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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28 Dec 2023

Today in Islamophobia: The Chinese government has placed sanctions on a United States research company that monitors human rights in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, meanwhile in the United States, the NYPD is looking for a woman who’s wanted for pepper-spraying a Muslim teenager in Brooklyn, and in India, a new report by Amnesty International and The Washington Post finds that the Indian government is has used the highly invasive Pegasus spyware to target high-profile journalists. Our recommended read of the day is by Osama Abu Irshaid for Al Jazeera on how “Islamophobic smear campaigns aimed at silencing pro-Palestinian voices are inciting hatred and violence” against Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim Americans. This and more below:

United States

In the US, Arabs and Muslims are once again cast as suspect | Recommended Read

For 80 days, Israel has been waging war on the Palestinians in Gaza with full diplomatic, economic and military support from the US government. The Israeli army has killed 21,000 people, carrying out what legal scholars agree amounts to a genocide and committing countless other war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yet, rising moral outrage in the United States and across the world is being met with dangerous smear campaigns that weaponise racism to silence the Palestinian freedom movement. Fuelled by and fuelling Islamophobia and anti-Palestinianism, extreme rhetoric has abetted unprecedented violations of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim American civil rights and even deadly violence against members of these communities. But the negative repercussions of this bigoted repression are not limited to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims; rather they threaten fundamental moral and civic values that are the basis of democracy. Over the past two and a half months, we have seen massive street demonstrations, open letters of condemnation, public resignations of officials, and other protest actions aimed at calling for a ceasefire, equal rights for Palestinians, and accountability for war crimes. But this mobilisation has been countered by attempts to portray the pro-Palestinian movement and any critique of Israel’s genocide as “anti-Semitic” and supportive of violence or terrorism. While these tactics are not new, this campaign has expanded in scale and scope to the point that it resembles a McCarthyist witch-hunt, relentlessly targeting Palestinian, Arab and Muslim Americans in particular, as well as allies who have stood against the US-funded violence and apartheid policies of Israel. read the complete article

Unprecedented Surge in Islamophobia: A Conversation with Professor Abdul Jabbar

With 36 years of teaching English and interdisciplinary studies at City College San Francisco, Professor Abdul Jabbar joins host Amina Saqib to discuss the unprecedented surge in #islamophobia witnessed in recent weeks. It has been nearly two months since the escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, causing global repercussions, particularly in the United States. Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments, along with Islamophobia, have escalated to unprecedented levels. University campuses, once known for championing free speech, are now becoming hotspots where students and faculty face persecution. It is disheartening to witness a stark contrast where the advocacy for free speech is now met with brutal censorship. read the complete article

NYPD on the hunt for woman wanted for pepper-spraying Muslim teenager in Brooklyn

The NYPD is investigating an attack on a Muslim teenager in Brooklyn. Officials say the suspect used anti-ethnic remarks right before the assault. The victim said she's scared to leave home alone after an encounter on Dec. 19 in Bensonhurst that police are investigating as a hate crime. "At that moment I just really wanted my dad to be near," 15-year-old Mahak Hussain said. Still afraid to show her face, Hussain, who was wearing traditional hijab and abaya garb, said the suspect then pepper sprayed her in the face before running away. The teen said she saw the woman approaching, but wasn't paying attention. "I see a woman coming. She has a hood on. Her neck is covered. She had some of her face covered as well, and she's just walking with her hand in her pocket," Hussain said. Hussain said she was so shaken, a friend had to explain to her father what had transpired. The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is searching for a suspect, who is described as a female with a light complexion, approximately 40 years old, and last seen wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, black sneakers, and a blue backpack. read the complete article

The real 'clash of civilizations' will happen at home

Thirty years ago, a Harvard professor published a monumental essay that changed how America saw conflict and the future. Scholars and journalists rushed to understand what this new moment portended. It was a turning point in human affairs, and the terms from the era were as grandiose as the utopian democratic future they promised. “The unipolar moment,” said Charles Krauthammer. In another formulation, from the political scientist Francis Fukuyama, it was “the end of history.” For the better part of three centuries, international affairs had been dominated by competing empires. Now there was only one, and its military force and liberal values would be spread all over the globe. Enter into this debate Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, whose signature thesis was bitingly simple: “World politics is entering a new phase,” he opined, and the major fault lines would no longer be ideological or economic. Rather, “the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural.” Huntington had thrown up a rhetorical baseball; then he would smash it. From now on, Huntington declared, “the clash of civilizations will dominate global politics.” Civilizations, and their differences, would mark the fault lines of war and peace. The essay (and subsequent book) sparked an intense backlash within academia, and political scientists, historians, anthropologists, and foreign policy scholars all pilloried Huntington for being alarmist, simplistic, and possibly racist. As America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, Huntington was widely read, including in the White House. His thesis guided much of Western commentary about Islam and the Middle East for two decades. It eventually fell out of favor, but after the Hamas attacks on Israel in October, the clash of civilizations thesis received renewed interest. “This is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness,” Israel’s prime minister has said. The first problem with Huntington’s thesis was that it segregated civilizations cleanly, when in reality these cultures and communities had learned from each other and developed together. Islam grew in tandem with Christendom and during the Dark Ages its culture was much more advanced than Europe’s. At one point, the greatest library in the world was in Baghdad. The second problem was that Huntington ignored the internal diversity, competition, and often chaos within civilizations. Much as the West had religious struggles, China had uprisings and Islam had upheavals. If anything, the great through line of human history is civilizations thriving for periods when they are open and declining and falling when they shut out the world. The clash of civilization idea’s greatest flaw lay in the conflict it did not foresee. So adamant were Huntington and later neoconservatives that Islam was a threat, a fear perhaps born of cultural insecurity, that they ignored the oldest continuous civilization in the world, where all roads once led: not to Jerusalem or Athens but to China. Today, there is only one country that is both empire and civilization and that directly challenges the hegemony of the United States. read the complete article

