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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01 Aug 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, authorities have suspended internet service and deployed thousands of paramilitary and police forces to Haryana following clashes that began after the right-wing Hindu groups, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, led a religious procession through a Muslim-majority area, meanwhile, the governments of Sweden and Denmark said they were examining ways to legally limit Quran burning and other such acts in a bid to de-escalate growing tensions with several Muslim majority countries, and lastly, in France, media pundits described Nouhail Benzina’s wearing of the hijab at the Women’s World Cup as “regression.” Our recommended read of the day is by Ruslan Yusupov for Foreign Policy on the partial destruction of a grand mosque in China’s Yunnan Province, and how it is part of a wider campaign that mixes Islamophobia and xenophobia throughout the countryThis and more below:


China Is Taking a Wrecking Ball to Famous Mosques | Recommended Read

The partial destruction of the mosque is part of a wider campaign that mixes Islamophobia and xenophobia, and which has led to the demolition or partial demolition of Islamic sites throughout China. While the western province of Xinjiang remains ground zero for the crackdown, the government’s measures are increasingly targeting the larger Muslim community. Domes and minarets, dubbed as a sign of foreign influence, have been particularly targeted—in part to appease an increasingly Islamophobic public. Shadian’s mosque is an icon of Hui pride and was once a symbol of a party that seemed willing to leave the chaos of the Cultural Revolution behind. In a society in which the state heavily enforces the primacy of Han Chinese culture, and where ethnic and religious minorities are often reduced to token performances, the mosque provided a rare avenue of cross-cultural communication. The directive to “merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture” was first outlined during a seminal April 2016 conference on religion chaired by Xi. In 2018, that directive became the ideological basis of a five-year policy plan for “persisting in the Sinification of Islam.” These efforts, which claim that China is under the threat of “Saudization, Arabization, and Halalization,” have most brutally impacted Xinjiang, where more than a million Muslim Uyghurs are detained in internment camps or the prison system, women are forcibly sterilized, and ages-old religious shrines are erased. But the same efforts are having lesser-known impacts among China’s other minority Muslim communities, resulting in the removal of Arabic “halal” signs from the Hui Muslim food outlets and comestibles, banning Hui Muslim minors from learning scriptures or entering religious buildings, and most recently, the demolition of key features of mosques. read the complete article


Abu Dhabi Secrets: Manchester mosque was targeted by UAE smear campaign

A mosque thrown into the media spotlight by the 2017 Manchester bombing was the target of a smear campaign orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates government, Middle East Eye can reveal. The campaign was carried out by a Swiss private intelligence firm hired by Abu Dhabi and sought to falsely draw connections between the attack, the mosque, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as Didsbury Mosque, is among hundreds of organisations and people, most of them Muslim, in at least 13 European countries reportedly targeted between 2017 and 2020 by the Swiss firm, Alp Services. Details have come to light after thousands of documents were initially leaked to the French newspaper Mediapart and then shared widely with journalists around Europe and in the Middle East. read the complete article

Islamic group suggests that member nations downgrade ties with countries that allow Quran burnings

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation urged its member nations Monday to take action against countries that permit public burning or desecration of the Quran, including the recalling of ambassadors. The Saudi Arabia-based group made the call in a statement following an emergency online meeting of its foreign ministers to discuss recent incidents in which the Islamic holy book was burned or otherwise defaced at officially permitted protests in Sweden and Denmark. The organization's 57 member countries should “consider taking any necessary decisions and actions that they deem appropriate in their relations" with Sweden, Denmark, and other countries that allow such incidents, including recalling their ambassadors, the statement said. It encouraged civil society organizations in the member states to work with counterparts in countries where the Quran has been burned or desecrated to file local lawsuits “before taking their cases to international judicial bodies, where applicable.” read the complete article

Nordic governments seek to de-escalate tension as more Korans are burned

More Koran burnings took place in Sweden and Denmark on Monday as the governments of the two Nordic countries said they were examining ways to legally limit such acts in a bid to de-escalate growing tensions with several Muslim countries. Denmark and Sweden have seen several protests in recent weeks in which copies of the Koran were burned, or otherwise damaged, prompting outrage in Muslim countries and demands that the Nordic governments put a stop to the burnings. The Danish government said on Sunday it would seek to find a "legal tool" that could enable authorities to intervene in such protests, if deemed to entail "significant negative consequences for Denmark, not least with regard to security". "The fact that we are signalling both in Denmark and abroad that we are working on it will hopefully help de-escalate the problems we are facing," Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen told journalists following a meeting with foreign policy speakers of parliament on Monday. "It is not because we feel pressured to do so, but it is our political analysis that it is in the best interest of all of us," Rasmussen said. "We shouldn't just sit and wait for this to explode." read the complete article

