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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21 Nov 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, authorities in the state of Uttar Pradesh have banned the distribution and sale of Halal certified products, a move which critics are calling part of a systemic anti-Muslim agenda, meanwhile in Canada, a man wielding a bicycle chain attacked several worshipers at a Toronto area Mosque early Sunday morning, which is just the latest in a spate of attacks targeting Muslim and Jewish worship centers across the city, and in the U.S., a Utah man was arrested by authorities after investigations found he was responsible for several targeted threats against a Palestine rights group in Washington D.C. Our recommended read of the day is by Safa Ahmed for Jacobin on how far-right Hindu nationalist voices in India are taking advantage of the crisis in Israel and Gaza to spread fake news online, aimed at demonizing Palestinians as well as Muslims living in India. This and more below:


Why Far-Right Hindus Love Demonizing Palestinians | Recommended Read

In the aftermath of the bombing of the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, social media was ablaze with a surge of disinformation about who was to blame for the attack. This included a post from a Twitter/X account, which posed as an Al Jazeera journalist named “Farida Khan,” falsely claiming to possess a video of a “Hamas missile landing in the hospital.” The account was deleted once Al Jazeera issued a clarification stating that it did not employ anyone by that name. But the damage had already been done, with the false claims all over social media. This account was part of a larger wave of far-right Hindu Indian accounts actively spreading Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian disinformation. Alarmingly, Indian accounts like that of “Farida” are at the forefront of fighting Israel’s PR war, often using fake news to justify war crimes against Palestinians and stoke hatred against Muslim minorities living in India. Since the start of the latest round of conflict on October 7, far-right Hindu Indians have been flooding feeds and chat groups on Twitter/X, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp with stories, videos, and photos falsely blaming Palestinians for gruesome atrocities, in order to bolster Israel’s claims that its carpet-bombing of civilians is a matter of self-defense. Posts circulated among millions of Indians on Twitter/X claim that Hamas kidnapped an Israeli baby, beheaded a boy, and abducted women as sex slaves — all claims that have been debunked, but continue to go viral because of the online Hindu far-right ecosystem. Other posts claim that images of Palestinians hospitalized from Israeli airstrikes are actors and images of bloodied children are the work of makeup artists. Old videos go viral after new labels are slapped on them: a ten-year-old protest in Egypt is spun as proof that Al Jazeera fakes footage of dead Palestinians; postelection celebrations in Turkey are recast as an attack on the Israeli embassy; a video of a Mexican man being disemboweled is labeled as Hamas cutting a fetus out of a pregnant Israeli woman. read the complete article

Nearly 1,000 Rohingya refugees arrive by boat in Indonesia’s Aceh region in one week

Almost 1,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have arrived by boat in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh in the last six days, officials said Monday. They included five groups with women and children who were afloat for days. One batch of more than 240 people was twice denied landing by residents in Aceh Utara district, sparking concerns from human rights organizations. The group finally disembarked in Bireuen district on Sunday morning. The refugees arriving in Aceh had endured a difficult sea journey. Most of them left refugee camps in Bangladesh, where more than 700,000 had fled following a crackdown by Myanmar's army in August 2017. Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rape, killings and the burning of thousands of Rohingya homes. read the complete article

United States

Young Americans are picking up the Qur’an ‘to understand the resilience of Muslim Palestinians’

The more Rice read, the more the text’s contents aligned with her own core belief system. She found the Qur’an to be anti-consumerist, anti-oppressive and feminist. Within a month, Rice took the shahada, Islam’s official profession of faith, bought hijabs to wear, and became a Muslim. Rice is not alone in wanting to experience the Qur’an. On TikTok, young people are reading the text to better understand a religion that’s long been vilified by western media, and to show solidarity with the many Muslims in Gaza. Zareena Grewal is an associate professor at Yale who is working on a book about Islamic scripture and religious tolerance in American culture. She said that this TikTok interest wasn’t entirely unprecedented. After 9/11, the Qur’an became an instant bestseller, though at the time many Americans purchased it to confirm biases they held about Islam being an inherently violent religion. “The difference is that in this moment, people are not turning to the Qur’an to understand the October 7 attack by Hamas,” Grewal said. “They are turning to the Qur’an to understand the incredible resilience, faith, moral strength and character they see in Muslim Palestinians.” Sylvia Chan-Malik was in graduate school after 9/11 amid a surge in hate crimes against Muslims and xenophobic language used in the media. “I was very interested in what was going on, comparing it to the history of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor,” she said. “I started to look into it on my own, meeting actual Muslims, and I was floored when I did my homework on Islam.” Along the way, Chan-Malik converted to Islam. She’s now an associate professor at Rutgers University whose research focuses on the history of Islam and Islamophobia in the US. “I had a very similar experience to what’s happening on TikTok now,” she said. “At the time, I wondered why the people I met who were Muslim were so different than what I heard in the news. I’d never experienced such a vast disconnect between popular perception and the truth.” read the complete article

