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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27 Dec 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, the state of New Jersey has seen a 733% spike in acts of bigotry against Muslims in the four weeks after the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israel and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, meanwhile in Poland, the country’s former prime minister made Islamophobic and xenophobic comments in an interview where he warned that European culture is being “destroyed” by Muslim migrants from Africa and the Middle East, and in Germany, there has been a crackdown on protests along with undemocratic changes to laws tampering with assembly, speech and citizenship rights and freedoms as the government clamps down on pro-Palestine supporters. Our recommended read of the day is by Johana Bhuiyan for the Guardian on how vocal pro-Palestine Arab and Muslim college students in New York fear “that their speech is being intensely policed and that they are witnessing the start of a campaign of targeted campus surveillance.” This and more below:

United States

New York college students who support Palestine fear post-9/11-style retaliation | Recommended Read

On the morning of 12 October, a crowd of about 100 members of the Brooklyn College chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and neighborhood residents gathered outside the school’s campus for a rally in support of the Palestinian people. The atmosphere was tense, with a heavy police presence on the ground, police helicopters hovering overhead and campus security turning out in large numbers. Inna Vernikov, an avid Israel supporter who represents southern Brooklyn on the New York City council, flashed a gun in the waistband of her pants. Tweeting from the sidelines, she called the students “Hamas supporters” and accused them of wanting to “bring the terror here to rid the world of the Jewish people”. For Muslim and Arab students at the City University of New York, which Brooklyn College is part of, and especially students who have organized to protest the suffering and mass killing of Palestinians, the tensions have led to renewed fears that their speech is being intensely policed and that they are witnessing the start of a campaign of targeted campus surveillance. They worry that online attacks by often-anonymous private actors; efforts by their schools and local leaders they say amount to censorship of their speech and events; and conflation of their pro-Palestinian activism with antisemitism will create a climate akin to that on campuses following 9/11, when Muslim students were closely surveilled. While fears of surveillance and mass targeting are remnants of the post-9/11 era, the tools often leveraged by law enforcement and individuals have become vastly more sophisticated and potentially much more invasive in the years since then. Their institution’s failure to reckon with that history, they say, contributes to their lack of faith in the administration to safeguard their safety now. read the complete article

The University of Texas administration is contributing to an unsafe atmosphere for Palestinian students

Since October 7, Islamophobia and violence against Palestinians nationwide have risen sharply. On October 14, beloved 6-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea Al-Fayoume was fatally stabbed by his own landlord in Chicago. On October 28, a pediatrician in Conroe, Texas, Dr. Talat Jehan Khan, was murdered on a picnic bench near her own apartment complex. On November 26, three Palestinian-American undergraduate students, Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad were shot in Vermont, racially profiled for wearing keffiyehs and speaking Arabic. Hisham is permanently paralyzed from the chest down. We are similarly alarmed as students at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) by the increased hostilities against students on and near our campus. On October 12, three men claiming Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) affiliation, with no connection to UT, interrupted a student teach-in about Palestine in an academic building on campus after school hours. Calling students both in attendance and in the general vicinity unaffiliated with the teach-in “terrorists,” the men boasted that they would be “killing Arabs in Israel next week.” Nueces Mosque, situated near and frequented by UT students, also received threats of violence in the past two months. Despite these violent incidents against Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim Americans in our community and across the country, the UT administration remains chillingly silent at best, and hostile towards pro-Palestinian students at worst. read the complete article

Far-right activist blasts Speaker Phelan for being "pro-Muslim" in political mailer

A longtime Texas conservative activist mailed what appeared to be a blatantly anti-Muslim holiday card to voters in state House Speaker Dade Phelan’s legislative district, the latest political volley in an ongoing feud between the Texas Republican Party’s far-right faction and its more moderate wing. Photos of the mailers circulated on social media platform X two days before Christmas. The mailers sarcastically wish constituents a “Happy Ramadan,” even though the Muslim holiday fell during the spring this year. It includes photos of Phelan, who is Catholic, at an event celebrating Ramadan with Muslims in the state Capitol earlier this year. The card insinuates that the speaker is Muslim. The event was hosted by state Rep. Suleman Lalani, D-Sugar Land, who was one of the first two Muslims elected to the Texas Legislature along with state Rep. Salman Bhojani last year. “It’s preying on Islamophobic sentiments that exist in some people’s minds,” said Bhojani, a Euless Democrat. “But in Texas we should celebrate and protect religious practices.” The cards were paid for by Cary Cheshire, a longtime right-wing activist who was previously the vice president of Empower Texans. Cheshire is currently the executive director for Texans For Strong Borders, a right-wing group that has been increasingly influential in pushing lawmakers to crack down on legal and illegal immigration. read the complete article

