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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17 Jan 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, a high-performing school in north-west London is being challenged in the high court for its policy of banning prayer rituals on school grounds, meanwhile in India, three decades after Hindu nationalists tore down the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the consecration of a massive Hindu temple on the same site, and in France, football star Karim Benzema has filed a defamation lawsuit against France’s interior minister for accusing him of having links with the Muslim Brotherhood. Our recommended read of the day is by Areeb Ullah for the Middle East Eye on how British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of using an Islamophobic trope endangering the safety of Labour MP  Zarah Sultana. This and more below:

United Kingdom

War on Gaza: Rishi Sunak accused of 'endangering safety' of Muslim MP | Recommended Read

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of using an Islamophobic trope that endangers "the safety" of a Muslim MP after he called on her to condemn Hamas and the Houthis during a heated debate on the Gaza war. Late on Monday, Zarah Sultana, the MP for Coventry South, asked Sunak whether his government would condemn the continued bombardment of the Gaza Strip and push for an immediate ceasefire. "Rather than giving Israel the green light to continue its brutal bombardment on Gaza and risking a wider conflict, will the Prime Minister seek to deescalate the situation and call for an immediate ceasefire?,” said Sultana. Sunak responded to Sultana by saying: "Perhaps the honourable lady would do well to call on Hamas and the Houthis to deescalate the situation." Following Sunak's response, Conservative MP Andrew Percy said: “Too many people give a free pass to the terrorists who perpetrated the worst murder of Jews and we’ve just seen an example of that, just as we saw examples of that on our streets this weekend where people screamed ‘Yemen, Yemen turn another ship around’ – completely unacceptable.” Sultana then raised a point of order and said Percy's accusations against her had been "grotesquely untrue" and noted that his claims played to a "racist trope, implying that because I am a Muslim I support Hamas". Percy denied these claims. Later on in the session, Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, criticised Sunak's response and called on him to apologise. read the complete article

Top London school taken to high court over prayer ban

One of England’s highest performing state schools, famed for its top results, strict discipline code and charismatic headteacher, has been challenged in the high court for its policy of banning prayer rituals on school premises. The case against Michaela community school in Brent, north-west London, has been brought by one of its Muslim pupils, who claims the ban is discriminatory. The judicial review hearing was told the ban had fundamentally changed how the pupil felt about being a Muslim in the UK. Not being able to pray at school made her feel guilty and unhappy, the court heard. The prayer policy was introduced in March last year by the school’s founder, Katharine Birbalsingh – frequently described as Britain’s strictest headteacher – when the school found itself the target of abuse and harassment after pupils were seen praying in the school playground by passersby. About 30 students took part, some kneeling on their blazers as they were not permitted to bring in prayer mats, the court heard. Before these events, the court heard that prayers were not expressly banned at Michaela, though it had no dedicated prayer room. The new policy had the “practical effect of only preventing Muslims from praying because their prayer by nature has a ritualised nature rather than being internal”, the court heard. The pupil’s lawyer said it was in effect “a ban uniquely on Muslim prayer”, stopping pupils praying “at a time as required by Islam”. In contrast, it would not, she said, prevent a Christian child sitting quietly in the corner of the playground from praying. read the complete article


Love on the beat: How India's rappers are countering anti-Muslim hate

In February 2020, India's capital Delhi reeled from horrific communal riots involving Hindus and Muslims. The official death toll was over 50, most of them Muslims. Hundreds of others were injured. The impact of the violence was felt far and wide. In Himachal Pradesh, a small state nestled in the Himalayas, 27-year-old Mayank Rawat, who goes by the name RAP ID, was deeply disturbed by the scale of bloodshed and the language of dehumanisation largely employed on social media platforms against the country's Muslim minority. "People were sharing all kinds of hate videos, asking communities to kill off each other. I wanted to send across a message that this is not what India was made for," Rawat tells TRT World from Solan, about 300 km north of Delhi. Rawat came out with a video inspired by American rapper Joyner Lucas's Grammy-nominated 'I'm not Racist'. He named it 'Kattarwaad', the Hindi word for extremism. In the video, two actors, one wearing a skull cap representing Muslims and another wearing a saffron scarf and tilak on his forehead, a significant marker of Hindu faith, face each other, employing the demeaning, stereotypical tropes vilifying both communities. For Rawat, who is a Hindu, it is essential to counter divisive narratives and combat societal hatred. read the complete article

