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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05 Oct 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United Kingdom, an Islamic centre in west London that was seen as a hub for Muslim women has been targeted by vandals, leaving the community devastated and thousands of pounds of damage to the structure, meanwhile in Canada, the trial of accused murder Nathaniel Veltman continues with the reading of Veltman’s “manifesto” which outlined the accused’s hatred towards Muslims and his opposition towards multiculturalism and immigration, and in India, the highly anticipated ICC Cricket World Cup begins this week in the country with many analysts expecting the ruling BJP party to use the tournament as a vehicle to launch a campaign for what would be Narendra Modi’s third term in office. Our recommended read of the day is by The Middle East Eye on the recent burning of a copy of the Quran by a 16-year old high school student in Illinois, and how this incident is sparking concern amongst rights groups about rising Hindu nationalism in the US. This and more below.

United States

US Quran burning by student sparks concerns over rising Hindu nationalism | Recommended Read

A copy of the Quran was burnt in Illinois by a 16-year-old high school student, and rights organisations say it raises concerns about the India-based Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary organisation’s influence in the US. While the incident took place in June in Naperville, a suburb of Chicago, the video was recently posted to social media. In the video, a boy used a lighter to burn a Quran while standing in a field of grass. Once the Quran was on fire, he threw it on the ground. India is home to 200 million Muslims but hatred is growing against religious minorities and is being fuelled by Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, fuelled by the RSS, which aims to turn India into a Hindu state. According to the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), the largest advocacy organisation for Indian Muslims in the US, the student confessed to the action and claimed his reasoning for doing so was because “[the Quran] said to kill all non-Muslims and it slandered other religions,” an anti-Muslim myth he claimed to have seen on social media, IAMC said. This was not a random isolated incident, IAMC executive director Rasheed Ahmed told Middle East Eye. “He’s not learning this in school,” he said. “This is not a random book that he picked up to burn. He was clear that this was a Quran and he’s a sophomore student who has knowledge that it’s a religious book that belongs to a particular faith and it must be respected.” According to Ahmed, the main concern is the fact that this was not an isolated incident. read the complete article

Federal prison in Waseca faces lawsuit claiming Muslim woman forced to remove hijab for photo ID

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of inmate Muna Jama, seeking an order for the Federal Correctional Institution in Waseca to destroy her uncovered photographs in the system's database and end the practice of taking and using uncovered pictures. "Mrs. Jama was often threatened if she did not comply with orders to remove her hijab - including threats to cut off her communication with her children," CAIR Legal Fellow Aya Beydoun said in a statement. "The hijab is a sacred part of Mrs. Jama's identity and her connection to God. No one should be forced to choose between their faith and the ability to speak to their children." The suit claims that while Jama was permitted to wear her hijab throughout the prison, she was still required to carry a photo ID that displays her head, ears and neck each time male officers need to identify her during headcounts, at commissary or other checkpoints. Every time Jama swiped her ID card, CAIR alleged, her hijab-less photo appeared on the database screen for any males in the vicinity to view – causing her shame and embarrassment. read the complete article


Why The Abaya Causes So Much Controversy In France

Worn by some Muslim women, an abaya is a long, loose-fitting, robelike garment that covers the entire body, except for the face, hands and feet. Through the abaya, women can express their religious identity and dedication to following Islamic guidelines regarding modest attire. Other critics of abayas say they object to public symbols of religious identity. Some individuals who advocate for a strong separation between religious and state affairs argue that religious expressions should be limited to private settings. France recently banned the wearing of abayas in its public schools, arguing that it was in conflict with secular principles, which has caused an uproar. Others, however, say these laws predominantly affect the country’s Muslim minority. This is because Christians do not typically express their religious identity through attire. Even when they do, Christianity often prioritizes belief over outward religious practices, as opposed to mainstream Islam. 3) West London Islamic centre broken into, set on fire and destroyed in heart-breaking attack (United Kingdom) An Islamic centre that was seen as a hub for Muslim women has been targeted by vandals, leaving the community devastated. Al-Falah institute in Hayes, West London, was set on fire in the attack. Perpetrators seem to have broke in and ransacked the centre, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage in the early hours of Tuesday, September 26. Speaking to MyLondon, trustee and chairperson of the centre, Mariam Tariq said the alleged attack has caused anxiety amongst the Muslim community in the area. The centre invited people of all backgrounds to sign up to English and maths classes and to participate in coffee mornings, to foster good community relations. It has served as a place for prayer, learning, and community gatherings for the last 12 years. A spokesperson for the centre has written on the GoFundMe page to raise funds for the damage: "At this time, we cannot rule out that this was not an Islamophobic or a hate crime. Worse still, there has been no mention of what happened in the local or national news or press. That is why we are appealing directly to our community and want this campaign to go viral." read the complete article

