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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26 Jun 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, a New Jersey school district is investigating how a certain question ended up on a seventh-grade quiz after some parents complained that it advances anti-Muslim stereotypes, meanwhile in Australia, The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network has urged restraint on rhetoric against Senator Fatima Payman, who crossed the floor to support a Greens Senate motion on recognising Palestine as a state, saying there’s a risk of promoting Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian sentiments, and in France, the far-right could come to power in the upcoming elections causing many French Muslims to worry about their place in the country. Our recommended read of the day is by Billie Gay Jackson for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism on an investigation by the organization that revealed Reform UK candidates and activists have been running a network of Facebook groups spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories and Islamophobia. This and more below:

United Kingdom

Hate speech and climate denial: inside the Facebook network run by Reform candidates | Recommended Read

Reform UK candidates and activists have been running a network of Facebook groups spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories and Islamophobia, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) can reveal. Many more Reform candidates are part of the network as group members. TBIJ has identified 74 altogether, accounting for well over 10% of all the party’s parliamentary candidates. The network consists of 11 groups with a combined membership of more than 63,000. Some bill themselves as forums for political discussion, others as fan groups for TalkTV and GB News. Discussion among members frequently takes a racist tone, with one popular post deploring the “sickening” presence of halal food in UK shops and another reading “Vote Islam or vote Reform”. Posts also often amplify the far-right idea, known as the “great replacement” theory, that white Europeans are being systematically replaced by people of colour. As well as 74 parliamentary candidates, members of the network include a further six who stood in local elections and two party staffers. Some have used the groups to try to recruit people to volunteer or stand for Reform at a local and national level. Others have spread conspiracy theories and climate change denial. “Reform must be transparent,” Humza Yousaf, the former first minister of Scotland, who was targeted in a number of posts in the groups, told TBIJ. “They must be open and they must tell us their involvement in these far-right groups. read the complete article

Keir Starmer has lost the British Arab voter. He doesn't care

As Keir Starmer’s Labour Party readies itself to form a new government on July 5, there are many lingering uncertainties and blurred lines. One element however is crystal clear: Labour has irrevocably lost the support of the 500,000-strong British Arab community, likely for generations to come. Recent polling by the British Arab Assembly, a civic society representing British Arab political interests in the UK, reveals a staggering drop in Labour’s vote share among this community — from 70% to a meagre 1% ahead of the general election on July 4. In key battleground seats like Kensington and Bayswater, where nearly one in 10 voters are British Arab, this seismic shift is poised to benefit the Liberal Democrats who have been a strong voice on a ceasefire in Gaza and wider anti-Arab prejudice driven by their star MP, Layla Moran. The reason for this dramatic shift is glaringly obvious: Keir Starmer’s appalling, and to most British Arab voters, unforgivable response to the mass murder of Palestinian and British civilians in Gaza and the West Bank since October last year. For the British Arab community, the objective of the Israeli war machine was always unmistakably clear: the obliteration of life in Gaza and the destruction of any semblance of liveable conditions. How this reality escaped Starmer and his crack team of advisors is beyond comprehension. read the complete article

'A vote for Labour or Tory is a vote for genocide': Leanne Mohamad seeks to steer UK Parliament towards anti-apartheid policies

It has been a jam-packed few months for 23-year-old British Palestinian human rights activist, Leanne Mohamad. In addition to tirelessly speaking up about Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on Gaza at protests, universities, conferences and local and international events, Mohamad has been leading her election campaign. On July 4 2024, she will run as Ilford North’s independent parliamentary candidate. There are currently over 28,000 Muslims of voting age in Ilford North and in November 2023 the Muslim Census was optimistic that if the Muslim vote in Ilford North was to depart from Labour following the Party’s disappointing stance on Gaza, Muslims could swing the seat from this former Labour stronghold. Like many Muslims and Palestine supporters in her community, she was appalled at the Labour and Conservative parties’ stance on Gaza and their refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire. Gaza is at the top of her list when it comes to foreign policy issues. She is advocating for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, a UK and international arms embargo on Israel, and the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes at an international law level. With Islamophobic attacks on Muslims on the rise since October 2023 and accusations of Islamophobic treatment from within the Labour Party by the likes of Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum and former Labour MP Faiza Shaheen, combatting Islamophobia and racism is also high on Mohamad’s list of priorities, particularly given her background in human rights. “Islamophobia definitely feels as though it is on the rise, especially with some of the rhetoric of the far-right parties. Islam is being demonised as something foreign, scary and not to be trusted,” she says. read the complete article

