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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01 Apr 2020

Today in Islamophobia: In Xinjiang, ethnic Kazhaks suffer alongside Uighurs from China’s draconian policies. In Myanmar, the government uses its anti-terrorism law to crack down on journalists for publishing interviews with the Arakan Army- a Rohingya rebel group. Indian media outlets and politicians continue to scapegoat Muslims for the spread of coronavirus in the country. Our recommended read today is by Asim Ali titled “Coronavirus was a test of secular nationalism. Then Tablighi Jamaat became the scapegoat.” This, and more, below:


01 Apr 2020

Coronavirus was a test of secular nationalism. Then Tablighi Jamaat became the scapegoat | Recommended Read

The Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz, from where more than 100 positive cases of coronavirus have emerged, would be a legitimate topic of utmost concern in any country. And it definitely shouldn’t have taken place when a pandemic was claiming lives by the thousands. Yet, the manner in which it was cynically exploited to stoke naked communalism, on social media and TV channels, had a singular aim: to give a communal colour to the fight against coronavirus. ‘Coronajihad’ was one of the top trending topics on Twitter Tuesday. BJP leaders such as Gautam Gambhir, B.L. Santhosh and Sambit Patra fuelled the denunciation parade, warning of a “disaster of gigantic proportions” from the “criminal negligence”. There had been a certain recklessness across religious institutions in the face of the pandemic, for instance even the Tirupati temple was open to tens of thousands of devotees at the time of the Tablighi congregation two weeks ago, but the irresponsibility of certain Muslims has been painted with menacing ideological motivations. The opening monologue of Arnab Goswami on Republic TV can be quoted here because it mirrored the coverage on most English and Hindi news channels in the framing of the event as a Muslim conspiracy to defeat India. “They made fun of our national effort. They have compromised us all, we were just winning when they did everything to defeat us,” fumed Goswami. “They have been spreading hate against the lockdown and told their followers to do everything possible to defy the lockdown”. There was little doubt that “they” here stood in for Muslims. This failure presents two dark implications for Indian Muslims, one immediate and the other at a broader level. At the immediate level, this opens up the possibility of a dangerous escalation of prejudice and violence directed at them. During times of crisis, people revert to their tribal identities and search for ‘Others’ to blame for their problems. Pandemics have a long history of scapegoating, right from the Bubonic Plague in the fourteenth century (or ‘Black Death’) where Jews were accused of poisoning wells and spreading the contagion. The broader implication is of the permanence of Muslim exclusion from the Indian nationhood. If Muslims can’t be part of any collective national effort, and worse, still be the perpetual enemy around which the struggle is organised, then there is no possibility left for their integration in the national mainstream. read the complete article

Recommended Read
01 Apr 2020

India tracks attendees after Muslim event linked to virus cases

India has launched a massive search to track down those who attended an event organised by a Muslim missionary movement after dozens of people test positive for coronavirus and at least seven reportedly die. Authorities in the Indian capital on Tuesday sealed off the premises of Tablighi Jamaat, accusing it of organising a religious gathering from March 13-15 and ignoring the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Delhi government also asked the police to file a criminal case against the group, one of the country's oldest Islamic organisations, for flouting guidelines and not maintaining physical distancing. Tablighi Jamaat denied accusations it had broken social distancing laws, saying it was forced to accommodate visitors stranded by the lockdown announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, with just four hours' notice. In a press statement, the group said: "A rumour started gaining ground across social media that allegedly people affected with COVID-19 are present in Markaz. It is also being circulated that certain deaths have occurred due to the same. read the complete article

01 Apr 2020

Corona Outbreak Afflicted By Communal Virus? Blaming Tablighi Jamaat Could Be Misdirected

