The White House is launching the nation’s first-ever national strategy to combat Islamophobia amid growing concern that anti-Muslim sentiment is rising in the United States. The administration will work with Muslim community leaders, advocates, and members of Congress to develop the strategy, the White House said Thursday. The initiative is a joint effort between the Domestic Policy Council and the National Security Council, according to a statement from White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre said the new national strategy will be a “comprehensive plan” to protect Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim from discrimination, hate, bigotry, and violence in the United States. She said the government will build on existing efforts, including a recent effort to fight anti-Muslim bias in law enforcement and the justice system. The effort also builds on the administration’s national strategy to combat antisemitism, which was released earlier this year.
Developing the strategy is part of the president’s continued commitment to ensure that all Americans are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of religion or race. The president has made fighting Islamophobia and other forms of hatred a priority in his second term, and he has urged the country to stand together against those who spread hate and intolerance, she said.
The initiative comes amid skepticism from some Muslim American groups over the administration’s robust support for Israel’s campaign against Hamas, which has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths across the Gaza Strip. The administration, including Biden, has defended the military assault and rejected calls for a cease-fire. One of the nation’s leading Muslim advocacy groups, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has urged the administration to use its influence to press Israel for a halt in its bombing campaign.
One person familiar with the internal deliberations said that while there was broad agreement within the administration about the need for a new strategy to combat Islamophobia, it has become more complicated because of the Israel-Hamas war. The person, who was not authorized to speak on the record, noted that the administration wants to keep its broader anti-Islamophobia initiatives and its support for Israel’s military actions separate.
Amid the war, some Muslim American activists are warning that they will withhold donations and votes for Biden’s reelection bid in 2024 if he fails to pressure Israel for a cease-fire. A leader of the National Muslim Democratic Caucus, a group of party leaders from hotly contested states that could decide the election, told VOA last week that if the president does not call for a pause in the conflict, millions of Muslim voters may turn away from the Democrats. The Caucus includes lawmakers from states where the majority of the Muslim population lives. The leaders of the NMDC say they will mobilize Muslim communities nationwide to demand that the president do so. They also plan to hold regional meetings nationwide to highlight the issue.