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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29 Apr 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In Australia, representatives of the Australian Muslim community have called out what they describe as ‘questionable law enforcement tactics’ after several minors were arrested this week with five of them being charged with terror-related crimes, meanwhile in the UK, an investigation by Greenpeace’s Unearthed team has found that Conservative party staff and activists are secretly operating a network of Facebook groups, which have become a hotbed of racism, misinformation, and support for criminal activity, and in India, experts say that anti-Muslim sentiments have heightened across the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Our recommended read of the day is by Yumna Rizvi for Al Jazeera on how three former detainees of Abu Ghraib prison are finally having their voices heard as their suit against CACI International Inc., a private military contractor, is underway. This and more below:

United States

The Abu Ghraib case is an important milestone for justice | Recommended Read

Almost 20 years later, I found myself in court looking at the same shocking pictures of men whose faces are hidden beneath coarse hoods. But this time, the men tortured in these photos were not nameless and faceless. I watched one survivor of Abu Ghraib testify from Iraq via videolink, and I shook hands with another outside the court, 20 minutes away from the nation’s capital where decisions were made that changed their lives. It was two weeks before the 20th anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal that the civil trial of Al Shimari v CACI finally started. I attended as an observer from the Center for Victims of Torture, which seeks accountability for torture perpetrated by the United States. This case, brought forth by three Iraqi men – Suhail Najim Abdullah al-Shimari, Salah Hasan Nusaif al-Ejaili and Asa’ad Hamza Hanfoosh Zuba’e – is the only one by survivors of Abu Ghraib against a military contractor that has reached trial. The three men are suing CACI International Inc, a private military contractor, over the allegation that CACI personnel “participated in a conspiracy to commit unlawful conduct, including torture and war crimes at Abu Ghraib prison”. Since 2008, the company has tried to dismiss this case more than 20 times. The trial marks a significant moment in the legal battle for justice and redress for Abu Ghraib and, more broadly, the US torture programme. It represents a culmination of relentless efforts by the victims themselves, human rights advocates and legal experts to shed light on the dark underbelly of the US “war on terror”. read the complete article

Islamophobia incidents rising in US as pro-Palestinian students accused of antisemitism

Anti-Muslim incidents are on the rise in the US, according to a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) report released in early April. The report revealed a 56% surge in anti-Muslim incidents in 2023, with 44% occurring after Oct. 7, suggesting heightened prejudice against Muslims. Pro-Palestine demonstrations at Columbia University have expanded to US campuses, leading pro-Israel groups to denounce the protests as antisemitic. Efforts by universities to quell the protests have sparked debates on free speech, with accusations of antisemitism raising concerns about rising Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian incidents in the US. The Muslim rights advocacy group’s New Jersey Communications Director, Dina Sayedahmed, condemned the use of antisemitism allegations to silence Palestinian and Muslim students critical of Israel, calling it a violation of free speech. “It's mainly due to public officials’ unbalanced, disingenuous and dishonest statements on Palestine and on Muslims,” said Sayedahmed, noting that CAIR witnessed a more than 200% increase in anti-Muslim incidents from 2023 to 2024. "The state is unable to actually investigate true antisemitic events because they're being flooded with false accusations of anti-Semitism,” she said. Kaiser Aslam, from the Islamic Life Center at Rutgers University (ILC), stressed that campus protests targeted Israeli policies, not Jewish people, highlighting growing Islamophobia and harassment faced by Muslim students. Referring to an attack on the center earlier this month, he said: "We became the target of not just smear campaigns but actual violence." read the complete article

USC vetoed a Muslim student’s graduation speech for her pro-Palestinian views. Why?