How a Leading Definition of Antisemitism Has Been Weaponized Against Israel’s Critics

Too often, however, supporters of continued military action by Israel respond not by debating the merits of a cease-fire but through McCarthyistic campaigns to silence human rights advocacy in public and on college campuses. Among the most effective strategies of censorship is a politically motivated expansion of what constitutes antisemitism to conflate it with criticism of Israel’s policies and practices. In 2016, member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted a working definition of antisemitism, defined as a “certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred of Jews” through both words and actions. Some pro-Israel groups, however, increasingly use the IHRA definition not to address antisemitism but to silence critics of Israel. Students, professors, rights organizations, and politicians who have either criticized Israeli policies or spoken out against human rights violations against Palestinians are often smeared by some pro-Israel groups and pundits as antisemites based on the IHRA definition. In April 2019, a group of pro-Israel students filed a lawsuit against the University of Massachusetts–Amherst to force the cancellation of a panel that planned to discuss the censorship of speech supporting Palestinian human rights. The lawsuit used the IHRA definition to show that the panel’s criticism of Israel amounted to antisemitism. In May 2023, a City University of New York (CUNY) law student’s commencement speech that criticized Israel as a settler colonial state was labeled antisemitic hate speech, igniting a political firestorm. The attacks on the Muslim student perpetuated Islamophobic tropes that she was presumptively antisemitic on account of her religious identity—a troubling phenomenon examined in a new report, “Presumptively Antisemitic: Islamophobic Tropes in the Palestine Israel Discourse,” by the Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights. Critics of the graduation speech cited the IHRA definition, and some even demanded the federal government cut funding to CUNY. read the complete article


China sanctions US-based Xinjiang monitor

China has placed sanctions on a United States research company that monitors human rights in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. China announced late on Tuesday that Los Angeles-based research and data analytics firm Kharon and its two lead analysts are now barred from entry. The company has reported extensively on claims that Beijing is committing human rights abuses against Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups. Director of investigations Edmund Xu and Nicole Morgret, a human rights analyst affiliated with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, were named as the two barred analysts in a statement published by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning. Any assets or property owned by the company or individuals in China will be frozen. Organisations and individuals in China are prohibited from conducting transactions or otherwise cooperating with them. The statement said that the sanctions were retaliation for Kharon’s contribution to a US government report on human rights in Xinjiang. Uighurs and other natives of the region share religious, linguistic and cultural links with the scattered peoples of Central Asia and have long resented the Chinese Communist Party’s heavy-handed control and attempts to assimilate them with the majority Han ethnic group. read the complete article

Q&A: 'Pro-Palestine protests have broken West's gaslighting industry'

Israel, along with Western allies like the US, have framed Israel's war on Gaza and its collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza and occupied Palestinian territories as a 'war on terror', likening Hamas to organisations like Daesh. This rhetoric has been further amplified by recent statements, like the US President Biden echoing Israeli misinformation of alleged Hamas atrocities and unsubstantiated claims that portray Palestinians as 'savages', rekindling a post-9/11 atmosphere marked by growing hate crime in the West against Muslims and Arabs. In this regard, TRT World spoke to Salman Sayyid, Professor of Rhetoric and Decolonial Thought at the University of Leeds and Head of the School of Sociology and Social Policy, whose work has pioneered critical Muslim studies. In the free-wheeling interview, Professor Sayyid shares his insight on Israel's Western-backed narrative on Gaza and debunks the prevailing perspective on resistance and terrorism and its global implications. read the complete article


‘He disappeared for a year’: The survivors of China’s prison camps in Xinjiang – in pictures

Since 2014, millions of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other minorities have been locked up in China and subjected to torture and forced labour. Some of those released talk about trying to rebuild their lives in neighbouring Kazakhstan. read the complete article


India targeted high-profile journalists with Pegasus spyware: Amnesty

India’s government has used the highly invasive Pegasus spyware to target high-profile journalists, according to a new investigation by Amnesty International and The Washington Post. The findings, published on Thursday, noted India’s repeated use of Pegasus against journalists, including one who was previously a victim of an attack using the same spyware. “Increasingly, journalists in India face the threat of unlawful surveillance simply for doing their jobs, alongside other tools of repression including imprisonment under draconian laws, smear campaigns, harassment and intimidation,” said Donncha O Cearbhaill, the head of Amnesty’s Security Lab. “Despite repeated revelations, there has been a shameful lack of accountability about the use of Pegasus spyware in India which only intensifies the sense of impunity over these human rights violations.” Activists say press freedom in the world’s biggest democracy has suffered during Modi’s tenure. India has fallen 21 spots to 161 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, since he took office in 2014. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 Dec 2023 Edition


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