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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15 May 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the US, a large group of Oklahoma Muslims and allies lead by the Oklahoma chapter of CAIR joined in the “Muslim Day at the Capitol” at Oklahoma City for the 12th consecutive year, meanwhile in India, Sheikh Saaliq and Krutika Pathi write for the Associated Press on the prospect of a potential third term in office for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the impact that Modi’s governance has already had on India’s Muslims, and in the UK, several social media posts attributed a fabricated quote to London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, suggesting he pledged special benefits for the city’s Muslim population. Our recommended read for the day is by Arwa Mahdawi for The Guardian who notes that while the demonization and erasure of Palestinians has been going on for decades, there now feels like a “concerted effort to outlaw any expression of Palestinian identity whatsoever: whether that be flags, keffiyehs, or watermelons.” This and more below:


My Palestinian keffiyeh is a symbol of my identity. I should not be afraid to wear it in public | Recommended Read

What’s black and white and a threat all over? A keffiyeh, of course. It may look like a harmless piece of fabric, but it’s actually a weapon of mass distraction. According to an awful lot of anti-Palestinian voices, the mass graves and forced “full-blown famine” in parts of Gaza are not what you should be outraged about now. The thousands of dead children and calls for ethnic cleansing in Gaza are not what should be keeping you up at night. No, what should really upset you are people wearing keffiyehs – the traditional black and white scarf that has long been a symbol of Palestinian identity. Being a British-Palestinian living in the US has never been a barrel of laughs. Anti-Arab bigotry has long been normalised in the US – although it’s hard to quantify the extent of this because the FBI did not properly track anti-Arab hate crimes between 1992 and 2015. Long before this current iteration of violence in Gaza, I’d grown used to people telling me Palestinians were terrorists while simultaneously proclaiming that “Palestinians don’t exist”: a phenomenon I’ve dubbed Schrödinger’s Palestinian. Still, while the demonisation and erasure of Palestinians is nothing new, it feels like there’s now a concerted effort to outlaw any expression of Palestinian identity whatsoever: whether that be flags, keffiyehs, or watermelons. (Watermelons have become symbols of Palestine as a way to bypass attempts to censor the red, green, black and white Palestinian flag.) In March, for example, the Museum of Modern Art in New York denied entry to two people because one of them had a keffiyeh in their bag – after a public outcry, the museum later apologised and said it had mistaken the scarf for a banner. The Ontario legislature has banned people from wearing keffiyehs within the chamber. And, last week, the Eurovision song contest rebuked the Swedish-Palestinian singer Eric Saade for compromising the “non-political nature of the event” by wearing a keffiyeh around his wrist during his performance. read the complete article

United States

An Interfaith Answer to Campus Tensions

I think we are facing an existential crisis as a University,” said Ali Asani during a panel discussion on religious pluralism last Friday afternoon at the Harvard Divinity School, during which the campus divides over Israel-Palestine were at times front and center. Part of a daylong event commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of College’s undergraduate program in comparative religion, the discussion was in part a celebration of the University’s Pluralism Project, which studies religious diversity and interfaith relations in the United States. The inescapable backdrop for the conversation, though, was the months-long unrest at Harvard and other campuses over the Israeli war in Gaza, and the religious and political tensions the conflict has inflamed across the country. More than one panelist argued that those problems make the Pluralism Project’s work more essential than ever. Later, in response to an audience questioner who expressed surprise that the two University task forces, on antisemitism and on anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias, were established as separate groups, Asani explained that the current divisions on campus necessitated it: “If we just had a combined listening session, there were students who wouldn’t show up.” But a goal, he said, is for the two groups to begin to come together wherever possible, to “[build] community and pluralism.” read the complete article

'Change hearts': Local, global advocacy encouraged at Oklahoma's Muslim Day at the Capitol