Bilkis Bano: Top Indian court sends rapists back to jail

The decision by the Gujarat government to free 11 men convicted of the rape of Bilkis Bano was a "usurpation of jurisdiction," India's Supreme Court has said, deeming the remission illegal. The court ordered all of them to return to jail and resume serving their life sentences before the end of January. The rape of Bilkis Bano took place during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the Indian state of Gujarat. State officials allowed the men to be released under its remission policy in August 2022. Decrying the move, the Supreme Court decision said the state "acted in tandem and was complicit" with the convicts by setting them free. Bano, whose long fight for justice became a symbol for other survivors of the 2002 violence, said she had welcomed the order to re-jail the offenders with "tears of relief." read the complete article

The Hindu temple central to Narendra Modi’s vision for India

Three decades after Hindu zealots tore down a mosque at Ayodhya, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the consecration of a massive Hindu temple on the same site, setting the tone for an election campaign in which religious nationalism will play an influential role. Modi, who has ruled India since 2014, is hoping to return for a third term with a big enough majority to sideline his political opposition and continue his Bharatiya Janata party’s project of restoring the country’s majority religion to a central place in public life. Rebuilding the temple, where Hindus believe Ram was born — one of three main holy sites that have been a point of contention with minority Muslims — is a core BJP project. Analysts say the temple, once completed, will secure a powerful and enduring legacy for India’s most powerful leader since Indira Gandhi. Modi rose to power on a wave of Hindu revivalism stoked by the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the right-wing nationalist movement behind the ruling party. “What Modi is trying to do by developing Ayodhya is [make this] . . . Hinduism’s Vatican,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of a book on the prime minister and an expert in Hindu nationalist politics. “He has always been driven by this desire to be a very important personality in history, talked about in centuries to come with the same kind of reverence with which the other national icons are.” Ayodhya is the most prominent of several contested religious sites, where Hindu nationalists have been fighting to demolish or demote mosques built during India’s centuries of Muslim domination. Some of the disputes predate India’s independence; others are more recent and rode on India’s wave of Hindu nationalism. read the complete article


The Islamophobic silence is deafening

For more than 100 days, Israel has been bombarding Gaza (4,500 bombs in 89 days), wreaking more destruction than “Ukraine’s Mariupol, or, proportionally, the Allied bombing of Germany in [the Second World War],” according to Al Jazeera. While Israel continues with its own massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, backed by western countries (including Canada), a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions has unfolded with no chance of relief. In three months, 24,100 Palestinians are dead, and 60,834 are injured, the majority of whom are women and children. But if one compares the empathy for Israelis and empathy for Palestinians, there is no comparison in public relations, communications, and posturing. The inequities of ethnicity and race amount to a type of Islamophobia and racism by the blackface, standing-ovation-for-a-Nazi Liberals who like to drape themselves in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Two of the most egregious examples of this are Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Marco Mendicino, neither of whom have yet to tweet or make public any support of Palestinians. While they are correct to recognize the fear and threats to Jewish communities, they have been silent about the fear and threats to Arab and Palestinian communities. There is a heavy and loud silence on the rise of Islamophobia (which is parallel to the rise of antisemitism), and our ruling class of politics and media have followed lock step with no compunction. This is a repeat of the Islamophobia Muslims (brown people) experienced after 9/11, yet they have little political power despite many residing in the hotly contested 905 region. read the complete article

Saudi 9/11 suspect treated inhumanly at secret CIA base in Europe, court says

An alleged 9/11 plotter from Saudi Arabia faced “inhuman treatment” at a secret CIA base in Europe, a court has ruled. Mustafa Ahmed Al Hawsawi was blindfolded, shackled and kept in solitary confinement in Lithuania, before being deported to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay in 2006, European judges heard. Evidence gathered by the European Court of Human Rights revealed Lithuania was home to a CIA prison code-named Detention Site Violet, the location of which had been classified in US intelligence documents. A seven-judge panel on Tuesday said Lithuania had breached a series of European human rights laws. Mr Al Hawsawi remains in Guantanamo Bay awaiting trial by a US military commission, along with four other suspects – including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. read the complete article


