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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06 Sep 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Germany, Karen Taylor from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) says that should Quran burnings begin to occur in Germany as they’ve been in other European countries, it would lead to social disturbances and a “spiral of violence”, meanwhile in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi uses the term ‘Bharat’ to refer to India on G20 summit invitations to world leaders, a term which has ties to the Hindu Nationalist movement, and in Canada, human rights activists and Muslim community members are calling for justice as the trial of accused hate crime perpetrator Nathaniel Veltman begins this week. Our recommended read of the day is by Kaoutar Harchi for The Guardian on how the real issue surrounding France’s recent ban of abayas from public schools is that French Muslims are systematically and intentionally barred from multiple avenues of French social and political life. This and more below:


Muslims are already excluded from French political life: that’s the real issue in the school abayas row | Recommended Read

When Gabriel Attal, the French education minister, went on national television for an interview to mark the start of the new school term, he had a clear message: “I have decided that the abaya can no longer be worn in school.” An official statement came a few days later confirming the ban on the long, loose dress worn by some Muslim women and girls. The practical effect of the announcement is that any young woman who turns up at the gates of her school wearing an abaya faces being barred from attending class or mixing with her classmates. The ban on wearing the abaya should be seen as part of the colonial relationship that exists between the French state and French citizens descended from postcolonial immigration. It has a history marked by three key events: in 1989 the principal of a school expelled three teenage girls for wearing headscarves in class. In 1994 a government memorandum created a distinction between so-called “discreet” religious symbols, which it said were acceptable in schools, and “ostentatious” religious symbols, which were not. In 2004 a new law banned the wearing of veils or any “conspicuous” religious symbols in state schools. However, over time and under the influence of partisan interests and political alignments, secularism has been enlisted to serve a discourse supposedly aimed at protecting the principle of equality between men and women. A discourse, in other words, that casts Islam as a patriarchal religion and a threat to French democracy. It is up to this democracy then to save Muslim women from Muslim men and, more broadly, from the culture of Islam. However, when you listen carefully to some of the speeches justifying the ban on the abaya in schools, it becomes clear that there has been a shift. It is no longer so much a question of banning a long, loose garment to free young women from the grip of the Muslim patriarchy as about protecting other students from the proselytising threat that these abaya-wearing adolescents could present. These girls are now seen as school-going envoys of global Islamism. read the complete article

French education minister wants trial run of school uniforms amid abaya ban row

French Education Minister Gabriel Attal said on Tuesday he was in favour of trialling school uniforms or a dress code amid a debate over a ban in state-run schools on abaya, the loose-fitting, full-length robes worn by some Muslim women. Uniforms have not been obligatory in French schools since 1968 but have regularly come back on the political agenda, often pushed by conservative and far-right politicians. Attal, who announced the abaya ban earlier this week, told BFM TV he would provide a timetable in autumn for carrying out a trial run of uniforms with any schools that agree to participate. "I don't think that the school uniform is a miracle solution that solves all problems related to harassment, social inequalities or secularism," he said. But he added: "We must go through experiments, try things out" in order to promote debate, he said. read the complete article

Schools in France send dozens of Muslim girls home for wearing abayas

French public schools have sent dozens of girls home for refusing to remove their abayas – long, loose-fitting robes worn by some Muslim women and girls – on the first day of the school year, according to Education Minister Gabriel Attal. Defying a ban on the garment seen as a religious symbol, nearly 300 girls showed up on Monday morning wearing abayas, Attal told the BFM broadcaster on Tuesday. Most agreed to change out of the robe, but 67 refused and were sent home, he said. The government announced last month it was banning the abaya in schools, saying it broke the rules on secularism in education that have already seen headscarves forbidden on the grounds they constitute a display of religious affiliation. The move gladdened the political right but the hard left argued it represented an affront to civil liberties. read the complete article

France's cynical abaya ban reflects country's twisted priorities

France's latest ban on abaya dresses (as well as qamis and djellabas) in public schools will not surprise any observer of the French political scene since the so-called "headscarves affairs" first broke out in October 1989. At the time, three Muslim girls were kicked out of their school in the city of Creil for refusing to remove their hijab. The incident was followed by a long list of increasingly virulent state and societal Islamophobic acts with the abaya ban as its latest edition. Using the same rhetorical toolkit, Gabriel Attal, the national education and youth minister, invokes the fallacious ready-made argument of "the defence of the Republic" against alleged "provocateurs" (those young girls who wear abayas) who "test", "attack", and "seek to destabilise" our nation. It is the same fake alibi, couched in hysterical rhetoric, which state officials employ each time they want to ban this or that visible manifestation and public presence of Islam, especially feminine outfits like the burkini or the hijab of female soccer players (the hijabeuses), to name just two other recent French campaigns prior to this latest ban. The new ban is shocking because of the odd and twisted priorities it reveals. For years, the public school system has been collapsing under multiple structural problems, including dramatically insufficient salaries, the loss of social consideration and status for teachers, increasingly difficult working conditions, and high levels of burnout, anxiety, and depression. One consequence of the degraded situation of the French public school system has been the difficulty (the impossibility, really) in attracting enough teachers, which for years has resulted in a grave recruiting crisis, doubled by a crisis of trying to find temporary replacements. As a result, last year, 4,000 full-time teaching positions were not staffed and a staggering 12 million hours of classes could not be delivered to the students. And that was in junior high schools alone. read the complete article