One woman wore a Palestinian flag as a wrap and a man wore a scarf featuring the flag's colors as Oklahoma Muslims were encouraged to advocate not only for themselves, but others around the world during an event on Monday at the Capitol. The "Muslim Day at the Capitol" theme of "Local Advocacy for Global Justice" appeared to resonate with attendees as they participated in the 10th annual event sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Oklahoma chapter. Dr. Amir Khaliq, a retired physician and university professor of public health, said it was important that Muslims speak out in "the reddest of red states" for several reasons, particularly to tell elected leaders that "we are here. We need to be heard. We have to be visible. We are not disappearing. We are not going away and so you have to pay attention." Adam Soltani, CAIR-OK's executive director, said Monday's milestone anniversary was special particularly because there were no protesters waving anti-Islam signage awaiting Oklahoma Muslims when they arrived at the Capitol, but members of the interfaith community were there to offer their "corridor of support" greeting and welcoming Muslims. "The most amazing thing about this year's Capitol day is after 10 years, protesters have given up — we had absolutely zero protesters, but yet the interfaith community, a diverse group of Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians from all different denominations, have continued to show up to welcome us to the Capitol," Soltani said. read the complete article

Donald Trump Is Winning Over Muslim and Arab Voters: Poll

Donald Trump is gaining ground with Muslim and Arab voters as frustration is growing with President Joe Biden over the Israel/Hamas war, according to a new poll. Biden's response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas has drawn a backlash from many Muslim and Arab voters who supported his campaign in 2020. Israel's offensive has killed more than 34,800 Palestinians in Gaza, the Associated Press reports, citing the Gaza Health Ministry. More than 80 percent of Gaza's 2.3 million people have been displaced in the conflict. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Monday delivered potentially troubling news for the president, as Trump led in nearly every one of the six battleground states he lost to the president in 2020. The survey found Trump leading among registered Middle Eastern, North African or Muslim voters in the swing states, with 57 percent saying they were planning to back him in November. Only 25 percent said they were supporting Biden. However, Biden still held a lead over those voters who participated in the 2020 election, winning them 56 to 35 percent. This suggests that Trump could either be winning over less-engaged voters who did not vote in 2020 or that many of his supporters in that community are planning to vote for the first time. About 70 percent of Muslim or Arab voters who are not planning to vote for Biden pointed to either foreign policy or the Gaza conflict as their reason for not supporting him, according to the survey. read the complete article

Justice for victims of Abu Ghraib torture could change the business of war

In April, I sat in on the closing arguments of Al Shimari v. CACI, a federal lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of three victims of torture at Abu Ghraib against military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. It was the first time the case was made to a jury in a U.S. courtroom, after more than 20 attempts by CACI to get the case dismissed. Though the jury was unable to reach a verdict, the plaintiffs intend to pursue a retrial. The 20-year anniversary of the first reporting on the Abu Ghraib scandal came and went during the trial and these three men are still seeking justice. As young men they survived this chapter of history, but now, pushing into middle age, they are making it: through their fortitude and persistence they might just introduce real penalties for corporations who profit from and exacerbate war crimes. The landmark lawsuit challenges the impunity with which corporations act on behalf of the U.S. military and federal government. While the federal government skirted accountability for the horrific torture at Abu Ghraib, finding legal shelter in the Federal Tort Claims Act that grants them immunity from legal liability, the Al Shimari case is challenging the idea that corporations who contract with the federal government would also hold such immunity. read the complete article

Serial Has a New Guantanamo Podcast, but Is Anyone Listening?

Serial is back with Season Four, and the history of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba “told by people who lived through key moments in Guantanamo’s evolution, who know things the rest of us don’t about what it’s like to be caught inside an improvised justice system.” It is a worthy topic. Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp was first hastily opened in January 2002 following the deadly attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and remains open to this day. While almost 800 men were once held there, now only around 30 remain, with around 750 transferred out of the prison over the years. As promised, the new Serial podcast takes listeners through interviews with a cast of Guantanamo characters, including former prison warden Michael Bumgarner and former detainee Majid Khan, who was released in 2023 and transferred to Belize where he has started a new life. The series does a good job of explaining the history of Guantanamo Bay and does not shy away from the atrocities committed there, particularly in Episode 8, which focuses on Khan’s story and his time in CIA Black Sites including the so-called Salt Pit in Afghanistan where he says he was tortured. The torture, he says, continued once he was transferred to Guantanamo, and included him being shackled for long periods and raped when Guantanamo guards repeatedly subjected him to something called “rectal feeding” when he went on hunger strike – abuse claims also documented in a 2014 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Report known as the Torture Report. As the series is ongoing, we do not yet know how it will end, but the reality is that Guantanamo has not been consigned to history, and some 30 detainees remain incarcerated. read the complete article


