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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02 Oct 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., a federal agency has filed against Chipotle after a restaurant manager forcibly removed an employee’s hijab in 2021, meanwhile in India, the city of Mathura (considered the birthplace of the Hindu deity Krishna) has enacted a ban on meat slaughter in the city, forcing those Muslims who worked in the slaughterhouse to seek employment elsewhere and leaving the wider Muslim community living in fear, and lastly, Georgetown University Qatar held a conference over the weekend on the global history and practice of Islamophobia, featuring distinguished scholars from across the globe. Our recommended read of the day is by Carol Ferrara for The Conversation on how her research “suggests that the abaya ban and the earlier ‘headscarf law’ aren’t really about defending laïcité. Rather, they protect a particular version of French identity – an identity infused with Catholic culture.” This and more below:


French schools’ ban on abayas and headscarves is supposedly about secularism − but it sends a powerful message about who ‘belongs’ in French culture | Recommended Read

France’s decision to ban public school students from wearing the abaya – a long dress or robe popular among women in certain Muslim cultures – and the male equivalent, the qamis, has faced criticism since Aug. 27, 2023, when the country’s education minister announced the new rule. Yet polls suggest that more than 80% of the French population supports the ban, as does the country’s highest court: The Conseil d'État has upheld the challenged ban twice – most recently on Sept. 25, 2023. Education Minister Gabriel Attal cited “laïcité,” or French secularism, as the reason for the ban. Legislation passed in 2004 prohibits “ostentatious religious symbols” from public schools, including large crosses and Jewish head coverings, though its main target has been Muslim headscarves. Debate over the abaya, however, gets to the heart of debates over laïcité. Many critics argue that the abaya is a cultural garment, not a religious one, and should be allowed under laïcité. In practice, though, anything associated with Muslim cultures tends to be considered “religious.” Catholic traditions, meanwhile, are often considered “cultural” – and therefore compatible with laïcité. My ethnographic research in French schools, where secularism debates are particularly heated, suggests that the abaya ban and the earlier “headscarf law” aren’t really about defending laïcité. Rather, they protect a particular version of French identity – an identity infused with Catholic culture. read the complete article

U.N. criticizes French move to bar Olympians from wearing headscarves

A U.N. body has criticized France’s ban on its Olympic athletes wearing headscarves at the 2024 Paris Games, amplifying the debate over religious expression in a country with a long history of restricting Islamic dress in the name of secularism. When asked about the decision during a news conference Tuesday in Geneva, a spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights office said, “No one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear or not wear.” “Discriminatory practices against a group can have harmful consequences,” Marta Hurtado said, noting that under international human rights law, “restrictions of expressions of religions or beliefs” are “only acceptable under really specific circumstances,” such as public health or safety. French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra told a news program Sunday that those competing for France in the Olympics next year would not be permitted to wear hijabs at the event. read the complete article

United States

Federal agency sues Chipotle after a Kansas manager allegedly ripped off an employee’s hijab

A federal agency has sued the restaurant chain Chipotle, accusing it of religious harassment and retaliation after a manager at a Kansas location forcibly removed an employee’s hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that in 2021, an assistant manager at a Chipotle in Lenexa, Kansas, repeatedly harassed the employee by asking her to show him her hair, despite her refusal. After several weeks, the harassment culminated in him grabbing and partially removing her hijab, according to the complaint. The manager’s “offensive and incessant requests” that she remove her hijab, and his attempt to physically take it off, were “unwelcome, intentional, severe, based on religion, and created a hostile working environment based on religion,” the complaint alleged. According to the complaint, he demanded to see her hair at least 10 times over the course of one month. She refused on every occasion, saying she wore it because of her religious beliefs. The employee complained to another supervisor that the incidents made her uncomfortable, but no further action was taken against the manager, the complaint said. One night during closing in August 2021, the manager allegedly reached out and pulled her hijab partially off her head. The following day, the employee gave her two weeks’ notice. Chipotle didn’t schedule her for any shifts during those two weeks even though other non-Muslim employees who submitted their notice continued to be scheduled for work during that time, the complaint alleged. read the complete article

