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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23 Nov 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the Netherlands, far-right populist politician Geert Wilders has won the parliamentary election and is in a position to form the next ruling coalition and possibly become the country’s next prime minister, meanwhile in China, Human Rights Watch finds that the government is closing, destroying and repurposing mosques in a number of regions across the country as part of a “systematic effort” to curb the practice of Islam in China, and in the United States, Stuart Seldowitz, the former Obama administration adviser who was filmed harassing and making Islamophobic and racist comments at multiple halal cart vendors in NYC was taken into police custody and faces hate crime charges. Our recommended read of the day is by Parth M.N. for Wired on how “right-wing groups dedicated to fostering communal disharmony” have used anything from “hard disks filled with videos and laptops” to social media platforms such as Youtube and WhatsApp to spread hateful propaganda across the country. This and more below:


Hard Drives, YouTube, and Murder: India’s Dark History of Digital Hate | Recommended Read

A crowd had gathered at a village temple in Kesapuri, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, when Vikas Patil plugged a hard drive into his laptop to begin his show. First, he showed them an explicit video of a cow being killed. The animals are considered sacred to “upper caste” Hindus. In India, the slaughter of cattle for meat is largely the preserve of Muslims, a fact that wasn’t lost on the viewers. As people settled in to watch, Patil then played a couple of videos about “love jihad,” a baseless conspiracy theory that claims Muslim men are systematically wooing Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam. To finish off the session, Patil showed a handful of clips detailing the supposed “bigotry” of Islam. It was 2012, and most of India’s rural communities were not yet connected to the internet. Penetration was only 12 percent, mostly concentrated in big cities. Misinformation, conspiracy, and hate speech are often perceived as a phenomenon of the social media age, but even before India came online en masse, enterprising groups like Sanatan Sanstha were working at the grassroots level to seed ethnically charged narratives, traveling from village to village with hard drives loaded with propaganda. Since then, the channels available to them have changed profoundly. Today more than half the population of India—759 million people—are online. The country has 467 million active YouTube users—the most in the world. The users are no longer predominantly urban. Nobody has tapped into this proliferation better than right-wing groups dedicated to fostering communal disharmony, moving from hard disks filled with videos and laptops in temples to the vast reach of YouTube and WhatsApp. read the complete article

Why Muslims fear the UP halal ban could spread to other BJP states

Under chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh has emerged as a laboratory of sorts for divisive experiments ("bulldozer justice", harassment in the name of "love jihad" and "economic jihad") and what happens in UP quickly spreads to other BJP states. Although the halal food trade cuts across communal barriers, the certification business is almost entirely controlled by Muslims through a nationwide network of companies. And the ban will drive them out of business as certification will be taken over by government agencies. "It's effectively an economic boycott of Muslims by other means," said one Muslim businessman who didn't want to be named. The ban was announced over the weekend on November 19 through a peremptory government order, which warned that "strict legal measures" would be taken against "any individual or firm engaged in the production, storage, distribution, buying, and selling of halal-certified medicines, medical devices, and cosmetics within Uttar Pradesh". read the complete article

United States

Former Obama adviser in custody, faces hate crime charges after halal cart confrontation

A former Obama administration adviser was taken into police custody Wednesday and faces hate crime charges after a confrontation at a halal cart in Manhattan was caught on camera, police say. Stuart Seldowitz lives around the corner from the halal cart. Several videos captured the former diplomat allegedly harassing the vendor about his Egyptian roots and Islamic faith. Seldowitz was fired from his work with lobbying and communications firm Gotham Government Relations. A hate crime investigation was opened by the NYPD after Seldowitz was filmed allegedly harassing a food cart vendor on the Upper East Side. He was taken into custody on Wednesday and now faces one count of aggravated harassment of race or religion and four counts of stalking as a hate crime. All of the charges are considered misdemeanors. Mohammed Hussein, 24, was back to work at the cart Wednesday after filing a complaint of aggravated harassment with police. Hussein recorded at least one of the videos of Seldowitz. The owners of the cart on the corner of Second Avenue and East 83rd Street say there have been several ugly confrontations at the cart over the last two weeks amid conflict in the Mideast. Multiple videos circulating online show Seldowitz talking with a halal cart vendor, at different times of day and wearing different outfits. It is not clear how many times Seldowitz was recorded at the cart or what days the videos were filmed. Zak Ettamymy, a construction manager working nearby, witnessed a confrontation. He described the situation as harassment, and says he tried to step in to stop it. "He had a lot of hatred. He was saying a lot of mean things and I said, 'Listen, this is not a place or time for this. You probably need to walk away from this gentleman and let him work.'" read the complete article

