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.

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19 Apr 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In India, Muslims across the country are grappling with the prospect of what a third consecutive term for Modi could mean for them and other religious minorities who call the country home, meanwhile in the U.S., reporting group The Outlet says that Michigan GOP’s new chair Pete Hoekstra, who was ambassador to the Netherlands under President Donald Trump, has a well-documented history of anti-Muslim associations, and in the UK, a senior Harlow Conservative, Councillor James Leppard, has been suspended following allegations that he made “Islamophobic comments” on social media. Our recommended read of the day is by Micheal Kugelman for TIME on how many analysts are starting to believe that there is little choice but to accept the reality of a Modi-fied India, and that India will become what Modi and so many of his compatriots want it to be. This and more below:


The Modi-fication of India Is Almost Complete | Recommended Read

There’s much that explains Modi’s popularity. That includes his personality (supporters view him as incorruptible), leadership and communication styles, and his policy achievements at home and abroad—not to mention a weak opposition and the massive BJP machine behind him. Above all, and perhaps most worryingly, he’s won over millions for his government’s aggressive Hindu nationalism. That includes laws and policies that discriminate against Muslims (such as denying fast-track citizenship to Muslim refugees from neighboring nations, restricting or banning beef in some states, and expunging mentions of Muslim history from school textbooks). Some of Modi’s party colleagues and supporters have resorted to hate speech, and the country has seen pronounced and rising numbers of attacks on religious minorities. Modi supporters have also propagated conspiracy theories against Muslims (including the “love jihad” that baselessly claims that Muslim men court Hindu women to force them to convert). This has all played out against shrinking space for dissent, with crackdowns on media and broader civil society. The Modi-era actions are highly controversial because of India’s constitutionally enshrined secular traditions and resilient democracy. But while this Modi-fication of India has not gone down well with many citizens—particularly Muslims—it has far too many backers to be characterized as a wholesale trampling on the public will. This may be the tyranny of the majority, but it’s also something that enjoys a public mandate. read the complete article

Modi’s Temple of Lies

The sleepy pilgrimage city of Ayodhya in northern India was once home to a grand 16th-century mosque, until it was illegally demolished by a howling mob of Hindu militants in 1992. The site has since been reinvented as the centerpiece of the Hindu-chauvinist “new India” promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2020, as Covid-19 raged unchecked across the country, Mr. Modi, the leader of the Hindu right, went to Ayodhya to inaugurate construction of a three-story sandstone temple to the Hindu god Ram on the site of the former mosque. Dressed in shiny, flowing clothes and wearing a white N95 mask, he offered prayers to the Ram idol and the 88-pound silver brick being inserted as the foundation stone. Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalism has fed distrust and hostility toward anything foreign, and the receptionists at my hotel were sullenly suspicious of outsiders. There was no hotel bar — a sign of Hindu virtue — and the food served was pure vegetarian, a phrase implying both Hindu caste purity and anti-Muslim prejudice. After a decade of rule by Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, Hindu-majority India maintains the facade of a democracy and has so far avoided the overt features of a theocracy. Yet, as Ayodhya revealed, it has, for all practical purposes, become a Hindu state. Adherence to this idea is demanded from everyone, whether Hindu or not. read the complete article

Why a third term for Modi could be ‘catastrophic’ for India’s 200 million Muslims

Mohammad Saad was excited to return home to Bihar in eastern India and see his family. He had bought a train ticket and was packed to leave in the morning, but he never made it. On that night of 31 July 2023, a mob of around 200 Hindus stormed the Anjuman Mosque in Gurugram, where Saad served as the deputy imam, and killed him in his sleep. The mob also burnt down the mosque. While Anwar is still awaiting justice for the killing of his brother, Indian authorities have moved promptly to bulldoze hundreds of homes and shops in Nuh in an act of collective – and extrajudicial – punishment against the local Muslims they accuse of inciting the violence, which left six people dead. Now, nearly nine months later, as Anwar’s family prepare to vote in the national elections, they are compelled to mull what a third consecutive term for Modi could mean for them and for the 200 million Muslims who call the country home. Modi’s decade in power has seen a surge in hate speech against religious minorities, attacks on their places of learning and worship, and mob lynchings. In recent years, Indian authorities have introduced “bulldozer justice” to punish Muslims for real and imagined offences. The demolition drive in Nuh was so blatantly discriminatory – 283 Muslim and 71 Hindu properties were targeted – that Haryana’s High Court asked the state government if it was carrying out “an exercise of ethnic cleansing” against Muslims. All the while, Hindu hardline groups, such as the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which are aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and boast thousands of members, have been operating with impunity. read the complete article

How do Muslims in India feel about the general election?

