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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17 Apr 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appear to be approaching the likelihood of a third consecutive term as the nationwide elections approach, meanwhile in the U.S., the University of Southern California has cancelled class valedictorian, Asna Tabassum’s speech, which is just the latest in a string of actions on college campuses targeting those who call attention to the genocide in Gaza, and in Australia, anxiety is running high within the Muslim community in the wake of two stabbing attacks, with police only labelling the one committed by a non-white person as “terrorism.” Our recommended read of the day is by Nadeine Asbali for The Guardian on the decision by a UK high court to rule in favor of a north-west London school, which has imposed a ban on prayer rituals for students. This and more below:

United Kingdom

Michaela school will keep its prayer ban – but as a Muslim teacher I know it doesn’t have to be this way | Recommended Read

A Muslim student at Michaela community school in Brent, north-west London, has lost a high court challenge to the school’s ban on prayer rituals. As a Muslim secondary schoolteacher, I have to say I am disappointed – but not surprised. Is it right for a school where 50% of the pupils are Muslim, in an area as diverse as Brent, to stubbornly cling to a vision of secularism that excludes a core component of half their pupils’ identities? And when teachers are legally required to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of our students (and are encouraged to teach British values, which hold freedom of belief and expression as apparent fundamentals), then where does prohibiting a five-minute act of private spiritual devotion fit in? The irony is that schools in the UK are not routinely secular. In fact, they are obliged to provide a daily opportunity for communal worship that should be broadly Christian in nature (for schools without a formal faith designation) – although some opt out. Up and down the country, children happily partake in religious-based activities, whether that’s hymns and nativity plays or assemblies on Diwali and Hanukkah. I’ve taught in schools where I was the only Muslim and in schools that are almost 100% Muslim, and prayer has never been an issue. While Birbalsingh describes an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in which students became divided along the lines of faith, I’ve only ever seen the opposite: intricate questions about theology coming from the panini-stuffed mouths of 12-year-olds; kids pausing a football game while their mate quickly prays; young people learning how to get along with people different from themselves. The alternative is growing up in a system where that difference is banned, hidden away. read the complete article

Wife of British cyclist in Islamophobic social media rant

The wife of a former Tour de France-winning cyclist has caused controversy in the UK following an Islamophobic outburst on social media. Michelle Froome, wife of Chris Froome, said on her X profile on Monday that there are “no innocent Gazans” and called Muslims a “drain on modern society.” In her first posts on the platform since 2020, she told her 15,000 followers that she is “sick of sitting idly by quietly supporting Israel while the Hamas propaganda takes over social media.” Her husband, who won four Tours de France and was an Olympian for Team GB, is a member of the Israel-Premier Tech cycling team. In a 13-post diatribe, Michelle Froome said: “The silent majority needs to stand up and be heard. We don’t want your religion, we don’t want your beliefs. It is not compatible with modern civilisation … There are no innocent Gazans.” She added: “Muslims are no longer the minority they claim to be. They are here to take over. The UK, France, they are happy to claim the benefits but will not integrate into those communities. They will continue to TAKE what suits them. They are a drain on modern society. read the complete article

Tories probe 'Islamophobic' tweets allegedly made by local election candidate

Anti-islamic tweets which appear to have been posted by a Conservative local election candidate in Trafford have been taken down along with her profile on X, formerly known as Twitter. The posts and retweets allegedly made by Natalie Shalom who is standing in the Hale ward have come to light ahead of the May 2 poll, in which 21 of the council’s seats are being contested. After the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) contacted Ms Shalom and Conservative group leader Coun Nathan Evans yesterday, the tweets along with her profile disappeared from X. Neither has so far commented. But a spokesperson from the Altrincham and Sale West Conservative Association said: “We condemn all acts of islamophobia in the strongest possible terms.” One apparent post said: “What is Islamaphobia???? Seriously what Islamaphobia?? I don’t see anyone in [the] streets of [the] UK calling for the obliteration of Muslim countries, threatening Muslims, in fact the only threat to Muslims is OTHER Muslims..look around the world..the rest of us just want peace.” read the complete article

Why London's Muslim mayor needs the same security as the king

As London's mayor, Sadiq Khan is one of the most well-known faces in British politics. But he says he often wonders if the job is worth it. Threats to his safety mean that, since 2017, he has received round-the-clock police protection on par with the security given to King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the mayor says — which is unprecedented for a municipal official. Khan is the first Muslim to serve in that office. And there are reports that he has received violent threats from both far-right as well as Islamist extremists. Since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in Israel, things have only gotten worse. Islamophobic incidents in the United Kingdom are up by 335%, according to Tell MAMA, a charity that monitors anti-Muslim hate and abuse in the country. Antisemitic incidents have spiked too, according to the Community Security Trust, which helps to protect the country's Jewish community. In February, the then-deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson, said on British television he believed "Islamists" had "got control" of the London mayor. Anderson was suspended from the party because of his comments, which many found Islamophobic. Khan received death threats as a result. "Why would you, as somebody who is of Islamic faith, want to be a politician, knowing what politicians of our background go through?" Khan tells NPR. "If you're a parent, why would you encourage your children to become politicians?" The U.K. has made progress — but risks backsliding, he says. read the complete article


