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 Oct 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Spain, the country’s far-right Vox Party has registered a proposal in Congress to suspend the ability for individuals from Muslim majority countries to be granted residential permits, meanwhile in the U.S., Democratic leaders in the state of Michigan are fielding complaints and concerns from Muslim constituents on how President Biden has handled the crisis in Gaza, with some saying they will no longer support the President in the coming election, and lastly, voicemails shared with NBC News include profanity-laced death threats calling Congresswoman Ilhan Omar a “terrorist Muslim,” causing Rep. Omar and many other Muslim Americans to fear for their safety. Our recommended read of the day is by Khaled A. Beydoun for CNN on how the crisis in Gaza and the overwhelmingly negative and racist depiction of Palestinians in international media is impacting Muslim-American identity and the community’s sense of safety and security. This and more below:

United States

Opinion: Being a Muslim American right now is like living on borrowed time | Recommended Read

“This is worse than after the Muslim Ban, than after 9/11,” uttered Abed Ayoub, a lawyer and childhood friend, four blocks away from the White House and two decades apart from the day that changed everything. Like him, I’m an Arab, Muslim and American — an amalgam of identities that conjures up “pariah” in the world we live in. But now, it means something different. At this moment, when the horror of mass death unfolds in Gaza and on screens we hold in our palms, our identity spells absurdity. We see ourselves in the people of Gaza. The accosted people there share our names, our faith, our culture and our customs. We have friends in that 140-square-mile open-air prison turned into hell on earth, including journalists who were sheltering at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital at the time of the deadly blast on Wednesday. Wadea was stabbed 26 times last Saturday with a military-style knife by his family’s landlord, a 71-year-old man who’s been charged with murder and hate crimes, among other crimes. The attacker also stabbed Wadea’s mother more than a dozen times. She lived. But what does that word even mean anymore? What does it mean for a mother who escaped war for the safety of an American suburb? What does it mean for Abed and I: an executive director of a civil rights organization and a law professor, standing at the crosshairs of American power and an Arab identity conflated with terrorism? What does “living” mean for millions of Arabs and Muslims who call the United States home, burdened with the impossible task of proving their allegiance, over and over again, in response to bellowing demands that bury our humanity? It feels like we are living on borrowed time, like we were extended a contingent citizenship that can be stripped at any time, on account of events that unfold in America or on the other side of the world. Calling it “Islamophobia” would be a severe understatement. This existential ballad of being Arab or Muslim in America is far more onerous, far more absurd. It feels like an existence that has no exit. A play where our daily routine is waking up to the news of war, the stark images and videos of slain children, rolling timelines of shattered villages and the roaring demands “to condemn Hamas.” While this plot sounds a lot like novels from Jean Paul Sartre or Albert Camus, this is not fiction. This is our absurd reality. read the complete article

Chicago religious leaders urge peace after killing of six-year-old Muslim boy

Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders shook hands, talked and prayed together as they gathered in Chicago to urge unity across divides and denounce hate, while the region continued to reel from the savage killing of a six-year-old Palestinian American boy in an alleged hate crime. Imams and rabbis had already attended the funeral earlier in the week of Wadea Al-Fayoume, who had only recently celebrated his sixth birthday with his family in Plainfield, on the outskirts of Chicago, when the landlord, shouting Islamophobic curses, stabbed the boy and his mother last weekend. On Wednesday, religious leaders came together at the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) to offer condolences and support to the family and call, in a press conference, for an interfaith response – amid the worsening crisis in Israel and Gaza that is also fueling tension, threats and hate crimes overseas. He called for prayer for Shahin’s recovery and said: “We also denounce all the hate-inspired speech and demand that the media and elected officials cease to promote text … that discredits or marginalizes a group of people based upon their race, ethnicity or religious beliefs. This is leading to violence. All faith traditions respect the sanctity of life.” read the complete article

Mother of 6-year-old killed in alleged anti-Muslim attack near Chicago released from hospital after being stabbed over a dozen times

A Chicago-area woman who was stabbed multiple times in an alleged anti-Muslim attack that left her 6-year-old son dead last week has been released from the hospital, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Chicago office. Hanaan Shahin, 32, lived with her son, Wadea Al Fayoume, in a rented house in Plainfield Township, Illinois, for two years before their landlord brutally attacked them on October 14, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office. The family was “targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis, the sheriff’s office said. “This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement last week. read the complete article

