Taking place on March 15, the International Day to Combat Islamophobia aims to raise awareness of the prejudice that is directed at Muslims. For those who don’t know, islamophobia is the fear and hatred of Muslims, frequently causing hostility toward them. A recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief states that islamophobia has reached unprecedented heights and has even been dubbed an “epidemic.”
To shed light on the significance of this day, we have chosen to highlight celebrities who have spoken out against Islamophobia.
In June 2016, the well-known Hollywood actress, next to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, gave a speech at a gathering of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS). Jolie praised Islam as a “wonderful religion” and urged the United States to take in more immigrants from Muslim nations. She also stated that discrimination weakens democratic societies as it implies that some lives are worth more than others.
The legendary American boxer had always tried to raise awareness of how peaceful Islam is for Americans. The GOAT felt a sense of duty to explain Islam to Americans and to explain America to Muslims as well. While he spent his days fighting Islamophobic beliefs, his latest stance was in 2016, when the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump proposed a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. Ali then issued a statement that read “speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam.”
In 2014, the Hollywood celebrity and Batman actor showed support and intolerance to islamophobia on Bill Maher’s talk show. Maher falsely claimed that most Muslims believe people should be executed for holding a different belief system than them. Affleck then responded by saying “how about the over a billion people who aren’t fanatics, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school and eat some sandwiches, and who don’t do any of the things you say all Muslims do?”
British actor and comedian Russell Brand regularly addresses Islamophobes in the media. In July 2015, speaking at a Muslim Aid event, he said, “this event is a great example of communities coming together to help each other, and it shows the generosity of the Muslim community and charities like Muslim Aid.” Brand even appeared on a CNN podcast to discuss how many NGOs and assistance groups should make aiding Muslim communities across the world a top priority.
These celebrities are not the only ones that have spoken out against Islamophobia. For example, Amira Elghawaby was recently named Canada’s first-ever Anti-Islamophobia Advisor back in Jan. 2023. She is a journalist and a vocal advocate for human rights who took over as the Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s communications director.
With this move, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, hailed Elghawaby’s appointment and noted how significant it is in the struggle against all forms of bigotry and Islamophobia.