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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04 Aug 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, two women are facing hate crime charges after cellphone video showed them grabbing and punching a group of Muslim women in a public park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, meanwhile in India, a new study finds that Muslim neighborhoods across the country have comparably lower number of schools, medical clinics, and public services when compared to neighborhoods composed of mostly Hindu residents, and in Canada, a swastika was found spray painted on the side of a bus shelter in Scarborough over of a campaign decal featuring a Muslim woman for the city’s “Toronto for All” inclusivity campaign. Our recommended read of the day is by Miranda Bryant for the Guardian on how the recent Quran burnings in Sweden have impacted Swedish Muslims, many of whom feel that by allowing such hateful acts to continue the government is signaling to them that they are not a part of Sweden and don’t matter. This and more below:


‘It’s a racism crisis’: call for action on Qur’an burnings in Sweden | Recommended Read

Standing in the sunshine with friends in a park overlooked by Stockholm mosque, Sofia said she was becoming tired of the debates around freedom of expression that followed Qur’an burnings in the Swedish capital. “We are born and raised here over several generations, but they [the government] don’t talk about Muslims as if we are part of Sweden,” she said. “We contribute. We are lawyers, doctors, journalists, healthcare, normal people who are part of Sweden.” In the latest of a string of protests in Sweden and Denmark in which copies of the Qur’an have been burned or otherwise damaged, two men set fire to the Qur’an outside the Swedish parliament on Monday. The burnings have prompted a domestic debate about the limits of Sweden’s exceptionally liberal freedom of expression laws and intensified a diplomatic row between Sweden and Muslim countries around the world. “It’s called a ‘Qur’an crisis’,” Sofia said. “It’s not a Qur’an crisis, this is a … racism crisis.” “They turn it on us as if it’s a crisis that Muslims have, but we haven’t gone and burnt somebody’s book,” Sofia added. For Inge Zurcher, 79, a ban made sense. “It’s awful. It shouldn’t be allowed,” she said, adding that the government did not “understand what damage they’re doing to Sweden and to Muslims”. Iman Omer, 20, a Muslim, said it should be possible to classify the Qur’an burnings as a hate crime. “I understand you are allowed to think and feel what you want, this is a free country, but there must be boundaries,” she said. “It’s such a pity that it has happened so many times and Sweden doesn’t seem to learn from its mistakes.” read the complete article

United States

Muslim advocacy group CAIR is calling on Florida to drop PragerU for anti-Muslim content

Florida's Department of Education is receiving more backlash, this time for approving curriculum designed by a conservative nonprofit group. Florida recently became the first state to officially approve PragerU, an unaccredited non-profit organization, and their newly launched PragerU Kids content to be used in the K-12 public school curriculum. The decision allows teachers to use the group's educational content, mainly composed of short video clips, as "supplemental materials" in classrooms. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its Florida chapter are calling on the Department to "clarify and reject any relationship between the Islamophobic Prager University and Florida schools." The chapter's executive director, Imam Abdullah Jaber, said there's a clear ideological slant in PragerU's educational content. "A number of PragerU's videos online, they very vividly spread anti-Muslim rhetoric and, beyond that, conspiracy theories," said Jaber. read the complete article

Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy accused of removing hijab from Muslim woman in custody

Religious freedom or officer safety? That’s the question at the heart of a dispute between the Bay Area’s Muslim community and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. The issue at hand began when a deputy forcibly removed a religious headwear, a hijab, from a Muslim woman in custody. The woman, who was not charged after being brought to jail, and a Muslim community group are upset and making demands. Asia Aden said she was in a domestic violence situation when she called the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, but because she was wielding a small bat for self defense, she was arrested and booked at the Elmwood Correctional Facility. Charges were dropped, but Aden said that when she was being booked by a female deputy, Aden explained she needed to keep her hijab on for religious beliefs. “When I said that, she immediately, without hesitation, yanked it off my head,” said Aden. “I felt humiliated. I felt degraded. I felt dehumanized. I felt like the person ... it just traumatized me beyond belief.” The Bay Area office of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is supporting Aden and is calling for the county board of supervisors and sheriff’s department to issue an apology and pay an undisclosed monetary settlement. read the complete article

Milwaukee women charged with hate crime for attack on women in hijab at park

Two Milwaukee women are facing hate crime charges after cellphone video provided to CBS 58 showed two women grabbing and punching a different group of women. Those victims told CBS 58 they believed they were targeted because of their appearance. According to a criminal complaint, on July 30, the female victims -- who are Muslim -- were sitting at a picnic table at Cathedral Square Park and wearing hijabs, a head covering worn in public by Muslim women. The complaint says two other women, accompanied by approximately 10 children, were also in the park at a nearby picnic table. One victim told investigators she heard one of the women say, "We're Black aggressive women, and we're going to defend our own kind." The victims said, at that point, the two women approached their picnic table and asked if they had a problem. "I said, 'there is no problem between us, what is the problem?' Like, I truly don't know, you know?" one of the victims said. "And she goes, 'where are you from?' And I told her it was none of her business because she clearly wasn't trying to have a conversation about where I'm truly from." The victim said, at that point, one of the women put her in a headlock and started punching her in the head. She said the other woman began punching her sister-in-law in the back of the head and neck. read the complete article