The religious gathering was organised by Tablighi Jamaat -- a religious group with its India headquarters at Nizamuddin in Delhi -- which focusses on urging Muslims to return to practising their faith. Following the reports of several people leaving for various parts of the country poured in, "TablighiVirus" and "CoronaJihad" were among the trending topics on Twitter. "How come such a large gathering was allowed in the national capital," asked many. Shahid Siddiqui, a former member of Parliament and a resident of Nizamuddin, said a crowd of over a 1,000 or more is not unusual for an organisation (Tablighi Jamaat), which is going to complete 100 years in 2027. Commenting on how the debate around the virus suddenly turned communal, Siddiqui told Outlook that a section of media is playing a very negative role. "They turn everything, every issue into something to do with Islam and Muslims." He added: "This will cause more harm to the nation. It's turning a virus issue into a communal issue. You can't fight one virus by spreading another virus." The Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Okhla, too, tweeted that he had informed the DCP South East and ACP Nizamuddin, on March 23, of the presence of close to 1000 people at Markaz. "Why didn't the police arrange for transport to send them back?" he asked. read the complete article

01 Apr 2020

Fake: Old Video Shared as Muslims Licking Plates to Spread Corona

The message claims that many Muslims have been infected across the country and that many have been caught by police in one place as well. It adds that these Muslims can be seen applying their saliva on utensils, which as is known by now, would be a way of spreading the coronavirus. The claim with the video is false and the video is actually of an old incident unrelated to the current COVID-19 outbreak. On searching Google with the keywords ‘Muslims licking plates’, we came across the same video on Vimeo, uploaded on 31 July 2018 by a user called Asghar Vasanwala. According to the description of the video, the people seen in the video are Dawoodi Bohras, who are licking the utensils in an attempt to follow their belief of zero wastage of food. read the complete article

01 Apr 2020

"Excuse To Vilify Muslims": Omar Abdullah On COVID-19 Cases At Delhi Event

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Tuesday claimed the detection of coronavirus in scores of people who attended a weeks-long event organised by Tablighi Jamaat at a famous Delhi mosque has provided an opportunity to "some to vilify Muslims". The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said those tweeting with hashtags like "Tablighi virus" are "more dangerous" that any virus nature can conjure up. "Now the #TablighiJamat will become a convenient excuse for some to vilify Muslims everywhere as if we created & spread #COVID around the world," he said in a series of tweets. read the complete article


01 Apr 2020

In Xinjiang, Ethnic Kazakhs Suffer Alongside Uyghurs

In an exclusive interview, Mrs. Sauytbay shared her thoughts about how the US and the rest of the international community can keep pressure on China, and also what else the Kazakhstan government can do about the situation faced by ethnic Kazakhs in East Turkestan. Kazakhstan is generally regarded as the “buckle” in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, but this strong dependency on Chinese investment and trade comes at a heavy price. It is estimated that anywhere between 1.5 and 3 million individuals, primarily Uyghur Muslims, but also ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz, have been sent to the “re-education camps” in recent years. Now, the Chinese government is moving to the next phase of its grand strategy to deal with Uyghur culture and identity. Tens of thousands are now working in forced labor factories; as reported by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), “between 2017 and 2019, ASPI estimates the Chinese government relocated at least 80,000 Uyghurs from Xinjiang in western China.” One interesting fact about the ASPI’s “Uyghurs for sale” report is that it not only discusses the oppressed Uyghurs, but it also addresses groups like ethnic Kazakhs that are facing a similar fate. For example, the report’s appendix states that “as reported in early 2019, 46 workers (including Kazakhs) were transferred from Tekes county, Xinjiang, to work at Nanjing Synergy Textiles Co. Ltd in Nanjing in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province.” Well-respected media outlets like Al Jazeera have also covered the abuses that ethnic Kazakhs have experienced in the camps. The news agency added that as many as half a million Kazakhs could be in the camps along with the Uyghurs, but reliable data is problematic to obtain. read the complete article

United Kingdom

01 Apr 2020

Three Muslim doctors become first medics in UK to die from coronavirus

Three Muslim doctors, two of Sudanese descent and one Pakistani, have become the first medical professionals in the UK to die while fighting coronavirus on the front line. The deaths have shed light on the often-negative portrayals of Muslims and immigrants in the British media, with several Twitter users calling attention to the trio’s names. One user wrote “The next time any of you think about or say ‘bloody foreigners’ or ‘bloody Muslims’ remember this. RIP.” Another wrote “Don’t want to hear Muslims being lectured on ‘British values’ again.” read the complete article