India: Hindu extremist paramilitary march in Muslim-majority city during Eid

Members of a Hindu extremist group marched through one of India's only Muslim-majority cities during Eid celebrations. The paramilitary group the RSS marched past mosques as Muslims in Mau, Uttar Pradesh, celebrated the end of the month of fasting, Ramadan. The RSS has a long history in India and its founder MS Golwalkar was a fascist sympathiser who praised Adolf Hitler's treatment of Jews in Germany as a model for how to treat Muslims in India. The RSS paramilitary uniform is based on the Nazi and Italian fascist military uniforms, and would have been worn by Indian PM Narendra Modi and many of the most senior members of the Indian government, as the ruling BJP party is the political wing of the RSS movement. read the complete article

Narendra Modi: India’s popular but controversial leader seeking a transformative third term

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi once famously made a simple election promise: “good days are coming.” To his adoring supporters, it’s a vision of a future now finally within reach should Modi and his right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secure an emphatic and rare third consecutive term at this month’s nationwide election. At his rallies, tens of thousands gather in near frenzied religious devotion in support of a man whose policies they say have transformed the lives of ordinary Indians – and helped enshrine the nascent promise of social mobility in a country still riven by caste divisions. His political rise in some ways mirrors India’s own path from a newly independent nation freed from the shackles of colonialism to a confident, secure country inching ever closer to superpower status – albeit one wracked by deep and abiding fault lines. Modi, his opponents argue, has done little to soothe those divisions. Religious persecution and Islamophobia have increased sharply on his watch, with many accusing the prime minister of tacitly endorsing sectarianism as a means of further bolstering his Hindu-nationalist credentials, while diverting from policy failures – such as youth unemployment, which now stands at close to 50% among 20- to 24-year-olds. Among India’s minorities, particularly the country’s 230 million Muslims, the prospect of another five-years for a prime minister who calls himself the “chowkidar” – or watchman – remains deeply concerning. Many don’t believe Modi is watching out for them – instead, they say they are marginalized as he fulfills his party’s dream of transforming secular, pluralistic India into a majoritarian Hindu state. read the complete article

Indian protesters pull from poetic tradition to resist Modi’s Hindu nationalism

India’s government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, implemented the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA, in March 2024. Opponents of the law – which fast-tracks citizenship for undocumented, non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – decry the ways in which it discriminates against Muslims. As they did when the law was passed in 2019, many Indians took to the streets. The demonstrations were more muted this time, though some protesters were detained by the police. The government, perhaps fearing a reprise, had increased police patrols and deployed paramilitary troops in places that had been hotbeds of protest. Four years ago, university campuses and Muslim neighborhoods such as Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh were packed with people who, day after day, chanted slogans, belted out songs and recited poetry. Poetry seemed to unsettle the government the most. Dissenters reciting protest poems were accused of spreading hate against India, beaten and arrested by the police. read the complete article

United States

USC Valedictorian Slams School For Canceling Her Speech

Earlier this month, the University of Southern California announced that Asna Tabassum would be the Class of 2024′s valedictorian, with a 3.98 GPA and in recognition of her community service and leadership skills. She is graduating with a major in biomedical engineering and a minor in resistance to genocide. But on Monday, USC cancelled the speech. In an announcement dated Monday, Provost Andrew Guzman said the “intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East” has “created substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement.” Tabassum, in an interview with HuffPost, questioned the university’s reasoning and told HuffPost she felt disappointed and let down by USC. “I am surprised that my own university – my home for four years – has abandoned me,” she said. A slew of universities have struggled to address students’ protests of the bombing campaign by Israeli forces in Gaza that has killed more than 33,000. In the last few months, schools have dealt with rising cases of antisemitism and Islamophobia, the deactivation of student-activist groups, suspension of staff, cases of doxxing and harassment and even reports of physical violence. read the complete article


Europe knows it has an Islamophobia problem. What's being done about it?

It has been one month since the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called on leaders to do more to "to build dialogue and counter anti-Muslim hatred," amid rising prejudice and anti-Muslim violence in European states. Despite this call to action, Europe appears no closer to forming a united front against Islamophobia. Many European states continue to report rising threats against Muslim communities in countries like Norway. Meanwhile, increasingly controversial policing practices threaten peaceful Muslim protests and organised gatherings in Germany. Europe's empowered far-right is also adding to the challenge, as parties with distinct anti-Islam leanings vie for increased representation in June's European Union parliamentary elections. All this underlines the need to address rampant Islamophobia in Europe and ensure adequate protection of Muslim liberties from hate and discrimination. read the complete article


Muslims fear rise in Islamophobia as tensions run high after attack

Tensions are running high in Western Sydney, with fears in the Muslim community that law enforcement’s labelling of the stabbing of a bishop a terrorist attack will inflame Islamophobia. Whatsapp chat groups lit up with a meme on Tuesday suggesting people with darker skin were more likely to be judged “terrorists” while those with lighter skin were “mentally ill”. It is a reference to the Bondi Junction attacker, who killed six people on Saturday, being labelled a mentally ill lone wolf, versus the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel being labelled as a religiously-motivated terrorist attack. The president of human rights organisation Advocates for Dignity, Mehmet Saral, said the Muslim community is upset at the terror label, saying there are suggestions within the community who know the boy that he has a mental illness. Mr Saral said the Muslim community condemns the attack, and that such violence has no place in Australian society or any of the world’s major religions. “We pray that the Bishop and others injured recover very quickly,” he said. Research done in 2017 by the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Charles Sturt University and the Islamophobia Register of Australia found women were the largest target of Islamophobic attacks in Australia. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 Apr 2024 Edition


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