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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11 Dec 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, several Muslim and Arab Americans have lost jobs or been suspended from college simply for expressing their opinions on Israel’s war in Gaza, meanwhile in the UK, a Muslim school in Redbridge received a letter on December 8th threatening to “kill everyone”, causing north-east London MP Wes Streeting to call on the UK Home Secretary to “urgently” take steps to safeguard Muslim communities in Britain, and Canada, a man has been charged with a hate crime after threatening to kill a Toronto Muslim woman who was wearing a hijab after accosting her with religious slurs. Our recommended read of the day is by Gerry Shih, Clara Ence Morse, and Pranshu Verma for The Washington Post on Disinfo Lab, which has turned out to be a covert Indian Intelligence operation whose aim is to disseminate fake research to discredit US-based critics of Indian PM Narendra Modi and his government. This and more below:


Covert Indian operation seeks to discredit Modi’s critics in the U.S. | The Recommended Read

Since 2020, an opaque organization calling itself the Disinfo Lab has published lengthy dossiers and social media posts claiming to reveal the personal relationships and funding sources behind U.S.-based critics of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Disinfo Lab has combined fact-based research with unsubstantiated claims to paint U.S. government figures, researchers, humanitarian groups and Indian American rights activists as part of a conspiracy, purportedly led by global Islamic groups and billionaire George Soros, to undermine India. In each instance, these allegations have gone viral on Indian social media after they were amplified by pro-Modi influencers, who at times used the group’s findings to validate their own positions. Its reports have been cited by Indian officials on television and presented on Capitol Hill. Despite its reach, the Disinfo Lab does not disclose its affiliation, describing itself on its website as a “separate legal entity” that seeks to offer “completely unbiased research.” In reality, however, the Disinfo Lab was set up and is run by an Indian intelligence officer to research and discredit foreign critics of the Modi government, according to three people who worked in the organization or were familiar with its establishment. While claiming that it aimed to uncover anti-India disinformation, the Disinfo Lab itself is running a covert influence operation, they said. The organization’s material is among the most widely circulated by right-wing Indians and Hindu nationalists. The Disinfo Lab’s activities show how the online propaganda campaigns waged by the BJP and its allies have been expanding beyond their traditional, domestic aims of shoring up popular support and denigrating opposition parties — and now seek to influence attitudes far beyond India’s borders. read the complete article

Turkey’s Erdogan accuses the West of ‘barbarism’ and Islamophobia in the war in Gaza

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a speech on human rights Saturday to accuse the West of “barbarism” for its stance on the Israel-Hamas war and what he alleged was its toleration of Islamophobia. “Israel has carried out atrocities and massacres that will shame the whole of humanity,” Erdogan told a packed hall in Istanbul the day before the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “All the values relating to humanity are being murdered in Gaza. In the face of such brutality, international institutions and human rights organizations are not taking any concrete steps to prevent such violations,” the Turkish leader said. On Saturday, the president defined Islamophobia and xenophobia, which he said “engulf Western societies like poison ivy,” as the greatest threats to human rights. He told the cheering audience that the only value “the West holds on to is its barbarism. We have seen this example of the West’s barbarism in all those unfortunate events that they either supported or perpetrated.” read the complete article

Remember the Uyghur Genocide on the 75th Anniversary of the 1948 Genocide Convention

On December 9, 2021, a momentous ruling was delivered, marking a significant moment for the Uyghur community. The finding: China has perpetrated genocide against the Uyghur people. Eyewitness accounts vividly depicted the systematic brutality within China’s internment camps, including instances of torture and sexual violence, as well as the pervasiveness of forced labor, forced sterilization, and surveillance infrastructure in the region. Expert witnesses presented evidence sourced from internal Chinese government documents, public directives, Chinese government media releases, and analyses of government statistics. At a press conference in London, 73 years to day after the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Genocide Convention in 1948, Sir Geoffrey Nice, a distinguished barrister and judge serving as the tribunal chair, announced the verdict that held the Chinese government accountable for committing genocide and crimes against humanity, a moment of acknowledgment for the long-endured suffering of the Uyghur people. It is imperative to recognize the implications of the independent tribunal’s conclusion: China’s political leadership bears responsibility as genocidal actors. Despite the irrefutable evidence established two years ago, why are we witnessing officials from North America, Europe, Australia, and leaders of Muslim-majority nations engaging in diplomatic exchanges with Xi Jinping, the orchestrator of this genocide? How will history evaluate these carefully orchestrated photo opportunities? read the complete article

United States

CAIR director facing attack over Gaza comments World

The executive director of the Muslim civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations is facing controversy over comments he made about Hamas's 7 October surprise attack on Israel, with Israel supporters accusing him of praising the event. Nihad Awad, who made the comments in question at a conference last month, was speaking at the American Muslims for Palestine gathering in Chicago, when he was recorded by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an Israel-linked group. Video footage of his speech saw widespread news coverage this week, including news that the White House had apparently removed CAIR from a website showing organisations that have been working with the US administration on antisemitism. In the now-widely circulated video, Awad can be seen saying that he was happy to see Palestinians breaking the siege, walking free into their own land and that they, rather than Israel, have the right to defend themselves. Responding to this week's backlash, Awad said in a public statement that his words had been misrepresented and had not been given their full context. read the complete article

