Today in Islamophobia

A daily list of headlines about Islamophobia
compiled by the Bridge Initiative

Each day, the Bridge Initiative aims to bring you the news you need to know about Islamophobia. This resource will be updated every weekday at approximately 11:00 AM EST.

Today in Islamophobia Newsletter

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27 May 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In India, as a result of PM Narendra Modi and his BJP party’s claim of protecting Hindu interests, India has been plunged into its biggest crisis since the bloodbath of the 1947 Partition as COVID-19 ravages the nation, while in the U.S., a prison guard in Connecticut is fired after rights groups point to hateful meme he posted online, and in an interview with a former Chinese engineer by the BBC, new information comes out concerning the use of AI technology to track Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Our recommended read of the day is by Miqdaad Versi on how the Singh investigation into racism within the British Conservative party presents the Tories with a historic opportunity to do the right thing: acknowledge the scale of Islamophobia within it, and truly apologize for its institutional failings. This and more below:

United Kingdom

26 May 2021

Will the Tories finally tackle Islamophobia in their party?

The Singh investigation into racism in the Conservative party provides a historic opportunity for the party to reset its relationship with Muslim communities. Not because the investigation was a complete whitewash. It wasn’t. There were serious concerns at the start that the investigation was established with restrictive terms of reference that excluded systemic racism, had an adviser who believed the idea of Islamophobia should be “junked”, and selected a peer reviewer who came from a thinktank that devoted an entire anthology to attacking the very idea of Islamophobia. Despite this, the investigation was not entirely toothless. Important recommendations include an overhaul of the complaints process, the reopening of cases that have fallen short of the expected standards and an outreach strategy focusing on meaningful engagement with Muslim communities. But the investigation did live up to one concern raised from the start: it failed to diagnose the root causes of the sheer scale of racist incidents it identified. The institutional failings that allowed a racist mayoral campaign to represent the party have been brushed over; the structural failings that allowed, for example, the chair of the party to falsely claim that there were no Islamophobia complaints outstanding, have been ignored; and the endemic Islamophobia that has led to more than half of the party’s members believing conspiracy theories about Muslims has been overlooked. Still, the Singh investigation presents the Conservative party with another historic opportunity to do the right thing. Will the party truly acknowledge the scale of Islamophobia within it, despite the denials of the past, and truly apologise for its institutional failings? read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
25 May 2021

Britain's Johnson Offers Qualified Apology for Islam Remarks

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a qualified apology for offense caused by his past remarks about Islam in a report that criticized his Conservative Party over how it deals with complaints of Islamophobia. Johnson was interviewed for the report, commissioned by the Conservatives in response to criticism of how it handled discrimination and complaints. The report was conducted independently by Professor Swaran Singh who has served as a commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It cited several examples relating to Johnson, including a 2018 newspaper column in which he referred to women wearing burqas as "going around looking like letterboxes" and likened their appearance to bank robbers. Johnson said the article was a liberal defense of a Muslim woman’s right to choose what she wore. "I do know that offense has been taken at things I’ve said, that people expect a person in my position to get things right, but in journalism you need to use language freely. I am obviously sorry for any offense taken," the report quoted Johnson as saying. read the complete article

26 May 2021

Islamophobia in the Conservative party: key points from the inquiry on discrimination

By the time Johnson was installed as leader and prime minister, he had shifted the focus of the inquiry away from Islamophobia and onto all forms of discrimination. The impact was threefold. First, it distanced the Conservatives from the very reason why an inquiry was deemed necessary: claims of widespread Islamophobia. Second, the party was able to set the parameters of its own inquiry. Finally, by subsuming Islamophobia within a broader topic of interest, the party was not only able to avert an in-depth interrogation of the problem but so too any potentially damning findings. Despite Johnsons’s shift, the report says that two-thirds of all discrimination complaints analyzed were anti-Muslim. In total, the party’s central database recorded 1,418 complaints between 2015 and 2020. Of these, 727 incidents were of alleged discrimination – of which 496 related to Muslims and Islam. Approximately three quarters of these involved the use of social media. Of the third of cases that resulted in a sanction, 50% culminated in suspension and 29% expulsion from the party. The problem, however, is likely to be far bigger than the inquiry found given that it only focused on formal complaints. Doing so is likely to have failed to take into account the regular and routine forms of Islamophobia that take place in everyday life. We know that experiences of hate and discrimination are notoriously under-reported and that Warsi has claimed that Islamophobia is “widespread [in the party] … from the grassroots, all the way up to the top”. Accusations of whitewashing are far from surprising. Islamophobia is politically ambivalent: it can be routinely deployed by political actors for political and personal gain, knowing there will be no recourse or censure whatsoever due to it not being a “vote winner”. In essence, few care. That same message seems to underlie the Singh report: Islamophobia in the Conservative Party is a problem – but so what? Until it is attributed with the importance it demands and on an equal footing with other discriminatory phenomena, insensitivity and poor judgment will continue to be excuses for being Islamophobic. read the complete article


