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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16 Apr 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In France, activists continue to raise awareness regarding the harmful implications of the Hijab Ban, as drone strike victims in Yemen seek acknowledgement and accountability from the U.S. military, and a new investigation finds that “batches of 50 to 100 Uighur workers” are being advertised on the Chinese internet. Our recommended read of the day is by Bilal Qureshi on a new film by Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic on the cost of the Bosnian war on the women of the region. This and more below:

Bosnia & Herzegovina

14 Apr 2021

'Quo Vadis, Aida?' Asks: Where Does A Society Go After War Ends?

Filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic was a 17-year-old student living in Sarajevo with her family when the Bosnian war began in April 1992. As clashes over Bosnia's referendum for independence first started, she says nobody imagined there could ever be a full war. "It started like [the] riots on Congress in January in [the] U.S. ... I was happy when this happened because I thought what a cool thing not to go to school and have [the] whole city stop," she says. Instead, the ensuing siege of Sarajevo became part of the longest and bloodiest armed conflict in Europe since World War II. The experience marked Zbanic as a young woman — and as an artist — and her award-winning films have explored the legacy of war with a particular focus on women's stories. Her latest film Quo Vadis, Aida? is among the nominees for this year's Oscars for Best International Feature and it dramatizes the genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995. Journalist Christiane Amanpour, who covered the war for CNN, says she was "gobsmacked" by the film and it took her right back to the asymmetry of that conflict. "I was a young woman in my first real war and it took me several weeks, maybe a couple of months, to understand that in Bosnia there was no question that there was an aggressor, clearly defined and there were victims, clearly defined. The aggressors were white Christians who were the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs. The victims were white European Muslims and the aim of the aggressor was exactly the definition of genocide: to destroy a community in part or in whole based on their ethnicity." More than 25 years after the events of Srebrenica, the bones of missing victims are still being found in mass graves surrounding the forests where the film is set. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day


15 Apr 2021

Drone Strike Victims In Yemen Are Desperate For Accountability from the U.S

In August 2012, Ahmed was sitting with his uncle, cleric Salem bin Ali Jaber, by the side of a mosque in the Yemeni village of Khashamir. Salem had recently given a fiery sermon criticizing al Qaeda’s killings of Yemeni civilians, and government officials and three strangers had just arrived in the village to speak with him. Fearing they were militants, he avoided them for hours before deciding to meet with them, taking along his cousin, Yemeni policeman Waleed bin Ali Jaber, for protection. As Salem, Waleed, and the three strangers talked, and the village looked on, two Hellfire missiles crashed out of the sky. When Ahmed ran toward the strike zone, two more missiles hit. Salem, Waleed, and the three suspected members of al Qaeda were all killed. For close to nine years, Ahmed has felt like a marked man. “I was with both of them, just minutes before the attack,” he explained to VICE World News. “It became incredibly real to me.” It’s been the same for his neighbors who have lived with the fear that any person at any time might be obliterated by Americans watching them via video feed half a world away. “Anyone who is walking in this village, anyone living here, could be the next target,” said Ahmed. “When you hear a drone buzzing. Everyone in the village relives that moment again.” Ahmed’s near-decade of anxiety offers a window into the lives of thousands of Yemenis who have survived, witnessed, or been proximate to U.S. drone strikes. While the Biden administration is currently conducting a review of lethal counterterrorism missions outside of war zones, the United States has never honestly grappled with U.S. attacks in Yemen, much less the now-multigenerational psychological fallout, instead maintaining that as few as four civilians may have been killed during almost 20 years of air and ground strikes. For years on end, Ahmed, his neighbors from the village of Khashamir, and Yemenis from other areas of the country subject to U.S. attacks have lived with the relentless hum of aircraft that they know could, at any moment, rain missiles down upon them. In a bid for some measure of accountability and protection for his family, Ahmed recently filed a complaint with Germany’s highest court regarding the role of a U.S. base in Germany to the drone war in Yemen. Along with others, he also wants answers from the Biden administration about the reasons they and their children must live in a perpetual state of fear. Their questions, passed along to the White House by VICE World News, have gone unanswered. read the complete article

