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President Joe Biden’s administration announced Wednesday, Nov. 1, that it is developing a “first-of-its-kind” national strategy to combat Islamophobia. This comes at a time when the White House is facing skepticism from many Muslim Americans for its staunch support for Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, the Associated Press notes.
The initiative aims to bring together lawmakers, advocacy groups and other community leaders with the administration to “counter the scourge of Islamophobia and hatred in all its forms,” the White House said in a statement.
The focus on efforts to counter Islamophobia has been expected for months after the administration unveiled a national strategy to combat anti-Semitism in May. In it, countering hatred against Muslims is mentioned, but very briefly.
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White House spokeswoman Emily Simons said Wednesday that the “next step for the interagency group is to release the strategy,” but given the timeline of the anti-Semitism plan, the Islamophobia plan is expected to take months. Simons did not provide details on the effort’s timeline.
Asked if the White House has a trust issue, Simons said the administration will continue its efforts to better inform the public.
“We know that communities are hurt by what’s happening overseas in a deeply personal way,” Simons said. “So we’ll continue to talk to these different communities, highlighting the work we’re doing to get aid into Gaza and the conditions we’re trying to create to support the humanitarian pause.”
Cases of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hatred have soared in the United States and abroad since Hamas’ surprise attack in Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,400 people and took hundreds hostage, and Israel’s subsequent response in Gaza to the destruction of Hamas.
This horrific act of hate has no place in America and goes against our core values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are.
Rami Nashashibi, founder of the Inner City Muslim Action Network in Chicago, believes the outcome of such an effort would be “stillborn” for the Muslim community until the president and administration officials “strongly condemn members of the far-right government of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu”. He believes that to avoid this, the administration needs to more strongly denounce hate crimes targeting Muslims and Arab Americans.
According to Nashashibi, the White House’s strategy may fail at a time when many American Muslims feel that advocacy for Palestinian self-determination is being unfairly lumped together with those who espouse anti-Semitism and support extremists.
He and other leaders are demanding that Biden apologize or at least publicly clarify his recent comments in which he said he had “no confidence” in the Palestinian death toll from Israel’s retaliatory strikes because the data came from the Hamas-run health ministry.
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The United Nations and other international institutions and experts, as well as the non-Hamas-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, say the ministry in Gaza has long made a good faith effort to provide death tolls under extremely difficult conditions. In previous wars, the ministry’s census has withstood UN scrutiny and scrutiny, independent investigations and even Israeli reports.
On Thursday, Nov. 2, the House of Representatives approved $14.5 billion in military aid to Israel, a powerful U.S. response to the war with Hamas, but also a partisan move by incoming Speaker Mike Johnson that poses a direct challenge to Democrats. and President Joe Biden. The bill was approved after a largely party-line vote and draws a new dividing line between Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats said that approach would only delay aid to Israel, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that the “astoundingly frivolous” bill had no chance in the upper chamber. President Biden immediately said he would veto the bill.