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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22 Nov 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Germany, many Muslims living and working in the country are “afraid to speak out” and “feel intimidated” regarding their ability to voice concern over the situation in Gaza according to Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, meanwhile in China, the Chinese government has expanded its campaign of closing mosques to regions outside of Xinjiang, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, and in the UK, the research group Tell MAMA recorded 895 anti-Muslim instances of hate acts committed against British Muslims in the past six weeks, with latest figures demonstrating a six-fold increase in cases from the same time last year. Our recommended read of the day is by Manisha Krishnan for VICE on a viral video showing former Obama Advisor Stuart Seldowitz verbally harassing, including making Islamophobic and racist comments, a Muslim street vendor in New York City. This and more below:

United States

Ex Obama Adviser Says Killing 4,000 Palestinian Children ‘Wasn’t Enough’ | Recommended Read

A lobbying group has cut ties with an ex-adviser to former President Barack Obama after videos surfaced that show the man making Islamophobic comments and threats to a food cart employee in New York City. The videos, posted on X (formerly Twitter) by a Columbia University student, show Stuart Seldowitz asking someone off camera, “Did you rape your daughter like Muhammad did?” and saying that killing 4,000 Palestinian children “wasn’t enough.” Seldowitz was acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate under Obama and was deputy director/senior political officer in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs from 1999 to 2003. More recently, he served as foreign affairs chair for Gotham Government Relations, which announced his new role in a press release in November 2022. In one of the two-minute videos, Seldowitz has his phone out and is speaking to a man who appears to be inside a food cart. Seldowitz mentions his “friends in immigration” and says, “the Mukhabarat wants your picture,” seemingly referring to an Egyptian intelligence agency. Seldowitz then repeatedly asks, “Did you rape your daughter like Muhammad did?” When the man again says he doesn’t speak English, Seldowitz calls him “ignorant.” “Muhammad, your prophet... He was a rapist,” he says. Seldowitz then asks the man if he speaks Arabic, “the language of the Quran.” “The holy Quran that some people use as a toilet. What do you think of that, people who used the Quran as a toilet? Does it bother you?” he asks, laughing. He then berates the man for not speaking English. read the complete article

Fox News vice president accused of making Islamophobic comments in the newsroom oversaw the network’s anti-Muslim coverage of numerous terror attacks

Fox News’ vice president of news coverage, Greg Headen, is named in a recent wrongful termination lawsuit alleging that while serving as the head of the foreign news desk, he “repeatedly demonstrated prejudice towards Muslim people and made a handful of remarks at work associating Islam with terrorism” — including specific remarks in response to terror attacks in Paris and Brussels. According to a 2021 Fox News press release, Headen managed coverage of numerous terror attacks, including in Paris, during his tenure as the head of the foreign news desk. Fox News’ on-air coverage of the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels included fearmongering about admitting immigrants into the United States from heavily Muslim countries which is similar to Headen’s alleged anti-Muslim rhetoric. read the complete article

More schools face Education Department probes over alleged discrimination

The University of Tampa and a Florida school district have joined a growing list of colleges and K-12 school districts being investigated by the Department of Education over alleged incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia. In light of the Israel-Hamas war and the resulting uptick in antisemitic and anti-Muslim threats on college campuses, the Education Department has reiterated schools' responsibility to comply with a federal civil rights law that addresses discrimination. The latest investigations come in a state where a battle is already playing out between universities, pro-Palestinian student groups and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The University of Florida's Students for Justice in Palestine filed a lawsuit last week with the ACLU against school leadership and DeSantis for allegedly violating its First Amendment rights with an order to deactivate its group. Last week, the department announced investigations into Lafayette College, Cornell University, Columbia University, Wellesley College, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and the University of Pennsylvania. Five of the probes involve allegations of antisemitic harassment, and two concern allegations of anti-Muslim harassment, per the department. read the complete article

