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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13 Dec 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United Kingdom, an elderly woman was caught verbally assaulting a Muslim teacher who was chaperoning students through the London subway system on Tuesday, meanwhile, Palestinians across the globe who have been speaking out on Israel’s escalating attacks in Gaza have faced censorship, repression, and hate speech online, according to reporting conducted by Al Jazeera, and in Italy, the closure of two Islamic community centers and prayer spaces in Italy’s Gorizia province in November have left the local Muslim community frustrated. Our recommended read of the day is by Rebecca Melnitsky for the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) on two recent violent attacks targeting Muslims in the U.S. and how authorities believe these are part of a major surge in Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian hate following Israel’s war in Gaza. This and more below:

United States

Islamophobia Surges in the U.S. Due to Global and National Tensions | Recommended Read

It is half a world away, but the conflict in the Middle East has led to a dramatic increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States, and state and national leaders are calling for swift action to reverse the surge. Two of the attacks – which are being investigated as hate crimes – have led to worldwide condemnation. In a Chicago suburb, landlord Joseph Czuba stabbed 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume 26 times, killing him. His mother, 32-year-old Hanaan Shaheen, said Czuba was angry at her for the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel. Weeks later, 48-year-old Jason James Eaton allegedly shot three Palestinian-American college students – Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel Hamid and Tahseen Ahmed – in Burlington, Vermont. The students were speaking English and Arabic and two of them were wearing the kaffiyeh, a traditional Middle Eastern headdress often associated with Palestine. Awartani is now paralyzed from the chest down. These are just two of the tragedies that authorities believe are part of a major surge in Islamophobic and anti-Arab hate since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the subsequent war. Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 4, the Council on American-Islamic Relations received 1,283 requests for help and reports of bias – while in an average 29-day period in 2022, the organization received only 406 complaints. “American Muslims are facing the largest wave of Islamophobic bias that we have documented since then-candidate Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban announcement in December 2015. Political leaders, corporations, media outlets, civic organizations and others all have a role to play in ending this surge in bigotry,” CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor said in a statement. read the complete article

Education Department launches discrimination investigation into UCLA, Stanford, others

The Education Department has added six schools, including Stanford University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Rutgers University, to its ongoing probe over alleged discrimination, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. The probe, announced last month, is to address the “alarming rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and other forms of discrimination” in schools in the wake of militant group Hamas’s Oct. 7 surprise assault into southern Israel. The investigations are revolved around “alleged ancestry violations” of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which requires schools that receive federal financial assistance address discrimination. If schools do not address issues around discrimination, they risk losing federal funding or referral to the Department of Justice. read the complete article

My experiences as an American Muslim

In early December 2021, I wrote a mock article for an English class titled “‘Jihad Squad’: Attempted Humor Shows American Islamophobia is Alive and Well.” In it, I detailed Representative Lauren Boebert’s continued targeting of Representative Ilhan Omar on the basis of the latter’s religion. I said Boebert’s actions reflect a broader American society that doesn’t realize the true prevalence of Islamophobia within itself. I was right then, and since Oct. 7, I have been proven right tenfold. An anti-Arab and anti-Muslim mania has swept the nation since the Hamas attack on Israel. Anything even similar to a khuffiyah has been branded an “Arab terror scarf.” Wearing actual khuffiyahs has been deemed an act punishable by assault, proven by the father and son attacked in New York and the three young men shot in Vermont, reported by NBC. The hijab is once again the identifier of a terrorist. Of course, none of this is new for me. I was born on Aug. 1, 2001, 41 days before Sept. 11. Since then, I’ve known nothing but the fight to prove that I deserve the right to exist. That I’m not a “barbaric terrorist”—a product of whichever radical group they want to paint me as. And this has only been my experience as a Muslim man. I am in a position where Islamophobia cannot find its way to me unless I out myself. There are no defining articles of clothing I have to leave the house with that betray my religious identity. I can “blend” into a non-Muslim crowd and no one would know. Because of this, my experience with in-person Islamophobia has mostly been through my mother, and the glances she gets as a woman who wears the hijab. I know my mother’s experience isn’t the only of its kind. Muslim women all over the country are victim to these unwelcome glances—and sometimes even barely-disguised looks of disgust—that make one thing clear: Muslims aren’t allowed. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Former head of London Islamic school cleared in terrorism probe misconduct case

