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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05 Dec 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., Muslim leaders from several swing states met in Dearborn, Michigan over the weekend to launch a national campaign against the reelection of President Joe Biden — a direct response to his handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict, meanwhile in the Netherlands, far-right anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders and his anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) has won the most votes of any party in the recent Dutch elections, causing many Arab and Muslim citizens to be uncertain about their future in the country, and lastly, anti-racism officials across Europe have called on law enforcement agencies to remain alert for hate crimes against Muslims and “spare no effort” to protect them as members states across the continent see a rise in Islamophobia amid the Israel-Hamas war. Our recommended read of the day is by Hadia Mubarak for The Charlotte Observer on how recent incidents of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim attacks are not a symptom of individual racism, but of growing systemic racism, which includes a discourse that “frames Muslim identity as threatening, un-American or inherently violent.”  This and more below:

United States

‘Terrorist’: My son and I experienced Islamophobia in Charlotte. This hate victimizes us all. | Recommended Read

The recent news of three Palestinian students shot in Vermont triggers me on a molecular level. I was only 3 years old when our next-door neighbor called my mother a “rag head,” as she buckled my sister and me into her white station wagon and silently drove us to our daycare in New Brunswick, N.J. I was 12 when two teenagers fishing at a creek near my parent’s house in Panama City, Fla. yelled out to me, “Do you f--k with that on?” in reference to my headscarf, which I had started wearing in public as a sign of my devotion to God. As a college freshman in 2002, I had just left the Islamic Center of Tallahassee minutes before Charles Franklin slammed his truck into the front entrance to “let Muslims know they’re not safe in this country.” He was later convicted and jailed. I never imagined that two decades later, now a mother with two children of my own, I would find myself combating the same level of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred I faced in the days following the 9-11 terrorist attacks. But a week after the horrific Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, a man rolled down his window and yelled “terrorist” at me and my son as we drove home from his soccer practice in Charlotte. When I heard about the Vermont shooting of three Palestinians my immediate thought was, if the kuffiyeh — the black and white checkered scarf they wore around their necks — made them a target, could my headscarf make me a target? Islamophobia is not a symptom of individual racism, but systemic racism — a process and dialectic that entrenches the presumption of Muslim guilt. People like John Eaton, who is charged with shooting three Palestinian students, or Franklin, who drove his truck into my mosque, are not only acting out of individual malice or hatred. Their actions are a consequence of broader Islamophobic discourse perpetuated by the media, film industry and some politicians. That discourse frames Muslim identity as threatening, un-American or inherently violent. As a professor of Religion, I have been teaching about Muslim representations in pop-culture for several years. My courses explore the ways in which films construct an image of Muslims as an imaginary “other” in the American public consciousness. read the complete article

Dear President Gay, Don’t Forget About Us

Today, University President Claudine Gay is testifying in front of Congress about antisemitism on college campuses. As she gives her remarks, President Gay must not forget the ongoing climate of fear and intimidation facing Harvard’s Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities since the outbreak of war and what many scholars and lawyers have called a genocide in Gaza. On Nov. 1, hedge fund billionaire Bill A. Ackman ’88 spoke at the Jewish Leaders Forum. The event was organized by Harvard Chabad and took place following his calls for the mass doxxing of pro-Palestinian students whose organizations co-signed a statement in response to the Oct. 7 attacks. Ackman’s invitation to campus was only one of the many incidents of Harvard’s neglect of students’ safety concerns. In the same week that Ackman and other prominent figures lambasted pro-Palestinian students on social media, I saw the faces and names of my peers plastered on a truck driving around campus, each accompanied by the title of “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites.” The truck was funded by Accuracy in Media, a conservative advocacy group. According to an interview with two doxxed students, the majority of those individuals were Black and brown. It took Harvard almost two weeks just to privately email affected students about a task force for doxxed students. By that point, students had faced death threats and found their personal information circulated online. Soon after, Accuracy in Media sent the truck to some of the students’ hometowns. Harvard’s failure to treat this incident with the urgency it deserved endangered pro-Palestinian students and promoted prejudice on campus. read the complete article

