combat Islamophobia, as instances of anti-Muslim hate crimes continue to rise worldwide.
Omar, one of three Muslims serving in Congress, is sending a letter to Blinken to make the case for why the United States needs to play a heightened role in monitoring Islamophobic incidents around the world. The group also calls on Blinken to include state sponsored Islamophobic violence in next year’s annual human rights reports. The group is looking for Blinken to establish a special envoy that mirrors what the Department of State created to investigate and fight anti-Semitism.
“As part of our commitment to international religious freedom and human rights, we must recognize Islamophobia as a pattern that is repeating in nearly every corner of the globe,” the lawmakers write in the letter. “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.”
Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, is co-leading the letter with Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and joined by 23 other Democrats including Reps. Karen Bass of California, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Adam Smith of Washington and Sara Jacobs of California.
The group points to state actors and a rising number of individuals connected to larger White supremacist networks as perpetrators of Islamophobia. The letter to Blinken cites a 2021 annual report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that found three countries, China, India and Burma, had “patterns of mistreatment and human rights violations against either their entire Muslim populations or particular sects of Muslims.”
The request from lawmakers to Blinken comes just as the Council on American-Islamic Relations came out with a report that found an uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes, particularly coinciding with the heightened conflict between Israel and Gaza in May. A source familiar with the letter sent to Blinken told CNN that the findings from CAIR’s report played a significant role in getting lawmakers to make this request now.
Omar cited an uptick in “Anti-Muslim hate” as part of her reasoning calling for the position.
“This year has seen over 500 incidents of hate in the U.S. — and those are just the ones that have been reported,” Omar said in a statement, and referenced a terror attack in Canada last month that killed four members of a Muslim family.
“In countries around the world — from China to India to Myanmar — Muslim communities are being discriminated against,” the congresswoman added. “We must all stand united against this horrific rise in hate.”
Omar’s push to establish a special envoy comes just a month after the Minnesota Democrat came under fire for tweeting, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” when describing her line of questioning to Secretary Blinken about having accountability in a hearing.
A group of Jewish Democrats immediately jumped to criticize Omar’s comments, arguing that “equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided.”
Omar later clarified her comments as backlash emerged, stating that in her conversation with Blinken she asked about ongoing International Criminal Court investigations and “to be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”