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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11 Jul 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the Netherlands, anti-Muslim politician and leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom leader, Geert Wilders will hold a competition for the best satyrical cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammad later this year, meanwhile in the UK, following the general election, political commentators have described the trend of dwindling Muslim support for Labour as evidence of “sectarian” politics, but academics and Muslim civil society groups are calling this rhetoric “fear-mongering”, and in the US, during a recent Delta Airlines flight, anti-Zionist Jewish activist Louie Siegel was told by flight staff that he would be removed from the plane if he did not take off his pro-ceasefire t-shirt. Our recommended read of the day is by Alessandra Bajec for The New Arab on how despite the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) winning a majority in the recent French elections, the third-place win and growing influence of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (NR) is causing fear and uncertainty for French Muslims. This and more below:


France's Muslims watch the rise of the far right with unease | Recommended Read

The left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) came out on top in Sunday’s snap run-off in the French legislative elections, beating the far-right National Rally (RN) in third place with President Emmanuel Macron's centrist coalition coming in second. Tensions had been mounting before the elections as Muslims and those from an immigrant background expressed concerns about the future of their communities in France. Those worries only intensified as the French right rose to prominence after Le Pen’s party won 33% of the popular vote in the first round of voting. Members of the French Muslim community fear that their religious freedoms could be restricted and that they will be treated as "second class" citizens. Many say they had considered leaving the country if the National Rally achieved a majority, a trend that has already taken hold among some qualified professionals. “French Muslims are not afforded the rights that are guaranteed to every other citizen, and they don’t feel protected by the state,” Mobashra Tazamal, an academic researcher on Islamophobia, told The New Arab. “They are leaving because they don’t feel safe, and face discrimination whether that’s on the job market or in public where they can’t practice their religion freely,” she continued, emphasising that questions of identity, a sense of belonging, and security are key to understanding the fate of France’s Muslim community. While the RN has been growing for many years, its popularity comes amid a process of normalising far-right policies in French politics, as well as the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim rhetoric. “The far-right came out of a society that has made it acceptable to target, demonise, and marginalise these communities. They’ve been able to capitalise on something already existing,” argued Tazamal, who is associate director of the Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University research project that aims to inform the general public about Islamophobia. read the complete article

United States

Delta Airlines Forces Passenger to Remove T-Shirt in Anti-Palestine Move

Since the onset of Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza in October 2023, there has been a dramatic rise in harassment, policing and discrimination against Palestinians and allies who publicly speak out in favor of a ceasefire. Louie Siegel, an anti-Zionist Jewish-American, experienced the suppression of anti-Zionist speech firsthand when, during a recent Delta Airlines flight from São Paulo to Chicago, he was told by the flight staff that he would be removed from the plane if he did not take off his pro-ceasefire T-shirt. This was only the latest such incident in recent months. In December 2023, it was reported that American Airlines was investigating an alleged incident in which “a flight attendant instructed a man to remove a pro-Palestinian sweatshirt before takeoff or else face law enforcement,” HuffPost reports. In March, two passengers wearing T-shirts with Palestinian flags were removed from a plane in Amman. On May 9, JetBlue announced it was banning its in-flight crew members from wearing political pins after complaints regarding a flight attendant wearing a Palestinian flag pin. In this exclusive interview for Truthout, I invited Siegel to share details about his experience on Delta Airlines and how it clarified his own positionality within the Palestine solidarity movement. read the complete article