Recent lawsuits in US highlight anti-Muslim police bias

In two separate legal cases, the Muslim civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, announced this week settlements in lawsuits alleging anti-Muslim discrimination by members of US law enforcement. The cases occurred in San Jose, California and Detroit, Michigan. Though different, they both raise concerns over the treatment of Muslims by law enforcement. In San Jose, in a case that was supported by but not represented by CAIR, Nabil Haidar, a Muslim Lebanese-American police officer, was taunted for around 15 years following the 9/11 attacks, with fellow officers often asking him, "How many infidels are you going to kill today?", "You aren't gonna fly an aeroplane, are you?" and "Have you lost your way to the White House?" They would routinely call him "Taliban" and "Bin Laden". "The broader question that this case raises is what the police departments are doing to earn the trust of their communities," she said. "If, on the one hand, they're urging communities to trust them and urging young people to join their forces. If their duty is to serve and protect, when we learn about cases like this, their actions do not match their words." The 2021 suit in Detroit, filed by CAIR, follows a 2020 incident in which three African American and Hispanic Muslims were arrested after they called the police to assist a woman they saw experiencing a mental health crisis. The footage revealed an officer making derogatory comments about Muslims, saying that "Muslims lie a lot," that "Muslim men are paedophiles," and saying that Muslim men were controlling of women. He then said he would arrest the men and allow someone else to follow up. "We litigated that lawsuit for the better part of two years. It was approved by the council this week. The city never apologised," Amy Doukoure, CAIR-Michigan staff attorney, told TNA. "It's not as uncommon as people think. We've seen bias against Muslims with them not being given the benefit of the doubt," she said. read the complete article

The Double Standard: Evaluating U.S. National Security and Anti-Muslim Animus

Today, U.S. policy centers around supporting compliant autocrats, the Good Muslim, against the Bad Muslim. To claim this legacy of anti-Muslim animus emanating from simpletons is inaccurate and distracts from the historical crimes. Watchlists, harassment at airports, shutdown of charities, seizure of assets– what are considered characteristics of Islamophobia in America today emanate from our national security policies. A New Jersey Muslim mayor was extended a White House invitation to celebrate Eid, but was denied entry by the Secret Service after he arrived at the event. Looking deeper, the double standard manifests itself when we don’t consider white supremacy as a national security threat but still regard Muslim terrorism as a greater existential threat to our society. The designation of terrorist groups only applies to foreign organizations and states, and U.S. statutes addressing foreign terrorist organizations apply mainly to Muslims. All these indicators point to a perpetual conflict with Muslims here and abroad by the United States government– war leading to fractured societies, the vacuum of which is filled by militias and terrorist groups, with a consequence of hysteria and bigotry against Islam and Muslims by a large swath of Americans. read the complete article


Hate against Muslims in India, whether on the streets or in Parliament, is the same

Hate is the chief ingredient of everyday discourse on the streets and the country’s socio-political system to allow the Hindutva forces to continue to control the harvest. In a historic moment, the new Parliament held its first session, debating the success of India’s moon mission, when a senior lawmaker from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) sparked outrage and hurled Islamophobic profanities, communal slurs and swear words. On Thursday, 21 September, The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ’s MP from South Delhi, Ramesh Bidhuri, crossed all limits of bigotry and hate inside Parliament during a debate, setting a new low with his vile verbal Islamophobic attack against opposition Muslim MP Danish Ali, calling him a pimp, extremist, terrorist, Mulla, Katwa and even threatened to see him outside. “Mulla” is a pejorative word used against Muslims in India. “Katwa” is a slur targeting circumcision in Muslims. Ali responded: “If this has happened to me in Parliament, imagine what is happening to ordinary Muslims all over the country.” This is a common tale of Muslim life in India these days. A Muslim MP is targeted in Parliament, on the street, vigilantes kill Muslims by lynching and police are busy providing extra-judicial action against Muslims by encounter killings and bulldozing properties. The majority subscribing to the hate culture agreed with the BJP’s verbal attack. read the complete article

In India's holy city Mathura, BJP-sponsored meat ban targets Muslims

In India’s Mathura, regarded as the birthplace of the Hindu deity Krishna, yellow and orange skies accompanied by Hindu hymns mark sunrise. But for its Muslims, ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, shut the only slaughterhouse in the city, life has been dark and still. Aahil Qureshi has been unemployed for two years since the BJP government banned the slaughter and sale of meat in 22 municipal wards in Mathura — a city considered holy territory in Hinduism. Like Qureshi and many others who were rendered unemployed since the ban on the sale of meat and liquor in Mathura in 2021, the Muslim community is especially suffering since they claim that their traditionally acquired skill of slaughtering animals has been put down by the government. Since the ban, local workers claim hundreds of Muslims have left Mathura for nearby cities like Agra and Kanpur to earn from the only skill they know. Amid this ban, local Muslims have also claimed to be facing harassment, arrests and intimidation by the Mathura Police based on suspicions raised by informers. This has made many Muslims live in fear and censor their consumption of meat in the holy Hindu city. Alam views this ban as the Hindu Nationalist BJP’s tactic to ‘cleanse’ Mathura of Muslims. “The meat slaughter ban is meant to make Mathura a Muslim-free zone. Thousands have been impacted or rendered unemployed, it is the BJP’s goal to target Muslims,” Alam explains. He adds, “The BJP arbitrarily declared Mathura as a ‘pilgrimage zone’ and banned meat. This was only to get rid of Muslims.” read the complete article


