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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24 May 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, police have arrested a 74-year old woman for assaulting a pro-Palestinian Muslim protester at city hall last week after the accused was seen forcibly removing a protester’s hijab, meanwhile at the UN, in a vote of 84-19, the judicial body has approved a resolution Thursday establishing an annual day to commemorate the 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Serbs, and in the UK, the country’s top organization for Muslims has urged political leaders not to use minorities as a “punching bag” during campaigns for the upcoming general election. Our recommended read of the day is by Moustafa Bayoumi  for The Guardian on how despite many claiming that the rise of Islamophobia has contributed to the global up-tick in anti-Palestinian bigotry and hatred, scholars and historians believe that it may well be the other way around. This and more below:

United States

Decades of spying and repression: the anti-Palestinian origins of American Islamophobia | Recommended Read

We hear a lot of talk these days about Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, and anti-Palestinian bigotry, usually in that order. But which actually came first? In the United States, Islamophobia is commonly seen as the motor that drives anti-Arab racism, a subset of which is anti-Palestinian bigotry. And yet, American history doesn’t quite abide by this order. In fact, it’s the opposite. In US history, anti-Palestinian bigotry, expressed primarily through repressive practices of the US government, almost always came first. This anti-Palestinianism then manifested into a generalized anti-Arab racism, which only later – especially after 9/11 – morphed into the more widespread Islamophobia that we recognize today. Understanding this history can not only help explain the complex ways that both anti-Palestinianism and Islamophobia operate in the United States but can also point to what is missed when anti-Palestinian bigotry is subsumed into the frame of Islamophobia. After 1967, with the numbers of Arabs in the United States growing and with Arab activists now challenging the American consensus on the region, Arabs in the US captured the paranoid eyes of the federal government. (African American Muslims were already under surveillance, more out of the anti-Black beliefs held by the government than Islamophobia.) It is this history, of anti-Palestinianism after 1967, that is often overlooked. Shortly after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Arabs and Arab Americans organizing for Palestine became subject to warrantless government surveillance. Then came the September 11 attacks. After 9/11, everyone – immigrant and citizen, activist and spectator – became vulnerable. And a new category of suspicion fully entered the national imagination: the Muslim American. The anti-Muslim focus of “war on terror” policies “was built on a pre-existing foundation of hostility to the Palestinian liberation movement”, as a recent report by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal explained. read the complete article

What Does Anti-Arab Racism on Campus Have to Do With the War on Gaza?

Pundits and politicians have been transfixed by what is supposedly a crisis of antisemitism on university campuses. This crisis is the carefully engineered climax of a long-standing project to conflate criticism of the Israeli state with racism against Jewish people; its aim is to discredit critics of Israel and, if possible, banish them from campuses across the United States. That’s no exaggeration: This could easily happen with House Resolution 894, which just passed the US House of Representatives by a wide margin, and would impose the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of the term antisemitism—a definition that has been disavowed even by one of its authors. Meanwhile, entirely—and, again, not coincidentally—the national focus on the supposed crisis of antisemitism has crowded out a different form of racism on college campuses, including our own at UCLA. To its credit, our university charged a Task Force on Anti-Palestinian, Anti-Muslim, and Anti-Arab Racism (alongside a separate Task Force on Antisemitism) to investigate the causes and results of this specific form of racism on our campus, especially in relation to the climate of hostility that has intensified since last October. We write as members of this task force, whose report, published on May 13, describes the racism and violence faced by Palestinians, Muslims, Arabs, and anyone, including Jews, who express solidarity with Palestinians. As a task force charged to report on racism, the questions that we are most asked most often are: “What does race have to do with the genocide in Gaza?” and “What does it have to do with UCLA’s brutal response to expressions of Palestinian solidarity?” In our report, we discuss harassment and punitive actions taken against UCLA students and faculty for their support of Palestinian rights. We focus on the violent attacks by Zionist counterprotesters on the Palestine solidarity encampment and the violence perpetrated by the police at the administration’s behest. The core of our findings is the administration’s—specifically Chancellor Gene Block’s—consistent dismissal of the lives of Palestinians and Muslims and anyone in solidarity with them. read the complete article


Muslims in Modi’s India: The marginalised minority

In the middle of an election that he is widely expected to cruise through, with the spectre of the 2002 Gujarat riots lingering in BBC documentaries, and an increased global focus on anti-Islamic sentiments as a result of other conflicts, I (and many others) have been left to wonder – what does Indian PM Narendra Modi stand to gain from his continued assault on Muslims in India? It would appear there are two possible reasons: either he personally wants to carry out and witness a religious prosecution, or he believes that his divisive rhetoric and anti-Muslim agenda will be welcomed by the 80 percent Hindu majority population leading to electoral success – and it is hard to decide which case is worse. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that it would currently appear that both are true, with a plethora of terrifying tales emerging which cast him and his right-hand man Amit Shah, as villains scarcely believable for a Bollywood movie. Anti-Muslim sentiments have quickly become institutionalised and entrenched deep in society, which can very much be traced back to the emergence of Modi and Shah. Their roles have been widely documented, not least by the BBC, particularly concerning Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots. It is widely accepted that he promoted and encouraged the violence and potential ethnic cleansing as Chief Minister of Gujarat by preventing police from taking action and delivering the standard aid that their job entails. Deaths, rape and violence were left unchecked, propagating a climate of fear amongst the minority Muslim population. read the complete article

