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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04 Jun 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, the House of Commons Justice and Human Rights committee held its first hearing on a study of Islamophobia, which included testimony from Muslim students and community members, meanwhile in Israel, Palestinian detainees have reported that Israeli soldiers “beat them with sticks, hoses, rifle butts and fists,” accounts of torture that bear similarities to America’s use of torture during the War on Terror, and in Australia, Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson claimed that “there is no issue with Islamophobia,” despite overwhelming evidence demonstrating the opposite. Our recommended read of the day is by Astha Rajvanshi for Reuters on how incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s supporters have used social media channels to spread disinformation during the most recent Indian general elections. This and more below:


How Modi’s Supporters Used Social Media to Spread Disinformation During the Elections | Recommended Read

Observing that India was at a turning point in history, Modi told voters they would have to choose carefully between “Vote Jihad” —a term repeatedly used by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters to describe votes from Muslims—and “Ram Rajya,” which translates to “governance under Ram,” referring to the Hindu deity. The term “Vote Jihad” first entered the Indian public sphere after a local opposition politician, Maria Alam, used it while campaigning in the state of Uttar Pradesh a month earlier, where she asked the minority community to “Vote Jihad” to defeat the BJP. The local police charged Alam with civil disobedience for trying to seek votes based on religion, but the ruling party nevertheless latched onto the term to criticize leaders from opposition parties like the Congress Party—who ran in the election by forming an alliance called “INDIA”—and to amplify divisive rhetoric between Hindus and Muslims through social media. So frequent was the BJP’s use of the term that a new report published May 31 by The London Story (TLS), an Indian diaspora-led nonprofit foundation based in the Netherlands, documented at least 21 instances in March and 33 in April where the BJP’s Facebook page, which has 19 million followers, along with other affiliated accounts, posted claims that Muslims are waging “Vote Jihad” in this year’s election. In one example, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a militant Hindu nationalist organization with several verified accounts on Facebook and over 100,000 followers, posted a recorded press statement where the spokesperson referred to Indian Muslims as “Jihadis” and blamed them for allegedly committing “Vote Jihad.” Across all platforms, Islamophobic narratives and other hate speech spread by pro-BJP pages, have become a “ubiquitous part of Indian election campaigns as political parties and their leaders seek to directly connect with their followers,” notes Usha M Rodrigues, a professor at the Charles Sturt University. As a result, “misinformation, manipulated messages, malicious claims, and AI-enabled fabrications are being circulated online with impunity,” Rodrigues writes. read the complete article

John Oliver on Narendra Modi: ‘India seems to be sliding toward authoritarianism’

On his latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver looked into India’s mammoth election, the country’s largest and longest, in which over a billion people were eligible to vote starting in April. The country’s two-term strongman prime minister, Narendra Modi, is expected to win a third term when the announcement is made on Tuesday, after an election marred by allegations of irregularities and Muslim voter suppression by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP). “Over the course of Modi’s rise, he’s chosen to be strategically quiet about his pseudo-authoritarian, pro-Hindu vision of India,” Oliver explained. “But there’s been a noticeable shift in his rhetoric this election season” toward anti-Muslim statements, such as a recent campaign speech in which he falsely claimed that his rival party would redistribute wealth to Muslims and referred to Muslim citizens as “infiltrators”. “That’s already ugly enough,” Oliver noted, “but it’s also coming at a time when Modi and his party have seemed increasingly comfortable threatening democratic institutions by, among other things, stifling political opposition and freedom of the press. In fact, on multiple fronts, India seems to be sliding toward authoritarianism.” read the complete article

India’s election watchdog ‘deliberately’ did not punish Modi for anti-Muslim speeches

The chief of India’s Election Commission has said that the watchdog made a “deliberate” decision not to punish top leaders of the two leading parties after prime minister Narendra Modi was accused of stoking anti-Muslim animus on the campaign trail. Rajiv Kumar told the news website Scroll at a press conference on the eve of the counting of votes that they were non-discriminatory in their approach. Mr Kumar said that they decided not to go after Mr Modi and his chief lieutenant Amit Shah from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from the primary opposition Congress party to keep it fair. The commission is tasked with conducting free and fair elections in the country but its reputation as a neutral arbiter has taken a hit in recent years amid accusations of favouring Mr Modi’s ruling party, which, on its part, has made legislative changes to undermine the watchdog’s independence. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Tory candidate linked to pastors accused of homophobia

