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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14 Apr 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, a former senior minister under the Johnson administration said of Suella Breverman’s racist rhetoric that “Conservative reputation on discrimination has dropped to a new low”, meanwhile in Canada, Muslim advocacy groups report that mosques across the country have asked congregants to “remain vigilant” in light of a wave of anti-Muslim attacks across the nation, and in France, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne on Wednesday became the latest member of the Macron government to criticise the Human Rights League, one of France’s oldest NGOs, of “ambiguities in the face of radical Islamism”. Our recommended read of the day is by Nazir Afzal, the former Chief Prosecutor who brought the Rochdale ‘grooming gang’ to justice, for Byline Times who notes that he believes Home Secretary Suella Breverman’s discriminatory rhetoric will have real life consequences both within the UK and across the globe. This and more below:

United Kingdom

Braverman Wants to Wage a ‘Culture War’ than a War Against Serious Criminality | Recommended Read

As the Chief Prosecutor who led the teams that brought, among others, the so-called Rochdale grooming gang to justice in 2012 for the abuse of up to 47 young girls, I was fortunate to lead the national response. I prosecuted ‘grooming gangs’ one month and ‘paedophile rings’ the next – not my words but the media shorthand for where offenders might include black or brown men; and the other group which was exclusively white. There is sadly no community in which women and girls are not at risk from men and sexual predators. Suella Braverman’s recent attempt to blame child sexual abuse largely on British Pakistanis grooming gangs was unfortunately timed to coincide with the conviction of 21 white abusers in the “largest child sexual abuse ring in the West Midlands”, as it was reported. Notice how it is “child sexual abuse” when it involves white people. Words are important. After the conviction of the ‘Rochdale grooming gang’, the far-right realised that my prosecuting it, when others hadn’t, damaged their narrative. How could they argue that all brown men are abusers when a brown man led the team that brought them to justice? So they wrote posts on Facebook and other social media channels telling their followers that “I had deliberately not prosecuted the case” – flying in the face of the facts. So for the first time in a prosecutorial career of more than 20 years, I had thugs outside my home, I had panic alarms placed in each room, and my kids could only go to school in taxis for their security. The Home Secretary’s words played to a particular constituency, which have been fed a mountain of stories of these brown gangs terrorising towns. The research, however, paints a different picture. read the complete article

Listen to Suella Braverman and realise: this show of diversity in our cabinet is not progress

Whether by incompetence or design, Suella Braverman finds herself, yet again, on the frontline of the culture wars. This time, for making sweeping statements branding British-Pakistani men, without nuance or caveats, as child sex abusers who “hold cultural values totally at odds with British values”. Braverman’s own ethnic origin has shielded her from criticism for too long. Many people within the Conservative party have been hesitant to call out what has been staring members in the face. They struggle to hold an ethnic minority MP to account in the same way they would a white parliamentarian. This needs to change. If we are going to start to have honest conversations, let’s start by saying this – black and brown people can be racist too. Braverman is a trained barrister. If somebody who is trained to be an advocate cannot communicate on serious issues in a thoughtful, reasonable, evidence-based way, that’s an issue of incompetence. Whether this consistent use of racist rhetoric is strategy or incompetence, however, doesn’t matter. Both show she is not fit to hold high office. As the first prime minister from an ethnic minority background, he should not want to be remembered for presiding over a government that engaged in racist rhetoric. read the complete article

Senior Conservatives hit out at Suella Braverman’s ‘racist rhetoric’

More senior Conservatives have hit out at Suella Braverman’s “racist rhetoric”, accusing her of undermining the party for the sake of her own leadership ambitions. Pressure was mounting on Rishi Sunak on Thursday to intervene to protect the party’s reputation after the home secretary stoked renewed anger by criticising police for confiscating a set of racist dolls displayed in an Essex pub. Tory MPs, peers and activists have accused Braverman of inflaming racial tensions on a number of occasions over the past few months, saying they are worried that she is now at risk of repelling the kinds of swing voters the party is desperate to retain. A former senior minister from Boris Johnson’s government told the Guardian they believed Braverman was a “real racist bigot”. The person said “the country is not as grotesque as she makes it out to be”, warning that the “Conservative reputation on discrimination has dropped to a new low” under her watch – “which also gives the country a bad name”. read the complete article

