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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16 Aug 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, critics are stating that a number of recent film releases are peddling lies and stoking divisions, including vilifying the Indian Muslim minority ahead of next year’s national elections, meanwhile in the U.S., the Indian American Muslim Council has condemned a “hateful display of flags” by a group of men that symbolized militant Hinduism during the India Day parade in the town of Edison, New Jersey, and lastly, Myanmar authorities have arrested nearly 150 Rohingya suspected of trying to flee the country. Our recommended read of the day is by Usaid Siddiqui for Al Jazeera on how major high-street banks in the UK appear to be disproportionately closing the accounts of British Muslims, this according to experts and numerous first person accounts. This and more below:

United Kingdom

Like Nigel Farage, British Muslims say they are being ‘de-banked’ | Recommended Read

Altikriti’s personal HSBC account and those of his family members were closed in 2014, a year in which several Muslim organisations were “de-banked”. Recent research has found that banks in the United Kingdom are closing up to 1,000 accounts a day. Nigel Farage, the right-wing populist politician who championed Brexit, went to war in July with British banks – and ultimately won the battle – after his accounts were closed. Though Altikriti and Farage could not be further apart in their political views, the think tank leader sees the scandal as an opportunity to highlight the treatment of de-banked British Muslims. “Yes, we [Muslims] have been targeted, absolutely, … but it goes beyond us,” he said. “If Nigel Farage gets his way and the whole board of NatWest steps down, I’ll be happy.” “In the end, it’s cutting off electricity from someone because you don’t believe in their faith or their political views. It’s absolutely ridiculous.” Fadi Itani, head of the of Muslim Charities Forum in London, told Al Jazeera that at least 50 organisations have faced bank closures. The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group representing UK Muslims, recently wrote a letter to Sunak, Labour leader Keir Starmer and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying Muslim individuals and organisations have been “disproportionately affected by this issue”. “People start questioning our credibility,” Kozbar said. “To them, if there is nothing to worry about, the banks shouldn’t be closing your account. And if they close it, that means that you’ve done something wrong, … and that’s the problem – we simply don’t have an answer.” He blamed “institutional Islamophobia” in the UK for the banks’ actions. “Whether its people in the media, the banks or the politicians, few if any came to show us [Muslims] support over the years,” he told Al Jazeera. “It demonstrates a clear double standard.” read the complete article


The Kerala Story: Secular Yet Nationalistic and Islamophobic

The Kerala Story is a Hindi-language drama film released in 2023 and directed by Sudipto Sen. The plot revolves around a group of women from Kerala who are coerced into converting to Islam and joining ISIS. The film claims to be based on a true story and promotes the Hindutva conspiracy theory of "Love Jihad.” Love Jihad is a controversial term, predominantly used in India, referring to a purported campaign by Muslim men to convert non-Muslim women to Islam by pretending to be in love, marrying them, and then forcing them to convert. Contrary to the film's claims, data from the Indian government has refuted the notion that a large number of Keralan women have joined ISIS. Despite its commercial success, the film has faced significant criticism, as many have labeled it as Islamophobic propaganda. The film's promotion by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the Karnataka assembly election further intensified the controversy. It is important to note that various government agencies, including the Centre, the Supreme Court, and the National Commission for Women (NCW), have repeatedly dismissed the narrative of Love Jihad. However, the film's depiction of this controversial concept aligns with a certain brand of Hindu nationalist ideologies prevalent in India. The experience of this propaganda in Kerala highlights that the dynamics of community and nationalism play a significant role in shaping the discourse around Love Jihad. The interconnectedness of community affiliation and nationalism shapes the political landscape, embodying historical legacies and power dynamics inherited from the colonial era, as astutely observed in Jocelyne Cesari's We God's People: Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism in the World of Nations (2021). Therefore, the discussion goes beyond whether Kerala is a secular state or not and delves into how the historical legacy of anti-colonial nationalism and community politics contribute to the politics of Islamophobia in South India. read the complete article

Indian movies vilifying Muslims spark fear ahead of polls

The trailer for the anti-Muslim box office hit claims to depict "innocent girls trapped, transformed and trafficked for terror", while declaring it was "inspired by many true stories". A fictitious tale of a Hindu woman who converts to Islam and then is radicalised, the movie is the second-highest-grossing Hindi film of 2023 so far. Critics have accused it and other recent releases of peddling lies and stoking divisions, including by vilifying the Muslim minority, ahead of next year's national elections. "I would suggest all political parties to take advantage of my film... Use it for your political gain," director Sudipto Sen said, in response to an AFP question about its political leanings. The world's largest democracy has a long history of film censorship, but detractors say the industry is increasingly pushing out films that share the ideology of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist government. The mass appeal of cinema in India makes the medium an unrivalled means of reaching the public, said journalist and author Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay. During Modi's tenure, movies have increasingly been used to spread divisive messages reinforcing prejudices shared by political leaders, he told AFP. "The same thing is being done by these films, to take hatred to the people... to create prejudice against the religious minorities," he added. read the complete article

'I Feel Bad That They're Scared': Nuh's Hindus Condemn Violence, Demolitions Against Muslims