15 Apr 2021

Writer, Entrepreneur, and Activist Hoda Katebi on France’s Proposed Hijab Ban

While it may not officially become law, such measures in the name of laïcité, or French secularism, are common tactics by conservative powers to test public reaction in order to determine how and when to actually push them through. Whether this is perceived as a symbolic case study to gather data or an actual attempt at lawmaking, the very introduction of this proposal is cause for alarm. If it doesn’t pass this year, it could certainly pass in the near future; in fact, other anti-Muslim laws in France share similar origin stories. The once “outrageous” early 1990s proposal to ban hijabs and “all ‘ostentatious’ signs of religious affiliation” from schools, for example, was ratified and enforced within the decade and continues to affect young Muslim women today. The new measure would build on that existing ban by outlawing the hijab for young women everywhere in France, not just in schools. As an Iranian-American, visibly Muslim woman living in the United States, the attempt to restrict our freedom of dress is not foreign to me. Growing up in the South, it was abundantly clear to me that being visibly Muslim—or just not white—and feeling safe in public was not always a guarantee. In middle school, my hijab was torn off, teachers asked me to remove it, and I was physically assaulted by a classmate. These experiences were not unique to me, though, nor were they a product of individuals’ personal biases or ignorance; rather, there are deeper roots in the violence I and other Muslims face around the world. The hijab, women’s bodies, and fashion at large have long been battlegrounds for political power, colonization, and state control, from Iran to the U.S. Recall how in 2017, President Trump was encouraged to send more troops to Afghanistan after seeing a 1972 photo of Afghan women in miniskirts, evidently a reminder that “Western norms had existed there before and could return.” While everyone was debating the liberatory merits of hijabs and short skirts, the U.S. was setting up infrastructure to extract natural resources. Or consider the legally mandated headscarves for women in Iran and Saudi Arabia, enforced in the name of a national religious identity; until just a year ago, Saudi women could be arrested for choosing not to wear one. It doesn’t matter if a state claims to be secular or religious, or if it’s banning a garment or mandating it—in both cases, women’s bodies are being politicized and exploited as a means of control. read the complete article

15 Apr 2021

How western Islamophobia works in the Global South

Islam has been mobilized as an explanatory vector, creating the discourse of Muslims as barbarians by power elites in both the Global South and the West. For this discourse to prevail, members of the media conceal practices of beating in Hindu, Christian or other institutions, and they erase non-religious factors, such as outdated pedagogy. A Deutsche Welle (DW) report headlined “South Asian madrasa students face widespread corporal punishment” deploys sweeping generalizations typical of this kind of coverage. The report gives no data to back up its central argument, citing a survey that “didn’t specify the ratio of punishments between public schools and madrasas”. So what is the rationale to sensationalize beatings in madrasas alone? As the report progresses, it becomes clear: this generalization aims to demonize Islam and madrasas, a process that started with the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan and accelerated after 9/11. The article repeatedly equates the practice of beating with Islam and madrasas, and it continually overplays the religious factor, asserting that it is “Muslim parents” whose children attend madrasas. Preoccupied as it is with the religious cause of the punishment, the report repeatedly calls madrasa teachers “clerics”. This rendition is wrong. Madrasa teachers also teach languages, including English, and “modern” subjects, such as maths. They are not “clerics”. Contrast this fanaticism with media depictions of Hindu religious figures as “spiritual” gurus or “seers”. Continuing along these lines, the DW report describes Bangladesh as a “Muslim-majority country”, while failing to describe India as a “Hindu-majority country”. Depicting Muslims in exclusively religious terms is part of a wider trend. Last year, the Guardian described Jamia Millia Islamia as “Delhi’s Muslim-majority” university. But it did not describe Banaras Hindu University as Hindu-majority. read the complete article

15 Apr 2021

Feeding Hate With Video: A Former Alt-Right YouTuber Explains His Methods

In 2018, a far-right activist, Tommy Robinson, posted a video to YouTube claiming he had been attacked by an African migrant in Rome. The thumbnail image and eight-word title promoting the video indicated Mr. Robinson was assaulted by a Black man outside a train station. Then, in the video, Mr. Robinson punched the man in the jaw, dropping him to the ground. The video was viewed more than 2.8 million times, and it prompted news stories across the right-wing tabloids in Britain, where Mr. Robinson was rapidly gaining notoriety for his anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic views. For Caolan Robertson — a filmmaker who worked for Mr. Robinson and helped create the video — it was an instructional moment. It showed the key ingredients needed to attract attention on YouTube and other social media services. The video played into anti-immigrant sentiments in Britain and across Europe. It also focused squarely on conflict, cutting rapidly between shouts and shoves before showing Mr. Robinson’s punch. It also misrepresented what had actually happened. “We would choose the most dramatic moment — or fake it and make it look more dramatic,” Mr. Robertson, 25, said in a recent interview. “We realized that if we wanted a future on YouTube, it had to be driven by confrontation. Every time we did that kind of thing, it would explode well beyond anything else.” Mr. Robertson would go on to produce videos for a who’s who of right-wing YouTube personalities on both sides of the Atlantic, including Lauren Southern, Stefan Molyneux and Alex Jones. read the complete article

15 Apr 2021

MPs to debate whether China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang is genocide

MPs may be given a chance to vote on whether to declare China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province amounts to genocide when the issue is discussed in parliament next week. The debate on “mass human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” – to be opened by the Conservative MP for Wealden, Nusrat Ghaniwill – will take place on Thursday, 22 April. The motion may be followed by a non-binding vote – a gesture that would be likely to further strain diplomatic ties between London and Beijing. This will depend on whether MPs and party whips push for a vote once the debate has concluded. read the complete article

United States

15 Apr 2021

Tucker Carlson Is Giving ‘Red Pills’ To Millions. White Nationalists Are Thrilled.