Swing-state Muslim leaders launch campaign to ‘abandon’ Biden in 2024

Muslim leaders from several swing states on Saturday descended on Dearborn, Michigan, to launch a national campaign against the reelection of President Joe Biden — a response to his handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Organizers from Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania are calling the campaign #AbandonBiden, vowing to ensure that Biden is a one-term president. These leaders have run separate pressure campaigns in their respective states, members of the coalition said, but they felt now was the time to coordinate their response ahead of the 2024 election. “We’re looking into finding ways to build a mechanism of coordination between all the swing states so that we’re constantly working together to ensure that Muslim Americans will come out in all of these states, and that Mr. Biden will lose each and every one of them,” said Hassan Abdel Salam, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a member of the #AbandonBiden National Coalition during a press conference Saturday. “Right behind me, what Mr. Biden should see is 111 electoral votes. And he won last time with 74.” It’s unclear how expansive or successful the campaign will be, but its creation speaks to the mounting political pressure facing Biden amid the conflict in the Middle East. For nearly two months, Muslim and Arab leaders have pushed the president to call for a cease-fire, and now, with more than 15,000 dead in Gaza, this new coalition is dialing up the pressure. The bubbling anger among Arab and Muslim Americans could threaten Biden’s chances of reelection in many of the swing states in 2024, all of which contain key pockets of Arab American and Muslim American voting blocs. read the complete article

Palestinian student shot in Vermont is paralyzed from chest down, his family says

Hisham Awartani, a Palestinian-Irish-American college student who was shot last month in an unprovoked attack in Burlington, Vt., is paralyzed from the chest down, his family says. Awartani, 20, was taking a walk on Nov. 25 with his childhood friends who are the same age and of Palestinian descent when a man approached them with a gun and shot all three. The man accused of shooting the three young men, Jason J. Eaton, 48, has pleaded not guilty on three counts of attempted murder. He is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 18, court records show. The FBI and Vermont authorities are also investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime. Awartani was visiting his grandmother in Vermont for Thanksgiving break from Brown University, where he is studying mathematics and archaeology, when the shooting occurred. At the time, his parents believed it would be safer for Awartani to stay in the U.S. with his grandmother than to return home to Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. "My husband didn't want Hisham to come back for Christmas 'cause he thought America would be safe — safer than in Palestine," his mother, Elizabeth Price told NPR last month. "He was worried about the boys being targeted as being Palestinian, but he thought in Burlington that wouldn't happen." The Burlington Police Department said Awartani and his two friends were walking down a residential street, speaking a mix of Arabic and English while two of them wore traditional Palestinian scarves known as keffiyehs when the gunman appeared. Police added that the shooter did not speak before opening fire. Awartani was shot in the spine; Abdalhamid was hit in the glute; and Ali Ahmad was wounded in the upper chest, Vermont Public reported. read the complete article

A Kentucky jail made a Muslim woman remove her hijab and televised her strip search in its lobby, lawsuit alleges

A Muslim mother of two, who was detained at a Kentucky jail earlier this year, says she was forced to remove her hijab and underwent “an unnecessary full body strip search,” which was “filmed and projected” on a TV screen for men and women in the jail’s lobby to see, according to a lawsuit she has filed. The woman, identified as Jane Doe in court documents, says in the lawsuit the search violated Warren County Regional Jail’s own procedures and also alleges her booking photo, which shows her without the hijab, remains online in a public inmate database, seven months after her arrest. The lawsuit alleges officers violated Doe’s constitutional rights to religious freedom, subjected her to unreasonable search and seizure and deprived her of equal protection under the law. It seeks a jury trial, changes in jail procedures and unspecified damages. "Appearing in public without hijab or being photographed without wearing hijab and having that photo available to the public is a serious breach of Mrs. Doe’s faith and a deeply humiliating and defiling experience in conflict with her sincerely held religious beliefs,” the suit, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Legal Defense Fund, says. read the complete article

For years, the FBI quietly stopped tracking anti-Arab violence and hate crimes

The families of three college students of Palestinian descent who were shot over the weekend in Vermont are calling it a crime "fueled by hate." So far, police in Burlington say they don't have information to suggest what the motive for the attack was. Still, the shooting surfaces long-standing issues in tracking possible hate crimes committed against Arab Americans. And the question of whether this attack will ultimately be prosecuted as a hate crime is set against an unique and complex history when it comes to tracking anti-Arab violence in the U.S. For nearly two decades, anti-Arab violence was omitted from hate crime data. When the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program developed its hate crime data collection guidelines pursuant to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990, it included a category to record anti-Arab incidents. But, according to the Arab American Institute (AAI), the FBI quietly removed that code from the data collection program in 1992. It remained missing until it was reintroduced in the 2015 report. According to an analysis by the AAI, several states continued to collect data tracking anti-Arab hate crimes under the original UCR code known as "Bias Code 31." But when they submitted it to the federal database, these were converted to a catch-all category for "Anti-Other Ethnicity/National Origin" bias incidents. "So we were literally rendered invisible in the hate crime data for decades," said Berry. The omission of the category meant that even during periods when it was known that anti-Arab sentiment was high, such as during the period after the 9/11 attacks, there was no measurement of the scale of the backlash. Berry said it also carried troubling implications for whether law enforcement was sensitized to anti-Arab bias. read the complete article