Islamophobia in Philadelphia is on the rise

I am 16 years old and I wear a hijab. Every year, when the anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, approaches, I feel guilty — or so my peers make me feel. It is nearly impossible to commemorate the date when all that fills my mind is fear of someone calling me a terrorist, or looking at me whenever the horrific event is being discussed in class. I even wonder, “Should I feel sorry for what has happened that day?” But I shouldn’t. I did nothing — I wasn’t even born until 2007. Even though there is a large Muslim community in Philadelphia, growing up here, I have still felt like an outsider. Yes, being surrounded by marginalized communities has made it easier to put on the hijab here compared with other parts of the country. However, barbaric and extremist stereotypes still linger. For part of middle school, I took off my hijab just to not have to deal with those painful comments. In recent times, the deaths and terror occurring in the war in Gaza have, unfortunately, given me a renewed sense of precarity. I see people on the news and through social media who look like me getting killed on a daily basis. Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have died in this war, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health, including at least 6,000 children and 4,000 women. In the heat of this conflict, Islamophobia is on the rise. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has tracked nearly triple the number of Islamophobic incidents nationwide in the two weeks after the Hamas attack in October compared with the same two-week period last year. Calling all Muslims and Arabs terrorists has consequences. Conflating a peaceful religion with terrorism is dangerous. Putting on the hijab shouldn’t feel like an act of bravery. Having conversations with my friends and family about being stereotyped and feeling uncomfortable and unsafe at times should not be common. read the complete article

As a Muslim, I condemn attacks on all civilians. President Biden should, too.

Like the children of so many other Palestinian families ethnically cleansed from their homes in 1948, I spent the first 17 years of my life without access to electricity, running water or regular meals. We stood in line for hours to receive food and attended school in tents set up by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Although I eventually made it out of the camp and built a new life in America, I never escaped the impact of life as a refugee. Despite the generations of injustice my family and I experienced, and despite the injustices Palestinian families are experiencing in Gaza today, our faith and values ensured that we never made the mistake of supporting injustice against anyone else. That’s why I began my recent, now-controversial appearance at a conference about Palestinian human rights on Nov. 24 by addressing a completely different topic: antisemitism. “We as human beings, as Muslims, as Palestinians, see it as evil the way it is, and (it) should be condemned because antisemitism is a real phenomenon, a real evil, and it has to be rejected and combated by all people regardless of their faith tradition, ideology or those people who have no ideology,” I said. “It is an attack on humanity and should be clearly condemned by all people.” I began on this note because I wanted to emphasize upfront that condemnation of the Israeli government is not the same as — and must never cross the line into — antisemitism. Even though I released a statement that clarified my words and reaffirmed my condemnation of the violence perpetrated against Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, a Biden administration spokesperson inexplicably mischaracterized my remarks as somehow “anti-Semitic” and attempted to undermine CAIR. The Biden administration’s reaction highlights the double-standards applied to Muslim and Palestinian Americans, whose words about Gaza are heavily policed and often misconstrued in ways never done to the Israeli government’s supporters. Consider that the White House did not disavow or even criticize the major Israel advocacy organizations that hosted Pastor John Hagee, a notorious antisemite and anti-Muslim bigot, as a speaker at the recent March for Israel. Instead, the administration sent a speaker to the event. Worse, the Biden administration has not issued a single public condemnation of Israeli leaders for their explicitly homicidal statements about Palestinian civilians, from declaring there are “no innocent civilians in Gaza,” to justifying the total siege of all Palestinians in Gaza by calling them “human animals.” read the complete article

Young U.S. Muslims are rising up against Israel in unlikely places

Across the nation, from the Deep South to Appalachia and relatively rural communities in the Midwest, protests in support of the plight of Palestinians are springing up, showcasing the continued spread of the U.S. Muslim population into the country’s heartland. Children of refugees from Muslim nations organized many of the demonstrations, evidence of a political awakening among a new generation of young Americans who are helping to shape U.S. public opinion in support of a cease-fire in the Middle East. In the process, the antiwar rallies in places such as Huntsville, Oxford, Miss., and Boone, N.C., are creating a sense of community among Muslims who only recently would not have dreamed they could pull off such gatherings. Now, they vow to continue their activism to influence the public debate while showcasing the emerging political power of American Muslims. “Just because we live here in the U.S. doesn’t mean we are isolated or separated,” said Hammad Chaudhry, 24, a second-generation Pakistani American who helped organize several pro-Palestinian demonstrations at Appalachian State University in Boone. “We live in a globalized world where the tiniest thing somewhere can have a massive impact somewhere else.” The burst of activism — which Muslim scholars said would have been unthinkable just a decade or so ago — is rooted in the broad spread of Muslim families throughout the United States. read the complete article

