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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01 Nov 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the US, Palestinian and Arab Americans have expressed outrage over Biden’s response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, with a national poll of Arab Americans showing that only 17% of those polled saying they would vote for Biden in 2024, meanwhile, Virginia’s attorney general opened a probe into a pro-Palestine nonprofit Tuesday, including to determine if the organization used funds to benefit “terrorist organizations”, and in Bangladesh, Myanmar officials have met with Rohingya refugee families to discuss their repatriation to Myanmar in a new plan being brokered by China. Our recommended read of the day is by Rozina Ali for The New York Times on how “many Muslim and Arab community members say they feel isolated,” noting that it seems like “the lessons of Sept. 11 have been forgotten,” as Islamophobia and fear of violence consume the community. This and more below:

United States

American Muslims Are in a Painful, Familiar Place | Recommended Read

Indeed, it’s been dizzying to witness the speed at which the same patterns we saw after Sept. 11, 2001, are playing out. The mourning of a terrorist attack has been interrupted by the swift bombardment of civilian neighborhoods. American officials, pundits and companies have quickly rallied around Israel in its war on Gaza, which has rapidly intensified by the day. In the first week of the war, Israel dropped more bombs on Gaza than the United States did on Afghanistan in a year. Civilian casualties in Gaza have climbed exponentially. And in the West Bank, recent images of Palestinians being tied, blindfolded, stripped and allegedly subjected to attempted sexual assault by Israeli soldiers and settlers recall Abu Ghraib. In the United States, it’s as if the country has turned back the clock two decades, but not in the way that Mr. Biden suggests. For those who experienced waves of harassment and government surveillance in the years after Sept. 11, the president’s pledge of “unwavering” support for Israel set off alarm bells. I’ve been speaking with lawyers, community groups and advocacy organizations that worked closely with Muslims after September 2001 about what they’re seeing. Not since that time — not even after the election of Donald Trump, who signed an executive order banning visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries within days of taking office — have I heard so many Muslim and Arab community members say they feel isolated. After living through and reckoning with the devastating aftermath of the war on terrorism, it seems the lessons of Sept. 11 have been forgotten. There seems to be a sense of both resignation — we’ve been here before — and shock — but we’ve been here before. read the complete article

Biden’s Gaza Stance Spurs Stunning Drop in Arab American Support

Back in the U.S., Palestinian and Arab Americans have expressed outrage over Biden’s response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has killed more than 8,000 people, more than a quarter of them children. The first national poll of Arab Americans since the war in Gaza began shows how deep that sense of betrayal goes, with only 17% of Arab American voters saying they will vote for Biden in 2024—a staggering drop from 59% in 2020. “This is the most dramatic shift over the shortest period of time that I’ve ever seen,” James Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, which released the poll on Tuesday, tells TIME. The damage isn’t limited to Biden: Just 23% of Arab Americans identify with the Democratic Party, marking the first time a majority did not claim to prefer the Democrats since the institute began tracking party identification in 1996. Those identifying as Independents rose to 31%, the highest it’s ever been. The poll results are likely to increase concerns among Democrats about Biden’s standing with Arab Americans heading into 2024, particularly in Michigan, where roughly 277,000 Arab Americans call home, and Biden won in 2020 by 155,000 votes. But the smaller Arab American populations in Pennsylvania and Georgia were also larger than Biden’s margins of victory there. All three states are ones Biden flipped after Trump won them in 2016. read the complete article

Swing-state Muslim Americans threaten to vote against Biden

As Israel’s U.S-backed war against Hamas intensifies and Palestinian civilian deaths mount, a growing number of swing-state Muslim American and Arab American leaders are warning President Joe Biden that he is losing support from their communities in ways that could cost him in next year’s election. Muslim Americans overwhelmingly backed Biden in 2020 and would be expected to again in 2024, especially if his opponent is former President Donald Trump, who has revived his plans to ban many Muslims from entering the United States. But in multiple battleground states that Biden won with thin margins last time, a growing chorus of community leaders say his handling of the war in Gaza and Islamophobia at home jeopardize his path to victory in the Electoral College, with many Muslim American and Arab American voters saying they plan to either stay home next November, vote for a write-in or a third-party presidential candidate, or simply leave the top of the ticket blank. And while the election is more than a year away, these warnings are coming not just from usual suspects — such as never-satisfied activists on the restive left — but Democratic elected officials, nonpartisan community leaders, Muslim get-out-the vote groups and even some of Biden’s biggest Arab American validators. read the complete article

