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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18 Aug 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, members of the Jewish and Muslim community of Winnipeg are saddened and disturbed to find Islamophobic and Antisemitic messages spray painted on a city underpass, meanwhile in India, a Rohingya refugees who escaped persecution in Myanmar face increasing hostility from Indian authorities, and in Sweden, security officials have raised the threat assessment of potential attacks from outside the country as state permitted Quran burnings in several Swedish cities have drawn the ire of many from the international community. Our recommended read of the day is by Emily Feng for NPR on the harrowing plight of six Chinese Muslims attempting to make the pilgrimage to Mecca from China and the hurdles they and other Muslims face in an attempt to simply practice their religious beliefs. This and more below:


China makes it harder for its Muslim citizens to go to Mecca, or anywhere else | Recommended Read

They left their village at a moment's notice, shedding their prayer caps and headscarves at the airport in favor of casual athletic wear, silently praying that they would not be prevented from leaving China. The group of six travelers were Chinese Muslims, intent on completing the Hajj: a once-in-a-lifetime duty for Muslims to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, which this year took place between late June and early July. "When we return to China, we may have our passports clipped or confiscated, but we will face whatever we have to when we return," said one of the three male travelers. NPR kept in touch with this group of six pilgrims starting in May, as they set off from their village in northwestern China toward the holy city in Saudi Arabia. Their circuitous journey reflects the extraordinary means China is undertaking to surveil and stop its citizens from making the Hajj — as well as the equally resourceful ways believers circumvent them. Within China, authorities have severely restricted practicing religions, especially Christianity and Islam. In the region of Xinjiang, at least hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, a historically Muslim ethnic minority, have been detained or arrested since 2017. Elsewhere, across northwestern China, provincial authorities have demolished mosques or forcibly removed their Arabic-style domes, closed Islamic schools and surveilled religious leaders. This year, as global travel has picked up in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese authorities are cutting off nearly all pathways abroad for Muslim believers, citing concerns that they may be radicalized abroad or encourage religious fervor once they return to China. read the complete article

What Uyghurs want you to know about China

How do you challenge the might of the Chinese state? For decades, the Uyghur Muslims have fought to preserve their culture, their language and their religion, in the face of China’s rising power and control. Since 2013, sweeping crackdowns have turned the once-autonomous region which calls itself East Turkestan into a heavily militarised zone, where high-tech surveillance systems were installed and thousands of ordinary people disappeared. What China calls ‘anti-terrorism’ measures have been revealed as something much more sinister - concentration camps where more than a million Uyghurs are ‘re-educated’ into giving up their beliefs and adopting nationalist ideals, or face severe consequences. Those who managed to escape Xinjiang are now trying to warn the world about what’s happening to their families, who they can no longer reach. This week on The Big Picture podcast, we sit down with Rahima Mahmut, a Uyghur folk singer in exile and the UK director of the World Uyghur Congress. She says China has fooled the world into looking the other way, but she and others will not give up. read the complete article


Amid Quran burnings, Sweden raises ‘terror’ threat

Sweden’s security service, SAPO, has raised its assessment of the level of threat against Sweden to 4 on a scale of 5 amid mounting international tension over the burning of copies of the Quran at demonstrations in the Nordic country. “The threat against Sweden has gradually changed and the threat of attacks from actors within violent Islamism has increased during the year,” the security service said in a statement. In the past few months, Sweden and Denmark have faced a backlash from Muslim countries after a string of anti-Islam activists burned copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book. Under free speech laws, Quran burnings are permitted in Sweden, but the act is considered sinful by the Muslim world. While Denmark and Sweden have condemned the burnings and are considering new legislation to stop them from happening, domestic critics have said it would undermine their laws on protected freedoms. Numerous countries have denounced the Quran desecrations. In Muslim-majority nations, people protested and tried to vandalise the Swedish and Danish embassies. In response, Denmark and Sweden tightened their border controls this month after fearing “revenge” attacks for the burnings. read the complete article


