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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08 Sep 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In France, the country’s top court on Thursday has upheld the government’s abaya ban, ruling that it is in-line with other laws banning the wearing of religious symbols in schools, meanwhile in Turkey, a video from Al Jazeera features a number of anti-Muslim incidents in Turkey in which individuals are seen verbally harassing Muslim women who wear the hijab, and in the United Kingdom, Amnesty International UK is calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to address the growing abuses targeting Muslims in India at this weekend’s G20 summit. Our recommended read of the day is by Nadeine Asbali for The New Arab on the discrepancy between Western support for women’s rights in Iran and the seeming lack of concern on new laws targeting Muslim women in France. This and more below:


France abaya ban in schools: Racism & double standards about women’s rights | Recommended Read

When protests erupted throughout Iran and women removed their hijabs in opposition to the state’s dogmatic, violent application of modesty laws, the western world stood up. But very recently, another state passed a similar law - one that also concerns itself with the specifics of how a woman dresses. The French government has banned the abaya in state schools - in recent days even turning away students in droves who come to school in Muslim dress. I could talk about how this legislation that also controls women’s bodies and dictates how much of it is allowed to be on show replicates the exact same state misogyny as Iran’s. I could mention how this is the latest in a long line of crackdowns on the way Muslim women dress in France - part of the way the French government perpetuates, embeds and normalises islamophobia in the name of secularism. From the hijab prohibition in public buildings of 2004 to a nationwide niqab ban in 2010, to burkinis being outlawed in an increasing number of provinces over the last few years. But it is the global reaction to this abaya ban that has been most shocking of all. And when I say global reaction, I mean lack thereof. Perhaps it’s because, this time, it wasn’t a Muslim government dictating women’s choices. After all, France is part of the enlightened, progressive (read: superior) Western world rather than some backwards Middle Eastern nation associated with war and oppression. Or maybe it’s that this particular misogynistic rule was enacted by white men in suits under the banner of liberty rather than angry, brown, bearded men following regressive religious standards. Whatever the reason, the silence is deafening. When rejection of patriarchal norms is seen in black and white - with covering one’s body equalling misogyny and uncovering it automatically meaning liberation, there is frankly no room for Muslim women like me who choose to cover ourselves. read the complete article

UK: Rishi Sunak should call out Prime Minister Modi’s ‘appalling’ human rights abuses at G20

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must address India’s human rights record during his attendance at the G20 summit in New Delhi this weekend, said Amnesty International today. Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said: “India’s hosting of the G20 offers a crucial opportunity for Rishi Sunak to speak openly and frankly to Prime Minister Modi about India’s appalling human rights record, and the much-anticipated UK-India trade deal talks must not silence that. “Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, the Indian authorities have harassed, silenced and carried out arbitrary arrests of Government critics, placed unlawful restrictions on journalists and human rights defenders, and launched punitive raids on the offices of NGOs and media organisations such as the BBC. “There’s been a deeply worrying pattern of anti-Muslim hate speech from numerous political and religious leaders, and Muslims and other minorities have been on the receiving end of discriminatory laws.” read the complete article

Betrayal of China’s Muslims Undermines the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Credibility

Once again, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has shown its unconditional support to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), despite the CCP’s massive persecution of Muslim people in Xinjiang – chiefly Uyghurs but also other Turkic minorities. On August 17, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li met with an OIC delegation, saying the organization “symbolizes the unity and independence of Islamic countries and functions as the bridge for China to develop its relations with Islamic countries.” In turn, the OIC delegation praised China as “a great country that has scored remarkable achievements in its economic and social development” and noted the expectation that the OIC would “further expand its cooperation with China.” This was not an aberration. In March 2019, at a meeting of the organization’s council of foreign ministers, the OIC adopted a resolution “commend[ing]” China’s efforts “in providing care to its Muslim citizens.” By contrast, the United Nations’ Human Rights Office has warned that China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.” Chinese media and government statements have regularly and ostentatiously used statements by the OIC on Xinjiang to legitimize the state’s policies there, and fend off criticism. The Islamic organization’s lack of concern about the persecution of Muslims in China, and collaboration with the CCP, strengthened by agreements and official visits, is we read the complete article

The Other Victims of 9/11

Published on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, this is a series of reported essays describing how the attacks that day and the “war on terror” that followed changed the lives of people outside the United States. Nearly 1 million people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen as a result of these post-9/11 wars, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University. The wars have displaced 38 million people from these countries, as well as Libya, the Philippines and Somalia. read the complete article

