In the wake of mass murders at two New Zealand mosques, a leading organizer of Oregon Muslims is demanding state lawmakers create a plan for dealing with white nationalism and right-wing extremists.
Zakir Khan, the board chair of the Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says the Oregon Legislature still has little measurement of how serious a threat white nationalism poses to minority groups here. He says a bill aiming to change Oregon hate crime laws is a start, but needs funding.
"They should hold hearings on what the problem is, and how to counteract it," Khan tells WW. "They have very little information. Far right radicalization is going to last years and we need to hear plans on what they're going to do about it and what they will put resources into."
Khan says Congress should respond with equal urgency. "We need state and local responses to be supplemented by a federal response," he says.
Khan's comments come as the globe grapples with what appears to be the latest mass killing by a white nationalist. The slayings of 49 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, follow an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last year and the murder of black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. in 2015.
Portland leaders including Mayor Ted Wheeler gathered at a local mosque today for an interfaith prayer service.
Khan, a 33-year old communications instructor at Linn-Benton Community College, emerged as a leading voice of Oregon Muslims after the 2017 double slayings on a Portland MAX train by Jeremy Christian, a gang-affiliated extremist whose semi-coherent rants were directed at Muslims and Jews.
Khan has been particularly vocal about the failure of Portland police and prosecutors to indict right-wing brawlers who gather here for protests and street fights with antifascists.
This morning, Khan issued a statement demanding results from Oregon leaders. "We are not looking for statements from political leadership at this point," he wrote. "We need to see action."
Here's the list Khan offered of practical actions for government and tech companies.
"In order to defeat far-right groups, we believe the following steps are necessary:
Congress must hold a congressional hearing on the impact that far-right groups are having upon marginalized communities both in Oregon and America. We need political leadership to articulate what they are going to do to counteract these groups.
The Oregon Legislature must commit to funding and staffing agencies that support hate crime survivors and counteract white supremacy.
Tech companies must be held accountable for their refusal to remove far-right groups who clearly breach their Terms of Service from their platforms. Companies like GoDaddy who host websites and fundraising pages for far-right extremists do not deserve our money if they think it's acceptable to host these groups. They also do not deserve to escape governmental scrutiny."