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

Sign up for the Today in Islamophobia Newsletter
30 Aug 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., NYC has issued new guidance for mosques that will allow them to broadcast the call to prayer on Fridays without requiring a permit, meanwhile in France, Education Minister Gabriel Attal announced earlier this week that the abaya will now no longer be permitted to be worn within public schools, sparking a fierce debate on religious freedom, and lastly at the UN, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, is shedding light on the plight of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Our recommended read of the day is by Anna Piela for Religion News Service on the history of book burnings and how “powers that burn sacred texts understand that the violence is tantamount to violence against those to whom the texts belong, and is often prelude to it.” This and more below:


History tells us that burning sacred texts and other books never ends well | Recommended Read

This summer in Sweden, Salwan Momika, an Iraqi refugee with reported ties to an extremist Christian militia group, burned the Quran in front of a Stockholm mosque on Eid al-Adha and outside the Swedish Parliament building. As a result of the burnings, Iraq expelled Sweden’s ambassador and recalled its charge d’affaires. Violent protests took place around Sweden’s Embassy in Baghdad. The government in Stockholm is caught between that country’s exceptionally liberal freedom of expression laws and a bubbling Islamophobia and racism from the right. After the Quran burnings, Ulf Kristersson, the Swedish prime minister, accused “outsiders” of abusing the free speech laws to spread hate. However, Kristersson’s own governing coalition depends on the support of the Sweden Democrats, an anti-Islam and anti-immigration party with Neo-Nazi ties. This irony has not escaped Swedish Muslims, who say they feel violated by both the Quran burnings and the state’s refusal to stop them. The Swedes share their predicament with other Scandinavian countries. In January in Denmark, the right-wing politician and anti-Islam Danish-Swedish provocateur Rasmus Paludan burned a Quran, reportedly under a public protest permit paid for by a journalist with ties to the Kremlin — and to the Sweden Democrats. This week, the Danish government introduced a bill that would outlaw the burning of the Quran or other religious texts. There is nothing new about book burnings, even those that torch sacred texts. But their impact has changed: Before they became social media stunts, book burnings had two main functions — restricting access to texts and symbolically asserting power. read the complete article

Quran burning in Sweden prompts debate on the fine line between freedom of expression and incitement of hatred

The Swedish government is concerned about national security following several incidents involving the burning of the Quran that have provoked demonstrations and outrage from Muslim-majority countries. The spate of Quran-burning incidents followed an act of desecration by far-right activist Rasmus Paludan on Jan. 21, 2023, in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. On Aug. 25, Denmark’s government said it would “criminalize” desecration of religious objects and moved a bill banning the burning of scriptures. While freedom of expression is a fundamental human right in liberal democracies, the right to express one’s opinion can become complex when expressing one’s views clashes with the religious and cultural beliefs of others and when this rhetoric veers into hate speech. As a scholar of European studies, I’m interested in how modern European societies are trying to navigate the fine line between freedom of expression and the need to prevent incitement of hatred; a few are introducing laws specifically addressing hate speech. read the complete article

A UN Body Sheds Light on the Fate of Disappeared Uyghurs

A little-known United Nations body, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, is helping to shine a light on the extent of China’s enforced disappearances in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Starting from 2017, Chinese authorities intensified a large-scale campaign of repression that aimed to fundamentally transform the social, cultural, and religious life of this area, which has been traditionally inhabited by Turkic-speaking peoples. As part of the crackdown, an estimated 900,000 to 1.8 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other predominantly Muslim people were sent involuntarily to high-security camps, which China labeled “vocational education and training centers.” Within these camps, torture, harsh interrogation, forced medication, and rape were common, according to research conducted by the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Very little is known about the fates and conditions of the people sentenced to prison during the crackdown. The Chinese government has made it nearly impossible for the outside world to know what is happening on the ground. That’s why some of the recent opinions issued by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) are so valuable: they offer a window into the fates of detained people. read the complete article


France to ban full-length Muslim dresses in schools, renewing fierce debate

France’s government has announced that it will ban abayas — the long, flowing dresses worn by some Muslim women — in public schools, kicking off a fierce national debate about secularism, individual freedoms and what counts as a religious symbol. Education Minister Gabriel Attal announced the ban this week, just days before the start of the new academic year, saying public schools have a duty to uphold “the most elementary principles of our Republic.” He likened abayas, as well as khamis, robes worn by some Muslim men, to other banned markers of an individual’s religion. The move has been welcomed by conservative politicians — but critics and lawmakers on the left have accused the government of policing what women can wear or of trying to appeal to right-wing voters. Some critics have argued that it would be impractical to ask schools to decide what is an abaya, and what is simply a long dress. The French Council of the Muslim Faith, or CFCM for its French acronym, which represents several Muslim groups in France, said in a statement that abayas come in many different forms, are tied to Arab culture and are “misrepresented by some as a Muslim religious sign.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