After Fox News host Tucker Carlson doubled down on his support of the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory this week, prominent white nationalists across America expressed glee at what they saw as a possible mass radicalization event. “This week Tucker redpilled 4 million people and there’s nothing liberals can do about it,” Nick Fuentes, the Holocaust-denying leader of the “America First” movement tweeted Monday night. (Being “redpilled,” or “taking the red pill,” is far-right lingo for adopting a white nationalist worldview.) VDare, a well-known white nationalist website, gushed over Carlson’s monologue like a proud parent. Carlson, who hosts one of the most watched programs on cable news, last week expressed his support for the core tenet of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, the white nationalist belief that immigration into the U.S. and European countries amounts to an extinction-level event for white people. Although Carlson has long used his show to disseminate white nationalism into the homes of millions of conservative Fox viewers, promoting the “great replacement” on air still felt — to both his white nationalist cheerleaders and his left-leaning detractors — like an escalation. Immigration, Carlson added, is part of an effort to “dilute the political power of the people” by altering who lives here. “Every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter,” he said. This is a conspiracy theory cited in the writings of some of the worst white nationalist mass murderers in recent history, including men who killed 51 Muslim worshippers at mosques in New Zealand; 22 mostly Latino people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; and 11 Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue. When neo-Nazis marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 with tiki torches, they too invoked the “great replacement,” chanting, “They will not replace us,” and “Jews will not replace us.” Proponents of the “great replacement” believe Jews are responsible for hastening nonwhite immigration. read the complete article

16 Apr 2021

SZA Opens Up About How Islamophobia Affected Her Life

Recently, the Grammy-nominated artist talked about her experience growing up as a hijabi with Muslim Girl founder Amani for a TikTok chat in honor #MuslimWomensDay. "For me, Islamophobia really kicked in fresh after 9/11," SZA said, explaining that she was brought up in a small New Jersey suburb where people "have good intentions, but they're inherently maybe closed-minded and it's not their fault." However, the unfortunate end result of her collective experiences with Islamophobia was an eventual fear of "standing in my truth and standing in my faith," even though she went to an insular Muslim prep school that partially shielded her from realizing "things were weird and awkward until I got a lot older." "I couldn't believe the Islamophobia that I was seeing and all of the misinformation, like randomly deciding that I'm oppressed because I'm covering my hair," SZA said, before adding that other misconceptions — like the vilification of Islam as a "violent" religion — were also troubling to her. "I'm not oppressed," she continued. "I think that it's a privilege to exemplify modesty in its forms and in a closeness to God and to explore different avenues of connection with the human form, with yourself and others." And though she hasn't been a "direct victim of Islamophobia in so long," the star also noted that it was a byproduct of no longer covering her hair — a decision she made in elementary or middle school because she was "so scared" after 9/11. "I regret so much. Like, being afraid or caring what people said about me, or in high school feeling like if I didn't cover all the time that I can't start covering some of the time," she reflected. "And I did start covering again in high school, and then they were like, 'What is this? You don't live your life properly. You're not really Muslim. Shut up.' I always let somebody dictate how I was." read the complete article


15 Apr 2021

French journalist Nadiya Lazzouni receives letter with death threat, anti-Muslim slurs

On April 8, Lazzouni, a Paris-based video producer and founder of the news and commentary outlet Speak Up Channel, received an anonymous handwritten letter in the mail, photos of which CPJ reviewed, that contained death threats and sexist and anti-Muslim slurs. “French authorities should thoroughly investigate the threat received by journalist Nadiya Lazzouni, and hold the perpetrators to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Lazzouni was targeted because of her religion and her opinions, and authorities must ensure that she can continue her work without fear.” Lazzouni told CPJ in a phone interview, “I am targeted because I am a journalist, a Muslim, and a woman wearing a headscarf. The letter containing the death threat was addressed to my private address, I feel threatened now in my own home.” Lazzouni published photos of the letter on Twitter, and demanded immediate police protection. She told CPJ in a phone interview yesterday that she filed a complaint to the Paris prosecutor’s office on April 9, but had not received any information on an investigation or her request for police protection. The letter threatens that Muslims will be “shot in the neck,” that the writer will “deport you by bulldozer,” and that “France will be clean of all Muslims and Islamists.” read the complete article

