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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22 May 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the US, the Biden Administration paused the resettling of about a dozen Guantánamo Bay detainees cleared for release, following Hamas’s attack on Israel, meanwhile in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP are trying to make inroads with the largest section of India’s 200 million Muslims – the “Pasmandas”, and in Canada, Professor Jasmin Zine argues that the country’s anti-racism strategy should include anti-Palestinian racism as “Palestinians face unique forms of prejudice.” Our recommended read of the day is by Vittoria Elliott and David Gilbert for Wired on a new report out by AltNews in India which shows that Google is running ads on the OpIndia website, a far-right media outlet that runs anti-Muslim content and claims “Islamophobia doesn’t exist”. This and more below:


A Far-Right Indian News Site Posts Racist Conspiracies. US Tech Companies Keep Platforming It | Recommended Read

In 2017, Pratik Sinha and Mohammed Zubair cofounded the fact-checking website AltNews in India. Almost immediately, the pair were targeted with persistent and vicious attacks from the far-right news website OpIndia. Many of the attacks claimed that Zubair was a Rohingya Muslim who illegally migrated to India and that his cousin was a rapist. In several headlines, the site described Zubair as an “Islamist” spreading fake news. This wasn’t far off from OpIndia’s other coverage: In addition to routinely attacking journalists and news sites critical of the government, OpIndia spreads conspiracies and, at times, outright disinformation, particularly about the country’s minority Muslim population. Founded in 2014, OpIndia is regularly name-checked by leading lawmakers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the site admits it is funded in part by ads run by the BJP. As hundreds of millions of Indians vote in elections across the country, critics fear that OpIndia’s election-related disinformation and overt support of the Modi government could further undermine trust in the democratic process. Already, the website has echoed Modi’s widely criticized description of the Muslim vote as “vote jihad.” Yet despite this, US tech companies, which have rules against hate speech and disinformation, continue to platform OpIndia and, in some cases, allow it to continue to make money through advertising. OpIndia has a robust presence on Facebook, Instagram, and X. Additionally, a new report, shared exclusively with WIRED, has found that Google’s ad platform is being used to partially fund OpIndia’s operation. read the complete article

Modi’s BJP wants the votes of India’s ‘Pasmanda’ Muslims. Will they bite?

In several rallies Modi addressed as India holds its mammoth general election, he referred to Muslims as “infiltrators” and “those with many children” – familiar dog whistles that his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its far-right allies have been using against the country’s largest minority for decades. But in the interview, Modi said he was “shocked” by the criticism of his speeches – which had even prompted a warning from the Election Commission of India to the BJP president. “Who told you that whenever one talks of people with more children, the inference is they are Muslims? Why are you so unjust towards the Muslims?” Modi instead asked the television reporter, herself a Muslim. “This is the situation in poor families too. Where there is poverty, there are more children, irrespective of their social circle. I didn’t mention either Hindu or Muslim." Modi is not known to backtrack on his comments but his emphasis on “poor families” and the suggestion that others were “unjust” to Muslims underscores an often ignored facet of the BJP’s political campaign. Even as its politics is driven by a Hindu majoritarian ideology, it has tried to make inroads with the largest section of India’s 200 million Muslims – the “Pasmandas”. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Gove accuses UK university protests of ‘antisemitism repurposed for Instagram age’

Pro-Palestine university protests are espousing “antisemitism repurposed for the Instagram age”, Michael Gove has said in a speech about countering extremism. The communities secretary accused encampments at British universities of being “alive with anti-Israel rhetoric and agitation” that was “deeply, profoundly intimidatory to Jewish students and others”. He mentioned graffiti at Leeds University that he said accused a faculty of funding “an effing genocide” and which said Israel was harvesting Palestinian organs. He also pointed to posters at a Bristol University encampment that claimed the media and politicians were “Zionist funded”, as well as a proclamation at the Soas University of London that the student union was “a historically anti-Zionist space with a duty to uphold BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions]”. Asked about the increase in anti-Muslim hatred since Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October, Gove said he was “deeply concerned about it”, adding: “Some of those who are most intent on dividing Muslims are the people who attempt to weaponise antisemitism.” read the complete article

United States

The U.S. Was Resettling Guantánamo Prisoners. The Hamas Attack Halted Those Plans.

The Biden administration was poised to send about a dozen detainees at Guantánamo Bay to Oman for resettlement last year, but it abruptly halted the secret operation amid questions from Congress about security in the Middle East after Hamas attacked Israel, according to administration officials. None of the prisoners have ever been charged with crimes, and all of them had been cleared for transfer by national security review panels. A military cargo plane was already on the runway at Guantánamo Bay ready to airlift the group of Yemeni prisoners to Oman when the trip was called off, people familiar with the military operation said. Belongings they could take with them had been collected, signaling to the prisoners that they would soon be going. Then the plane flew away empty, and their belongings were returned. Details of such operations are classified for the security of the U.S. military aircrews that transport the men. But U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because detainee movements are considered secret until completed, acknowledged the aborted mission after NBC published an account of it on Monday. The delayed transfer illustrates the Biden administration’s continuing struggle to find countries willing to resettle and keep watch on the 16 cleared detainees, who are among the 30 men held at Guantánamo. Such deals require diplomacy, participation by the intelligence community and advance notice to Congress. read the complete article



FORMER GUANTÁNAMO DETAINEE Saeed Bakhouch was sentenced by a court in Algeria to three years in prison on terrorism charges, Bakhouch’s lawyers told The Intercept. The May 13 sentencing, on charges made under Algeria’s broad Article 87 anti-terror laws, which can carry the death penalty, came despite assurances from the U.S. State Department that he would be treated “appropriately” and “humanely” after being repatriated after his stint in Guantánamo. Bakhouch was the most recent Guantánamo detainee to be transferred out of the military prison under the Biden administration, never having been charged with a crime. Bakhouch, his American lawyer Candace Gorman said, was a victim of torture at the hands of the U.S. and slowly deteriorated over his 20 years of arbitrary detention until his release in April 2023. When Bakhouch first arrived in Algeria, he was immediately taken into custody by Algeria’s internal security forces — a standard and usually brief period of detention for Algerian detainees returning from Guantánamo. Bakhouch was vulnerable, Gorman said, having mentally deteriorated in recent years. Gorman had warned about possible post-traumatic stress disorder and depression ahead of his repatriation. Nonetheless, Bakhouch was held incommunicado and subjected to intense interrogation with no lawyer present. read the complete article


Anti-Palestinian racism needs to be included in Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy

A guidance counselor at a high school in Oakville, Ont. was recently recorded telling a student wearing a keffiyeh that it reminded her of a terrorist. The keffiyeh, also called a ghutra or shemagh, is a frequently worn garment across the Arab world. Yet, racist associations of Arab and Palestinian culture with terrorism are seeing the garment banned. The keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian culture and heritage, was banned in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in March by House Speaker Ted Arnott who claimed it is a “political statement.” Since then, Muslim MPP Sarah Jama has repeatedly been made to leave the chamber for wearing the scarf in defiance of the ban. This kind of language is rooted in a long history of colonialist and orientalist imagery that dehumanizes Arabs and Muslims as barbaric, violent and uncivilized. The persistent discrimination Palestinians face highlights how Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy is failing them. The strategy subsumes anti-Palestinian racism under the broader umbrella of anti-Muslim bigotry. However, Palestinians face unique forms of prejudice and recognizing that is a crucial first step toward addressing them. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 May 2024 Edition


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