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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31 Jul 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Denmark, the government is considering banning protests involving the burning of the Quran/other religious texts, citing concerns over security and diplomacy, meanwhile, following the numerous Quran burnings in Sweden, Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque urged Muslims to boycott Swedish products, lastly, Morocco’s Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab at the Women’s World Cup. Our recommended read of the day is by Shyam K. Sriram, Chloe McCarthy, and Analee DeGlopper for LSE Blogs on how data from 2016 shows that a significant number of Asian Americans were opposed to the resettlement of Syrian refugees and in favor of Trump’s Muslim Ban, demonstrating how Islamophobia is present amongst immigrant populationsThis and more below:

United States

28 Jul 2023

Nativism and Islamophobia might explain why some Asian Pacific Americans have anti-refugee attitudes | Recommended Read

In his bid for the presidency in 2016 and throughout his White House term, Donald Trump used racist rhetoric against Muslims and minorities to play up feelings of nativism among Americans. Shyam K. Sriram, Chloe McCarthy, and Analee DeGlopper write that these nativist sentiments were not confined to Americans of European descent: surveys ahead of the 2016 election found that significant numbers of Asian Americans were opposed to the resettlement of Syrian refugees and in favor of a ban on Muslim immigrants. They argue that these attitudes are driven by perceptions of Syrians not as refugees, but as Muslims, and that Asian American immigrant groups are often primed to be Islamophobic before they even come to the US. While 9/11 influences 21st-century Islamophobia, the Syrian Civil War along with Trump’s anti-immigration policy alongside an anti-Islam stance has further increased an illogical fear of Islam in the US. This fear has extended to Asian Americans, as highlighted by the 2016 NAAS data, resulting in Asian Pacific Americans becoming “new nativist publics.” These are minorities that were not previously thought to be capable of nativism but have since somewhat adopted the nativist attitudes of Americans of European descent. By this logic, it is believed that some Asian Pacific Americans have internalized anti-immigrant laws and attitudes in such a way that they themselves have become hostile to the idea of newer immigrants, specifically refugees, entering the United States. read the complete article

Judge orders release of 3 of ‘Newburgh Four’ and assails FBI’s role in a post-9/11 terror sting

Three men convicted in a post-9/11 terrorism sting have been ordered freed from prison by a judge who deemed their lengthy sentences “unduly harsh and unjust” and decried the FBI’s role in radicalizing them in a plot to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down National Guard planes. Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerre Payen — three of the men known as the “Newburgh Four” — were “hapless, easily manipulated and penurious petty criminals” caught up more than a decade ago in a scheme driven by overzealous FBI agents and a dodgy informant, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon said in her ruling Thursday. “The real lead conspirator was the United States,” McMahon wrote in granting the men’s request for compassionate release, effective in three months. She said that it was “heinous” of the men to agree to participate in what she called the government’s “made for TV movie.” But, the judge added, “the sentence was the product of a fictitious plot to do things that these men had never remotely contemplated, and that were never going to happen.” She excoriated the government for sending “a villain” of an informant “to troll among the poorest and weakest of men for ‘terrorists’ who might prove susceptible to an offer of much-needed cash in exchange for committing a faux crime.” read the complete article


Women's World Cup 2023: 'Nouhaila Benzina is a role model to us'

Young Muslim footballers say Nouhaila Benzina is their role model after she made history by wearing a hijab at the Women's World Cup. The 25-year-old became the first player to wear the Islamic headscarf at a senior tournament when Morocco beat South Korea earlier. Muslim girls and women wear the hijab as a display of modesty, but it's not always been welcomed on the football pitch. It was banned by the game's governing body Fifa until 2014, when they allowed players to wear it for religious reasons. Yasmin Rahman plays for Saltley Stallions in Birmingham, one of the only clubs geared towards Muslim women in the UK. The 23-year-old says when she was younger she had no Muslim female football player to look up to. "Little me is screaming 'oh my gosh', finally now a hijab at the level of the World Cup and being globally recognised," she tells BBC Newsbeat. But Yasmin, who works as a civil engineer, says she doesn't want it to end with Benzina being in a hijab on the global stage. "I want to see more Muslim women going out there and doing it. "My family's been very supportive and they know I've been playing football since I was little. "You want everyone to be accepted as they are and do whatever they do." read the complete article

