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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09 Jan 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the Netherlands, Dutch Party of Freedom (PVV) party leader Geert Wilders has withdrawn a proposed bill he drafted in 2018 calling for a total ban on the construction of mosques and the selling of the Quran as talks begin on the formation of a new PVV-led government, meanwhile in the U.S., a middle school teacher in Georgia has been fired after threatening to behead a 13-year-old student who objected to him flying the Israeli flag in the classroom, and in Norway, convicted terrorist and self-described “anti-Muslim crusader,” Anders Behring Breivik, who was found guilty of killing 77 people in 2011, launches his second attempt at suing the state for alleged breach of his human rights. Our recommended read of the day is by Leila Nezirevic for Anadolu Agency, which features an interview with Bridge Initiative founder, Dr. John L. Esposito on how Israel’s “brutal military” campaign in Gaza (with the U.S.’s unconditional support) is inflaming Islamophobia across the globe. This and more below:


Israel’s Gaza war pushing Islamophobia ‘out of control’ worldwide: Experts | Recommended Read

Six-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea al-Fayoume was stabbed 26 times at his home in Illinois, US by his landlord, who was screaming anti-Muslim slurs as he brutally attacked the boy. Investigators concluded that Czuba targeted the boy and his mother because they were Muslim and as a response to Israel’s ongoing war on the Gaza Strip. Currently, the primary driving factor for Islamophobia is “the genocide that’s going on in Gaza,” Corey Saylor, research and advocacy director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told Anadolu. Here in the US, there is a wave of hate against people who are supporting “Palestinians’ right to live, support their right to not have an occupation and not live under apartheid,” he said. However, a fact that cannot be ignored is that Islamophobia is “baked into Western society, generally,” he said. “Islamophobia is actually, unfortunately, quite strong worldwide at this point,” said Saylor, terming it “out of control.” CAIR received 2,171 Islamophobia-related requests or complaints of bias in the first 57 days after Israel started its war on Gaza, according to Saylor, who said the figure represents almost 50% of the total cases the organization had in 2022. “For quite a few years, and in an unnoticed kind of way, it used to be that we thought about Islamophobia as growing out of the Iranian Revolution, then the impact of 9/11, which usually then was equated with Islamophobia existing in the US and Europe,” according to John Esposito, a professor of religion, international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University. “But the fact is that, today, it’s gone global.” The root of Islamophobia goes back to the establishment of the state of Israel, and the 1948 mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians, according to Esposito. The US has always tended to privilege Israel over the Palestinians, which has contributed to the rise in Islamophobia, according to Esposito. read the complete article


At the time of my writing this, over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7 by the ongoing ethnic “cleansing” and cultural annihilation by factions of the Israeli forces. By the time you read this, I fear it will be countless more, thanks to the Islamophobia hidden in the guise of calling us all “antisemitic.” We have seen the images of young lives lost, grief across generations, and the bloodied rubble where families once lived. We have also seen the silencing of Palestinian and Muslim voices across the world. Institutions, whether higher education or more openly corporate, stand with Israel. Social media shadowbans and HR firings scream “That’s antisemitic!” to people of all faiths who mention Palestinians’ right to live on their ancestral lands without constant violence and religious apartheid. Regardless of your chosen new sources and lived or learned experiences about the 70+ year war on stolen lands, consider the absence of voices addressing the blatant Islamophobia in the ways that global cultures equate Islam with violence. It’s assumed. And it’s insidious. What would the world look like if Muslim identity was verbally valued or protected just as much as Jewish identity? What if we stopped seeing Palestine and Israel as the automatic yet mythical “good vs. evil” and instead saw the conflict as what it is: a genocide borne of another genocide, fuelled by guilt, taboos, and billions of dollars of geopolitical capital, both physical and ideological? The generations of Islamophobia that are so intrinsic to dominant U.S. culture are so deeply woven into the fabric of any rhetoric around the Middle East that speaking against any single aspect of Israeli’s occupation or literal war crimes means you are somehow aligned with the obvious ‘bad guys’ in this story. The status quo is to go along with hating and fearing Muslims (or at best, showing us disdain) so that any framing of Muslims as victims and survivors challenges biases that many don’t even know they have. read the complete article

United States

MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan quits rather than accept demotion at news network

