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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15 Jan 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In France, a surveillance video documented an attack by an individual who set fire to the door of a mosque room in Finistere, meanwhile in the United States, a South Florida Marriott Hotel has cancelled a Muslim group’s conference at the last minute after a protest group claimed the coalition was promoting terrorism and antisemitism, and in Germany, the “leader of Germany’s conservatives vowed to ban a hard-right group from his party and take on the Alternative for Germany, including on immigration, amid criticism he has moved too close to the far-right party’s policies as it surges in the polls.” Our recommended read of the day is by Raf Casert for the AP on how the growth of xenophobia and Islamophobia have resulted in people shifting to the political far-right across Europe. This and more below:


A quiet Dutch village holds clues as European politics veer to the right | Recommended Read

“Everyone is welcome,” reads the sign at the church door in this quiet Dutch village, where neighbors greet each other from tidy porches overlooking manicured lawns. But that declaration of tolerance seems oddly out of place. Triggered by economic and cultural anxieties that have whipped up fears about immigrants, people here and throughout the Netherlands have veered far to the right politically. It’s an extreme example of a trend being felt across the continent that could tilt the outcome of this year’s European Union parliamentary election. In Sint Willebrord, which has few immigrants among its 9,300 residents, almost three out of four voters chose a virulently anti-migrant, anti-Muslim party in an election last year that shattered the Netherlands’ image as a welcoming, moderate country. The Party for Freedom, led by a peroxide-haired firebrand named Geert Wilders, received nearly a quarter of all the votes — in a country where less than 5 percent of the people are Muslim — with slogans such as “no Islamic schools, Qurans or mosques” and “no open borders and mass immigration we cannot afford.” Voters across Europe are increasingly empowering leaders like Wilders who promise to restrict immigration and, in some cases, constrain democratic freedoms: of religion, of expression, of the right to protest. read the complete article

Police clash with group protesting against burning of Quran in Netherlands

A brawl has broken out in the Netherlands between police and a group intervening in a Quran attack planned by the leader of the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) movement, Edwin Wagensveld. Police said a group demonstrated against PEGIDA's "authorised" Quran burning for which they obtained permission from the municipality in Arnhem. The group attempted to intervene, leading to the discontinuation of the demonstration, the police said, adding that three individuals were arrested for non-compliance and three officers sustained minor injuries. The PEGIDA leader, meanwhile, was placed under police protection. read the complete article

United States

US Muslim, Arab groups pen letter to Biden before mass Washington rally for Gaza

A letter signed by dozens of Muslim and Arab groups in the US has been shared publicly with the aim of pressuring US President Joe Biden to call for a ceasefire in Israel's war in Gaza. The letter, sent by the American Muslim Task Force on Palestine, and signed by 80 Muslim-American, Arab-American and Palestinian-American groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says that Biden's policy on Israel has "severely damaged" his ties with their communities. "In advance of this weekend's March on Washington for Gaza, we - the undersigned Muslim American, Arab American and Palestinian American leaders and organizations - implore you to end your support for the Israeli government's genocidal war crimes against Palestinian civilians in Gaza today," the letter to Biden read. It went on to remind the president that Arabs and Muslims were among his strongest supporters when he was running for office in 2020. "Your administration must change course on its handling of this crisis, which has severely damaged your standing with many Americans, especially Muslim and Arab communities who had been strong supporters of your presidency," the letter said. "Yet your handling of policy towards Israel and Palestine has been a persistent point of concern that has now reached the breaking point." The letter then admonishes Biden for promising to make human rights the focus of his foreign policy, and then questioning the death toll of civilian casualties in Gaza and bypassing the congressional review process for arms transfers to Israel. The letter ends by imploring Biden to end his support for the war. read the complete article

Voter tells Vivek Ramaswamy’s wife that some Iowans don’t support him because ‘they think he’s Muslim’

Some voters in Iowa are still hesitant to throw their support behind Vivek Ramaswamy because they “think he is Muslim”, according to supporters of the presidential hopeful. Mr Ramaswamy’s religion and skin colour are still factors that prospective voters are considering, locals told his wife Apoorva Ramaswamy at a recent campaign event. "Well, the only one I have and I couldn’t even remember who said it to me, but they mentioned his dark skin and they think he’s Muslim,” Ms Fowler said. “I kind of set them straight on that. I don’t know if they believe me or think I was covering for him, I don’t know.” Ms Ramaswamy replied: “Not much we can do about that one.” In an interview with NBC News after the event, Ms Fowler expanded on the concerns she hears from members of her own family regarding Mr Ramaswamy. “They think he’s Muslim, so it’s his nationality more than anything,” she said. “It’s just that they can’t get beyond when you look at someone and, you know … I’m working on them.” read the complete article

