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 Jan 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In India, a fabricated email scandal in which a series of fake threats to blow up a temple has reached a telling conclusion as several Hindu nationalists were arrested and charged with impersonation in the case, meanwhile in the United States, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said Muslim colleagues in the tech industry “feel uncomfortable” speaking up about recent events over fears of retaliation, and a former teacher filed a suit this week claiming she was demoted after filing an anti-Muslim discrimination complaint at a school in St. Louis County Missouri where she works. Our recommended read of the day is by Kate Dubinski for CBC News on the start of the sentencing hearing for convicted murderer Nathaniel Veltman, who has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the deaths of four members of the Afzaal family in June of 2021. This and more below:


Muslim family's kin grieves 'theft of precious life' as convicted killer's sentencing in London, Ont., begins | Recommended Read

It stood out as a particularly painful moment in a day filled with grief and sorrow in a London, Ont., courtroom: a relative detailed how he told a nine-year-old boy, who was lying injured in a hospital room, that his family had been in a car crash and no one survived. "'Not even one?'" the uncle, Ali Islam, said the boy asked him. Islam was among several people giving victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing Thursday for Nathaniel Veltman, who was found guilty in November of four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the pickup truck attack on a Muslim family in June 2021. The 10-week jury trial was held in Windsor. Thursday was the first of two days set aside for family, friends and others to speak in London's Superior Court about how the crime has impacted them and the Muslim community — as the 23-year-old convicted killer looked on and listened. The Afzaals were out for an evening walk in suburban London when they were struck by the truck driven by Veltman. Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents, Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. The boy was injured but survived. About 70 victim impact statements were slated to be read in court, with the boy, who's now 11, expected to speak on Friday. The third day of the sentencing hearing has been set for Jan. 23, when lawyers will present legal arguments about whether or not the attack constituted terrorism. Justice Renee Pomerance will make that determination, which won't affect the killer's sentence — life without parole possibility for 25 years — but could impact the programs he has access to in prison and later his parole eligibility. read the complete article

Judge rejects federal bid to recoup legal expenses in Muslim charity court case

A judge has rejected the federal government's request to recover legal costs it incurred during a major Muslim charity's court bid to halt an audit of its activities. In his ruling, handed down last month, Ontario Superior Court Justice Markus Koehnen says the Muslim Association of Canada's case served a valid public interest, even if it was unsuccessful. The association, a grassroots Muslim charity, contends that a long-running Canada Revenue Agency audit of its activities is fundamentally tainted by systemic bias and Islamophobia. The association said the audit violates Charter of Rights guarantees of equality and freedom of religion, expression and association. The association also said the government takes a wrong-headed approach from the outset by identifying the risk of terrorist financing with minority groups it labels as foreign, in particular Muslim organizations. The attorney general argued the case should be dismissed, saying the revenue agency's selection of the association for an audit and the subsequent examination do not infringe Charter rights. read the complete article

United States

Imam shot dead in New Jersey, shaking US Muslim community World

A Muslim imam was fatally shot outside his mosque in New Jersey early Wednesday morning, as police continue to search for the assailant. Imam Hassan Sharif was at the Masjid Muhammad, a mosque in Newark, for fajr (dawn) prayers when he was reportedly shot multiple times while in his vehicle, shortly after 6:15am. In the hours following the shooting, police were seen near the mosque entrance and overhead in a helicopter monitoring the situation. So far, the motive for the killing is unclear. However, the incident comes at a time of a sharp increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks throughout the US amid Israel's ongoing war in Gaza, which began on 7 October. "If there's any evidence that this was anything, broadly speaking, a hate crime, Islamophobia, anything in that lane, it is completely reprehensible, unacceptable in the state of New Jersey, and we will take whatever actions we need to take," New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a public statement. "But again, that's assuming it's the case. I do not have confirmation that it is the case. But I will say this - we pray for the imam and his family, certainly, fervently." read the complete article

Bridgeport city council member faces calls to resign for Islamophobic and anti-police comments

The Bridgeport City Council called on City Council member Maria Pereira to resign Thursday after Pereira sent out an Islamophobic and insult-laden email to city officials. The email was sent out a day after the council approved a nonbinding Gaza ceasefire resolution on Tuesday. In the email Pereira claimed a person in favor of the ceasefire resolution who attended the city council meeting may be a terrorist. “A Palestinian young man, possibly a Hamas terrorist, repeatedly yelled out my name and was waving some propaganda poster at me,” Pereira said. “I just stuck up my middle finger at him.” The city council voted 14-2 in favor of the ceasefire resolution. Pereira, who was one of the two no votes, also insulted her fellow council members, Mayor Joe Ganim and Bridgeport Police Chief Roderick Porter. In the email, Pereira called Porter a pig, and called Bridgeport police officers “piglets.” The council has since issued a statement calling for Pereira to resign. read the complete article

Former teacher at St. Louis Country Day says she faced discrimination over Muslim faith

