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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04 Sep 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In France, as students return to school they are facing new restrictions as the government has banned abayas and khamis from the classroom, meanwhile in the United States, a Muslim woman in Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against the local sheriff’s office after being forced to remove her hijab for a mugshot, and in the Washington, DC metro area, another mosque, the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque, received a threatening call while the community was preparing for an evening event. Our recommended read of the day is by Somdeep Sen for Al Jazeera on how the actions of Hindu nationalists in India targeting Muslims and demolishing their home “echo Israel’s policies of trying to delete histories and legacies of the Palestinian people.” This and more below:


Modi’s lesson from Israel: Demolish Muslim homes, erase their history | Recommended Read

The large-scale destruction of Muslim homes and properties in parts of the country like Nuh, where the community has lived for centuries, points to something even more sinister: a concerted effort to erase all evidence of Muslim presence and heritage in the country. Over the years, under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, we have seen India increasingly cosying up to Israel. And the Hindu right has been explicit in its aspiration to emulate Israel’s approach to Palestinians. Specifically, they appear to be inspired by Israel’s effort to systematically erase Palestinian history, legacy and culture from the landscape. They are inspired by the way more than 530 Palestinian villages were systematically destroyed during and after the Nakba of 1948, as well as the way Palestinian homes continue to be demolished across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlements considered illegal under international law. Much like Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport stands adamantly on the remains of Palestinian communities forced from their homes, a new temple to the Hindu god Ram has been built over the debris of the historic Babri Masjid mosque in India, destroyed in December 1992 by extremists gathered by Modi’s party. Like in Israel, laws in today’s India apply selectively. Indian authorities have insisted that only illegally-constructed buildings, and the homes and businesses of rioters, have been targeted. Yet, both in Nuh and elsewhere, there is ample evidence that the demolition drives were almost entirely aimed at Muslims. We saw the systematic targeting of Muslim properties in the capital New Delhi in 2020 as activists protested the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which fast-tracks access to Indian citizenship to only non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. read the complete article

Burning the Quran is offensive. Banning it rewards violent threats.

Sweden and Denmark are confronted with a dilemma arising from public burnings of the Quran: They can either stick to their long commitment to freedom of expression or bow to the credible threat of violent retribution. Sweden has responded by adhering to its principles — despite that it might have more to lose in doing so — although the government says it is examining ways to discourage further burnings. Denmark is trying to go the other way by seeking legislation that would ban the desecration of the Quran and other sacred texts, including the Bible and Torah. Both countries have been forced into an unenviable corner by a relative handful of right-wing nationalists who have flaunted their anti-Islamic zealotry by setting the Muslim holy book alight. Sweden and Denmark have rightly condemned those acts of ostentatious destruction. But because they have tolerated the acts in the name of freedom of expression, the countries have been denounced in Muslim nations — a slander that Russian propagandists have been only too pleased to amplify and exploit. Swedish and Danish diplomats have been summoned for dressings down by governments in Muslim countries. There is no disputing the offense conveyed by the intentional destruction of sacred texts or other symbols of religious affiliation. Like the burning of national flags, which is banned in many countries, it is often not only protest but incitement. Obnoxious and infuriating as it might be, the desecration of discrete physical objects — even when intended to convey hatred — is a legitimate form of expression. read the complete article

Blasphemy law is no answer to bigotry in the wake of Denmark’s Qur’an burnings

Should governments ban the “improper treatment of objects of significant religious importance to a religious community”? That is what the Danish government is suggesting in a new law it announced last week that could see offenders imprisoned for two years. The proposed ban comes after a spate of incidents in Sweden and Denmark in which Qur’ans have been publicly burned, provoking an outcry across the Muslim world. The answer to the question is both simple and complex. It is simple because any law outlawing any kind of blasphemy is unacceptable and should be opposed. Having abolished its blasphemy law in 2017, for Denmark to seek to reintroduce it in a new form is retrogressive. It is complex, though, because at the heart of the controversy lie two issues: on the one hand, freedom of religion and speech, and, on the other, anti-Muslim bigotry. In defending the first, one must also oppose the second. Freedom of religion is vital for minority communities. Anti-Muslim bigotry is often expressed through denying the right of Muslims to practise their faith, from calls to ban the Qur’an to hostility to the building of mosques. Challenging such bigotry requires us to oppose restrictions on freedom of religion, not reinforce them. read the complete article