The former headteacher of an Islamic faith school in London has been cleared of misconduct by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) following a case in which he was wrongly accused of obstructing a counter-terrorism investigation. Abdullah Keekeebhai stepped down as headteacher at the Lantern of Knowledge school in Waltham Forest, northeast London, after the Department for Education sought to bar him from management in July 2019. In February 2020, he was given an interim ban from teaching by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), but the regulator only formally produced a set of allegations against him in April 2022. A hearing was set for February 2023, but ultimately delayed until September - over four years after he left the school. On Tuesday, a TRA panel cleared Keekeebhai of all the allegations against him. Keekeebhai became headteacher of Lantern of Knowledge in 2013. In 2015, an Ofsted inspection judged the school "outstanding", with special praise reserved for its teaching on "British values". The allegations against the headteacher related to the school's previous employment of a man, Umar Haque, who in 2018 was jailed for a number of terrorism offences after a court case in which it was heard that he had tried to radicalise children at an east London mosque where he had taught an Islamic Studies class between December 2016 and April 2017. Before that, from mid-2015 to January 2016, Haque was employed part-time at the Lantern of Knowledge school to teach a supplementary Islamic Studies class. Counter-terror police began investigating Haque in 2016, close to three months after he had left Lantern of Knowledge, and they arrested him in May 2017. When the case went to trial in early 2018, one of the charges against him related to his time at the school. Haque and an accomplice were found guilty of offences at the mosque, but the charge relating to Lantern of Knowledge collapsed. read the complete article

The Labour Party Is Ignoring Britain’s Muslims. A Judge-Led Inquiry Won’t Change That.

Calls are mounting for an independent review into Islamophobia in Britain’s Labour Party — a demand backed by Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) member Mish Rahman, the Labour Muslim Network, and daily socialist newspaper the Morning Star. Making this same appeal, Labour MP Zarah Sultana has explained how the party’s policing of pro-Palestinian opinion, its contemptuous briefings about Muslim voters during the present Gaza crisis, its indifference to racist abuse directed at her and other Muslim MPs, and paltry support for religious observance in the House of Commons amount to a culture of Islamophobia. As she points out, all this substantiates Martin Forde QC’s remark that the party operates a “hierarchy of racism” — with the needs of Muslims near the bottom. Despite what academics Sarah Cooper and Owen Thomas call a “growing tendency” in British public life for such inquiries since the 1990s, an Islamophobia review of Labour is not going to happen. But there’s also the question of whether it would be such a good idea anyway. Would such a review, if commissioned, really help tackle the problem of Islamophobia? A party that in power pursued the “war on terror,” Prevent, the Terrorism Act, extraordinary rendition, and anti-immigrant populism is now once again led by the faction that did all this. With Starmer’s performative refusal to criticize Israel, it is today outflanked to the left on Palestine by the Conservative foreign secretary. Most so-called Labour Islamophobia is not a symptom of insufficient training or bad workplace processes, such as a new Forde Report would diagnose. It is, rather, a perfectly accurate expression of the Atlanticist, pro-war, pro-domestic surveillance ideology of the Labour right itself. read the complete article

Muslim teacher abused in front of students on the London Underground

An elderly woman targeted a Muslim teacher with abuse and warned her students that she was going to “poison you” on the London Underground yesterday (December 11). Speaking to Tell MAMA, she disclosed that it was the first time she faced any hate crime on the rail networks, adding that she followed up with a report to the British Transport Police (BTP). She mentioned how the perpetrator had stood near the group on the Piccadilly Line, which included students under the age of ten having returned from a museum visit, before exiting the train, tapping on the window, and re-entering to begin the abuse. Abusive comments included, “You are a teacher?! You shouldn’t be a teacher” before they pointed aggressively at the children and claimed, “Be careful, she’s going to poison you”. Speaking about the anti-Muslim abuse she faced, the teacher told us: “My first instinct was to make sure that I protect the children, but then I thought: who is going to protect me?” Thankfully, two upstanders spoke up and challenged the abuse, with supportive statements like “Actually, she is a good teacher” and “You should go to school and learn”. The perpetrator soon exited the train. read the complete article


Citizenship for whom? How the U.S. State Department failed to protect U.S. citizens escaping Gaza

