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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22 Apr 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., a new study finds that online threats and hateful rhetoric against pro-Palestinian protesters have accelerated since Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas encouraged people to “take matters into your own hands,” meanwhile in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of delivering Islamophobic remarks during an election rally Sunday, and in France, a crowd of around 2,000 people protested in Paris against racism, Islamophobia and violence against children on Sunday. Our recommended read of the day is by Murtaza Hussain for The Intercept on a new lawsuit filed last month against Dr. Lorenzo Vidino of GWU, brought by Austrian academic and Bridge Initiative Senior Researcher Dr. Farid Hafez, which alleges that Vidino participated in a smear campaign resulting in the now deemed unlawful Operation Luxor. This and more below:



Once a well-respected public commentator and academic in his native Austria, Farid Hafez’s life slowly began to unravel after rumors spread that he was an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood — allegedly a sleeper agent promoting extremism in the country. “I used to be published every month in newspapers from both the left and right. I had a high profile in Austria, and people took me seriously,” Hafez said. “But some years ago, people started calling me to tell me that there were rumors about me spreading behind closed doors. I felt there was a difference, and that something was changing.” “Eventually,” he said, “I was sidelined to such an extent that newspapers would not even publish me anymore.” Hafez’s growing ostracism in Austria culminated in a controversial police operation in 2020 called Operation Luxor. Hafez and others were targeted with raids and asset seizures. Hafez ultimately left Austria for the United States, where he took up a visiting professorship at Williams College in Massachusetts. Operation Luxor was later deemed unlawful by Austrian courts, and the police’s terrorism charges against Hafez were eventually dropped. Today, the case is widely viewed as a witch hunt that targeted Austrian Muslims. Despite his exoneration, the damage to Hafez’s life from the yearslong ordeal have been immense. Little did Hafez know at the time, but the rumors about him and others in Austria originated from a research center at George Washington University and a prominent U.S.-based terrorism analyst there named Lorenzo Vidino, according to a lawsuit filed late last month. Hafez’s suit alleges fraud and racketeering, asking for $10 million in damages from Vidino, along with George Washington University and its Program on Extremism, the research center that Vidino heads. Vidino worked with a private investigation firm in Switzerland that covertly spread spurious allegations against various Muslims in Europe, accusing them of involvement in terrorism and extremism, according to a report last year in the New Yorker. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Team GB cyclist Chris Froome's wife says 'there are no innocent Gazans' in social media tirade

The wife of former Team Great Britain Olympic-winning cyclist Chris Froome caused online outrage as she claimed there were “no innocent Gazans” and called Muslims a “drain on society” in a social media outburst earlier this week. Michelle Froome, who is also the four-time Tour de France-winning cyclist’s manager and agent, then deleted her entire X account after launching the tirade against Palestinians and Muslims. However, a day later, she reactivated her X account and began deleting the posts, before protecting her account from public viewing. Despite this, screenshots of her rant have been widely shared on social platforms. "Women’s rights matter! Gay rights matter! Trans rights matter! Hamas doesn’t support any of those. Take the blindfolds off and see the reality of the hatred they are spreading. There are no innocent Gazans," she wrote. Froome then rounded on Muslims in general, asserting they wanted to "take over". "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," she wrote. She went on to insult the Prophet Muhammad and continued her attacks on Islam, Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists. read the complete article

‘Soaked and muddy’: British Muslims tell their stories of prayer at school

It was in year nine when Hanzla started praying in the playground during lunchtime at his secondary school in Birmingham, despite restrictions from his teachers. “I’d find anywhere in the playground and get my friends to kind of make a circle around me – those friends were Muslims and non-Muslims – so the teachers would not find out,” he said. “A lot of the time it used to be raining and sometimes even snowing and the weather was cold.” Hanzla, now a 20-year-old university student, said he began praying at the school the year before in the classroom of a Muslim teacher. However, once other members of staff became aware, Hanzla said this was later “banned”, leading him to take his prayer to the playground. In April, a Muslim student lost her legal challenge against the Michaela community school in north-west London after its founder, thought to be Britain’s strictest headteacher, introduced a prayer ban. The student argued the ban was discriminatory but the head, Katharine Birbalsingh, claimed the prayers undermined social cohesion and inclusion, contributing to “segregation between religious groups and intimidation within the group of Muslim pupils”, the court was told. For Hanzla, who was told he could face detention due to his prayer rituals at school, the recent legal challenge was a potent reminder of his own experience. “I was quite shocked,” he said. “I would assume that the girl should have won the case.” read the complete article

With prayer ban, British Muslim children become latest target of state-sponsored Islamophobia

