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.

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22 Jan 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, a north-west London school headteacher’s decision to ban “prayer rituals” from school grounds has drawn the ire from both the academic and advocacy world as critics call the move Islamophobic, meanwhile in the U.S., the New York chapter of CAIR has publicly condemned a plea deal resulting in zero jail time for Stuart Seldowitz, the man caught on camera verbally assaulting a Muslim street vendor in Manhattan, and a new Canadian mobile App has been launched in a response to rising Islamophobia nationwide which is providing a safe space for victims to report incidents of anti-Muslim harassment. Our recommended read of the day is by Ziya Us Salam, author of the new book Being Muslim in Hindu India for TIME on the grand opening of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya India and what the trend of demolishing and re-purposing Islamic sacred spaces means to Indian Muslims both within India and around the world. This and more below:


The Message the Ram Temple Sends Muslims Like Me | Recommended Read

To be a Muslim in an increasingly militant Hindu India is to feel alienated and dejected. There may be 200 million of us, but Muslims are being made invisible in India today. It’s not safe to be a Muslim in parts of North India, and certainly not safe to look like one in several others. Only one conversation dominates village chaupals and city squares these days. It is the loud, triumphant announcement of the Ram Temple consecration, the Pran Pratishtha, or “establishment of life force,” of the Hindu deity on Jan. 22 in Ayodhya, at the exact same spot where the Babri Masjid stood from 1527 to 1992 when it was brought down, brick-by-brick, by karsevaks, or “faith volunteers,” drunk on hardcore Hindutva. The policemen and the State stood aside as the mosque was reduced to rubble. More than 2,000 people died, most of them Muslim, in communal riots in various cities in the days that followed. It was never restored, though the Supreme Court in its 2019 judgment called the demolition an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” Now a grand temple dedicated to Lord Ram is being readied atop the ruins of the mosque. Hindu nationalists have justified this based on the shaky claim the Hindu god was born there, and that Muslims had destroyed an earlier Hindu temple when the Mughals ruled much of India from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Within India’s government, there is nobody to speak for Muslims. For the first time since Independence in 1947, there is no Muslim cabinet minister or even a Member of Parliament in the ruling party. There is not a single Muslim Chief Minister in any of India’s 28 states, and Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is located, is ruled by a saffron-clad Hindu monk who does not extend even polite Eid greetings from his social media handle. read the complete article

India’s Ayodhya Temple Is a Huge Monument to Hindu Supremacy

On Jan. 22, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate a three-story monument made of marble, sandstone, and teak that features 44 gates and 392 intricately-carved pillars. But the structure, built on a vast 70-acre plot, may be the least remarkable part of the new Ayodhya temple. Its controversial inauguration atop the ruins of a 16th-century mosque marks the culmination of a three-decade promise made by Modi, his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and other Hindu nationalist groups—and serves as the biggest political testament yet to Hindu supremacy over Indian Muslims. Ayodhya is a town in northern India that, for centuries, was home to the Babri Masjid. The mosque was built in 1527 by a general associated with the Mughal Emperor Babur and was a rare surviving example of the architecture of the early Mughal Empire, which ruled parts of India from the 16th to 19th centuries. Muslims, India’s largest religious minority, worshipped in the mosque for more than 300 years without issue." read the complete article

For the Indian Muslim, Ayodhya is everywhere

As an Indian Muslim who grew up in the 1990s, this is all simply bizarre to me. In my view, the significance of a temple – or indeed, a mosque – lies in matters of personal faith and worship and should not be transformed into a political symbol of national pride in a secular country. The purported “cultural significance” of the Ram Temple appears to be immersed in the murky waters of the polarisation we are currently navigating. Secularism, once a proud virtue every politician embraced, tucking it safely into his political repertoire, appears to be buried so far below the mountains of saffron-tinged communalism, that I fear it may never be recovered. Never before has my generation seen such a complete capitulation of the state to religion, nor the complete invisibilisation of the Indian Muslim – evident in the fact that for the first time in independent India’s history, India today has no Muslim Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers or MPs in the ruling party. read the complete article

‘Might get worse’: As Modi unveils Ram temple, Indian Muslims fear future

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate an incomplete Ram temple built in place of the makeshift shrine Hussain had visited, amid a nationwide frenzy over the consecration that has brought the country of 1.4 billion people, and a nearly $4 trillion economy, to a virtual standstill. Missing from news channels and popular discourse is any reference to the fact that the temple is coming up at the very spot where the 16th-century Babri Masjid was torn down by a Hindu nationalist mob on a grey winter morning in December 1992. Hussain, a freelance journalist based in the city of Lucknow, 120 km (75 miles) east of Ayodhya, said she fears that the “triumphalism” she witnessed on what was her first visit to the temple town “might just get worse in the coming days”. “In fact, after Ayodhya, there might be a snowballing effect on other disputed places like Mathura and Kashi,” she said. Mathura and Varanasi – Modi’s parliamentary constituency also known locally as Kashi – are also home to historic mosques that the prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Hindu majoritarian allies say were built on demolished temples. For many among India’s 200 million Muslims, the state-sponsored pomp and ceremony around the temple’s launch is the latest in a series of painful realisations that – especially since Modi took office in 2014 – the democracy they call home no longer appears to care about them. Increased religious polarisation in the country affects not just their safety and security but also their political influence in the upcoming national vote. read the complete article