Sireen Beseiso traveled to Gaza in June 2022 with her 11-year-old son Aden for summer break. The single Palestinian-American mother from Salt Lake City, Utah, was planning to stay for just two months to visit family but ultimately decided to extend their stay and enroll Aden in the American International School in Gaza City because he enjoyed living there. While in Gaza, both of their passports expired. Beseiso had planned to go to the American Embassy in Jerusalem months before the expiration was up but told Prism that Israel never issued a permit for them to cross the border to attend their appointments. “I used to email the American Embassy in Jerusalem, and it was very stressful. And I was freaking out. I wanted to go back home,” Beseiso said. “And then we got stuck in the war.” Sixteen months after arriving in Gaza, Beseiso and Aden became one of the more than 1,200 people with ties to the U.S.—including citizens, permanent residents, and their families—who were stuck in the besieged territory and trying to make their way back home. When Israel’s assault on the besieged Gaza Strip began, Beseiso said she and her mother, who is also a U.S. citizen, called the U.S. Embassy multiple times, pleading with them to help her family evacuate. The State Department didn’t respond until weeks later. “They were like, ‘We can’t help you because you’re in Gaza. We only help people from Israel,’” Beseiso said. “And I’m like, ‘What’s the difference? We have American citizenship. What’s the difference if we’re located in Gaza or Israel? What’s the difference?’ And they couldn’t help us. We called so many times. And they didn’t help us. We had to wait till 27 days in the war in Gaza for the American Embassy to let us out.” read the complete article


The Muslim and Jewish communities in the West have a decadeslong history of standing together in solidarity against Islamophobia and antisemitism and supporting one another in times of pain. We have faced a similar bigotry and an uptick of hate-fueled attacks on our communities in recent years. We have been familiar faces to one another at the endless press conferences in the aftermath of so many of those incidents. But these relationships cannot be confined to empathy at home. When that same hatred is overseas, it has to be just as near to our hearts. And at a time in which Palestinian civilians — two-thirds of whom are women and children — are being killed at a rate of 280 per day, we must affirm that anti-Palestinian racism and bigotry are also extensions of Islamophobia. We must also be crystal clear as to what anti-Zionism is and is not. Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. It is a travesty that we are forced to state and defend what should be an undeniable fact. It is a strategic conflation made by the Zionist lobby, engineered to suppress a shift in narrative and public opinion that increasingly humanizes Palestinians and rejects the Israeli occupation. Over the past two months, Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment and ground invasion has resulted in more than 16,000 Palestinians killed and at least 40,000 more injured. And with that, a global audience otherwise ignorant of the Palestinian catastrophe has been granted firsthand access to the crimes of the Israeli occupation. House Resolution 894, a resolution that strongly condemns and denounces the “drastic rise of antisemitism in the United States and around the world,” also states “that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” This is an ignorant at best — malicious at worst — attempt to amalgamate two disparate concepts. Antisemitism is a discriminatory and bigoted view of the Jewish people, a people with a millennialong history, while anti-Zionism opposes a political ideology introduced in the late 19th century that sought the establishment of an ethnostate on Palestinian territory. read the complete article

Even in time of genocide, Big Tech silences Palestinians

The scorching violence against the people of Gaza has been unprecedented. And so have its reverberations online. Palestinians documenting and speaking up against Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza have faced relentless censorship and repression, accompanied by an explosion of state-sponsored disinformation, hate speech and calls to violence on social media. Following Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7, Big Tech set to eliminate content on the war that they claimed violated their rules. TikTok removed more than 925,000 videos from the Middle East between October 7 and 31. As of November 14, X, formerly known as Twitter, had taken action on over 350,000 posts. Meta, for its part, removed or marked as disturbing more than 795,000 posts in the first three days of the attack. This elimination frenzy, run by ill-trained algorithms and further fuelled by pressure from the EU and Israel, has resulted in the disproportionate censorship of critical Palestinian voices, including content creators, journalists, and activists reporting from the ground in Gaza. X has also been accused of suppressing pro-Palestinian voices. For example, the account of the US branch of Palestine Action group was not able to gain any new followers; the issue was only resolved after public pressure mounted. Meta, of all companies, holds the lion’s share in this digital repression campaign. It has arbitrarily removed Palestine-related content, disrupted live streaming, restricted comments, and suspended accounts. Among those who have been targeted is Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza, who had gained over 15 million followers on Instagram for documenting the Israeli atrocities in Gaza; his account was later reinstated. The Facebook page of Quds News Network, one of the largest Palestinian news networks with over 10 million followers, was also permanently banned. On Instagram, people posting about Palestine have experienced shadowbanning – a stealth form of censorship where an individual is rendered invisible on the platform without being notified. read the complete article