Since October, anti-Muslim bigotry has surged in New Jersey with heavy South Asian population

Soon after Heba Macksoud, 52, posted an image stating “I stand with Palestine” in a local Facebook group for residents of Marlboro, New Jersey, she began receiving an onslaught of abuse. Members of the group wrote negative reviews for her family-owned pharmacy, calling her a “Jew hater”, and sent death threats to her niece’s car detailing business in nearby Manalapan. Someone even posted a YouTube video of her at a pro-Palestine protest in the group. Macksoud, who wears a hijab, is now using a hat to cover her hair when she goes out. She has also stopped going out in public unaccompanied. “I feel people staring at me like I’m inferior,” Macksoud, told the newsletter Central Desi. “I felt this way after 9/11.” Macksoud, however, is undeterred. I’m going to keep speaking up,” she said. New Jersey has seen a 733% spike in acts of bigotry against Muslims in the four weeks after the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israel and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations of New Jersey. One Friday morning in October, a Southasian restaurant owner in South Jersey woke up to a Quran being ripped apart and scattered in front of her restaurant, Council Director Selaedin Maksut said during a press conference on October 16. At Rutgers University, an educational institute with one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States, Muslim Chaplain Kaiser Aslam said Muslim students have filed dozens of reports of bias, including being spat on or called “terrorists” since early October. A university spokesperson said that the Office of Student Affairs reviews and considers all individual claims of bias. On November 25, three Palestinian college students were shot at in Burlington in Vermont. One of the students has suffered paralysis chest-down and is undergoing treatment. The three students were speaking Arabic and wearing keffiyehs, a checked scarf that symbolises Palestinian identity and resistance. Law enforcement is investigating if the incident was a hate crime. read the complete article


Islamophobic Politics Amplified in Europe

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is often in the news for making bold statements, but she recently scoffed at Islamic culture and said that there is no place for it in Europe. She says there is no place for Islam in Europe: ‘There is a problem of compatibility.’ Her comments were made at a political festival organised by her far-right party – the Brothers of Italy, in Rome, which was attended by the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and X’s owner Elon Musk, too. In her speech Meloni said, “The Islamic cultural centres in Italy are financed by Saudi Arabia where Sharia is in force. In Europe, there is a very Islamisation process distant from the values of our civilisation! I believe that there is a problem of compatibility between Islamic culture and the values and rights of our civilization.” Meanwhile, an old video of her also re-surfaced on various social media platforms that shows her saying she would not allow Sharia law to be implemented in Italy. Meloni also criticised Saudi Arabia for its strict Sharia Law. “I believe that these should be raised, which does not mean generalising on Islam. It means raising the problem that there is a process of Islamisation in Europe that is very distant from the values of our civilisation,” she added. During his speech at the event, Rishi Sunak said that he would push for global reforms to the asylum system while warning that the threat of a growing number of refugees could ‘overwhelm’ parts of Europe. He even warned that some ‘enemies’ were deliberately ‘driving people to our shores to try and destabilise our societies’. Analysing the speeches given by these three leaders, makes it clear that not only political leaders alone but even business leaders are increasingly turning to Islamophobia, based on their belief systems and also converting political issues to anti-Islam utterances, to gain public support. Both Sunak and Musk couched their Islamophobic feelings into anti-immigrants policies. This could be partly blamed to these countries’ own doing. Though many of these immigrants were not connected to any radical ideology, but they became an easy scapegoat to be blamed for any wrongs happening in these western societies. read the complete article

How Can Australia Stand up for Human Rights in Xinjiang?