National Islamophobia Strategy Is PR Stunt to Protect Biden’s Political Future

Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians has revealed that the colonial terrain extends past land and into language. The breach between what is said and what is meant is also the space between fact and fiction, between life and death. Less than a day after the White House repeated rumors of a global day of jihad, hundreds of miles away, 6-year-old Palestinian American Wadea al-Fayoume and his mother Hanan Shaheen were brutally attacked in their Illinois home. Joseph Czuba, their 71-year-old landlord, allegedly yelled, “You Muslims must die!” before stabbing Wadea 26 times and killing him, leaving his mother critically injured. The attack on Wadea and his mother is not a singular event. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the weeks following October 7 have seen an “unprecedented increase” of Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias: A mosque in Minnesota was set on fire on November 2. Other mosques across the country have received death threats. Pro-Palestinian protesters have been targeted by cars. A Somali woman in Minneapolis was attacked by a woman brandishing a knife. CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor said this is the largest documented wave of Islamophobia since the Donald Trump era. While no specifics on the National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia have been released so far, it’s worth noting that the administration created a National Strategy to End Antisemitism last year that relied heavily on increased surveillance and increased collaboration between state and federal law enforcement. Over the last 23 years, Muslims have seen the erosion of civil liberties under the guise of national security through legislation proposed and passed by multiple administrations. Reducing racism and Islamophobia to hate relegates it to the domain of individual choice and culpability, obscuring the ways in which it is both a structural and world-making force. Increased policing would only exacerbate existing issues of mass surveillance and spying against the Muslim community. What the Biden-Harris administration fails to realize is that the current wave of Islamophobia cannot be separated from the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. read the complete article

These young Michigan voters are divided on Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war and aren’t guaranteeing him their votes

CNN recently visited Michigan as part of a new project designed to track the 2024 campaign through the eyes and experiences of voters in key areas – in this case, young voters. First-year Wayne State law student Ibrahim Ghazal is another Biden 2020 voter whose support in 2024 is at risk, to say the least. “Not in a million years would I like to vote for (Donald) Trump,” Ghazal said in an interview. “I don’t know if I am voting at all. But I definitely will not be voting for Biden.” We asked Ghazal if he agreed with an image on the front page of an Arab American newspaper: activists holding “Abandon Biden” placards to illustrate a story harshly critical of the president’s handling of the crisis. “To an extent, yes,” Ghazal said. “I feel as though President Biden does not value my life as a Muslim American as much as he values other lives.” The White House earlier this month announced the development of a national strategy to combat Islamophobia. And the president has urged Israel to exercise restraint in its response to minimize civilian deaths and ease humanitarian suffering. But Biden has rejected calls for a ceasefire, instead stressing his commitment to a two-state solution in a Washington Post op-ed over the weekend. “What’s going to make him hear us is our vote,” Ghazal said. “That’s going to make a difference for him in a swing state.” Ghazal’s views of Netanyahu are scathing, and he sees Biden as greenlighting an Israeli military campaign Ghazal calls disproportionate and indiscriminate. “I’m Muslim. I’m American. I’m Palestinian,” is how Ghazal describes himself. “I care because I am an American and I don’t think our country should fund that type of a reaction.” Ghazal is blunt. “I’m speaking about an occupation – a brutal occupation that we fund,” he said. read the complete article


Germany: Faeser seeks Hamas condemnation at Islam conference

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said ahead of the event on ARD television that she was hoping for Islamic bodies in Germany to clearly condemn Hamas' attacks at the event, with Israel's retaliation in Gaza fueling displeasure among parts of Germany's large Muslim community. "I expect from Muslim organizations that they make very clear comments and assume their responsibility in society," said Faeser. She said faith groups should "very clearly condemn" Hamas' attack and not resort to "any yes, buts" when addressing the issue. "It must be quite clear, we stand on Israel's side," said Faeser, of the governing center-left Social Democrats. She added that while some such organizations had "very much" acted on their responsibilities, "others really haven't." The Islam Conference is described by its organizers as the central forum to "maintain a regular and ongoing dialogue between all levels of government and Muslims and their representatives in Germany," involving "leading Islamic organizations, new initiatives outside of traditional mosque structures, Muslim individuals as well as representatives of politics, administration and science." One major Muslim organization in Germany, the Central Council of Muslims, was not invited to this year's event. Its chairman, Aiman Mazyek, told RBB radio in Berlin on Tuesday that he was surprised not to be invited, saying that an exchange of views was particularly important at present. Mazyek said a balance needed to be struck, between "condemning extremism like Hamas' terrorism on October 7 and on the other side making clear that the war in Gaza, the Israeli bombardment, cannot continue." He said the past few weeks had been challenging for Muslims in Germany. "Many Muslims in our country are unsettled, are afraid to speak up at all; they feel browbeaten by the debate," Mazyek said. read the complete article

