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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02 May 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In India, critics note that anti-Muslim comments by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a recent campaign rally were done to mobilize Hindu voters, meanwhile in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak failed to address calls for an investigation into reports of Conservative-run Facebook groups engaging in anti-Muslim fear-mongering, and in the US, acts of Islamophobic hatred are on the rise across the country in recent months, with several published reports showing a direct impact on children and students. Our recommended read for the day is by Zoe Williams for The Guardian on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s bid for re-election and how he faced routine anti-Muslim bigotry and smear campaigns from his opponents and other members of the Conservative party. This and more below:

United Kingdom

Consider the toxicity Sadiq Khan has faced as mayor. If he wins again, what a credit to him and London | Recommended Read

Sadiq Khan has pretty unusual international name recognition for a city mayor, and the reason – no offence to him, his Hopper bus fares are good too – is that he has been the focus of racist and Islamophobic outbursts ever since Donald Trump called him a “stone cold loser” when the then-US president visited London in 2019. This has been interesting for two reasons. The first is the sheer contagion of anti-Muslim statements in mainstream politics and media, as well as attacks on Khan that are blatantly untrue and unfair, but slip in on the tide of normalised Islamophobia. You can trace a direct line from Trump’s outbursts to those of Lee Anderson, who was accused of racism this year, when he said “Islamists” had got control of Khan, who had “given our capital city away to his mates”. What started as an insinuation, that Muslims didn’t belong in public office, became an open statement through a process of transatlantic reiteration. In the layer below that, among those who facilitate what one might term “diet racism” – Fox News, GB News, sections of the Conservative party – it is now routine to describe London as a no-go area for Jewish people. This was a direct line of questioning to David Cameron by a Fox News anchor in April. The narrative is complicated by the fact that, in any single political speech or media encounter, there will be elisions and things left unsaid (except by Anderson, who leaves nothing unsaid). So Suella Braverman might describe pro-Gaza demonstrations as “hate marches”, but stop short of linking the hate to Khan; James Cleverly will take up the baton, and claim that the mayor talks “more about Gaza than black kids getting murdered in south-east London”, but stop short of drilling into those murders. That’s left to Susan Hall, the Conservative candidate for London mayor, who wrote that London was “under siege”, with “criminals ruling the streets”; these allegations were then given some statistical ballast by the Daily Mail, which claimed that gun crime had soared by 2,500% in London under Khan in a single year. That ballast was wrong, unfortunately, and corrected, but not before it had been repeated by the Tottenham Conservative Association, whence it found its way into the Telegraph. read the complete article

Sadiq Khan accuses Lee Anderson of ‘fuelling hate’ amid secret recording

Sadiq Khan has accused former deputy Conservative chairman turned Reform UK MP Lee Anderson of “fuelling hate crime and violent threats” following “unpatriotic” comments made by Mr Anderson about the London mayor. In a secret recording obtained by ITV News, the Reform MP is heard telling participants at a party event that Tory cabinet ministers were among those who messaged him their support after he was suspended, telling him "Rishi has thrown you under the bus". He is also heard claiming Mr Khan "hates this country... our heritage, our culture". Mr Khan has hit back at Mr Anderson and his former party, calling it “deeply depressing" to hear that the former deputy chairman’s "Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred was cheered on by current Tory party staff, MPs and Cabinet ministers" and that the Reform MP’s comments have “real-world consequences”. read the complete article

What does the UK's new definition of 'extremism' mean for British Muslims

In March, the UK government announced it was re-defining what it describes as “extremism”, citing a rise in both “Islamism and Nazism” in British society. It was announced in parliament by Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary - who stated that the new definition aims to “counter extremism and religious hatred”. He says this has been on the rise in recent years, especially since 7 October when the events in Israel and Gaza triggered months of mass protests in London and other cities around the world. Gove has been deeply influential in shaping the UK’s counter-terror policies over the last two decades, and has long argued that western governments are far too accommodating to Islamism and political Islam. He now believes the existing state mechanisms for tackling extremism aren’t going far enough - and that groups who are operating lawfully, but who are “seeking to replace our democracy with an Islamist and Nazi society respectively” need to be isolated and controlled. So who is he talking about? Well, he’s already name dropped a few groups in parliament - Cage, Mend and the Muslim Association of Britain - all British Muslim organisations. The new definition, which has not yet been defined legally, has been slammed by community groups of all backgrounds. Some say it’s a lazy front to go after the Gaza protest movement. Others say it will have chilling effects on free speech and religious freedom in the UK. read the complete article