Islamophobia rife in Germany so Quran burnings should be a ‘no-go,’ warns expert

With Islamophobia already a major issue in Germany, there are heightened fears within the Muslim community that far-right activists could stage Quran burnings in the country, like the ones seen in other European nations such as Sweden and Denmark. If that were to happen, it could lead to social disturbances and a spiral of violence, warned Karen Taylor, chairperson of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). She called on the government to bring in tough laws to counter violent extremism against Muslims and hoped that Quran burnings would not be allowed in Germany. “What I expect is that not only people from the Muslim community would rage against these incidents, but the whole population in Germany would see that this is an act of aggression, an act of hatred and discrimination,” Taylor told Anadolu. She stressed that Quran burnings or desecration should be a “no-go” in Germany. “Burning books … it will start was out there, (but) at the end it will be houses, or even people that get injured and hurt,” she said. “So this is definitely for me a no-go and something where not only the government has to react, but the whole society needs to say that this is a no-go.” read the complete article


Trial of man charged with running down Muslim family in Canada begins

Muslim community members and rights advocates across Canada are calling for justice as the trial of a man charged with deliberately running down a Muslim family in the province of Ontario in 2021 kicked off. Jury selection began on Tuesday in the trial of Nathaniel Veltman, who faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for the attack in London, a city about 200km (125 miles) west of Toronto. Veltman pleaded not guilty to all the charges during the Ontario Superior Court of Justice hearing in the city of Windsor, local media reported on Tuesday afternoon. Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, and Salman’s mother, Talat, 74, were killed on June 6, 2021, after being run over with a pick-up truck while out for a walk. The couple’s nine-year-old son was seriously injured. Authorities said at the time that the family was “targeted because of their Islamic faith” and they have since charged Veltman with “terrorism” offences. “We will be watching this trial closely,” the National Council of Canadian Muslims advocacy group said in a statement on Monday afternoon. read the complete article

Organizers urge action on Islamophobia as trial begins for man accused in killing members of Afzaal family

The trial of the man accused of killing members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., has one member of the Muslim community in Windsor, where the trial is taking place, calling for unity and action on Islamophobia. Amna Masoodi is an organizer of Windsor's annual walks for solidarity in honour of the Afzaal family. She says the trial could be re-traumatizing for the Muslim community. "It feels like, again, it's fresh and new and we have to go through the feelings again and then acknowledge the fact that still nothing is really being done," Masoodi said. The Afzaals were out for an evening walk in suburban London on June 6, 2021, when they were struck by a vehicle. 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. Nathaniel Veltman is facing four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Police and prosecutors allege he was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. Masoodi encouraged Windsorites to check in on their Muslim friends and neighbours, and to call out Islamophobia when they see it. "Whether you're Muslim or not, just the idea of a family, an entire family, three generations being killed, anyone can relate to that. You don't have to be Muslim to relate to that." read the complete article

United States

22 Years of Drone Warfare and No End in Sight

In 2023, this country’s drone warfare program has entered its third decade with no end in sight. Despite the fact that the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 is approaching, policymakers have demonstrated no evidence of reflecting on the failures of drone warfare and how to stop it. Instead, the focus continues to be on simply shifting drone policy in minor ways within an ongoing violent system. In February 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney justified drone strikes as a key tool of American foreign policy this way. More aggressively endorsing the use of such drones, Georgetown Professor Daniel Byman, who has held government positions, emphasized the necessity of such warfare to protect American lives. “Drones,” he wrote, “have done their job remarkably well… And they have done so at little financial cost, at no risk to U.S. forces, and with fewer civilian casualties than many alternative methods would have caused.” In reality, however, Washington’s war on terror has inflicted disproportionate violence on communities across the globe, while using this form of asymmetrical warfare to further expand the space between the value placed on American lives and those of Muslims. As the rhetoric on drone warfare suggests, the value of life and the need to protect it are, as far as Washington is concerned, reserved for Americans and their allies. Since the war on terror was launched, the London-based watchdog group Airwars has estimated that American air strikes have killed at least 22,679 civilians and possibly up to 48,308 of them. read the complete article


India’s ruling Hindu nationalists push ‘Bharat’ as country’s name

As New Delhi gears up to host the Group of 20 leaders this week, the government’s pointed word choice on the summit dinner invitations stirred controversy and conversation Tuesday about what the country is, and should be, called. On the invitations, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a deliberate choice in naming the banquet’s host nation: The “pleasure of the [leaders’] company” was requested not by the “President of India,” but the “President of Bharat.” The same day, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra shared an image of an official card referencing the visit of “the Prime Minister of Bharat Shri Narendra Modi” to Indonesia for the “20th ASEAN-India Summit” on Sept. 7. Both used the ancient term “Bharat,” a Sanskrit and Hindi word long interchangeable with India. In its first article, the constitution of India declares “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” The term has taken on fraught political valence in recent years as the preferred nomenclature of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While some nationalists argue that it is already an accepted alternative to “India,” which bears some colonial baggage, Modi’s critics have noted that the BJP uses “Bharat” to evoke the sense of an exclusively Hindu past in a country that’s home to more Muslims than any nation in the Middle East. The move aligns with a larger revisionist impulse of the Indian right. The BJP has pushed to erase some names that originated from colonial rule — and increasingly, those that have been associated with Muslim heritage. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 Sep 2023 Edition


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