Hateful graffiti in Winnipeg points to disturbing trends, say Jewish, Muslim community members

Members of the Jewish and Muslim communities say they're disturbed and saddened after a series of hate-related graffiti messages against Jews and Arabs were spray-painted on an underpass in Winnipeg's Point Douglas area. The graffiti, which included a swastika and hateful messages such as "hail Hitler" and "KKKanada," was spotted by CBC reporters on Annabella Street. Marvin Rotrand, the national director of B'nai Brith Canada's League for Human Rights, said that he is shocked to see such antisemitic messages but not surprised, as such messages are still far too commonly seen in Canada. "Generally, the profile of these people are those who are hateful toward religious minorities [and] immigrants, and are white supremacists." According to a 2023 Statistics Canada report, police-reported hate crimes targeting Jews rose by 47 per cent between 2020 (331 incidents) and 2021 (487 incidents). Hate crimes targeting Muslims increased by 71 per cent (from 84 in 2020 to 144 in 2021). Aasiyah Khan of the National Council of Canadian Muslims also says such crimes are disturbing. "Although any display of hatred is concerning, it is especially alarming when such displays are overt and public." Youcef Soufi, a consultant with the Manitoba Islamic Association, says any form of threat, including graffiti or verbal threats, can escalate to more overt forms of violence. read the complete article


Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar only to ‘live in fear’ in India

Abdul Jabbar, a Rohingya refugee living in a camp 80km (50 miles) from New Delhi, went to a nearby store earlier this month to find out what was keeping his 14-year-old son, who had left hours earlier to buy powdered pepper for that night’s meal. When he arrived, bystanders told Abdul Jabbar that police had apprehended his son while he connected to the shop’s WiFi to play games on his phone. Abdul Jabbar, who fled Myanmar in 2014 to live in one of two Rohingya refugee camps in Nuh, went to the nearest police station only to be told that his son wasn’t there. After three days of searching, Abdul Jabbar discovered that his son, who claimed police had beaten him, had been sent to a juvenile correctional facility on suspicion of being involved in setting a police station on fire when violent clashes broke out in Nuh last month. “People from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have advised us to not leave the camp to avoid any police action. How can we go out for riots? The only time we go out is to get groceries from a nearby store,” he said, denying the charges against his son. On July 24th, the Anti-Terror Squad arrested 55 men, 14 women and five children living in six districts of Haryana’s neighbouring Uttar Pradesh province, 40 of whom lived in Mathura. A refugee there, who requested anonymity, said the news of those arrests had filled their community “with fear”. “How could we even consider engaging in any illegal activities in this situation? We are not even able to go out for essential commodities and work,” they said. “We fled from ethnic cleansing in [Myanmar], yet we are still living in fear.” read the complete article

Siege on Manipur: Hindu Nationalists' War for Ethnic Supremacy

M.S. Golwalkar, an early ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), professed deep admiration for the Nazis. An inspiration to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Golwalkar, noted: “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here.” Golwalkar continued that non-Hindus in India “may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges… not even citizen’s rights”. Since their second electoral victory in 2019, the Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party-led national government has prioritised the actualisation of Akhand Bharat (“undivided India”), the mythologised once-future homeland of Hindu nationalists. Across India, experiments to forge the “Hindu national community” are predicated on the breakage of minoritised Muslims and Christians, and Adivasis and Dalits. Across the historically fraught political construct termed the “northeast”, the Hindutva movement attacks Muslim citizenship while igniting the decimation of indigeneity and the Christian community. In Kashmir, it furthers coloniality through land occupation to potentially reconstitute demographics. Since 2022, racist discourse and monstrous violence by Hindu nationalists have spun out of control. Swarms of Hindu militias are storming village after town, supported by Hindu nationalist leaders and central and state governments, the silence of upper class-caste Hindus, and the complicity of various courts, institutions, and state forces. In 2023, the savagery reached a crescendo. UAPA. Mobs. Bombs. Bulldozers… Haryana. Uttar Pradesh. Delhi. Rajasthan. Jharkhand. Assam. Kashmir. Manipur… read the complete article