India’s parliament has fewer Muslims as strength of Modi’s party grows

Preventing Muslim migrants from gaining citizenship. Revoking the semi-autonomy of the country’s only Muslim-majority region. Building a Hindu temple where a violent mob razed a mosque. These were political triumphs for Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the past decade, burnishing his reputation as a leader who prioritizes the interests India’s Hindu majority. For India’s 200 million Muslims, they highlight their waning political power in the world’s largest democracy. Tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India are not new, but they have gotten worse under Modi, whose ruling Bharatiya Janata Party touts a Hindu-nationalist ideology. And with Modi seemingly on the cusp of a third five-year term, the outlook for Muslim politicians — and citizens — is bleak. This year’s vote will be decided in June. It’s not just that Modi has ramped up anti-Muslim rhetoric in campaign speeches. Ever since the BJP began its rise as a political force in the mid-1980s, the proportion of Muslim lawmakers in parliament and state legislatures has shrunk. Muslim representation has fallen in the ruling BJP, and in opposition parties, too. When Modi assumed power in 2014, the outgoing parliament had 30 Muslim lawmakers — and just one was a member of the BJP. Muslims now hold 25 out of 543 seats, and none belong to the BJP. read the complete article

India's Modi denies stoking divisions to win election, files nomination

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended himself against criticism that he is stoking divisions between Hindus and Muslims to win national elections as he filed his nomination on Tuesday for re-election from one of Hinduism's holiest cities. Although Modi began his campaign by showcasing his economic record, governance and popularity, he has changed tack after the first phase to accuse the main opposition Congress party of being pro-Muslim. Analysts say this was likely aimed at firing up the base of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party after a low turnout in the first phase sparked doubts that BJP and its allies could win the landslide that the party sought. "I believe people of my country will vote for me," Modi told broadcaster CNN-News18 in Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. "The day I start talking about Hindu-Muslim (in politics) will be the day I lose my ability to lead a public life," Modi said, speaking in Hindi. "I will not do Hindu-Muslim. That is my resolve." Modi's critics often accuse him and BJP of targeting minority Muslims to please their hardline voters, which he and the party deny. read the complete article

Cow vigilantes pursue truck, assault and restrain Muslim driver and companion

In Nagpur, Maharashtra, an incident of cow vigilante violence has come as a truck transporting cattle was reportedly chased recklessly by cow vigilantes, leading to a dangerous accident. The driver, who is Muslim, and another man who was travelling in the truck, were subsequently tied with ropes by the vigilantes before being handed over to the police. There is no information as to whether the men chasing the vehicle and assaulting the men in the truck were arrested or charged with a complaint. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Fact Check: Fake quote about benefits for London’s Muslims attributed to mayor

Social media posts attribute a fabricated quote to London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, suggesting he pledged specific benefits for the city’s Muslim population in an April 2024 speech about his mayoral election manifesto. Khan was re-elected as London’s mayor on May 4 with 43.8% of the vote, opens new tab, marking his third consecutive term in office. A post on X, opens new tab, viewed 1.9 million times, shows a shortened clip of Khan speaking on the Islam Channel, opens new tab and claims in its caption that he stated: “The children of Muslims who are underemployed or in jobs not suited to their great skills will have subsidies and I will build housing for those of Islamic faith. Diversity is our strength!’” “He wants to Islamize London,” added the post by @RadioGenoa, an account which, according to the Swiss news outlet Neue Zürcher Zeitung, regularly posts, opens new tabanti-immigrant material. The quote, however, misrepresents Khan’s statements in the video, which do not exclusively target Muslims for subsidies. “The mayor did not say these words,” a spokesperson for the Mayor of London said in an email, “and can clearly be heard discussing his policy of providing free skills training to any young Londoner who is unemployed or in low-paid work, as well as talking about the need to build more housing for all.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 15 May 2024 Edition


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