Germany’s Muslims uneasy, afraid to speak, community leader says

Germany's Central Council of Muslims warned Tuesday against the false accusations of antisemitism against those who criticize Israel’s military campaign against the Gaza Strip. “Many Muslims in our country are uneasy, they’re afraid to speak out at all, and feel intimidated by the debate,” Central Council of Muslims Chairman Aiman Mazyek told public radio RBB. He said politicians and media outlets that accuse Muslim organizations of antisemitism, or supporting Hamas, are mistaken. Mazyek underlined that Muslims have condemned attacks that targeted civilians, but also demanded an end to the military campaign by Israel. "On the one hand, it is about condemning extremism such as the Hamas terror on October 7 and, on the other hand, making it clear that the war in Gaza and the Israeli bombardment must not continue,” he said. In the end, the escalation of violence only helps extremists and pushes a peace solution in the Middle East into the distant future, said Mazyek. He criticized German media reports that labeled pro-Palestinian demonstrations as “Hamas rallies” and accused protestors of “anti-Semitism” or incitement to hatred. People who have lost loved ones in Gaza should be allowed to express their feelings, said Mazyek. read the complete article

Germany has Islamophobia problem, admits interior minister

Germany’s interior minister on Tuesday admitted that there is an Islamophobia problem in the country and pledged stronger measures to combat it, as threats and hate crimes against Muslims have spiked in recent months. “In Germany, almost every second person agrees with Islamophobic statements, and I am saying this clearly, we also have an Islamophobia problem in Germany,” Nancy Faeser said at the German Islam Conference. Addressing representatives of the Muslim communities and migrant organizations, Faeser said the government is aware of the problem, and they are examining recommendations of the experts to take new measures. “For many Muslims in Germany, the threat of becoming victim of anti-Muslim attack has become an everyday reality. This has a catastrophic impact on people's sense of security, we cannot accept this,” the Social Democrat politician said. “All people in Germany have the right to live in security and enjoy democratic freedoms, which means that we will show zero tolerance for hostility towards Muslims, right-wing extremism, antisemitism, racism and other forms of misanthropy,” she added. Germany’s Muslim communities reported a surge in Islamophobic hate crimes since the escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict last month, triggered by biased media coverage of the recent developments, and propaganda by far-right politicians. read the complete article


China Is Expanding Its Mosque Crackdown Beyond Xinjiang, Report Says

The Chinese government has expanded its campaign of closing mosques to regions other than Xinjiang, where for years it has been blamed for persecuting Muslim minorities, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday. Authorities have closed mosques in the northern Ningxia region as well as Gansu province, which are home to large populations of Hui Muslims, as part of a process known officially as “consolidation,” according to the report, which draws on public documents, satellite images and witness testimonies. Local authorities also have been removing architectural features of mosques to make them look more “Chinese," part of a campaign by the ruling Communist Party to tighten control over religion and reduce the risk of possible challenges to its rule. President Xi Jinping in 2016 called for the “Sinicization” of religions, initiating a crackdown that has largely concentrated on the western region of Xinjiang, home to more than 11 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. A United Nations report last year found China may have committed “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang, including through its construction of a network of extrajudicial internment camps believed to have held at least 1 million Uyghurs, Huis, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz. Chinese authorities have decommissioned, closed down, demolished or converted mosques for secular use in regions outside Xinjiang as part of a campaign aimed at cracking down on religious expression, according to Human Rights Watch. read the complete article