How Authoritarians Are Exploiting the Covid-19 Crisis to Grab Power

For authoritarian-minded leaders, the coronavirus crisis is offering a convenient pretext to silence critics and consolidate power. Censorship in China and elsewhere has fed the pandemic, helping to turn a potentially containable threat into a global calamity. The health crisis will inevitably subside, but autocratic governments’ dangerous expansion of power may be one of the pandemic’s most enduring legacies. Others are following China’s example. In Thailand, Cambodia, Venezuela, Bangladesh, and Turkey, governments are detaining journalists, opposition activists, healthcare workers, and anyone else who dares to criticize the official response to the coronavirus. Needless to say, ignorance-is-bliss is not an effective public health strategy. Of course, a free media is not a certain antidote. Responsible government is also needed. US President Donald Trump initially called the coronavirus a “hoax.” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called the virus a “fantasy” and preventive measures “hysterical.” Before belatedly telling people to stay home, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ostentatiously held rallies, and hugged, kissed, and shook hands with supporters. But at least a free media can highlight such irresponsibility; a silenced media allows it to proceed unchallenged. Recognizing that the public is more willing to accept government power grabs in times of crisis, some leaders see the coronavirus as an opportunity not only to censor criticism but also to undermine checks and balances on their power. Much as the “war on terrorism” was used to justify certain long-lasting restrictions on civil liberties, so the fight against the coronavirus threatens longer-term damage to democratic rule. read the complete article


01 Apr 2020

Myanmar blocks hundreds of news sites and threatens editor with life in jail

Myanmar has cracked down on journalists, blocking news websites and maintaining a longstanding internet ban in some areas, prompting warnings it is becoming increasingly hard to monitor abuses in the country. On Tuesday, Myanmar charged a journalist under a terrorism law for publishing an interview with the Arakan Army, a rebel group that demands greater autonomy for the state’s ethnic Rakhine people. The group had recently been labelled a terrorist organisation. Nay Myo Lin, editor in chief of the Voice of Myanmar, could face life in prison. His website has also been blocked, along with other outlets that cover the ongoing fighting in Rakhine state, where about 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled a military crackdown in 2017. read the complete article

United States

01 Apr 2020

Our Father’s Body

We filled out our father’s name, his age, his county of death, his Social Security number. And then we reached Question 11: decedent’s race. “White,” one of my sisters said. She said it quickly, as if it were a formality, a diversion from our steady progress toward Question 12: Was the decedent ever in the U.S. armed forces? Wait, I thought. What part of our father—who was born, in 1932, in Cairo, Egypt—was white? His skin, for most of his adult life, was a dusty brown. When he spoke English, his Egyptian accent, with its rounded vowels and guttural rhotics, classified him as foreign-born. Every night of my childhood, he sang me lullabies in Arabic (Mama zamanha gaya) and French (Malbrough s’en va-t-en guerre), lullabies that he remembered from his own childhood, in North Africa. “I’m pretty sure that nobody ever thought he was white,” I said. Although Egypt had declared its independence from the United Kingdom ten years before my father was born, the vestiges of British and French colonial life had marked his adolescence. In Cairo, he’d attended Le Collège de la Sainte Famille, a French-language school run by Jesuits, and this had given him a sense of apartness from the society in which he lived. He was from a branch of the family that had converted to Catholicism in the nineteenth century, and he grew up within a narrative of cultural difference. He was exceptional in Egyptian society, the priests of Sainte Famille told him. Specially chosen. Dad’s experience was not unusual. When Jean-Paul Sartre said that colonialism “selected adolescents, branded the principles of Western culture on their foreheads with a red-hot iron, and gagged their mouths with sounds, pompous and awkward,” he was largely pointing to the upper-middle class of North Africa. “Every effort is made to bring the colonized person to admit the inferiority of his culture,” Frantz Fanon warned, at the Congress of Black African Writers, in 1959. He might as well have been talking about my family. The truth was this: I was angry at my father. I was unable to forgive him, even in death, for the way he’d turned against his heritage, fallen under the thrall of right-wing demagogues on radio and television. I couldn’t forgive the horrible things he’d taken to saying about the Middle East, the hatred he’d directed at Muslims, in particular—posting on his anonymous Twitter account, tweeting and retweeting the sentiments of xenophobes and bigots. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Apr 2020 Edition


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