Broken shacks, shanties and sign boards near the college are the casualty of the Haryana government’s abrupt move to demolish “illegally constructed” buildings in Muslim-dominated Nuh, which recently saw a storm of violence leaving six dead and injuring more than a hundred. After more than 1,000 structures were bulldozed in Nuh, local Muslims feel a sense of loss that goes beyond economics. It encompasses the powerlessness that they see as now intrinsic to their lives as Muslims in India. Dharamveer Singh, 36, lives in the neighbouring lane from where homes and shops owned by Muslims were razed to the ground. Singh’s lane, where only Hindus live, remains untouched by the demolitions. “We have lived among Muslims in harmony all our lives, we have never faced any verbal insult, let alone harassment and violence. I feel bad that their homes are broken, that they’re scared,” says Singh, a millets farmer. Twelve other Hindu families live in the same lane as him. Singh says that there is such amity and brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims in Nuh that beyond a point, religion stops interfering in their daily lives. Whether it’s business or banter about development, Singh explains that Nuh has never been a fertile ground for anti-Muslim hate. Though Nuh is Muslim-dominated, Hindus in the district said that the community has never asserted its dominance over the local minorities, which also includes the Sikh community. read the complete article

United States

How the U.S. Fueled the Spread of Islamophobia Around the World

Khaled Beydoun is a professor of law at Wayne State and the author of two books, American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear and The New Crusades: Islamophobia and the Global War on Muslims. American Islamophobia is a definitive analysis of the roots and spread of anti-Muslim animus in the United States, but The New Crusades expands the analysis to look at how the same bigotry manifests around the world, from France to India to China to New Zealand. The new book also shows how the “Global War on Terror” launched by the U.S. after 9/11 helped to fuel anti-Muslim bigotry elsewhere—for instance, China’s persecution of Uyghurs deploys justifications and rhetoric lifted straight from the Bush administration. He joined Current Affairs editor in chief Nathan J. Robinson on the Current Affairs podcast to discuss the books. read the complete article

Disruption at Edison's India Day Parade rattles Muslim participants

The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating an incident during Edison's annual India Day Parade on Sunday when a group of men showed up allegedly wielding flags symbolizing militant Hinduism. The Indian American Muslim Council, which participated in the parade, condemned the "hateful display of flags" by the men, who they say appeared beside Muslim marchers to intimidate them. Violence against Muslims and Christians has been steadily on the rise in India, and many say it is waved aside by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and the parade, which included children, was proceeding peacefully, said a Middlesex County resident who said his last name was Ansari but declined to give his first name. Ansari was in the parade as part of the Indian American Muslim Council, or IAMC. Then a group of around five or six men joined the parade, chanting slogans and waving flags that are used by the Bajrang Dal, a nationalistic outfit with roots in India that espouses a militant and exclusive Hindu identity. read the complete article


Myanmar arrests nearly 150 fleeing Rohingya

Myanmar authorities have arrested nearly 150 Rohingya suspected of trying to flee the country, an official told AFP on Tuesday. The mainly Muslim Rohingya are seen in Myanmar as interlopers from Bangladesh. They are denied citizenship and require permission to travel. The military launched a crackdown on Rohingya in 2017, and thousands now risk their lives each year making perilous journeys from camps in Bangladesh and Myanmar to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia. The 127 Rohingya men and 18 women were arrested on Friday near the village of Waekhami in southern Mon state. Myanmar is facing genocide accusations at the United Nations’ top court following the 2017 crackdown, which sent hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh. Last week, a boat carrying around 50 Rohingya broke up in heavy seas off the Myanmar coast. Rescuers have recovered 17 bodies, but the rest are still missing. read the complete article


Without Human Rights Sanctions, the World Is Normalizing China’s Genocide of Uyghurs

Today, Uyghurs are afraid that policymakers are normalizing China’s ongoing genocide of our people. A parade of foreign leaders are visiting Beijing to make deals and appeal to the Chinese leadership to cooperate on global crises, without saying a single word about the atrocities against our people. In February, a key architect of the Uyghur genocide was all set to meet officials in London and Brussels, a trip cancelled only after an international outcry. Xinjiang governor Erkin Tuniyaz’s trip should have been a non-starter. His deputy was already under U.K. and EU Global Magnitsky sanctions, and Tuniyaz himself has been under U.S. Global Magnitsky sanctions since 2021. My life has been dedicated to bringing attention to the atrocities unfolding in East Turkestan, where the Uyghur people face an ongoing genocide. In the past six years, the world has learned about the shocking scale of the abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, including an estimated 2 to 3 million people detained without charge or trial in a giant mass internment program, forced sterilizations, and forced labor. With yet another upcoming U.S. trip to Beijing in late August, by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the current effort to warm official relations between the United States and China is truly alarming to Uyghurs. We fear that the lessons of history will once more be overlooked and perpetrators of crimes against humanity will escape accountability. read the complete article

Why Quran Burning Is Making Nordic Leaders So Anxious

Salwan Momika, 37, and Salwan Najem, 48, burned a copy of the Quran as counter-protesters called for them to “extinguish their hate.” Sweden and its Nordic peer Denmark have been grappling with how to address what some see as an act of protected free speech and others a symbol of religious hatred and xenophobia. Quran-burning incidents in Sweden and Denmark may be a tiny phenomenon, but they have made leaders in northern Europe anxious. “We are currently in the most serious security situation since the Second World War,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said last month, following a conversation with his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen, regarding the issue. The number of people who are burning copies of the Quran remains small. But the sharing of videos and livestream footage of such incidents has given them outsized attention. Mohammad Fazlhashemi, a professor of Islamic theology and philosophy at Sweden’s Uppsala University, tells TIME that these videos can appear to legitimize the views of a tiny minority. “It is taken as proof that the reason for this is the widespread Islamophobia in Sweden,” Fazlhashemi says. “For them, it does not seem to matter that Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billström condemns the Quran burnings and describes them as an expression of Islamophobia.” Fazlhashemi adds that while the government does not endorse these attitudes, various political leaders have expressed contempt for the religion. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 16 Aug 2023 Edition


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