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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16 May 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the Netherlands, far-right politician Geert Wilders has announced that political parties finally reached an agreement to form a coalition government, meanwhile in India, the Indian government has granted citizenship to 14 people under a controversial law that has been criticized for discriminating against Muslims, and in the UK, reporting out by ITV says that in areas with more than 70 percent Muslim representation, Labour lost 39 percentage points of the vote share, due in no small part to it’s position supporting Israel’s war in Gaza. Our recommended read for the day is by Noreen Mayat for Columbia Spectator on how Columbia told Mayat (Muslim senior representative) “not to mention Palestine, nor name any specific regions of the world where my community was suffering” during her speech at the university’s Baccalaureate Service. This and more below:

United States

What it means to be Muslim at Columbia | Recommended Read

Baccalaureate, Columbia’s “multifaith celebration of undergraduate commencement,” is intended to showcase the University’s supposed inclusivity and diverse set of religious communities. As former president, vice president, and social chair of Columbia’s Muslim Student Association, I was excited to speak as the Muslim senior representative. I was looking forward to sharing my experience building, nurturing, and cherishing the Muslim community here at Columbia, and what it means to me. For a moment, I felt like my identity was being recognized; it felt like I mattered. However, after experiencing several rounds of censorship of my speech by Religious Life staff, and the University’s carceral response toward pro-Palestinian student protestors, I no longer felt comfortable being a part of this service, nor representing this University. I realized this year that Muslims do not matter to Columbia. And while that remains true, I cannot let myself be a diversity token for this service. It just isn’t true to who I am. During meetings with Religious Life staff leading up to Baccalaureate, I was told not to mention Palestine, nor name any specific regions of the world where my community was suffering. I was told there will be many communities in the room, and that it was just too sensitive to talk about. I was told, that even as the Muslim representative, that I should be talking about all communities’ suffering, not just mine. As if it simply wasn’t fair to shine a light on Muslim suffering and on the 40,000 Palestinian lives lost without also simultaneously condemning the loss of all life. It seemed as if as a Muslim speaker, if I didn’t explicitly state and defend my belief that all human life is precious, the world would assume I meant otherwise. Somehow, even just talking about our suffering was made to be “political.” This all stung. I felt like a puppet. read the complete article

Crowd Erupts After Columbia Grad’s Mic Cuts Off When She Mentions Gaza

The crowd at a Columbia University graduation ceremony burst into an outraged uproar after the speaker’s microphone appeared to turn off when she mentioned Israel’s deadly military campaign in Gaza. Saham David Ahmed Ali, a candidate for a Masters degree in Public Health, was invited to make remarks on behalf of the graduating class at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. During her address on Tuesday, she talked about her experience as a Columbia student amid the campus protests opposing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, which administrators ordered to be violently disbanded by police. “It feels dystopian to walk through Mailman’s halls everyday, scrolling through social media everyday, standing in our classrooms while I witness the genocide of the Palestinian people,” Ali said. “The silence on this campus, and the pressure to say nothing while administration and professors assert ‘we are here for you,’ while we are actively witness the most televised genocide of our lives made me lose hope,” she said. “Do they not see the decimation of the healthcare system in Gaza? The attacks on hospitals? Humanitarian workers? The mass graves outside of Al-Shifa hospital, found while we sat in our classrooms learning about—” Ali’s voice was cut off, as the microphone fizzled in front of her, appearing to turn off. Ali pursed her lips, and cocked her head to the side, as the crowd in front of her burst into an uproar of indignant hollering. A moment later, she leaned down to speak into the microphone, which jolted back to life, only to turn off again a few seconds later. read the complete article


This past week in Gaza has seen a major escalation in Israeli attacks against the besieged and starving Palestinians trapped in a killing cage. The Biden administration has aggressively sought to portray itself as being increasingly at odds with Israel’s tactics, mostly focusing on U.S. threats to withhold some weapons shipments if Benjamin Netanyahu conducts an invasion of Rafah. But the cold reality is that Israel has already bombed and occupied large swaths of Rafah. This week on Intercepted, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the feminist antiwar organization Code Pink, speaks with Jeremy Scahill. Since the launch of the so-called war on terror in 2001, the 71-year-old activist has spent more than two decades disrupting congressional hearings, chasing members of Congress through the halls of the Capitol for answers, and traveling to countries the U.S. has labeled as enemies. Benjamin discusses her personal path to activism and the siege on Gaza, and offers a guide on how ordinary people can disrupt business as usual in the chambers of power in Washington, D.C. read the complete article