A former teacher filed suit this week claiming she was demoted after filing a discrimination complaint at the Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School. The suit filed on behalf of Ghada Ead, a Muslim woman who taught at the Ladue private K-12 school for about five years, claims she was demoted last April months after she complained about comments made by an administrative assistant at the school. The suit claims Ead dresses modestly and wears a hijab as part of her religious beliefs. In August 2022, according to the suit, one of the school’s administrative assistants placed a bulk order for homecoming week T-shirts for students and teachers but refused Ead’s request for a long-sleeved version of the shirt. The suit says Ead elevated her concerns about the shirt to the school’s superintendent Jay Rainey and was accommodated. The next month, according to the suit, Ead made a complaint to the school’s human resources department about the administrative assistant. Her complaint included several more comments the administrative assistant made about her hijab, including suggesting that she remove the hijab for school photo day because, the assistant said, it would be funny for the students to see Ead without it. The assistant claimed the comment was a joke, according to the suit. “These types of discriminatory remarks were not “funny” to plaintiff, “ the suit states. Ead’s suit claims human resources at the school told her to confront the assistant directly, despite Ead already explaining the religious reasons for the hijab to the assistant. In the months after her complaint, the suit claims Ead was placed on a performance improvement plan and reprimanded without good cause. read the complete article

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Says Muslim Tech Colleagues ‘Feel Uncomfortable’ Speaking Up Over Fear Of Retaliation

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said Muslim colleagues in the tech industry “feel uncomfortable” speaking up about recent events over fears of retaliation, in social media posts outlining concerns about the rise of Islamophobia and antisemitism at workplaces amid the war in Gaza. In a post on X, Altman wrote that in recent conversations with “Muslim and Arab (especially Palestinian) colleagues in the tech community,” he learned they were fearful of speaking out “out of fear of retaliation and damaged career prospects." Altman called on the tech industry to be united in support of these colleagues in this “atrocious time” and urged empathy. Altman said he has seen many people in the industry “sticking up” for him on the issue of antisemitism, which he said he appreciated, but added he saw “much less of that for Muslims.” Altman’s posts come amid growing concerns about the rise of Islamophobia and antisemitism around the U.S.—including in workplaces. In December, the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported 2,171 complaints of anti-Muslim or anti-Palestinian acts since the start of the war—a 172% rise over previous years. read the complete article

Orland Park man allegedly punched neighbor in face, made hateful comments during dispute over garbage cans

An Orland Park man allegedly battered his two neighbors and made hateful comments toward them during a dispute over garbage cans Wednesday morning. Terrence P. Clyne, 68, is charged with one felony count of a hate crime and two misdemeanor counts of battery. While investigating, officers determined that the male victim allegedly moved garbage cans from one area of a communal driveway to another. Clyne then allegedly made hateful comments towards the man, referring to the victim's national Palestinian origin, over the placement of the garbage cans. Clyne then allegedly punched him in the face and engaged in a physical confrontation. At that time, the victim's wife approached in an attempt to verbally de-escalate the situation. Clyne then allegedly made more hateful comments aimed at her while mentioning her Palestinian heritage and moved toward her aggressively, police said. read the complete article

Anti-Defamation League staff decry ‘dishonest’ campaign against Israel critics

The Anti-Defamation League CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, sparked controversy in 2022 when he placed opposition to Israel on a par with white supremacy as a source of antisemitism. Even before the latest Israel-Hamas war, the conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism has increasingly inflected the debate around the bounds of legitimate protest, with the ADL playing a vocal role. A current employee of ADL, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Guardian that the organization’s conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism is damaging its efforts to counter hate. “The ADL has a pro-Israel bias and an agenda to suppress pro-Palestinian activism." Though the rise of Donald Trump and growing white nationalism shocked the American mainstream, the ADL was prepared, having built out teams of researchers capable of plumbing the depths of the far right. In response to Trump’s call for a database to track Muslims, Greenblatt said: “This proud Jew would register as a Muslim.” But many civil society groups are increasingly reluctant to partner with the non-profit. The ADL has facilitated trainings between US and Israeli law enforcement officers and allegedly spied on progressive and Arab American groups. (The ADL settled a lawsuit stemming from the spying allegations but denied wrongdoing.) In 2021, about 100 social justice and civil rights groups signed an open letter urging other organizations not to work with the ADL. Since the 7 October attacks, the ADL has been on working with law enforcement to crack down on college campus activism that it sees as antisemitic. They developed a legal strategy to go after branches of Students for Justice in Palestine, and reached out to 200 university leaders calling on them to investigate the group for allegedly providing support to Hamas, which the group vehemently denies. ADL has described grassroots calls for protests of Israel’s military campaign as “pro-Hamas activism”. This and other recent activities have upset some of the ADL’s rank and file. “I resigned because I felt that Jonathan Greenblatt’s comments were undermining my ability as a researcher to fight online hate and harassment,” Stephen Rea, a researcher at ADL’s Center for Technology & Society who quit the group in October, told the Guardian. read the complete article