Then the university announced last week that it would no longer allow Tabassum to speak at commencement. After pro-Israel groups mischaracterized Tabassum’s pro-Palestinian views as “antisemitic”, the USC administration claimed that security concerns made her speech untenable. “I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred,” Tabassum, a friend of mine, wrote in a statement. “I am surprised that my own university – my home for four years – has abandoned me.” USC has not just abandoned an accomplished student, but also nearly 1,000 Muslims on campus. I happen to be one of them. Right now, the reality of being a Muslim student is intertwined with the university’s decision to rescind Tabassum’s well-earned honour. We were teased by our institution, taunted even, as they refuse to publicly stand by their choice. As a Muslim, the lack of support scares me. My hijab-wearing friends have been called terrorists and spat at; my Palestinian peer has had their car broken into and their Qur’an torn and I am judged for wearing a keffiyeh to class or having a sticker on my laptop that reads “Free Palestine”. When Arab and Muslim students are directly affected, the university’s silence makes its position clear. read the complete article

20 Years After Abu Ghraib, Its Victims Take Their Torturers to Court

On the witness stand, Al-Ejaili recounted scenes of horrific torture, including having his arms handcuffed behind him and attached to a pipe, being held naked in freezing conditions, and as a result of the torture, developing stomach pain so severe that at one point, black liquid started to come out of his mouth. After his release from Abu Ghraib in February 2004, Al-Ejaili described having many psychological problems, familial problems, losing confidence in himself and others, and trouble eating and sleeping. Taking the witness stand virtually from Iraq, another survivor, Asa’ad Hamza Hanfoosh Al-Zuba’e, who was held for a year at Abu Ghraib, also detailed brutal torture at the prison. Through a Zoom screen in the courtroom, Al-Zuba’e revealed in detail some of the brutal torture that he was exposed to, including forced nudity and being forced to play with his genitals, having a black hood placed over his head and being dragged, getting cold water poured on him, and being told that “they were going to f**k him.” If anyone — including the U.S. government and the corporation at the center of the lawsuit, CACI — thought this chapter of the “war on terror” would be easy to relegate to history as “mistakes” of the past, these harrowing testimonies revived the visceral images and stories of torture at Abu Ghraib, bringing them vividly into our present and the courtroom as if no time at all had elapsed. read the complete article


Muslim community calls for Sydney raids inquiry after minors charged with terror offences – video

Representatives of the Australian Muslim community have called out what they describe as 'questionable law enforcement tactics' after seven minors were arrested and five of them were charged with terror-related offences this week. Three major bodies, the Australian National Imams Council, the Alliance of Australian Muslims and the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network, have demanded the government revise Australia's anti-terrorism laws, saying they currently 'target specific communities'. They also say they were not consulted before the raids, and questioned the process that led to the arrest and charging of the teenagers. The arrests come amid an ongoing investigation into the 16-year-old who allegedly stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley. read the complete article

Muslim groups claim double standards in police handling of two high-profile stabbings in Sydney

Muslim groups in Australia on Friday criticized the disparity in the police response to two stabbing attacks in Sydney this month, saying it had created a perception of a double standard and further alienated the country's minority Muslim community. The Australian National Imams Council said an attack at a Bondi Junction shopping center was “quickly deemed a mental health issue” while the stabbing of a Christian bishop at a Sydney church two days later was “classified as a terrorist act almost immediately.” “The differing treatments of two recent violent incidents are stark,” the council's spokesperson, Ramia Abdo Sultan, said in a statement with the Alliance of Australian Muslims and the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network. “Such disparities in response create a perception of a double standard in law enforcement and judicial processes,” she said. read the complete article


India votes in Phase 2 of mammoth election as Modi raises campaign pitch

India has voted in the second phase of the world’s biggest election, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his challengers raise the pitch of the campaign by focusing on hot-button issues such as religious discrimination, affirmative action and taxes. Almost one billion people are eligible to vote in the seven-phase general election that began on April 19 and concludes on June 1, with votes set to be counted on June 4. Modi is seeking a record-equalling third straight term on the back of his economic record, welfare measures, national pride, Hindu nationalism and personal popularity. The campaign has become more heated since the first phase of voting on April 19 as Modi and the Congress face off on communal issues, with the prime minister accusing the opposition party of favouring minority Muslims, aiming to dilute affirmative action and planning to impose an inheritance tax. read the complete article

'Invisible in our own country'