Congress’s Crackdown on Campus Protests and the Threat to Civil Liberties

Over the last month, student protesters have faced fierce backlash from university administrators, big donors, and politicians. According to reporting from the Associated Press, there have been nearly 2,900 arrests of student protesters at 57 colleges and universities. When not facing criminal prosecution, students have been suspended, expelled, or barred from their campuses. Beyond these punitive responses, protesters have also faced accusations of anti-Semitism. Broadly, the campus demonstrations have been mischaracterized as anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish students. This tactic to delegitimize the protesters’ principled political stance is, of course, neither new nor unique to the current student movement, but is a familiar feature of efforts to demonize those who criticize Israel’s policies, American Jews included. But what is perhaps unique about the recent flurry of activism has been the coordinated response in Congress to squash it. To be sure, Congress is in the process of orchestrating an organized crackdown on the peaceful protests. While Republicans have been at the forefront of this process, it should be said that the draconian response to the countrywide protests has had a distinct bipartisan flavor. Less than a week after the Columbia University encampment began, President Joe Biden condemned the protesters as “anti-Semitic,” denouncing the students’ civil disobedience by saying that “there’s the right to protest but not the right to cause chaos.” In the aftermath of the president’s statement, Republicans launched a multi-pronged campaign to target the protests. At the center of this push has been an effort to codify an expanded federal definition of anti-Semitism that conflates it with criticism of Israel and Zionism. Recently, the House of Representatives passed H.R.6090, “the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2023,” by a vote of 320-9, which would require the Department of Education to include criticism of Israel under a definition of anti-Semitism when enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws. While the bill has stalled in the Senate, additional efforts to institutionalize the definition are soon likely to follow. read the complete article


Uni Study Probes Antisemitism, Islamophobia, Racism Experiences

The Albanese Government is announcing a study into antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism and the experience of First Nations people in the university sector. The study responds to a recommendation of the Australian Universities Accord and will be led by the Race Discrimination Commissioner Giridharan Sivaraman, with support from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). The study will examine the prevalence and impact of racism in universities and develop recommendations to ensure a safe environment for students and staff. The study will consult with students, stakeholder groups and education providers. read the complete article


Far-right Wilders announces Dutch coalition govt after 6 months

Far-right politician Geert Wilders, who won the elections in the Netherlands, announced that political parties finally reached an agreement to form a coalition government after six months, though he did not identify who would be the prime minister. "We have a negotiators' agreement," said Wilders, who had reluctantly agreed to give up his dream of running the European Union's fifth-largest economy amid widespread unease over his anti-Islam, anti-European views. It was not immediately clear who would be the prime minister to lead the right-wing coalition government and replace Mark Rutte, who is almost certain to be tapped as the new NATO secretary general. "Discussions over the prime minister will be held at a later time," Wilders told reporters. read the complete article

United Kingdom

'As someone with Palestinian heritage, I couldn’t stay in the Labour Party’

As the United Kingdom gears up for a general election, trust in the ruling and main opposition parties among some communities is in sharp decline over their positions on Israel’s war on Gaza. In recent local elections, the opposition Labour Party performed well compared with the Conservatives who have been in power for more than a decade. Leaders of both parties have regularly backed Israel, saying it has the right to defend itself. But Labour votes dropped in areas of England with high Muslim populations. The ITV broadcaster said that in areas with more than 70 percent Muslim representation, Labour lost 39 percentage points of the vote share. Israel’s latest and deadliest war on Gaza, which has to date killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, began after Hamas, which governs the Strip, attacked southern Israel. During its assault, 1,139 people were killed and hundreds were taken captive. Al Jazeera spoke to Kamel Hawwash, a British Palestinian professor of civil engineering and former head of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who plans to run as an independent candidate in Birmingham Selly Oak. read the complete article


India grants citizenship to first batch of 14 refugees under controversial law

India granted citizenship on Wednesday to a first batch of 14 people under a controversial law that has been criticised for discriminating against Muslims, midway through general elections in which religious divisions have taken centre stage. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) grants citizenship to Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians who fled to India from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before Dec. 31, 2014 because of religious persecution. Enacted in 2019, the law was not immediately implemented due to strong protests and sectarian violence in New Delhi and other places that resulted in the death of scores of people. India implemented the act in March, weeks before the ongoing elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are seeking a rare third consecutive term. Both deny CAA is anti-Muslim. On Wednesday, the recipients were administered the oath of allegiance and granted citizenship after their documents were verified, the home ministry said in a statement, without elaborating on their identities. Hindu majority India has the world's third-largest Muslim population with 200 million people. Rights and opposition groups have criticised Modi's government and BJP saying they target the minority community and systematically discriminate against them to further the party's core, Hindu revivalist ideology. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 16 May 2024 Edition


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