United States

Hoop dreams, with hijab

It’s mid-July in Memphis, and 50 girls and young women sporting bright purple and white jerseys are warming up on a basketball court. Though all are Muslim and many cover their arms and legs for modesty, some wear hijab, the traditional head wrap; some do not. All also have the words “Muslimah baller” plastered across the backs of their jerseys. They have come from across the United States and Canada and as far away as the United Arab Emirates to participate in the inaugural year of a sleepaway camp called Hooping in Faith. Each has come with a burning desire to play basketball and hone skills, but also with a shared goal: to learn under the tutelage of Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, 32, a former Division I basketball player who didn’t let the barriers to her religious expression keep her from becoming a star. Abdul-Qaadir first made headlines in 2010 when she was recruited out of Massachusetts by the University of Memphis and became the first woman to play at the top level of college basketball while wearing hijab. Four years later, her dream of playing professionally was initially thwarted when the international basketball association, FIBA, barred her because of her religious dress. It took more than three years for Abdul-Qaadir’s petition to play with her head covered to succeed, but once she had won, she decided not to play. “I wasn’t in a mental state to be a pro athlete because it comes with so much and I was content with who I was at that moment in time,” she said. Her victory, however, paved the way for other Muslim women, as well as for Sikh men who wear turbans and Jewish men who wear yarmulkes to play. read the complete article

There still hasn't been a trial for 9/11. Give families overdue peace with a plea agreement.

"Unacceptable," said the victim family member sitting in front of me, intentionally interrupting the prosecution's presentation. It was May 2023, and the prosecution team for the case was meeting 9/11 family members across the country. It has been 22 years since the murder of our loved ones, including my brother Bill. And it has been 11 years since the five men accused in the 9/11 plot were arraigned. So this man, presumably of few words, didn't need to say more. It is unacceptable that, to date, no one has been held accountable for the deaths of Bill and nearly 3,000 others on Sept. 11, 2001. One solution that would bring judicial finality is a plea agreement in the 9/11 case. It is also very likely 9/11 families’ best chance at getting the information and truth we deserve. Let me tell you why. We should all agree that by now, those responsible for 9/11 should have been tried, evidence presented and – if found guilty – punished. Yet because the 9/11 accused were all tortured while in CIA custody, this has not been allowed to play out. Regrettably, torturing these detainees not only cost us moral legitimacy, but it has also cost us a conviction. There's another possible pathway to resolution of the 9/11 case, however: plea negotiations. read the complete article


Videos show hate speech attacks against Muslim women in Turkey

“Go away you black bugs.” A hate speech attack in Turkey against a Muslim woman wearing a hijab is just one of a series of recent incidents that have been caught on video. read the complete article


Top French Court Upholds Abaya Ban in Schools

A top court in France on Thursday upheld a new government decree barring children in public schools from wearing the abaya, a loosefitting, full-length robe worn by some Muslim women, in a blow to critics who had called the ban discriminatory and had filed an emergency petition to strike it down. The Council of State, France’s top administrative court, which has jurisdiction over disputes concerning civil liberties, ruled that the ban was not a “serious and obviously illegal infringement of a fundamental freedom.” Wearing an abaya is part of a “logic of religious affirmation,” the court said in a statement, adding that the ban was therefore in line with a French law that “prohibits the wearing by pupils of signs or clothing ostensibly expressing religious affiliation, either in and of themselves, or because of the pupil’s behavior.” Since 2004, students have not been able to wear “ostentatious” symbols that have a clear religious meaning, like Catholic crosses, Jewish skullcaps or Muslim head scarves, in middle and high schools. read the complete article

Why France is banning Muslim clothing in schools (again)

Every few years the French get worked up about an item of religious clothing that they deem inappropriate in the classroom. This time a controversy has broken out at la rentrée, the start of the new school year, over a government decision to ban from state schools the abaya, a full-length robe worn by some Muslim girls for modesty. To people in countries with a tradition of liberal multiculturalism, the ban looks like an unacceptable infringement of the right to religious expression. To defenders of a strict version of French secularism, it is a measure necessary to protect the republic from religious interference. Why is France so worried about Muslim dress in its schools. The French approach to religion in public life is known as laïcité, a form of secularism enshrined by law in 1905 after a long struggle against authoritarian Catholicism. These rules are designed to protect both the right to religious belief and the right not to believe, as well as the neutrality of the state in religious affairs. At the start of the 20th century secular republicans were set on wresting control of schools from Catholic influence. More recent bans have been framed as the reinforcement of rules that govern religious expression of any faith. One introduced in 2004 outlawed in state schools “conspicuous” religious symbols, including the Muslim headscarf, Jewish kippah and large Christian crucifixes. Yet French Muslims often feel that such rules unfairly target Islam. The new abaya ban, says Muslim Rights Action, a French anti-discrimination group that is trying to overturn the decision, risks stigmatising Muslim pupils and introducing ethnic profiling. The new rule has won approval on the right and far-right, although it has divided the left, parts of which also remain firmly attached to the defence of laïcité. read the complete article