Jemima Goldsmith: I have Muslim and Jewish family – I want to talk about antisemitism and Islamophobia

Antisemitism is on the rise everywhere and it is terrifying for Jewish people. There is also an under-acknowledged problem with antisemitism within Muslim communities. I have had first-hand experience of this, as my Jewishness was used as a baton to beat my politician ex-husband Imran Khan, in Pakistan, where Zionist conspiracy theories about me were fabricated – and fervour was whipped up by opposition politicians and by a partisan media. It is also true that accusations of antisemitism have been used by some as a cudgel to shut down debate and criticism of the Israeli government. Just as we can criticise the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s government without being Islamophobic, people must be able to express criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza without being falsely labelled antisemitic. Allowing anyone who criticises Israel to be called “antisemitic” just makes it easier for others to dismiss antisemitism, which only undermines the gravity of a very real and virulent problem. Equally, Muslim hatred is also on the rise, and it affects many people I love – including my children. In the US, in the last few weeks, three Palestinian students have been shot and a six-year-old boy was stabbed to death and his mother injured, because they were Muslim. Meanwhile, Trump contemplates reinstating his Muslim ban if he becomes president of the US once again and far-right parties with explicitly anti-Muslim agendas are, for the first time, winning elections in European countries. And just as I have seen a reluctance on the part of some Muslim friends to recognise when antipathy to Israeli policy has become indistinguishable from broader attacks on Israelis or Jews, I have also witnessed a similar unwillingness amongst some of my Jewish friends to accept that Islamophobia is a real thing. This selective outrage and selective failure to be outraged is evident to me on both sides. It is a measure of the depth of their ideological intransigence, tribal myopia and fear, inflamed by social media algorithms and reckless discourse, that so many intelligent and typically empathic people have been incapable of grasping the simple truth: that you can oppose both rising antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred. read the complete article

U.N. Says Hundreds of Refugees Are Adrift in Andaman Sea

The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday that about 400 people were believed to be stranded on two boats adrift in the Andaman Sea, calling on nearby governments to help rescue them. Most of them are believed to be members of the Rohingya ethnic group, a persecuted Muslim minority, the U.N. agency said. More than a million Rohingya have fled state persecution and massacre in Myanmar in recent years and now live in desperate conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Thousands more have made high-risk journeys across the Andaman Sea in rickety boats, often headed for countries in Southeast Asia. Babar Baloch, a spokesman in Bangkok for the agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the two boats’ precise locations were unknown and that it was not clear which country they had departed from, but that they appeared to have been at sea for at least two weeks. read the complete article

European officials ‘deeply concerned’ for Muslims amid surge in attacks

Anti-racism officials across Europe have called on law enforcement agencies to remain alert for hate crimes against Muslims and “spare no effort” to protect them, in one of the first statements aimed at addressing a rise in Islamophobia amid the Israel-Hamas war. The statement, signed by representatives from 10 European countries as well as EU officials, notes the rising number of hate crimes, hate speech and threats to civil liberties that have targeted Muslim and Jewish communities across Europe in recent months. Both “have become targets of physical and verbal attacks”, with people feeling “more and more unsafe and threatened, online and offline”, it read. Addressing Islamophobia in particular, the group said it was “deeply concerned” for Muslims. “Such phenomena, if not addressed, can threaten social cohesion within our societies and can expose vulnerable communities to further harms,” it said. Muslim communities have voiced concerns over rising hostilities in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the French Muslim Council told media that it had received 42 letters containing threats or insults in October alone. Mosques had also been targeted, with 17 of them receiving threatening letters and 14 vandalised, it said. In Berlin, a lawmaker, Jian Omar, of Kurdish-Syrian background, said he had been attacked by a man wielding a hammer and spewing racist insults earlier this month, while officials at the Ibn Badis mosque on the outskirts of Paris said they had received a letter containing death threats. Thursday’s EU statement, which makes no mention of the conflict in the Middle East – instead referring to the “current geopolitical context” – comes a week after Geert Wilders’ far-right, anti-Islam party became the biggest in the Netherlands, causing fears among many Muslims in the country. Shada Islam, a Brussels-based analyst and commentator, described the statement as a “small but much-needed step” towards fighting racism across Europe. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Nottingham teacher banned after sharing derogatory Muslim posts Published

