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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30 Nov 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In France, Muslim women and schoolgirls are “taking the fight for bodily autonomy into their own hands” by launching legal challenges against policies that restrict their freedom of religion and expression, meanwhile in the UK, former Tory minister Rehman Chishti calls on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to do more to tackle Islamophobia, and in the United States, NBC News examines Republican GOP Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis’s history when it comes to anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric, including the revelation that he proposed a Muslim ban before Trump ever suggested one. Our recommended read of the day is by Rana Ayyub for The Washington Post on how Hindu nationalists support Israel because they believe it’s the only country that “has shown Muslims their place, a model they wish to replicate in India, where equal status for Muslims is now being challenged with introduction of various laws in Parliament.” This and more below:


India’s ruling party is using the Israel-Gaza war to demonize Muslims | Recommended Read

On Oct. 7, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tweeted a parallel comparing the Hamas attack on Israel to the situation in India before Narendra Modi was elected as prime minister in 2014. “What Israel is facing today, India suffered between 2004-14,” it read. “Never forgive, never forget.” The intent was clear. Accompanied by video depicting past militant attacks, the message promoted a narrative of Islamist terrorism in a country where the 220-million-strong Muslim population has been demonized by the Modi-led government in the year leading up to general elections. Soon after the tweet was released, pro-government news channels in India portrayed the attack on Israel as an Islamic jihad menace, something they alleged India had been grappling with for decades. India and Israel faced a common enemy, they said: “Islam.” Millions of tweets followed in solidarity with Israel and laced with anti-Muslim rhetoric. This development is rooted in a skewed idea of Hindu supremacy. Historically, Hindu nationalists have idolized Adolf Hitler, dating back to the period before independence, when the leading ideologue of the movement, M.S. Golwalkar, praised the Nazi’s “final solution” to the Jewish problem and held it up as a “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” “Mein Kampf,” with its focus on racial superiority, has consistently remained a bestseller in India. Yet, today, many Hindu nationalists are also ardent supporters of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Modi considers one of his close friends and allies. Modi’s BJP has embraced Israel in line with the belief held by many conservative Hindu nationalists that they have a right to a Hindu state, just as Zionists succeeded in creating a Jewish state. Hindu nationalists — who very often sport a swastika or an image of Hitler as display pictures on their social media accounts — are well aware of the paradox; nevertheless, they hail Israel as the only country they believe has shown Muslims their place, a model they wish to replicate in India, where equal status for Muslims is now being challenged with introduction of various laws in Parliament. read the complete article

United States

NYC Department of Education among districts under investigation for antisemitism, Islamophobia

The New York City Department of Education is now under investigation for complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobia. The department is the latest target by the federal Department of Education in the wake of the crisis in the Mideast. There are now nine schools or districts across the country that are under investigation, including Columbia University, Cornell University and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. The investigation is based under Title IV, a law that bans discrimination based on shared ancestry. It is possible, in the worst case scenario, that the schools could lose federal funding. "The goal is not to punish students by withdrawing money from universities, that's never the goal," Cardona told ABC News. "The goal is to create safe learning environments and I'm committed as Secretary of Education to work with presidents, to work with superintendents, to make sure they have the tools that they need, the resources that they need, and the direction that they need." read the complete article

Before Trump, a low-profile congressman named Ron DeSantis sought a 'Muslim travel ban'

In 2017, President Donald Trump triggered national outrage for implementing a so-called Muslim travel ban, blocking U.S. admissions for travelers from predominantly Muslim countries. The move prompted widespread protests and legal challenges, and Joe Biden rescinded it in one of his first actions as president. But even before Trump suggested such a ban, a low-profile congressman named Ron DeSantis quietly introduced what amounted to an early version of that travel order. On Dec. 1, 2015, DeSantis — now the governor of Florida and a Republican presidential candidate — introduced the Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act, which would have blocked entry of refugees from certain countries “if the alien is a national of, has habitually resided in, or is claiming refugee status due to events in any country containing terrorist-controlled territory.” The countries outlined in the bill, which never got out of committee, were Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. That history is prescient today as DeSantis seeks the GOP presidential nomination amid turmoil in the Middle East. He has already said he would not accept refugees from Gaza into the U.S., and Muslim groups warn that he is no different from Trump when it comes to his policies toward majority-Muslim countries. Those policies, they say, damage relations at home and further fuel the potential for threats and violence already targeted at the community. read the complete article


The defence of Israel by politicians is increasing Islamophobia in The Netherlands