Ayodhya’s Muslims confront grief and anxiety as Ram Temple inauguration nears

Saffron flags are flying in the majority Hindu town of Ayodhya as excited locals prepare to host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the inauguration of a new multimillion-dollar temple. But like many of the town’s 500,000 Muslims, 65-year-old Maulana Badshah Khan says he’ll be staying at home. He fears a repeat of the religious violence that erupted more than 30 years ago, when Hindu nationalists destroyed the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque, triggering riots across the country. On Monday, Modi will officially open the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir, a lavish temple built on the same site that analysts say is a monument to Hindu nationalist ambition. Khan says he believes the celebration is a clear sign of how Muslims are becoming marginalized under the leadership of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “The wounds of Babri Mosque’s demolition will always be there. Even if we feel despondent about voicing them,” said Khan. “The temple holds the symbolic value of showing the Muslims their place in New India.” read the complete article

United States

Harvard creates task forces on antisemitism and Islamophobia

The antisemitism task force will be co-chaired by Derek Penslar, the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Raffaella Sadun, the Charles E. Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. The task force on anti-Arab bias and Islamophobia will be co-chaired by Wafaie Fawzi, the Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences and Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Sumitomo-FASID Professor of International Finance and Development at Harvard Kennedy School. read the complete article

US rights group condemns slap on wrist for NYC Islamophobe

The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) on Thursday condemned a plea deal amounting to a slap on the wrist for Stuart Seldowitz, an ex-U.S. State Department official. The deal means Seldowitz will avoid jail time in exchange for undergoing "anti-bias" training for threats and anti-Muslim comments against a Muslim food vendor in New York City. Many could perceive the decision as an injustice, and even go as far as the justice system being seen as condoning Seldowitz's series of attacks. Seldowitz, 64, was charged in November with aggravated harassment, hate crime stalking, stalking causing fear and stalking at a place of employment. read the complete article


New mobile app another tool in the fight against Islamophobia

With reported hate crimes across the country on the rise since the Israel-Hamas war began over 100 days ago, one national agency is stepping in the help one community have a space to turn to when they feel targeted. A mobile application called IMIRT – Islamophobia-Motivated Incident Reporting Tool – has been launched to create a safer and more inclusive community. It comes on the heels of a concerning spike in violent Islamophobic incidents across the country. “We created this app with our partners, and thanks to a grant from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and with our partners at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, where we can help the Muslim community to report these incidents,” said Imam Ibrahim Hindy of the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre, who notes that underreporting remains a major issue. “If they’re not sure if they should be reported, they have the ease of just being able to do it on their phone and it’s reported within the community.” read the complete article


Mass protests against Germany’s far-right AfD over deportation ‘master plan’

Huge crowds of protesters have descended on cities in Germany as calls for a ban on the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) gain momentum. Tens of thousands had already braved sub-zero temperatures during the week to protest against the party after it emerged senior AfD members discussed a plan to deport migrants en masse in revelations that have been compared to the Nazi era. Public anger continued throughout the weekend. Crowds of up to 35,000 gathered in Frankfurt on Saturday under the banner “Defend democracy – Frankfurt against the AfD,” while a similar number of people turned out in the northern city of Hanover, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported. Significant crowds were also seen in Stuttgard, Dortmund and Nuremberg. read the complete article


Turkish lawmakers rail against Islamophobic, anti-Turkish sentiments in France

A Turkish parliamentary delegation on Monday traveled to Paris to discuss efforts to combat discrimination against the Muslim and Turkish communities in France. The Islamophobia and discrimination Turks face, as well as difficulties in worship and education and the vandalization of mosques in France, was the top priority during talks between the delegation and the representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) at the Turkish Consulate in the French capital. read the complete article


This ban on Muslims praying in school is a dystopian, sinister vision of Britishness

Muslims pray five times a day, beginning before sunrise and ending after sunset. It is a central pillar of our faith, and we believe it will be one of the first things we will be questioned about by God after we die. As a Muslim secondary school teacher, I pray in my own classroom at lunchtimes – and in winter, when the days are shorter, I pray once more after lessons are finished. Never has this private, spiritual act threatened the cohesion of the schools in which I have worked. Never has it diminished my Britishness. And yet, that is exactly the argument given by the controversial headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh this week as she defends the decision to ban “prayer rituals” at her north-west London secondary, Michaela. In a high court case brought by a Muslim student looking to overturn the “discriminatory” ban, it was revealed that Michaela students were praying in the playground, kneeling down on their blazers for about five minutes every lunchtime, because the school did not provide a prayer room. However, in the eyes of the school, this threatened social cohesion and “divided” the students. The KC representing the school trust said that some Muslim children were seen by teachers to be putting pressure on others to be more observant. And so the decision was made to ban all prayer on site. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 Jan 2024 Edition


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