Germany’s CDU questions Islam’s place in society

Germany's center-right Christian Democrats are going under the hood. For the first time since 2007, the party that ruled Germany for most of the republic's young history has revamped its party program. Its leaders hope this is their ticket to returning to power, which they lost in 2021. In establishing what the CDU now stands for, the draft reflects ideological differences at the very top. Chairman Friedrich Merz needed three attempts to become party leader, rebuffed by a skeptical Angela Merkel when she was still chancellor and a powerful force in the party. With her gone and Merz in charge since early last year, he is seeking a different path. It leads the CDU towards a more traditional, center-right landscape, reorienting the party on a range of issues, namely energy, immigration and paying particular attention to Germany's Muslim community. Gone are the days of recognizing that "Islam now belongs to Germany, too" as the CDU's Christian Wulff said when he served as Germany's president during an early Merkel government. The new draft manifesto adds a key caveat: Muslims belong to Germany so long as they "share our values." Since the 1960s, Germany has been home to a substantial Muslim population — now more than five million people — yet structural hurdles have made establishing homegrown religious institutions difficult. That has contributed to a reliance on imams and Islamic education from abroad, feeding suspicions about "foreign influence" that the CDU wants to see stopped. The shift to the right is partly an effort to win over supporters of the AfD, but critics see the risk of that strategy backfiring. "Cheating off AfD schoolwork wasn't particularly smart," Aiman Mazyek, the head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, told Stern magazine. "Experience shows that voters will ultimately go with the original." read the complete article


What We Are Reading Today: Myanmar’s Rohingya Genocide by Ronan Lee

The genocide in Myanmar has drawn global attention as forced migrations and extra-judicial killings have been witnessed on an enormous scale. This unique study draws on thousands of hours of interviews and testimony from the Rohingya themselves to assess and outline the full scale of the disaster. About 250 Rohingya refugees, last week, in an overcrowded wooden boat were turned away from western Indonesia and sent back to sea. The group of around 250 from the persecuted Myanmar minority arrived off the coast of Aceh province but angry locals told them not to land the boat. Some refugees then swam ashore and collapsed with exhaustion on the beach. Casting new light on Rohingya identity, history and culture, this book will be an essential contribution to the study of the Rohingya people and to the study of the early stages of genocide. This book adds convincingly to the body of evidence that the government of Myanmar has enabled a genocide in Rakhine State and the surrounding areas. read the complete article


The Strength of the Women Who Led the 2019 Shaheen Bagh Protests

Filmmaker Nausheen Khan’s Land of My Dreams recounts the 2019 Shaheen Bagh protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Khan captures the resilience and powerful patriotism of the women at the forefront of the movement, while exploring her own Muslim identity. While the protests took place three years ago, Khan said the issues of Islamophobia across the country prevail, and she hopes the film continues to gain momentum. The anti-CAA protests brought out thousands from across India on the streets. The protests were in response to the exclusion of Muslims from the amendment that gave persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries eligibility for Indian citizenship. The 101-day long Shaheen Bagh demonstration from December 2019 until March 2020 followed the protest at Jamia. It was a peaceful sit-in led by women that blocked a key stretch of the highway between Delhi and Noida. Khan attended almost every night, sitting alongside other protesters and documenting their voices. Through her documentary, Khan captures the strength of the women at the forefront of the movement, and the love and acceptance they fostered at Shaheen Bagh. read the complete article


Closure of Islamic community centers in northern Italy frustrates Muslim community

The closure of two Islamic community centers and prayer spaces in the Monfalcone district of Italy's northeastern province of Gorizia has frustrated the Muslim community of mainly Bangladeshi workers in the shipyard area, media reports said Tuesday. Mayor Anna Maria Cisint, who is with the right-wing populist Lega party, closed the centers in November and moved to prevent Muslim prayers in a former supermarket by declaring it as a construction site, according to the Il Piccolo newspaper. Left-wing politician Furio Honsell noted that the mayor's decision violated the most essential articles of the Constitution. The La Repubblica newspaper ran headlines that said: Anti-Islam Mayor Bans to Worship. Christian and Muslim Clerics United. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 13 Dec 2023 Edition


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