Our Leaders and Media Have Totally Normalized Anti-Palestinian Racism

Last month’s presidential debate was a travesty for myriad reasons. The moment that disturbed me the most, however, has managed to largely slip under the radar: when Donald Trump decided to use “Palestinian” as a slur with which to insult Biden. On live TV in front of more than 51 million people, a candidate for president of the United States used an entire ethnic group as a pejorative to insult his opponent. Trump used “Palestinian” as a slur again the very next day at a rally, where he said that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “has become a Palestinian. He’s a Palestinian now. Congratulations. He was very loyal to Israel and to Jewish people. He’s Jewish, but he’s become a Palestinian.” Trump has said countless racist things over the course of his political career. But even he is rarely this blatant. Can you imagine if he had insulted Biden by saying he was “like a Black” or “like a Mexican” or “like a Jew”? There is no way that Biden—even with his brain leaking out of his ears in real time—would not have responded with indignation. Other than from Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian American herself, I have not been able to find a single official statement from a member of the House or Senate Democratic caucus condemning Trump. Not even Bernie Sanders or other members of the Squad, who have been vocally supportive of Palestinian rights, have said anything. American media institutions, which have spent months dissecting boilerplate statements of Palestinian solidarity for hints of antisemitism, have largely been silent. read the complete article

St. Louis Arts Center Scraps Pro-Palestinian Exhibition, Calling It “Antisemitic”

A St. Louis arts center has come under scrutiny for its abrupt cancellation of an exhibition centered around Palestinian liberation. Planting Seeds, Sprouting Hope was slated to open on June 21 with works by stained-glass artist Dani Collette and ceramicist Allora McCullough as the culmination of their 11-month residency at the St. Louis-based arts nonprofit Craft Alliance. Within days of the exhibition’s opening, leadership shut down the show, terminated the two artists’ residencies, and fired McCullough from her position as a part-time arts educator, alleging that the works included “antisemitic imagery and slogans calling for violence and the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.” Over 280 people, including former Craft Alliance artist residents, students, teachers, and donors, have signed an open letter calling for a boycott of the arts nonprofit and the resignation of Executive Director Bryan Knicely and Board Chair Jackie Levin. The letter, published this Monday, July 8, accuses Craft Alliance of “censorship” and “anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, and specifically anti-Palestinian rhetoric and erasure.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

Starmer seems reluctant to talk about Muslims — but he can’t ignore the issue forever

Britain’s relationship with its new government is in the honeymoon phase. Keir Starmer’s authority is the strongest it is ever likely to be. His cabinet is firing off press releases and policy announcements while touring television studios to outline their plans for the country’s future. There is certainly plenty in their in-tray — the state of the economy, the cost of living crisis, war in Ukraine, the NHS and our prisons system — but there is one thing no one in the new government has mentioned: Labour’s relationship with British Muslims. The party won a huge landslide in last week’s election, but its vote fell dramatically in areas with high British Muslim populations. I asked Starmer, on camera, whether he thought his party’s relationship with British Muslims was an issue. The Independent described this as Keir Starmer “swerving” the question. Others felt similarly. I posted a clip of the interview on X and it spread very quickly, attracting more than two million views within a day. There were hundreds of comments, the vast majority of them unimpressed with the prime minister’s response. Many highlighted Starmer’s failure to mention the British Muslim community in his answer, or since entering office. He made no mention of the candidates who lost. And he said nothing about how he intends to rebuild trust with the British Muslim community. read the complete article

Why are British Muslim voters being accused of ‘sectarian’ politics?

The UK Labour Party won a landslide majority last week, but its vote share fell sharply in constituencies where Muslims made up a greater percentage of voters. Some commentators have since described the trend as evidence of "sectarian" politics, but academics and Muslim civil society groups told Middle East Eye the narrative was false and an attempt at fear-mongering. The dust had barely settled on the results when many commentators began denouncing the election of independent candidates as evidence of “sectarian” politics. Journalist Zoe Strimpel said on 6 July that Britain was “succumbing to sectarianism”. “As a Jew, this election was always to be feared; it’s just that the enemy is not Labour anymore, but the 'independent', 'Palestine solidarity' candidates,” she wrote in the Telegraph. Jake Wallis Simons, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, accused the campaign The Muslim Vote of operating on “sectarian principles”, saying that independent candidates “owed their allegiances purely to religious and ethnic interests”. “Islamist intimidation is poisoning our politics,” said television executive Danny Cohen. Shockat Adam, the new independent MP for Leicester South who unseated Labour’s shadow cabinet minister Jonathan Ashworth, told MEE during the campaign: “I love this country and that is why we have to make sure that we have a voice representing everybody.” He described accusations of sectarianism as “Islamophobia”, adding: “Muslims voted for humanitarianism. The media are trying to portray Muslims as extremists who don’t care about British values.” read the complete article