Six years ago, a Muslim boy returned red-faced from a well-known school in the northern Indian city of Agra. "My classmates called me a Pakistani terrorist," the nine-year-old told his mother. Reema Ahmad, an author and counsellor, remembers the day vividly. "Here was a feisty, little boy with his fists clenched so tightly that there were nail marks in his palm. He was so angry." As her son told the story, his classmates were having a mock fight when the teacher had stepped out. "That's when one group of boys pointed at him and said, 'This is a Pakistani terrorist. Kill him!'" He revealed some classmates had also called him nali ka kida (insect of the gutter). Ms Ahmad complained, and was told they "were imagining things… such things didn't happen". Ms Ahmad eventually pulled her son out of school. Today, the 16-year-old is home-schooled. Ever since Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in 2014, India's 200 million-odd Muslims have had a turbulent journey. Hindu vigilante mobs have lynched suspected cow traders and targeted small Muslim-owned businesses. Petitions have been filed against mosques. Internet trolls have orchestrated online "auctions" of Muslim women. Right-wing groups and sections of mainstream media have fuelled Islamophobia with accusations of "jihad" - "love jihad", for example, falsely accuses Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage. And anti-Muslim hate speech has surged - three quarters of incidents were reported from states ruled by the BJP. read the complete article

A history of the marginalization of India’s Muslim population

India is home to some 200 million Muslims, one of the world’s largest Muslim populations but a minority in the predominantly Hindu country. Since India’s independence, Muslims have often faced discrimination, prejudice, and violence, despite constitutional protections. Experts say anti-Muslim sentiments have heightened under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has pursued a Hindu nationalist agenda since elected to power in 2014. Since Modi’s reelection in 2019, the government has pushed controversial policies that critics say explicitly ignore Muslims’ rights, restrict religious freedoms, and are intended to disenfranchise millions of Muslims. Under Modi, violence against Muslims has become more common. The moves have sparked protests in India and drawn international condemnation. Some experts who follow India say that Modi’s reelection in 2024 would likely sow further religious division in the country. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Tory staff running network of anti-Ulez Facebook groups riddled with racism and abuse

Conservative party staff and activists are secretly operating a network of Facebook groups that have become a hotbed of racism, misinformation and support for criminal damage. An investigation has identified 36 groups that appear to be separate grassroots movements opposing the expansion of ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) schemes to reduce air pollution. They do not say they were set up by the Conservatives as part of a coordinated political campaign. The closed groups – which have a combined membership of 38,000 – have been a forum for Islamophobic attacks on Labour’s London mayor Sadiq Khan, with members calling him a “terrorist sympathiser” and a “khaki punt” and saying they would pay to get him “popped”. Other posts promote white supremacist slogans, antisemitic conspiracy theories and have encouraged the destruction of Ulez enforcement cameras. The findings by Greenpeace’s investigative unit, Unearthed, shared with the Observer, are the latest controversy to embroil the party over its campaigning tactics and attacks on Khan. Its former deputy chairman, Lee Anderson, was suspended in February after claiming “Islamists” were controlling the London mayor, and a Tory attack video used scenes of a panicked crowd at a New York subway station to claim Londoners were in fear of crime. read the complete article


Inside the surge in anti-Muslim hate speech on social media

Between 7 October and 14 November 2023, 7amleh also known as The Arab Centre for the Social Media Advancement, documented over one million instances of hate speech and/or incitement to violence in Hebrew targeting Palestinians and Palestinian rights advocates on social media platforms. Most of these cases were primarily found on X because the platform lacks adequate moderation tools to prevent the spread of hate speech and calls for violence. 68% of the recorded instances involved hate speech and incitement based on political affiliations and/or nationalist sentiments, while 29% were motivated by racism. The remaining cases included violence based on gender and religion, among others. Furthermore, the Palestinian Observatory of Digital Rights Violations (7or) collaborated with 7amleh and documented 1,447 instances of digital rights violations on social media platforms in the same time period. These violations comprised 573 cases of account restrictions or content takedowns impacting Palestinian users or supporters of Palestinian rights. Additionally, there were 904 verified cases of hate speech and incitement to violence. International heads of state, celebrities and media outlets also repeated unsubstantiated claims online that Hamas had beheaded 40 Israeli babies, even though there was no official confirmation by Israeli authorities of this alleged horrific act. Repeating the untrue story contributed to degrading Palestinians as "bloodthirsty monsters" and fueling widespread racism against them. There was also a prevalence of hate speech and anti-Muslim misinformation coming from India, which the Middle East Monitor termed as "the epicentre of hate and misinformation against Palestinians." read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 29 Apr 2024 Edition


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