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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28 May 2024

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, a man who described himself as a soldier with the Israeli army was arrested for ‘racially aggravated assault’ after verbally abusing a Muslim woman at a London train station, meanwhile in India, Muslims living under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government are increasingly “facing prejudice and reoccurring violence” according to an essay published in the New York Times, and prominent right-wing commentator, politician, and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage has accused young Muslims of hating British values during a recent interview with Sky News. Our recommended read of the day is by Shada Islam for The Guardian on how the popularity of far-right political movements in Europe is impacting the safety and security of European Muslims. This and more below:


I’m a brown, Muslim European. For people like me, these EU elections are terrifying | Recommended Read

As a European who is also brown and Muslim – and who has long wanted the EU “project” to work – I am terrified at the extent of power and influence wielded, inside and outside government, by politicians who are unashamedly racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic and whose vision of Europe – whatever they may say in public – is also inherently hostile to women, Jews and gay people. And I am worried that it is going to get even worse. This is a sad and sobering moment for all progressive Europeans. For Europe’s Muslims and racial and ethnic minorities, it is a time of deep personal anxiety. Many feel betrayed and abandoned, not just by EU politicians and policymakers – they never cared much for us anyway – but by large parts of the media and EU “experts” who failed to see the dangers of a far-right Europe, played down the threat, or deliberately looked the other way. Even more painfully, many of our white friends and colleagues still cannot – or will not – understand that for us, all this is up close and personal, with a real impact on our mental health and daily lives. Yet if they paid attention, they would see proof that racism is “pervasive and relentless” across Europe. Islamophobia is on the rise, as is antisemitism, both forms of racism exacerbated by the Israel-Gaza war. With the far right expected to hold even more power in the future and as the EU’s anti-racism action plan runs out of steam, such bigotry is going to get worse. The fact that racism, discrimination and xenophobia are corroding European democracy from within, creating societal divisions and political polarisation, is rarely discussed in “Brussels so white”. Neither is the inconvenient truth that Europe’s centre-right and liberal politicians have openly or tacitly embraced the extremists’ political agenda and xenophobic view of the world. read the complete article

Will Muslim-led parties succeed in pushing back against Europe’s far right?

There’s just one question on voting day,” Marion Marechal, the youngest member of a far-right French political dynasty, asserted in a recent campaign speech. “Do you want an Islamised Europe or a European Europe?” Anti-migrant rhetoric is reaching a fever pitch across Europe as the 27-country bloc prepares to choose a new parliament next week. And thanks to a surge in new arrivals, voters have been pricking up their ears. At the time of the last vote, in 2019, the EU annually processed about half a million asylum applications. That total has since more than doubled and is now nearing the record highs of 2016, as are illegal crossings detected by border agency Frontex. Last month the EU approved a new migration plan, to start in 2026, that will track new arrivals, set up detention centres and accelerate vetting and possible deportation. Critics argue that it will create a troubling system of surveillance and deny migrants the right to asylum. Europe’s fear-mongers – led by Ms Marechal’s Reconquest party, her husband Vincenzo Sofo’s Brothers of Italy, her aunt Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Iberian Peninsula’s Vox and Chega and the governing parties in Poland and Hungary – have made immigration the defining issue, turning legitimate voter concerns into a foreign bogeyman coming to snatch their jobs, security and even their identity. Speakers at a far-right rally in Hungary argued that the Great Replacement is a looming reality. The AfD reportedly backed a secret plan to expel millions of migrants and is thought to be behind billboards across Saxony that portray the governing CDU calling for “more Caliphate”. British MP Suella Braverman, formerly home secretary, argued in a UK newspaper that Islamists were gaining control of Britain. read the complete article

Indian diaspora divided as Modi’s office lobbies US fans to influence vote

The WhatsApp message arrives with a colourful infographic highlighting numerous achievements from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decade-long rule. On every metric, these infographics show India doing better under Modi. It is the sort of message political parties have bombarded Indians with over the past several months as the country holds the world’s largest election, with nearly a billion voters. But the recipients of this particular message are not Indian voters: They are members of the vast Indian diaspora in the United States, and beyond, who are being encouraged to forward these messages to relatives and friends back in India to amplify Modi’s campaign claims. At the centre of this diaspora outreach campaign is Non Resident Indians For Mission 2024 (NRIM), a Florida-based company registered in July 2023. The extent of its work and connections with Modi and his party became public only after the company was registered as a foreign agent by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in April 2024. Modi’s office and the BJP’s direct involvement in outreach to the Indian diaspora are emblematic of the government’s close eye on the community and its adept use of their influence for political mobilisation to shape electoral outcomes at home, say members of the community. At home, Modi’s decade-long rule has been marred by allegations of hate, violence and discrimination against the country’s 230 million Muslim and Christian minorities, along with a crackdown on journalists, political opponents and critics. Modi and the BJP deny the accusation that they discriminate on the basis of religion, and have accused critics and opponents under arrest of facing justice for corruption or other alleged crimes. But outside India, a new fear has taken hold of sections of the diaspora critical of the Indian government’s policies. “Everything has changed in the last 10 years. There is so much hatred. No member of the minority community is safe today,” Rahman tells Al Jazeera. “A potential third term for the BJP will be extremely scary. It is like a nightmare for Indian Muslims. I am scared for my extended family, who still live in India. It’s not the kind of country any more for which my grandfather sacrificed his life.” read the complete article