French government dissolves far-right Catholic party Civitas

The French government on Wednesday dissolved the far-right Catholic party Civitas, accusing it of advocating war against the state, inciting hatred in society against LGBTQ people, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. Following a Cabinet meeting, government spokesman Olivier Veran announced the decision to dissolve Civitas, which had operated as an association since 1999 before becoming a political party in 2016. According to Veran, Civitas promotes a hierarchy among French citizens, with these clearly anti-Semites and Islamophobes. He accused the movement of attempting to "declare war on the state," including by using "force." Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin also stated on the social media platform X that the values promoted by the movement have no place in France. In recent years, the Civitas movement gained notoriety for its anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim rhetoric. read the complete article


'It's a new party': How Conservatives are trying to rebuild trust in Muslim communities

When Pierre Poilievre pitches the Conservative party to Muslim Canadians, he talks about "faith, family and freedom." For months he has been pointing out what he sees as their overlapping values during visits to mosques, at community celebrations, with businesses and in conversations with ethnic media outlets. It's part of an effort to grow the party's presence, particularly in larger cities that are home to many racialized Canadians whose support for the Conservatives plummeted during the final months of Stephen Harper's government and his divisive 2015 campaign. Poilievre has also fine-tuned his message to appeal to growing concerns from some parents, echoed by several prominent Muslim organizations, about what their children are learning about LGBTQ+ issues in schools. He is gaining some traction with his acknowledgement of such worries, but whether he will take action through party policy remains unclear. Still, while there is frustration over the perception that the governing Liberals have failed to take enough action against Islamophobia, even within its own government agencies, Poilievre faces an uphill battle against long memories. "He was around the table during the Harper years when there were some things that happened that were not well received by the Muslim community," said Tahir. In 2011, then-immigration minister Jason Kenney brought in a rule requiring Muslim women to remove face coverings, such as niqabs, when swearing the oath during citizenship ceremonies. During the 2015 federal election campaign, the Conservatives asked the Supreme Court to hear a request to appeal a court decision to overturn that policy, and Harper mused about extending it to all public servants. The Conservatives also promised to create a tip line to enforce a law against "barbaric cultural practices," which they said at the time included forced marriages. read the complete article

Manifesto of man accused of terror attack against London, Ont., Muslim family read at murder trial

A manifesto titled "A White Awakening" that was written by Nathaniel Veltman, who's accused of killing a Muslim family in London, Ont., on June 6, 2021, outlines his hatred of Islam and opposition to multiculturalism and mass immigration. The jury at the accused's murder-terror trial in Ontario Superior Court in Windsor heard excerpts from the multi-page document on Wednesday afternoon. The excerpts were read into the record by Crown prosecutor Sarah Shaikh. "Below are my political views for whoever is interested," the document begins, and goes on to say "multiculturalism doesn't work" because "different cultures have different interests." Veltman is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as related terror offences. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege he was motivated by far-right ideology to conduct the killings. Five members of the Afzaal family were walking in northwest London when they were struck by the accused's truck, a fact that is not being disputed by the defence. Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. A nine-year-old boy survived. Veltman was arrested minutes after the attack and the jury has heard he told a 911 dispatcher, "I did it. I killed those people," prior to being arrested. read the complete article


