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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17 Aug 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, the second annual Muslim Heritage Day Festival is coming back to Edmonton this weekend with organizers hoping it will serve as an opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims to learn about Islamic culture, meanwhile in the U.S., a Muslim family in Michigan was harassed by the owner of an Orchard and Cider mill who prevented the family from leaving claiming that “every Muslim steals from me” in an exchange caught on video, and lastly, in the United Kingdom, British Muslims who’ve been impacted by debanking discuss how difficult life can be when you’re locked out of accessing of your finances. Our recommended read of the day is by Al Jazeera on how human rights activists are condemning  U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna’s meeting with and far-right Hindu Nationalist Abhijeet Iyer-Mitra, who has a history of making anti-Muslim comments including describing Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as a “jihadi”. This and more below:


Congressman Ro Khanna slammed for meeting Hindutva ideologue on India visit | Recommended Read

United States Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna has come under sharp criticism for meeting far-right Hindutva ideologue Abhijeet Iyer-Mitra on his recent trip to India, with many pointing out that his embrace of Hindu nationalists is against the progressive values that he has claimed to espouse. The Indian-American Muslim Council, an advocacy group based in the US, said it was “deeply disappointed to see Khanna engaging with a far-right Islamophobe”, and condemned him for embracing those who “enable [this] cycle of hate and violence” against Muslims. Since Prime Minister Narendra came to power in 2014, Muslims have faced increasing attacks, including lynchings on mere suspicion of cow smuggling. Iyer-Mitra has been accused of promoting an Islamophobic narrative through his tweets. Last October, he called Khanna’s Muslim colleague, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a “jihadi” after her sharp exchange with an Indian journalist during a US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Human Rights in South Asia” in Washington, DC. Khanna’s meeting with Iyer-Mitra has been termed an act of appeasement by a US-based academic. “When he goes and meets with people like Abhijeet [Iye-Mitra] or others who are to the right of Indian Hindutva, he is basically appeasing his Indian backers and electorate in the US,” Mohamad Junaid, an assistant professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in New York, told Al Jazeera. Junaid said Khanna represents “the broader character of Hindu Indian diaspora in the US, which often votes for democratic candidates but is also highly radicalised by the Hindutva movement in India”. read the complete article

Hindu leader removed from Parliament of World's Religions after far-right links exposed

The Parliament of the World's Religions has quietly removed Hindu religious leader Nivedita Bhide from its list of speakers at this week's conference in Chicago after activists raised concerns over her links to Hindu nationalism, Middle East Eye can reveal. MEE first reported last week that anger was growing over Bhide's inclusion at the event over her links with the far right, but also her history of spreading Islamophobic disinformation about minorities in India, including Muslims and Christians. A source familiar with the issue at the parliament confirmed to MEE on Wednesday that Bhide, the vice president of Vivekananda Kendra, a Hindu nationalist social service and "nation-building" organisation, had been removed due to her affiliations and her Islamophobic social media posts. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Explainer: Are Muslim bank accounts being targeted in the UK?

The CEO of the Cordoba foundation, Anas Altikriti, has had his bank account closed two weeks after it was placed under review by UK bank Barclays. The bank, which had closed down Altikriti's credit cards prior to the account closure, has failed to issue an explanation as to why the accounts were terminated. According to Altikriti, three credit cards and two bank accounts were withdrawn, with the decisions coming after Barclays solicitors had told his solicitors that a "substantive" response would be made by the end of this week. "Debanking" occurs when a bank closes an account because it is deemed risky. This can occur for a number of reasons, including if the account holder is deemed a "politically-exposed person." Although the issue of debanking is known to affect public office holders, it also is estimated to have affected upwards of 343,000 people in the UK in 2021-22, meaning 1,000 accounts were closed every business day of the week. Altikriti, who is a Muslim and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood is one such person among many who have been debanked. He was debanked before in 2014 by HSBC. Other notable entities to suffer the same treatment include Finsbury Park Mosque, whose bank account was closed by HSBC after it was added to the notorious World Check database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters. read the complete article

British Muslims Say Debanking Is Ruining Lives

For Muslim communities in Britain, accessing financial services can prove especially difficult. From delays with applying and problems passing screening checks, to sudden debanking without an explanation. Aisha S Gani reports. read the complete article


Edmonton's Muslim Heritage Day Festival returns for a second year

The Muslim Heritage Day Festival is coming back to Edmonton for its second year this weekend. Taking place at Sir Winston Churchill Square on Saturday, the event is meant for Muslims and non-Muslims to come out and learn about Islamic cultural practices. A member of the marketing team for the festival, Fawwaz Hameed says there's a need for the festival in Edmonton to bridge connections between community members of all backgrounds. "There's a lot of misconceptions about Islam that we need to eliminate," Hameed said. "And hopefully by having an event like this, people will come out. "They'll see the culture, they'll see the history. And then they'll realize that maybe these people aren't as bad as we thought." About 7,000 people are expected to attend the festival. On the same day as the festival, an anti-Islamophobia awareness campaign will be launched at city hall. The campaign is being run by Sisters Dialogue, a non-profit organization working to address issues that affect Muslim women in Edmonton. read the complete article

