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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09 Nov 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain said on Wednesday that Muslims in the UK are facing an “exceptionally hostile political environment” as Islamophobia Awareness Month begins in the country, meanwhile in the US, a cartoon appearing in the opinions section of the Washington Post depicting a caricature of a Palestinian man strapped with the bodies of his family is being called “racist” and “vile” across social media, and in Austria, analysts note that that the way the media covers “protests in support of Palestine is provocative and increases polarization and Islamophobia in the country.” Our recommended read of the day is by Steven Zhou for the Toronto Star on how Islamophobia in Canada has grown to an unprecedented level since the war broke out between Israel and Hamas, with rates of reported discrimination rising about 900 per cent. This and more below:


Islamophobia: “I have never seen it this bad.” | Recommended Read

A Muslim woman told she should be raped on the streets. A mosque smeared with feces. Two others defaced with hate speech. Graffiti in a school bathroom: “!!U MUSLIMS NEED TO DIE!!” I have never seen it this bad. Online insults, violent threats, unchecked aggression. Not since 9-11 have Muslims been under this much fire. Caseworkers at the National Council of Canadian Muslims (where I work) are yet again fielding record numbers of complaints about Islamophobic and racist treatment. Spikes have happened repeatedly in recent years — so much so that I feel like I’m yelling all the time, trying to get the public’s attention. But this time it’s even worse. The past three weeks have been the highest rate of intakes we have seen in years. Compared to the rate before October, daily reports have risen about 900 per cent. This is staggering. It is exhausting, it is traumatic. Of course, this rise in Islamophobia is related to the utterly appalling violence that has unfolded in Israel and the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7. Along with Islamophobic incidents, we know that cases of anti-Palestinian racism and antisemitism have also been on the rise. Our communities feel caught off guard, underequipped to deal with a tide of hate targeting marginalized people. We need elected officials at our highest levels of government to get on side. They must clearly and unambiguously denounce this Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian trend. We have not heard a plan from our ministers, for instance, that explicitly engages this problem. We have yet to see a co-ordinated effort by officials at different levels of government to work with our communities. Meanwhile, Muslim and Palestinian identity itself is under fire. Any sign of being part of either group draws violent and angry reactions. These identities are yet again being conflated with terrorism. This is a clear throwback to the days right after 9-11, when Muslims were automatically identified as possible security risks. It led to massive surveillance and scrutiny along with unchecked Islamophobia and humiliation in the media. read the complete article


‘Beacon of hope’: Amid Gaza war, Indian Muslims take care of synagogues

In the tranquil halls of the Maghen David Synagogue, the Palestine-Israel conflict finds no echo. “They stand and do their namaz [prayer]. We sit and do our namaz. That is the only difference between us,” says Khan, who since the age of 20 has been a caretaker at the 140-year-old Renaissance-style synagogue on Brabourne Road in Kolkata’s busiest business and wholesale market district. There has been one constant for more than two centuries: the caretakers of the synagogues. For generations now, they have come from a village called Kakatpur in Puri district, about 500km (310 miles) south of Kolkata in the neighbouring Odisha state. And they are all Muslim. It is not as if the Jews of Kolkata or the Muslim caretakers of the synagogues are oblivious to the horrors of the Israel-Hamas war or Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Like many other cities around the world, Kolkata, too, has witnessed pro-Palestinian protests by left-leaning activists and some Muslim groups. Muslims comprise about 27 percent of the population of West Bengal, where a political party opposed to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power. But the Muslim caretakers say they have come under no pressure from their families or the community for working at synagogues. “For me, this [synagogue] is the house of ‘Khuda’ [God] just like our own ‘Khuda ka ghar’ [mosque],” says Khan. “It is very sad that Muslims and Jewish people are fighting today in Gaza and Israel. But their house of God is also our house of God. We will take care of it all our life.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

British Muslims observe Islamophobia Awareness Month amid increasingly ‘hostile political environment’

