Biden strategy targets new Islamophobia fears amid Israel-Hamas war

The announcement comes amid growing threats against Muslim and Arab communities.

November 2, 2023, 6:20 PM

The Biden administration has announced the first U.S. National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia, as federal security officials warn of growing threats against the Muslim, Arab and Jewish communities as the Israel-Hamas war continues to stoke tensions in the United States.

"For too long, 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," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights organization, said it has received 774 complaints of bias-related incidents since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.

Across the U.S., instances of hatred targeted at specific groups of people have become increasingly frequent in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, including the fatal stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian boy and the stabbing of his mother in Illinois. They were allegedly targeted because they were Muslim, according to the Will County Sheriff's Office.

During an Oval Office speech on Oct. 19, President Joe Biden denounced the killing.

"We can't stand by and stand silent when this happens," Biden said. "We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia."

But Biden is facing increasingly vocal opposition from a small group inside his own party on what they suggest is his bias toward Israel and against Palestinians.

Across the country, Arabs and Muslims have been the subject of other apparent bias-motivated incidents, including hateful threats and messages to mosques, bomb threats sent to Muslim organizations and instances of violence.

In New York, the NYPD reported that a man carrying a Palestinian flag was hit by another man with his own flag during a protest, and another man was allegedly beaten after expressing support for Palestinians amid the war.

CAIR canceled its annual banquet after "extremists threatened to plant bombs and kill hotel staff due to CAIR's support for Palestinian human rights," the organization said.

Mosques and Islamic centers in Massachusetts, California and Oregon have been vandalized or received messages calling for the death of Muslims, according to CAIR and local reports.

PHOTO: Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, poses in an undated family photograph obtained by Reuters on Oct. 15, 2023.
Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, a Muslim boy who, according to police, was stabbed to death in an attack that targeted him and his mother for their religion and as a response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, poses in an undated family photograph obtained by Reuters on Oct. 15, 2023.
Cair via Reuters

Biden faces pressure from Muslim and Arab communities in the U.S. over the administration's support for Israel and for not calling for a cease-fire even as advocates warn of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza amid Israel's retaliatory offensive.

Arab and Muslim groups have increasingly called on Biden to call to end the war and address the crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza who are running out of food, water and other necessities amid an Israeli blockade.

At least 1,400 people have died and 4,629 others have been injured in Israel since Oct. 7, according to Israeli authorities.

In Gaza, at least 9,061 people have been killed, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said, and more than 23,000 have been injured.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a visit to Dutch Creek Farms in Northfield, Minn., Nov. 1, 2023.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a visit to Dutch Creek Farms in Northfield, Minn., Nov. 1, 2023.
Leah Millis/Reuters

The National Muslim Democratic Council (NMDC), a group of Democratic leaders across the country, issued an open letter on Oct. 30 urging the White House and the Democratic Party leadership to demand an immediate cease-fire.

In that letter, the group gave an ultimatum to the White House and Democratic leadership: call for a cease-fire or lose votes.

"It has become evident that our voices are being ignored, but our votes will not be," the letter read. "Simply put, as Gaza turns red, so could crucial battleground states."

Biden said Wednesday night he believes there should be a "pause" in the Israel-Hamas war to get the hostages out of Gaza -- Israeli officials have said Hamas has taken more than 240 people hostage -- after he was interrupted by a heckler at a campaign fundraiser, according to a report from the event.

Biden's strategy to address Islamophobia is one of several to confront forms of bias and discrimination in the U.S. He announced the strategy to end antisemitism in May.

The strategy will be led by the Domestic Policy Council and the National Security Council.