United States

Social media users call for Netflix boycott after 'racist' Jessica Alba film

Jessica Alba has starred in a movie for the first time in five years - and has left some viewers wishing she'd stayed away. Trigger Warning, an action film that was released on Netflix last week, features the actor as Parker, a special forces commando called back to the US when her father dies in an apparent accident, leaving her to investigate. Many viewers who flocked to the streaming service to catch Alba's return to the screen balked at the movie's opening scene, accusing the filmmakers of reinforcing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim tropes and normalising the killing of Arabs. In the first few minutes of the film, scarf-clad men can be seen opening fire at what appears to be an aid truck with "American Relief Organization" stamped on the side, driving in the Syrian desert. "They figured out we're not aid workers," says the driver. As the men in scarves gang up on the aid truck, shooters in combat outfits and brown keffiyeh scarves line up and take aim at the "terrorists" - as they are called in the subtitles - killing some and alerting the others. After the American characters overpower the Arab characters, one army soldier begins firing at the tied-up hostages, angering Alba's character, who stops him from "murdering assets". "After all the bombing, killing, & terrorizing that the US inflicts on the Middle East, you still have the audacity to feature Arabs as terrorists?!" wrote one user on X, formerly Twitter. "Shame on your racism!" read the complete article

Abby Phillip Grills George Latimer Over ‘Islamophobic’ Remarks Following Victory Over Jamaal Bowman

Phillip then played the controversial clip of Latimer telling Bowman, “Your constituency is Dearborn, Michigan. Your constituency is San Francisco, California. It’s not Harrison. It’s not Tuckahoe.” Latimer’s remarks were accused by Bowman and others of being “racist” and “Islamophobic” due to Dearborn’s high population of Muslims and immigrants from the Middle East. “So there in that clip, you’re critiquing Jamaal Bowman for getting money from outside of the district from Dearborn, Michigan,” said Phillip. “That was viewed as, by Bowman, an Islamophobic dog whistle. Could you just address that, and also address how you can make that critique while also receiving money from outside of the district as well?” Latimer claimed: "What I said was referring to where he had raised money from. It’s not a dog whistle of anything...It’s a geographic reference, not a demographic reference. read the complete article

'Offensive' wording of Wayne school quiz question gets pushback from parents, advocates

The school district is investigating how a certain question ended up on a seventh-grade quiz after some parents complained that it advances anti-Muslim stereotypes. The multiple-choice question, which appeared on a makeup assessment on the second-to-last day of the school year at Schuyler-Colfax Middle School, asked quiz takers to identify the correct “terrorist organization.” Students in the social studies class had to choose between Al-Qaeda; Palestinian Liberation Organization; Shining Path; and the correct answer, Islamic State. Superintendent of schools Mark Toback apologized for the quiz question in an email response to upset parents last week. It was “offensive and contrary to our values of respect, inclusivity and cultural sensitivity,” he wrote. read the complete article


Labor senator Fatima Payman says each step ‘felt like a mile’ after crossing floor to back Palestine motion

The Labor senator Fatima Payman has crossed the floor, voting in support of a Greens motion on recognising Palestinian statehood in a move that imperils her party membership. After crossing the floor, Payman, a first-term senator for Western Australia, described it as the “most difficult decision” she has had to make. Payman said she crossed the floor “for humanity”, adding she was “bitterly disappointed” her colleagues did not feel the same. “I am proud of what I did today,” she said, pointing to the party platform to support Israel and Palestine to live side by side. “We cannot believe in two-state solutions and only recognise one.” Payman used her first speech to the Senate in 2022 to describe how her family fled Taliban-ruled Afghanistan shortly after her birth: “I stand before you tonight as a young woman, as a Western Australian, as a Muslim devout to her faith, proud of her heritage and grateful to this beautiful country.” On Tuesday night she said: “I was not elected as a token representative of diversity, I was elected to serve the people of Western Australia and uphold the values instilled in me by my late father. Today I have made a decision that would make him proud and make everyone proud to err on the side of humanity.” read the complete article

‘Don’t vilify Muslims’, MPs told after Palestine vote

West Australian Fatima Payman defied her party and crossed the floor to support a Greens Senate motion on recognising Palestine as a state. She drew instant condemnation from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, who accused Senator Payman and Greens senators of promoting a one-state solution and the abolition of Israel – a position neither expressed. The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network has urged restraint on rhetoric against Senator Payman, saying there’s a risk of promoting Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian sentiments. Conflating supporting Palestinian statehood – which the government and opposition have committed to doing under different caveats – with supporting Hamas or terrorism demeaned all Palestinians and Muslims, the network said. Senator Payman said she voted in line with her convictions after becoming more outspoken about Palestine and condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza as the death toll numbers in the tens of thousands and civilians starve. read the complete article