After years of brutal repression, China's Communist Party tries to turn Xinjiang into a tourism hotspot

On the streets of historic Kashgar, a desert oasis in Western China known as the cradle of Uyghur culture, a brand new "Ancient City" is in the midst of a tourist boom. In recent years, most of the old town's distinctive mudbrick dwellings, which survived 2,000 years of shifting empires, have been demolished, with the government citing concerns over earthquakes and sanitation. Uyghur activist groups say the destruction of the old town amounts to "cultural genocide". Now, souvenir stalls selling fridge magnets, cheap jewellery and traditional instruments line the streets, where visitors can take a ride in an electric buggy through the crowds or get dressed in a traditional Uyghur costume for a photo shoot on the steps of a mosque. China says more than 180 million tourists have flowed into the Xinjiang province so far this year, enticed by government-funded coupons for discounted travel. The police checkpoints have been rolled back, replaced by a vast network of sophisticated facial-recognition security cameras. They are one of the few visible signs of the decade long, intense crackdown that may constitute "crimes against humanity", according to a United Nations report released last year. For several years, the region of Xinjiang has been shut off from most of the world's media, amid a highly secretive government campaign to stamp out extremism amongst the Uyghur population and other Muslim minorities. Now the province is moving to a state of "normalisation". The great rebranding of Xinjiang is in full swing. read the complete article

China gave the ABC a tightly controlled tour of Xinjiang. Here's what we saw

China's decade long crackdown on millions of ethnic Uyghurs in the country's west has entered a new phase. Now, the police checkpoints have been rolled back and millions of Chinese tourists are flooding the area, thanks to government subsidised travel. Uyghur groups abroad have called it "genocide tourism", claiming it's an attempt to commodify the culture of a people who are still living in constant fear. David Lipson travelled to Kashgar in southern Xinjiang as part of a media tour organised by the Chinese government, and filed this report. read the complete article

In China’s Uyghur genocide, another voice silenced

China’s government insists it is a “law-based country.” But in reality, China is governed by a secretive party-state that uses the law as a tool for political repression. In the case of prominent Uyghur ethnographer Rahile Dawut, the “law” has become a cover for injustice. Six years after she was first detained, we learn that Ms. Rahile was sentenced to life in prison — a shocking punishment for one of the world’s leading exponents of Uyghur culture and traditions. But the sentence adds to the evidence that China’s rulers are executing a cultural genocide of the Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic minority, and others in the Xinjiang region, attempting to eradicate their language, culture and traditions and replace them with those of the Han Chinese majority. A human rights lawyer, Rayhan Asat, whose brother Ekpar Asat has been detained in Xinjiang since 2016, told Voice of America, “If you look at historical examples, when the state attempts to commit genocide, they tend to go after the brightest and the finest of the society, who would preserve their culture, who would preserve the collective dignity of the people.” The Uyghur Human Rights Project has found that a minimum of 312 Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz intellectual and cultural elites were detained or imprisoned as of late 2021, and probably many more. It was previously disclosed that plans for the Uyghur genocide began after an outdoor market attack in southern Xinjiang in May 2014 in which 31 people were killed and which China blamed on Uyghur separatists. Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed to wipe out religious extremism. In the ensuing years, China built high-security reeducation camps in which more than 1 million Uyghurs were incarcerated, pushed the Uyghur population into coerced labor and launched a campaign to suppress the birthrate of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. China at first denied the camps existed and later falsely claimed they were vocational education facilities. The United Nations last year found credible evidence of torture and other human rights abuses that were likely to be “crimes against humanity.” read the complete article


Georgetown University Qatar Conference Examines Islamophobia’s Growing Impact on the Global Muslim Community

Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q)’s “Global Histories and Practices of Islamophobia” conference began with a resounding message to build solidarity in the global fight against Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination, bigotry, and racism. In response to the growing global apprehension surrounding the surge in anti-Muslim bias and hate-related incidents, the conference is examining Islamophobia and its rampant discourse in political, social, educational, and other contexts. In his opening keynote speech, H.E. Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, Founder of the World for All Foundation, said: “We create isms and phobias for every difference. We dress it up as an anxiety of the unknown, activating the surveillance state, sophisticating punishments at every event, and perfecting the policies of immigration, as if they are normal laws that we need to implement. All of those things have morphed into what today can only be described as mainstream extremism.” He added: “When you call it a fear, a phobia, you place the burden on the victim. It is a double burden, to survive discrimination and to prove that they are not so fearful.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 02 Oct 2023 Edition


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