China using families as 'hostages' to quash Uyghur dissent abroad

The reunion over a video call was their first contact in six years, since he fled as a refugee to the UK. But it was bittersweet: someone else was in control of the call. Like all Uyghurs - a mostly Muslim minority from north-western China - Alim's mother lives under intense surveillance and control. They could never call each other directly. Instead, a middleman phoned Alim and his mother from two separate mobiles. He doesn't know if the plain white wall he could see behind his mother was in her house in Xinjiang or an internment camp, where the Chinese government is alleged to have detained more than a million Uyghurs. China has long denied those charges. But Alim says he knew this contact with his mother would come at a cost - because the man brokering the call was a Chinese police officer. When the officer called again, he asked Alim to attend meetings of Uyghur human rights activists, gather intelligence and pass it back to the Chinese state. "Whenever there was an anti-China protest in London, they would call me and ask who would be attending," says Alim, who shared with the BBC recordings of the phone calls requesting he work as a spy. Alim was offered money, too, so he could try to befriend the leaders of campaign groups - many of them UK citizens - by taking them to restaurants and picking up the bill. "They are using my family as hostages," Alim says. "I am living in a dark moment." The tactics employed by governments to police their diasporas abroad are known as transnational repression. Research suggests this particular kind - controlling access to family members in the home country through video calls, in exchange for compliance overseas - is commonly used by Chinese police. read the complete article

Any possible US-China ‘thaw’ must not leave Uyghurs out in the cold

As a human rights lawyer and a member of the Uyghur community, I grapple with the horrifying reality that my people are enduring genocide at the hands of a brutal regime. It is deeply unsettling to see any attempt to normalize such unspeakable atrocities or to treat Uyghur lives as a bargaining chip in pursuit of a stronger bilateral relationship. Genocide should never be regarded as anything remotely ordinary, and its prevention must be a non-negotiable priority. The United States not only bears a moral imperative but a legal obligation under US federal law to prevent genocide. The pain I carry for my community serves as a constant reminder of the urgent necessity for justice and relief from suffering. Yet, as a policy expert, I also cautiously recognize the crucial importance of fostering stronger US-China ties to tackle shared global issues, as well as the possibility that engagement might bring solutions to China’s ongoing crimes against humanity. And demanding that the United States forgo potential routes for cooperation with China may not be pragmatic or productive. Amid the complexities of confronting genocidal regimes, there lies an undeniable truth: a resolute and united global boycott can wield immense influence in putting an end to the heinous atrocities of genocide. Post-apartheid South Africa stands as a compelling example of such positive transformation. However, the current reality reveals a challenging aspect: Much of the world’s economy is deeply integrated with the Chinese economy, leaving little room for cohesive and united action. read the complete article

Muslim nations call for boycott of Swedish products

The diplomatic fallout over the burning of the Quran outside a mosque in Sweden is threatening to escalate into a trade war after calls from Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa came to boycott Swedish products. Earlier this week, the Cairo-based Al-Azhar mosque, the oldest Sunni institution in the Muslim world, urged Muslims to boycott Swedish products over the recent Quran burning. It suggested a similar boycott of Danish products amid two incidences of Quran burnings this week in Copenhagen, Denmark's capital. The mosque decried decisions by those governments that allowed the burning of Islam's holy book. Now Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa have taken to social media to call for a boycott of Swedish products using the hashtags "punish the Swedish government" and "boycott Swedish products." read the complete article

United Kingdom

28 Jul 2023

Where were Nigel Farage and his defenders when Muslim bank accounts were shut down?

Many leading British Muslim civil society activists and charities have had their bank accounts closed for years with little or no explanation. Take Finsbury Park mosque in north London, for example. HSBC closed its account, and other banks refused to take the mosque’s custom, despite no law having been broken. The mosque brought a successful libel action against Thomson Reuters, whose listing for the mosque on a risk database had led to HSBC’s decision. Or consider one of the largest and most longstanding Muslim charities, Islamic Relief, which HSBC debanked. This had serious consequences, including hindering the delivery of crucial aid to earthquake victims in Nepal in 2015. Other banks, fortunately, did not follow suit. The same scenario is also faced by dozens of “law-abiding citizens” who have had their bank accounts closed. Lacking Farage’s wealth, as they do, their livelihoods have been affected and reputations damaged. Some have come forward, for example the activist Anas al-Tikriti and imam Ajmal Masroor, but I have spoken to many other Muslims who would rather keep their heads down, worried about further repercussions. One of the threads connecting many of these organisations and individuals is that they have been subject to smears in the media. Some have had to challenge spurious associations with terrorism or “Islamism”. Yet, unlike Farage, these individuals and groups have not had the luxury of prime ministerial support when their bank accounts have been closed. Will Nigel Farage stand up for these law-abiding British Muslims and Muslim organisations, including those he regularly maligns and castigates as a fifth column? So many arms of the establishment – from the prime minister through to the media backing him – have quickly mobilised against the NatWest and Coutts banking chiefs over the Nigel Farage banking saga. Where were they when the bank accounts of British Muslims and Muslim organisations were being closed? read the complete article