26 May 2021

Modi’s Religious Nationalism Hurts India’s Hindus, Too

The current Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to power on a dangerous lie that they have been selling to India’s Hindus: that in a country where they make up 80 percent of the population, Hinduism is under threat—and will only prosper if they support the ideology of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism. I am a co-founder of a progressive Hindu organization, Hindus for Human Rights. Most of our board members and our sole staff member are Hindu Indians in the United States, and we have a deep love for India. Our ardent wish is to see our fellow Hindus freeing their hearts and minds from the hateful and harmful ideology of Hindutva, and the Islamophobia that often accompanies it. Chain reactions sparked by Hindutva ideologies have claimed the lives of innocent people—a Muslim lynched on the suspicion that he eats beef, a Hindu woman who suffered a miscarriage while imprisoned for marrying a Muslim man, an 8-year-old Muslim girl raped and killed in a Hindu temple, and countless others. The lie has transformed nearly every aspect of Indian society beyond recognition. Now, as India is ravaged by COVID-19, it faces the latest casualty of this lie: the official and likely undercount of 4,000 lives lost every day to a deadly second wave that was precipitated and exacerbated at every turn by Hindu nationalism. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hindu nationalists jumped on the opportunity to link the virus to Muslims, inventing the conspiracy theory of “coronajihad.” That had real consequences: Muslims were beaten and denied hospital beds, and Muslim health care workers were ostracized. One year later, the BJP is directly responsible for putting millions of Hindu lives at risk—and it doesn’t have a convenient Muslim scapegoat to pin the blame on. In the name of upholding Hindu traditions and beliefs, the BJP government decided to hold the Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious gathering, in the middle of a pandemic. The Kumbh was scheduled for 2022, but the BJP government of India’s Uttarakhand state moved it forward to 2021 based on the recommendations of astrologers. Many, including some ministers in the BJP itself, argue that the true reasons were political and economic. In advancing the Kumbh by a year, the BJP allowed 9 million Hindus to gather without masks and social distancing, ushering in the deadliest phase of the pandemic. Thanks to the BJP’s claim of protecting Hindu interests, India has been plunged into its biggest crisis since the bloodbath of the 1947 Partition, which took the lives of as many as 2 million people. Just as the violence of 1947 targeted Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike, today’s coronavirus is wreaking equal-opportunity havoc on all faith communities, with the poorest being the hardest hit. read the complete article

27 May 2021

Indian Muslim jailed for trying to visit Dalit rape victim family

On October 5 last year, Masud Ahmed was traveling through Mathura, a town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, when a team of police officers waved him over. The officers, who were manning a checkpoint, asked him and three co-passengers questions including their names, affiliation and purpose of travel. The four were going to meet the family of a 19-year-old Dalit teenager who had been gang-raped by four Hindu upper-caste men three weeks before their journey. On September 29 last year, she breathed her last in a hospital in New Delhi. The same night, the Uttar Pradesh police secretly cremated her body, without the consent of her family, who said they were locked in their houses during the cremation. Ahmed and the three others, including journalist Siddique Kappan, decided to go to Hathras to meet the victim’s family. But the four men were stopped by the police and asked to leave the car, then they were taken to a local police station and charged with disturbing public peace, a bailable offense. Ahmed, a resident of Bahraich in the northeastern part of Uttar Pradesh, is a student leader at the Campus Front of India (CFI). CFI is the student wing of Popular Front of India (PFI), a Muslim organization with a pan-India presence, is often accused by the Indian authorities of having “extremist” links, a charge denied by the group. The others arrested with Ahmed were Atiq-ur Rehman, 27, and Mohd Alam, 30, both from Uttar Pradesh, and Kappan, 41, who hails from the southern state of Kerala. It took Khan two days to secure the bail papers for his brother’s release, but the police had other plans. On October 7, the four men were accused of “conspiracy to cause caste-based violence in the state” and charged with sedition and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a stringent anti-terror law that allows detention for up to 180 days without charges. “The news shattered us all. He was not a criminal or a terrorist, but just a student activist who was fighting for injustice,” Khan told Al Jazeera. read the complete article