DeSantis’ Guantanamo torture allegations follow him to Iowa

A “very professional operation” where people were “following all the available rules.” No, this isn’t Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ description of the local pizza joint. It’s his description of Guantanamo Bay, the controversial United States-run prison that was established by President George W. Bush during the “War on Terror” and has been heavily criticized for its human rights abuses. His remarks came during a virtual town hall hosted on Tuesday by Gray TV in Iowa. DeSantis tried to brush aside a question about his former work as a military lawyer at Guantanamo. The questioner, “Alan from Atlanta,” asked about claims DeSantis has repeatedly disputed: that he advised on and witnessed the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo. But DeSantis said in 2018 that he advised military officers on the legality of force-feeding, recounting that he told the officers the act — which is widely considered a violation of international law — was legal. (He also described the detainees’ hunger strikes as a form of “jihad,” or holy war.) And DeSantis has repeatedly denied former Guantanamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi’s 2023 claim that DeSantis not only watched Adayfi’s force-feeding but laughed as he did so. While on tour in Israel last year, DeSantis blew up at a reporter who asked about those allegations, calling them “totally B.S.” read the complete article


A Make-or-Break Year for Democracy Worldwide

In 2024, more than half the world’s population will go to polls—4.2 billion citizens across approximately 65 countries in what, from a distance, at least appears to be a stirring spectacle of self-government. At closer range, however, the picture is cloudier, and warning lights flash red from the murk. Eight of the 10 most populous countries in the world, including India, Mexico, and the U.S.—all of which head to the polls this year—are grappling with the challenge of ensuring voter participation, free speech, and electoral independence while authoritarianism is on the rise. In India, President Narendra Modi is running for a third term in the world’s largest democracy. During his second term, Freedom House downgraded the country’s democracy rating from “free” to “partly free,” as the government targeted critics and news media, and continued a campaign against the Muslim minority. Populist leaders pose particular challenges to democratic norms, as do hyperpolarization and growing distrust abetted by mis- and disinformation, which is now being proliferated at a faster rate than ever before because of generative artificial intelligence. read the complete article

Israel, Palestine and rising Islamophobia

The Palestine-Israel conflict has exposed the true nature of world politics and interstate relationships. It has further reinforced the main argument of Samuel P. Huntington’s idea of a new world order in a post-cold war era that would be marked with inter-cultural or inter-religious conflicts. One of the many episodes of this argument could be seen in rising anti-Muslim sentiments across the globe in a post-9/11 period which pushed western countries to introduce policies against Muslims at different stages. The recent anti-Islam stimulus, in the drawback of the Palestine conflict, is no different from that of the post-9/11 period. Many leaders of different nations have exploited Islamophobic rhetoric to gain support for their political or strategic benefits. Using the derogatory speech act against Muslims, such leaders have added to the discourse of anti-Muslim hate in their countries and beyond. Even a country like Canada – widely regarded as a “melting pot of cultures” – did not shy away from demonising Islam by terming Palestinian solidarity movements as the “glorification of violence”. The practical result of this selective hate could be seen when the Markham Public Library in Ontario temporarily took down the Islamic Heritage displays due to complaints received regarding Israel’s alleged war on Hamas. The rising degree of anti-Islamic sentiments is leading to the abysmal acts of hate crimes and communal assaults. The contagion effects of these variables are causing a threat to Muslim community living across the continents, as the acts of a lone group are perceived to be the general motifs of a whole community. This hate has ensued polarisation at various levels with humanity at the receiving end. read the complete article


Inside the Hindutva world of the men behind the fake threats to blow up the Ram temple

On December 27, Lucknow resident Devendra Tiwari announced on social media that he had received an email from a man named Zuber Khan, who had threatened to blow up the Ram temple being constructed in Ayodhya. In the email – a screenshot of which Tiwari posted on the social media platform X – Khan also threatened to kill Tiwari, along with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath and Additional Director General of Police Amitabh Yash. Khan signed off by saying that the ISI – presumably a reference to Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence – would take full responsibility for these actions. Last November, Tiwari had claimed to have received a similar threatening email from a man named Alam Ansari Khan. On Wednesday, the Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh Police made a breakthrough in the case. It arrested the two men who had sent the emails. Neither of them was named Khan. The arrested men, Tahar Singh and Om Prakash Mishra lived in Uttar Pradesh, in Gonda district, 117 kms from Lucknow. But the case isn’t just an addition to the recent trend of Hindus impersonating Muslim identities to commit crimes. What prompted Tiwari and the other men to stage this fraud? Clues lie in their social media activity. The three men appear to be straining hard to establish their Hindutva credentials by posing with Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, championing causes like cow protection, rallying against Muslims. Until they were busted, the strategy seemed to have paid off: Tiwari earned himself the badge of police protection. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 05 Jan 2024 Edition


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