The Conservatives have selected a parliamentary candidate with links to preachers accused of homophobia and Islamophobia. Darren Millar, who is currently a member of the Welsh Parliament, has been selected to stand for the new parliamentary seat of Clwyd North in North Wales. In a video seen by the BBC from 2015, Mr Millar can also be seen at the opening of Mr Yoong’s Bible College of Wales pictured alongside two other controversial preachers. The footage shows Mr Millar at an event bowing with separate US preachers who have been accused of Islamophobic and homophobic views - Lou Engle and Dutch Sheets. In 2018, Mr Engle allegedly told a conference in Singapore that Muslims were "taking over the south of Spain" and said he "had a dream, where I will raise up the church all over Spain to push back a new modern Muslim movement". It was reported that Mr Yoong later apologised, external to Muslim community leaders for comments made by Mr Engle. Mr Engle has also reportedly called for "martyrs" to stop the "homosexual agenda", external and accused Muslims of "fuelling the demonic realm" in sermons. Also pictured with Mr Millar in the footage is the pastor Mr Sheets - a Christian nationalist. Mr Sheets has previously said that America must "refuse to give this nation to demons" including "Hinduism" and said that "Christianity will invade Islam". read the complete article

Union motions state it is “institutionally racist”; officer resigns over alleged Islamophobia

The Oxford Union Consultative Committee, Secretary’s Committee, and Standing Committee, voted earlier today to pass a motion that stated it was still “institutionally racist”, which passed during the meeting. That motion was brought by Shaezmina Khan, the international officer and former womens’ officer, and one of the two hijabi women tipped for a position on the Senior Appointed committee next term. A source close to Khan said that she had planned to run from the Union Standing Committee last term, but was disqualified from running by Adam Turner and Chris Collins. This comes after Ebrahim Osman-Mowafy was disqualified from the Union presidency last night. Several prominent Union figures, including all the former Union presidents of colour still studying in Oxford, had condemned the proceedings as “litigious, opaque, and compromised” in an open letter. At a meeting of Consultative Committee, the appointed graduate officer Sarah Rana announced her resignation over the outcome of Osman-Mowafy’s tribunal and the “Islamophobic rhetoric” present at the Union. She was applauded by almost every Union member present. read the complete article

White male MPs make mistakes and are mostly forgiven. Not so women of colour like Faiza Shaheen

The past week of Labour’s election campaign has become a very ugly distraction of blatant anti-Black racism and Islamophobia. Racism more often than not becomes a spectacle for those with no skin in the game, and that is exactly what the humiliation heaped on Shaheen – a young, working-class Muslim woman – has become. Shaheen appeared on Newsnight looking visibly shocked. She was allegedly emailed at 9pm while out canvassing and told that she had been banned from standing in the seat she’d spent four years campaigning to win – in a constituency she grew up in. Among the tweets Shaheen was deselected over was one in which she wrote about her own experiences of Islamophobia in the party. There has also been speculation that Apsana Begum, the Muslim MP for Poplar and Limehouse, will be prevented from standing. These are clear examples of how women of colour are treated when we name the racism we face in the workplace. I spent six years serving as a councillor in my home city of Oxford, where I was born and raised. I was a council cabinet member for close to three years before I resigned from the Labour party, over what I saw as a horrifying endorsement by Keir Starmer of the collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, in a now infamous LBC interview. I and another British Muslim, the Oxonian councillor Dr Amar Latif, were the first two Labour councillors in the country to resign over this – supported by the four mosques in our city and the communities in which we are rooted. Racism is never about individuals and always about structures of power. A few Muslim candidates who are expected to toe the party’s line in ways that do not accurately represent or benefit our communities is not real representation. read the complete article


These chilling voicemails prove Islamophobia is thriving – despite one senator’s callous dismissal