United States


A second group of undergraduate students from across the country spent the summer at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock investigating Muslim hate crimes and anti-Muslim sentiment in Arkansas as part of a three-year National Science Foundation grant project. Dr. Tusty ten Bensel, associate dean of CBHHS and professor of criminal justice, and Dr. Robert Lytle, the graduate coordinator for the school, received a three-year $324,987 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in 2021 to study the perceptions of Muslims in Arkansas who have been the target of discrimination, harassment, or interpersonal crime, along with the impacts such behaviors have on victims. This year’s cohort build upon the work of the 2022 summer cohort, who analyzed qualitative interview data with members of the Muslim community in Central Arkansas to identify common patterns and themes in experiences with anti-Muslim sentiment and hate crime. “This year’s cohort focused on quantitative methods to produce a data analysis of public perceptions of anti-Muslim discrimination,” Lytle said. “However, they are also part of an ongoing project to gather experiences with anti-Muslim sentiment and hate crime from a larger sample of Muslims in Arkansas.” read the complete article

Michigan orchard owner apologizes after bigoted comments toward Muslim customers

When Yousef Abu Jenna Mahmoud and his wife decided to visit Erie Orchards and Cider Mills in Monroe County on Sunday, the Ann Arbor family was expecting a fun day picking peaches with their three daughters ages 8, 4 and 6 months. But instead of a weekend trip many in Michigan enjoy, Mahmoud said he encountered bigotry from the owner, Steve Elzinga, whom he said blocked them from leaving after a dispute over peaches, telling him in an exchange captured on video: "Every Muslim that comes in here steals from me." When Mahmoud said he was being racist toward Muslims, Elzinga doubled down on his remarks, replying: "Of course I am," and "I don't want them (Muslims) here." "He put that fear into us," Mahmoud told the Free Press by phone. "It was (supposed to be) a Sunday fun day with the girls, but it didn't really turn out that way." At one point, Mahmoud said, he told Elzinga: "Just leave us alone, my girls are crying. ... I'm scared now for my family." On Wednesday, Elzinga told the Monroe News: "I should never have said a generalized comment about Muslims being thieves and coming here to take advantage of us because that's not true. I regret that I made those kinds of statements. It's just not me. We've been here for 45 years and have always been open to everybody." read the complete article

9/11 defendants might not face the death penalty, U.S. tells families

The suspected architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and his fellow defendants may never face the death penalty under plea agreements now under consideration to bring an end to their more than decadelong prosecution, the Pentagon and FBI have advised families of some of the thousands killed. The notice, made in a letter that was sent to several of the families and obtained by The Associated Press, comes 1 ½ years after military prosecutors and defense lawyers began exploring a negotiated resolution to the case. The prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others held at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been troubled by repeated delays and legal disputes, especially over the legal ramifications of the interrogation under torture that the men initially underwent while in CIA custody. No trial date has been set. read the complete article


Clashes are injuring India's image ahead of G20 summit

With less than a month until the G-20 summit in India, the country has seen a spate of violent clashes. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to welcome world leaders, experts say that these incidents could seriously complicate his ability to showcase India as an Asian superpower. From Delhi, Shalu Yadav reports. SHALU YADAV: Anti-Muslim slogans reverberated in the streets of Gurugram, just outside of capital Delhi - a hub for dozens of multinational companies, including Google and American Express. Just six miles from here, President Biden and other world leaders will arrive for the G-20 summit in early September. These men from the majority Hindu community threatened Muslims, asking them to pack their belongings and leave or face consequences. What sparked this outrage was religious violence in the neighboring region of Nuh on July 31. At least five people died in the clashes when a Hindu religious procession was allegedly attacked by Muslims. Then, Hindus set a mosque on fire and allegedly killed a Muslim cleric. After the rioters left came the authorities with bulldozers. Witnesses say hundreds of homes and shops belonging to Muslims were demolished by authorities. The demolitions lasted for four days, until a local court in the state of Punjab and Haryana stepped in. It asked the government whether it was conducting an exercise of ethnic cleansing by targeting a particular community. These are devastating words, says Shushant Singh, a senior fellow at Centre for Policy Research in India. "That's the strongest word that, at least in my living memory in 75 years, has been ever used because of this form of vigilantism that the Indian state displays." read the complete article

Will Modi’s Uniform Civil Code kill Indian ‘secularism’?

Ten months before India votes for its next government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has reignited a long-simmering campaign to create a single law governing civil relationships between citizens in a diverse country where the idea of uniformity is deeply contentious. Although criminal laws are the same for all, different communities – the majority Hindus (966 million), the country’s Muslim (213 million) and Christian (26 million) minorities, and tribal communities (104 million) – follow their own civil laws, influenced by religious texts and cultural mores. Modi has in recent weeks personally pushed for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) that, in theory, would replace this maze of personal laws with a common set of rules for marriage, divorce, succession, adoption, guardianship and partition of land and assets. Religious minorities and tribal communities fear that a uniform code would rob them of their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and culture by imposing a state-determined set of dos and don’ts. These concerns are grounded in the religious and ethnic divisions that have torn India since Modi came to power in 2014, with the mainstreaming of Hindu majoritarianism leading to increased attacks on minorities – especially Muslims. Irrespective of the fine print of a UCC, a uniform code would fundamentally break with India’s approach to secularism, which, unlike the West, has largely allowed different communities to follow their own religious practices on matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and property rights. Political scientists argue that while personal laws do need an upgrade, the path towards any UCC must run through consensus. Without that, they say the proposal is little more than a political move geared towards the election – with potentially dangerous consequences for the world’s largest democracy. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 Aug 2023 Edition


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