Prominent Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan has decided to quit MSNBC rather than accept a demotion that saw him lose a regular Sunday night program on the network. Hasan announced at the end of Sunday show that “I’ve decided to look for a new challenge. This is not just my final episode of ‘The Mehdi Hasan Show,’ it’s my last day at MSNBC.” The network had announced in November that Hasan would lose his weekly show after three years but would remain as an analyst and fill-in anchor. That decision, with no public explanation, launched a fruitless petition campaign in protest by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar called it “deeply troubling that MSNBC is canceling his show amid a rampant rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and suppression of Muslim voices.” read the complete article

School Fires Georgia Teacher Who Allegedly Threatened to Behead Student over Israeli Flag Comments

A Georgia middle school teacher is no longer working at Warner Robins Middle School after he allegedly threatened to cut off the head of a student who objected to him flying the Israeli flag in his classroom. Benjamin Reese, 51, a seventh grade social studies teacher, was arrested December 8 after several witnesses told police they overheard him shouting expletives around students and threatening to behead a 13-year-old student, reports WMAZ. “You motherf*****g piece of s**t! I’ll kick your a**. I should cut your motherf*****g head off.” Witnesses also said they heard him threaten “he would kick her f*****g a**, slit her god***n throat and drag her a** outside and cut her head off.” The witnesses who saw the incident included other teachers, staff members, and students. Reese faces charges of making terroristic threats and cruelty to children in the third degree, reports CNN. The school also immediately barred him from campus. He’s currently out on $7,500 bond. read the complete article

An overlooked and undercounted group of Arab American and Muslim voters may have outsized impact on 2024 presidential election

Since the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel, members of these communities have watched the rising death toll and heard vivid accounts of the horrors befalling Palestinians in Gaza as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to bombard the enclave with the support of the Biden administration. For some Arab Americans, a community that overwhelmingly voted Democratic in the 2020 presidential election, that support may have negative consequences on Biden’s attempt to regain the White House in 2024. In fact, numerous Middle Eastern and Muslim American leaders have called for their communities to “abandon Biden” in the upcoming presidential election. The question, then, is what effect such defections could have on Biden’s chances of winning reelection. The outcome of the 2024 presidential election may come down to results in a few swing states where Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans are concentrated, such as Michigan, Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona. In the 2020 presidential election, for instance, Biden won the state of Michigan by a total of 154,000 votes. The state is home to overlapping groups of more than 200,000 registered voters who are Muslim and 300,000 who claim ancestry from the Middle East and North Africa. read the complete article


Activist decries discrimination Muslims face in India

Muslims in India are facing discrimination and being denied their due educational and economic rights, a social activist said. In an interview with Anadolu, Abdul Malik Mujahid, the president of Justice For All, highlighted the challenges Muslims encounter in education and employment, emphasizing the difficulties they face in their daily lives. He pointed out that despite achieving high grades in education, Muslims struggle to find employment and often end up in positions that do not even require education. Mujahid also drew attention to the educational challenges faced by Muslim children in India, stressing there is a bias against Muslim children which manifests in many ways. He cited an incident of discrimination against a 7-year-old Muslim child last year at a school. “That child was beaten up and the teacher was calling him ‘Mohammedan.’ The teacher was also asking Hindu children to beat Muslim children.” Mujahid also pointed out the fact that in some states in India, Muslim girls wearing headscarves are prohibited from education. According to him, the educational curriculum is being changed to erase the Muslim heritage. Mujahid referred to a new curriculum that omits information about the Muslim architect of the Taj Mahal, and textbooks containing derogatory statements about those who consume beef. Highlighting economic discrimination, Mujahid revealed that Muslims, constituting approximately 15% of India's population, are disproportionately underrepresented in the workforce, with only 1% having government jobs. “Muslims are 15% of the Indian population and the Indian government is the largest employer of people. But only 1% of Muslims are in government jobs. Brahmans, the highest cast of Hindus, are only 3.5% of the Indian population, but they have 61% of the government jobs.” read the complete article

India court overrules early release of 11 men in Bilkis Bano gang rape case

India’s Supreme Court has quashed the remission given to 11 Hindu men who had been jailed for life for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and murdering her relatives during anti-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002. The top court on Monday directed the 11 men to surrender to the prison authorities in Gujarat within two weeks. Bano, now in her 40s, was five months pregnant when she was gang-raped during the violence, which saw nearly 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, killed in some of the worst religious riots India has experienced. Seven of the 14 people murdered in one incident were Bano’s relatives, including her three-year-old daughter, whose head was smashed on the ground by the perpetrators in Gujarat’s Dahod district. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister at the time, and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) still rules the state. read the complete article

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnian Serbs show solidarity with provocations against Muslims