The “dark money ATM of the right” is funneling money to hate groups while hiding donor identities

Donors Trust, also known as the “dark money ATM of the right,” funneled $257,600 to six organizations that have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Accountable.US review of Donors Trust’s 2022 tax filing revealed. The David Horowitz Freedom Center, an SPLC-designated anti-Muslim hate group, received the highest amount of donations totaling $142,000, followed by The VDARE Foundation, a white nationalist hate group, which received $34,500. The Thomas More Law Center, another SPLC-designated hate group and “religious-right organization,” which has worked to overturn federal hate crimes law, pulled in $30,000. No Left Turn in Education and the Center for Immigration Studies both received $20,000 each while the Family Research Council pulled in $11,100. It comes as “no surprise” that Donors Trust dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into “known radical hate groups,” Caroline Ciccone, Accountable.US president, told Salon. “Donors Trust has become infamous as a massive war chest for the far-right’s most extreme causes,” Ciccone said. The David Horowitz Freedom Center, which was initially founded as the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles to “establish a conservative presence in Hollywood,” was later rebranded to focus on “the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values,” according to SPLC. Since then, the center has launched a network of projects giving anti-Muslim voices and radical ideologies a platform to promote hate and misinformation. The organization has emerged as a leading sponsor of conferences and seminars promoting anti-Muslim sentiments in Horowitz's network to organizing elaborate weekend retreats that bring together government officials with influential figures and activists from the far-right. David Horowitz himself has been “a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black movements,” since the late 1980s, SPLC noted. read the complete article

Gaza war unleashes anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim sentiment in the US

In the United States, speaking freely about Israel’s war on Gaza often has a price.For expressing their opinions on the Israel-Palestine, many Muslim Americans and Arab Americans have paid a hefty price, including the loss of jobs and suspension from college. Universities across the US are also cracking down on student activism. Since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza on October 7, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has received double the usual amount of reports of bias and requests for help, according to the executive director, Nihad Awad. Speaking to host Steve Clemons, Awad warns that as the Israeli narrative continues “falling apart”, more attempts to dehumanise the Palestinian people will be seen. read the complete article

What the federal probe into antisemitism, Islamophobia at schools is about

The Education Department expanded its civil rights investigation of alleged antisemitism and Islamophobia this week to include one Georgia school district and five colleges. The probe is a part of the Biden administration’s effort to crack down on the “alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and other forms of discrimination and harassment” on school campuses across the country, the department said in a statement. It did not specify what types of reports came from which schools. The department’s Office for Civil Rights opened similar investigations into the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard, Columbia and Cornell universities last month, and Penn’s president resigned Saturday after criticism of her congressional hearing this week. The Israel-Gaza war has inflamed tensions over the rights of Palestinians and the security of the Jewish state. It has also led to a rise in reports of antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents on school campuses. More than a dozen schools are under investigation, according to a list the Education Department updates weekly. The schools are being investigated for allegedly violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin, including harassment based on a person’s shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. Programs accused of violating Title VI could lose federal funding. read the complete article

Mideast War Pushes Companies to Extend Diversity Programs to Faith Groups

When Nabeela Elsayed was speaking at a corporate conference several years ago and explained that she would miss the group dinner because she was fasting for Ramadan, she recalls, her manager responded: “Just don’t fast.” Ms. Elsayed, an executive coach who was previously chief operating officer for Walmart Canada, said she had heard many such slights when stepping away during the workday to pray. For years, she told business leaders that their diversity, equity and inclusion programming should teach workers about anti-Muslim hate, antisemitism and other threats to religious groups, but rarely got meaningful responses. In recent weeks — since the start of the Israel-Hamas war — Ms. Elsayed has noticed a surge of interest from them on the issue. Executives are facing mounting calls from their workers to talk about faith in diversity programs. They’re scrambling to ensure the safety of Jewish and Muslim employees, while also trying to foster a sense of belonging across religious groups. As a result, they’re confronting longstanding challenges in talking about religion as a part of workplace diversity — at a time when corporate commitments to diversity programming more broadly seem on shaky ground. “When it comes to antisemitic and anti-Muslim language, we have less experience of what’s OK and what’s not OK to say,” Ms. Creary said. But now that some business leaders are weighing in with statements on threats to religious groups, she hopes a revival in D.E.I. programming more broadly can follow. read the complete article

They capitalize on our Muslim identity. Then they abandon us in our time of need.

