White House will launch new national strategy to counter Islamophobia

The White House is launching a new national strategy for countering Islamophobia amid heightened fears among Muslims and Arab-Americans stemming from Israel’s nearly month-old war against Hamas.

White House Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Wednesday evening that Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were announcing the development of the strategy in partnership with “community leaders, advocates, members of Congress, and more”.

Ms Jean-Pierre said the new strategy would be a joint effort between the Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council, and would “counter the scourge of Islamophobia and hate in all its forms”.

According to a senior administration official, the new DPC-NSC initiative will be focused on developing a “comprehensive and detailed plan created in partnership with communities to protect Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim because of their race, national origin, ancestry, or any other reason, from discrimination, hate, bigotry, and violence.”

It follows a December 2022 presidential directive issued by Mr Biden which established a DPC-NSC interagency policy committee to “increase and better coordinate U.S. Government efforts to counter Islamophobia, Antisemitism, and related forms of bias and discrimination within the United States”.

The president has often denounced both anti-semitism and Islamophobia in the same breath, especially in the days since Israel launched its war on Hamas in the wake of the 7 October terrorist attacks last month.

During an Oval Office address on the need for US defence assistance to Israel, Mr Biden said Americans “must, without equivocation,” denounce both anti-semitism and Islamophobia.

Addressing Muslims and Arab-Americans, Mr Biden said he knew how many in those communities were “outraged and hurting” as a result of Islamophobic sentiments stirred up by the Hamas attacks and the Israeli response.

The official said senior White House officials have in recent days had a “formal listening session” with Muslim-American leaders, as well as other meetings between Muslim community leaders and top officials including Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, and Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall.

Ms Jean-Pierre noted the increase in attacks against Muslims and other ethnic groups in recent days in her statement, acknowledging that “Muslims in America, and those perceived to be Muslim, such as Arabs and Sikhs, have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks and other discriminatory incidents”.

She added that the entire administration has mourned the “barbaric killing” last month of 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian-American child who along with his mother was brutally stabbed in the apartment they shared outside Chicago, Illinois.

“Today’s announcement is the latest step as part of President Biden’s directive last year to establish an interagency group to increase and better coordinate U.S. Government efforts to counter Islamophobia, Antisemitism, and related forms of bias and discrimination within the United States,” Ms Jean-Pierre said.

“Moving forward, the President, Vice President, and our entire Administration will continue working to ensure every American has the freedom to live their lives in safety and without fear for how they pray, what they believe, and who they are”.