Bosnian Serbs gathered on Sunday evening in front of the police station in Srebrenica to show their solidarity with two local Serbs detained for alleged provocation against Muslims. The Bosnian Serbs were detained on Sunday on the grounds that they shot at a Muslim Bosnian in Potocari, near Srebrenica, while passing by his house. The demonstration was held at the call of Serbian Orthodox Church Priest Aleksandar Mladjenovic, who works in the region. Srebrenica Mayor Mladen Grujicic and his deputy Momcilo Cvijetinovic also attended the gathering. "We came here to condemn the pressure on the Republika Srpska police," Grujicic said in a statement, referring to one of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the part of the country where Srebrenica is located. Srebrenica is well known for being divided in terms of religion between Orthodox Christians and Muslims. Some ethnic Serbian groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Christmas Day, which was observed by Orthodox Christians over the weekend, tried to incite Muslims in the country by carrying out anti-Islamic actions. Ultranationalist Serbian groups organized a vehicle convoy and shouted insults at Muslims in Srebrenica. While the convoy was passing by the house of a Muslim citizen in Potocari, near Srebrenica, gunfire was opened. Security camera footage of the house owner showed that the fire was opened from a convoy moving under the control of the Republika Srpska police. read the complete article


Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has withdrawn a 2018 proposal to ban mosques and the Quran

Far-right Dutch election winner Geert Wilders made a key concession to potential coalition partners on Monday, announcing that he's withdrawing legislation that he proposed in 2018 that calls for a ban on mosques and the Quran. The move came a day before talks to form the next government were set to resume following the November election. The abandonment of the bill could be critical in gaining the trust and support of three more mainstream parties that Wilders wants to co-opt into a coalition along with his Party for Freedom, known by its Dutch acronym PVV. One of those parties' leaders, Pieter Omtzigt of the reformist New Social Contract, has expressed fears that some of Wilders’ policies breach the Dutch Constitution that enshrines liberties, including the freedom of religion. Among three pieces of legislation axed by Wilders Party for Freedom was one dating back to 2018 that proposes banning “Islamic expressions.” The text of the bill labels Islam a “violent, totalitarian ideology” and proposes bans on mosques, the Quran, Islamic schools and the wearing of burqas and niqabs. read the complete article


Norwegian mass killer begins 2nd attempt to sue state for alleged breach of rights

Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a bombing and shooting rampage in 2011, launched his second attempt at suing the state on Monday, accusing the Justice Ministry of breaching his human rights. Breivik, who has changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen, claims that the isolation he's been placed under since he started serving his prison sentence in 2012 amounts to inhumane punishment under the European Convention on Human Rights. He failed in a similar attempt in 2016 and 2017, when his appeal was ultimately rejected by the European Court of Justice. “Breivik, on the other hand, is the same. He is still proud of what he has done. He continues his ideological project,” government attorney Andreas Hjetland told the court. “An extraordinarily dangerous inmate brings with him extraordinary security measures.” In 2012, Breivik was convicted of mass murder and terrorism for a bombing that killed eight people in the government building in Oslo, and a shooting massacre on Utøya island where he gunned down 69 people at a holiday camp for youth activists from the center-left Labor Party. Breivik, who described himself during the trial as an anti-Muslim crusader, pleaded not guilty, claiming he was acting in self-defense to protect Norway from multiculturalism. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Calls grow on UK regulator to act against TalkTV after 'racist' interview

TalkTV, a British television channel owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is facing a strong social media backlash after one of its hosts insulted and degraded a top Palestinian leader on her show. TalkTV host Julia Hartley-Brewer continuously shouted down and twisted the words of Palestinian parliamentarian Dr Mustafa Barghouti in a recent interview. One Twitter user, Amna Mir, slammed both TalkTV and the host. "This racist, anti-Muslim, Islamophobic person, Julia Hartley-Brewer lia and this channel, TalkTV, are an absolute disgrace. Julia and the whole team (s)hould be fired immediately," she wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Others like Fatima Barkatula, a Scholar of Islamic Law studying English Law, called for pressure on Ofcom amid what she called Hartley-Brewer's racist and Islamophobic behaviour." Calls are growing for the UK's commutations regulator, Ofcom, to take action against the TV channel. Ramy Abdu, Assistant Professor of Law & Finance and Chairman of the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, hit out at the media's treatment of Palestinians. "@JuliaHB1 exemplifies the racism, violence, and condescension Palestinians endure in Western media. Her vicious discourse dehumanizes and targets Palestinian voices. @Talktv, uphold journalistic decency, and fire this woman misleading the public," wrote Abdu. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 09 Jan 2024 Edition


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