United States

26 May 2021

Connecticut fires prison guard over anti-Muslim meme

Connecticut’s prison system has fired a guard after an Islamic group complained about an anti-Muslim meme he posted on social media years ago. In a termination letter dated Tuesday and obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, Garner Correctional Institution warden Amoda Hannah told Officer Anthony Marlak that his use of social media had “undermined the public's confidence in your ability to function in your position.” “The type of speech posted threatens the safety of staff and inmates who are Muslim,” Hannah wrote. “Your actions violate the standard of conduct for correctional employees and will not be condoned or tolerated.” The Connecticut Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations had called for the firing of Marlak in January, citing a meme he posted on Facebook in 2018, depicting five apparently Muslim men hanging from nooses with the caption, “Islamic Wind Chimes.” “This decision sends exactly the right message that prejudice and bigotry has no place in the Department of Correction,” said Farhan Memon, the chapter's chairman. “Marlak’s comments were unacceptable because they suggested that he could be a danger to Muslim inmates.” read the complete article

26 May 2021

Muslim Candidate Asked Islamophobic Question During Virginia Debate

In the only televised debate of the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, WJLA TV anchor Dave Lucas asked state Del. Sam Rasoul (D), Virginia’s first Muslim state lawmaker, to affirm his commitment to serving Virginians of all faiths. “The Washington Post reported your fundraising effort is ‘category leading,’ because of some out-of-state donors connected to Muslim advocacy groups. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that was the case,” Lucas said. “Talk a little bit about your fundraising efforts and can you assure Virginians you’ll represent all of them regardless of faith and beliefs?” Lucas’ question was referring to a Post story about Rasoul’s fundraising. He’s raised nearly $1.3 million, more than his competitors. According to the article, Rasoul’s top two donors are Manal Fakhoury, a board member of the Council of American-Islamic Relations’ Washington chapter, and Mohannad Malas, a California real estate investor on the board of the Orange County Islamic Foundation. Fakhoury has contributed more than $74,000; Malas has contributed more than $69,000. Nothing in the Post article indicated that Virginians should be wary of Rasoul because of the financial support his campaign has received from Muslim donors. In fact, it is common for candidates for public office to receive donations from people living in other states. If elected, Rasoul would be the first Muslim lieutenant governor in Virginia history and the highest-ranking Palestinian American state elected official in the country. WJLA is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Company, the largest owner of local TV stations, which has elicited criticism for its one-sided conservative commentary and editorial slant. HuffPost reached out to Lucas and Cheryl Carson, WJLA’s news director, for comment and did not immediately receive a response. During a live evening news broadcast on Tuesday night, though, WJLA anchor Alison Starling apologized for Lucas’s “inappropriate” and “disrespectful” question. “We have reached out to Del. Rasoul’s campaign to sincerely apologize for this question and for the impact of these words,” Starling said. No other faith practitioners face similar questions about their loyalty to constituents, a fact that a number of Virginia Democrats, including Rasoul’s rivals, pointed out in their condemnations of the question. read the complete article

26 May 2021

Muslim groups denounce Randy Fine for 'hateful' Facebook posts but he remains defiant

Facing calls by Florida Muslims and others for an ethics violation investigation, State Rep. Randy Fine Wednesday doubled down on controversial social media posts, including one that advocated blowing up Palestinians, calling his detractors "terrorist sympathizers." His remarks come as several state and national Islamic group's, including the South Florida Muslim Federation, CAIR-FL, and national groups ICAN Council for Social Justice and EMGAGE, denounced Fine's social media posts. The groups have accused the Palm Bay Republican state legislator of "inciting hate and violence against members of the Palestinian community in several Facebook posts referring to the Palestinians as “animals." Fine pointed out that his post used "animals" to refer to Islamic terrorists. In response to a Facebook user asking about Palestinians right to defend themselves, Fine replied #BlowThemUp. Fine was also accused of inciting violence against pro-Palestine protestors. "I am proud to stand up to every Hamas sympathizer in the state. Bring it. I stand by every word that I have said, if they stand with Hamas they are terrorists" he said, going on to call CAIR a terrorist organization. Fine in social media posts last week said "the Islamic terrorists are the animals. The children are their victims. #BombsAway." In yet another comment, Fine said he was okay with Israel bombing a building in Gaza that housed reporters for the Associated Press among other outlets. Israel's military has claimed that Hamas used the building as well but the US Department of State has not yet seen such evidence. read the complete article