Denmark considers banning protests burning Quran and other religious texts

Denmark is considering banning protests involving burning the Quran or other religious texts over security and diplomatic concerns. The Danish foreign ministry said whilst protecting freedom of expression is crucial, such protests benefit extremists and pose a security threat. Copenhagen is looking at legal means to intervene in some circumstances, including protests outside embassies. Sweden's prime minister also said work on a similar process has begun there. Both Scandinavian countries have come under pressure in recent weeks, after authorities gave permission for a series of controversial protests where Islam's holy book was destroyed, stoking diplomatic tensions with several Muslim-majority nations. In its statement, Denmark's foreign ministry said it wants to explore intervening in some protests where "other countries, cultures, and religions are being insulted, and where this could have significant negative consequences for Denmark" - including security concerns. read the complete article


What’s Happening With the Quran Burnings in Sweden

At least two public desecrations of the Quran in Sweden in recent weeks have provoked riots, caused a diplomatic crisis and placed a country that was long regarded as peaceful and tolerant under an awkward international spotlight. And with a flurry of new permits to burn the Quran requested in recent days under the country’s laws covering public demonstrations, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told the Swedish news media this week that he was “extremely concerned” by the situation. Here’s what to know about the Quran burnings and the larger issues they have raised. Right-wing nationalists have engaged in burning copies of the Quran in Sweden for years. One of them, Rasmus Paludan, a conservative Danish Swedish politician, has become notorious for setting fire to the Muslim scriptures several times, including this past January. The most recent to carry out such an act in the country, Salwan Momika, is an Iraqi immigrant to Sweden who describes himself on Facebook as a liberal atheist. But he has also expressed hard-line anti-Muslim views and said that he was seeking to draw attention to the mistreatment of Christian minorities by Islamist extremists in some Arab countries. The actions have provoked debate over Sweden’s freedom of speech protections, which have compelled the government to issue permits for Quran-burning rallies. The Swedish government has largely condemned Mr. Momika’s actions, saying that it “strongly rejects the Islamophobic act committed by individuals in Sweden.” And Sweden’s intelligence service warned that the country’s reputation had shifted from tolerant to hostile toward Muslims, contributing to a “security situation that has deteriorated.” read the complete article


What’s Happening in Italy Is Scary, and It’s Spreading

It’s a similar story with immigration. The agriculture minister, a longtime ally of Ms. Meloni’s who is also her brother-in-law, has taken the lead in appealing for resistance to “ethnic replacement.” Hardly averse to the slogan — she used it to successfully oppose a 2017 bill that would have granted citizenship to children born in Italy to noncitizen parents — Ms. Meloni has avoided employing the phrase herself since taking office. But her call for “births, not migrants” expresses the same sentiment, and aggressive opposition to migration has been the centerpiece of her administration. A law passed in April forces asylum seekers to live in state-run migrant centers while their claims are considered — a process that can last up to two years — all without legal advice or Italian-language classes. In recent weeks, Ms. Meloni spearheaded a European Union deal with Tunisia, whose authoritarian regime promotes the great replacement conspiracy theory, to curb migration in exchange for financial support. For all its Mussolinian roots, this government is no return to the past. Instead, in galvanizing the political right behind a resentful identity politics, it risks becoming something else entirely: Europe’s future. Conservatives in Britain echo Ms. Meloni’s obsession with favoring birthrates over migration; French anti-immigrant politicians like Éric Zemmour cite Italy as a model of how to “unite the forces of the right”; and even in Germany, the Christian Democrats’ long refusal to consider pacts with the Alternative for Germany is under strain. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 31 Jul 2023 Edition


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