NY governor unveils steps to fight online hate amid uptick in anti-Muslim, antisemitic rhetoric

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Tuesday that New York’s government is stepping up its fight against online hate amid an uptick in anti-Muslim and antisemitic rhetoric since the start of the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas. “Across our state New Yorkers are afraid, if they have family or friends in Israel, Gaza, other places, they’re afraid for their safety,” Hochul said during a press conference. “At home, many people are wrestling with the fear for the first time ever sometimes in their lives being victim of a hate crime.” Hochul said national data shows that hate crimes have surged in the six weeks weeks since Hamas entered Israel in a surprise attack Oct. 7 and killed more than 1,200 people. As Israel has launched a retaliatory assault on the group, killing thousands of Palestinian civilians, Hochul said there has been a “400 percent increase in threats against Jews, Muslims and Arabs.” According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the U.S. is seeing “historic” levels of antisemitism, with actions targeting the Jewish community after the war began. Palestinian American groups have also grown increasingly worried over the last several weeks after an uptick in violence. The number of Islamophobic incidents in the U.S. has dramatically spiked, advocacy groups said. read the complete article

New audio shows X users potentially targeting US Muslim lawmaker with violent plot

The nation's largest Muslim civil rights group on Tuesday released audio from X Spaces (formerly Twitter Spaces) that appeared to show pro-Israel activists targeting Michigan US Rep. Rashida Tlaib with a violent plot. Tlaib, the first woman of Palestinian descent in the US Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was scheduled to visit Arizona State University last weekend when a social media user noticed the violent audio posts on X, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The audio conversation was used "to strategize about how to target Rep. Rashida Tlaib during her visit to Arizona … including whether it would be possible to travel through Arizona with a gun and enter CAIR-Arizona’s annual banquet with a firearm or ‘shoot her from far away’,” CAIR said in a statement. "This bone-chilling discussion among pro-Israel activists … about ways to harass, disrupt and even shoot Rep. Rashida Tlaib is the latest proof that Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism are absolutely out of control in the United States," said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the council’s national deputy director. Tlaib's Arizona State University event was scrubbed due to the potential threat, and the banquet was held at an alternate location after the original hotel venue was also cancelled. Arizona law enforcement is now investigating the potentially violent plot, which CAIR said also included a discussion of disrupting the event and whether it would be legal to scream a sexually explicit insult at the congresswoman. read the complete article

Woman arrested on hate crime charges after allegedly attacking man and his toddler

A woman was arrested and charged with a hate crime assault after she allegedly accused a man wearing a traditional Arab scarf of supporting the Palestinian militant group Hamas and threw her cell phone and hot coffee at him and his 18-month-old son this month, authorities say. Hadasa Bozakkaravani, 48, was arraigned Tuesday after turning herself in, according to court documents. She pleaded not guilty to all charges, the documents show. Ashish Prashar, 40, told CNN he was at a Brooklyn basketball court with his son on November 6 when a woman charged at the pair and hurled slurs at them, threw her coffee at him and eventually hit him. The incident comes as Muslims, Palestinians and Jews in the US say they are becoming increasingly fearful of hate-motivated attacks as war between Israel and Hamas rages in the Middle East. Prashar, who said he was wearing a traditional Arab scarf known as a keffiyeh, said the woman became upset after his toddler started to interact with her young son in what Prashar believed to be a lighthearted moment between the children. Prashar said he reached for his phone to record the screaming woman, hoping that the camera would force her to calm down. But the woman became violent upon seeing the camera, he said. In video that Prashar captured on his cell phone, the woman is seen throwing her phone at Prashar. He said that was moments before she threw a cup of hot coffee at him and his son. read the complete article

