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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07 Aug 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that a potential ban on setting fire to religious texts would not amount to restriction on the freedom of expression, meanwhile in the U.S., a man who intentionally set fire to a mosque in Cape Girardeau, Missouri has been sentenced to 191 months in prison, and in the France, sports pundits made crude Islamophobic remarks about Moroccan football player Nouhaila Benzina, who became the first women to wear the hijab at the Women’s World Cup, by describing her hijab as “incredibly regressive.” Our recommended read of the day is by Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Aakash Hassan for the Guardian on the spate of anti-Muslim attacks in India over the past several weeks at the hands of Hindu nationalists, a trend that many worry will increase as next year’s election approaches. This and more below:


‘How will any Muslim feel safe?’ Spate of attacks increases tensions in India | Recommended Read

An imam stabbed and shot to death in a mosque that was then burned to the ground. A young doctor, walking home, set upon by an armed mob who thrashed and molested her. A railway officer, boarding a train, prowled the carriages for his targets and shot dead three men. The incidents, which all took place in India this week, were seemingly unconnected, yet the victims were united by a common factor: they were all Muslim. Since the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) came to power in 2014, led by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, incidents of sectarian violence targeting the Muslim minority, who make up about 14% of the population, have become increasingly frequent. Hardline vigilante Hindu rightwing groups, emboldened under the Modi regime, have carried out sustained persecution and lynchings of Muslims and held a growing number of rallies and marches platforming anti-Muslim hate speech and genocidal calls to violence. In BJP-controlled states, Muslims have been described as “intruders”, faced discriminatory policies and had their homes bulldozed. Yet, as India heads towards an election next year with Modi expected to win a third term, many fear such flares-ups of violence will continue to worsen as the pursuit of electoral victories splinters society further down religious lines. Modi has so far remained silent on this week’s events. read the complete article

Who were the three Muslim men shot dead inside train by Indian armed guard?

Three days after Asgar Abbas Ali was shot dead inside a train along with three others by a railway guard, his brother, Mohammad Sanaullah, is still unable to process the loss. “What had my brother done to deserve this? He was a simple man and never troubled anyone,” said Sanaullah, 35, his voice over the telephone breaking. The next morning, when the train reached Palghar, a town outside Mumbai, a 33-year-old armed guard from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) went on a rampage, allegedly killing three Muslim men and his Hindu colleague. After his fourth murder, Singh, according to a chilling video that showed a bleeding Ali lying next to his feet, hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh state’s hardline chief minister, Yogi Adityanath – both members of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “If you want to live and vote in Hindustan [India], I am telling you, it’s only Modi and Yogi,” Singh was heard saying in the video verified by Al Jazeera. The family members of the Muslim men, activists and opposition politicians have called the incident “a hate crime” and “an act of terror”. Mohammad Ziauddin, the village head in Bisfi, told Al Jazeera the incident was a result of the hate “being spread by the media and people associated with the BJP and the RSS”. read the complete article

The Dissident

“If you’re watching this video,” Khalid said, “it means that I’ve been arrested.” It was September 2020, on a hot, stuffy morning in Delhi. Seven months earlier, in late February, a wave of sectarian violence had ripped through the Indian capital. Amid mass demonstrations against a restrictive citizenship law that targeted Muslims, a mob goaded by a local leader clashed with Muslims in the area. Over the next four days, violence swept through predominantly Muslim neighborhoods; at least 53 people were killed and 14 mosques gutted. As the violence unspooled, Khalid was halfway across the country in the eastern state of Bihar. He was headlining a protest where he told the audience seated cross-legged before him that many Hindu supremacists “have nurtured the dream that Muslims will leave the country, that they will go to Pakistan.” “They have spread hate to make it happen. They have nothing but hate. But we will respond with love,” he said. “They are trying to provoke us. They are trying to start a riot. They are saying, ‘Shoot them.’ What are we saying? We are saying, ‘There is no better place in the world than India.’” The secular activist rose to national prominence giving powerful speeches criticizing Modi and his far-right political party for leading a campaign of repression previously unseen in independent India. Khalid has compared Modi to India’s British colonizers, whose centuries-long stranglehold was enabled by policies that pitted religious and ethnic groups against each other, fueling mutual suspicion and resentment. A target of the Modi government since he was a university student, Khalid was now among the leaders of a broad-based movement that had emerged to protest the prime minister’s anti-Muslim policies — and the government was eager to squash its momentum. read the complete article