‘Word of God’: Why Muslims are opposed to the burning of the Quran

The Quran is the holy book of Islam and its most sacred text. It is not merely a book but is considered the literal word of God, and Muslims treat it with utmost respect and reverence. Muslims believe the Quran’s text has been preserved in its original form since the time of its revelation about 1,400 years ago. As such, Muslims see the burning of the Quran as a desecration of sacred scripture and an unacceptable act. “This [burning of the Quran] is a humiliation of the faith and beliefs of Muslims, but what is more unfortunate is that this insult to the sanctities of a great population is happening under the guise of protecting freedoms,” Abbas Salimi Namin, a Tehran-based scholar, told Al Jazeera. Muslims make up a small minority of the populations in West European countries, and the majority are from non-white backgrounds. Some Muslims believe that the targeting of Islamic holy symbols for desecration is evidence of a wider climate of hatred towards Muslims and is encouraged by the European far-right. This is coupled with far-right calls for an end to immigration from Muslim countries and even the expulsion of Muslim citizens as part of a conspiracy theory that Muslims will “replace” the “native” population of Europe. read the complete article


Indian guard kills colleague and three passengers on train, then hails Modi

An Indian railway security guard has been arrested after he allegedly shot dead a colleague and three passengers on board a train. The suspect was identified by police as Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable Chetan Singh, 33, who hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, after the shooting on board the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Superfast Express train early on Monday. In one of the videos widely shared on the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter, Singh is seen standing next to a blood-soaked body with his rifle in one hand. “If you want to live and vote in Hindustan [India], I am telling you, it’s only Modi and Yogi,” he was heard saying in one of the videos verified by Al Jazeera. Singh is accused of shooting RPF Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Tika Ram Meena and three passengers, two of whom were identified as Muslims, in the moving train near the town of Palghar in the southwestern state of Maharashtra about 5am (23:30 GMT on Sunday), two hours away from Mumbai. read the complete article

India's Haryana state on edge as authorities block internet, deploy troops amid deadly sectarian violence

Indian authorities suspended internet service and deployed thousands of paramilitary and police forces Monday to the northern state of Haryana as deadly sectarian violence spread toward India's sprawling capital city. At least one person was killed and 20 others injured in the clashes that erupted Monday afternoon. The violence started after the right-wing Hindu groups, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, led a religious procession through a Muslim-majority part of Haryana's Nuh district. Indian media said the clashes began after a video was posted on social media by Monu Manesar, a member of Bajrang Dal who's wanted by police as a suspect in the murder of two Muslim men whose bodies were set on fire in February. Manesar announced plans to join the religious procession in the video — seen as a direct challenge to the local Muslim community. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Except the Muslims: The UK’s selective defence of freedom of speech amidst Quran burning in Sweden

Despite the resolution passing and the UN Human Rights Council’s strong condemnation of the Quran burning as a religious hate act, the UK was amongst 12 states to oppose the resolution. They cited the protection of freedom of speech and expression as their pillar of motivation. According to them, whilst some anti-religious acts are distasteful, publicly burning and stamping on what is inextricably linked to and highly revered in the faith of 1.8 billion people worldwide doesn’t warrant an incitement of hatred and is a mere expression of one’s free speech. However, Manley quickly took a U-turn declaring that “we do not accept that, by definition, attacks on religion, including on religious texts or symbols, constitute advocacy for hatred.” Arguably, the UK’s track record strongly suggests otherwise. It’s plain as day that seemingly casual words publicly broadcast to an entire nation have the power to incite hatred. So, what of the violent message inextricably woven into the act of publicly desecrating what Muslims hold as central to their faith? Indeed, this goes way beyond any argument about sacredness and anti-blasphemy laws, and squares centrally within violent provocation and advocacy of hatred. Disagreement and criticism about religion isn’t what’s up for discussion here, but the threatening symbolism inherent within public acts of burning the Quran, especially within the Islamophobic climate that we find ourselves in. Religious and racial hatred weigh light on the scale of incitement, overpowered by the need to uphold bigotry and state control. We have reached a juncture at which our PM will unashamedly jump to the defence of ex-Ukip leader Nigel Firage and his bank account closures in the name of free speech, whilst remaining silent on decades of unsubstantiated closures faced by Muslim charitable and religious organisations. read the complete article