How To Talk to Kids About Islamophobia

As attacks on Palestine intensify, anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence have increased worldwide. Here's some guidance on how to explain Islamophobia to children. The recent news cycle covering the conflict between Hamas and Israel has spiked Islamophobic sentiments within the U.S. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the “largest grassroots Islamic civil liberties organization” in the country, has reported an appalling 245% increase in reported anti-Muslim instances since then. In fact the rampant increase in Islamophobic incidents, including the highly-publicized stabbing of 6-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea Al Fayoume, resulted in President Joe Biden announcing the first US National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia on November 1, 2023. Islamophobia has a long history within the United States. Muslims have been systematically denied citizenship in the United States, both historically in the 1930s and 1940s, and post-September 11. Their communities have been heavily surveillanced and profiled, and they have often been villainized by those holding the highest offices in the country. Understanding the history of this conflict and these particular anti-Palestinian prejudices is critical to understanding the current spike in Islamophobic rhetoric and attacks. It can seem overwhelming when speaking about and explaining these situations to your children. But discussing Islamophobia with your kids is the first step to helping them navigate these difficult topics, whether it’s in relation to the current news cycle or just to help them maneuver through life. read the complete article


China: Human Rights Watch accuses Beijing of closing and destroying mosques

China is closing, destroying and repurposing mosques, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged in a new report. The crackdown is part of a "systematic effort" to curb the practice of Islam in China, HRW said. There are about 20 million Muslims in China, which is officially atheist but says it allows religious freedom. Observers, however, say there has been an increased crackdown on organised religion in recent years - with Beijing seeking greater control. "The Chinese government's closure, destruction and repurposing of mosques is part of a systemic effort to curb the practice of Islam in China," said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. The report follows mounting evidence of systematic human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China's north-western Xinjiang region. Beijing denies the accusations of abuse. Most of China's Muslims live in the country's north-west, which includes Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia. In the Muslim-majority village of Liaoqiao in the autonomous region of Ningxia, three of six mosques have been stripped of their domes and minarets, according to HRW. The rest have had their main prayer halls destroyed, it said. read the complete article


Dutch election winner Geert Wilders is an anti-Islam firebrand known as the Dutch Donald Trump

He’s been called the Dutch Donald Trump. He’s been threatened with death countless times by Islamic extremists, convicted of insulting Moroccans and Britain once banned him from entering the country. Now Geert Wilders has won a massive victory in a Dutch election and is in pole position to form the next ruling coalition and possibly become the Netherlands’ next prime minister. An exit poll revealing his landslide appeared to take even 60-year-old political veteran Wilders by surprise. In 2009, the British government refused to let him visit the country, saying he posed a threat to “community harmony and therefore public security.” Wilders had been invited to Britain by a member of Parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, to show his 15-minute film “Fitna,” which criticizes the Quran as a “fascist book.” The film sparked violent protests around the Muslim world in 2008 for linking Quranic verses with footage of terrorist attacks. To court mainstream voters this time around, Wilders toned down the anti-Islam rhetoric and sought to focus less on what he calls the “de-Islamization” of the Netherlands and more on tackling hot-button issues such as housing shortages, a cost-of-living crisis and access to good health care. His campaign platform nonetheless calls for a referendum on the Netherlands leaving the European Union, an “asylum stop” and “no Islamic schools, Qurans and mosques,” although he pledged Wednesday night not to breach Dutch laws or the country’s constitution that enshrines freedom of religion and expression. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 23 Nov 2023 Edition


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