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.

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13 May 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the Netherlands, the leader of the Dutch branch of anti-Muslim organization Pegida, Edwin Wagensveld, burnt a copy of the Quran in the city of Arnhem on Saturday wearing a t-shirt with the words “Islam is no better than Nazism”, meanwhile in India, a demographical research study published by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) finds that the Hindu population has decreased whereas the Muslimi population has drastically increased, claims which as independent think tank working on population trends called “misleading and alarmist”, and in the United Kingdom about 70% of the thousands of people stopped at UK ports under anti-terrorism laws since 2021 were from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, according to figures released to The Guardian from a FOI request. Our recommended read for the day is by Ahmed Twaij for Newsweek on the impact of the nationwide pro-Palestinian student lead protests across the U.S. and how unlike classifying these students as “dangerous bad apples”, we should examine the hope and awareness these demonstrations have brought for the people of Gaza. This and more below:

United States

The Kids Are Alright | Recommended Read

In lazy attempts to delegitimize the pro-Palestinian movements today, claims of terrorism and antisemitism are branded in much the same way as terrorism and anti-white racism were labelling anti-apartheid protests. Like many forms of Palestinian resistance, the African National Congress was labeled by the U.S., U.K., and other governments worldwide as a terrorist organization. Nelson Mandela, a global hero, Nobel Peace prize winner, and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient remained on the U.S. terrorist watch list up until 2008. Labeling anyone as a terrorist or antisemitic immediately discredits their opinion and is used to silence Palestinian movements. The claims of antisemitism are an indolent conflation that anti-Israeli (a Jewish-supremacist nation state) rhetoric is the same as anti-Jewish (an Abrahamic religion) sentiments. The two are not related. What is antisemitic is to suggest that all Jews must share one political ideology. There are some bad apples within all revolutionary movements, but spoilers do not negate the entire cause. When Zionist professors in America are spewing anti-Arab or Islamophobic hate, politicians have not extrapolated that the entire Zionist mission is racist despite evidence otherwise. Zionist students at University of Massachusetts Amherst were found chanting "kill all Arabs" at fellow pro-Palestinian students, echoing the chants of "death to Arabs" by Jewish nationalists in Jerusalem in 2023. Ultimately, it was through the genocide of Arabs during the Nakba that the state of Israel was founded in 1948. read the complete article

Antisemitism, Islamophobia and ‘feeling unsafe’

As protests against Israel’s war in Gaza and debates about antisemitism continue, a question arises: What is the difference between “feeling unsafe” and “being unsafe”? Conflating the two, as is often happening, creates a dramatically false equivalence that has infected the discourse about Israel and Palestine. A look at the actual casualty toll in America resulting in bloodshed since Oct. 7 is instructive: one six-year-old Muslim boy stabbed to death in Detroit; three Palestinian American college students shot in Vermont; one Palestinian American protestor stabbed in Austin; scores of pro-Palestinian demonstrators beaten at UCLA by a mob; dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of Mississippi pelted with food and water bottles; and, on May 8, a 55-year-old pro-Palestinian demonstrator in New York City was struck by a car driven an Israel supporter, who was charged by police with second-degree assault. On the other side, beyond some pushing and shoving around demonstrations, a Jewish protester at a pro-Israel rally died in Southern California after being hit by a megaphone in a scuffle. There may be more, but without fatal or bloody result. Muslim Americans and Arab Americans have many other complaints short of violence making them feel unsafe, with at least as much legitimacy as Jewish college students, given these attacks. However, they are not as widely publicized, much less have White House press conference statements and presidential addresses focusing on their plight. read the complete article

Weaponizing Antisemitism

All of us—and we are legion across the worldmust keep our eyes on the genocide in Gaza, as well as on the vicious pogroms underway in the West Bank. All of this has been enabled by President Joseph Biden, who has sent fulsome amounts of aid to Israel to carry out its genocidal and ethnic cleansing assaults on the Palestinian people. A holocaust, underwritten by the greatest military power in the world, is underway in both occupied territories. Israel’s ongoing efforts since 1948 to kill or expel all Palestinians from what was historic Palestine have triggered student sit-ins and demonstrations on some 120 American college campuses. Israel has become a country with powerful fascistic tendencies, headed by fanatics and demagogues catering to a population so filled with hatred of Arabs that it welcomes the genocide. In tandem with the police actions, cries of “antisemitism” have arisen about the protests. When interviewed in print or on television, the Jewish student activists have said unanimously that these protests are neither antisemitic nor hate-filled. Moreover, the antisemitism claims are irreconcilable with the fact that thousands of Jewish students nationwide are participating. The Antisemitism Awareness Act, which indeed weaponizes antisemitism against those protesting Israel’s savagery in Gaza and the cruelty of its overall occupation policies, is soon to be voted upon by the Senate. Its enactment would mark a giant step towards degrading the U.S. Constitution, in particular its protection of freedom of speech, assembly, and a free press. It also threatens the status of academia as a realm in which the free exchange of ideas can flourish. read the complete article

For Whom Is Campus to Be Safe?