United States

Ex-C.I.A. Psychologist Re-enacts Interrogation Techniques for Guantánamo Court

In court this week, a psychologist who waterboarded prisoners for the Central Intelligence Agency rolled up a towel, wrapped it around the neck of a criminal defense lawyer, and slowly pulled the lawyer toward him and up on her toes — a dramatic re-enactment of practices used on a Saudi detainee in the war on terrorism. There was no waterboarding or commanding the defense lawyer to crawl into a cramped confinement box. But the demonstration on Wednesday by the psychologist, John Bruce Jessen, was meant to replicate some of the approved “enhanced interrogation techniques” that C.I.A. agents used on the Saudi prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, at a secret interrogation site in Thailand in late 2002. Defense lawyers used the demonstration in an effort to persuade a military judge to exclude certain evidence from Mr. Nashiri’s trial as the fruit of torture. The judge, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., allowed the presentation to show practices that C.I.A. officials had destroyed video evidence of two decades ago. In years of pretrial hearings, mostly over the lawfulness of evidence for Mr. Nashiri’s eventual death-penalty trial, his lawyers have portrayed him as deeply damaged by physical, psychological and sexual abuse in his nearly four years of C.I.A. detention. read the complete article

Anti-Muslim bias complaints are down, advocates say. Here's why.

A national organization that documents anti-Muslim discrimination found that complaints about civil rights violations and bias dropped 23% last year, a development that advocates say gives a "glimmer of hope" in the fight against Islamophobia. The Council on American-Islamic Relations released the findings of its annual report, called “Progress in the Shadow of Prejudice,” on Tuesday, based on 5,156 complaints it had received in 2022. "This is encouraging, but we need to remind everyone that this is not a problem solved. It's a glimmer of hope. What this means is that we should double down on our efforts to advocate, legislate and litigate in our work at CAIR." The state is typically the largest offender named in complaints, due to issues like air travel discrimination, biased banking practices, violations of prisoners' rights and problematic law enforcement encounters, according to CAIR. The report notes that law enforcement and government overreach dropped by 38% compared to 2021. At the same time, complaints about school incidents increased by 63%. In a third of the cases, a teacher or other adult was the alleged perpetrator, according to CAIR. read the complete article


2 Muslim women report alleged hate crime involving gun threat in Canada's Ontario

Two Muslim women, a mother and daughter, reported an alleged hate crime that took place in Kitchener, a city in Canada's Ontario province on Wednesday morning. According to a report by CTV News, the women said a stranger followed them with his car after morning prayers and pointed a gun at them. "We rolled down the window, he rolled down his, then we just saw him pull out his phone and point it at us and we were like, okay that's weird. And suddenly, in the other hand, he pulled out a gun and pointed it at us," the daughter told CTV News. The women were unharmed, but they were left in fear and shaken by the incident. The woman drove away, but the man allegedly followed them for some time. read the complete article

'It has become a cycle': Muslim Canadians more vigilant during Ramadan

Mosques across Canada have increasingly had to ask congregants to stay vigilant against potential attacks and harassment during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslim advocacy groups say, noting that the normalization of such security conversations is a concern. Two mosques in a city north of Toronto and one in Montreal were the subject of security incidents this month. With two weeks of Ramadan still left in the lead up to Eid, the Muslim Association of Canada said mosques have been advising worshippers on ways to stay safe while also looking at measures to boost security on-site. "We need to ensure that our community is safe, but the fact that that's becoming a requirement, and that's becoming a normalized practice because it's a real fear, is a problem," association director Memona Hossain said in an interview. A spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims said Ramadan in recent years has brought with it an increase in reports from community members of confrontations. "It has become almost a cycle," said Steven Zhou, adding the increase might be related to the increased visibility of Muslims during the holy month. Mosques are bustling during Ramadan as people gather to pray multiple times a day while fasting and sometimes prayers last into the night, Zhou said. He added, however, that attacks against Muslims take place year-round. read the complete article