Muslims in the UK are observing Islamophobia Awareness Month against the backdrop of the conflict in Gaza and “an exceptionally hostile political environment,” the Muslim Council of Britain said on Wednesday. The negative political climate is “only further exacerbated by divisive comments from senior politicians such as the home secretary,” Suella Braverman, an MCB spokesperson told Arab News. Braverman has described pro-Palestinian demonstrators who take to the streets of the UK in support of a ceasefire in Gaza as taking part in “hate marches.” And in a letter to senior police officers, she said that waving a Palestinian flag or chants that advocate freedom for Arabs in the region could constitute a criminal offense. There has been an increase in violence against British Muslim communities in the past month, since the war in Gaza began, the MCB said, with police recording a 140 percent increase in Islamophobic offenses in London alone. “Over the course of the now month-long attack on the Gaza Strip, we have seen a surge of hate crime at home,” the MCB spokesperson said. “We have also seen Islamophobic attacks across the UK, including the attempted arson on an Oxford mosque in which the perpetrator threw a petrol can at the mosque that had ‘IDF’ (the abbreviation for Israel Defense Forces) scrawled over it; a man attacking a Muslim woman with a concrete slab in broad daylight; and alcohol being poured over Muslim worshippers praying at a protest.” read the complete article

British Muslim MP facing ‘torrent’ of Islamophobic abuse, ‘serious death threats’

A British Muslim MP for the UK’s main opposition Labour Party has told Parliament that she has received “serious death threats,” The Independent reported. Apsana Begum also said members of the public had threatened to “rip off” her hijab, and criticized the Conservative government for inaction on Islamophobia. “I am currently facing death threats and a torrent of Islamophobic and misogynistic abuse,” she said. “In fact I’ve received such abuse since being elected, since putting myself forward as a candidate for elections and receive comments including, and I quote, ‘vile and filthy religion, importing vile and filthy creatures like Apsana Begum’.” She added: “I am now facing a heightened risk to my safety with serious death threats, threats to kidnap me, threats of sexual violence and threats about ripping off my hijab in public. It goes on and on.” People are trying to “capitalize on current events by spreading their hate and division,” she said, referring to the Gaza conflict. “Every single day people of Muslim backgrounds like me face discrimination and prejudice, the prevalence of negative stereotypes, harassment and hate crimes are only part of a whole structure of discrimination,” Begum added. read the complete article

United States

Jewish & Muslim advocacy group tracking sharp spike in incidents nationwide since Hamas’ attack

In the month since the start of the Israel-Gaza war, Jewish and Muslim organizations are reporting significant spikes of discrimination nationwide. This includes increased reports of harassment, vandalism, assaults and in some cases, even murder. Advocacy groups report a majority of these incidents involve college students. “It’s students being doxed so personal information given out, digital trucks with their names and faces on it driving around Harvard,” Corey Saylor, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “It’s employees being called into HR for putting something on social media to support Palestinian humanity.” Saylor said CAIR has received reports of more than one thousand incidents against Muslims in the U.S. from October 7 – November 4, 2023. “You’re hearing horrible things like a 6-year-old in Chicago being murdered, people having guns drawn and pointed or discharged, people who have been the receiving end of vehicles being used as weapons being driven into protesters,” said Saylor. The Muslim advocacy group is now calling on President Biden to act. “The immediate rapid response crisis measure is calling for a ceasefire in Gaza,” said Saylor. read the complete article

Palestinian Americans worry anti-Gaza rhetoric will turn into Islamophobic legislation

In his initial remarks after the Hamas attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, President Joe Biden stated, “As long as the United States stands—and we will stand forever—we will not let [Israel] ever be alone.” Over the past month, the U.S. has maintained its position of unwaveringly backing the occupation State of Israel, even as casualties in Gaza rise to more than 10,000 and calls for a ceasefire mount. Some conservative lawmakers have taken even stronger anti-Gazan stances, calling for the redirection of humanitarian aid funds from Gaza to Israeli defense and characterizing all Palestinians in Gaza as antisemitic. Some of this anti-Gazan sentiment has evolved into broader anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic sentiment with many Muslims and Muslim organizations comparing this rise in Islamophobia to post-9/11 levels. Violent hate crimes, such as the killing of 6-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea Al-Fayoume, the stabbing of Dr. Talat Jehan Khan, and the running over of an Arab-American student at Stanford University, are also on the rise. In his home state, DeSantis has shut down chapters of the pro-Palestine organization Students for Justice in Palestine, citing their alleged support for a “terrorist organization,” even as some argue that this is a violation of free speech. Haneen Jabbar, a Palestinian-American student at the University of Florida, told Prism, “The entire conservative state of Florida is very anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian … Whenever people speak about Palestine in Florida, it risks their future and education, and people are definitely being silenced. People are scared to speak up because of the repercussions.” Republicans have already commenced immigration restrictions by introducing the Guaranteeing Aggressors Zero Admission Act (GAZA Act) “to make aliens who are holders of a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority ineligible for visas, admission, or parole into the United States.” Noor Hamed, a Palestinian American from Wisconsin, told Prism, “I’m seeing my politicians not stand with me. I’m an American citizen; it’s sad to see.” Both Hamed and Jabbar also say they feel “dehumanized” right now living in a country that is not backing them. read the complete article