In the dark of night, dozens of men wearing black or blue sweatshirts with full-face white plastic masks, some with Israeli flags draped on their shoulders, converged on the UCLA encampment that students had assembled in peaceful solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians of Gaza. Armed with lasers, clubs, and homemade weapons including planks of wood embedded with nails, as well as various irritant gases (mace, tear gas, pepper spray, bear spray), and chanting anti-Arab, anti-Black, and anti-Palestinian slogans, the mob set about attacking the students and faculty in the camp. Massive speakers blared noise at the encampment: first, a baby crying, then sirens, an eagle screeching. First and most obviously, Block’s letter was parroting what has emerged as a national narrative of “Jewish students” feeling “anxious and fearful” on campuses across the country in what we are constantly told is a “crisis of antisemitism,” or, to use President Joe Biden’s recent words, “a ferocious surge of antisemitism.” I have argued in other places that this “crisis” has been largely fabricated through a mendacious campaign to conflate anti-Zionism with actual antisemitism and hence to knowingly misrepresent—and thus discredit—a rising tide of protest against Israel’s campaign in Gaza simply as racially motivated animus against Jewish people. The fact of the matter—backed by a mountain of evidence—is that the students (and faculty, and editors, and others) who have not only had job offers rescinded but also have been doxed, placed on blacklists, sprayed with irritants or chemical weapons, fired, suspended, banned from campus, ejected from dorm rooms and rendered homeless, attacked by riot police, arrested, run over by cars, and literally shot and injured are not these generic, essentially caricatured, “Jewish students” to whom our attention is tirelessly being directed, but other students, spanning a range of racial, ethnic, gender, and religious backgrounds—white, Black, Asian, Latinx, Arab, Muslim, Christian, atheist, and Jewish—who have been advocating Palestinian rights and protesting against our collective and institutional complicity in Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza. read the complete article

Democratic cowardice, GOP anti-Muslim hatred threaten historic court pick

When Adeel Mangi appeared before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee in December, the hearing should have been uneventful. But instead, Senate Republicans turned it into an anti-Muslim spectacle. Mangi has been nominated for a seat on the powerful Philadelphia-based US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Senate hearing should also have showcased the historic nature of his nomination. Mangi is a Muslim American and, if confirmed, would be the first Muslim American federal appellate court judge (and the third Muslim American federal judge overall) in the United States. Nevertheless, Cruz asked Mangi if he condemned "the atrocities of the Hamas terrorists." Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas asked Mangi if he believed that "Zionist settler colonialism was a provocation that justified Hamas's atrocity against Jews in Israel." And Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana asked Mangi if this event was how he "celebrate(d) 9/11." In all cases, Mangi—who was answering these questions in front of his children—kept his cool and condemned terrorism and any purported justifications for it, and called the October 7 attacks "a horror involving the deaths of innocent civilians." It should come as no surprise that Republicans are openly stoking the fires of anti-Muslim hatred for political gain. read the complete article

Inside Biden’s Broken Relationship With Muslim and Arab American Leaders

Seven months into Israel’s war in Gaza, Muslim and Arab American leaders say their channels of communication with President Biden’s White House have largely broken down, leaving the administration without a politically valuable chorus of support for his significant shift on the conflict this week. Mr. Biden’s announcement that he had paused a shipment of 3,500 bombs to Israel and would not help with a ground invasion of Rafah was a sea change in U.S. policy that Arab American and Muslim leaders have demanded for months. But those who desired it the most have long ago written off the administration as complicit in a war that Gaza officials say has killed more than 34,000 people, arguing it was, essentially, too little, too late. By and large, prominent Muslim and Arab Americans have now concluded that they are irrevocably at odds with the Biden administration over its foreign policy, according to interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the talks. And many of them say they are tired of hearing that they should vote for Mr. Biden simply because former President Donald J. Trump would be worse. “I have told them frankly: ‘Don’t waste your time anymore unless you have something substantial. This is a waste of time,’” Osama Siblani, the publisher of The Arab American News, an influential newspaper in Dearborn, said of White House officials. read the complete article


India elections: Minority communities, especially Muslims, anxious with Narendra Modi's expected election win

India is now more polarised than before, with an ever-widening gap between the majority Hindus and minority Muslim population. Over the last 10 years fault lines have deepened and trust has been eroded between communities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu right-wing government. In the charged atmosphere of campaign season, politicians make claims that can be divisionary to garner votes. No less than Prime Minister Modi himself stirred the communal debate in his speech in Banswara, Rajasthan, on 21 April attacking the Congress party, accusing them of appeasement politics. Words matter and have consequences. Muslims feel they have been a target of right-wing organisations under Mr Modi's nationalist government for the past 10 years. read the complete article

India's Hindu nationalist regime is a threat to Muslims — and bad news for the U.S.