“Kill the Mussies! Hey, baby-killers, you’re not welcome in this country. Get your f–––ing scumbag selves out of this joint and f––– off. You f–––ing pieces of s–––, get the f––– out of this country, you f–––ing scumbag c–––s. You don’t belong here and you’re dead. We are going to f–––ing get you, c–––s.” This was a series of voicemails left by a man at an Australian Muslim organisation in October last year. Here’s another voicemail, left by a woman for a different organisation this year: “F–––ing Muslims are the worst people in the f–––ing world. They are garbage, they are absolute human garbage. Stop telling Australians that we want multiculturalism here. We do not. So, f––– off, and send all of you back to where you came from. Ok? You stupid, f–––ing idiots. Ignorant, uneducated idiots.” When these messages were shared with me by the organisations, and later circulated more widely on Muslim WhatsApp groups, what was most remarkable to me was how decidedly unremarkable it was. None of us were shocked, or even surprised. We shook our heads, some rolled their eyes, and quickly forgot about it. It was so everyday, so banal. Last week during an interview with ABC Canberra Breakfast, Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson said: “Frankly, there is no issue with Islamophobia.” Seemingly caught off guard by the comment, interviewer Adam Shirley sought clarification, asking Henderson: “Sorry, no issue on university campuses, or in society with Islamophobia?” “No,” the senator insisted. “There is no issue with Islamophobia.” This was an astounding claim, not least because of the recently documented rise in Islamophobia on Australian university campuses, but also because Henderson is the opposition spokeswoman for education. In May, there was 39-fold increase in reports of Islamophobia on Australian university campuses alone. In November 2023, just one month into the war in Gaza, reports to the Islamophobia Register Australia had risen by 1300 per cent compared with the same period the year before. read the complete article


‘It’s really heartbreaking to know that we are not supported’: Muslims tell MPs about their experiences with Islamophobia in Canada

Following the 2021 terrorist attack that killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., Liberal MP Shafqat Ali no longer felt it was safe enough for his hijab-wearing daughter to walk to school alone. “That incident has put a lasting impact on every Muslim in Canada,” the Brampton MP told parliamentarians Monday. “I never felt that way before and my kids and family never felt that prior to that event.” Ali was speaking at a meeting of the House of Commons Justice and Human Rights committee as it held its first hearing on a study of Islamophobia in Canada. Witnesses, who included university students and a close relative of the Afzaal family — four members of which were killed in the gruesome truck assault — detailed the immense fear Muslims in Canada have felt since the terror attack, and how tensions over the Israel-Hamas war have exposed hatred for the Muslim community they say has not been adequately addressed by Canadian political leaders. On Monday, Muslim youth warned little was being done to address the hate their community has faced, as they warned against rhetoric vilifying pro-Palestinian voices that they argue is inextricably linked with the othering of Muslims. “It’s really heartbreaking to know that we are not supported, we are not protected,” said Dareen Shilbayeh, a member of the Youth Coalition Combating Islamophobia. read the complete article


From Guantanamo to Gaza: Israel takes a leaf out of the US torture playbook

When the United States turned to torture after 9/11, it remained a closely guarded secret for over two years. Yet the early signs were there in public for those who knew how to interpret them. Images were released in January 2002 of detainees in Guantanamo Bay wearing orange uniforms, manacled, masked and kneeling on the ground with heads bowed. Officials spoke of the detainees in dehumanising terms in speeches and interviews which were littered with tough talk. As one CIA official told a reporter, “After 9/11, the gloves came off.” Two months after the Hamas attack on October 7, we saw the first images of Israeli soldiers in Gaza standing over detainees who were stripped to their underpants, bound, blindfolded and kneeling on the ground with heads bowed. Over the last several months, Israel has repeatedly been accused of beating and torturing Palestinian detainees. Local and international human rights organisations have presented detailed accounts. The BBC and The New Arab have reported Palestinian testimonies that soldiers beat them with sticks, hoses, rifle butts and fists. Some said they had been beaten on their genitals or held for hours in painful stress positions. As it seeks to avoid this reputational damage, Israel is following a playbook previously used by the US and other states in how it denies allegations of abuse and seeks to discredit its accusers. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 Jun 2024 Edition


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