Welcoming the Stranger: Combating Anti-Muslim Bigotry Against Afghan Refugees

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This week marked the end of the longest U.S. war, and the subsequent discussion of American power, nation-building, and refugee resettlement is triggering a renewed look at not only American foreign policy, but also our laws and social interactions at home. For Interfaith Alliance, our concern is focused on issues of religious freedom and how we treat others of differing beliefs. We are particularly concerned about rising Islamophobia and the potential for violence against immigrants and their families, as the Biden administration prepares to resettle tens of thousands of Afghan refugees. 

Though we are a nation of immigrants, we have not always lived up to our highest ideals. The images of people fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and arriving on U.S. soil mirror the arrivals of previous waves of refugees to the United States. For many of us, this includes our own relatives. Anti-immigrant bigotry, all too often levied against religious minorities, is by no means a new phenomenon. From “No Irish Need Apply” signs, to the steamship St. Louis carrying Jewish refugees being sent back to Germany in WWII, to KKK-led attacks against Catholic immigrants. In the years after 9/11, the FBI recorded a spike in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States. From 2000 to 2001, the number of recorded anti-Muslim hate crime incidents jumped from 28 to 481 incidents.

Across the country, hate-based violence is already on the rise. The FBI’s 2019 annual hate crime report showed violent hate crime is at a record high. New immigrants facing additional barriers around language, culture, housing, jobs, and health care are especially vulnerable. As we prepare to welcome refugees from Afghanistan seeking a new life in the United States, we call upon local, state, and federal authorities to stand ready to protect our new neighbors and community members.

Adjusting to living in a new country can be isolating and overwhelming, even under the best of circumstances. Refugees from Afghanistan will be going through the difficult process of acclimating to an unfamiliar culture and environment. True religious freedom celebrates cultural diversity as essential in building vibrant communities. We can live up to our most sacred values by welcoming the stranger and ensuring our communities are safe and inclusive for all.

Combating Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Muslims have been living in the United States before we were a country, but many Americans still have misperceptions of the Muslim faith here in the U.S. What is the Truth About American Muslims: Questions and Answers is a resource created jointly by Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Freedom Education Project that address many questions about Muslims in America.

Our communities are enriched by religious and cultural diversity

The First Amendment protects the right to believe as we choose, without fear of discrimination or harm. But over the course of our history, the promise of religious freedom has often fallen short of its practice. Through policy research, public education, grassroots organizing, and advocacy on Capitol Hill, Interfaith Alliance leverages our unique perspective and expertise to advance policies that protect people of all faiths and philosophies and ensure that we all receive equal treatment under law.

Learn about Interfaith Alliance’s efforts to combat hate and discrimination.