China: Mosques Shuttered, Razed, Altered in Muslim Areas

The Chinese government is significantly reducing the number of mosques in Ningxia and Gansu provinces under its “mosque consolidation” policy, in violation of the right to freedom of religion, Human Rights Watch said today. Chinese authorities have decommissioned, closed down, demolished, and converted mosques for secular use as part of the government’s efforts to restrict the practice of Islam. The authorities have removed Islamic architectural features, such as domes and minarets, from many other mosques. “The Chinese government is not ‘consolidating’ mosques as it claims, but closing many down in violation of religious freedom,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese government’s closure, destruction, and repurposing of mosques is part of a systematic effort to curb the practice of Islam in China.” Ma Ju, a US-based Hui Muslim activist who has been in contact with Hui in China affected by the policy, told Human Rights Watch that it is part of efforts to “transform” (转化) devout Muslims in order to redirect their loyalty toward the CCP: “Government officials first approach those Communist Party members who are also Hui Muslims … then they move onto ‘persuading’ students and governmental workers, who are threatened with school probation and unemployment if they continue with their faith.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

Tell MAMA recorded 895 anti-Muslim cases in six weeks

Tell MAMA recorded 895 anti-Muslim cases in the six weeks that followed Hamas’s deadly terror attacks. Our latest figures cover October 7 to November 19, demonstrating a six-fold increase in cases from the 2022 figure of 142 cases (110 offline, 32 online). Like with our previous statistical bulletins, we provide a brief geographic breakdown of where offline cases occurred. Of the 401 offline cases, 69 occurred in London, 41 in the northwest, 10 in South Yorkshire, 21 in West Yorkshire, 12 in the East Midlands and 21 in the West Midlands. In other areas, like the South East and South West of England, we recorded 7 cases in each area respectively. The final geographic areas concern Scotland (7), Wales (2), and the North East (11). In terms of categories, Tell MAMA received 266 cases of abusive behaviour, 31 threats, 33 assaults, 26 acts of vandalism, 21 cases of discrimination, 19 acts of hate speech and 5 examples of anti-Muslim literature. read the complete article

Israel-Palestine war: Social media surveillance creates a 'culture of fear' on UK campuses

Academics have reported a "culture of fear" on UK campuses, as social media surveillance, which disproportionately targets racialised academic staff and students supporting Palestine, has resulted in reports to the police, the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and university disciplinary committees. "Immediately after October 7, we saw a kind of surveillance taking place on social media, particularly against any pro-Palestinian voices, but particularly against Palestinians and other people of colour," Neve Gordon, the chair of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES)'s committee on academic freedom, and professor of human rights at Queen Mary University told Middle East Eye. BRISMES told MEE that it had received multiple reports of complaints being filed against academics with universities, the police and Prevent, often based on social media posts in support of Palestine. In some cases, this has resulted in the staff members being investigated or even suspended. The European Legal Support Centre (ELSC), an independent organisation defending and empowering the Palestine solidarity movement in Europe through legal means, has documented 87 "incidents of repression" against Palestinian advocacy in the UK since the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza began on 7 October. This includes 24 cases in academia. According to the ELSC, racialised women are over-represented among the individuals in these 24 cases. MEE spoke to an academic at a London university who had complaints filed against them with their employer, Prevent and the police after they retweeted a Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) call-out for a protest. They were forced to deactivate their X account due to a "pile on" of abusive messages. read the complete article


WATCH — Reporting on Islamophobia in Canada

Muslim Canadians face discrimination on a regular basis and that needs to change. That’s according to a report called Combatting Hate: Islamophobia and its impact on Muslims in Canada, released on Nov. 2. Islamophobia is the fear of or discrimination against Muslim people. Eight Canadian senators prepared the report. Sen. Salma Ataullahjan, who led the committee that produced the report, said “urgent action” by the federal government is needed to stop the trend of discrimination against Muslims. Testimonies shared in the report include that: More Muslims were killed in targeted hate attacks in Canada than any other G7 country between 2016 and 2021, according to the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). Muslim women are the most targeted for violence and intimidation, according to Kashif Ahmed, board chairman of the NCCM. One in four Canadians don’t trust Muslims, according to a national survey of 1,500 Canadians by Maple Lodge Farms. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 Nov 2023 Edition


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