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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02 Nov 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the US, The White House is to develop a national strategy to counter Islamophobia, an effort to be led by the Domestic Policy Council and the National Security Council which will aim to protect Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, meanwhile the academic and corporate sectors across the US are increasingly suppressing pro-Palestine according to reporting in The Guardian, and in India, a spate of anti-Muslim demonstrations and rallies led by Hindu nationalist groups since the start of 2023 have made it dangerous for Muslims living in the Purola region of the state of Uttarakhand. Our recommended read of the day is by Ismat Mangla for Analyst News on a genocide researcher and survivor’s haunting parallels between the tragedy of the Bosnian genocide and what is occurring right now in Gaza. This and more below:


“Dear God, this is going to be a genocide.” A Bosnian genocide survivor on Israel’s siege on Gaza | Recommended Read

Since Israel’s war on Gaza began, more than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed. Hospitals, churches and refugee camps have been bombed, and there have been reports of entire Palestinian families — sometimes three generations or more — being wiped out forever. Arnesa Buljušmić-Kustura knows the makings of a genocide when she sees it. Not only is she a genocide researcher and educator, but she also herself lived through the siege on Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s. Tens of thousands of Bosnian civilians were killed, tens of thousands more women were raped, and millions of Bosnian Muslims were uprooted in an ethnic cleansing campaign. Another 8,000 Bosniak Muslim boys and men were slaughtered in Srebrenica during Europe’s only recognized genocide since World War II. The parallels between the siege on Gaza and the systematic violence that stole her grandmother, grandfather and uncle in Sarajevo, Visegrad and Srebrenica haunt her. “Everything to me reeks of genocide,” she says. “It’s the genocidal rhetoric. It’s the objectification. It’s the dehumanization. It’s the occupation.” read the complete article

Don’t look away. Israel’s response is textbook ethnic cleansing

In just three weeks, more Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli bombing in Gaza than have all children in all of the world’s conflict zones since 2019. This includes the war in Ukraine. The more than 3,300 deaths of Palestinian children have come as entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble, crushing innocent residents and neighbors. To the militant government of Israel, which includes a finance minister who doesn’t stint at applying the word “fascist” to himself, a racist supremacist defense minister who recently declared Palestinians to be “animals” and a corrupt prime minister, Palestinian lives simply do not matter. In the U.S., meanwhile, many mainstream institutions, from the federal government to media outlets, contort themselves into ever more acrobatic positions to rationalize and justify Israel’s mass killing. For weeks we have heard that information is not coming out of Gaza, but social media captures it all — a Palestinian father carrying bags full of his now-eviscerated children’s limbs, Palestinian parents writing their children’s names on their torsos in black ink for easy identification, a Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist and Gaza bureau chief discovering that his wife, 15-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter were killed by an Israeli air raid. Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights abuses in the occupied territories, has identified Israel’s actions as ethnic cleansing as well, saying on Oct. 14: “Israel has already carried out mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under the fog of war. In the name of self-defense, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing.” But the same definition means that Israel has been committing ethnic cleansing for more than 70 years. For decades, Palestinians have screamed “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” from the rooftops. My parents, both Palestinian refugees, recall their families’ stories of displacement in the Nakba of 1948, in which over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and homeland, and the Naksa of 1967, in which over 300,000 Palestinians fled Israeli terror. But their screams have continuously fallen on deaf ears. read the complete article


Myanmar military’s human rights abuses a ‘system exercised from the top’

The study, Under Whose Command?, covers a period of 12 years until March 30, 2023 and sheds new light on Myanmar’s notoriously secretive military – revealing the links between low-level soldiers accused of human rights abuses against civilians and their commanding officers and beyond. “In many areas of the country, almost every single person who ever held command had disappearances, killings, rape or instances of torture allegedly committed by units under their command,” the report said. “This is particularly true in areas of longstanding conflict and concern for human rights abuses.” ‘It is quite shocking to see the scale of this, and the stunning number of violations over time,” Tony Wilson, the founder and director of SFM and the lead researcher on the project told Al Jazeera. “You see the same pattern play out over again and the same units commit the same kinds of violations even when the commander has changed.” Other Myanmar experts who were not involved in the research said the work could be useful for accountability and building war crimes and genocide cases against the armed forces. “It’s not a few rogue elements. It’s a majority of senior commanders,” Thomas Kean, a Myanmar expert with Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera. Following its strategy of “four cuts” or “clearance operations”, the military has sought to cut off their opponents’ access to food, funds, intelligence and recruits. First used against the ethnic Karen in the 1960s, it was also deployed in northwestern Rakhine state in August 2017 against the mostly Muslim Rohingya. Hundreds of thousands fled across the border into Bangladesh as soldiers burned down entire villages, and carried out killings and acts of sexual violence. read the complete article

