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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12 Apr 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is taking its challenge of Quebec’s secularism law to the Supreme Court of Canada, saying that the law “discriminates against people of religious minorities”, meanwhile in the U.S., Muslim students at Rutgers University are voicing concern for their safety after a brutal vandalism attack targeted an Islamic studies center at the school on the Eid al-Fitr holiday, and a New Jersey man was convicted of hate crimes after he attacked a Muslim resident with a knife near a New York City food cart. Our recommended read of the day is by Rokhaya Diallo for The Guardian on how this March marks twenty years since France passed a law banning headscarves and religious symbols in public schools and the impact this has had on the country. This and more below:


What has 20 years of banning headscarves done for France? | Recommended Read

In March 2004, after months of debate, the French parliament voted through a ban on headscarves in schools, outlawing “symbols or clothing that conspicuously demonstrate a pupil’s religious affiliation”. That is when I realised that the decision was quite popular in feminist circles, including the predominantly white group I was part of. Many white feminists thought it was their mission to help emancipate Muslim women and girls from a particular type of patriarchy tied to Islam. I quit the group. If Muslim women were enduring a specific form of patriarchal oppression, and really had no agency or free will when it came to wearing the hijab – a view I don’t share – how would it help them to exclude them from schools and access to emancipatory knowledge? In a post-9/11 context of rising Islamophobia, the idea that Muslims’ visibility had to be kept in check had entered mainstream French opinion, the media and the political class. Students ought to have been protected by the public educational establishments they were attending, no matter how they chose to present themselves. But the principle of laïcité had evolved to include the demand that individuals make their faith an entirely private matter. While the 2004 law was framed as a ban on all “conspicuous” religious symbols, including large Christian crosses, in practice it was targeted at expressions of Islam. As such, it has, over the past 20 years, opened the door to the pursuit of an unrelenting Islamophobia, embodied in a fixation on Muslim women and girls’ appearance. read the complete article

United States

‘Please leave!’ A Jewish UC Berkeley dean confronts pro-Palestinian activist at his home

But the dinner quickly devolved after a Palestinian American law student who was invited stood up in front of guests and attempted to give a speech about Palestinians dying in Gaza and her desire for the university to divest from corporations involved in Israel’s war and its occupation and blockade of Palestinian lands. Chemerinsky approached the student with his arms folded and shouted at her: “Please leave. No. Please leave. Please leave.” Fisk grabbed away the student’s microphone, while saying, “It is not your house. It is my house. And I want you to leave.” The student who spoke, Malak Afaneh, said that Fisk assaulted her and that her free speech rights were denied. In an interview Wednesday, Afaneh said that she felt assaulted by Fisk and that she was considering filing charges, but would first consult with lawyers. “The aggression with which she ran at me when I said ‘as-salamu alaykum.’ She saw my hijab and keffiyeh, and that was a risk for her,” Afaneh said. read the complete article

Muslim college students say no coincidence Islamic center was vandalized during Eid al-Fitr

Some Muslim students at Rutgers University say they don't feel safe after the Islamic center on campus was vandalized on the holy holiday of Eid al-Fitr, celebrated at the end of Ramadan. Muslim leaders said the place is sacred to many, and that it was vandalized Wednesday. "Our only safe space here got destroyed on Eid, and our Palestinian flag was taken, and that's all the messaging you really need to know," student Nehad Ali said. The center's chaplain said not only was the Palestinian flag stolen, but art pieces with verses from Quran were destroyed, and windows were shattered. Despite support from around the world, Muslim students say they don't feel safe on campus. A student described being stared at for wearing a keffiyah to show solidarity with the Palestinians. "I can say I've literally been walking the street, and someone turns to me and says 'Are you one of those "free Palestine" people,' just as a taunt," student Ansiah Mahmood said. Nora Asker, the Muslim Public Relations Council president, said she's been telling Rutgers officials for weeks Muslim and Arab students, especially those of Palestinian descent, need protection as the Israel-Hamas war continues. "Islamophobia has been plaguing our campus, manifesting in verbal harassment of students, physical acts of hate and and Islamophobic threats left on personal property and vehicles," Asker said. read the complete article

xposure to Islamophobia: The impacts of an increased risk of bullying victimization on human capital