Muslim International Film Festival debuts in London amid rising Islamophobia

The inaugural Muslim International Film Festival (MIFF) has arrived at a pertinent time. This cinematic celebration of stories and storytellers from the Muslim world will take place in London across four days, from May 30 to June 2, only a few months after the UN warned that Islamophobia had risen to "alarming levels." The last seven months of Israel's war on Gaza have certainly widened the world's eyes to the dehumanisation of Muslims in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and beyond. Experts at the UN singled out Israel's "continued refusal to allow adequate humanitarian assistance and food aid to be provided to the mainly Muslim civilian population in Gaza," during the holy month of Ramadan, "despite the widespread hunger and signs of severe malnutrition," as a particularly harrowing example. However, faith-based marginalisation of Muslims did not begin on October 7, 2023, nor has it been constrained to government authorities and media outlets. Film and TV have historically played a role in the vilification of Muslims, which is exactly why MIFF festival director Sajid Varda put this programme together. "When 9/11 happened, you saw a massive shift in roles geared towards showing Muslims as terrorists," the MIFF festival director tells The New Arab. "The Muslim community and Islamic faith became something to be hated." "For some [Muslim] writers, it was difficult to pitch a story unless it had something tinged with terrorism or some kind of trope," he explains. "And for [Muslim] actors, it was challenging for them to not audition for roles that were showing Muslims in a bad light." read the complete article

Liberal martyr or Islamophobe, Salman Rushdie is wrong on Palestine

It's hard to think of a writer more contentious than Salman Rushdie. From death threats to fatwas, insult to injury, the Indian-born British-American author has carved out a career from controversy, becoming a martyr in the process. The darkened lens over his right eye is now a symbol of sacrifice, lost in a life-changing and condemnable attack two years ago. To some, he's a liberal hero — the ultimate champion of secularism and free speech who becomes more revered the more he's attacked. But to Muslims like me, Salman Rushdie is the embodiment of modern-day Islamophobia, a literary figure who masquerades as a 'progressive free thinker' and a by-product of a liberal atheist elite obsessed with Islam. What's more, Salman Rushdie's recent comments on Palestine confirm what many of us had been saying about his brand of liberal atheism: that it is predicated upon, and comes full circle back to, thinly-veiled Islamophobia. Speaking to a German podcast last week about the US campus protests, Salman Rushdie said that whilst he'd "argued for a Palestinian state for most of (his life) — right now, if there was a Palestinian state, it would be run by Hamas, and that would make it a Taliban-like state, and it would be a client state of Iran," adding, "It's very strange for young, progressive student politics to kind of support a fascist terrorist group." In this statement, the West's poster child of free speech makes an ironically reductive statement about the intentions of pro-Palestine protesters by conflating the support for Palestine with support for Hamas. In doing so, Salman Rushdie peddles right-wing conspiracy theories linking Palestinian activism to terrorism and extremism. We've seen this false equivalence of pro-Palestinian activism and extremism become commonplace in mainstream political discourse in recent months. It's almost always weaponised against politically active Muslims advocating for causes against their government's bloody, imperial aims. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Some Muslims ‘want to challenge British values’, says minister

A Foreign Office minister has claimed some Muslims in Britain “want to challenge” fundamental UK values. Anne-Marie Trevelyan was responding to widely criticised comments made by Nigel Farage, the honorary president of Reform UK, who said on Sunday there was a growing proportion of people in the UK who “loathe much of what we stand for”. Farage explicitly identified Muslims when challenged on the remarks, claiming polls showed 46% of British Muslims supported the terror organisation Hamas. Asked if she agreed with him, Trevelyan told LBC Radio there were some Muslims who matched that description. She said: “The vast proportion of British Muslims are wonderful, peace-loving, community-minded people, certainly in the north-east where I’m based, we have fantastic communities and they are a really important part of our social fabric. “There are a very small proportion for whom they want to challenge those values that we hold dear in the UK, which are British values, and there we need to continue to work in community to bring those people to this." read the complete article

Nigel Farage starts election cycle with claim Muslims do not share British values

Prominent right-wing commentator, politician, and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage has accused young Muslims of hating British values. Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Farage, who is currently the honorary president of the anti-immigration Reform UK party said: "We have a growing number of young people in this country who do not subscribe to British values." The former UK Independence Party leader went on to add: "In fact, loathe much of what we stand for. I think we see them on the streets of London every Saturday." When asked by Sky News presenter Trevor Phillips to clarify whether he meant Muslims, Farage said he did before claiming that 46 percent of the community were supporters of Hamas, an organisation proscribed in the UK. A longstanding critic of immigration, Farage has often specifically targeted the Muslim community in his rhetoric. read the complete article