The ‘Muslim problem’ is actually an opportunity for schools

Islamophobia continues to be an under-researched and oft-ignored issue in public life. As with everything in public policy, research and decision-making, where we see the most acute impact of this is often in schools. School-based solutions are often wrongly touted as the answer to all of our problems. However, it is hard to ignore the correlation (and negative cumulative impact) between anti-Muslim sentiment, the mental health of young Muslims, and the mental health epidemic in schools more generally. This is especially true due to the fact that one in 12 children in British schools is of Muslim background. With the latest census data showing a growth of people identifying as Muslim in the UK – a religion which possesses the youngest age profile and for which transmission of faith and values is the highest among all faiths in the UK – it is clear that there is a increasing number of Muslim children and young people with a strong sense of religious identity and holding faith-driven values in British schools. While this is often used as a tool to whip up moral panic and existential fear, it is actually cause for celebration, hope and of course opportunity. As with all school-related anxieties, what’s often framed as the ‘Muslim problem’ in this context actually speaks of something greater regarding our social values and the future direction of our country. This in fact underscores the latent and unexplored potential of young Muslims in schools. The demographic layout of Muslims in inner-city conurbations has natural implications on workforce profile, pointing to the fact that Muslims are integral to our social and economic prosperity. read the complete article

United States


I soon learned that just about anything with photojournalistic value was off limits. As Guantánamo has aged, a shift has occurred in what the military wants journalists to cover. Under the current rules, members of the media are brought here to focus on the military commission proceedings at “Camp Justice,” where a very large, very cold, and very classified courtroom has been constructed to deal with the few remaining detainees who were ever charged with decades-old crimes against the United States. Press access to anything outside the court is described as a “courtesy” and subject to arbitrary restrictions. Over the course of my visit, I checked in with at least five former detainees who collectively spent lifetimes imprisoned here. Most didn’t know about the novel media restrictions. “Did you go to Camp Echo?” Yemeni Sabri al-Qurashi texted me from Kazakhstan. Al-Qurashi has always maintained that he was arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After 12 years at Guantánamo, he was relocated to a country that has continued to treat him like a “terrorist” and where he has not been granted asylum, despite assurances from the State Department that he would be treated well. “Ask them to see Camp Delta 2, 3, 4, and Camp 5, and Camp Echo, and Camp 6, and Camp Platinum,” Salahi urged from his new home in Amsterdam. Denying any new visual documentation of the defunct former facility seemed egregious and irrational, especially following the unprecedented access given to the United Nations special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, in early 2023. The Biden administration had permitted her to tour the site and interview detainees as an independent investigator, and her findings were published two days after I had arrived at the base. “This is just another indication that the most consistent thing about Guantánamo is inconsistency,” said former detainee Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was released from Guantánamo without charge in 2005. “I really don’t understand this treatment,” Salahi fumed over WhatsApp. “If they don’t let you go and see what went on, or at least the place where the torture took place, what do they want? This is complete stonewalling; this makes me really very upset as a victim of that place.” read the complete article

New York City mosques can now broadcast Muslim call to prayer on Friday afternoons without permit

New York City issued new guidance Tuesday allowing mosques (masjids) to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer on Fridays between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. without obtaining a permit and despite sound restrictions in city neighborhoods. According to the city, the guidance also allows the call to prayer to be broadcast in the evenings during Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting and prayer for the Muslim community. “Today we are cutting red tape and saying clearly if you are a mosque or house of worship of any kind, you do not have to apply for a permit to amplify your call to Friday prayer. You are free to live your faith in NYC,” Mayor Eric Adams said while announcing the new guidance Tuesday. read the complete article

How Vivek Ramaswamy, a Hindu, Is Aligning Himself With Christian Nationalists

In a video taken from the passenger seat of a car after Narendra Modi’s address to the joint session of Congress in June, Vivek Ramaswamy was full of praise for the Indian prime minister. “Modi talked unapologetically about Indian national identity,” he said in the video, which was posted on X, the platform previously known as Twitter. “He quoted the Vedas, ancient Indian scriptures. Yet here in the United States we have now gotten in the habit of apologizing for our own national history. … That’s what I think we need to learn here from Modi’s visit, is that we in this country are at our best when we too do not apologize for who we are.” These seem like standard talking points on their face. But there were two somewhat remarkable things about the comments. First, Ramaswamy referenced something so distinctly Indian—the Vedas (Hindu religious texts)—when addressing a Republican base that’s overwhelmingly white and Christian. Second, and more strangely, he seemed to praise Modi’s Hindu nationalism—and call for an American equivalent. An American equivalent can mean only one thing. Hindus represent about 1 percent of the U.S. population; Ramaswamy certainly isn’t advocating for Hindu nationalism in America. Instead, he appears to advocate for a similarly shaped religious nationalism in the U.S. based on the country’s majority faith: Christianity. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 30 Aug 2023 Edition


Enter keywords


Sort Results