Historical Perspectives of Anti-Muslim Prejudice in the U.S. and Lessons for Today

Panelists discuss the history of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice in the United States, including how events such as the 1979 Iran hostage crisis and the 9/11 terrorist attacks shaped public perception, the effects of these biases on American Muslim and Arab communities, the role of technology in spreading hate speech, and the implications for U.S. democracy. read the complete article

Petitioners nationwide ask Penn to defend those who speak in support of Palestinians

A petition signed by more than 500 academics and writers from inside and outside the United States has called on the University of Pennsylvania to defend its students, faculty, and staff against targeted harassment for speaking in support of Palestinians. The move comes as anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish harassment complaints have spiked regionally and nationally and as college campuses struggle to respond to concerns voiced in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent military siege of Gaza. “In recent weeks, faculty and students who have spoken out for Palestinian literature, lives, rights, and freedom have been subject to online death threats, libelous public petitions, and harassment and intimidation by both colleagues and the Penn Administration,” the petition said. “We the undersigned call for the University of Pennsylvania to step up and defend, protect, and support its Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim students, faculty, and staff under attack.” The academics are asking Penn President Liz Magill to offer a statement of support for the academic freedom and safety of Penn faculty who have been attacked on social media and within the university, and for Penn to “repudiate all libelous and defamatory attacks on its Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim students and faculty.” read the complete article

Utah man charged with threatening pro-Palestinian group in Washington, DC

A Utah man was arrested after allegedly making threats against a pro-Palestinian group in the US, the Justice Department announced Monday. Court records say Kevin Buchanan of Tooele, Utah, called a Palestinian rights group in Washington, DC, and left multiple threatening voicemails, saying: “We know who you are, who your families are” and “You’re gonna die.” Buchanan has been charged with transmitting interstate threats and could face a maximum of five years in prison if convicted. “This is a war against Islam,” Buchanan allegedly said in one of the numerous, lengthy voicemails. “Palestinians are going to die. By the hundreds of thousands.” The nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group this month said the US is experiencing an “appalling” rise in reported anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias incidents in the month since the October 7 attacks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has recorded a 216% increase in requests for help and reported bias incidents compared with the previous year, and Muslim and Arab Americans tell CNN the surge has forced them to become more vigilant. read the complete article

The Crackdown on Palestinian Protest Started Long Before Oct. 7

Airbnb announced that it would stop listing properties in Israeli settlements, as part of a new policy to stop contributing to “existing human suffering.” The day after the company publicized this decision, then–Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan wrote to governors in Illinois, New York, Florida, Missouri, and California, encouraging them to take action against the global housing company. It worked; Airbnb buckled to the pressure and reversed course within a matter of months. This happened in 2019, long before Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre and Israel’s furious reprisal this year, which has killed more than 11,000 people, including over 4,000 children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. But Airbnb’s backtrack four years ago is a useful distillation of the pressures that individuals and corporate entities face when they publicly oppose Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. It’s much worse now. In the month and a half since Israel launched its assault on Gaza, there has been a diffuse and swift crackdown on expressions of support for Palestinians or criticism of Israeli actions. Numerous employees across the U.S. have been fired or have resigned for pro-Palestinian statements. Federal law enforcement agents have reportedly already visited mosques and questioned Palestinian Americans, a chilling resumption of this country’s post–9/11 surveillance machine. And despite its signature deadlock, Congress has managed to mobilize on this issue too. The Senate passed a unanimous resolution condemning pro-Palestine student groups as “anti-Israel, pro-Hamas.” In the House, Rep. Ryan Zinke introduced a bill to expel Palestinian noncitizens, echoing ideas already floated by former President Donald Trump to attempt another Muslim ban. And a bipartisan coalition in the House voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, for her comments criticizing Israel’s actions in the war. In all of these cases, the backlash to pro-Palestinian activism is dangerously charged with bad faith interpretations of protesters’ aims. read the complete article