The First Muslim Spokesperson Is Leaving The White House

Abdullah Hasan, assistant press secretary and the first openly practicing Muslim to serve as a White House spokesperson, is leaving the Biden administration. “Being one of the first comes with a lot of responsibility,” Hasan said in an interview. “It’s also special in many ways.” “I’m very mindful that someone with a name, like Abdullah Hasan carries a stigma, and I’m often reminded of that stigma when I see certain reactions on Twitter or elsewhere with statements or tweets I put out under my name,” he added. “But it’s also a testament to the president and the first lady that they’ve valued, they’ve prioritized, and they’ve supported diversity, and that they have trusted people like me to speak on their behalf.” Hasan is one of the more than 100 Muslim American appointees currently working in the administration. But progress is still to be made. For example, no Muslim American has served in a Cabinet-level position. read the complete article


Sporting world must challenge India over 2023 Cricket World Cup

Next spring, India is due to hold the most important general election in the nation's history - a contest which will determine whether India continues its downward spiral into bigotry and authoritarianism, or return to the rich pluralistic traditions of its past. Though the election is not due to be held until April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign will in effect be launched this coming October, when cricket-mad India hosts the World Cup. Modi, following in the tradition of other populist leaders, is determined to extract every last drop of political advantage from the sporting event. Cricket prides itself on fairness and decency. Yet Modi is not just the nemesis of India's democratic institutions and rule of law. He is also the figurehead of a movement which has launched deadly attacks on India's minorities. Those who follow events closely speak of possible genocide against India's 200 million Muslims. There's little reason to believe they are being alarmist. In India, Muslims fear for their future. In many areas they are subject to the arbitrary demolition of their homes and the constant threat of lynch mobs. In eastern Assam, nearly two million have had their citizenship taken from them, leaving them stateless. On Tuesday, an imam was killed as far-right Hindus attacked a mosque on the outskirts of New Delhi. Such attacks are commonplace. A report by Georgetown University's Bridge Initiative found that eight out of 10 stages of genocide are present in India, with indicators of the ninth stage, extermination, "becoming more and more visible". read the complete article

Segregated & Unequal: New Research Reveals How Public Services Are Restricted, Denied To Muslims, Dalits In Ghettoised Localities

Indian Muslims live in the most segregated neighbourhoods—more than one in every four (26%) lives in a neighbourhood that is over 80% Muslim. A 100% Muslim locality is 10% less likely to have piped water and 50% less likely to have a secondary school than a neighbourhood without Muslim residents. A child growing up in a 100% Muslim neighbourhood can expect to obtain two fewer years of education than a child growing up in a 0% Muslim neighbourhood. Amid a rising tide of calls by right-wing Hindu groups for genocide or expulsion of Muslims (here, here), on the back of pledges for an economic boycott of Muslim businesses (here, here), newly compiled and analysed data show that not only do Indian Muslims live in sharply segregated neighbourhoods with significantly poorer access to government services, but they also endure poorer levels of education. Viewed at the neighbourhood or locality-level, disaggregated from larger administrative units of city or district, Muslim neighbourhoods, along with neighbourhoods of scheduled caste (SC) homes, have comparatively lower numbers of schools, medical clinics, poorer water/sewerage infrastructure and electricity, the study said. Suggesting that disparities in access to public services are a significant factor contributing to disadvantages that Muslims and SCs experience, the working paper based on evidence from 1.5 million neighbourhoods in urban and rural India, a granular look through a pan-India dataset of neighbourhoods with 700 people each, has found Indian Muslims to be systematically segregated and disadvantaged, in a manner comparable to the current situation of black people in the United States. read the complete article

United Kingdom

London’s Trocadero mosque: Britain is happy to take Muslims’ money & labour without catering for their needs