New CA law aims to protect inmate religious practices in prisons

There was a celebration Tuesday in the South Bay over a bill that was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The law created a statewide policy that supporters say sets clear rules for inmates about religious headwear, clothing and grooming. "The beard is essential to being a man, a Muslim man. That's part of your identity, just like it is for a Muslim woman to wear the hijab, the head cover, and that's part of their identity," said Sajad Shakoor. One of the biggest challenges of Shakoor's time in prison were the limitations on how he could express his religion. "For example, this is a kufi," said Shakoor pointing to his religious headwear while talking about his time incarcerated. "This is something that all Muslims wear. They didn't want us wearing that. They didn't want us to have our beards. There were grooming standards and there were dress codes, and they were pretty strict about enforcing them." Senate Bill 309, introduced by Cortese and now signed into law, creates a widespread policy on religious clothing, headwear and grooming for inmates in California. read the complete article

Echoes of 9/11? Local Palestinian Americans, Muslims face violence and backlash amid Israel-Hamas war

Noor Ali has been leaning on her Islamic faith as the Chicago area faces a surge in crimes targeting Muslims and Palestinian Americans in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. “We are not safe anywhere,” said the Willow Springs woman, who is Palestinian American. For many local Arab Americans and Muslims, the recent backlash has been reminiscent of violence and discrimination following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which included hate crimes, unprecedented surveillance and widespread Islamophobia in Chicago and across the nation. “I think it’s triggering people’s reaction back to 9/11, and folks are explicitly making that comparison,” said Eman Abdelhadi, assistant professor of comparative human development at the University of Chicago, who is Palestinian American. “Now we’re back to that place where it feels like … walking around isn’t quite safe. Voicing your opinions isn’t quite safe. That’s definitely the feeling in Muslim and Arab communities right now.” An official with the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations described the current tenor as even worse than the post-9/11 environment. “The level of blind hatred and depravity we are witnessing should not be on us to condemn and prevent, that’s on our nation’s leaders on whose watch this America is emerging,” said Ahmed Rehab, CAIR-Chicago’s executive director, in a statement. At the same time, Abdelhadi said there’s greater internal strength today within these communities, which have developed more means of advocacy and empowerment over the past two decades. read the complete article

Pro-Palestinian views face suppression in US amid Israel-Hamas war

Widespread attempts to suppress pro-Palestinian views in the US after the Hamas attack on Israel have forced the cancellation of major conferences, prompted demands for the dismissal of workers who express support for Palestinians and led to intimidation campaigns against Arab American voices critical of Israeli policies. Earlier this week, a leading US Jewish group forced the cancellation of a major Palestinian campaign organisation’s national conference by alleging it was a front for Hamas, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis and abducted about 200 people in its attack from Gaza. Palestinian American activists say television networks also have censored or cancelled interviews. NPR and the BBC pulled advertising for a widely praised new book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after a campaign of “listener complaints”. Abuznaid said the campaign to pressure Hilton and other companies was not new but had escalated since the Hamas assault. “This is an old playbook to attack proponents of the Palestinian cause. Accusations of antisemitism, accusations of support for terrorism, accusations of being terrorists. However, what feels different in this moment is the misinformation and attacks on activists across the US is at a heightened pitch that we have not seen in recent years,” he said. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) said it had cancelled its annual banquet in Arlington, Virginia, on Saturday after receiving bomb threats. Cair, which describes itself as the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said it called off the event after talks with the Marriott hotel that has hosted the dinner for more than a decade. Cair said it had secured alternative premises but was not making the location public. read the complete article

'I will never vote Biden': Some Muslim Americans in a key swing state feel betrayed by the president

Michigan has one of the largest Muslim and Arab American populations in the country, and they say their support for Biden was instrumental to putting him over the top in the critical swing state in 2020. But now, Ramadan and other Democratic leaders in the state were hearing nothing but frustration with Biden — and threats to not vote for him again. In a series of more than a dozen roundtable discussions with Muslim community leaders in the two weeks since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, Ramadan said the main takeaway is that “people are very disappointed.” They say they “will not forget what President Biden did and why he lied to them,” he added. “President Biden won with historic numbers in 2020. And I was proud to represent that, but the last two weeks have really shifted things,” Ramadan said. “I’ve also been getting calls from people saying, ‘I have blood on my hands because I got people out to support him during that campaign.'” While Muslim Americans remain a small minority of the U.S. population, their numbers are growing rapidly, and both parties are increasingly vying for their support. Democrats have mostly succeeded so far, as former President Donald Trump and other Republicans turned them off with policies like a travel ban that affected predominantly Muslim countries (something Trump is promising to implement again if he is re-elected). Now, though, Muslim leaders are warning that Democrats risk losing their support, too, if Biden and the party do not do more to combat Islamophobia and address the pain many are feeling about the war in Gaza. read the complete article