Yemen Strikes Are Another Nail in Joe Biden's Coffin for Muslim Voters

Airstrikes in Yemen launched on the orders of President Joe Biden appear to be another nail in his coffin for Arab and Muslim voters, Newsweek interviews with activists and community members suggest. Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told Newsweek via telephone on Friday that the civil rights group is "deeply disturbed" by the "illegal" airstrikes in Yemen. "We're deeply disturbed to see the Biden administration escalating this crisis by bombing Yemen without congressional approval, instead of simply addressing the root of the crisis, which is the ongoing genocide in Gaza. If the genocide comes to an end, the temperature in the region will come down," Mitchell said. He added: "From our perspective, this strike done without Congressional approval is illegal, it's dangerous and ultimately it's not going to bring peace, it's just going to escalate the risk of war." Responding to Biden's statement, Mitchell said, "I think many people are disturbed that our government is quick to protect commercial shipping, but not quick to protect the thousands of children who are being murdered in Gaza it'd be great to see us caring about both." read the complete article

Trump's embrace of far-right activist Laura Loomer worries his allies

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered a hotel in Iowa on Friday, he was immediately ambushed by a woman who peppered him with questions about when he would “drop out” of the race and whether he’s “already wasted enough of people’s money” as she followed him with a camera. Afterward, the encounter found its way to social media. The woman — far-right social media influencer Laura Loomer — cut a scene in which she said DeSantis “looked petrified,” adding she believed “his soul left his body when he saw me.” “He’s going to lose,” Loomer, a twice-failed congressional candidate and self-described “proud Islamophobe” said in a clip filmed outside the hotel. “President Trump is going to kick his a-- on Monday, Jan. 15. And that’s it for Ron. You killed your political career and I hope you’re happy. You just got Loomered, b----.” Perhaps more notable than the encounter, though, was which of Loomer’s biggest fans quickly promoted it on social media; former President Donald Trump plugged the video on his Truth Social account on Saturday. It was just the latest in a series of promotions and praise Trump has offered Loomer during the campaign, and it has some allies and advisers worried that he’s giving a figure they see as a fringe, far-right activist too close of an embrace — one that could come back to bite him during a general election campaign. read the complete article

Republican caucuses? Iowa’s Arabs and Muslims are more concerned with Gaza

National media, political pundits and United States presidential hopefuls all converged on the state capital of Des Moines this week, as it played host to the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses. But just miles down the road from where Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis traded barbs on Wednesday night, local businessman Mohamed Ali was unfazed. “Honestly, we don’t care about them,” Ali told Al Jazeera, blowing smoke from his hookah pipe in a packed cafe outside Des Moines. “With all the debates, they all fight and compete over who supports Israel more.” While indifferent towards the race for the Republican nomination, the 46-year-old Palestinian American father of three said one thing was certain: He would not back Democratic President Joe Biden for a second term in November. Israel’s war in Gaza had been a turning point for Ali, who previously supported Biden in 2020. “The Arab and the Muslim community, they are not voting for Biden. I did not talk to a single person who said he’s going to vote for Biden,” Ali told Al Jazeera, as Arabic pop music blared in the background of the cafe. He added that even the prospect of Donald Trump’s return to the White House was not enough to spur Arab Americans to vote Democrat in the presidential race. While US Arabs and Muslims are no monolith, more than a dozen activists interviewed by Al Jazeera echoed the same sentiment: They feel alienated by Republicans, but they will not vote for Biden. read the complete article