France abaya ban: Muslim girls gear up for return to school without long dresses

"I hope everything goes well," Hassina says anxiously while speaking to Middle East Eye. The young girl, dressed in an abaya, a loose traditional dress covering the arms and legs, expresses her fear that her clothing might cause her problems. "I've already had problems with the principal of my middle school last year. This time, I'm afraid I'll have to part with the abaya for good to enter high school," she says. On the evening news of TF1 the previous day, Education Minister Gabriel Attal was uncompromising: wearing the abaya will no longer be allowed in educational institutions as it goes against the principles of secularism, according to Attal. "Secularism is precisely about allowing individuals to dress as they want. It's respecting everyone's freedom," Besma says. More determined than her friend, she doesn't plan on backing down, and says she's ready to defend her choice of clothing. Hassina shares Besma's sentiment, saying that the clothing also allows her to conceal her weight and move without self-consciousness. "It has nothing to do with religion. The proof is, I don't wear a headscarf," she says. Some wear headscarves, others wear abayas, pants or traditional Sub-Saharan African clothing. "Does the form, length, or colour really matter?" Fatima, who lives in the neighbourhood, asks. More seriously, she regrets that the abaya issue intentionally targets Muslims. "It's been a while since we were in the spotlight. They had to reignite the controversy to overshadow the real problems," she says. read the complete article

Why are there new clothing restrictions in French classrooms?

A new school year in France with a new ban on what the government deems 'religious' clothing. Abayas and khamis are barred from state classrooms. France's education minister says students wearing them to school won't be allowed into classes, but will instead be sent for a discussion on their choice of clothing. Why is the ban so contentious and what's behind it? read the complete article

Macron says enforcement of abaya ban in French school will be ‘uncompromising

French authorities will be “uncompromising” in their enforcement of a new ban on abayas in schools, French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday, following the decision to ban the robe-like garment in the upcoming academic year. The ban, which was announced by France’s education minister, is the latest in a series of contentious restrictions in the country on clothing associated with Muslims. It was criticized by a number of opposition lawmakers, including Danièle Obono, who called it a “new Islamophobic campaign.” Speaking to journalists after visiting a professional school in the Vaucluse region of southern France on Friday, Macron doubled down on the decision. He reiterated that “religious symbols of any kind have no place” in French schools under the country’s principle of “laïcité,” which translates roughly to “secularism” in English. “Schools in our country are secular, free, and compulsory. But they are secular. Because this is the very condition that makes citizenship possible and therefore religious symbols of any kind have no place in them. And we will vigorously defend this secularism,” Macron remarked. France has pursued a series of controversial bans and restrictions on items of customarily Islamic dress in recent years, which have frequently drawn the ire of Muslim countries and international agencies. read the complete article

‘Conquer the women’: Colonial roots of France’s abaya ban

It is not just the French state, but also a significant section of French society, mainly far-right voters, who frown upon clothing that is seen as “too long” or “Muslim-coloured.” The rot has set in deep. A vice-principal of a French school once told an assembly of 30 teachers, "I'll tell you how you tell whether it's an abaya or a simple long dress. You look at the individual and you know whether they're Muslim or not." That anti-Islamic gaze mainly falls on black or North African female students who are perceived as Muslim. They are the ones who bear the brunt of this witch-hunt. A white student can wear a long dress without hindrance, while her black or brown classmate would be reprimanded for doing so. The apathy of right-wing politicians and their allies towards minorities, especially Muslims, has reached a point where disenfranchising a woman in a veil or long robe is being celebrated. Knowing that there is political gain to be had, the French government has passed a number of measures aimed at controlling Muslim women’s attire. The most recent one came from French Minister of Education Gabriel Attal, who announced that abayas will be banned in schools across the country. While Muslim organisations in France have repeatedly disassociated long robes from Islamic faith, arguing that such clothing is more cultural than religious since it originated in the Middle East, the education minister still used the word “abaya” to tacitly justify the ban as a measure against Muslim community. This ban will inadvertently pave the way for racial profiling, with students from Arab, Turkish, Asian and African backgrounds becoming the primary targets. read the complete article

