Today in Islamophobia

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compiled by the Bridge Initiative

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03 Oct 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., the fast food giant Chipotle is facing a lawsuit filed by a federal agency on behalf of a former employee who said she was subject to a “barrage of harassing conduct” because she wore a hijab, meanwhile, the “political phenomenon” of religious nationalism is on the rise in two of the world’s largest democracies according to researchers, whose analysis of Hindu and Christian nationalism paint a concerning picture, and lastly, the National Law Institute University (NLIU) in Bhopal India hosted an event in which anti-Muslim and anti-Christian propaganda was intentionally disseminated to students and attendees. Our recommended read of the day is by Hebh Jamal for Al Jazeera on the continued controversy surrounding France’s recent ban of the abaya being worn in public schools and how this law is just the latest move by French authorities to further control the bodies of Muslim women and girls in the country. This and more below.


The French government wants to ‘save’ Muslim women by controlling them | Recommended Read

On September 8, France’s top administrative court upheld a government ban on the abaya in public schools. The government had announced the measure in August, claiming it broke the rules of secularism in education. This ban is part of a series of measures undertaken by the French government in recent years, targeting the Muslim minority under the pretext of protecting secularism – or laïcité. How Muslim women should dress has become a particular obsession of the authorities. In 2004, the country banned the hijab in state schools. Then in 2010, it passed a ban on full-face veils in public. Since 2016, various municipalities have been introducing prohibitions on wearing full-body “burkini” swimsuits in public pools. In November 2022, the then minister of national education, Pap Ndiaye, introduced a Laïcité plan which aims to prevent students from wearing modest – or what is seen as “religiously affiliated” – clothing in French public schools by “strengthening human monitoring”, ie policing them. France’s commitment to secularism, which it defines as the freedom from religious influence, has clearly been transformed into an ugly cult-like system. The original concept of separating church and state to guarantee freedom of thought and to prevent the coercion of religious dogmatism is no longer the driver of official action. Instead, secularism is instrumentalised to establish complete control over a religious minority and further push them to the margins of society where they hold no social or political power. No other religious group in France is as targeted as the Muslim community. While the French authorities have launched systematic attacks on the whole community, Muslim women and girls have borne the brunt of the French authorities’ obsession with controlling their bodies. read the complete article

France’s ban on the abaya – the perfect distraction?

On 4 September, the French government banned the wearing of the abaya in state schools, the latest in a series of bans targeting Muslim women’s dress that has already seen restrictions placed on the wearing of the hijab, the burqa and the burkini. In line with past justifications, the ban on the abaya is couched in the language of rights and an appeal to France’s commitment to freedom and dignity for women. Such measures have a long history in France, with its isolationist Republican history, commitment to laïcité and Franco-centric view of human rights as being necessarily secular. But the impulses run much deeper. French President Emmanuel Macron’s alleged concern for Muslim women’s rights cannot be separated from both domestic and foreign challenges. French President Emmanuel Macron’s alleged concern for Muslim women’s rights cannot be separated from both domestic and foreign challenges. Although growing numbers of young women are choosing to wear the abaya, it remains a minority practice: running into the thousands only. To understand France’s fixation with Muslim women’s dress, it is necessary to look at the wider political pressures facing the current French government. France is a country undergoing an existential crisis as its colonial status in Africa is coming under sustained attack. France has also, like many countries, been captured by the move toward far-right populism. Macron has also been hit with a succession of street protests, ranging from the gilets jaunes movement to the huge numbers of people willing to engage in continuous (though unsuccessful) opposition to his pension reforms. Against this backdrop, the move to ban the abaya serves as the perfect distraction from France’s domestic and international challenges, not least because it is a policy supported by most of the population. read the complete article

Paris 2024: Unveiling France’s targeted attack against Muslim women athletes

The ban on hijabs for French athletes at the 2024 Olympic Games is the latest attack in France’s decades-long war against Islamic-related garments, and the decision has once again placed Paris in the line of fire for its relentless targeting of Muslim women in particular. Despite the shocking move, the move comes as no surprise. Experts say the French state’s obsession with controlling what Muslim women wear is not new, as the country has prohibited several Islamic garments – from burqas to hijabs and even the burkinis – citing secularism as the motive in all cases. Upholders of French civil affairs like Castera or President Emmanuel Macron have claimed that ‘Laïcité’ or secularism is vital to the French political and social fabric. However, for decades, concerns have been raised that such principles have unfairly targeted and alienated Muslims in France, which ironically houses the largest Muslim population in Europe. Responding to the ban, Sports journalist Shireen Ahmed told Doha News that France has an “unparalleled commitment to hating Muslim women.” Speaking at a panel conference on Islamophobia in Doha, Ahmed said, “I don’t actually think it was radical. I think it was actually predictable of France. They have an unparalleled commitment to hating Muslim women and to really being draconian in such a specific and very terrible way.” read the complete article