In Italy’s Main Shipyard, Anti-Islam Policy Divides Workers

Monfalcone, a historic center of shipbuilding that recently surpassed thirty thousand residents, made national headlines after Cisint’s decision to prevent Muslim worshippers from praying in either of the town’s Islamic cultural centers. This can be seen as the culmination of recent developments in which institutional racism has increasingly shaped local politics. But the policies enacted have also made Monfalcone a special vantage point on the contradictions of the far right in office — claiming to defend the Italian native workforce from Muslims even as it undermines job stability generally. Monfalcone has thus changed significantly over the years, its “whiteness” challenged by social and demographic change. This is obviously not, as the local right-wingers’ aggressive propaganda would have it, a plot for “ethnic replacement.” It is simply that, given the transformations in the world of production, the population drawn to the town has become more multicultural. But there is no corresponding “recognition” of this multiculturalism in the spheres of politics or labor or in terms of opportunities for migrants. Following the October 7 Hamas attacks, a renewed Islamophobia has gone as far as suspending the ability to pray inside two Islamic cultural centers in the city. But there was also the stigmatization of second-generation youths speaking out against Israel (whose flag was displayed by the town hall) and the wide use of femonationalist narratives against Bangladeshi women, painted as victims of a peculiarly Islamic (hence not “Italian”) sexism. The EU elections are approaching, and events in Monfalcone may be a card for Matteo Salvini’s Lega to play in its competition with Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia. Not surprisingly, the mayor has become a national figure, also speaking at the recent meetup in Florence organized by the Lega and European allies like Marine Le Pen. read the complete article

United States

How Muslim communities are rewriting the narrative of American belonging beyond the War on Terror

Anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has grown in the 22 years since the terrorist attack on 9/11 and the subsequent beginning of the War on Terror. According to 2023 data from the Pew Research Center, six in ten U.S. adults (59%) say they hold “neither favorable nor unfavorable” views of Muslims or “don’t know enough to say,” while 17% express very or somewhat favorable views of Muslims and 22% express very or somewhat unfavorable views of the group. As the United States continues to fund and support Israel’s military after over 100 days of violence in Gaza, killing 24,000 people, 10,000 of which are children, many Arab and Muslim Americans are saying that anti-Muslim sentiment feels reminiscent of the political climate after 9/11. Palestinian American activist Laila El-Haddad told NBC news in October, “This feels like that, but almost a more dystopian version of that.” The War on Terror’s conflation of Muslim identity with terrorism desensitized Americans to their suffering, creating a larger societal apathy towards anti-Muslim violence. Data from Pew Research Center shows perception of Islam as a violent religion increasing year after year following 9/11 to now. There are around 3.5 million Muslims in America today, making it the third largest religion in the country and an influential voting bloc. With the 2024 election approaching and Islamophobia on the rise, American Muslims are working together to create belonging in a country where their faith has been politically villainized. read the complete article


Hate crimes, protests, police costs surge since Middle East war: Vancouver police

The Israel-Hamas war fuelled a “record-breaking” year for protests in Vancouver in 2023, triggering additional policing costs in the millions for overtime. Sgt. Steve Addison said police have had to respond to “very intense emotions” and personal safety concerns stemming from the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has given rise to increasing cases of antisemitism and anti-Muslim acts. “We have continued to engage with the community throughout the past 100 days to continuously assess to make sure that everybody can remain as safe as we can keep them, and can feel safe at a time that’s very much uncertain,” Addison said. Since the conflict started on Oct. 7, police in Vancouver have investigated 50 cases of criminal offences related to the Israel-Hamas war, including 33 allegations of antisemitism and 10 cases involving a hate-crime component against Muslim or West Asian communities. read the complete article


Karim Benzema files defamation suit against French interior minister

French football star Karim Benzema has filed a defamation lawsuit against France's interior minister for accusing him of having links with the Muslim Brotherhood, local media reports. Gérald Darmanin said in October that Mr Benzema "has a notorious link" with the Sunni Muslim Islamist group. The comment "undermines" his honour and reputation, Mr Benzema's lawyer said. Mr Darmanin's comment in October came after the player tweeted his support for the people of Gaza as "victims again of unjust bombardments which spare neither women nor children". Noting his failure to express similar sympathy for the estimated 1,300 Israeli victims that Hamas killed on 7 October, Mr Darmanin said the former French striker was "well-known for his links with the Muslim Brotherhood". "We are fighting the hydra that is the Muslim Brotherhood, because it creates an atmosphere of jihadism," the politician told conservative TV channel CNews. Karim Benzema, 36, who plays in Saudi Arabia and is a Muslim, quickly issued a denial and threatened legal action against the minister for slander. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 Jan 2024 Edition


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