"Israel is going to shoot you all," a man shouted at a woman wearing a hijab who was with her child in a supermarket in The Netherlands. Another woman who stood in front of her home heard "Hamas Hamas" shouted at her by a passer-by who then also hurled a tirade of curses. A Muslim man was fired on the spot after years of service as a prison nurse because he shared an article with a colleague who asked about his views on Palestine. A Moroccan-Dutch teenager was questioned about his views on Hamas and pressed to take “sides” by his chemistry teacher in front of his classmates. As he made his way to a new workplace, a young Muslim man was notified by the job agency that the employer decided not to sign his contract because they’d seen he’d posted something in solidarity with Palestine on social media. Another Muslim woman was taken to task by her supervisor over the image of the Palestinian flag on the profile picture of her personal WhatsApp account and was pressured to remove it. A young woman was verbally and physically harassed, and called a terrorist by a passer-by when she stuck a ‘Free Palestine’ sticker on a light pole. This is but a small selection of the dozens of reports of islamophobia and censorship documented by the Dutch foundation Report Islamophobia (Meld Islamofobie) since Israel started its bombing campaign in Gaza. At first glance, these attacks appear to be a temporary consequence of international political tensions. However, the patterns visible in these cases point to a structural link between political discourse and policy on the one hand, and everyday Islamophobia on the other. Perpetrators readily assume a connection between Islam, Muslims (anywhere in the world) and terrorism. This does not come out of the blue. It is a consequence of an Islamophobic discourse with international reach that has permeated political rhetoric, policy and media framing in the Netherlands and across Europe for two decades. read the complete article

United Kingdom

'Enough is enough': Rishi Sunak told by Tory MP to 'finally' take action on Islamophobia

The Prime Minister was warned by former Tory minister Rehman Chishti that he needs to do more to tackle Islamophobia. Mr Chishti commended Mr Sunak for "rightly" responding to the "shocking and unacceptable" rise in anti-Jewish hatred, which has rapidly increased since Hamas attacked Israel in October. But he questioned why Islamophobia was not getting more attention or funding. In a tense PMQs exchange, he said the Government's post for an independent adviser on Islamophobia had been vacant for over year and asked whether Mr Sunak would "finally" take action. read the complete article


The schoolgirls and sportswomen resisting France’s abaya ban

That same day, Sihem Zine appeared before the Conseil d’État, France’s highest administrative court. Zine, who founded Action Droits des Musulmans (ADM) to protect Muslim citizens’ rights after the French government declared a state of emergency in response to the Paris terror attacks in 2015, had filed the motion to seek an injunction against the ban on the abaya and qamis. Despite being the only woman to speak among a court of men, she didn’t seem fazed; Zine has been interrogating the exclusion of Muslim women and girls from French public life since the state began to purge all religious signs from its institutions through legislative action over the course of a few decades. But this was a new kind of case: the abaya has no religious value (unlike the hijab, which is already banned in French state schools), and so Attal’s memorandum seemed to be banning modest clothing altogether. “You have introduced two new words here – ‘abaya’ and ‘qamis’,” Zine argued before the judge. “Why didn’t you write the French word robe [dress] so we know what exactly is forbidden?” Since the French government’s memorandum only defined the abaya and qamis as outfits “which ostensibly manifest a religious belonging in the school setting”, Zine reasoned that this would force school personnel to ascertain what was an abaya, maxi dress, boot skirt or kimono by racially profiling students to establish who was wearing a long dress for the purposes of ‘religious belonging’ and who was wearing it for fashion. She argued this would result in girls from ethnic minorities being denied their right to education. As Zine stood before the judge, proof that her fears were founded was emerging: Attal appeared on television reporting that already 298 schoolgirls had been asked to change out of their abayas, and 67 had refused and been made to go home. The Conseil d’État did not accept the case being presented by ADM. The judges, echoing the arguments of the Ministry of Education, found that anything which ostensibly manifests a religious affiliation is prohibited at state schools, and that items could become a religious garment “due to the behaviour of the student”. The judges also noted that the memorandum was circulated as a result of “attacks on secularism” in the previous academic year, during which 1,984 reports had been made about alleged breaches of school dress code, largely pertaining to the abaya and qamis. When I speak to Zine after the decision, she is incensed. “The concept of secularism in this country is misguided, and has been turned into an exclusionary secularism,” she says. “The general principle of secularism is the freedom to believe or not to believe, which means that the state and its officials have to be neutral. But for several years, it is the individuals as users of public services who see themselves neutralised. The definition of secularism right now is so broad that it means we are eternally reopening the discussion on the place of ethnic minorities and Muslims in society.” read the complete article


Employees can be banned from wearing headscarves, top EU court rules

Employees can be banned from wearing signs of religious belief such as the Islamic headscarf in EU member states, the bloc’s top court ruled on Tuesday. The wearing of the hijab has divided Europe for years and the issue came before the courts again in Belgium, after an employee of the eastern municipality of Ans was told she could not wear one while at work. Lawyers for the woman, who performs her duties as head of office primarily without being in contact with users of the public service, argued that her right to freedom of religion had been infringed. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said authorities in member states had a margin of discretion in designing the neutrality of public service they intended to promote. However, this objective must be pursued in a “consistent and systematic manner” and measures must be limited to what is strictly necessary. It was for a national court to verify that these requirements are complied with. Critics have described the bans as attacks on religious freedoms that predominantly affect women. Human Rights Watch, the NGO, said bans on religious clothing and symbols for teachers and other civil servants in Germany led some Muslim women to give up teaching careers. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 30 Nov 2023 Edition


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