Polling conducted by the United States Studies Centre reveals that an overwhelming 76 percent of Australians want their government to hold China to account on human rights. There is a growing body of evidence detailing Beijing’s grave human rights abuses, not least in China’s Xinjiang region. A groundbreaking U.N. report released just over a year ago contains victim testimonies substantiating reports of mass arbitrary detention, torture, cultural and religious repression, coercive population control methods, and other “serious human rights violations” against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. State-sponsored modern slavery is central to this so-called “re-education” project — as many as 1 million people in Xinjiang are estimated to be working in conditions of forced labor. The harrowing report ultimately concludes that the curtailing of rights in Xinjiang “may constitute crimes against humanity. Yet as human rights concerns have grown, so has Australia’s trade with Xinjiang. As the diplomatic freeze between the two countries thaws, attention should now turn to developing a coherent response to China’s egregious human rights abuses — an issue of major concern for the Australian public. read the complete article

Surging anti-Muslim sentiments, discrimination take centre stage in 2023

Increasing anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe and the US have brought discrimination to the forefront in 2023. The bigotry has been supported directly or indirectly by governments that are held up as beacons of freedom and in one particular case as the "only democracy in the Middle East." Israel's attacks on residential areas, hospitals, schools, mosques and churches in Gaza have left the world demanding a ceasefire. The attacks have targeted the Al Aqsa Mosque and the sacred values of Palestinians. Western countries, notably the US, have turned a blind eye or openly supported Israel's bombing of the enclave, where civilians are being killed. Despite the attacks by forces affiliated with the Tel Aviv administration, Western countries, including the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy, refrained from issuing condemnatory statements against Israel's attacks. Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burned the Quran in front of Türkiye's Stockholm Embassy on January 21 and its Copenhagen Embassy on January 27. Paludan continued his Quran-burning provocations in Malmo, Norrkoping and Jonkoping during the Easter holiday in April. Following the announcement by Education Minister Gabriel Attal on August 27 that the use of the abaya by women in schools in France would be prohibited, the ADM Association, which advocates for the rights of Muslims, took the ban to the Council of State. The Council of State in France rejected the request to suspend the ban on September 7. It argued that female students wore the abaya and male students wore the kamis, a traditional tunic, for religious reasons. A report published in November on anti-Muslim sentiment in Germany noted that one in every two people in the country approved or used expressions that contained "anti-Muslim hatred." read the complete article


Never again is now except in Gaza: How pro-Palestine solidarity triggered a return to German authoritarianism

The spectre of authoritarianism hangs over Germany once again, this time in the name of a crusade against what it labels as anti-Semitism, applied blindly against all forms of criticism of Israel. Crackdowns on protests, often violent; undemocratic changes to laws tampering with assembly, speech and citizenship rights and freedoms; and a relentless anti-Palestinian cancel procession sweep across the country, sparing no Arab nor even Jewish critics of Israel. In the most recent case of the attempt to deplatform these voices, Masha Gessen, a Jewish New Yorker staff writer and descendant of victims of the Nazi Holocaust, faced unceremonious German backlash as she was due to receive the Hannah Arendt Prize sponsored by Germany's Green-party-affiliated Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Senate of Bremen, the northern city-state's executive. More insidious perhaps is the Bundestag's attack on constitutional rights. In November, the opposition CDU/CSU caucus introduced two draft laws aimed at fighting "antisemitism, terror, hatred and agitation". Apart from proposed changes to the country's Criminal Code, they also include altering its citizenship law to prevent the naturalisation of what the draft calls "antisemitic foreigners" by making an applicant's acknowledgement of Israel's right to exist a prerequisite to legally becoming a German. These authoritarian measures come against a backdrop of unprecedented state repression of Palestinian rights advocacy in Germany following Israel's barbaric war on Gaza. Germany, among other European nations, is "witnessing a serious increase of anti-Palestinian racism and violations of freedom of expression and assembly", says the European Legal Support Center (ELSC). read the complete article


'Muslim migrants are destroying European culture' - Poland's former prime minister

Poland’s former prime minister has warned European culture is being “destroyed” by Muslim migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Speaking to The Telegraph, Mateusz Morawiecki, who served as Poland’s prime minister from 2017 until the beginning of this month, said: “We were very open to war refugees from Ukraine when the need was there… We have opened our hearts and our gates for all refugees.” “But this is very much different from the huge [amounts of] Muslim migrants from the Middle East who are coming to Germany and France and other countries and who want to change the culture of those countries, those nations.” “I am clearly opposed to such attempts. I'm admiring [of] French culture, Spanish culture and British culture, but I also admire my Polish culture and I want to preserve it, I want to nurture it.” “I don't want it to be destroyed by the Muslim migrants coming from the Middle East or from Africa.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 27 Dec 2023 Edition


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