Muslims in India tell Al Jazeera why they are concerned another term under Narendra Modi’s BJP government could threaten their way of life. read the complete article

Is a Popular Music Genre in India Spreading Hate?

H-Pop is the Indian popular music and poetry of Hindu nationalism. But critics worry that the music is spreading hate and encourages violence against Muslims. read the complete article

United States

Anti-woke Republicans attacked Columbia University. It capitulated

As Jewish faculty at Columbia University, we watched with alarm as our president, Minouche Shafik, appeared before the House education and workforce committee on Wednesday to answer questions about antisemitism on our campus. While we are deeply concerned about antisemitism, we are also disturbed by the ways the hearing – like those in December, and surely those to follow – used specious charges of rampant antisemitism to advance an illiberal agenda. We were shocked that President Shafik capitulated to its mendacious premises and failed to stand up for fundamental academic principles of honest intellectual inquiry and free expression. Most galling was the absence of any acknowledgment of the relentless devastation in Gaza: the urgent reason for the student protests that the committee caricatures and condemns as antisemitic. The campaign against the independence of higher education has now found incendiary fuel from a new ally: a longstanding, well-organized movement to stifle pro-Palestinian speech in American theaters, art spaces, literary venues and schools. For decades, this effort has relied on the false premise that any expression of a Palestinian narrative is an attack on Israel’s very existence, and that any support of Palestine is pro-Hamas. Feeling a connection to Israel, as most American Jews tell pollsters they do, does not constitute an identity. Second, the faulty reasoning equates discomfort with actually being unsafe. We are not saying that there have been no anti-Jewish incidents on campus. Sadly, there have, as there have been anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim incidents; all of them must be addressed clearly and firmly. But protesting Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza – which uses an arsenal supplied by the US – is not driven by bias against Jews any more than objecting to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is driven by bias against Russians. read the complete article

USC decision to cancel Muslim valedictorian's speech further inflames tensions on campus

Some students at the University of Southern California said their sense of pride was dashed this week when the school canceled Muslim student Asna Tabassum's valedictorian speech out of security concerns. They said the announcement of Tabassum's selection as valedictorian this month made them feel seen and heard. “It showed me that our people have a voice on campus,” said USC student Abdullah Khlefat, who is Muslim. Another student, named Layan, who asked that her last name not be used because she was afraid of being harassed for speaking out, said the announcement had brightened her outlook about the future. “For a sliver of a moment, I had a sense of hope. I felt like one day I could be like Asna,” said Layan, a first-year student majoring in political science. Those dreams were crushed when USC Provost Andrew Guzman rescinded Tabassum's invitation to speak at graduation, citing security concerns over tensions related to “the ongoing conflict in the Middle East." "There is no way the university can’t protect her," Gonzalez said of Tabassum. "It’s just that they’re choosing not to." After Tabassum was selected as valedictorian, at least two pro-Israel and Jewish groups complained to USC about the choice. They pointed to her social media activity, including her Instagram account, which links to a slideshow encouraging people to “learn about what’s happening in palestine, and how to help.” read the complete article

Finding New Weapons in the Battle Against Hate

Muslim, Arabic and Palestine communities, like many other minority communities, are being increasingly vilified and targeted with hate in the U.S., a crisis known as “Islamophobia.” Recent data released by the California Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR) showed that in the last three months of 2023, it received 3,578 complaints of anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian hate – a 178% increase since 2022. It is why Muslim leaders such as Salam Al-Marayti, president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), are pushing their communities to make their voices heard through protesting as well as at the ballot box in the upcoming November elections. read the complete article

What is the legacy of October 7 for today's young Muslims?