As a Muslim living in London, it can sometimes be tempting to forget that Britain is a nation in which islamophobia still reigns supreme. The briefest look at some of the reactions to plans to turn the iconic West End Trocadero building into a mosque is enough to remind anyone of the status Muslims still inhabit in the minds of many - even in a city as diverse as London. According to the 2021 national census, there are 3.9 million Muslims in the UK and 1.3 million of these live in London. Whilst the Muslim community accounts for roughly 6.5% of Britain, this skyrockets to 15% of London’s population. Perhaps it’s little wonder then that Muslims are crying out for more prayer spaces in London. So when, back in 2005, Muslim property tycoon and philanthropist Asif Aziz bought the iconic Trocadero building in the heart of the West End of London and then in 2020 submitted plans to turn part of the building into a mosque, much of the Muslim community celebrated this. Yet seemingly for some, the idea of a multi-million pound property languishing unused was better than the notion of it being used for Muslims, and the planning application was inundated with so many racist comments that it was forced to withdraw completely. Far-right group Britain First even started a petition against the creation of a mosque and others objected to the presence of Islam so close to Soho, opposing the ‘sacrifice’ of a historic building to a religion they don’t consider native to Britain. Three years on and plans for the mosque are finally going ahead – albeit a much smaller version. Britain First has once again launched a petition, with their leader Paul Golding rather inaccurately Tweeting that the Trocadero is being turned into a “mega mosque”. Even a cursory search of the building’s name on social media reveals references to Muslims as “rats”, “scum” and “terrorists”, theories of a Muslim takeover plot and claims that Muslims are using this to turn the UK into a second Mecca. A reminder if one was ever needed, that even accounting for 15% of a city’s population is not enough to humanise us in the eyes of those intent on questioning our mere right to exist. read the complete article


Why the new French secularism is no longer exportable

The recent exclusionary policies in France have led many to question French new secularism and the problems inherent in its imposition on societies both within and outside of the country. French secularism is not what it was at the beginning of the 20th century. While its main tenet, which guarantees individual freedom and equality, is still perfectly universal, there is no sociological evidence to suggest that secularisation should lead to a decline in religiosity. Undermining the universality of French secularism is its "ethnocentric" character, born of the Christian reformist conception of religion. French secularism has taken religion in the Christian manner - more specifically in the manner of the Protestant Reformation - by reducing it to individual belief and freedom of conscience, and confining it to private spaces, such as the home and the church. As a result, rituals or any other public forms of religious affirmation (such as the wearing of the Islamic headscarf) tend to be considered an unacceptable form of proselytism. In the name of defending the ideals of the French secular left, certain intellectuals and media figures have no hesitation in transforming themselves into "faqih" (Muslim jurist) or "mufti" to "prove" that the veil "is not part of Islam", or that it is a "symbol of the slavery of women". In a totally ethnocentric display, they project onto Muslim societies meaning and cultural interpretation that emanate only from European culture. Such arguments clearly violate the most basic freedoms, since it is up to each individual to define and give meaning to his or her social behaviour. read the complete article


Swastika painted on ‘Toronto For All’ ad at Scarborough bus shelter

One local Scarborough resident is speaking out, saying he was left shocked and angry on Tuesday morning after finding a swastika painted on the outside of a bus shelter near his home. The swastika was spray-painted over a “Toronto For All” advertisement in the area of Surrey Avenue and Pharmacy Avenue, which prominently features a woman wearing a hijab and urges Torontonians to “accept without exceptions.” Donald Parker noticed the vandalism while driving on Pharmacy Avenue and had one word to describe the graffiti: “Disgusting.” “I don’t need Nazis or white supremacists anywhere, let alone my neighbourhood,” he told Global News. “We can’t let them win by doing acts like this,” Parker said. “They’re just trying to intimidate people, whether it’s a new arrival, new immigrant, or the people that already live here.” read the complete article


Move over Barbie, Hijarbie is back – to celebrate Muslim fashion and culture

Haneefah Adam, the Nigerian artist behind @hijarbie, first started showcasing dolls styled in Muslim dress in 2015 after noticing a lack of modest fashion or hijabs on the social media she followed. A self-taught artist who used to blog about fashion, faith and food, Adam often scrolled through Instagram for inspiration but says, “I didn’t see a doll that looked like me.” So she decided to make her own, and set to work sewing a navy maxi skirt, blue blouse and black hijab, posting a photo of her doll in the finished ensemble in December 2015. Positive feedback, including requests to buy the clothes for daughters or nieces, and good-humoured outfit envy – “when a doll’s got better style than me” – encouraged her to make more outfits. Last month, inspired by the hype around the Barbie movie and its feminist message, she returned to @hijarbie after taking a break to focus on her young family. “Barbie has created a new phenomenon, celebrating femininity, independence and female power,” she says. Since creating her account, Adam has seen progress in the representation of women who wear the hijab. In 2017, Mattel released the first Barbie doll to wear a hijab, modelled on the US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad – a year after Adam had created her own version of the athlete. She was also thrilled to see a hijab-wearing Barbie in the 2023 film, played by Dr Fatumina Said Abukar. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 Aug 2023 Edition


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