Muslim woman Asia Aden agrees to $90K settlement with Santa Clara County over removal of hijab

Santa Clara County has agreed to a $90,000 settlement with a Muslim woman who said her hijab was inappropriately removed when she was being booked into jail last year. As part of its agreement with Asia Aden, the sheriff's office will also work with the Council on American-Islamic Relations to better implement its religious service policy. Aden was asked to remove her hijab so jail staff could conduct a "pat search" but it wasn't returned to her until she was released from custody a few days later. The religious service policy allows Muslim women to keep their hijabs or receive a jail-issued religious covering and to be searched in private or outside the presence of men. "We urge more municipalities to follow Santa Clara County's example by reviewing and implementing policies to ensure everyone's constitutional rights are protected, regardless of faith," said Council on American-Islamic Relations lawyer Jeffrey Wang. read the complete article


India's most populous state bans some Halal-certified products

Authorities in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh have banned the distribution and sale of Halal-certified products, including dairy, garments and medicines saying it was illegal. Bakery products, sugar, edible oil and other products which were labelled as 'Halal-certified' by the companies manufacturing them would be banned from distribution and sale, a state government notification said on Saturday. "Halal certification of food products is a parallel system which creates confusion regarding the quality of food items," the notification said. Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by firebrand Hindu monk Yogi Adityanath, who belongs to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, is India's largest and most populous state. Both Adityanath and his government have been accused by critics of having a divisive agenda against the state's sizeable Muslim population, which they have consistently denied. read the complete article

Facing pressure in India, Netflix and Amazon back down on daring films

In 2021, Kashyap said, Netflix shelved what would have been his magnum opus: an adaptation of the nonfiction book “Maximum City,” which explores Hindu bigotry and the extremes of hope and despair in Mumbai. When the U.S. streaming giants, Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video, entered India seven years ago, they promised to shake up one of the world’s most important entertainment markets, a film-obsessed nation with more than 1 billion people and a homegrown moviemaking industry with fans worldwide. In the last four years, however, a chill has swept through the streaming industry in India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party tightened its grip on the country’s political discourse and the American technology platforms that host it. Just as the BJP and its ideological allies have spread propaganda on WhatsApp to advance their Hindu-first agenda and deployed the state’s coercive muscle to squash dissent on Twitter, they have used the threat of criminal cases and coordinated mass public pressure to shape what Indian content gets produced by Netflix and Prime Video. Today, a culture of self-censorship pervades the streaming industry here, manifesting in ways both dramatic and subtle. Executives at the India offices of Netflix and Prime Video and their lawyers ask for extensive changes to rework political plots and remove passing references to religion that might offend the Hindu right wing or the BJP, industry insiders say. Projects that deal with India’s political, religious or caste divisions are politely declined when they are proposed, or dropped midway through development. Even completed series and films have been quietly abandoned and withheld by Netflix and Prime Video from their more than 400 million combined viewers worldwide. read the complete article


Worshippers chase, restrain attacker outside Toronto mosque

Worshippers at a Toronto mosque chased down an attacker and restrained him early Saturday morning. It’s the latest in a string of hate-motivated attacks that have Muslim and Jewish communities on edge. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Hostile environment for British Muslims peaks manifold amidst Israel’s Gaza carnage

Since Hamas' incursion into Israel on October 7, 13,000 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis have been killed while Israel continues its onslaught in the besieged Gaza against Palestinians. The conflict however is causing a ripple effect far and wide. In the UK, authorities are noticing an uptick in hate crimes “across the strands, particularly with the backdrop at the moment in the Middle East”. According to Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) an umbrella organisation working locally, nationally and globally, the situation in the Middle East is impacting Muslims in the UK. “This year, we observe Islamophobia Awareness Month against the backdrop of the ongoing attack on Gaza, Palestine and an exceptionally hostile political environment for British Muslim communities,” Mohammed tells TRT World. In October, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan held a roundtable meeting with leaders from the UK’s Jewish and Muslim communities. “The conflict is having a direct impact on London and Londoners, with increasing cases of abhorrent Islamophobia and antisemitism seen in the capital," he said. According to Mohammed, “over the course of the now month-long attack on the Gaza Strip, we have seen a surge of hate crime at home, with a 140 percent increase in Islamophobic offences in London alone.” Local media have reported on a range of anti-Muslim cases in the UK. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 Nov 2023 Edition


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