France Continues Its Discriminatory & Arbitrary Policing of Muslim Women’s Clothing

The abaya, sometimes called an aba, is simply a dress-like garment that Muslim women wear in some parts of the world. While some consider it a religious symbol, others consider it more of a cultural symbol. The origins of the abaya are not religious; it’s believed they were introduced in Mesopotamia as practical garments well-suited for the desert-like climate. Later, they became associated with Islam due to the Qur’an’s emphasis on modesty and the abaya being both a practical and modest garment. Prior to 2018, many women wore abayas in Saudi Arabia to meet the country’s requirements for female modesty in public. However, today, Muslim women wear abayas for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s religious, but others wear it merely to celebrate their culture and identity, given the garment’s long history. Since it’s often not considered a religious symbol, it raises questions on what grounds France, a country with a growing problem of Islamaphobia, has to ban it in public schools. read the complete article

‘Islamophobic policy’: French high school goes on strike over abaya ban

Teachers and students of a French high school have gone on strike in protest against the government’s decision to ban abaya and qamis – long and loose garments worn by some Muslim women and men, respectively – in public schools. “We want to distance ourselves from the government’s Islamophobic policy,” read a statement from the protest group at the Maurice Utrillo high school in Stains, Seine-Saint-Denis, calling for a strike which started on Wednesday. “Students must be welcomed at the Maurice Utrillo high school and we do not have to police the clothing. We refuse to stigmatise students who wear an abaya or a qamis.” “For months and months, we had no teachers as there were no replacements, but they found time for this?” one of the students who joined the strike in front of the Utrillo school told local television BFM. read the complete article


Arundhati Roy: ‘Biden, Macron know what’s going on in India but won’t talk’

India is preparing to host world leaders at a Group of 20 (G20) summit this weekend in what is being described as a crucial moment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cement his place as a global leader. New Delhi has gone under a massive – and controversial – “beautification drive” for the event, with many slums bulldozed and their occupants displaced. “You’d be forgiven for thinking it was the BJP that was hosting this event, not the government of India,” acclaimed author and activist Arundhati Roy told Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera: What is your opinion of India, in the context of its treatment of minorities, hosting the G20 summit? Arundhati Roy: Look, I don’t think anybody really cares about that because… the G20 is here, everybody is looking for an opportunity, a trade deal or a military equipment deal or a geopolitical strategic understanding. So it’s not as if any single one of the people who are coming here, the heads of state or anyone else doesn’t know exactly what’s going on in India. In countries like the US and the UK and France, the mainstream media has been so critical of what’s happening in India, but the governments have a different agenda altogether. So I don’t think one needs to be naive enough to believe that that is an issue at all for the people coming here. read the complete article


China's Uyghur villages hide their secrets after Xinjiang crackdown

The Chinese government began rounding up Uyghurs in the northwestern region in large numbers from 2017 under what it calls an anti-terrorism policy. Over one million people were allegedly detained, with reports surfacing of widespread abuses, including violence, rape and political indoctrination. The United States branded the programme a "genocide" and the United Nations said it may constitute crimes against humanity. In July, AFP travelled to four Uyghur-majority villages in the southern Xinjiang county of Yarkant in an effort to determine what had happened to some of those detained. AFP reporters in Xinjiang saw some facilities identified by researchers as detention camps continuing to operate. Several had staffed guard towers, security cameras and high walls topped with barbed wire. Overseas scholars argue that authorities have also pivoted to other forms of repression. They include handing some detainees long jail sentences and allegedly pushing them into a forced labour system that exports goods all over the world. James Millward, a historian of Xinjiang at Georgetown University in the United States, told AFP that a concerted effort to forcibly assimilate ethnic minorities and "make Xinjiang Chinese" continues. "There has been no let up in efforts to erase cultural autonomy of the Uyghur people," Millward said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 08 Sep 2023 Edition


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