We use the shock caused by terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, to study the short- and long-term consequences of exposure to Islamophobia in high-school-aged youths. Our estimates show an immediate sharp increase in rates of identity-based bullying against Arab/Muslim youths relative to youths of other ethnic groups during the years 2001-2003. We also find exposure to Islamophobia increased school dropout rates by 4.11% among US-born male youths of Arab-Muslim origin, which is a large effect from a baseline of 4.6% of school dropout rate in the affected population. In the long term, however, we find no significant effect on educational attainment among the affected population. The data suggest Arab-Muslim male youths born in 1989 were 8.34% more likely to resort to GED tests as a means of obtaining high school credentials after the attacks. We find full-time male workers born in 1984 earn 12.8% less than similar workers who were unexposed to Islamophobia. Moreover, full-time male Arab-Muslim workers born between 1983 and 1985 are between 9% and 12.5% more likely to be in the first quintile of the state-of-residence-year-wage distribution than similar workers who were not exposed to Islamophobia. read the complete article

Man convicted of hate crimes for attacking Muslim man in New York City

A New Jersey resident was convicted of hate crimes after he attacked a Muslim man with a knife near a New York City food cart while saying slurs, prosecutors announced Thursday. “A Manhattan jury held Gino Sozio accountable for attacking a Muslim-American man in a vicious act of hate,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “Instead of walking away from a dispute, Sozio went on an appalling racist and anti-Muslim tirade and took out a knife, seriously injuring the victim who is still in pain to this day. I thank the victim and the eyewitnesses for bravely coming forward and taking the stand, and our talented prosecutors who fought for justice in this case.” Gino Sozio, 40, of Morganville, New Jersey, swung a knife at a group of Muslims near a halal food cart in Midtown while making Islamophobic comments, prosecutors said, slashing one man in the torso. A New York Supreme Court jury found Sozio guilty of first-degree attempted assault and second-degree assault, both as hate crimes, as well as third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He will be sentenced on May 3. The conviction comes as civil rights leaders decry a record-high level of Islamophobic hate incidents in the United States. read the complete article

The “War on Terror” Is the Ghost Haunting This Year’s Election

No one ever announced that the “war on terror” was over. But the rushed withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in 2021 was the closest the U.S. came to an official end point. There was no release of prisoners of war; instead “enemy combatants” continued to be caged at the military prison in Guantánamo Bay. Nor was the geographical spread of the U.S.’s counterterrorism operations much reduced, with the U.S. engaged in 78 countries between 2021 and 2023. But direct military occupation of entire countries seemed to be no more. Unlike the end of the Cold War, which spawned an ugly and delusional triumphalism, the war on terror’s ending was marked by embarrassment and an awkward silence. In Washington, there was little interest in asking why the war on terror went so badly wrong. The post-9/11 attempts to fight terrorism led to many times more deaths than al-Qaeda or ISIS could ever hope to cause. It is likely that more than 3 million lives were lost directly and indirectly in the post-9/11 war zones, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen. And this mass slaughter did not even reduce terrorism. The number of people worldwide who died from terrorist activity increased ninefold between 2000 and 2015, according to a mainstream definition of terrorism. The Iraqi and Afghan people did not wish to be ruled by the U.S. military and the puppet leaders it installed. The more the U.S. used force to impose its will, the more its presence appeared as a new form of colonialism, and the more support flowed to the insurgents fighting the occupations. Thus, the war on terror fueled the very process of radicalization it ostensibly aimed to counter. Today, the grim tragedy of the 2024 election is that both Biden and Trump are in different ways trapped in the mental debris of the war on terror. Biden may well lose the election by alienating a part of his own base with his decision to support what Israel has framed as its own “war on terror” — the ongoing genocide of Palestinians. Meanwhile, the rage unleashed by the U.S. war on terror’s failures, but never properly acknowledged or addressed, has fueled Trump’s molding of the Republican Party and allied conservative institutions into a neofascist movement. read the complete article


Whatever happened to the Our London Family Act in wake of Afzaal family attack?