United States

I Can No Longer Justify Voting for Joe Biden in 2024

It may not be obvious, but Arab Americans have never felt naturally at home in the Democratic party. I suspect that our experience tracks that of other minority groups who’ve experienced marginalization and racism here in the United States. I first had serious doubts about Joe Biden when I learned he self-identified as a Zionist. For me, as a Palestinian American, and for the millions of Palestinians living through apartheid, Zionism isn’t a way of seeing the world. It’s a political theory that establishes Jewish dominance over the people and land of Palestine/Israel, based on a Jewish majority in that land. It seeks to justify, unsuccessfully, repeated bouts of ethnic cleansing, occupation, and inequality before the law. By identifying himself with Zionism, Biden expressly indicated his support for the outcome of these policies: a Jewish-majority state, for Jews only. Implicitly, he endorsed the policies themselves. Call it maturity, or a pragmatism born of experience, but over the years I learned to suppress my deep discomfort with the party’s non-progressive policies to vote Democrat and keep “a lesser evil” at bay. The past three weeks have transformed me. I’ve viewed shocking, nauseating videos documenting the genocide underway in Gaza. What sense is there in an argument that values a lesser evil when the evil is still so great? How can I possibly vote for a president that actively sanctions a genocide, that provides support to Israel as it destroys a people? The simple answer is, I can’t. read the complete article

‘The Palestine exception’: why pro-Palestinian voices are suppressed in the US

While sympathy for Palestine has long been a minority position in the United States, supporters are being punished for speaking out at a disturbing new level as Israel pummels Gaza, killing thousands of Palestinians in the weeks following the 7 October Hamas terror attacks. Some, like Velasco, have lost their jobs. A Philadelphia sports writer was fired after tweeting “solidarity with Palestine” in criticism of a 76ers post that offered support to Israel after Hamas’s initial attack. In another high-profile incident, a University of California, Berkeley, professor was sacked as editor-in-chief of the scientific journal eLife after he retweeted an Onion article that, he said, “calls out indifference to the lives of Palestinian civilians”. A spokesperson for Palestine Legal, a civil rights group, says it has responded to more than 260 “incidents of suppression” against Palestinian rights activists over two weeks of October – more than it did in all of last year. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), a civil rights non-profit, says it received 774 complaints between 7 October and 24 October – the largest wave of complaints it’s handled since Donald Trump announced his “Muslim ban” in 2015. This wave has targeted professional activists as well as ordinary people who have spoken in defense of Palestinians. It has reportedly escalated into death threats, assaults and visits from the FBI to Muslim individuals and mosques. In the United States, the highest levels of power have long supported voices backing Israel and its military. Now, supporters of Palestine fear the war presents an opportunity for supporters of Israel’s government to further crush dissent in the US. “We know that Israel-aligned organizations are going to push to have their full wishlists granted,” says Diala Shamas, a staff attorney at the non-profit Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which supports pro-Palestinian activists. She says Palestinian rights attorneys “know the playbook” and are bracing for the onslaught. read the complete article

Islamophobia in the US is rooted in its unconditional support for Israel

Anti-Muslim racism rests on a simple truth: to justify US foreign policy in the Middle East – in particular, support for Israel’s system of apartheid and military occupation – requires a dehumanisation of its victims. Rather than see the Palestinian movement as rooted in a struggle for freedom from oppression, it has been convenient to think that Arabs or Muslims are by nature fanatical and violent. All modern colonialisms imply racism; Zionist colonialism is no different. To see this more clearly, think back to 2016, when anti-Muslim sentiment in the US was strong enough to propel Donald Trump all the way to the White House. His call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” lifted his campaign out of the margins and won him his party’s nomination, at a time when almost half of Republicans believed most of the world’s Muslims were Islamic State supporters. Scholars and commentators who have tried to explain the power of this Islamophobia in US culture fall into three camps. read the complete article

At US universities, free speech isn't free for pro-Palestine activists

Since Palestinian armed groups launched a surprise attack on Israel on 7 October, and Israel responded with its declaration of war, tensions have raged on US university and college campuses - places that have traditionally served as hotbeds for political activism. At elite universities such as Harvard, Columbia and Yale, amongst others, students say their attempts to speak out against the horrors being unleashed in Gaza are being conflated with antisemitism with devastating effect. Late last week, the US Senate passed a resolution describing Palestinian student groups at several universities as "antisemitic, repugnant, and morally contemptible," adding that they were "sympathising with genocidal violence against the State of Israel and risking the physical safety of Jewish Americans." Then, earlier this week, the Biden administration directed the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Education to partner with campus law enforcement to investigate anti-semitic incidents on campus. Students from several leading US universities, many of whom spoke to MEE on condition of anonymity, said even the most benign efforts to call for a ceasefire, or lead a teach-in to shed light on Israeli occupation, were being met with vicious attempts to criminalise them, embarrass their families or destroy their career plans. They said that discussions surrounding Israel's 75-year occupation of the Palestinian territories were muzzled for years, long before the latest round of hostilities began, but the level of intimidation had now become stark, with a growing obfuscation of Israeli crimes at an institutional level. read the complete article

