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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17 Nov 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the US, the Department of Education released a list of K-12 and higher education institutions under investigation over alleged incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia, meanwhile, an Arab-American runner who competed in the New York City Marathon said she was cropped out of an apparel company’s ad campaign because of her Muslim identity and support for Palestinians, and in Canada, the Ontario jury in the trial of Nathaniel Veltman has found him guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the attack on a Muslim family in London in 2021. Our recommended read of the day is by Dr. Rania Awaad for TIME on the devastating and often overlooked mental health impacts of Islamophobia on Muslims living in the United States and Europe, especially in times when international coverage of global events often paints Muslims in an unequivocally negative light. This and more below:

United States

The Devastating Mental Health Effects of Islamophobia | Recommended Read

Unfortunately, the horrific hate crimes Czuba was charged with were not the only ones against Palestinians, Muslims, or other minority groups often mistaken for Muslims in recent days. On October 17, a Sikh teen was punched on a New York City bus in a reported hate crime assault by a man who attempted to remove the teen’s turban exclaiming, “We don’t wear that in this country.” In the same week, Carl Mintz was charged with terrorism for posting on Facebook that he wanted to go into Dearborn, Mich., a predominantly Muslim and Arab city, and “hunt down Palestinians.” Two men were arrested in connection to assaulting an 18-year-old Muslim in Brooklyn, N.Y. while yelling explicit anti-Muslim slurs. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has reported 1,283 bias incidents against Muslims since the violence in the Middle East escalated and has tracked hundreds of inflammatory posts and hate speech that have been shared recently across social media platforms—just a few examples include Muslims and Palestinians being called “savages,” “terrorists,” and “barbarians.” Islamophobia, an irrational fear and hostility towards Islam or Muslims, has deep roots that can be traced back to Western colonialist archetypes of the “uncivilized other.” By diminishing the complexity of individuals and essentializing Islam, these colonial powers created a seedbed for the dehumanization and generalization of people today perceived to be Muslim or Muslim-adjacent. And perhaps most importantly, these kinds of hate crimes and the rise of Islamophobia have extensive, negative mental health impacts on Muslim communities in the U.S. and around the world. Sensationalized stories that sow seeds of paranoia and cement the “other” as someone that must be feared and even eliminated, are not innocently relaying information. Rather they are perpetuating biased narratives about minority communities. When the average person is inundated with news cycles about the instability in the Middle East without proper context or knowledge of the lived experiences of Muslims, they are being conditioned to distrust the Muslim family living next door. This unexamined implicit bias is undeniably shaped by the media. Inconsistencies in terminology used in reporting and the disproportionate reporting of negative incidents involving Muslims contribute to distorted perceptions of this community. According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), every year since 2016, over 60% of American Muslims have reported experiencing at least one instance of religious discrimination—higher than all other religious groups in the U.S. The unpredictability of the time, place, and circumstances of Islamophobic incidents puts many Muslims in a nearly continuous state of hypervigilance. This insecurity can directly translate into deleterious mental health implications for Muslim Americans. We can better understand the influence of these Islamophobic interactions on the emergence of psychological problems. This socioecological model is often depicted over four levels: individual, interpersonal, community, and policy. read the complete article

Education Department opens school probes over alleged antisemitism, Islamophobia

The Department of Education released on Thursday a list of K-12 and higher education institutions under investigation over alleged incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia. In its announcement, the Education Department said five complaints involve alleged antisemitic harassment and two involve anti-Muslim harassment. The investigations were launched, the department said, to address the "alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and other forms of discrimination and harassment" in U.S. schools and colleges sparked by the deadly Oct. 7 attack in Israel by the militant group Hamas and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. The investigations were launched under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits race, color, or national origin discrimination, including harassment based on a person's shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. All colleges, universities and K-12 schools receiving federal funds must comply with Title VI or risk losing that funding. read the complete article