Virginia’s attorney general opens probe into pro-Palestine nonprofit

Virginia’s attorney general opened a probe into a pro-Palestine nonprofit Tuesday, including to determine if the organization used funds to benefit “terrorist organizations.” “Attorney General Jason Miyares today announced that the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has opened an investigation into AJP Educational Foundation, Inc., also known as American Muslims for Palestine, for potential violations of Virginia’s charitable solicitation laws,” a news release from the Miyares’s office reads. The probe comes in the midst of the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group, condemned Miyares for the probe in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, calling it “dangerous and defamatory political posturing.” “Our legal team is in communication with @AMPalestine to help protect their rights,” the post continued. “Targeting Muslim and Palestinian American organizations with baseless and irresponsible smears threatens the safety of their staffers and the communities they serve. From the #McCarthy era to the Civil Rights Movement to the post-9/11 years, we have seen politicians use this playbook before. These witch hunts will not stand, God willing.” read the complete article

Paul Ryan Defends Trump Travel Ban, Confusion ‘Regrettable’

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) defended President Trump’s temporary travel ban from seven Muslim-majority nations on Tuesday, but called the confusion over the executive order’s rollout “regrettable.” read the complete article

“History repeating itself”: How the Israel-Hamas war is fueling hate against Muslims and Jews

Deadly violence in the Middle East is spurring attacks and heightening fear in Muslim, Jewish, and Arab (especially Palestinian) communities across the United States. In Illinois, about a week after Hamas militants attacked Israel, a landlord stabbed his tenants, 6-year-old Wadea al-Fayoume and his mother Hanaan Shahin, more than two dozen times for being Muslim, according to the police. Only the mother survived and told a relative that the landlord yelled “you Muslims must die!” as he choked her. Police opened a hate crime investigation this week after a man in Los Angeles was yelling “free Palestine,” “kill Jews,” “brown people matter,” and “Israel kill people,” and kicked in the back door of a Jewish family’s home and entered. Israel’s airstrikes in the past three weeks have killed more than 8,000 Palestinians, most of them women and minors, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas’s attack killed more than 1,400 Israelis, and the group is still holding about 200 people hostage, according to the Israeli government. As the war continues, law enforcement officials expect hate crimes reports to only increase: The FBI warned last week that “the volume and frequency of threats to Americans, especially those in the Jewish, Arab American, and Muslim communities in the United States, have increased, raising our concern that violent extremists and lone offenders motivated by or reacting to ongoing events could target these communities.” read the complete article

White House will develop an anti-Islamophobia strategy but faces skepticism from Muslim Americans

President Joe Biden's administration is preparing to announce that it will develop a national strategy to combat Islamophobia, according to people briefed on the matter, as it faces skepticism from many in the Muslim American community for its staunch support of Israel's military assault on Hamas in Gaza. The White House announcement had originally been expected to come last week when Biden held a meeting with Muslim leaders, but was delayed, three people said. Two of them said the delay was due in part to concerns from the Muslim American community that the administration lacked credibility on the issue given its robust support for Israel’s military, whose strikes against Hamas militants have also killed thousands of civilians in Gaza. The launch of the anti-Islamophobia strategy has been anticipated for months, after the administration in May released a national strategy to combat antisemitism that also made passing reference to countering hatred against Muslims. The formal strategy is expected to take many months to formalize, following a similar process as the plan to counter antisemitism involving various government agencies. There had been widespread agreement among the Muslim American community on the need for a national strategy to counter Islamophobia, according to a fourth person familiar with the matter, who added that the Israel-Hamas war has made the timing of the White House announcement more complicated. The person, who was also not authorized to speak publicly, said the Biden administration wants to keep the two issues separate, while some prominent Muslim American groups see them as interrelated. read the complete article

For Muslim Americans, a spike in hate incidents feels reminiscent of post 9/11 Islamophobia