Rage, Riots & State-Led Retribution: Reconstructing Haryana’s Week Of Violence

The attack on the Hindu rally on 31 July, which claimed six lives, including two home guards shot dead, set off a series of retaliatory attacks on neighbourhoods populated by the Meo, as local Muslims are called. Communal violence spread to Gurugram, Sohna and Palwal over the next two days. Over the next two days, Hindu mobs murdered four Muslims—including a 19-year-old imam who recently spoke of peace between the two communities—burnt two mosques in Nuh and in the prosperous district of Gurugram, where multinational companies closed offices, as terrorised Muslims, from professionals to domestic servants, either stayed at home or fled the area. Most working-class Muslims who were threatened or left were from West Bengal or Jharkhand. Despite orders prohibiting processions, Hindu fundamentalists took to the streets or gave incendiary speeches calling for Muslims to be evicted, boycotted or killed. State retribution followed, as officials demolished at least 45 Muslim properties, including homes and medical stores, on 5 and 6 August in Nuh. “The bulldozer is part of the ilaj (medicine),” said Haryana home minister Anil Vij. The demolitions—following in the footsteps of similar demolitions in states governed, like Haryana, by the Bharatiya Janata Party— continued as this story was published, becoming the most recent instance of similar illegal actions nationwide (here, here, here and here), with the JCB backhoe excavator becoming a symbol of such demolitions. In a 2 August interview to India Today, Bittu Bajrangi, a cow vigilante accused of inciting Hindus, demanded that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s “bulldozer policy” be implemented in Haryana. Three days later, the demolitions began, with no apparent notice, as the law requires. read the complete article

Monu Manesar represents the rise of a militant Hindutva during the Modi decade

In October, a YouTuber named Monu Manesar received a “silver play button” award from Google for crossing 1 lakh subscribers. Based in Haryana, Monu Manesar would post videos of him and his friends chasing down and assaulting people who he accused of transporting cattle to be slaughtered for meat. Manesar was a member of the Bajrang Dal, an organisation under the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s umbrella of Hindutva groups. Cow vigilantes like him worked under the protection of the police as well with the backing of a draconian new anti-beef law passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Haryana in 2015. Manesar’s main target are the villagers of Nuh, a small Muslim-majority region of Haryana. In January, Manesar uploaded a video of him and a group of vigilantes assaulting and abducting three Muslim men from Nuh. Later, one of them, Waris Khan was found dead. Despite the video evidence, the police denied Manesar’s role in the assaults and claimed instead that Khan had died in a car accident. The relatives of the three men said that they did not even have cattle with them and alleged that the police were hand-in-glove with Manesar in carrying out the murder. A month later, two more Muslim men, Junaid and Nasir, this time from Rajasthan, were found charred to death in a car in Haryana. Like with Khan, the relatives blamed Manesar and accused the police of colluding with the vigilantes. Even as the police made no move to arrest him, Manesar received mass support from Hindutva groups. Community “panchayats” were held to back him. Declared the organiser of one event, “If the Rajasthan Police set foot in Manesar to arrest Monu, they will not return the same way.” Far from being arrested for these murders, Manesar, it seems, had complete freedom of movement. On July 30, he released a video to say he would be joining a Bajrang Dal procession in Nuh the next day. The procession, in which many participants were armed, came under attack from some Muslim residents. Five people were killed in the intense communal riots that followed. The violence soon spread to neighbouring Gurugram, where the cleric of a mosque was murdered and there was a mass exodus of working-class Muslims. read the complete article



Nouhaila Benzina etched her name in history as she became the pioneer footballer to don a hijab during a World Cup match. Until 2014, the wearing of the hijab at the World Cup was prohibited due to health and safety reasons. While on the field last Sunday, Nouhaila Benzina, adorned in her hijab, challenged norms and set a path toward a more inclusive future in sports for Muslim women. Shortly after Benzina’s match against South Korea at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, French journalist Philippe Guibert passed crude remarks about Benzina’s hijab. He referred to the hijab as “incredibly regressive.” Guibert claims that Benzina’s hijab suggests that the other players are “indecent” or “immodest.” France is the only country that continues to uphold a hijab ban during sports matches. This comes as no surprise. France has a long-time history of being threatened by Muslim women’s choice of clothing. The French government and many of its citizens view the hijab or niqab as a representation of Islam which automatically threatens the secularism of the French nation. In France, Muslim women are already subject to limitations regarding their attire in specific locations. The wearing of the burqa and niqab has been prohibited in public settings since April 2021. During this time, France’s National Assembly also proposed a bill to ban girls under 18 from wearing the hijab in public. This created outrage and sparked the social media movement #handsoffmyhijab. read the complete article