In the days after Israel began bombarding Gaza, Jinan Chehade was set to begin her first job as a lawyer at Foley & Lardner, the prominent law firm where she had previously interned as a summer associate. A hijab-wearing Muslim woman, Chehade had recently graduated from Georgetown Law and boasted an impressive resume of prestigious legal internships. But the day before her associateship was to begin, Chehade says, partners at the firm called her into a meeting to interrogate her about social media posts and student advocacy in support of Palestine. “When I walked into the meeting, they literally pulled out a packet, about 15 to 20 pages, that had screenshots of my social media posts, screenshots of my involvement, my quotes, my background,” she explains in a recent interview. “They then asked me a series of hostile questions about my support of Palestinian rights … I was even asked whether I condemn Hamas and the Oct. 7 attacks.” Following the meeting, Foley & Lardner rescinded her job offer. Chehade spoke about the irony of “a law firm that prides itself on diversity and inclusion” singling out “one of the only visibly Arab Muslim women associates in the law firm nationwide” for her advocacy when other associates who supported Israel’s bombardment faced no repercussions. Indeed, the law firm’s own website claims to be “committed to recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse attorneys.” But such discordance between stated commitments on diversity and actual practice is unfortunately nothing new. Companies and higher educational institutions have a long track record of exploiting diversity while failing to support and protect their diverse employees and students. I can relate to Jinan Chehade. As a visibly Muslim woman, institutions have used me to tout a commitment to diversity while repeatedly demonstrating that they do not care about the concerns and well-being of Muslims — their students, fellows, employees, faculty, clients. read the complete article

Federal Investigation at Cobb County School involving report of anti-Muslim incident

A federal investigation is underway at the Cobb County School District. The U.S. Department of Education does not release details of current investigations, but the complaint filed this week falls under what is called “shared ancestry discrimination.” The district sent this statement regarding the incident: “We are aware of a single complaint, at a single school, about a reported anti-Muslim incident. All students in Cobb should feel safe and welcomed. We do not tolerate hate of any kind.” The Cobb County School District has received backlash from Muslim and Palestinian parents over the last few months. During a school board meeting in October, parents spoke in outrage over an emergency alert sent out regarding the Israel-Hamas war. The alert referred to an “international threat” by Hamas. “This message mentioning Hamas has directly resulted in hate, harassment, bullying, threats directed to Cobb County Muslim and Arabic students and families like myself,” said one of the parents who spoke during public comment. read the complete article

Monterey man arrested on suspicion of anti-Muslim hate crime

Police in Monterey are investigating an alleged hate crime that occurred the first week of December, the department said Friday. A man reported sitting in his vehicle in the 300 block of Pine Street on Dec. 3 when a person came up and began scratching something into the side of his vehicle. When the suspect realized there was a person sitting in the car, he fled, according to police. Police initiated an investigation, but a person matching the description of the suspect eventually drove up to the neighboring property of the victim. The suspect was identified as Mikhail Faybyshev, 46, of Monterey. Police allege they have Faybyshev on video footage committing the crime. They also allege that Faybyshev admitted to scratching words into the side of the victim's car because he was Muslim. Faybyshev was arrested on suspicion of vandalism and a hate crime. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Fear in Muslim community after school letter threat -Wes Streeting

An MP in north-east London says there is "rising fear" in the Muslim community after a local school was sent a threatening letter. Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, said a Muslim school in Redbridge was sent a letter threatening to "kill everyone" during the week. He called on the Home Secretary to urgently "safeguard Muslim communities from hatred and discrimination". A Home Office spokesperson said: "We will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred. "The Prime Minister has made clear that we stand with UK Muslim communities now and always." In Mr Streeting's letter sent on 8 December, he said parents and teachers were "fearing for the safety of their children because of the grotesque threat". He added that the Redbridge school's experience was "by no means the only example of hatred, threats and abuse directed towards Muslim community organisations". read the complete article

Surge in hatred against Muslims 'could lead to UK Christchurch'

The British government urgently needs to appoint an adviser on growing hate crimes against Muslims, similar to the anti-Semitic watchdog appointed three years ago, a leading British MP has said. Opening a parliamentary debate on growing anti-Muslim feeling, Naz Shah said there had been a 600 per cent rise in incidents against Muslims in the past year. Ms Shah warned that if the hate was not tackled it could lead to an atrocity, such as the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which an Australian gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers. “If the government can have a working independent adviser on anti-Semitism, why three and a half years later on from the announcement of an independent adviser on Islamophobia is the government unable to move this forward?” she asked. She said that £7 million ($8.8 million) had “rightfully” been given by the government to tackle anti-Semitism but ministers had not announced “a single penny of extra support for British Muslim community”. Ms Shah demanded to know what new government funding might be made available to “tackle the deep-rooted nature of Islamophobia”. read the complete article


Oshawa man charged for allegedly uttering death threat toward woman wearing hijab in Toronto's east end

An Oshawa man has been charged after allegedly uttering a death threat to a woman wearing a hijab in Toronto’s east end last week. Toronto police said the victim was in the area of Danforth and Victoria Park avenues on the morning of Dec. 1 when the suspect approached her. He allegedly made derogatory remarks regarding the woman’s religion before threatening her. Police said the suspect shortly left the area. The woman did not sustain physical injuries. The incident is being investigated as a suspected hate-motivated offence, and members of the hate crime unit arrested the suspect, 54-year-old George Murray, earlier this week. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 11 Dec 2023 Edition


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