As a Palestinian American, Laila El-Haddad, 45, feels like she’s fighting a battle on two fronts. She’s filled with fear for her family in Gaza, now facing an uncertain future without a way to contact her. But as a Muslim living in the U.S., she’s also dealing with some of the most rampant Islamophobia of her lifetime, she said. “I personally have been through this — I was 21 or 22 in Boston when 9/11 happened,” she said. “This feels like that, but almost a more dystopian version of that.” El-Haddad, a vocal advocate for Palestinian rights, said she has faced harassment, online threats and even a letter sent to her home address calling for all Gazans to be killed. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that it received 774 requests for help and reports of bias incidents from Muslims across the U.S. from Oct. 7 to Oct. 24, a 182% jump from any given 16-day stretch last year. For comparison, during a 16-day period in 2022, it received an average of 274 complaints. “We’re working seven days a week, around the clock, fielding incoming complaints,” said Corey Saylor, CAIR’s research and advocacy director. “I’ve only ever seen that twice in my career: right after 9/11 and in December 2015 after that announcement by Trump of his plan to ban Muslims from the country.” Bias incidents range from verbal harassment to physical violence, the CAIR report said. Saylor said that the incidents are sometimes to law enforcement but that in many cases complainants don’t trust the police enough to move forward. The spike in reports of Islamophobic incidents, in addition to violence against Muslim Americans, has put the community on edge. read the complete article

Amazon discriminated against Muslim women at Pittsburgh distribution center, lawsuit says

Three Muslim women who wear hijabs are suing Amazon saying that they were subjected to religious discrimination while working at a Pittsburgh distribution center last year. Yvette Smith and her two daughters, Tiara Smith and Sadaira Smith, of Pittsburgh’s Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood. filed the federal complaint on Monday alleging religious, race and gender discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, battery and negligent supervision. The lawsuit alleges that even before the women began working for Amazon, a security guard working at the Roswell Drive location would not allow them to enter the facility to begin the onboarding process. The location is in Pittsburgh’s Fairywood neighborhood. The complaint alleges that they attempted to go to the facility four times between September and November 2021 to begin new employee training. “When the Smiths casually attempted to walk into the distribution center, a security guard, having observed their physical attributes and characteristics, including their religious apparel, gender, race and/or perceived race, immediately refused them entry into the distribution center,” the lawsuit said. read the complete article

For Arab Americans around Detroit, a sense of betrayal after U.S. response to Israel-Hamas war

For more than 30 years, Suehaila Amen has been an advocate and ambassador for Arab Americans and Muslims in the Detroit area. In her line of work, she travels and speaks frequently. She wears a hijab – the traditional headscarf some Muslim women wear – and was once a national face of Dearborn, appearing with her family in the 2012 TLC reality series “All-American Muslim.” She has consulted with local and federal agencies on better protections for Arab Americans and Muslims, through recurring waves of Islamophobia. Hamas’ attack on Israel and the retaliatory siege on Gaza has had reverberations across southeast Michigan, including in Dearborn, where Amen was born and raised, and Dearborn Heights, where she now lives with her family. They are just two of many Detroit suburbs that have been reshaped by the ever-growing Arab American diaspora. Amen and other residents here are concerned not only about a return to the heights of Islamophobia seen in the aftermath of 9/11, but also how responses from elected officials on the local and national level could shake decades of work that nurtured connections between the Detroit area’s Arab Americans, Muslim and Jewish communities. “For a woman like myself who’s visibly Muslim and has feared for my safety in a post-9/11 society, at one point I thought I had gotten past all of the negative rhetoric,” Amen said. “It’s difficult being put in a position where you’re constantly looking over your shoulder.” read the complete article

No ceasefire in Gaza, no votes, Muslim Americans tell Biden

Some Muslim and Arab American groups are threatening to withhold donations and votes towards President Joe Biden's 2024 reelection unless he takes immediate steps to secure a Gaza ceasefire. The National Muslim Democratic Council, which includes Democratic Party leaders from hotly contested states that can decide elections, such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, urged Biden to use his influence with Israel to broker a ceasefire by 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT) on Tuesday. In an open letter entitled "2023 Ceasefire Ultimatum," Muslim leaders pledged to mobilize "Muslim, Arab, and allied voters" to "withhold endorsement, support, or votes for any candidate who endorses the Israeli offensive against the Palestinian people." "Your administration's unconditional support, encompassing funding and armaments, has played a significant role in perpetuating the violence that is causing civilian casualties and has eroded trust in voters who previously put their faith in you," the council wrote. read the complete article


Muslim women in the West in the crosshairs of Zionists, white ‘feminists’

