US House passes bill to combat Islamophobia: All you need to know about the Ilhan Omar-introduced legislation

The measure would establish a special envoy position at the state department to monitor and combat crimes against Muslims worldwide. It is unlikely to advance in the Senate

FP Staff December 16, 2021 15:57:08 IST
US House passes bill to combat Islamophobia: All you need to know about the Ilhan Omar-introduced legislation

A group of over 30 American lawmakers led by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had had introduced a bill in the House of Representatives in October this year. AP

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 219-212 to pass Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar's legislation to create a special envoy to combat Islamophobia.

A group of over 30 American lawmakers led by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had had introduced a bill in the House of Representatives in October this year.

Speaking ahead of the voting on the legislation, Ilhan Omar said: "We are in the midst of a staggering rise of anti-Muslim violence and discrimination around the world. Islamophobia is global in scope and we must lead the global effort to address it."

The passing of the legislation was interrupted earlier when Republican Scott Perry, of Pennsylvania, referred to Omar as anti-Semitic and implied that she has ties to terrorist organisations.

"American taxpayers shouldn't be forced to pay terrorist organisations, organisations that the maker of this bill is affiliated with, like the one that's an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-financed case in the United States of America's history," Perry was quoted as saying.

The House vote comes a few weeks after a video emerged showing first-term Republican lawmaker Lauren Boebert calling Omar, a Muslim second-term Congresswoman who was born in Somalia, a member of a "jihad squad."

What does the bill do?

• The 'Combating International Islamophobia Act' allows the Department of State to establish an office to monitor and combat Islamophobia and addresses related issues.
• The legislation also seeks to establish the position of Special Envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia, who shall head the office.
• The bill also requires certain existing annual reports to Congress about human rights and religious freedom in foreign countries to include information about Islamophobia, such as information acts of physical violence or harassment of Muslim people, instances of propaganda in government and non-government media that attempt to justify or promote hatred or incite violence against Muslim people, and actions taken by a country's government to respond to such acts. The office shall coordinate and assist in preparing these portions of the reports.

Opposition to the legislation

Republicans have denounced the bill, calling it rushed and partisan.

Republican Michael McCaul of Texas said he supports the “spirit and intent” of the bill. But he raised concerns that it could empower executive branch officials to crack down on protected speech because the word “Islamophobia” isn’t defined in the legislation.

“It’s so vague and subjective that it could be used against legitimate speech for partisan purposes,” McCaul was quoted as saying on the House floor.

Even some section of Twitter agreed that the bill was not required.

President Joe Biden also supports the legislation. However, it’s unclear if the bill will get a vote in the Senate.

With inputs from agencies

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