Muslim members of Congress face spikes in death threats

One of the few Muslim members of Congress told NBC News she feels her life may be in danger after being inundated with threats since a terror attack sparked the war in Gaza, reflecting wider fears among Muslim Americans who feel they are being targeted to a degree unseen since the days after 9/11. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., whose family fled Somalia’s civil war before emigrating to the United States, unequivocally condemned the Hamas attack, but her longstanding criticism of Israel policy toward Palestinians and Washington’s support for the country has made her a lightning rod. The U.S. Capitol Police and the House Sergeant at Arms briefed Omar and other progressive lawmakers critical of Israel — including the only other Muslim woman in Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who is Palestinian American — over potential threats last week, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the meeting. Voicemails shared with NBC News include profanity-laced death threats calling Omar a “terrorist Muslim.” Another claimed a vigilante group spying on the congresswoman and “your children” had obtained “all your addresses and handed them out to rapists.” “I’m from a militant group,” the male caller of a third voicemail claimed. “I can’t wait ‘till our group sees you one day and I can rip your f------ rag off your head... I hope the Israelis kill every f------ one of you.” read the complete article

Muslim community wants vandalism at a South Philadelphia mosque to be investigated as hate crime

The Muslim community in South Philly wants vandalism at a mosque to be investigated as a hate crime. A video captured by a corner store's surveillance camera shows a man using a marker to vandalize walls along Point Breeze Avenue early on Thursday. He then makes his way further down the street to the United Muslim Islamic Center leaving several phrases on windows and doors. "We know it was directed at our faith because of the things that were on the building," Qasim Rashid said. The center's president Rashid had the vandalism removed but he noticed versions of those same phrases on a different building across the street. He says these acts have become more common ever since the start of the war in Israel. read the complete article

‘People Are Hurt and Scared’: How a Muslim American Leader in Georgia Is Confronting the War

The war between Israel and Hamas has torn through American politics, disturbed communities across the country and unsettled political coalitions in both parties. Over the past two weeks, Muslim American voters and leaders have been increasingly outspoken about their fears of violent backlash and political exclusion in this wrenching crisis. Among many Muslim American Democrats, there has been a sense of frustration about the Biden administration’s handling of the conflict. On Thursday, President Joe Biden made his most explicit appeal to Muslim Americans in his speech from the Oval Office, denouncing Islamophobia and deploring the murder of a 6-year-old Illinois boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, by a man allegedly motivated by anti-Muslim paranoia. To better understand Muslim American politics in this moment, POLITICO Magazine spoke Friday with Georgia State Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes. The daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh, Islam Parkes, a former campaign strategist, became the first Muslim woman and the youngest woman elected to the Georgia legislature when she won one of the most competitive races in the state in 2022. read the complete article


Israel-Palestine war: Why France is happy to turn its Muslim and Jewish citizens against each other

In France, there is massive popular support for the Palestinian cause. Tens of thousands of people understand colonisation and, despite the grossly one-sided media coverage of the massacres and human rights violations in Palestine, many read reports from the UN, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. As a result, Israel's colonial policy and its far-right racist government programme are clearly understood as apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Unsurprisingly, this support for Palestinians does not sit well with the current French government, whose stance against Muslims is now a constant source of international ridicule and concern. Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron's team is so desperate to secure the far-right vote that it has accused Marine Le Pen of being "too soft on Islam". So the political framing of the Palestinian struggle for freedom is in part influenced by domestic biases against religious and ethno-cultural minorities, with most racist or ignorant media pundits projecting onto Palestinians any tropes they can conjure up from their anti-Arab and anti-Muslim playbook. How did we shift from Dominique de Villepin's historical 2003 speech at the UN opposing the invasion of Iraq, and Jacques Chirac's calling out of Israeli police harassment, to a full and unconditional endorsement of Israel's apartheid and ethnic cleansing programme? Well, mainly for two reasons. The first one is global: there has been a consistent effort from pro-Israeli groups and lobbies to push for the criminalisation of pro-Palestinian movements, from the adoption of a politically disputed and deliberately extensive definition of antisemitism to the targeting of Muslim and Arab organisations, used as proxies for the Palestinians' cause. In this respect, France is just another space in this ongoing campaign, with no regard to what harm it may cause Muslims and Jews in France. The second one is specific to France: the country collaborated with the Nazis willingly. Before the Nazis even asked, the French government implemented a series of measures that essentially removed Jews from civil service, before actually starting to confiscate Jewish property. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Muslim community in London on heightened alert amid Israel-Hamas war