Man claiming to be Israeli soldier arrested for anti-Muslim abuse in UK

A man who described himself as a soldier with the Israeli army was arrested for ‘racially aggravated assault’ after verbally abusing a Muslim woman at a London train station. Witnesses say he pulled a woman’s headscarf, triggering the altercation. read the complete article


I’m an Indian Muslim, and I’m Scared to Say So

I used to answer the phone with “Salam.” Not anymore. I don’t want people to know I’m a Muslim. There is little that would identify me as Muslim to begin with, aside from my name. I don’t wear a skullcap, and in public I avoid wearing the loosefitting Pathani kurta and peppering my speech with Urdu words, all of which are identity markers for Indian Muslims. But in the India of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, you can’t take any chances. For 10 years, Mr. Modi’s Hindu-chauvinist government has vilified the nation’s 200 million Muslims as dangerous undesirables. Recently, he took that rhetoric to a new low during the six weeks of voting in India’s national elections — which are widely expected to win him a third consecutive five-year term — directly referring to Muslims as “infiltrators” in a country that he and his followers seek to turn into a pure Hindu state. As offensive as that was, it is sadly familiar to Indian Muslims like me who — after a decade of denigration, violence and murder — live in daily fear of being identified and attacked, forcing us into self-denial to protect ourselves. Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalism has made us the targets in what might be the largest radicalization of people on the planet. Its seeds were planted with the founding in 1925 of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organization that sought the establishment of a fully Hindu state in India and was inspired by the European fascism of that era. When Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party — a political offshoot of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — won elections in 2014 and he became prime minister, he and his followers saw it as the civilizational moment that Hindus had been waiting for. Islamophobia isn’t new to India, and Muslims also faced prejudice and recurring violence during the generations in which the liberal upper-caste Hindu elite dominated the nation’s secular democratic politics. But under Mr. Modi’s right-wing leadership, hatred of Muslims has effectively become state policy. India is now a country where police have been accused of standing by as Hindus attack Muslims, where the killers of religious minorities go unpunished and where Hindu extremists openly call for the genocide of Muslims. read the complete article

Four anti-Muslim claims dominating India’s election: What’s the truth?

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have tried to defend their decade-long record of governance in the face of criticism from the opposition led by the Congress party, they have also been accused by critics of promoting tropes that, for a long time, have been anti-Muslim dog whistles for the country’s far-right. The opposition has accused Modi of hate speech against Muslims, and India’s election commission – the independent authority tasked with holding the country’s polls – has sent a warning to the BJP party chief about the PM’s comments. Election laws do not allow the overt use of religion to garner votes. But Modi has denied that he engaged in hate speech.Al Jazeera fact-checked four claims about Muslims – India’s largest religious minority, with a population of 200 million people – that have dominated the election discourse in recent days. read the complete article

Delhi voters, scarred by Hindu-Muslim riots, want peace

Suhel Mansuri, who carries scars from Hindu-Muslim riots that killed dozens in his district of India's capital in 2020, says his vote on Saturday in national elections was for "peace and brotherhood" as divisive religious rhetoric rises. Mansuri and his brother were surrounded by a crowd during the riots in Delhi's most densely populated district and beaten with iron rods and bricks, resulting in multiple bone fractures. Saturday's vote is the first since the riots in which at least 53 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and more than 500 injured as crowds roamed the streets for days, attacking each other with swords and guns, and setting buildings on fire. "I don't want anyone to suffer like this ever again," said Mansuri, 29, a Muslim who has a small clothing business in the Mustafabad area. "People forget that we're all just the same as the next person when they are incited by hateful speeches." read the complete article


Islamophobia on the rise in Austria: Report

Austria recorded the highest number of incidents of Islamophobia last year since it began keeping records in 2015, according to a report released Monday. The Documentation Centre on Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Racism’s annual report was published on its website. It said the number of reported cases has risen, especially since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7 last year. More cases were recorded from October to December than in the first nine months of 2023. The first place where more cases were reported from October was schools, the report said. In the education sector, anti-Muslim incidents were reported by parents, pupils and teachers. Overall, 66.7% of the documented cases took place online and 33.7% offline. Some 87.8% of the cases documented online concerned the spread of hate. Muslims were dehumanized and compared to animals in online comments, according to the report. read the complete article


Australian Muslim advocacy group wins landmark hate speech case against X

A Muslim advocacy group has won a landmark case against X in a hate speech lawsuit, the group reported on Facebook. Friday's win came after an Australian court ruled earlier this week that it has jurisdiction over X and it could make orders against it concerning the group's complaint. It indicated that Australian hate speech laws apply to social media companies. The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) accused X of violating the Anti-Discrimination Act by allowing anti-Muslim content on its platforms. AMAN argued the content incited hatred against Muslims in Queensland. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 May 2024 Edition


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