Strongsville teacher on leave after writing statement on Islam

A Strongsville High School teacher has been placed on administrative leave after writing a statement on the board during a lesson on Islam. Superintendent Dr. Cameron Ryba did not release what the teacher wrote, but said the statement “should not have been written.” “I was shocked when I had friends and family members send me a screenshot of what was written on a dry-erase board,” said Shadi Taha, a parent of a child in the district. “And the first thing that I did was call the school to confirm with the principal that this was real, and unfortunately, it was real.” The principal confirmed, according to Taha, that the statement seen in pictures he received is what was written on the board. It read: Islamic = “normal” believer, Islamist = terrorist Other parents with children at the high school confirmed as well, the pictures showed was what was written on the board. However, Taha is advocating for education over anger. “For him to get educated on what Islam is and what the true definition of Islamist is and to let the students know so that they do not think their fellow students are terrorists,” said Taha. “We want to give him the benefit of the doubt, that it was a mistake, and if that is what their investigation reveals, then he deserves to be educated.” He adds if the investigation finds his intention was harmful or to misinform, he should be fired. read the complete article

White House announces national strategy to combat Islamophobia

The White House announced Wednesday the administration will develop a National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia in the United States. “President Biden ran for office to restore the soul of our nation. He is unequivocal: There is no place for hate in America against anyone. Period,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in statement. The strategy, a joint effort led by the Domestic Policy Council and the National Security Council, aims to create a comprehensive and detailed plan to protect Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim “because of their race, national origin, ancestry, or any other reason, from discrimination, hate, bigotry, and violence,” said a White House official. The White House will be partnering with local communities on coming up with the strategy. read the complete article

As he visits Minnesota, local Muslim leaders say they will 'abandon Biden'

President Joe Biden was met with protests organized by local Muslim leaders when he arrived in Minneapolis on Wednesday for a series of events, the latest sign that Muslim American voters may turn against the president after having supported him in 2020. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim advocacy group, organized three separate protests at various locations Biden visited Wednesday, including the airport, a farm in rural Northfield and downtown Minneapolis. “We are going to abandon Biden because he has abandoned us,” Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR Minnesota, told NBC News hours after he stood next to “Abandon Biden” signs at a news conference. “I don’t think that this is a rash emotional decision by the American Muslim community. It is a foregone conclusion. ... The anger is not going to go away. We don’t have short memories,” Hussein added. “I still have not heard from any Muslim leader in Minnesota who has said this is a mistake." Minnesota is home to a large community of Muslim Americans. Nationally, most voted for Biden in 2020. But a growing number of Muslim and Arab community leaders in Minnesota and other swing states, like Michigan, warn that Biden has alienated them. read the complete article


The movement to expel Muslims and create a Hindu holy land

Since May 29, there had been unrest in Purola. The local chapter of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, along with several other right wing Hindu nationalist groups, had staged a rally in which they demanded that local Muslims leave town before a major Hindu council meeting scheduled for June 15. On June 5, Ashraf’s clothing shop, like the shops of other Muslim traders, was covered with posters that warned “all Love Jihadis” should leave Purola or face dire consequences. They were signed by a Hindu supremacist group called the “Dev Bhoomi Raksha Abhiyan,” or the Movement to Protect God’s Land. The rally in Purola was the culmination of anti-Muslim anger and agitation that had been building for a month. Earlier in May, two men, one Muslim and one Hindu, were reportedly seen leaving town with a teenage Hindu girl. Local Hindu leaders aided by the local media described it as a case of “love jihad,” a reference to the conspiracy theory popular among India’s Hindu nationalist right wing that Muslim men are seeking to marry and convert Hindu women to Islam. Public outrage began to boil over. The men were soon arrested for “kidnapping” the girl, but her uncle later stated that she had gone willingly with the men and that the charges were a fabrication. It mattered little. Hindu organizations rallied to protest what they claimed was a spreading of love jihad in the region, whipping up the frenzy that had kept Ashraf’s family up at night, fearing for their safety. What is happening in Uttarakhand offers a glimpse into the consequences of the systematic hate campaigns directed at Muslims in the nine years since Narendra Modi became prime minister. Hindu nationalists believe that the Hindu-first ideology of the government means they have the support necessary to make the dream of transforming India into a Hindu rather than secular nation a reality. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 02 Nov 2023 Edition


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