Reform UK backs candidates who promoted online conspiracy theories

Reform UK has chosen to stand by candidates who have promoted conspiracy theories online, called the climate emergency “make-believe” and expressed vaccine-sceptic views. Those fringe views, and more, were put forward by a group of seven candidates selected to stand for the rightwing populist party at the next general election – including several who will contest seats that some analyses consider to be their top targets. Reform has said it will stand by the PPC Noel Matthews, who is also the party official often given responsibility for dropping fellow PPCs whose views have been judged to be too toxic. Matthews, who stood unsuccessfully in 2019, was reselected for the next general election in the knowledge he had reportedly defended the convicted fraudster and far-right agitator Tommy Robinson online, as well as saying Islamophobia was “made up”. Far from distancing Reform from such views as those put forward by the seven PPCs, a party spokesperson indicated some were in tune with official party policy. read the complete article

Prime Minister urged to open investigation into ‘gutter politics’ Facebook groups

Rishi Sunak’s decision not to address calls for an investigation into reports of Conservative-run Facebook groups engaging in “gutter politics” is an “abject failure of leadership”, Labour has claimed. The Prime Minister faced calls to condemn the groups and launch a probe into reports that Tory candidate for London mayor, Susan Hall, is a member of them. The Observer newspaper reported over the weekend that Ms Hall is a member of a Facebook group said to contain Islamophobic speech and threats to incumbent Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Mr Sunak was asked about such groups and their links to Conservative campaigners twice during Prime Minister’s Questions, taking place on the eve of local elections across England and Wales. He insisted that his party was campaigning “on the substance of the issues that Londoners face”. The Conservative Party has meanwhile said it is reviewing its policies regarding Facebook groups. Speaking after PMQs, a Labour spokesman told reporters: “I think it is bizarre that the Prime Minister couldn’t speak out and say that these things are inappropriate. read the complete article

United States

Islamophobia on the rise

According to many published reports, acts of Islamophobic hatred are on the rise across America in recent months. Among the deeply concerning examples of anti-Islamic hatred and bias are several that have directly affected children and students. In October, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed and murdered by his family’s landlord in Chicago. According to his mother, who was also attacked, the landlord yelled “You Muslims must die!” before attempting to choke and stab her. A teacher in Georgia threatened to beat and behead a seventh-grade Muslim student. In Michigan, a Palestinian Muslim student asked a school counselor if he could get a drink of water. The counselor reportedly denied the request because she does not “negotiate with terrorists.” This rise in hatred is both a state and national problem. Unchecked, it will lead to further incidences of violence, endangering Muslim students and educators and harming the learning and living environments of all schools and communities where it is found. read the complete article

Sept. 11 Trial Plea Negotiations Still Underway at Guantánamo Bay

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are still negotiating toward a plea agreement for the men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks despite the Biden administration’s refusal to endorse certain proposed conditions, the lead prosecutor said in court on Wednesday at Guantánamo Bay. In mostly secret negotiations in 2022 and 2023, prosecutors offered to drop the death penalty from the case in exchange for detailed admissions by the accused architect, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and four other men who are charged as his accomplices in the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people. Since then, one of the five men has been ruled not mentally competent to stand trial. The occasion of the briefing was a legal filing by lawyers for Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the defendants and Mr. Mohammed’s nephew, asking the judge to dismiss the case or at least the possibility of a death penalty because of real or apparent political interference by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and other members of Congress last summer. In August 2023, those members of Congress began urging relatives of Sept. 11 victims on social media to pressure President Biden to derail any deal that would prevent capital punishment. At the time, the White House was deciding whether to endorse certain conditions sought through the talks, most related to addressing the physical and psychological damage the men had from torture in their early years of incommunicado custody by the C.I.A. read the complete article


India: Will divisive rhetoric help or hurt Narendra Modi?

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drawn criticism recently for invoking anti-Muslim rhetoric in mobilizing Hindu voters with India in the throes of a general election. At a huge election rally in late April in Banswara, a city in the western state of Rajasthan, Modi delivered a polarizing speech in more ways than one, targeting the main opposition party, Congress. Modi claimed that, if they came to power, the opposition would distribute India's wealth among "infiltrators" — provocative remarks widely seen as intended to shore up support from the party's majority Hindu voter base. Despite the outrage his remarks prompted, Modi doubled down on his statements a few days later at campaign rallies in Malda, West Bengal and Araria in Bihar, pulling the political discourse back to the divisive Hindu-Muslim line. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to remain in power. But many were shocked by Modi's ramped-up rhetoric that Congress was going to redistribute social goods to Muslims. Political analysts believe the rhetoric against Muslims is part of a strategy to mobilize Hindu voters, as the BJP leadership is troubled by signs of low to moderate turnout in the first two phases of voting and anti-incumbency sentiment. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 02 May 2024 Edition


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