Why the Gaza War Has Sparked a Wave of Antisemitism and Islamophobia in the US

As the war in Gaza rages for a second month, violence of a different kind is erupting across the United States. Attacks on American Jews, Muslims and Arabs have risen to levels not seen in years, fueled by a conflict that often triggers strong feelings on both sides of the issue. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights organization, reports an "unprecedented surge in bigotry" since the war started. Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 4, the group received 1,283 requests for help and complaints of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias, an increase of 216% over an average 29-day period last year. Behind the numbers are real people. While the majority of the incidents reported by the two groups have involved nonviolent acts, such as harassment and intimidation, and don't rise to the level of hate crimes, at least two recent deaths have been tied to the conflict. Muslim and Arab American activists say the mainstream media's coverage of the conflict as a "struggle between good and evil" has fanned the recent flame of Islamophobia. "This dehumanizing framing impacts Muslims in America, as individuals who hold anti-Muslim prejudice frame them as terrorists," said Mobashra Tazamal, associate director of the Bridge Initiative, a research project on Islamophobia at Georgetown University in Washington. read the complete article

Muslim Runner Says She Was Cut From Lululemon Campaign Over Religious Identity

An Arab-American runner who competed in the New York City Marathon said she was cropped out of a Lululemon media campaign because of her identity and support for Palestinians in the Israel-Gaza war. Saad said in a statement that at the beginning of October she participated in a photo shoot to promote the marathon through the noname program, a marathon training program sponsored by the athletic apparel retailer Lululemon. Once the images were shared with members of the program, she realized she had been cropped out of “every image without explanation,” she wrote on Instagram. “My interpretation is that my visible identity as a Muslim woman isn’t a convenient association of Lululemon in the context of the politicized genocide in Gaza and the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim backlash and bias” that has spread across the United States, wrote Ms. Saad, who wears a hijab. In a statement to The New York Times, a spokesman for Lululemon said the company did not intend to exclude anyone from the photographs. Many Muslims, Arabs and supporters of Palestinians have said they should be free to call for a cease-fire online and voice their support for people on the ground in Gaza, pointing to rising anti-Muslim sentiment. Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the national deputy director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement to The Times that if what happened to Ms. Saad were true, “it would represent only the latest brazen act of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bigotry that we have witnessed.” read the complete article

Arab and Muslim groups say DOJ is falling short on combatting threats against them

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Since the start of the latest war between Israel and Hamas, threats and reports of bias incidents against Jews, Arabs and Muslims in the United States have soared. The Justice Department says it is stepping up its efforts to protect those communities. NPR's Ryan Lucas reports. ABED AYOUB: We are seeing more threats. We're seeing more hate, more bullying, more incidences than we've seen. LUCAS: Abed Ayoub is the national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Last week Garland met with Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian and Hindu community leaders. It was at a previously scheduled gathering hosted by the department's civil rights division. Attendees say the attorney general dropped in for five or 10 minutes at the start of the meeting before leaving. While there, Garland told them he understands what their communities are going through, and he reaffirmed the department's commitment to combating hate crimes against them. AYOUB: Yes, it would have been good if he stuck around, but it's not the end of the world. And it doesn't take away from the conversations we've had with DOJ, not just this week but within the past - you know, since all of this started. MAYA BERRY: I think the community's voice is not being heard at the same level - is a factual statement. LUCAS: At the same time, both Berry and Ayoub say the Justice Department understands and is responding to the threats that Arab and Muslim Americans are facing. That goes for the civil rights division. It also goes for the attorney general. Again, Berry. BERRY: The week after all this went down, I mean, I personally received a call from the attorney general telling me, this is what the Department of Justice is doing, and what more ways can we be helpful? And I think that's important. I think that's the kind of engagement we need. read the complete article


German police raid Islamic centre over alleged ties to Iran, Hezbollah

Police in Germany have conducted raids at 54 sites across the country as part of an investigation into an Islamic centre for alleged links to Iran and the Tehran-backed group Hezbollah. The Ministry of the Interior said Thursday’s operation primarily targeted the Islamic Centre of Hamburg (IZH) as well as five affiliate groups as hundreds of police conducted raids in seven German states. “I want to make clear that we are acting against Islamists, not against a religion or another state,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said. “We have the Islamist scene in our sights,” she said. “Especially now, when many Jews feel particularly threatened, we do not tolerate Islamist propaganda or anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate speech,” she added. The raids were carried out as Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities around the world say they are experiencing an uptick in discrimination and intimidation as the war between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas intensifies. No arrests were made, and the government said the raids were focused on gathering evidence for its investigation into support for Hezbollah. Last month, the IZH said it “condemns every form of violence and extremism and has always advocated peace, tolerance and interreligious dialogue”. The IZH runs a mosque in Hamburg. The ministry said intelligence indicates it exerts significant influence or full control over some other mosques and groups. read the complete article


