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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25 Sep 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, one of the first police officers who interacted with the man accused of killing four Muslims in 2021, described to the court how the man had a “giddy” demeanor upon arrest, meanwhile in China, it’s been revealed that the state has sentenced Uyghur Professor Rahile Dawut to life in prison for “endangering national security,” and in India, a legislator from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made Islamophobic remarks and used communal slurs against a Muslim MP inside the parliament last week. Our recommended read of the day is by Erum Salam for the Guardian on the Council on American Islamic Relations’s (CAIR) recent lawsuit against the U.S. Government regarding the federal terrorist watchlist, arguing that the aged list is used for “humiliation and harassment” and should be withdrawn. This and more below:

United States

US sued over 20-year-old federal terrorist list by Muslim rights group | Recommended Read

A federal terrorist watchlist, mostly consisting of Muslim Americans, is Islamophobic and being used for “harassment and humiliation” and should be withdrawn, civil rights advocates argue. Formally known as the Terrorist Screening Dataset, or “TSDS,” the watchlist is made up of more than 1.5 million people, most of whom are Muslim, according to attorneys from Muslim rights organization the Council on American Islamic Relations (Cair). Although the FBI says no one can be added to the watchlist due to their race, ethnicity or religion, Cair found about 98% of people on the list are Muslim. This is despite repeated warnings in the last decade that domestic terrorism from the far right poses a bigger threat to US national security than Islamist extremism. The watchlist has existed for more than 20 years, since the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 – after which many Muslims in America, or people thought to be Muslim, were routinely surveilled and profiled by various law enforcement agencies. Cair has filed several lawsuits at different levels involving the watchlist since its creation. Now, Cair has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, the organization announced earlier this week. read the complete article


Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in 2016 by being the first US-team member to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab. It was a year that saw rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the country with then-candidate Donald Trump’s talk of a so-called “Muslim ban”. In a new episode of Generation Sport, Muhammad told Al Jazeera that this put an uncomfortable spotlight on her compared to her teammates, as she was asked to weigh in on Trump and his views. “I definitely had apprehension answering these questions”, she said, “but I felt like this was my opportunity to dispel a lot of stereotypes that people have about the Muslim community, about where we’re from, what we look like”. Prior to qualifying for the Rio Olympics, where she won a bronze medal, Muhammad graduated from Duke University where she was an active student athlete on the fencing team, and during her time there decided to switch from studying medicine to studying International Relations and African American studies. In order to reach the Olympics in the first place Muhammad had to break down external barriers that she faced due to race and religion, but she has also spoken about having to overcome internal struggles with depression and performance anxiety. “Historically, the world has been obsessed with the hijab for whatever reason”, she says. “I think that it is rooted in racism. I think it is rooted in Islamophobia. It’s not really about the hijab”. With her work and projects taking her around the world, she also feels close to Muslim communities and their struggles beyond the United States. She has less apprehension now about speaking out on issues linked to Islamophobia and Muslim communities in other countries. read the complete article

Inside the Unfounded Claim That DeSantis Abused Guantánamo Detainees

Nearly a year ago, as Ron DeSantis’s political stock was rising, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee came forward with a stunning claim: Before he was Florida’s governor, as a young Navy lawyer, Mr. DeSantis had taken part in a forced feeding of a hunger striker at the notorious American prison, and laughed as he did so. The detainee, Mansoor Adayfi, said he was tied to a chair, crying and screaming as tubes were shoved down his throat and cases of the dietary supplement Ensure were pumped into his stomach. As the ordeal drew to an end, Mr. Adayfi added, he was approached by Mr. DeSantis and, “he said, ‘You should eat.’ I threw up in his face. Literally on his face.” Mr. Adayfi told his story on a left-wing podcast, then in Harper’s Magazine and then again in mainstream media reports. He found other former detainees who also claimed to remember Mr. DeSantis and his cruelty. The accounts traveled quickly through the liberal media ecosystem, landing in Democratic opposition research and coalescing into a narrative that portrayed the Republican presidential candidate as an accessory to torture. Yet, an examination of military records and interviews with detainees’ lawyers and service members who served at the same time as Mr. DeSantis found no evidence to back up the claims. The New York Times interviewed more than 40 people who served with Mr. DeSantis or around the same time and none recalled witnessing or even hearing of any episodes like the ones Mr. Adayfi described. read the complete article

US military judge at Guantanamo Bay rules that 9/11 defendant ‘lacks capacity to stand trial’

A US military judge ruled on Thursday that Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a 9/11 defendant detained in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is unfit to stand trial. Military Judge Colonel Matthew N. McCall’s ruling comes after a medical panel found that al-Shibh has PTSD with “Secondary Psychotic Features” resulting from his abuse in Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) custody. McCall found that al-Shibh is more likely than not “suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to cooperate intelligently in the defense of his case.” Thus, McCall concluded that he lacked the capacity to stand trial. read the complete article