As worshippers arrived for Friday afternoon prayers at the East London Mosque, they were met by an unusual welcoming party of three police officers by the main door on Whitechapel Road. “No, it’s not normal,” said Nasim Ahmed, 49. “It’s a decision that was taken following Gaza. So last week, we had the police inspector here with two of his officers and it’s just really for reassurance.” What were described as “noises”, suggestive of a heightened risk of an incident at the mosque in light of the war between Israel and Hamas, had prompted a request for a police plan in case of a flashpoint. Some women had already been verbally abused or had their head scarves tugged from their heads, said Sufia Alam, 52, head of programmes at the Maryam Centre next door, which hosts an advice service for women. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, who met faith leaders on Friday, said the last fortnight had been a “traumatic time” in the capital. “The conflict is having a direct impact on London and Londoners, with increasing cases of abhorrent Islamophobia and antisemitism seen in the capital,” he said. “There is an understandable heightened fear in our communities. I’ve heard some truly harrowing stories, from Muslim women now too scared to go out wearing their hijab, to Jewish parents unsure if they should send their child to school, and if they do if it’s safe to wear school uniform.” read the complete article


Spain's far-right Vox wants to freeze residence permits for people from 'Islamic culture'

This week's terrorist attack in Brussels has further inflamed the discourse of the Spanish far right. Vox party has registered a proposal in Congress to suspend the granting of Spanish nationality and residence permits to people from Islamic countries. Specifically, the party wants to "suspend the procedures for acquiring Spanish nationality and residence and stay permits". It also wants to "ban the entry into Spain of immigrants from countries with an Islamic culture if their correct and peaceful integration cannot be guaranteed". The party, led by Santiago Abascal, justified its decision by claiming that the attack in Brussels was a direct consequence of the "open-door policy pursued in a large part of Europe". read the complete article


Kazakhstan announces ban on hijabs in schools

The Kazakh government's recent announcement of a ban on wearing the hijab headscarf in educational institutions has sparked fierce debate in the country. "Requirements for the school uniform prohibit the wearing of the hijab, since any attribute, symbol, element in one way or another implies propaganda of the dogma to which they relate. Ensuring the equality of all religions before the law, the principles of secularism do not allow the advantage of any religion,” reads the statement on the "For citizens” section of the Kazakh government's website, dated October 16. The statement also bans the hijab for school teachers. However, it emphasizes that the ban does not apply outside of schools. According to official figures, almost 70% of Kazakhstan's population practices Islam. But both supporters and opponents of the ban quickly came forward. Proponents stressed that Kazakhstan was a secular country and should therefore avoid privileging any particular religion. Opponents however believe that such restrictions violate the principles of freedom of conscience, and some have taken extreme measures to protest the ban. Kazakh Education Minister Gani Beisembayev confirmed that in the Atyrau region alone, 150 girls have dropped out of school since the beginning of September because of the ban. read the complete article


I grew up in Bosnia, amid fear and hatred of Muslims. Now I see Germany’s mistakes over Gaza

My family comes from Croatia, and as non-Croats we left the country during the nationalist frenzy of the early 1990s, which the late Dubravka Ugrešić described in her work as the fight for “pure Croatian air”. Having been persecuted in Croatia since the early 1940s – my grandpa managed to leave the Jasenovac concentration camp alive at the age of 11 – we found ourselves in the north of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There the victim was different. Our Bosniak neighbours, whose only difference from us was their Muslim names, were now publicly vilified by almost every Serbian media outlet. People who lived by our side, sent their children to the same schools, spoke the same language, were now portrayed as non-human, as jihadists who would kill us while we slept, as animals that would pull our teeth out and rape our women. All of these stories I heard at the age of six. I knew the word mujahideen before having learned the alphabet. Why write about Bosnia 28 years after the Dayton peace agreement? The truth is, there is no such thing as peace after an ethnic cleansing. Bosnia is still deeply divided. People can’t agree on what to call the language they speak. War criminals are venerated on all sides. Bosnia’s brain drain grows every year. Traumatised children have become traumatised adults, unable to find work or access decent healthcare. The Gaza Strip, already impoverished by occupation and an unlawful 16-year blockade, whose population is made up of 47% children is being carpet-bombed by the most powerful army in the Middle East with the help of the most powerful allies in the world. More than 4,600 Palestinians lie dead and many more face death in the absence of a ceasefire, because they can’t escape bombardment or lack access to water, food or electricity. The Israeli army claims that its offensive, now being stepped up is a “war on terror”; UN experts say it amounts to collective punishment. These are all facts. Yet even the mention of the word “Palestine” in Germany risks getting you accused of antisemitism. Any attempt at providing context and sharing facts on the historical background to the conflict is seen as crude justification of Hamas’s terror. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 23 Oct 2023 Edition


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