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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12 Apr 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In Sri Lanka, the state’s impending ban on burqas and the closing of more than 1000 mosques re-ignites concerns of religious persecution within the Muslim community, as the Biden Administration’s Secretary of State rebukes China’s genocide against Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and in the UK, Downing Street officials are scrambling after accusations arise of the government re-writing large portions of a racial and ethnic disparities report. Our recommended read of the day is by Nick McKenzie, Chris Masters and Joel Tozer on Australian war hero Ben Roberts-Smith’s history of covering up his own contribution to war and ethnic related crimes. This and more below:


11 Apr 2021

Buried evidence and threats: How Ben Roberts-Smith tried to cover up his alleged crimes

It’s September 2012 inside a coalition military base in Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan and an Australian soldier wearing the white gown and pointed hood of the Ku Klux Klan poses for the camera. His face obscured by the hood, the soldier holds up a noose like those used by the white supremacist group to lynch African-Americans. In another picture, the man stands with a burning cross, staring at the camera as his colleagues cheer around him. The images, taken at a fancy-dress party in an unauthorized military bar called the Fat Ladies Arms, capture soldiers from the elite Perth-based Special Air Services Regiment a decade into Australia’s longest war. They were fighting an insurgency and trying to win hearts and minds in a Muslim country whose inhabitants had already made multiple complaints that some of their number – including that certain friends of the soldier dressed in KKK gear had executed their fathers, brothers and husbands. A series of images from parties at the makeshift bar hint at one of those suspected killings. They show soldiers drinking beer from the prosthetic leg of a Taliban fighter killed by an Australian soldier in 2009. Most of the soldiers would have known little about the history of the leg, which they called “Das Boot”. But at least one man knew it represented something more sinister, because he had allegedly murdered its former owner outside the laws of combat on Easter Sunday, 2009. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
11 Apr 2021

Muslims attending mosques during holy month of Ramadan fear ongoing hate crimes

Brisbane's Holland Park Mosque leader Ali Kadri told the ABC that he's so worried about repeated hate crimes targeting the mosque that he believes it's only a matter of time before what happened at the Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch in 2019 is repeated. "If we continue the path we're going, and continue to ignore the real threat, which is posed by these [right-wing extremists], It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," he said, when asked if his mosque could face a similar attack. Worshipers attending the mosque, which is one the oldest Islamic buildings in Australia, have also got concerns, Mr Kadri said, adding it's become "quite normal" for mosque-goers to endure weekly drive-bys where racist slurs are yelled at them out of car windows. But the Brisbane mosque is not alone, as 2021 research from Charles Sturt University shows more than half of the 75 mosques surveyed in Australia experienced targeted violence between 2014 and 2019. The types of violence included arson, physical assault of attendees, graffiti, vandalism, verbal abuse, and online abuse. In some extreme cases, some mosques received hate mail and death threats, according to the research. read the complete article


09 Apr 2021

'Law against Islam’: French vote in favour of hijab ban condemned

A bid by the French Senate to ban girls under 18 from wearing the hijab in public has drawn condemnation, with the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab circulating widely on social media. The hijab is a headscarf worn by many Muslim women and has been the subject of a decades-long feud in France. While debating the proposed legislation on March 30, senators approved an amendment to the bill calling for the “prohibition in the public space of any conspicuous religious sign by minors and of any dress or clothing which would signify inferiority of women over men”. The ban is not yet law, with France’s National Assembly required to sign off on the change before it can take effect. But a backlash to the amendment was swift, with some suggesting the proposed rule amounted to a “law against Islam”. “Age to consent to sex in France: 15 Age to consent to hijab: 18 Let that sink in. It isn’t a law against the hijab. It’s a law against Islam. #Handsoffmyhijab #FranceHijabBan,” one Twitter user wrote. On Instagram, Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad shared a post suggesting the Senate’s amendment indicated “Islamophobia is deepening in France”. “This is what happens when you normalize anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim hate speech, bias, discrimination, and hate crimes – Islamophobia written into law,” the post said. read the complete article