Accused killer of Muslim family 'appeared giddy' and was smiling after arrest in London, Ont., court told

The man arrested in the killing of a Muslim family in London on June 6, 2021, was "happy" and "appeared giddy," one of the first police officers to interact with the accused testified Friday in Ontario Superior Court in Windsor. Det. Const. Matthew Hietkamp, who was in the witness box as the murder and terrorism trial of Nathaniel Veltman wrapped up its second week, spoke about the demeanour of the accused when he saw him just after his arrest. "When I got there, he was happy, smiling, looking around. He appeared giddy — that's what I saw," said Hietkamp, adding the 22-year-old also appeared "like he had some good news." The accused is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terrorism charges. Crown prosecutors allege he was motivated by far-right ideology. In testimony heard earlier in the trial, the accused told police he was angry about "minority on white" crime and was targeting Muslims the night the Afzaals were attacked. read the complete article


Star Uyghur Scholar Who Vanished Was Sentenced to Life in China

She was a trailblazing professor and ethnographer from the Uyghur ethnic group in far-western China who documented the religious and cultural traditions of her people. She was at the height of a career that the Chinese government had once recognized with awards and research grants. But it was not enough to keep her safe. Rahile Dawut, who nurtured a generation of academics and scholars, disappeared in 2017, along with other prominent intellectuals and academics targeted by the Chinese government in its campaign to crush the Uyghur cultural identity. Details about her case were shrouded in secrecy for years, leaving her family and friends to wonder about her fate. On Thursday, the Dui Hua Foundation, a group that campaigns on behalf of political prisoners held in China, said that it had seen a document written by a senior Chinese official stating that Dr. Rahile Dawut had been sentenced to life in prison on charges of endangering national security. “For the Chinese government to strike her is really to strike at the heart of Uyghur culture,” John Kamm, the group’s founder and chairman, said in a phone interview. “It’s appalling.” The Chinese government has applied a sweeping definition of “endangering national security” to detain and often imprison Uyghurs deemed to oppose or even question official policies. read the complete article


GU-Q conference to explore roots and global reach of Islamophobia

In light of escalating concerns regarding the rise in anti-Muslim prejudice and hate crimes worldwide, Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) is poised to hold a critical international conference titled “Global Histories and Practices of Islamophobia” from September 30 to October 1 at the Four Seasons Hotel, Doha. The public conference brings together a diverse collection of professionals, academics, government officials, artists, and students to explore the global, historical, theological, and political dimensions that drive practices of Islamophobia. “Islamophobia has become a prominent issue in public discourse over the past decade. As scholars and practitioners, understanding its origins and connections across different times and geographies is crucial to addressing its contemporary forms,” noted Dr. Al Arian. “This conference aims to facilitate this understanding by convening experts from diverse fields and regions, while also offering a public platform for engagement on this pressing global issue,” added Dr. Oruc. Over two days, panel discussions will offer scholarly perspectives and spotlight current instances of anti-Islamic sentiment, notably during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 coverage and in the context of the global war on terror. Prominent academic voices will include the distinguished scholar, Dr. John Esposito, Professor of Religion, International Affairs, and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The author of over 55 books on religion, Islam, and Islamophobia, Dr. Esposito is also the founding director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and The Bridge Initiative. read the complete article

Iraq: Torture Survivors Await US Redress, Accountability

The US government has apparently failed to provide compensation or other redress to Iraqis who suffered torture and other abuse by US forces at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in Iraq two decades ago. Iraqis tortured by US personnel still have no clear path for receiving redress or recognition from the US government though the effects of torture are a daily reality for many Iraqi survivors and their families. In August 2022, the Pentagon released an action plan to reduce harm to civilians in US military operations, but it doesn’t include any way to receive compensation for past instances of civilian harm. The United States government has apparently failed to provide compensation or other redress to Iraqis who suffered torture and other abuse two decades after evidence emerged of US forces mistreating detainees at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today. read the complete article


Muslim girl turned away from school in France for wearing hijab files complaint with UN

A Muslim student, who had been turned away from school for wearing a kimono, a Japanese garment, in France, has filed a complaint with the UN over being “discriminated against” due to her religious affiliation, Anadolu Agency reports. The controversy over the French government’s stance against hijab in schools continues, with many students being turned away for wearing loose over-garments. The 15-year-old girl, living in the French city of Lyon, has sent a complaint to Ashwini K.P, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, over “discrimination she faced on the grounds of her religious affiliation.” Criticising the abaya ban introduced by French Education Minister, Gabriel Attal, the complainant said they think that the French government has not taken the necessary steps to prevent all kinds of discrimination against women. Earlier, the female student also filed a complaint with the Lyon Public Prosecutor’s Office on the grounds that she was “discriminated against due to her religious affiliation”. Earlier this month, the Council of State upheld the government’s abaya ban, declaring it legal. read the complete article