26 May 2021

Torture Evidence and the Guantanamo Military Commissions

Last week, Carol Rosenberg reported that defense counsel and the Commissions’ convening authority have reached an agreement about convicted Al Qaeda courier Majid Khan, apparently to head off the need for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers to testify about his torture in his sentencing proceeding. The jury will be instructed to impose a sentence of 25 to 40 years; but under the new agreement the judge will reduce it to 11 to 14 years (including time served). The military judge, Army Colonel Douglas K. Watkins, already lopped off an additional year because of prosecutorial misconduct. The result is that Mr. Khan could be released as early as next year, depending on the extent of his cooperation. Plainly this is as good an outcome as he could hope for. The kicker is this: The agreement requires the defense to request vacatur of a landmark decision by Judge Watkins. That decision (more about it below) granted Mr. Khan sentencing credit on account of his torture, if it was proven. Judge Watkins also granted the defense motion to take evidence, including from CIA personnel involved in his abuse. Now, his ruling will be vacated. Apparently, the government thinks it is of the utmost importance not just to bury evidence of CIA torture, but to ensure a decision that could have allowed other detainees to expose their abuse is erased from the books. A few days after the news of the Majid Khan agreement, another military judge, Army Col. Lanny Acosta, Jr., allowed prosecutors in the case of accused USS Cole bomber Abd-al-Rahim al-Nashiri to introduce a document containing statements that the defense said were “obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” (CIDT). Judge Acosta’s decision found that the law barring such statements applies only to evidence at trial, not to their use in interlocutory matters. Coming back-to-back, these two developments are the most recent confirmation of something that Guantánamo-watchers have long understood: The government will go to any lengths to bury the truth about CIA torture, at the same time that it presses to use the fruits of that peculiarly noxious tree. At Guantánamo, it seems, evidence about torture is out; statements obtained by torture are in, through the back door of non-trial proceedings. read the complete article


26 May 2021

China is reportedly testing AI emotion detection software on Uyghurs

In new reports that are incredibly dystopian, a software engineer has alleged that the Chinese government is using facial recognition AI to monitor the emotions of its Uyghur community. The engineer spoke to the BBC for a Panorama episode titled ‘Are You Scared Yet, Human?’ on condition of anonymity. ”The Chinese government use Uyghurs as test subjects for various experiments just like rats are used in laboratories,” he said. He explained being tasked with installing surveillance in police stations in the Xinjiang province: ”We placed the emotion detection camera three metres from the subject. It is similar to a lie detector but far more advanced technology.” The AI software, he said, makes pie charts to display the results, and in a real-life example of this, the majority of individuals overwhelmingly displayed a ‘red zone’, meaning they were scared or had an anxious disposition. Scientists disagree about whether AI can accurately identify human emotions, and according to recent studies, AI has been misreading human emotions, so this doesn’t exactly bode well. China director of Human Rights Watch Sophie Richardson called the evidence “shocking”. She continued: “It’s not just that people are being reduced to a pie chart, it’s people who are in highly coercive circumstances, under enormous pressure, being understandably nervous and that's taken as an indication of guilt, and I think that’s deeply problematic." According to Darren Byler from the University of Colorado, ”Uyghur life is now about generating data”. He says they routinely have to provide DNA samples to local officials, undergo digital scans and most have to download a government phone app, which gathers data including their contact lists and texts. read the complete article


26 May 2021

Report: US companies may have benefited from forced labor of Uyghurs

CNN's Jake Tapper looks into a Congressional report that shows how US companies may have benefited from forced labor of Uyghur Muslims. read the complete article

26 May 2021

Concern as 24% of Rohingya Inmates in Jammu Detention Centre Test COVID Positive

Nearly 24% of the inmates of Jammu and Kashmir’s detention centre for Rohingya people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three days, triggering concerns about a serious outbreak at the centre. Over 200 Rohingya are being detained at the holding centre at Hira Nagar of Jammu’s Kathua district since March 6 this year. “Fifty three Rohingya refugees have tested positive for COVID-19 here out of 218 samples collected,” Kathua’s chief medical officer, Dr Ashok Choudhary told The Wire. The total number of refugees at the centre are 220, as on May 10. Mushtaque Ahmad, a Rohingya leader in Jammu, said they were deeply worried. “Those lodged in the centre are mostly elderly persons. We know that jails are overcrowded places, so this begs the question as to how social distancing can be maintained there. We appeal to the government of India and Jammu and Kashmir administration to release them on humanitarian grounds,” he said. Ahmad said that Rohingya presence was forced to scatter after the government’s decision to detain over 200 of them. “Some members of some families are in jail, and some others are outside. What is our crime? That we have nowhere to go? We came to save our lives in India but we never thought we would be thrown into a jail in a place like India where even animals have rights,” he said. Ahmad said that pregnant women and children are also lodged in the centre. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 27 May 2021 Edition


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