08 Apr 2021

French Senate Voted To Ban The Hijab For Minors In A Plea By The Conservative Right

BEARDSLEY: Well, as you said, the most controversial one would prohibit anyone - a minor - under 18, from wearing the Muslim veil in public. And actually, today some senators proposed another amendment in that same vein that the headscarf would not be allowed in national sports competitions, especially televised ones. You know, these are amendments to a larger French bill. And I've spoken with experts. They have no chance of becoming law. I mean, they would have to be passed by the lower house of Parliament, which has already said it's against them. And even if they did pass, the country's constitutional council would likely strike them down so that they don't have a chance of becoming law. SHAPIRO: But they tap into a larger debate in France. Explain why conservative lawmakers are introducing these measures if they don't have a chance of becoming policy. BEARDSLEY: Right. Well, this is all about next year's presidential election. And these amendments were all proposed by France's mainstream conservative party, which is really just limping along a shadow of its former self. It's been cannibalized from the left and from the right. It's especially lost voters to Marine Le Pen's far-right party. And I spoke to political scientist Jean-Yves Camus. And here's what he said about it. JEAN-YVES CAMUS: The conservative right sees that some of their previous voters have switched to the far right, so they try to win back those voters. If they want to win back those votes, they have to propose legislation that is at least as xenophobic. read the complete article

12 Apr 2021

In solidarity with French academics targeted by the republic

We write to express our solidarity with the scholars, activists, and other knowledge producers who are targeted by the February 2021 statements by Frédérique Vidal, France’s minister of higher education, research, and innovation. In them, she denounced “Islamo-gauchisme” (Islamo-leftism) and its “gangrene” effect on France, and called for an inquiry into France’s national research organization, the CNRS, and the university. The specific kinds of knowledge in question analyze and critique colonialism and racism, and support decolonial, antiracist, and anti-Islamophobia projects within the academy and on the streets. Vidal’s statements show the discomfort these challenges are causing the state, and hence the desire to repress them rather than engage them. The state’s intentions are found in the language it uses. The relatively new term “Islamo-gauchisme” reflects a much older convergence of right-wing, colonial and racist ideologies working in opposition to anticolonial, anti-Islamophobia and antiracism struggles. Vidal claims that anticolonial, decolonial and postcolonial critique, antiracist, anti-Islamophobia, intersectionality, and decolonial feminist and queer analyses are imports from the US academy. She ignores that decolonial theory actually developed in Abya Yala (Latin America), postcolonial theory in India, and that women and queers in anticolonial and antiracism struggles have always thought about many relations of power together. Vidal also forgets that both postcolonial and decolonial theories are indebted to the prior work of French-speaking scholars of colour such as Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, and others. read the complete article

11 Apr 2021

French Government Disgusted by Attack on Muslim Centre

THE French government on Sunday condemned the defacing of an Islamic cultural centre in western France with Islamaphobic slogans, and said an attack on Muslims was an attack on the Republic. The tags, daubed on the side a building used as a prayer room in the city of Rennes, were found shortly before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in France on Tuesday. Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said it was a disgusting attack against the fundamental freedom to believe in a religion and that Muslims deserved the same protection as any other religious group in France. read the complete article

United Kingdom

10 Apr 2021

Quilliam: Social media react to the closing of British think-tank

People took to social media to celebrate the closure of British "counter-extremism" organization Quilliam, which has long been accused of Islamophobia. Quilliam co-founder Maajid Nawaz announced in a statement on Twitter that the decision to shut down the organization was due to "the hardship of maintaining a non-profit during Covid lockdowns". Critics of the group have accused Quilliam of Islamophobia, fraternizing with the far-right, and mislabelling Muslim groups in the UK as "extremists". Many have questioned how the organization can claim to be closing due to lack of funds given that the group won $3.375m in a settlement with the US-based Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) in 2018. Meanwhile, some users were surprised by the speed with which Quilliam disappeared from all platforms. The Quilliam website and Twitter account have now been taken down. read the complete article