Washington Post cartoon slammed as ‘racist, vile’, ignites controversy

A cartoon in the Washington Post’s opinion section has triggered controversy and sparked anger over its “racist” and “orientalist” depiction of Arabs and Palestinians. Titled, Human Shields, it depicts a man in a dark, striped suit, which has Hamas in bold white letters emblazoned on it, for the Palestinian group. The man’s eyebrows are arched, his nose is comically large. He has four children strapped to his body, including a baby positioned on his head. A woman – veiled and docile – and meant to represent Palestinian women, cowers behind him. According to the cartoon, published on November 6, he is Hamas. The title as well as the depiction of children and a woman tied to him, appear to reference allegations by Israel, which are often repeated by Western leaders and echoed by many mainstream media outlets, that Hamas uses human shields. Next to the man, woman and children, who are flanked by a Palestinian flag, is a partial portrait of the Dome of the Rock in occupied East Jerusalem and beneath is an oil lamp. Two days after publication, the outrage on social media, as well as the Washington Post’s website was growing. Late on Wednesday, the publication said it had taken down the drawing after it was criticised as racist and dehumanising toward Palestinians. On X, formerly Twitter, a user called the image “beyond vile, bigoted and dehumanising”. Others said the dehumanisation was reminiscent of anti-Semitic cartoons that depicted Jews in a negative light. On the Post’s website, one reader commented: “Shame on Washington Post for using racist tropes that are currently being used to justify a genocide where majority killed are children. Dehumanizing any peoples paves a way for injustices to occur. Unfortunate to see The Washington Post fuel that racist fire. This cartoon and the fact that it was published is appalling.” read the complete article

A Metro Detroit mom always felt safe wearing her hijab. Until now.

Faten, a 34-year-old Metro Detroit mother who's been wearing a hijab for more than 20 years, says she always felt safe wearing the head covering — until now. Faten asked Michigan Radio to withhold her last name, fearing for her security after a Farmington Hills man was arrested for allegedly calling on people to "hunt Palestinians." "I had to explain to her why people could potentially be targeting us only because they're going to see the hijab and they're going to just act. And unfortunately, that's just the kind of world we live in," said Faten. Faten says she's never felt like this in her life — not during 9/11 when she was a 12-year-old, just a year into wearing her hijab. Not during any other conflict. She says she's worried for the people back home, how they’re finding food and water, how they’re staying safe. She can’t stop thinking about the videos and images of children she’s seen. She describes children having surgery without anesthetics, mothers begging for their children, children begging for their mothers. She’s had nightmares this past month. Her daughter has too. Faten says she's anxious all the time, trying to figure out what she can do to help. She’s attended rallies, stayed up on the news she doesn’t usually watch, talked to this reporter. read the complete article

Ron DeSantis Attacks Biden’s Actions Against ‘So-Called Islamophobia’

On the Republican debate stage Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) faulted President Joe Biden for acting against “so-called Islamophobia” ― seemingly trying to express doubt about even the existence of anti-Muslim sentiment as the death toll in Gaza reportedly tops 10,000. “What is Biden doing? Not only is he not helping the Jewish students, who are being persecuted, he is launching an initiative to combat so-called Islamophobia,” DeSantis said. “No, it’s the antisemitism that’s spiraling out of control. That is what we have to confront, and as president, I can tell you this, we are not going to stand for this on college campuses any longer.” DeSantis on Wednesday appeared to be referring to the Biden administration’s recent announcement of a “National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia in the United States.” The announcement cited the killing of 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, who authorities say was stabbed to death by his landlord in an anti-Muslim hate crime. read the complete article

Governors call for more funds to secure places of worship as threats toward Jews and Muslims rise