With India’s elections in full swing, the victory of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party seems all but assured. That is dire news for religious minorities and anti-government critics in India, who are frequent targets for the violence and retaliatory incarceration of the Modi regime. While Modi’s decision to call Muslims “infiltrators” in a campaign speech received attention in the West, the full extent of the prime minister's hate speech in the current election is not well known. Other recent speeches of his have promoted Islamophobic conspiracy theories, including the claim that Muslims are practicing a "Love Jihad." This is similar to racist notions in the U.S. depicting African-American men as sexual predators, and the “love jihad” claim has motivated killings of Muslim men throughout India. Modi has also described Muslims as “terrorists” who are conniving to steal the welfare benefits of caste-oppressed groups, and presented the opposition Congress Party as stealing Hindu money in order to give it to Muslims. Americans should be aware that the spread of such ideas is much more than a faraway event in a remote country. When BJP leaders call for violence against religious minorities, the India-based relatives of American families are endangered. When Indian Americans raise millions of dollars for Modi and the BJP, and advocate for their policies in the halls of Congress, it helps to legitimize an authoritarian regime. This regime targets U.S. citizens and Indians alike. What goes on there has a profound impact on what goes on here — and vice versa. read the complete article

The numbers show the idea of Muslim population explosion is nothing but political propaganda

If we go purely by census numbers, the idea that 172 million Muslims can overwhelm close to a billion Hindus in the not too distant future may seem fantastical. The Hindu Right has a response to this – which also relies on the Census and other government data. Their argument goes something like this: yes, Hindus today are about 79.80 per cent of the population. But historical census data shows a higher Hindu figure dropping over the years even as Muslim numbers increased. The reason – Muslims have a higher fertility rate compared to Hindus. The bare facts of the argument are undeniable. The census of 1951, the first such exercise after India gained independence, recorded India’s Hindu population share at 84.98 per cent, and Muslims’ share at 9.91 per cent. Sixty years later, the 2011 census showed India's Hindu population share had slipped below 80 per cent for the first time, while the share of Muslim population had risen to 14.23 per cent in the same period. The claim of a higher Muslim fertility rate is also true.Armed with these numbers, Hindutvavadis claim Muslims will overrun Hindus in the near future-the successful culmination of “population jihad”. Go back a few decades, and this argument falls apart. A mass of data tells us the growth rates of all communities are falling, including that of Muslims. Between the last two census rounds, the Hindu population growth rate came down from 20.35 per cent to 16.76 per cent, while that of Muslims feel more sharply from 36.02 per cent to 24.65 per cent. read the complete article

The Controversy Over a New Population Study From India

A working paper from an independent body that gives economic advice to the Indian government has published controversial findings that critics say could sow communal discord between Hindus and Muslims during the ongoing parliamentary elections. The paper, titled “Share of religious minorities: A cross-country analysis,” was published on May 7 by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM). It found that between 1950 and 2015, India’s Hindu population declined by 7.82%, while the Muslim population increased by 43.15% at the same time. “Share of Hindus shrunk 7.8% between 1950 and 2015. The Muslim population grew by 43%. This is what decades of Congress rule did to us. Left to them, there would be no country for Hindus,” Amit Malviya, a prominent BJP member, posted on X. Other BJP members and ministers have also raised concerns about the Muslim community in India allegedly increasing its population to “alter” the demography of India. In response to the study, the Population Foundation of India (PFI), an independent think tank working on population trends, released a statement on Friday, May 10, calling the EAC-PM findings misleading and alarmist, adding that it was “deeply concerned about the recent media reports that are misreporting the findings…to spread alarm regarding the growth of the Muslim population.” PFI pointed to the findings from the last nationwide Census in India, conducted in 2011, which found that the decadal growth rate for Muslims had declined over the past three decades, decreasing from 32.9% in 1981-1991 to 24.6% in 2001-2011. In contrast, the growth rate for Hindus fell from 22.7% to 16.8% over the same period. “Such interpretations are not only inaccurate but also misleading and baseless,” the PFI said of the EAC-PM report. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Why the prayer ban verdict signals a grim future for UK Muslims