As a British Muslim school teacher, I can't say I'm surprised about this week's court ruling. The decision to rule in favour of Michaela Community School’s banning of ‘prayer rituals’ – and its clear discrimination of Muslim students – is indicative of this country’s Muslim moral panic. In Britain, innocuous expressions of Muslim identity are now viewed as extreme and anti-British, including five minutes of private prayer at lunchtime. Wherever Muslims exist, moral panic follows. The ‘prayer ban’ debate has emboldened right-wing commentators to call for an outright ban on hijabs and Islamic prayer in all UK schools. Peaceful protests that call for the end of Israel’s genocide in Gaza are now antisemitic "hate marches". Ramadan lights in central London over the Easter Weekend are British Muslims “muscling out” Easter and Islamic Hadiths shown at King’s Cross station during Ramadan continue to cause outrage in our supposedly secular, Christian country. The shadow of 9/11, the ‘War on Terror’, and the UK’s counter-terrorism apparatus have long pitted Muslims against the civilised, liberal, and enlightened West. However, in the UK, we seem to have reached a tipping point whereby Islamophobia is no longer a fringe view but a fundamental component of mainstream political discourse. It can even form the basis of career growth, see EDL founder Tommy Robinson, banished MP Lee Anderson or former Home Secretary Suella Braverman. read the complete article

How the UK has failed to protect Muslim religious rights

The high court ruling that recently upheld a prayer ban at Michaela Community School in Wembley joins a depressing list of cases where the concerns of Muslim parents about their children’s schooling are condemned and misreported by mainstream media. Other examples include the Trojan Horse affair and the Birmingham parent protests about teaching of LGBT issues. “Hardline Muslims” are accused of threatening “integration” and undermining successful headteachers. The government is called upon to support those headteachers and introduce measures to prevent similar episodes from happening again. Why did Michaela school have such a problem with making provisions for Muslim pupils to pray? Its intake is 90 percent ethnic minorities, and half of the students are Muslim. In many other successful schools with this kind of intake, facilities for private prayer would be provided. The court was told it would have been logistically difficult to do so. More importantly, it would have been against the “ethos” of the school. The judge was told that Michaela was a “secular secondary free school for boys and girls” and that its ethos involved “aggressively promoting integration”. This includes strict hierarchical relationships between pupils and teachers, with a very rigid format of teaching. Strict rules also apply to breaks and lunch periods, including a “rule of four”, where no more than four pupils can gather to socialise. Teachers will intervene to ensure that groups are ethnically and religiously mixed. It is not clear that allowing prayer, as a moment of reflection and devotion conducted in the company of others, would have undermined the substantive aims of the school’s policy. Worryingly, Birbalsingh regarded prayer as a form of segregation to which her policy of integration was opposed. read the complete article

Man arrested after racist rant video in east London goes viral

Havering Police said the 55-year-old man remains in custody after he was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences on Sunday evening. It comes after the circulation online of what the force described as “distressing” footage of a group of women being racially abused as they walked through Romford in east London on Saturday afternoon. The women, some of whom were wearing hijabs and pulling shopping trolleys, are heard being forced to defend themselves when a white man in glasses approached them on South Street and launched his tirade. He can be seen following them down the busy shopping district, loudly shouting and gesticulating at the group as they try to walk away. read the complete article


Modi’s Muslim remarks spark ‘hate speech’ accusations as India’s mammoth election deepens divides

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of delivering Islamophobic remarks during an election rally Sunday, triggering widespread anger from prominent Muslims and members of the opposition. The world’s most populous nation is in the midst of a mammoth weeks-long election in which Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to secure a rare third consecutive term. Speaking in front of a large crowd in the country’s western Rajasthan state, Modi said if voted into power, the country’s main opposition, the Indian National Congress, would distribute the country’s wealth among “infiltrators” and “those who have more children,” in apparent reference to the Muslim community. “When they (the Congress) were in power, they said Muslims have first right over resources. They will gather all your wealth and distribute it among those who have more children. They will distribute among infiltrators,” Modi said to thunderous roars from the audience. “Do you think your hard-earned money should be given to infiltrators? Would you accept this?” Modi said. Those remarks have been seized on by the opposition, who have long accused Modi and the BJP of using divisive rhetoric to turbo-charge their increasingly popular brand of Hindu nationalism. read the complete article

Why Is the BJP Courting Muslims in Assam?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking the votes of Muslims in India’s northeastern state of Assam ahead of the general elections. This is a drastic reversal of its position; only a year ago, BJP leaders had exuberantly announced that they do not require votes from the community. The courting of Muslim voters is particularly visible in Nagaon, which is one of the three Muslim-majority parliamentary constituencies in Assam. Last year, Assam’s BJP Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had proclaimed that the party would never seek votes from the “Miya,” or the Bengal-origin Muslims residing in riverine islands. The Miya community is one of three Muslim groups in the state, the other two being the indigenous Assamese Muslims and the Hindi-speaking Muslims. Together, Muslims make up more than 34 percent of the state’s population, with the Bengal-origin community constituting the largest chunk. Sarma’s statement came in the backdrop of the BJP’s fervent efforts to drive a wedge between the Bengal-origin Muslims and the rest of the populace in the state. Last year, the Assam government also resolved to carry out a census of the Assamese Muslims to unveil specific social and economic policies for the community. This coupled with the BJP’s commitment to implement the identification and deportation of foreign nationals from Assam contributed to the rapid expansion of the party’s support base in the state. Assam’s indigenous communities are extremely concerned over the increasing numbers of Bengal-origin Muslims in the state. read the complete article

Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots

Hindu-Muslim enmity made way for peace in an Indian district that saw deadly riots a decade ago but religious divisions still influence residents who voted on Friday in general elections in which Hindu nationalism is a key theme. Villages are largely self-segregated by religion in and around Muzaffarnagar district, in the most populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh, but people say there is no longer tension between the majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities. Violent clashes broke out here in 2013 after two Hindus stabbed a Muslim youth to death, accusing him of sexually harassing their sister. They were later beaten to death by a Muslim mob, which sparked riots that killed about 65 people, mostly Muslims, and displaced thousands. Violence has not returned to the district known as the country's sugarcane-belt, but political divisions remain as Hindus typically vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Muslims for the opposition. Modi's government has "controlled Muslims", said Ramesh Chand, a Hindu biscuit baker in Kairana city near Muzaffarnagar. Critics accuse the nationalist BJP of targeting India's 200 million minority Muslims to please their hardline Hindu base - charges they deny. Modi is widely expected to win a third term on the back of strong growth, welfare and his personal popularity despite some concern about unemployment, price rises and rural distress. read the complete article

United States

Muslim Americans who soured on Biden see Israel aid package as further betrayal

"Outraged," "point of no return" and "absolute disaster" are how some Muslim American organizers have described their reactions to an aid package for Israel that is making its way through Congress for President Joe Biden to sign into law. Many Muslim Americans were already furious with the Biden administration over its handling of the Israel-Hamas war, with activists organizing Democrats to vote “uncommitted" rather than support the president in some state primaries this year. For several activists and leaders of prominent Muslim American organizations, Biden's support for $26 billion in aid for Israel reaffirms their view about November's election: They cannot back Biden for a second term. read the complete article

Online threats against pro-Palestinian protesters rise in wake of Sen. Tom Cotton's comments about protests

Online threats and hateful rhetoric against pro-Palestinian protesters have accelerated since Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas encouraged people affected by the mass protests to "take matters into your own hands," according to a report obtained by CBS News. Advance Democracy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that conducts public interest research, says it found that there has been a surge in calls for violence against pro-Palestinian protesters across social media platforms this week after Cotton's comments, with users threatening to kill or injure protesters. The report found many of the threats were in direct response to Cotton's post, as well as to right-wing accounts and personalities who shared the post online, including Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. "RUN THEM OVER!" one user wrote on Truth Social, the social media platform owned by Trump Media, which is majority-owned by former President Donald Trump. "They are terrorists and should be shot," wrote another. Others suggested mugging, hanging, executing, zip tying, or throwing the protesters off of bridges they are occupying. read the complete article


The 'well-established' French Muslims who are thinking of emigrating

They don't know each other, and have never met. Yet the words are the same and the feelings shared – despair, helplessness, bitterness, anger, sadness – whether they are 30 or 70. They are "well-established" French citizens, as they put it: bankers, public servants, engineers, teachers, and artists. They are also Muslim and Arab. "And that, in France, is a double punishment, even more so since October 7, 2023 [the date of the Hamas attack on Israel]," said Ismail, a 59-year-old painter from Paris. All the names have been changed, as none of those Le Monde interviewed agreed to speak openly, fearing potential problems. They all condemn the "unbearable" political and media discourse toward Muslims, an "unbreathable, suffocating" atmosphere, and "harassment by public authorities." They speak of a "huge waste" and talk about "heartbreak" towards their own country, France. "No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, no matter how skilled we are, we are reduced to our origins and our religious identity and hindered in our careers," said Haroun, a 52-year-old banker from Bordeaux. A graduate of a prestigious business school, he believes he did not have the career he should have had. read the complete article

Parisians protest against Islamophobia amid Gaza war tensions

A crowd of around 2,000 people protested in Paris against racism, Islamophobia and violence against children on Sunday after a court allowed their demonstration to go ahead. Bans on protests have been more frequent in France in recent months amid tensions stirred by Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza. In a country that is home to large Muslim and Jewish communities, authorities have banned many pro-Palestinian demonstrations and public gatherings, citing the risk of antisemitic hate crimes and violence. read the complete article


Concerns over growing anti-Islam sentiments in the Netherlands

Concerns are growing among the Muslim population of the Netherlands who fear increased attacks and greater victimisation after a change of government. The party of self-proclaimed Islam-hater Geert Wielders won the most seats in the recent election, and is now expected to play a major role in the formation of a new coalition government. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 Apr 2024 Edition


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