After a six-year hiatus, US President Joe Biden last week resumed a 22-year-old tradition of holding Eid celebrations at the White House.
“Muslims make our country stronger every day, even though they still face real challenges and threats to our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia,” Biden told a group of prominent Muslims.
Biden’s comments marked a significant change in tone from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who in 2016 said, “I think Islam hates us.”
Trump did not host the White House Eid celebrations while he was president, although he issued statements marking the annual Muslim festival and invited diplomats from Muslim-majority countries to the White House for iftar dinners during Ramadan in 2018 and 2019. .
The change in tone of the White House comes at a time when American Muslims are increasingly fearing Islamophobia.
Last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported a 9% increase in the number of civil rights complaints received from Muslims in the United States since 2020.
The report said, “CAIR received a total of 6,720 complaints across the country, including immigration and travel, discrimination, law enforcement and government encroachment, incidents of hate and prejudice, prisoner rights, school incidents and BDS/free speech. ” , BDS refers to the boycott-disinvestment-ban movement which seeks to advance social change through economic pressure.
Report author Huzaifa Shahbaz told VOA that the increase in complaints about Islamophobia coincided with the lifting of COVID-related restrictions and the reopening of workplaces, worship centers and restaurants.
Others echo CAIR’s findings and point to other reasons as well.
“Over the past year, we have seen racism in the United States across the board as a result of the pandemic, the intensification of white supremacist groups, political polarization, and even though we have Trump out of office, this growing climate racism is still feeding Islamophobia. Which is actually very much present in the United States,” said Wayne State University law professor Khalid Baydoun.
For decades, a major source of public understanding of trends in Islamophobia has come from a compilation of bias-motivated incidents, including anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic acts, reported annually by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI’s most recent hate crime report, released last October, showed police departments registered 110 anti-Muslim incidents in 2020, down from 180 in 2019.
The bureau’s 2021 hate crime figures are set to be released in the fall, a typical gap of several months.
Since the submission of crime data to the FBI is voluntary, the reports are believed to substantially reduce hate incidents.
To improve its crime data collection, last year the FBI switched to a new system that captures more detailed snapshots of each incident.
The FBI told the VOA that about 63 percent of law enforcement agencies that used to collect data through the old system have adopted the new method.
The reason for the low participation in the FBI’s hate crime data collection program is funding, Todd Hulsi, a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent, told VOA.
Halsey told VOA, “Most U.S. police and sheriff’s departments have fewer than 50 sworn officers, and all police agencies in the United States face fewer and fewer applicants because careers for policing Gen Z are not so demanding. ”
There are concerns that a lack of reliable data about hate crimes, particularly anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents, will reduce public awareness as well as reduce interest among policymakers in solving a worsening problem.
From China, where Uighur minority Muslims have reportedly been mass incarcerated in so-called preaching camps, to some European cities where Islam’s holy book, the Quran, has been set on fire, Islamophobia is reported as a global phenomenon. has gone.
In March, a UN expert warned that anti-Muslim hatred had risen to epidemic proportions because “widespread negative representations of Islam, fear of Muslims in general, and security and counter-terrorism policies fueled discrimination, hostility and violence.” has worked to maintain, validate, and normalize individuals and communities.”
Last month, the US recognized what Secretary of State Antony Blinken called a genocide of Muslims in Myanmar.
In India, the world’s largest democracy, some ruling Hindu politicians have publicly called for Muslim genocide.
For Khalid Baydoun, much of the Islamophobia happening in the world is the result of the US war on terrorism.
He accused the US of adopting a selective policy of condemning Islamophobia, saying, “Governments use very precise counter-terrorism terminology to justify blaming Muslims.”
A State Department spokesman declined to comment about the impact of the war on terrorism on Islamophobia in various parts of the world, but directed the VOA to make earlier comments by Rashad Hussein, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom. gave.
“Monitoring and combating anti-Muslim hatred has always been part of my office’s mandate,” Rashad told a hearing in February. “In recent years, we have seen how anti-Muslim hatred often coincides with other social trends. These include an influx of migrants from conflict zones, the rise of populism and nationalism, and an increase in xenophobic language in political rhetoric.”
For Haroon Mughal, author of the book Two Billion Khalifa: A Vision of a Muslim Future, Islamophobia should not be the only focus.
“The great danger of focusing too much on Islamophobia is that it prevents us from seeing the ways in which anti-Muslim prejudice is a symptom of larger patterns in American society, where many people of all backgrounds feel humiliated, helpless and hurt. ,” said the Mughal. VOA.
Opinion polls indicate that many Americans agree that Muslims are more likely to face discrimination than other religious groups. In March, the Pew Research Center reported that 78% of adults surveyed believe that Muslims in the US face discrimination. The survey found that 68% of respondents believe that Jews face discrimination and 44% said that Evangelical Christians do.
White House bureau chief Patsy Vidakuswara contributed to this report.