The Interface of ‘Love’ and ‘Jihad’ Is a False Indian Articulation

The phrase love jihad appeared first time as a conspiracy theory in 2009 by the Sanatan Prabhat and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and was later picked up by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. It became a central agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in various states after 2014. Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are among the prominent states that have such a law. Since ‘jihad’ is an Islamic concept, love jihad obviously securitizes marriage between a Muslim male and women of Hindu (primarily) and other religions as jihad. Apparently, the motive behind coining this term, which is a part of the larger patriarchal and majoritarian Hindutva project, is to declare jihad as an aggressive ongoing struggle for both superiority and conversion. Joined with ‘love’, it is being portrayed as a religio-cultural and demographic offensive against Hinduism. However, a look at the concept of jihad in the holy Quran does not convey force, offensive, aggression or violence. Since there are approximately 41 verses out of total 6,236 that mention jihad and its derivatives in the holy book, its multiple uses, implications and polysemy are apparent. There are also differences in Mecca and Medina verses. The sociological significance of love jihad is in its patriarchal manifestation. For, ‘love’ is prefixed with jihad only when the bride is a Hindu and groom a Muslim. This concept is not used in a reverse situation, whether or not the bride changes her faith. In case of a bride converting to Hinduism, it is termed as ‘ghar wapasi’ (home coming). Obviously, in the frenzy and zeal to ‘protect’ Hindu girls from the evil prowling Muslim eyes, not only the vigilante justice, but the full force of the state is turned on them, going beyond even the limits of the law. read the complete article


Aim of Quran burnings in Europe is to provoke response from Muslims: Expert

The wave of attacks on the Quran in some European countries are being carried out by individuals who want to provoke Muslims into a response and use that to justify their negative tropes about the community, according to a British expert. Recent months have seen repeated incidents of copies of the Quran being desecrated and burnt by Islamophobic figures and far-right groups, especially in northern European and Nordic countries. Although some European politicians have condemned the incidents and apologized, the attacks on the Quran have once again raised the question of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments across Europe. In an interview with Anadolu, Chris Allen, an expert in hate studies at the University of Leicester, recalled Terry Jones, the evangelical preacher in the US who attempted one of the first public burnings of the Quran in 2010 “to deliberately incite Muslim communities.” “They do it (burning of Quran) in the hope that those who are much more on the fringe will actually respond, at which point this reinforces their argument that all Muslims, by default, are exactly the same as those responding in a particular way,” said Allen. Since around that time, the focus on Muslims and Islam has become much more prominent in the far-right and extreme right-wing, pretty much across the whole Western world, he said. On European governments’ stance on the incidents, Allen said he does not believe they would go beyond condemnations. read the complete article

United States

My last day in Guantanamo

"Brother, please, don't forget us here.” “I promise I won't forget any of you, I won't be free until you all are free." These were the last words I exchanged with my fellow detainees when I finally left the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison in July 2016. On my final night in Guantanamo, in Camp 5's solitary confinement cells, we gathered to say goodbye. We sat in cages made of chain-linked fences in the recreation area. Some of us were on hunger strikes and had been forced to endure force-feeding. Others had been cleared for release for years but remained stuck, while others were considered ‘forever prisoners’. From the beginning of my journey with American interrogators, torture and death were constant companions. The worst of it was during my time in a CIA black site in Afghanistan, a cold underground hole where I was detained and interrogated. I was stripped naked, hung, collared, and chained. Then I was transferred to Kandahar military detention, where guards, interrogators, and soldiers subjected me to beatings and forced my hand to sign my own execution. For 14 years, we were moved from camp to camp, from block to block, each relocation eroding a piece of our lives. In 2005, we went on mass hunger strike, and the US government responded by sending new staff to break our resolve. We were tortured and force-fed. In June 2006, three of our brothers died under suspicious circumstances. The longer we stayed in Guantanamo, the further we drifted from our previous lives, from our memories, emotions, and relationships. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 18 Aug 2023 Edition


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