‘If I left, I’d have to go without a word’: how I escaped China’s mass arrests

Mass arrests had begun in Kashgar. The wave of arrests was so immense that existing detention facilities in the city – police station lockups, prisons, holding centres, labour camps, drug-detox facilities – had been quickly overwhelmed. Within days, numerous schools, government offices and even hospitals had been converted into detention and re-education centres hastily outfitted with iron doors, window bars and barbed wire. Rumours spread that, outside the city, construction was proceeding rapidly on multiple new so-called “study centres”, each meant to house tens of thousands. Fear reigned everywhere. People said the day of judgment had come. According to Dilber, the primary targets of this round of arrests were devout individuals from Xinjiang’s mostly Muslim Uyghur population. In addition, any Uyghur who had been abroad, for whatever reason, was to be detained. From what I understood, in Urumqi as in Kashgar, the mass arrests first targeted devout individuals, people who had been abroad, and those with livelihoods outside the state system. The scope of the arrests then gradually expanded to other targets as well. It remained a mystery, though, how the authorities determined who would be taken. Anyone who asked the police why they had been arrested was told only that “your name was on the list they sent down”. There was no way to know if or when your name would show up on the list. We all lived within this frightening uncertainty. read the complete article

United States

“FBI-Orchestrated Conspiracy”: Judge Orders Release of 3 of Newburgh 4 Tied to Fake NY Bomb Plot

For the past 14 years, relatives of four men jailed on terrorism charges in Newburgh, New York, have accused the FBI of entrapment. On Thursday, a federal judge agreed and ordered the release of three of the men known as the Newburgh Four: David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen. The men had been sentenced in 2010 to 25 years in prison for a government-orchestrated bombing plot of a New York synagogue. In a stunning decision, the judge accused the FBI of inventing a conspiracy. With the men set to be released within 90 days, we speak with lawyers Kathy Manley and Stephen F. Downs from the Coalition for Civil Freedoms about the monumental ruling, the legal issues with entrapment and what the ruling means for the many cases like this one. “This was the government’s standard operating procedure right after 9/11,” says Downs. “They were out there going to create as many terrorists as they could to show the public that they were on the job.” The fourth man convicted, James Cromitie, is expected to seek compassionate release. read the complete article


French media describes Moroccan World Cup player's hijab as 'regression' in women's rights

While the world is celebrating Moroccan player Nouhaila Benzina's outstanding performance in the 2023 Women's World Cup, French media seems to be more concerned over one of the players wearing a headscarf and how it might cause a setback in women's rights. "With her hijab, she is telling to her teammates you are immodest. [The wearing of the hijab by a player at the Women's World Cup] is an incredible regression," Philippe Guibert, a journalist on French channel Cnews, said during a debate on Sunday. Titled "Headscarf: Is FIFA Right to Remove the Ban?" the French news channel held on Sunday, 30 July, a round table on the consequences of wearing the headscarf in football games, targeting mainly Moroccan football player Nouhail Benzina. The 25-year-old defender Benzina became the first player to wear the hijab during a senior Women's World Cup (WWC) game when she started her team's 1-0 victory against South Korea on Sunday. In 2007, FIFA banned the hijab from being worn during international matches, citing safety reasons. The ban was lifted in 2014 before Muslim players wore the headscarves for the first time in a FIFA event during the 2016 Under-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan. Meanwhile, France's top administrative court upheld last month a ban on women football players wearing Islamic hijab headscarves in games. read the complete article

New Zealand

Muslim students report bullying starts at preschool, then it just gets worse

Muslim children as young as preschool age are being bullied, and the mother of a man killed in the country’s worst mass shooting is determined to do something about it, to combat racism in schools. Dr Maysoon Salama has seen tamariki go from the supportive environment of the Islamic preschool she co-founded in Christchurch, An-Nur Childcare Centre, to being bullied in primary school. “One of our little girls from day one, when she moved to primary school, was bullied because she was wearing a hijab. “They don’t want to play with her and [say] ‘You’re not my friend’ and now she doesn’t want to go to school.” She and her centre teamed up with Tātai Aho Rau Core Education, and South Island funder Rātā Foundation to create resources to help teachers and learners understand Muslim culture, promote inclusivity and eliminate bullying, bias, and discrimination nationwide. It comes after The Education Review Office published a report – Education For All Our Children: Embracing Diverse Ethnicities – that found one in five ethnic tamariki report being bullied by racist comments. Research indicates that bullying, lack of respect, isolation, and discrimination are common challenges Muslim children face when they enter the school environment, many of whom come from refugee families. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Aug 2023 Edition


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