A Democratic group of governors led by Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer have joined national leaders in calling for an increase in funding for security at places of worship as concerns grow over threats against Jewish and Muslim communities sparked by the Israel-Hamas war. Governors of 10 states and the territory of Puerto Rico sent a letter Wednesday, first obtained by The Associated Press, that was addressed to leaders in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. It calls for an increase in funding to the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which is set to give $305 million this year to nonprofits to help secure their facilities against potential attacks. The letter cites the fatal stabbing of a 6-year-old Muslim boy in Chicago and a man arrested in Michigan after saying he wanted to hunt Palestinians as examples of the rising hate crimes related to the Israel-Hamas war. The increased fears of violence follow a familiar pattern of crimes against Jewish and Muslim communities rising when conflict erupts in the Middle East and Americans have been killed or taken hostage. read the complete article

Feds, local officials on high alert as reports of antisemitism, Islamophobia surge

Authorities in South Florida arrested a man after police say he slapped and punched a U.S. Postal Service worker in the face and ripped off her hijab late last month. A woman intentionally rammed her car into what she thought was a Jewish school last week in Indiana. Meanwhile, civil rights groups say threats against Jewish and Muslim people, including local faith leaders and federal officials, are being reported in staggering numbers across the country. Such incidents appearing to target Jewish and Muslim people have surged across the nation since the start of the Israel-Hamas war just over a month ago, putting all levels of law enforcement agencies on high alert and instilling fear into the lives of those being targeted and attacked. Several colleges from the San Francisco Bay Area to Upstate New York have seen increasing antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents that have prompted politicians and civil rights organizations to speak out. And local officials throughout the country have bolstered surveillance and security measures at mosques and synagogues. read the complete article


Steinmeier says Arabs in Germany should distance themselves from Hamas

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germans of Arab and Palestinian descent should take steps to distance themselves from anti-Semitism and the Palestinian group Hamas as pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the country have triggered controversy. The comments have drawn criticism, adding to concerns that efforts by European countries to contain tensions over the war that began on October 7 may be crossing over into discrimination against Palestinians. “Jews should never be made to account for Israel’s actions,” Hugh Lovatt, a foreign policy analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in a social media post. “So why should Germany ask its Muslim citizens to account for Hamas’s?” Steinmeier insisted that there must be no anti-Muslim racism or “general suspicion against Muslims”. This month, Germany announced a complete ban on the activities of Hamas and ordered the disbanding of a pro-Palestine group accused of spreading anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ideas. Hamas is already designated as a “terrorist” organisation in the country. On Tuesday, a report by the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM) found that nearly 40 percent of German Muslim men said they had experienced racism or discrimination when dealing with police and public offices. read the complete article


Uyghur film-maker claims he was tortured by authorities in China

A Uyghur film-maker has alleged he was tortured and forced to give a false confession during detention in Xinjiang province. Ikram Nurmehmet, 32, appeared on trial at Ürümqi people’s intermediary court on 27 October and is accused of organising “terrorist” activities and participating in an “East Turkestan separatist” group, sources close to him told the Guardian. Known for portraying Uyghur protagonists in his work, Nurmehmet spent six years studying film-making in Turkey, which his supporters said made him a target of state scrutiny. “I was held in a dark room for 20 days and physically tortured,” Nurmehmet reportedly said during the trial, adding that he had been made to give false confessions under duress while in detention. “I never joined any terrorist group or any political activities while I was in Turkey,” he said. The trial was attended by Nurmehmet’s wife, mother and father, who have not been able to meet him since he was arrested at his home in Beijing and flown to Xinjiang in May. read the complete article


Austrian media’s coverage of pro-Palestine rallies fuels islamophobia: Activists

The way the media in Austria covers protests in support of Palestine is provocative and increases polarization and Islamophobia in the country, say activists. In an interview with Anadolu, academician-publisher Gerhard Hertenberger and activist-writer Wilhelm Langthaler evaluated the pro-Israel stance of Austria’s media and its manipulative language about demonstrations in support of Palestine. Hertenberger pointed out that reports in Austrian media predominantly frame Israel's attacks on Gaza as legitimate self-defense. "I'm absolutely disgusted that people say the invasion of the Gaza Strip is legitimate. You cannot say on one side that it is murder and terrorism and on the other side that the killings are a legitimate right to self-defense." “This is just rubbish. This is propaganda of the worst kind.” Noting that news reports are generally prepared with a pro-Israel perspective, Hertenberger said the media in Austria is pro-Israel and does not discuss the problematic issues of the Israeli government. “You are not really allowed to criticize the media in Austria, which is absolutely pro-Israel, because then you are labeled anti-Semitic,” he said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 09 Nov 2023 Edition


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