France’s Crackdown on Islamic Dress in Schools Is a Crude Attack on Muslims

French public school students are no longer allowed to wear an abaya, a loose-fitting dress popular in Arab and Muslim communities. The abaya dress now counts as one such violation of “laïcité,” the country’s variant of secularism that professes to maintain the neutrality of public institutions relative to religion. Coming on the cusp of France’s ceremonious back-to-school season, Attal’s announcement was perfectly timed to capture the news cycle, in the way that only sallies over the country’s ever-controversial “Muslim question” seem primed for. Talk shows took to analyzing the supposed prudery of a subset of French school girls. Media set about reporting on figures that upward of three hundred students attended the first day of school dawning an abaya, sixty-seven of whom purportedly refused to change outfits. Camped outside school gates, television crews stood by dutifully for the latest scoop from school administrators. Teacher unions were more circumspect and insistent that the real risks to the public education system were elsewhere. “By specifically designating a particular outfit, the ministry is running the risk of creating a rift,” the National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions (UNSA) argued in a press release. “The minister’s announcement resolves nothing. It’s an act of political communication that does not reinforce the legislation or regulations. The mediatization and the instrumentalization of this subject could result in effects that are entirely opposite of what’s expected.” It may well be that the 2004 law opens the way for this type of ban. But for critics that’s part of the broader slippage in laïcité — once a system for protecting individual religious liberty and the republican state from organized religion, but ever more a tool to harass France’s Muslim minority. The abaya ban is also cheap, in the most literal sense. The real threat to French education is from within, or rather from above — and ultimately has very little to do with the fashion tastes of a fringe minority. French education, from the elementary level up through high school and universities, faces a chronic crisis of underfunding and underinvestment. read the complete article


Muslim MP called ‘terrorist, pimp’ by BJP member inside India’s parliament

A legislator from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made Islamophobic remarks and used communal slurs against a Muslim MP inside the parliament. During a debate on Thursday on the success of India’s historic moon mission, BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri called Kunwar Danish Ali of the opposition Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) a “terrorist” and a “pimp” among other offending remarks. "You extremist… I am telling you, you circumcised,” the parliamentarian from the South Delhi constituency in the Indian capital said in Hindi, using a slur often used for Muslims in India. “I will see this mulla outside,” said Bidhuri in an apparent threat at the end of a viral video, as at least two senior BJP leaders and former union ministers laughed, sitting next to him. Mulla is another pejorative word for Muslims in South Asia. The remarks inside the newly inaugurated parliament building sparked angry reactions from the opposition parties and social media users who demanded strict action against Bidhuri. Ali said if an elected legislator could be threatened inside a parliament like this, then “it speaks volumes about what an average Muslim in this country would be facing”. read the complete article


Wearing a hijab has brought these Muslim women honour and joy, but it's also attracted abuse and hate

The Islamic headscarf, also known as the hijab, is often worn by Muslim women as a symbol of honour in their faith. It's also often at the centre of heated debate. For the hundreds of thousands of Muslim women around the world who wear the hijab, their religion is instantly identifiable. And as a result, they often end up becoming flag-bearers for their faith in the West. But not all Muslim women choose to cover their hair. And for some, the pressure to wear the hijab — a requirement of the Islamic faith for women from the age of puberty — can become too much. These Muslim women share their experiences of wearing the hijab — and what it's like to take it off. Mariam Veiszadeh is the CEO of Media Diversity Australia and the founder of the Islamophobia Register, a service collating reports of anti-Muslim abuse from across Australia. After wearing the hijab for 15 years, Veiszadeh decided to take it off three years ago. The decision was about protecting her mental health. Veiszadeh found she was experiencing increased Islamophobia and she began to "[crave] anonymity". "The burden of being a flag-bearer of my faith … [had] well and truly taken a toll on me," she says. "Dejabing" — the term used by Muslim women to describe taking off the hijab — was "the right thing for me", she says. Veiszadeh is a prominent leader in the Muslim community, and the hijab was a big part of her identity, so it wasn't an easy move to take it off. read the complete article


Dutch Extremist Tears Quran Copy in New Islamophobic Act in the Netherlands

Far-right Dutch extremist Edwin Wagensveld has again torn a copy of the Quan in a new provocative Islamophobic act on Saturday. Reports said that the aggressive act took place in front of the Turkish embassy in the Netherlands. Wagensveld, who is the leader of the Dutch branch of the Islamophobic Pegida movement, also stepped on the pages of the Islamic holy book, Anadolu Agency reported. The move stirred outrage and frustration from many Muslim communities, who have repeatedly called on the international community to intervene to end such provocative acts. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 25 Sep 2023 Edition


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