‘The BJP’s World Cup’: India’s Modi wields cricket as a political weapon

Home advantage, a hugely talented squad and the Indian cricket board’s sheer financial clout have made the hosts favourites to win the 46-day 2023 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup, which starts on Thursday. From the naming of stadiums to the choice of venues, and the demonisation of Pakistan and Muslims more broadly, some observers say that Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is using the tournament as a launch pad for a third term in office. Some even speculate that, if India win, Modi may even call for elections six or so months before the BJP’s term ends in June 2024. Historian, novelist and cricket fan Mukul Kesavan says this World Cup is “more politicised” than ever. Writing in The Hindu newspaper last week, columnist and author Suresh Menon said the World Cup would serve “as an extended election campaign”. Referring to star players, he even predicted that it “is likely to be remembered not as Kohli’s or Stokes’ or Bumrah’s World Cup so much as the BJP’s World Cup”. read the complete article

Narendra Modi has seized and politicised Indian cricket

The six-week-long cricket World Cup, which will see the world’s ten strongest national sides compete in the one-day format of the game, may be the richest, most watched and most overtly politicised ever held. Besides illustrating Mr Modi’s brilliance at amassing power, his party’s cricket management reflects its troubling use of it. Indian Muslims are relatively well-represented in cricket. Around 12% of professional players are Muslim, roughly in line with their share of the population. Yet those who play for India are targeted by the Islamophobic trolls that have proliferated under Mr Modi. Pakistan’s cricketers are faring worse. Once superior to India’s—whose elegant batsmen struggled against fierce Pakistani fast bowling—cricket in Pakistan has deteriorated with the country. India is twisting the knife. The younger Mr Shah, who runs the Asian Cricket Council as well as India’s board, has throttled cricket ties between the two countries. Pakistan’s players, in a gratuitous slight, were the last to receive their visas and schedule for the World Cup. Such bullying Indian behaviour has been a feature of its rise in cricket, which has intensified under the bjp. read the complete article


Islamophobia is not ‘freedom of speech’

This summer’s Quran burnings in Scandinavia were not anomalies but part of a disturbing trend. We are witnessing a sharp rise in Islamophobic hate, fuelled and funded by far-right political actors across the globe. Muslims are increasingly being targeted, harassed and discriminated against just for being Muslims in Europe, in the United States, and beyond. Some things can be done, and are being done, to put a stop to this new wave of Islamophobia. In July, shortly after a Quran-burning stunt in Sweden led to protests across the Muslim world, for example, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) put forward a resolution to try and address the issue. The resolution, among other things, called on countries to take steps to “prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”. The proposal was eventually passed with 28 “yes” votes from all over the world. Yet, rather than showing solidarity with the global Muslim community, some powerful and influential states – including the US, United Kingdom, Germany and France – opposed the proposal saying its content conflicts with their positions on freedom of expression. As Muslims in Europe and the United States are made to feel there is a target on their backs because of their religious identity, our elected officials have a responsibility to take action. As far-right agitators attack mosques and casually tear apart the Muslim holy book to provoke and intimidate law-abiding citizens under the guise of exercising their “free speech” rights, democratic governments cannot afford to sit idly by. The governments of the US, UK, Germany, France and all the others who voted “no” to the UN resolution need to urgently move beyond the politically loaded discussions on the so-called free speech – hate speech dichotomy and start addressing the root causes of anti-Muslim bias within their countries. read the complete article

Islamophobia debate: Nuances and semantics

The consensus among participants was resounding: Islamophobia is far from a contemporary malady; its roots trace back to the annals of history, resonating with the epochs of Crusaders and the initial encounters between Europe and Islam. Furthermore, a unanimous acknowledgment prevailed concerning the existence of systemic, structural and policy-driven Islamophobia, perpetuating acts of violence against Muslims and those who bear the semblance thereof. However, my discernment of the conference conversations revealed, at least theoretically, nuanced divergences in the analysis of this pervasive specter haunting a faith embraced by nearly 2 billion people globally. While this space is not conducive to dissecting the theoretical intricacies inherent in academic debates on Islamophobia, I posit their importance in constructing an alternative and efficacious narrative to combat the root causes and repercussions of this phenomenon. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 05 Oct 2023 Edition


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