09 Apr 2021

Boris Johnson's Tories are not serious about investigating Islamophobia

The Tory Party is full of Islamophobes who would dearly love to see the report disposed of. Starting with the prime minister himself, who has compared Muslim women who wear the burqa to "letter boxes" and "bank robbers". Here are the facts as we know them. It’s approaching two years since Boris Johnson, ambushed at a party leadership hustings, reluctantly committed himself to an investigation. Within a matter of weeks, a squirming Johnson had watered it down to include not just Islamophobia but "other forms of prejudice". Then Johnson’s deputy Michael Gove - on record as saying that "a sizable minority" of British Muslims hold "rejectionist Islamist views" - pledged to complete an inquiry into Islamophobia by the end of the year in 2019. That pledge came to nothing. read the complete article

11 Apr 2021

Downing Street rewrote ‘independent’ report on race, experts claim

Officials at Downing Street have been accused of rewriting much of its controversial report into racial and ethnic disparities, despite appointing an independent commission to conduct an honest investigation into inequality in the UK. The Observer has been told that significant sections of the report published on 31 March, which were criticized and debunked by health professionals, academics, business chiefs and crime experts, were not written by the 12 commissioners who were appointed last July. The 258-page document was not made available to be read in full or signed off by the group, which included scientist and BBC broadcaster Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Samir Shah, former chair of the Runnymede Trust, nor were they made aware of its 24 final recommendations. Instead, the finished report, it is alleged, was produced by No 10. Kunle Olulode, an anti-racism activist and director of the charity Voice4Change, is the first commissioner to condemn the government publicly for its lack of transparency. In a statement to the Observer, Olulode’s charity was scathing of the way evidence was cherrypicked, distorted and denied in the final document. read the complete article


09 Apr 2021

There’s a good chance your cotton T-shirt was made with Uyghur slave labor

Many of the world’s largest brands are willing to rearrange their operations in order to source products from areas that are not known – as the Uyghur region in western China is – for atrocious human rights violations, but far fewer are willing to do so publicly. As it turns out, “easier said than done” does not apply when facing the rebuke of the Chinese government. One in five cotton garments on the global marketplace is tainted by forced labor, and more than 20% of the world’s cotton comes from the Uyghur region, which the Chinese government calls Xinjiang. Forced labor is an integral part of the ethnic cleansing program being carried out by the Chinese government, which is targeting the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples and subjecting them to involuntary labor and “re-education”. Several countries including the US have officially declared this campaign a genocide. Last week, the US and its allies sanctioned Wang Junzheng, the head of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Yet it is still a challenge to convince some corporations to prioritize workers’ lives over profits. That’s because companies that have dared to voice their concerns over what is happening in the Uyghur region are now facing threats of a boycott in China – a perfect example of the rebuke these brands have been trying to avoid. China is by many measures now the world’s largest economy, and in the wake of this boycott, major global apparel companies including Inditex and PVH have removed policies against forced labor from their websites. So far these companies are in the minority, but they own global brands such as Zara, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. As long as there is a market for goods sourced from the Uyghur region, the Chinese government will be emboldened to keep operating the mass detention camps where Uyghur people are being held in indentured servitude. read the complete article