Macron government under fire for criticising one of France’s oldest human rights NGOs

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said during a Senate question-and-answer session on Wednesday that her opinion of the Human Rights League (Ligue des droits de l’Homme, or LDH) had changed. “I have a lot of respect for what LDH embodied in the past,” she said, but “I no longer understand some of its positions.” Borne went on to say that some of her incomprehension stems from the league’s “ambiguities in the face of radical Islamism – and it has been reinforced over recent months”. Borne appeared to be referring to actions such as the league’s support for the “march against Islamophobia” in late 2019. Some on the French left as well as the right viewed the name of the protest as an implicit contradiction of France’s belief in the right to criticise all religions, part of the France’s cherished value of secularism (laïcité). However, others insisted the march was against anti-Muslim discrimination, not against the critique of Islam. read the complete article

PSG coach Galtier denies 'insulting' Islamophobia allegations after leaked emails

The manager of French football club Paris Saint Germain (PSG) vehemently denied on Wednesday allegations that he made Islamophobic and racist comments against players at his former club Nice. Christophe Galtier was accused of allegedly saying there were "too many Muslim and Black players" in the Nice team, which he managed for the 2021–2022 season. The allegations against him were apparently made by the former director of football at Nice, Julien Fournier, in emails leaked to French media and reported on Wednesday. The claims include Galtier having allegedly expressed reservations over signing a Muslim player because of his faith and asking Muslim players not to observe the holy month of Ramadan. Galtier said he was "stunned to learn of the insulting and defamatory" reports and vowed to take legal action, according to his lawyer. read the complete article


Anti-Muslim violence in India by Hindu extremists over alleged desecration of Hindu flag

Muslim-owned properties in Jamshedpur, west of Kolkata, were set on fire on Sunday by a Hindu extremist mob over the alleged desecration of a religious flag. News had spread that a piece of beef was hanging on a rope near the flag, but a senior police official later revealed that it had been chicken and was done as a common practice by butcher shops to prevent stray dogs from reaching the meat. India has seen multiple cases of anti-Muslim violence following the Hindu religious celebration of Ram Navami at the end of March. read the complete article


He says U.S. troops abused him in Iraq's Abu Ghraib and his life is still ruined

It's been almost two decades since he was released from Abu Ghraib prison. But it could have been yesterday. Desperately thin, with dark circles around his eyes, Talib al-Majli bites at the skin of his wrist, a nervous tic he developed in the prison. Majli, 57, can recall in detail the torture he says he endured by U.S. soldiers during the 16 months he was held in the notorious prison in Iraq. He was never charged with anything — one of the thousands of men swept up in U.S. forces' house raids following the invasion in 2003, most of them detained by mistake, according to military intelligence officials cited in an International Committee of the Red Cross report on the detentions. Almost two decades later, the Abu Ghraib detention has ruined him. "To this day I feel humiliation for what was done to me," he says. "The time I spent in Abu Ghraib — it ended my life. I'm only half a human now." The abuse of detainees by U.S. soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison is one of the grim legacies of the Iraq War. Photographs leaked in April 2004, and broadcast from newsrooms around the world, show men stripped naked and leashed like dogs or forced into contorted or sexual positions, with U.S. forces posing gleefully with them. In one image, naked detainees with bags over their heads are piled on top of each other in a grotesque human pyramid. An American soldier — Sabrina Harman — leans over them from behind, grinning. Her smiling colleague, Charles Graner, gives a thumbs up. Majli believes he is one of the men in the human pyramid photograph. He remembers being forced to lie, naked, on the bare skin of another prisoner, and the feeling of being crushed as other naked detainees were piled on top of him. "I was heavier back then, so they put me close to the bottom," he remembers. "I wished for death. I would rather have been dead than to be in that position." read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 14 Apr 2023 Edition


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