Potential kingmaker in Dutch coalition talks comes out against anti-Islam firebrand Wilders

The center-right lawmaker whose new party is riding so high in polls ahead of next week's Dutch election that he could become a kingmaker in coalition talks said Thursday that he has fundamental differences with anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, whose party also is polling strongly. Pieter Omtzigt, who only formed his New Social Contract party over the summer, is very narrowly behind the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the polls. Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) is in fourth place. He said that Wilders' anti-Islam policies go against freedoms of expression and religion that are enshrined in the Dutch constitution. One of Omtzigt's policy pledges is to create a constitutional court in the Netherlands that would be able to rule on government plans before they become law. Answering questions submitted by voters to Dutch broadcaster NOS, Omtzigt was asked if he 100% ruled out working with Wilders' PVV party. “The PVV rules itself out,” he answered. His comments came after Wilders appeared this week to slightly back away from his strident anti-Islam program that includes bans on mosques and the Quran, by saying that other policies now are priorities. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Islamophobia Awareness Month: why it’s more important than ever to call out Islamophobia

The term Islamophobia first appeared in public policy discourse in 1997, but it’s still not officially defined by the UK government. It was only relatively recently, in 2017, that a definition of Islamophobia was put forward by an all-party parliamentary group (APPG) but the Conservative party dropped its plans to give Islamophobia an official definition. But even without a state definition, it’s a type of racism that’s understood to target expressions of Islam or perceived Muslimness. And it’s on the rise. As of March 2023, where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, two in five (44%) of all religious hate crime offences were targeted against Muslims – making Muslims the most targeted faith group in the UK. But it’s certainly not new. In August 2018, having recently resigned as foreign secretary, Boris Johnson wrote a column for The Telegraph in which he compared women in niqabs to “looking like letterboxes”, which led to a 375% increase in Islamophobia incidents the week after the article was published. One of the most common things I’ve heard over the years when it comes to this form of prejudice is “But it’s not really racism, is it?” There are still misconceptions surrounding it. Islamophobia isn’t based on individual fear or apprehension, even though many people can regard it in this way. And when it’s understood in this context, it minimises the experiences of Muslims and frames this form of racism as a lesser version of hate and prejudice. With this normalisation comes very real consequences for Muslim communities – from experiencing abuse and violence to dealing with prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. According to a recent Savanta ComRes survey, which asked 1,500 UK Muslims about their work and careers, seven out of 10 said they had encountered Islamophobia in a range of work scenarios, including engaging with customers or clients (44%) and at work-related social events (42%). Another survey conducted by the University of Birmingham and YouGov in 2022 found that the British public is almost three times more likely to hold prejudiced views of Islam than they are of other religions. Muslims are also the UK’s second “least liked” group with 25.9% of people surveyed feeling negatively towards Muslim communities. read the complete article


Nathaniel Veltman guilty of 1st–degree and attempted murder in 2021 attack on Muslim family in London, Ont.

The Ontario jury in the Nathaniel Veltman trial in Windsor has found him guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the truck attack on a Muslim family in London in 2021, a verdict that drew tears and intense reaction, including from relatives of the victims. The Afzaals were out for an evening walk in suburban London when they were struck by a truck — which was driven by Veltman, information that was part of an agreed statement of facts. Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. A nine-year-old boy also injured in the attack survived. Shortly after the verdict, the family released a statement that the mom of one of the victims read to reporters outside the courthouse. "While this verdict does not bring back our loved ones, it is a recognition by the justice system that the perpetrator of these heinous crimes ... intended to instil fear and terror in our hearts," said Tabinda Bukhari, the mother of Madiha Salman. "However, this wasn't just a crime against the Muslim community, but rather an attack against the safety and security of all Canadians. "This trial and verdict are a reminder there is still much work to be done to address hatred in all forms that lives in our communities," Bukhari added. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 Nov 2023 Edition


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