Danish ultranationalists vow to escalate attacks on Quran

The anti-Islam and ultranationalist group Danske Patrioter (Danish Patriots) recently announced on social media that they would stage Quran burnings across Denmark and extended their acts of provocation to the cities of Odense and Vejle. The move came after some of its members burned copies of the Muslim holy book in front of the embassies of Türkiye, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the capital Copenhagen. The group also displayed anti-Islamic banners and chanted slogans. During these acts, members of the group have been seen stepping on the Quran and a prayer rug, which they live-streamed on their social media accounts. One member was also observed stepping on the Turkish flag. The video was subsequently removed by Facebook. The provocations took place under police protection. read the complete article

Danish PM: Banning Quran burning would not reduce freedom of expression

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen spoke out for the first time on the burning of the Quran in her country, saying that a potential ban on setting fire to the religious text would not limit freedom of expression. “I don’t consider it a restriction on freedom of expression that you can’t burn other people’s books,” Frederiksen said in an interview published Thursday. “It is not a slippery slope,” she added, referring to a debate triggered after the Danish government announced a potential ban on Quran burnings on Sunday. Last week, far-right protesters organized anti-Islam demonstrations and burned copies of the Quran in front of the Egyptian and Turkish embassies in Copenhagen. On Sunday, Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen condemned these acts and said the small number of people responsible did not represent Danish society or values. “There is a concrete security risk. And then there is a risk that we will become isolated on the international stage. And this is particularly problematic right now, when we are spending a lot of effort on building partnerships and alliances,” Frederiksen warned. The Danish police have also temporarily stepped up border controls until August 10. “Authorities have today concluded that it is necessary at this time to increase the focus on who is entering Denmark, in order to respond to the specific and current threats,” the Danish justice ministry announced Thursday afternoon. read the complete article

United States

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office denies forcibly removing arrested woman's hijab

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office denied Saturday that one of its deputies forcibly removed the hijab of a Muslim woman who was arrested and booked in a Milpitas correctional facility. The statement came days after the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) said the Muslim woman, Asia Aden, had her hijab "violently yanked" from her while being booked into Elmwood Correctional Facility, even though she asked to keep the headwear out of religious beliefs. "The Sheriff's Office received the complaint and reviewed the surveillance footage. Force was not used to remove the Hijab and in fact the complainant was asked to remove it herself," the Sheriff's public information office said. According to the Sheriff's Office, its collaboration with CAIR after a similar concern in 2021 led to the creation of its "Religious Practices policy" to ensure that anyone wearing a hijab, kufi, turban or yarmulke will be "reasonably accommodated, subject to the compelling interest for facility security or to prevent self-harm." "The booking staff was educated on the policy update," the law enforcement agency said. read the complete article

Missouri man sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison for setting fire that destroyed Islamic Center in 2020

A Missouri man has been sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison for starting a fire that destroyed a mosque in 2020, according to a release from the US Department of Justice. Nicholas John Proffitt had pleaded guilty to using fire to damage religious property and to using fire in the commission of a federal felony, the release said. He has been sentenced to 191 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $551,217.91 in restitution, according to court documents. Proffitt “intentionally set fire to the Cape Girardeau Islamic Center on April 24, 2020, which was the first morning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, because of the building’s religious character,” according to the Justice Department. The fire resulted in significant damage to the Islamic Center. “Attacks on mosques in our country are attacks on people of faith that undermine the fundamental right to practice one’s religion free from fear or violence,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said. read the complete article

Why the Hindu right opposes affirmative action in the US

When the United States Supreme Court recently outlawed affirmative action in college admissions, among those celebrating the moment were sections of the Hindu right in America. The Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective (HinduPACT), for instance, was quick to tweet: “#RacialQuotas in ed. adversely impacted #IndianAmerican students. We welcome #AffirmativeAction ruling by the #SCOTUS”. HinduPACT is an advocacy group established by the US branch of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHPA) – an organisation known for its role in the rise of Hindu militancy in India. But why does a group associated with the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva care about affirmative action in the US? In part, it is a reminder of an ever-growing camaraderie between US conservatives and diaspora Hindu nationalists. But equally, it is an indication of a dangerous blurring of lines between politics at home and abroad – and an effort to shut down criticism of historical and current discrimination against people from religious minorities and lower castes, in India as well as in the US. For it is that discrimination that affirmative action sought to tackle before the Supreme Court struck it down. The Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), launched in 2015 by Chicago-based businessman Shalabh Kumar to build a bridge between Hindu Americans and the Republican Party, expectedly advocates for smaller, limited government and lower taxes. It believes the government should discourage single parenting and abortions and that combating radical Islam should be central to US foreign policy. Conservative talking points are also easy to spot on the websites of groups like HinduPACT, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Hinduvesha, American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) and the VHPA. These are usually accompanied by criticism of American liberals. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 07 Aug 2023 Edition


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