Organisers call out 'anti-Muslim tropes' after Florida hotel cancels event

A South Florida Marriott Hotel has cancelled a Muslim group's conference at the last minute after a protest group claimed the coalition was promoting Hamas, terrorism and antisemitism. The South Florida Muslim Federation, a coalition of about 30 mosques and Islamic groups, said Friday that it was told by the Marriott Coral Springs Hotel and Convention Center that its conference was being cancelled because of security concerns after it received 100 calls demanding it bar the group. Hotels in Arizona and Virginia have also cancelled Muslim conferences since Israel's ongoing war on Gaza, following Hamas's surprise attack on October 7. Florida has also barred a pro-Palestinian student group from public universities. Marriott's decision "came out of nowhere and was a shock to the entire South Florida Muslim community," federation President Samir Kakli said. He said numerous Muslim groups and families have held large conferences, weddings and other events at the Coral Springs Marriott without incident. Kakli said that even before Marriott raised security concerns, his group hired Coral Springs police officers and private guards for protection. He said he told Marriott that the federation would hire more, but was rebuffed. Joe Kaufman, who organised the protest against the conference, accused Kakli and groups that are part of his coalition of supporting terrorism, including the Hamas attack. He said some of the conference's planned speakers have made anti-Semitic comments and called for the destruction of Israel. Kaufman, a long-time protester against some Islamic groups, insisted he has nothing against Muslims, just anyone he believes promotes antisemitism. read the complete article

New documentary offers a peek into the triumphs and struggles of Muslim chaplains in U.S. military

The woman refused to sell Captain Saleha Jabeen a hijab to don with her military uniform. While many civilian Muslims tell Jabeen she makes them proud, others are horrified by her decision to serve. “You’re gonna go kill Muslims,” the store owner told her that day. Major Rafael Lantigua Jr. has experienced the flip side of that struggle. Angered by an attack on U.S. troops in Iraq, a fellow service member once barked at Lantigua: “Why can’t you call your people and tell them to stop?” The words stung. Just as Jabeen thought the woman saw her as a bad Muslim, Lantigua felt the implication of the outburst directed at him was: You don’t belong. In the years since, Jabeen and Lantigua have become part of the small group of Muslim military chaplains who tend to the souls and spirits of U.S. troops of all faiths and no faith — their work highlighted in a new film that offers a peek into their worlds. Among other duties, they give talks on suicide prevention, provide counsel on relationships, and advise commanders on matters of religion and morale. When the going gets tough, they offer comfort, hope and companionship. They sometimes break barriers and celebrate milestones, like Jabeen becoming the first female Muslim military chaplain a few years ago. At other times, they navigate tensions stemming from the views some have of their faith or their service when those get questioned, scrutinized, debated. “We’re bridge builders,” Lantigua said in an interview. “We’re trying our best in this tension to get like-minded individuals to see the humanity of the other.” read the complete article


French Interior Minister Condemns Attack on Mosque, Expresses Support for Muslims

According to France 3, an individual set fire to one of the mosques on Saturday, January 13, sparking backlash and frustration among Muslims in the region and throughout the country. A surveillance video documented the attack when an individual set fire to the door of a mosque room. There were no casualties following the attack. The Prefect of Finistère Alain Espinasse denounced the attack while extending support for Muslims in the commune as well as the mosque personnel. Minister of Interior Gerald Darmanin also expressed support for Muslims in northwest France. “Support for Muslims in Finistere following the damage to the Morlaix mosque this morning. An investigation has been opened so that the perpetrator of these acts can be prosecuted,” he said on X, formerly Twitter. This is not the first attack on a mosque in France. In many cities across the country, Muslim communities have been overwhelmed by different racist attacks, including offensive comments on social media, and acts of vandalism or sabotage targeting mosques, cemeteries, and Muslim-run businesses. read the complete article


German conservatives vow to fight far-right, including on immigration

The leader of Germany's conservatives vowed to ban a hard-right group from his party and take on the Alternative for Germany, including on immigration, amid criticism he has moved too close to the far-right party's policies as it surges in the polls. Friedrich Merz was speaking at his opposition Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) congress after the revelation that members of the hard-right Values Union group last year discussed plans to deport "unassimilated" citizens at a retreat with far-right influencers and Alternative for Germany (AfD) politicians. Rising prices, the economic shock caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the burden placed on public services by high immigration have contributed to a sullen mood in Germany that is punishing all the mainstream parties. "At the next party congress I will bring a motion making Values Union membership incompatible with CDU membership," Merz said on Saturday, in his first comments on November's meeting at a villa outside Berlin. After a period in which the CDU has been among the most hawkish voices on immigration in German politics, Merz used a news conference to emphasise his party's distance on that - and other issues - from the AfD. The CDU is on around 30% in the polls - a historically low level for the party - around twice the level of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats and his Green coalition partners, with the AfD snapping at Merz's heels on as much as 24%. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 15 Jan 2024 Edition


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