Nearly three years after members of a London, Ont., Muslim family were murdered in a hate-motivated attack that shocked the country, a national Muslim organization is calling for the anti-hate bill named in their honour to be revived in the Ontario Legislature. It comes days after news emerged that the 23-year-old found guilty of murder and attempted murder in the June 6, 2021, attack, in what a judge ruled was a terrorist act, plans an appeal of his conviction. The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) says the Our London Family Act, which it helped to draft, needs to be passed "now more than ever" as the organization records a surge in Islamophobic incidents. Tabled at Queen's Park eight months after the attack on the Afzaal family, the private member's bill from then Toronto MPP Faisal Hassan sought to address Islamophobia in the province and prevent future attacks. read the complete article

Montreal school board brings Bill 21 challenge to Supreme Court

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is taking its challenge of Quebec's secularism law to the Supreme Court of Canada. "We have always maintained that Bill 21 violates the rights of Quebec citizens," said Joe Ortona, chair of the EMSB. "It discriminates against people of religious minorities. It hinders their opportunities to teach within our system. And it disproportionately targets, of all the groups, Muslim women." The EMSB voted to take its challenge to the Supreme Court in a special meeting Wednesday. Back in February, the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the province's controversial secularism law in a ruling on challenges to the law's constitutionality. The judgment quashed a previous exception, made by Superior Court Judge Marc-André Blanchard, that allowed English schools to employ teachers wearing religious symbols — such as a head covering — while on the job. read the complete article


Zionism Killed the Jewish-Muslim World

Born in Israel, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, a filmmaker, curator, and academic, rejects the identity of Israeli. Before becoming an Israeli at age nineteen, her mother was simply a Palestinian Jew. For much of history, there was nothing unusual in this combination of words. In Palestine, a Jewish minority lived peacefully alongside the Muslim majority for centuries. This changed with the Zionist movement and the foundation of Israel. The ethnic cleansing of Jews from Europe would lead, thanks to European Zionists, not only to that of Muslims from Palestine but of Jews from the rest of the Middle East, with nearly a million fleeing as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, many to Israel. In an interview with Jacobin, Azoulay contextualizes Israel’s genocide in Gaza in the long history of European and US imperialism. Azoulay is a professor of comparative literature at Brown and the author of Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (Verso, 2019). read the complete article

Labor and the Bibi-Modi “Bromance”

The recent recruitment drives in India bear clear traces of this strategy. As hundreds of Indian YouTube videos and recruitment ads touting work in Israel make explicit, only “Hindu workers” should apply. “All the workers know,” explained one YouTuber to Haaretz, that Muslims will not be considered for the work visas—meaning that the thirty-eight million Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, one of the main suppliers of construction labor to Israel, are shut out. Why? The Israeli government fears the potential for pro-Palestine solidarity among Muslim Indian workers. This no doubt helps explain why Israel has turned to India first as the source for its labor shortage problem, as opposed to its Muslim-majority neighboring states of Bangladesh or Pakistan. The Indian government, for its part, would surely deny that they are implementing a Hindus-only recruitment drive. But as India continues to move toward becoming an ethnostate much like Israel itself, the Modi government’s Islamophobic kinship with Netanyahu’s regime is making itself evident. read the complete article

United Kingdom

How the Tory government are extremists – under their own definition

On March 14, Michael Gove outlined the government's new extremism definition – one that fails to define anything. In a speech that seemed to produce the opposite of what he intended by it, Gove left many scratching their heads and asking: “So what is extreme then?” Like a poorly thrown axe rebounding, the UK Government’s perpetual rhetoric of intolerance for certain groups, which breeds extremism, marginalisation and division in this country, leads them to ungraciously face the sharp point of their own definition. The irony that it’s members of the UK Government or their close allies who are exemplifying racism, migrant-bashing, Islamophobia, and overall hatred and intolerance is not lost on us. Neither is the irony that it is the Tory government seeking to bend the UK’s system of democratic rights and freedoms by attempting to ignore the ECHR and clamp down on protests. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 12 Apr 2024 Edition


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