For twenty-four long days, and with no end in sight, the Israeli government has been committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza with explicit and unconditional support from the US government. For such war crimes to be committed in plain sight, and with no meaningful contestation from the international community, the Palestinians at the receiving end of Israel’s bombs had to be dehumanised, and their allies around the world discredited as anti-Semitic and violent. Such othering occurs through a relatively straightforward mechanism. First, Palestinians as a group are presented as barbaric, violent and over all less than human, so people around the world do not object to them being indiscriminately killed and starved. Then those who do not buy this racist narrative and insist on protesting against the oppression of the Palestinian people are smeared, censored, doxed and criminalised. At the forefront of numerous grassroots, intellectual, and political movements opposing Israel’s ongoing war crimes, in the United States and elsewhere in the staunchly pro-Israel West, are Muslim women. Courageous Palestinian, Arab, South Asian, and Black women are leading mass protests, political action campaigns, teach-ins at universities, fundraisers for humanitarian aid, and writing letters to university presidents, demanding they protect their Palestinian and Muslim students from doxing, harassment, and intimidation by Zionist organisations on and off campus. These Muslim women’s civic and political engagement is almost always met with attacks on their own safety, defamation of their character, and threats to their employment – all aimed at silencing their voices. If these threats on their lives and livelihoods do not work, Muslim women who speak up for the Palestinians – especially those holding positions in higher education – are dismissed as “too emotional”, “ignorant”, “bigoted”, or “professionally incompetent” by their pro-Israel peers. read the complete article

Myanmar seeking to repatriate Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh

Myanmar officials have met with Rohingya refugee families in Bangladesh to discuss their repatriation to Myanmar. The officials travelled to Bangladesh on Tuesday to meet with refugees amid a new repatriation plan brokered by China. The push is part of a pilot repatriation scheme discussed in a three-way meeting between the two countries and China in April. Bangladesh hosts nearly one million Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled Myanmar in 2017, when the military launched what the United Nations describes as a campaign with “genocidal intent” against the mostly-Muslim minority. The team of Myanmar officials arrived at Teknaf, a river port just across from their shared border with Bangladesh, to meet with several dozen Rohingya families. “They will discuss repatriation with the Rohingya today and verify their identity,” Shamsud Douza, the deputy refugee commissioner of Bangladesh, told reporters. Many of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh live in overcrowded, dangerous and under-resourced refugee camps, and several previous attempts to broker their return home have failed due to reluctance from Myanmar. The refugees have also refused to go back, fearing further persecution. read the complete article

Violence rages in Gaza, but a meeting of Jewish and Muslim women has given me hope

Each day brings more fury and tension. I fear the will to protect faith and community relations is eroding, which risks propelling higher an already sharp surge in antisemitism and Islamophobia. The rejection of this hard-fought equilibrium can leave a vacuum for extremists to clamber into, and for hate to breed. Rising tensions have been deadly. In the US, Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six-year-old Palestinian-American, was stabbed 26 times and killed by his own landlord, who shouted “you Muslims must die” during the attack. Over the weekend, a mob in Russia stormed Dagestan airport searching for Jewish passengers arriving from Israel. In London, antisemitic attacks went up by 1,350% and Islamophobic offences by 140% in the first half of October. But with years of relationship-building in jeopardy, I am one of a group of women trying to salvage relations between the communities that we are part of. Last week, I was invited to a safe space: a private gathering co-hosted by a Jewish woman and a Muslim woman. We met in the precincts of Westminster Abbey in the fittingly named Jerusalem Chamber. Like many there, I have been shaken by waves of hurt and helplessness; but also like many of the women I met, I have sought ways to resist fatalism. “It takes courage and vulnerability to come into a space like this,” said Julie Siddiqi, the Muslim co-organiser and a faith-relations consultant. Julie, alongside Dr Lindsay Simmonds, a Jewish academic who researches women of faith and peacebuilding, felt the need to create a third space outside religious institutions and political organisations. These forums were avoided because they tend to raise more barriers to communication and lead to “more danger” according to Julie, particularly as many people fear that officially speaking out or showing sympathy for the other side will draw backlash from their own communities. The safe space created in the abbey was instead built on love and trust. “It’s during catastrophic times when relationships are tested,” said Lindsay, who has known Julie for more than a decade. “But it is precisely now we need to show friendship, solidarity and trust.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Nov 2023 Edition


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