11 Apr 2021

China’s Crackdown on Islam Brings Back Memories of 1975 Massacre

China’s religious policies are tightening, including new regulations enacted in 2018 and 2020, and Muslim communities across China are feeling the pressure. Uyghur Muslims, numbering about 12 million, have faced increasingly repressive policies in Xinjiang since ethnic conflict in 2009; an estimated 1 million have been placed in detention camps for what the state calls “reeducation” and “counterextremism training.” Hui Muslims are almost as numerous but rarely in the headlines due to better integration into Han-majority China. But in recent years, attitudes toward Hui have shifted, and some in the community fear the impact. I went to Shadian to find out how residents were experiencing the changes and where China’s religious policy was going. In 1968, China was at the height of the campaign to “smash the Four Olds.” The campaign to destroy pre-Communist elements of Chinese culture—old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas—played out with fanatical zeal in different ways across China, leaving smashed buildings and burnt books behind it. In Shadian, mosques were closed, prayers were forbidden, Qurans were burned, and most accounts cite Han forcing Hui to eat pork. One mosque in Shadian was converted into a propaganda center where the Communist work teams lived, raised, and slaughtered pigs and allegedly threw bones into the well used for ritual ablutions before prayer. Hui formed militias and sent appeals to the provincial and central governments for religious freedoms supposedly afforded to citizens under the 1954 constitution of the People’s Republic of China. But the petitions went unheeded—and party officials saw resistance as insurrection. Finally, in July 1975, the People’s Liberation Army was ordered to suppress the Hui resistance in Shadian. Troops surrounded the town before dawn on July 29 and for the next seven days bombed it with heavy artillery. “Shadian looked like a heap of ruins,” wrote Ma Ping, the head of the Institute for Hui and Islamic Studies at the Ningxia Academy of Social Sciences. “You could see pieces of arms and legs shredded. The air reeked with the nauseating stench of rotting corpses.” Some estimates suggest 1,500 people were killed, almost one-fourth of Shadian’s population at the time. In 1979, after Mao Zedong had died and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution had subsided, the liberal-minded national leader Hu Yaobang, himself purged twice in the past, wrote a letter absolving Shadian Hui of blame and issuing reparations. The same army that had reduced Shadian to rubble was ordered to return and rebuild it. By the 2000s, officials were reimagining a town once famous for religious clashes as a site of peaceful tourism. But Shadian’s ambitions for tourism vanished in March 2014. Eight Uyghurs from Xinjiang armed themselves with knives, entered the Kunming Railway Station, and began slashing passengers indiscriminately. Thirty-one people were killed and more than 140 injured before four of the attackers were shot and one apprehended. The other three fled to Shadian, where they were arrested two days later. Prior to this event, Hui and Uyghur Muslims were distinct in the minds of China’s Han majority. Many regarded Hui as the model Muslim minority. read the complete article

United States

10 Apr 2021

A Muslim advocacy group just sued Facebook for failing to remove hate-speech, and it's the latest example of the tech's patchwork polices that fail to crack down on Islamophobia

Civil rights group Muslim Advocates filed a suit against Facebook and four company executives in the District of Columbia Superior Court for lying to Congress about moderating hate speech. Facebook executives have told Congress of their commitment to removing content that violate policies, including COO Sheryl Sandberg's assertion to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Facebook and Foreign Influence that "when content violates our policies, we will take it down." Yet Muslim Advocates said the organization presented Facebook with a list of 26 groups that spread anti-Muslim hate in 2017, yet 19 of them are still active. The suit claims Facebook allowed a man threatening to kill Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to post "violent and racist content for years," and that the company failed to remove a group called "Death to Murdering Islamic Muslim Cult Members" even after Elon University Professor Megan Squire brought it to Facebook's attention. Peter Romer-Friedman, a principal at Gupta Wessler PLLC who helped file the suit and the former counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, said Congress cannot adequately oversee corporations that misrepresent facts to lawmakers. Romer-Friedman said Facebook's failure to remove a group that claimed "Islam is a disease" — which directly violates the company's hate speech policies that prohibits "dehumanizing speech including...reference or comparison to filth, bacteria, disease, or feces" — is an example where the firm did not follow through on its promise to Congress to quell hate speech. read the complete article