A teacher who shared images of violence and wrote derogatory comments about Muslims online has been banned from the profession. Amrik Nijran was working at Nottingham Academy when he published inappropriate comments and images online, which were seen by pupils. He shared a bestiality image with a caption about Muslims, a panel heard. He denied the allegations but a disciplinary panel found him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct. "The general theme of the posts shared by Mr Nijran demonstrated and promoted a view that was prejudicial particularly to those from Pakistan and of the Muslim faith," the disciplinary panel heard. read the complete article

Pig heads and cars on fire: How Britain’s Jewish and Muslim communities have both suffered since Hamas massacre

Cars set on fire, attacks in the street, and mosques and Jewish schools vandalised with red paint. These are just some of the incidents Britain’s Jewish and Muslim communities have faced during a surge in hate crime since the deadly Hamas attacks in Israel on 7 October. Last month, the Metropolitan Police said antisemitic attacks in London had increased by a staggering 1,353 per cent.||Over the same period, there has also been a sevenfold increase in Islamophobic incidents, according to reports by Tell Mama (a group that logs anti-Muslim activity). In a shocking incident in October, a man was arrested after a Muslim mother was struck with a concrete slab in an attack in broad daylight in Dewsbury. From abuse in the street and vandalism to accusations of being “terrorists”, the similarities in the abuse being perpetrated against these two communities are striking. Since the Nova music festival killings, volunteer security force Shomrim Stamford Hill has reported 84 hate crimes against people of all religions in one Jewish quarter of north London alone. Shomrim doesn’t just investigate antisemitic crimes. Hochhauser points to an attack on a Muslim mother walking alongside her three children, aged 16, five and three, in Stoke Newington when she was verbally and physically assaulted. “We collected all the CCTV evidence and reported it to the police,” he continues. “She didn’t have the words to thank us and the Jewish community who helped her take the case forward. We get on so well with our local Muslims that we have great relations. We are an example that we can work together.” Hochhauser says there should be more police visibility in Stamford Hill, adding that hate crime victims are always shocked at being targeted for their religion. “We are talking about families of young girls coming home from school and being pushed into the road and shouted at,” he says. “They are not Muslims, these people who are shouting at the Jewish community. They are from different ethnic minority communities, but they now shout ‘Free, free Palestine’ and commit hate crimes targeting the Jewish community. read the complete article


The Election Result That Shook the World: How the anti-Muslim Far Right Triumphed in the Netherlands

November 22 marked the high point of Geert Wilders’ political career. His far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), with its radical anti-Islam, anti-immigration and anti-European agenda, unexpectedly won the Dutch parliamentary election, capturing 23.6 percent of the vote and 37 out of 150 seats in the lower House of Representatives. The origins of Wilders’ shock success lay in the reason this early election was called in the first place. In July, Rutte’s coalition collapsed after failing to reach terms on changes to family reunification rights for asylum seekers. It was Rutte himself who pushed the issue, proposing to restrict those rights with a view to reducing immigration; his liberal and Christian democratic coalition partners opposed the move. Rutte resigned, becoming caretaker prime minister and calling the election for November. By doing so, he “really set the agenda to be about immigration,” says Sanne van Oosten, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford specializing in the impact of anti-Muslim racism in politics and society. This ensured that the campaign battle would be fought on Wilders’ political home turf. “Once people were thinking about immigration,” she adds, “they thought, Well, why don’t I vote for the party that is best-known for being anti-immigration?” To paraphrase the former leader of the French far right, Jean-Marie Le Pen: Why would Dutch voters go for a center-right party imitating the far right when they could just vote for the far right instead? Looking ahead, 2024 seemingly bodes well for Wilders’ kindred spirits across Europe. Austria’s far-right Freedom Party is currently polling in first place, The Alternative for Germany party is polling in second place in Germany, and the nationalist movement Flemish Interest is ahead in Belgian polls. read the complete article