Fatima Payman advises Muslims: ‘Don’t establish a political party’

Senator Fatima Payman, who resigned from Labor last week to sit as a crossbench independent, says she would advise Muslims not to form their own political party. The Middle East conflict, which has greatly increased Muslim activism, has led to speculation of the possible formation of a Muslim party that could contest seats in western and south western Sydney and parts of Melbourne. Payman has told The Conversation’s Politics podcast: “I can’t speculate what they plan on doing and not doing. But what I can say is, I don’t think it would be wise to have a Muslim party. "And so if I was to advise them, I’d say, don’t establish a Muslim party because you need to look at your broader base.” Payman pointed out there have been faith-based parties previously, and said a Muslim party would not challenge social cohesion. “People are free to do what they want to do and [set up] parties they want to set up. There’s the fishers and farmers and all sorts of parties out there. So if people want to go down this route they can. "It’s incorrect to […] not just politicise the Muslim faith, but also to make it seem like they’re a threat to social cohesion or it’s going to impact the way we politically engage.” read the complete article

Australia has its first antisemitism special envoy, with an Islamophobia special envoy to follow. What will this mean?

Overseas conflicts often lead to tensions within diaspora communities. The Israeli–Palestinian war, due to its global symbolic importance and high death toll, is creating significant strain worldwide. Australia is not immune to this, and there have been ongoing incidents and friction that have the potential to fracture Australia’s multicultural society. Since October 7 and the subsequent war, documented incidents of hate have dramatically increased, globally and in Australia. These have included antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents ranging from verbal abuse and graffiti to extremely serious incidents of physical assault. This in turn has led both communities to feel traumatised, unsafe, and frustrated with the government’s inability to protect them. On top this, there is the feeling in both communities that these problems are not being taken seriously. While antisemitism and Islamophobia were both tracked in Australia long before October 7, the recent escalation in Israel and Gaza has seen reports increase dramatically. The creation of antisemitism and Islamophobia envoys is one of the ways the Australian government is trying to address this delicate situation. Whatever the reason, the lack of announcement of the Islamophobia envoy alongside the antisemitism envoy risks giving the impression to Muslim communities that the government is not being evenhanded with both groups, a sentiment that is already felt by some. read the complete article


Dutch anti-Islam party to hold Prophet Mohammad cartoon competition

The Freedom Party of Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders will hold a competition of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad, it said on Tuesday. The party said the plan to hold the competition in the party's secure offices in Dutch Parliament had been approved by the Dutch Counter-terrorism Agency NCTV. Cartoons depicting Mohammad have provoked violent responses in the past. Wilders' Freedom Party is the leading opposition party in parliament after coming in second place in elections last March. He has called for the Koran to be banned, and says Islam is a totalitarian faith. American cartoonist Bosch Fawstin, winner of a similar contest in Garland, Texas, in May 2015, has been asked to judge the Dutch contest, which will be held later this year. read the complete article


Modi, Islamophobia and Building Hindu India: MEMO in Conversation with Dr Jocelyne Cesari

Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a third-term in India’s general election in June 2024. Modi and his BJP party have transformed the country over the last 10 years. Critics say Modi has rolled back India’s liberalism and secularism and turned the country towards right-wing populism, hatred of minorities and imposing a brand of Hindu identity that is hostile to the south Asian country’s plural landscape. Islamophobia is a key feature of Modi’s style of government with different BJP politicians pushing ideas such as the foreignness of Muslims, conspiracy theories of Islam taking over and the security threat its followers pose. Despite India’s constitutional secularism, Hindu identity has always been a key aspect of India’s governance going back to the country’s independence in 1947, contrary to what critics claim. The road to Modi’s India was decades in the making. Discussing the changes Modi has made to India, Hindu identity and Islamophobia, MEMO in Conversation is joined by Dr Jocelyne Cesari. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 11 Jul 2024 Edition


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