15 Apr 2021

French row over mosque isn't simply about state financing - it runs deep into Islamophobia and French secularism

Among the anti-Muslim slogans discovered sprayed across an Islamic community center in western France on the morning of April 11, 2021, was a reference to a mosque that hasn’t even finished being built yet. “EELV = Traitors” read the graffitied message, alongside others including “No to Islamization” and references to the Crusades. It was spray painted on an Islamic center in Rennes, but its target was Strasbourg’s leading Green (EELV) party, members of whom voted on March 22 to subsidize the construction of the Eyyub Sultan mosque – also known as the Grand Mosque of Strasbourg – with a grant of 2.5 million euros (US$3 million), or 10% of the total costs. Construction of what is slated to be the largest mosque in Europe – and especially the state’s role in its financing – has sparked controversy for many reasons. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has condemned Strasbourg’s decision, citing the potential of “foreign meddling.” His concerns relate to the future mosque’s leadership – the French branch of the Turkish-based Milli Görüs Islamic Confederation, an Islamic political organization for the Turkish diaspora across Europe. The vote and its backlash also come on the heels of a series of measures imposed in France under the guise of reinforcing secularism and stamping out radicalization – ones that critics say unfairly target the country’s Muslim population and contribute to a climate of Islamophobia. This includes the French Republican principles bill that was passed by the French Senate on April 12, 2021, with stricter regulations on Muslim dress and prayer locations added to the text. So where does the Strasbourg mosque controversy fit into all this? Is it motivated by geopolitical concerns and fears of an Islamist threat? Does it merely reflect confusion over state funding for religion in France? Or is it simply an extension of broader debates over how Islam fits into French secularism? My research surrounding the politics of religion, secularism, Islam and pluralism in France over the past 10 years suggests that it is most likely a mix of all of these factors. read the complete article


15 Apr 2021

Yes, the Atrocities in Xinjiang Constitute a Genocide

We can dismiss claims that genocide requires mass killing immediately. Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which both China and the United States are signatories, genocide has two parts. The first is the commission of any of the following acts: “killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” The second part is intent. Any of those acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” would constitute genocide. Many denialists concede the large body of still-accumulating evidence from survivors, satellite imagery, media reporting, and Chinese government policy documents show evidence of potentially genocidal actions. However, they argue the Chinese government and the CCP have not demonstrated any intent to destroy the Uyghur people. This argument has made the rounds in places such as the U.S. State Department, the Washington Post, and the Economist. In Brookings Institution fellow Michael O’Hanlon’s words, “there is no compelling evidence of a plan to ‘destroy’ the group, so Chinese behavior does not meet the definition of genocide based on the concept of intent as noted in Article II.” This seems to expect a criminal to explicitly describe why they are committing a crime even as it happens. Genocidal states have not, in fact, been given to acknowledging their intent publicly; even the Nazis worked overtime to lie about the Holocaust as it happened while the Soviet Union constantly denied its targeting of ethnic minorities. Beijing has provided both direct and circumstantial evidence of the intent to destroy the Uyghur people. A Chinese government document cited by the New Yorker speaks directly to this. That document on reeducation stated, “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.” Agence France-Presse in 2018 found a similar document that used the same language about breaking Uyghur roots to build new, better Chinese citizens. It has recurred throughout state commentary. Even if this is not a call for mass murder—although it is violent language in a context of mass state violence—it is entirely explicit about breaking the cultural and social connections that make Uyghurs a recognizable ethnic group. China’s policies toward Uyghur families also reinforces this interpretation of intent because they deliberately break the channels of cultural transmission from generation to generation. read the complete article

16 Apr 2021

Batches of 50 to 100 Uighur workers are being advertised on the Chinese internet

The Xinjiang government runs an official "labour transfer programme", according to its 2019 Five Year Plan, "so as to provide more employment opportunities for the surplus rural labour force". Workers are "transferred to employment" in other provinces of China. A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated that at least 80,000 Uighur workers were transferred out of Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019, although it said the actual figure was likely to be far higher. Human rights groups have warned that such strict controls could amount to forced labour. On Chinese websites, there are dozens of postings advertising Uighur labour, in batches of 50 to 100 workers. Baidu, the company hosting the job postings, did not respond to a request for comment. Those adverts suggest tight political and social controls. One states that the "security of workers will be guaranteed by the government". read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 16 Apr 2021 Edition


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