A far-right Dutch politician who once railed against Islam now spends his time defending it

On the fourth floor of a large office block in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, Joram van Klaveren tests out a set of virtual reality glasses. They’re part of a tour called the Islam Experience Center, which van Klaveren, a former far-right lawmaker, co-founded. The center aims to explain the basics of Islam and tackle misconceptions about the faith. But few people in the Netherlands could have foreseen that the former politician would one day open an exhibition dedicated to the religion. For more than a decade Van Klaveren was one of the Dutch far-right Party for Freedom’s (PVV) most outspoken members — someone who saw the party’s core aim as combating “the threat of Islam.” Today, he spends his time defending the religion instead. Van Klaveren rose quickly up the party ranks becoming one of its key policy makers. He proposed the closure of all Islamic schools and mosques in the Netherlands, an end to immigration from Muslim countries, and a ban on the Quran. In 2010, he was elected to the Dutch parliament with a singular focus: “to fight Islam.” Leaving the party gave him more time to work on a book he had been planning for some years “about the threat of Islam.” Van Klaveren delved into religious texts on Christianity, Judaism and Islam and consulted with spiritual leaders and religion experts. But months in, he hit an obstacle. “I had to explain the God concept in Islam compared to the God concept in Christianity.” He contacted academic experts on Christianity and asked if they could explain the Trinity to him in a logical way. No one, including a Catholic priest, could give him a satisfactory answer. An expert on Islam recommended several books for him to read. Much to his discomfort, the more he read, the more answers he found to the questions he had long held. read the complete article


What have Palestine activists in Germany been facing?

We look at the violence and intimidation that face those in Germany calling for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza. Public shaming in national newspapers, arbitrary arrests and even beatings by police – these are just a few of the consequences that those protesting for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza say they face in Germany. But why are German authorities so committed to stifling any criticism of Israeli actions, and what does it mean for democracy and human rights in the country? read the complete article


French elections: The far right looks set for power, with dire consequences for Muslims

French President Emmanuel Macron’s surprise dissolution of the National Assembly following his humiliating European election defeat is producing shockwaves across the entire political landscape well beyond France. Given the electoral maths, there were only two options for the left: unite and get a chance at both winning and defeating Macron and the far right, their historical arch-enemy, or remain divided and perish at the ballot box. At 25-30 percent, the New Popular Front has from the start remained well ahead of the Macronist central bloc, but even with its real momentum, it lags far behind the National Rally, itself between 33 and 35 percent. The electoral maths are damning. All by itself, the National Rally remains well ahead of both the left and centre-right coalitions. It is bound to become the largest political force by far at the next National Assembly, followed by the New Popular Front. Ironically given its origins, a major part of Marine Le Pen’s “detoxification” strategy has consisted of recreating itself as a pro-Israel, pro-Jewish party. Besides offering a more respectable face that contributes to its normalisation, this has also enabled the National Rally (former National Front) to better demonise their main hate figures (Muslims and the left) as the worst antisemites in France. In other words, the suffering of Jews is used as a means to further spread Islamophobia, usually under the alibi of fighting “Islamism” or “Islamo-leftism”, just like Israel is often used by western Zionists as a weapon-state to keep Arab countries in check and brutalise its Muslim-majority populations. Cloaked, as is now routine, as a “fight-against-Islamism-for-the-defence-of-Republican-values-especially-laicite”, the real motive seems to be the creation of a nativist, all-white (or mostly white) homogenous society of citizens purged of its ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, in pure Great Replacement fantasy. read the complete article


The 'terror' case against Arundhati Roy and what it says about India

On 14 June, Indian authorities gave the go-ahead for the prosecution of acclaimed Indian novelist Arundhati Roy over her comments about Kashmir made back in 2010. Roy, a Booker Prize-winning author and activist, was accused of sedition and disrupting social harmony under Section 45 (1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), India's counter-terrorism law. The farcical developments in New Delhi come just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to power, albeit with a lesser margin, what some liberals in India had hoped would taper the country's descent into fascism and authoritarianism. Instead, the Hindu nationalist state is already back to the business of stirring up its rightwing base by reminding them of the "anti-national" demons that continue to lurk in its midst. Yesterday, it was "infiltrator" Muslims. Today, it is one of the world's most celebrated literary icons. The assault on 62-year-old Roy has already prompted a media spectacle in the Indian and international press. But other than repeating ad nauseum statements about the "death of democracy" and the absurdity of India's Hindu nationalist government's policing of free speech, what this attack on this extraordinary writer and thinker tells us about the Indian state and the effort it has made to hide its own history, is likely to go over everyone's heads. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 26 Jun 2024 Edition


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