The Michaela school verdict has generated a barrage of reactions. Opponents have pointed out that the prayer ban fails to uphold fundamental human rights enshrined in domestic and international law and that it sets a "dangerous precedent" for both religious freedom and inclusivity in UK schools and beyond. Many have further pointed out that the prayer ban is based on the untrue claim that UK schools are secular when they are, in fact, "obliged to provide a daily opportunity for communal worship". What has not yet been explicitly pointed out is the proverbial elephant in the room: the Michaela school verdict predicts a grim future of repression of "Muslimness" in UK schools under the new Prevent programme. "Islamist extremism" has become the new target of Prevent. Following the recommendations of the Shawcross review, a new version of Prevent, which is part of the UK's counter-terrorism strategy, has been in effect since 2023. Seeking the same objectives of targeting the "ideological causes of terrorism" as its previous policy iterations, the 2023 version of the Prevent policy takes "Islamist terrorism" as the "primary domestic terrorist threat" to the UK and its interests. For Prevent, Islamism is an ideology of extremism. Islamism yields terrorism. Islamists are extremists. Islamists are potential terrorists. But Islamism had been on the political radar in the UK well before Prevent incorporated it. Indeed, combating Islamism has long been the pet project of certain actors in the political establishment. Prevent 2023 has effectively embedded and institutionalised an alarmist conspiracy theory into counter-extremism policy and practice in the UK. However, for many human rights and anti-racist advocates, the new focus of Prevent raised questions about what counts as Islamist extremism. The Michaela school verdict answers that question. read the complete article

BAME people about 70% of those held at UK ports under terror laws, data shows

About 70% of the thousands of people stopped at UK ports under anti-terrorism laws since 2021 were from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, according to figures, which have fuelled concerns that counter-terrorist policing is institutionally racist. The figures from police logs released to the Guardian under freedom of information laws also show that fewer than one in five people who were stopped under the same laws in this period were recorded as being white. Campaigners say the figures are evidence that counter-terrorism laws are disproportionately affecting black and minority ethnic groups. They also say the data calls into question assertions by police leaders that counter-terrorism officers are tackling the growing threat of violence from white far-right extremists. The figures show that of the 8,095 people stopped at UK ports in the last three years under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, 5,619 (69.4%) people were recorded as being from BAME backgrounds. read the complete article


'Outraged': Muslim groups call for ASIO boss to be sacked following terror charges

A coalition of Australian Muslim community leaders is calling for the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to be sacked, accusing law enforcement and security agencies of "extreme prejudice". A dozen representatives, including one of the grand muftis of Australia, Riad el-Rifai, gathered on Friday to demand a change in what they believe is an inconsistent application of counterterrorism laws, which unfairly targets Muslims. The group convened as community frustrations remain high, following a major counterterrorism raid last month. Following the raid, some Muslim leaders accused ASIO, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and NSW Police of further marginalising young Muslim boys as well as vilifying and failing to engage with the Islamic community. Standing in solidarity with the leaders were family members of seven teenagers charged with terrorism offences last month, including family members of the 16-year-old boy who has been charged with stabbing a bishop at an Assyrian Christian Church in Sydney's southwest. read the complete article


Tired of Canada’s rising Islamophobia, this Toronto family is leaving the country

For Toronto couple Sana and Will Saleh, the itch to move out of Canada with their three young children somewhere all the way across the world has been growing over the years. But it's become impossible to ignore since the latest Israel-Palestine conflict began in October 2023. The couple, who are Muslim, have been victims of Islamophobia before, but they say it has only gotten worse in the past seven months. Explaining the moment they knew they had to leave, Sana recalls a November incident: “We were on the way with our young children to a Palestine protest, and an older white woman walked past us and said, ‘You are all terrorists!’ Our kids took notice and we had to explain to them that she did not know any better, and we were simply protesting for human rights, [which] is something they should take pride in.” “Canada has a serious underlying racism problem,” says Will, adding that they officially decided to make the move in November, just after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Canada's longstanding support for Israel. “That is when we looked at each other and said, ‘We need to go.’ Within a few months, we were all booked and ready to leave. It was the last straw for us.” read the complete article


Dutch leader of anti-Muslim organisation Pegida sets Koran on fire

The leader of the Dutch branch of anti-Muslim organisation Pegida, Edwin Wagensveld, burnt a Koran in the city of Arnhem (in the eastern part of the Netherlands, near the German border) on Saturday afternoon. An earlier attempt by Wagensveld in January this year to set fire to Islam's holy scripture failed as riots broke out. There were no counter-demonstrators at the site of the burning on Saturday, but behind a line of police officers dozens of metres away were some onlookers who were not allowed to approach. Wagensveld wore a shirt that read "Islam is no better than Nazism" and he called it important that the burning be done under the right to demonstrate and criticised the fact that he said a lot of police were needed to keep it peaceful. He added that he would continue Koran burnings until "something changes," giving the example of banning what he called "hate mosques." read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 13 May 2024 Edition


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