11 Apr 2021

Anti-Islamic ex-lawmaker named Oklahoma GOP chairman

Former state Rep. John Bennett won a first-ballot victory at the party convention Saturday at the Oklahoma City Convention Center, vice chairman Shane Jemison said Sunday. Bennett is a Sallisaw Marine Corps veteran of three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who served eight years in the Oklahoma House. He succeeds David McLain, who chose not to seek a second term. In 2013, he helped form the unofficial House counterterrorism caucus, citing concerns about a Muslim attempt to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law. He also referred to Islam as a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out” and faced criticism for Facebook posts targeting Muslims and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. read the complete article


09 Apr 2021

Biden Secretary Of State Condemns China’s ‘Acts Of Genocide' Against Muslim Uyghurs

India’s Supreme Court has refused to stop the deportation to Myanmar of about 170 Rohingya refugees detained in the Indian-administered Kashmir region’s Jammu area, with the members of the beleaguered community calling it a “death warrant” issued by the court. “Possibly that is the fear that if they go back to Myanmar, they will be slaughtered. But we cannot control all that,” the top court said on Thursday, stating that the fundamental right to settle in India is available only to its citizens. The court also underlined the Indian government’s claim that Rohingya refugees posed a “threat to internal security of the country” as it declined a petition to release the Rohingya men, women and children detained last month in Jammu. Approximately 5,000 mainly-Muslim Rohingya had taken refuge in Jammu in the past few years after a large number of them fled a 2017 military crackdown in Buddhist-majority Myanmar – carried out with “genocidal intent”, according to the United Nations. India hosts about 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps and slums in different cities and regions, including Jammu, Hyderabad, Nuh and the capital New Delhi – many of them believed to be undocumented. Nearly 170 refugees, who had been living in camps and slums of Jammu for years, were summoned on March 6 by the local police as part of a “verification” exercise. They and many others picked up in subsequent police raids were taken in buses to a “holding centre”, as the jail in Hiranagar, 59km (36 miles) away, was called by the officials. Indian authorities later said they were “illegal immigrants” and proceedings have begun to deport them back to Myanmar, despite the unrest there following a February 1 military coup and killing of hundreds of anti-coup protesters. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

12 Apr 2021

What is behind the anti-Muslim measures in Sri Lanka?

On March 13, Sarath Weerasekara, Sri Lanka’s minister of public security, announced that the government will ban wearing of the burqa and close more than 1,000 Islamic schools in the country. The minister was quoted as saying that “the burqa” was a “sign of religious extremism” and has a “direct impact on national security”. The burqa ban announcement caused a stir among Muslims, who saw it as yet another attack on their community. In the past few months, the government has undertaken a number of controversial measures under the banner of fighting extremism, which have increasingly intimidated the Muslim population and disregarded rule of law principles. After the end of the civil war in 2009, an anti-Muslim movement initiated by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), with the monk Galabod Aththe Gnanasara at the helm, began to emerge. The BBS is an activist group led by Buddhist monks which mobilized around what they described as the threat posed by the “social separatism” of “extremist Muslims”. Their definition of extremism, however, seems to encompass the majority of Muslims’ everyday practices. The BBS’s large public rallies and their strident social media campaigns normalized hate speech and everyday low-intensity harassment of Muslims across the country. Incitement by the BBS and the cultivation of anti-Muslim sentiment over the post-war years also led to violent attacks against small Muslim communities in 2014, 2017 and 2018. The BBS also aligned itself with similar groups in Myanmar. Following these incidents, the local authorities did not take serious action against BBS and other similar groups and in some cases blamed Muslims for the violence. In 2019, anti-Muslim hatred escalated further after eight suicide bombers pledging allegiance to the Islamic State detonated themselves at churches, hotels and other locations across the country on Easter Sunday. There was evidence of the failure to pursue available intelligence by the security establishment and negligence on the part of the political leadership. However, the media coverage of the event and government policy discussion in the aftermath primarily targeted the country’s Muslim population. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 12 Apr 2021 Edition


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