United States

Another Washington-area mosque receives threatening call

Thursday evening, The Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque received a threatening call while the community was preparing for an evening event, which it canceled shorty after. The call came two weeks after another mosque, Muhammad Mosque, the oldest mosque in Washington, was targeted by a bomb threat. During the brief call answered by a mosque employee, the individual referred to the 2019 attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 51 and injured 40, before saying they would come to the Baltimore mosque. “We increased security and we had our local police team there,” said Hasan Hammad, president of the mosque. “Of course people are worried and concerned because Islamophobia and hate on Muslims are a real thing.” The congregation held a prayer service under high surveillance this Friday. Zainab Chaudry, Maryland chapter director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, said Thursday’s incident reflects “increased animosity towards houses of worship and (the) Muslim community.” In addition to the more credible threats of the last month, numerous hoax calls targeting synagogues, churches and mosques have been reported this summer. read the complete article

US: Muslim woman sues sheriff's office after being forced to remove hijab

A Muslim woman in the US state of Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against the local sheriff's office after being forced to remove her hijab for a mugshot. Sophia Johnston was taken to Rutherford County Jail earlier this month after being pulled over for driving a vehicle with a suspended license. There, she was told to remove her hijab. Johnston told local news outlet WSMV4 that she did not want to remove her head covering for religious reasons, but deputies told her that if she did not she would be jailed until she complied. "I was confused. I felt like I was in an unknown place. I was scared, I felt very naked because as a Muslim woman, our hijab is our protection," Johnston told the news outlet. The lawsuit claims that the sheriff's office broke state law regarding religious freedom. Johnston has said only the men in her family have seen her without her head covering. "Once I unwrap my scarf, they all come out and just slowly walk past me, and I'm just trying so hard to not cry, not to break down because I can't show these people that they broke me," she said. Johnston is the latest Muslim woman to sue a police department in the US over the forced removal of their hijab during detention. read the complete article



In the aftermath of last month's violent events in northern Haryana state, where mobs set fire to Muslim-owned shops, a mosque, and tragically killed its imam, the streets remain eerily deserted, with tensions in the region still running high. Home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, in India, the world’s largest democracy, constitutional promises stand at odds with the stark realities of India’s Muslim minority. For decades, they've borne the weight of systematic discrimination, bias, and violence, but under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has actively pursued a Hindu nationalist agenda since their election to power in 2014, the specter of anti-Muslim sentiment looms larger than ever. What deeply concerns the community is the normalisation of hatred against them by members of the ruling party and their allies. In the wake of Modi's sweeping reelection four years ago, a slew of contentious policies has taken center stage, policies critics claim blatantly disregard the rights of millions of Muslims, threatening to disenfranchise a significant segment of the population. During BJP’s tenure, violence against Muslims has become all too routine, igniting fervent protests within India's borders, and sparking international condemnation. read the complete article


Myanmar’s shadow civilian govt apologizes to Rohingya on 6th anniversary of genocide

This week marks the sixth anniversary of the onslaught of ruthless violence, rape and genocide by the military in Myanmar against the Rohingya of all ages. The genocidal conduct of the regime forces compelled a staggering three-quarters of a million Rohingya, men, women and children, to flee to Bangladesh, clutching their meager possessions. Six years later, the situation of the Rohingya has shown minimal improvement. Their future remains grim, with little optimism about the prospect of being able to return to their homeland. Nevertheless, a thin silver lining exists, as a significant number of them have found safety in Bangladesh after escaping the clutches of a genocidal campaign. For observers of Myanmar, including myself, none of these developments were a surprise as they unfolded. It was evident to many of us that the military, with the complicity of the civilian government, was orchestrating a comprehensive campaign of genocide. What was not anticipated, however, was that following the genocide the military would overthrow the elected civilian administration and employ the same brutal tactics against the very citizens who had previously supported them. The underlying lesson was unmistakable: If you turn a blind eye to genocide, it simply means you will be next. The assault on the Rohingya constitutes merely one example of Myanmar’s ongoing military campaigns against minority factions. Once the Rohingya issue was ostensibly “resolved,” from the military’s point of view, it was at liberty to shift its resources to other fronts. At that point, Myanmar's remaining minority groups were likely to face similar treatment. Some of these communities had been the targets of military oppression for more than half a century. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 Sep 2023 Edition


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