‘It was heartbreaking’: Muslim mayor comes to terms with Dutch election result

Soon after news broke that the populist Geert Wilders and his anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) had won the most votes of any party in the Dutch elections, Ahmed Marcouch found himself comforting his distraught eight-year-old. Earlier in the day, a teacher at his son’s school had explained the election results, discussing the wide differences between parties. Now Marcouch’s son was terrified that the family would have to leave the country. “It was heartbreaking,” said Marcouch. But for Marcouch, the Moroccan-born mayor of the eastern Dutch city of Arnhem, it was also a worrying sign of just how deeply politics had veered into the personal. “This is the son of the mayor,” he said. “And he’s scared that the government – this party – will push them out of this society.” Since 2017 the Labour party politician has been at the helm of Arnhem, seeking to bring together nearly 170,000 residents whose nationalities span more than 100 countries. But the election catapulted him into uncharted territory. For the past 10 days, Marcouch, a Muslim who moved to the Netherlands at the age of 10 and who has been directly targeted by Wilders during his political career, has grappled with how best to heal the wounds laid bare by the results. read the complete article


Western students demand better security after Muslim women allegedly spat on

A person has been charged after multiple Muslim students at Western University allegedly were spat on. In a statement, a Western spokesperson confirmed an individual faces two counts of assault and has been banned from campus, but the statement did not reveal if they were a student. On campus Monday, female Muslim students shared they were aware of the incidents. One woman, Dalal, said it comes as an added worry during a difficult time. The president of the campus Muslim Student Association (MSA) said one of the alleged attacks occurred while a female student was passing near Middlesex College. Yet, Abdirahman Salat said the incident is just one of many in recent weeks that has Muslim students feeling unsafe. "You have Muslim sisters and brothers who are continuously looking over their shoulders. They have to have a buddy with them, just to make sure they’re not being assaulted or get a comment that is harassing,” Salat explained. The university acknowledged that “some incidents of Islamophobia and antisemitic acts” have been reported to campus constables. While Salat appreciates the effort, he is calling on the university to do more to improve safety. He said Muslim students are overstressed following the removal of their Chaplin earlier this fall(opens in a new tab), the verdict in the trial of the murder of a London Muslim family(opens in a new tab), and — most especially, the ongoing Israel-Hamas war(opens in a new tab). read the complete article

With anti-Muslim occurrences on the rise, schools in Canada urged to address Islamophobia

As tensions from the Israel-Hamas war continue to ripple through Canada, and officials across the country report an alarming rise in anti-Muslim occurrences, some experts say Islamophobia must become a classroom priority addressed now, in practical ways and on multiple fronts. Although there have long been calls for more attention on combating Islamophobia in Canadian schools, it's been an infrequent topic of discussion, with just a handful of Ontario school boards beginning work in recent years on developing an anti-Islamophobia strategy. Canada is "in a moment where we acknowledge that equity and inclusion is important," but it's imperative to move beyond talk into action, said Aasiyah Khan, director of education at the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). This includes providing practical ways for educators to "actually take this [subject] and translate it into a classroom," she said. "What does that look like in terms of your lesson plans? How do we adopt an anti-Islamophobia lens or an anti-racist lens in our classroom policies or practices?" read the complete article


German human rights group calls pro-Palestine demonstration ban ‘highly problematic’

A leading German human rights group on Monday termed the recent sporadic ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations “highly problematic.” “It is also important to combat antisemitism and not fuel racism. It will only be successful if politics, the media and society do not place those parts of the population who are perceived as Palestinian, Arab or Muslim under general suspicion,” said Beate Rudolf, the director of the German Institute for Human Rights, during a news conference in Berlin. “This is why long-term bans on pro-Palestinian demonstrations are highly problematic. To be clear: All people in Germany have the right to freedom of assembly. This also gives them the right to peacefully express grief over the victims in Gaza (war) and solidarity with the people there,” she added. Rudolf stressed her concern over the anti-Muslim racism in Germany in the aftermath of the start of the Gaza conflict on Oct. 7. “We have been dealing with racism, anti-Muslim racism in Germany for a long time and we are indeed concerned about the reactions in Germany after October 7th,” she said. Last week, a Muslim leader in Germany lamented what he termed "a climate of fear" in the country over the past two months. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 05 Dec 2023 Edition


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