How Narendra Modi’s cult of personality was formed by a powerful Hindu nationalist group with a dark history

Narendra Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has resorted to religious polarisation as it tries to rally its Hindu nationalist base in India’s ongoing general election, which ends on June 1. Just days after voting started last month, the leading opposition party accused Modi of using hate speech when he called Muslims “infiltrators” at a campaign rally. He also repeated a conspiracy theory that Muslims would someday outnumber India’s majority Hindu population by having more children. Many argue Modi’s openly anti-Muslim speeches reflect a sense of nervousness about the opposition gaining traction in the election. But there is no denying the fact the BJP has successfully created a perception of invincibility around itself. Why has it long had such a powerful image despite widespread economic distress? To understand this, we need to look a bit closer at the history of right-wing populism in India. In my research, I have studied the way the modern “Hindu nation” has been constructed. In my view, there is a three-layered pyramid underpinning Modi’s popularity. India’s centuries-old caste system serves as the base. This system survives on a principle of exclusion for the so-called lower castes and minorities. The second layer is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP. A Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation, it was founded in 1925 as part of a movement to unite all Hindus. On the topmost tier is Modi’s personality cult. The social legitimacy of Modi’s government is drawn from the base upwards, while the commands for his political project come from the top down. read the complete article

India’s election watchdog expresses ‘concern’ but does not suspend Modi over ‘anti-Muslim’ hate speech

India’s election commission has served only a gentle rebuke to prime minister Narendra Modi, as well as to the primary opposition Congress party, for making divisive speeches during the campaign for the ongoing general election, leaving critics who accuse the watchdog of favouring the ruling party unimpressed. At a campaign rally in western Rajasthan state last month, Mr Modi told the country’s Hindus that the Congress party, if elected, would “snatch away” their wealth and give it to the Muslim minority, inviting widespread condemnation and complaints to the election body. The watchdog, in a break from its usual practice, sent a notice to Mr Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and not to him personally. Nonetheless, it was the first time in India’s independent history that the commission had recognised a complaint against a sitting prime minister. read the complete article


UN approves resolution to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica genocide annually over Serb opposition

The United Nations approved a resolution Thursday establishing an annual day to commemorate the 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs, a move vehemently opposed by Serbs who fear it will brand them all as “genocidal” supporters of the mass killing. The vote in the 193-member General Assembly was 84-19 with 68 nations abstaining, a reflection of concerns among many countries about the impact of the vote on reconciliation efforts in deeply divided Bosnia. The resolution designates July 11 as the “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica,” to be observed annually starting in two months. read the complete article

Gymshark is building an inclusive athleisure brand, from headbands to hijabs

In the ever-evolving world of athleticwear, inclusivity and cultural sensitivity are becoming paramount for brands. British athleisure brand Gymshark has taken a significant step toward inclusivity by introducing a hijab into its athleticwear line for $30, available globally. The move taps into a substantial and underserved market segment. According to the World Economic Forum, there are 800 million Muslim women globally. Many of these women wear the hijab and are looking for activewear that accommodates their cultural and religious practices. Gymshark’s decision to introduce a hijab was driven by both internal insights and community feedback. Nichola Harris, senior designer of headwear and accessories at Gymshark, said the idea felt like a moment of cosmic alignment. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Don’t use Muslims as ‘punching bags’ this general election amid Gaza attacks, parties urged

The UK’s top organisation for Muslims has urged political leaders not to use minorities as a “punching bag” during campaigns for the upcoming general election amid concerns over an increase in attacks on mosques in the wake of attacks in Gaza. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is calling for “hopeful” political lobbying following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement on Wednesday that the next polling day will take place on 4 July. Britain’s leading political parties face a crisis in confidence among Muslim communities amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza. “I urge our political parties and all those seeking our votes to pursue a campaign that is hopeful: to resist the urge to scapegoat Muslims and minorities and proposing a future where all Britons can play a positive role,” Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said. “The call comes in a year where we have seen politicians and their supportive media double down on their rhetoric against Muslims: casting them as the enemy within and questioning their right to play an equal part in our democracy. read the complete article


Woman charged after demonstrator's hijab pulled off

Ottawa police say a 74-year-old Ottawa woman is facing assault, harassment and mischief charges for allegedly removing someone's hijab and making lewd gestures during a demonstration last week. In a news release, police said it happened at city hall around 5:30 p.m. on May 14. The accused, who police did not name, has been charged with one count each of assault, mischief and criminal harassment — specifically, engaging in threatening conduct. The charges are considered hate-related, which could mean harsher penalties if there's a conviction. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 24 May 2024 Edition


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