I remember the days immediately after the September 11 attacks. A group of Muslim women, we met in a coffee shop, to the backdrop of an eerily empty London. We wondered if we would be safe, but we also did not want to be cowed as Muslims by the threats in the air. In fact, we faced double threats: from the same people who perpetrated the attack, as well as those who now openly exhibited a menacing Islamophobia. That time is a collection of vignettes in my memory: my dad being jostled for being Muslim, a friend wearing a hijab having her nose broken while sitting on the train, Muslim friends and colleagues with “Muslim” names having their bank accounts frozen. My public “coming of age” happened in the shadow of 9/11, as it did for a generation of Muslims. Before I felt more like a private individual minding my own business and getting on with living my life. Then, the post 9/11 world co-opted my whole identity. The choice was to disengage from everything I was and hide, or to step up and own my “Muslimness”, and challenge the horrible prejudice, discriminations and restrictions that loomed around us all. Skip forward a generation, 22 years, to October 2023 and there feels like an echo. I see a generation of young people having a similar cataclysmic reaction to the events and public mood are unfolding after October 7. For these young people – not even born in 2001, or too young to remember it – the events of 9/11 and its aftermath for Muslims domestically and globally are not well known, or perhaps even something to read about in past history, something potentially irrelevant to them. But what now I see are many similarities of the “wake up”: the anger, the protests, the scales falling from the eyes, the disappointment and the mobilisation. But the world is different, and I also see those differences playing out. After 9/11, as a generation of young Muslims reinterpreting the world, we were forced into a narrative against our will of “clash of civilisations”. Whereas now there are terms and intellectual frameworks to help us contextualise it more – post-colonialism, discussions of racism, imperialism as well as alignment of different justice-seeking groups. For younger people today, having their own framework brings power rather than forcing them onto the back foot. read the complete article

Michigan GOP’s new chair works with an Islamophobic think tank

Thanks to a new Media Matters report, it’s all starting to make a bit more sense. The outlet says the Michigan GOP’s new chair — Pete Hoekstra, who was ambassador to the Netherlands under President Donald Trump — has a well-documented history of anti-Muslim associations. According to Media Matters’ Eric Hananoki: While serving as chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Pete Hoekstra has also been working for the anti-Muslim Gatestone Institute, which has posted commentaries suggesting that Muslims are incompatible with the West, declaring “Islam is a Problem,” and claiming Europe may be facing “Great White Death” because of Muslim immigrants. Hoekstra himself has used his Gatestone Institute position to praise Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician and leading anti-Muslim figure. The Michigan GOP chair also wrote that he has “often met” with Wilders, who he claimed is devoted to “religious tolerance.” (Wilders has claimed, among other things, that “Islam is not a religion”). As Hananoki notes, Gatestone has published pieces such as “Germany’s Multicultural Suicide” and argued that “the ‘white death’ of Europe is a mathematical reality.” Hoekstra’s links to Islamophobia and white nationalist politics are especially noteworthy given his state: Michigan has one of the largest concentration of Muslim Americans in the country. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Harlow Conservative councillor suspended after claims he made series of “Islamophobic comments”

A SENIOR Harlow Conservative has been suspended following allegations that he made “Islamophobic comments” on social media. Councillor James Leppard is candidate for Church Langley South and Potter Street. Hope Not Hate claimed that Conservative councillor James Leppard made a number of Islamophobic statements on Facebook, saying of Muslims that: “We really don’t need them here. They add nothing” and “endorsing” Islamophobic abuse of London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The article goes on to reveal that prior to taking his seat on the council, James Leppard was the administrator of a small pro-Brexit Facebook group, ‘The Brexit Forum’, in which he discussed current affairs with a few hundred other Facebook users. read the complete article


Germany: Jewish and Muslim communities search for solidarity

Abdassamad El Yazidi, the secretary-general of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, told DW that both Jews and Muslims take the conflict very emotionally. "But it is possible to build trust, argue objectively about the issue, and still treat each other respectfully," he said. That is the challenge wherever Jews and Muslims live together in the world. For Germany, it poses a particularly vexing balancing act. The country is home to a Muslim population of about 5.5 million — more than half are German nationals, according to the German Islam Conference — and the largest Palestinian diaspora in Europe. Its Jewish community is considerably smaller, perhaps less than 200,000 people, yet German history gives them outsized attention. "As a society and citizens, we are responsible for the antisemitic annihilation of millions of people," El Yazidi, who is involved in a number of Muslim-Jewish outreach efforts in Germany and around Europe, said. "We must do everything to ensure that this does not happen again. But the answer cannot be to stigmatize another religious group by pushing them aside, by denying them their belonging." Following the Hamas attacks, both government and opposition parties in Germany submitted proposals doubling down on the fight against antisemitism with a special focus on "imported antisemitism" — a clear shot at minority groups to which many foreign-born people belong. This sort of politics is "dishonest," El Yazidi said. He called it "brazen" for the country responsible for the Holocaust to speak of "imported" antisemitism. Abdassamad El Yazidi, the secretary-general of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, told DW that both Jews and Muslims take the conflict very emotionally. "But it is possible to build trust, argue objectively about the issue, and still treat each other respectfully," he said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 19 Apr 2024 Edition


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