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US: House passes Ilhan Omar's bill fighting global Islamophobia

The bill, backed by the White House, will inaugurate a special office to monitor anti-Muslim bigotry
Ilhan Omar
The bill follows Lauren Boebert's Islamophobic attack on Ilhan Omar, in which the Minnesota Democrat was likened to a bomb-carrying terrorist (AFP)

US lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill attempting to fight Islamophobia, following Representative Lauren Boebert's recent anti-Muslim comments against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

The bill - known as the Combatting International Islamophobia Act- will require a new office, known as a Special Envoy, to be created within the State Department for monitoring and combatting anti-Muslim prejudice, and will "include state-sponsored Islamophobic violence and impunity in the Department's annual human rights reports".

The purpose of the Special Envoy will be to help policymakers "better understand the interconnected, global problem of anti-Muslim bigotry. It will also establish a comprehensive strategy for establishing US leadership in combatting Islamophobia worldwide".

The bill was approved by the US House of Representatives on Tuesday by a 219-212 vote.

"We are seeing a rise in Islamophobia in nearly every corner of the globe," Omar said when she introduced the bill in October. "In my home state of Minnesota, vandals spray-painted hate messages and a Nazi swastika on and near the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center. These types of incidents are all too common for Muslims in the United States and beyond. As part of our commitment to international religious freedom and human rights, we must recognize Islamophobia and do all we can to eradicate it."

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The bill has also been supported by the White House, which said in a statement on Tuesday that the Biden administration "strongly believes that people of all faiths and backgrounds should be treated with equal dignity and respect around the world".

The decision came after an open letter was published last week by Muslim congressional staffers who called on leaders of the House to take action following a series of anti-Muslim attacks on Omar. More than 400 Hill staffers, including 62 Muslims, said Boebert's recent Islamophobic comments against Omar had created a "feeling of anxiety and fear" on Capitol Hill.

The letter came after a video surfaced on Facebook in which Boebert likened Omar to a terrorist. In the video, she laughed and said: "I look to my left and there she is  - Ilhan Omar. And I said 'Well, she doesn't have a backpack. We should be fine.'"

Boebert later took to Twitter to apologise "to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comments about Rep. Omar". She called Omar to speak with her, but according a statement from Omar, the phone call did not go well, when Omar ended the call after Boebert "doubled down on her rhetoric" and refused her request to publically apologise.

House progressives also introduced another bill last week condemning the actions of Boebert, and to kick her off committees because of her anti-Muslim comments. The bill was not, however, put to the floor for a vote.

Omar is one of the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress. She has faced countless Islamophobic attacks and death threats since entering office. Earlier this month at a news conference, she played a recording of a racist death threat left for her in a voicemail.

With the passing of the recent bill, Omar stated: "We're one step closer to ensuring we have the resources needed to defend human rights and stop anti-Muslim hate worldwide."

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