Afzal Khan MP and Ambassador Hameed A. Opeloyeru
Afzal Khan MP and Ambassador Hameed A. Opeloyeru

I recently visited the United States of America with the British-American Parliamentary Group, and whilst in the US, I used the opportunity to meet a range of important individuals leading the fight against Islamophobia on the world stage.

Islamophobia, as I have been leading on tackling in the UK for decades, is unfortunately becoming more and more prevalent across the world. We have seen this in the US with the Trump Administration’s so-called ‘Muslim ban’; in New Zealand with the two massacres at mosques in Christchurch; in India with Muslims being targeted by mob violence; in China with the human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims; and in Myanmar with the persecution of the Rohingyas.

When visiting Washington, DC, I met with Sara Minkara, U.S. Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, who has been leading on important work encouraging and assisting foreign governments and civil society organisations to increase their commitment to protect the rights, and ensure the inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities.

I also had the opportunity in Washington to catch up with dear friends Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who were the first ever Muslim-American women to be elected to Congress.

In June, Ilhan led on reintroducing the Combating International Islamophobia Act to Congress, which is legislation to address the staggering rise in incidents of Islamophobia worldwide. The bill, if passed, would create a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Islamophobia and would establish a comprehensive strategy for establishing US leadership in combatting Islamophobia worldwide.

It’s brilliant to see the formidable Ilhan lead the charge on global Islamophobia in this way and to hear about her innovative approach to push the US Government to take responsibility for addressing the scourge of Islamophobia.

We also discussed how Islamophobia impacts us both on a more personal level, how we have both been targeted for our faith and beliefs, and how common this is for Muslims and other minorities in public life. This reinforced to me the importance of building friendships and having allies – especially in the fight against racism and hate.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Canadian MP Sameer Zuberi, Chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights. Sameer is an excellent young politician leading on Canada’s response to the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang by the Chinese Government – another horrific example of the consequences of Islamophobia if left unchallenged. The global reaction to China’s Islamophobia has been strong, but unfortunately a much firmer stance is needed by Western governments and China’s neighbours to put an end to this cultural genocide.

Finally, I rounded off my trip with a visit to the UN in New York City. On 15th March 2023, the UN observed the first ever International Day to Combat Islamophobia. This was as a result of the tireless work of the 60 Member-States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and I was pleased to be able to meet the OIC Permanent Observer to the UN, Ambassador Hameed A. Opeloyeru. I also spoke to Türkiye and Pakistan’s Permanent Representatives at the UN, where we all reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring tackling Islamophobia remains on high on the agenda for world leaders.

There is no doubt that Islamophobia is a global issue, and one which requires a global solution. It was a privilege to meet so many distinguished individuals who are, in their own way, working hard to combat Islamophobia. Though the problem of global Islamophobia can often feel overwhelming and too big to tackle, it is through meeting people who are working on doing just this, every single day, that makes the fight that little bit easier.

Afzal Khan MP, Sara Minkara  and Sameer Zuberi MP
Afzal Khan MP, Sara Minkara and Sameer Zuberi MP
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