Islamophobia, Literature Hostile To Minorities At Event Launched By Union Minister At National Law School In Bhopal

Over the weekend, speakers spread Islamophobia, offered literature hostile to Muslims and Christians, and put up posters deriding academics and intellectuals on the campus of the National Law Institute University, Bhopal. The event, organised by a Bhopal-based group called Young Thinkers’ Forum and inaugurated by union minister Bhupender Yadav, was allowed even though many students pointed out it was against minorities, trans people and feminists. The vice chancellor said he did not ‘expect things to be like this’. Though many students protested, NLIU, a state government university recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC), permitted Islamophobic remarks, hate-filled literature about Muslims and Christians, and posters deriding academics and intellectuals, on the campus. Protesting students said they tried attending the event, but there was a "menacing air" around the campus for the two days, and the organisers only let in students who had registered earlier. But they heard religious sloganeering from inside the auditorium. When buying books being sold at the event—books a cousin wanted for research—a Muslim student said Muslims and other minorities were scared. “It was very scary,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I didn’t want to tell them my name. I told my friend to pay because I didn’t want my name to pop up.” read the complete article


Why we should all be worried about the links between Hindu and Christian nationalism

Two forms of nationalism worth examining in light of the election are Hindu nationalism in India and Christian nationalism in the US. These two growing, violent political movements fueled by the vilification of the other pose a serious threat to democracy, according to religion professor and host of the Straight White American Jesus Bradley Onishi. Both Hindu nationalism and Christian nationalism are based on the idea that the nation should be defined by a particular religious majority, and that this majority should have special privileges and status. This leads to the promotion of violence and discrimination against minority groups. “Christian nationalism is not Christianity,” said Katherine Stewart, investigative reporter and author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism”. “It is a political phenomenon that involves the exploitation of religion for political purposes. I think of it as combining two kinds of things: on one hand, it’s an ideology and a set of ideas and on the other hand, it’s apolitical movement, an organized quest for power.” Interestingly one GOP presidential candidate, billionaire investor Vivek Ramaswamy, a practicing Hindu, appears to be deliberately aligning himself with Christian nationalist political groups like Moms for Liberty. Ramaswamy isn’t just adopting white Christian nationalist ideas, he’s also pointed to Hindu nationalist ideas as something Americans can “learn from.” Hindu nationalism is a political movement that views the Indian identity and the Hindu identity as inseparable. In India, Hindu nationalism has been on the rise since the late 1980s. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the country’s ruling party, is a Hindu nationalist party that has been accused of promoting violence against Muslims and other religious minorities. read the complete article

United States

Muslim employee working at Chipotle was subject to religious harassment over her hijab, federal suit says

Fast casual Mexican chain Chipotle is facing a lawsuit filed by a federal agency on behalf of a former employee who said she was subject “to a barrage of harassing conduct based on her religion by her supervisor” because she wore a hijab. The religious harassment and retaliation lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Areej Saifan, a Muslim woman who was employed at a Chipotle in Lenexa, Kansas. Saifan “explained that she wore the hijab because of her religious beliefs and could not remove it,” the federal suit said, but the “harassment continued over several weeks, pressuring” her to “remove her hijab.” An assistant manager that repeatedly harassed Saifan asked her “approximately ten to fifteen times over the course of approximately one month,” the suit said. On one occasion, the assistant manager “reached out, grabbed her hijab, and yanked. As a result, part of Saifan’s hijab came off, exposing her hair,” the suit said. Saifan told a shift supervisor about the assistant manager’s repeated behavior, but the shift supervisor, according to the suit, told the assistant manager once to stop the behavior and did not report the harassment to higher management. Because of the “management’s repeated failures to address the harassment,” Saifan resigned and put in her two weeks’ notice on August 10, 2021, the suit said. “It is Chipotle’s usual practice to continue scheduling employees to work during the two-week period following an employee’s two-weeks’ notice,” the suit said, but in Saifan’s case, Chipotle did not schedule her “for any new shifts after she submitted her two-weeks’ notice.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 03 Oct 2023 Edition


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