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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17 Apr 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., President Joe Biden has appointed Mazen Basrawi as a senior adviser and White House liaison to American Muslim communities, making good on a campaign promise to fill a slot eliminated by former President Donald Trump, meanwhile in the Netherlands, Edwin Wagensveld, a far-right Dutch politician and leader of an anti-Muslim group, tore apart a copy of the Quran in Amsterdam and shared the act on social media, and in India, Narendra Modi’s BJP government and its ideological mentor, the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), continue a campaign for the revision of India’s textbooks, which involves eliminating Mughal history and Darwin’s theory of evolution.Our recommended read of the day is by Corey Saylor for Al Jazeera who notes that for the first time since documenting, there’s been a drop in complaints from Muslim Americans regarding Islamophobia, but challenges remain especially in the education sector where incidents of Islamophobia in schools rose by a 63 percent.This and more below:

United States

A small dip in Islamophobia in the US gives us hope | Recommended Read

After 27 years climbing a mountain of Islamophobic bias, America appears to have taken a step back. The intake staff of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organisation, received 5,156 total complaints in 2022. This represents a 23 percent decrease since the previous year. It is the first recorded decline since we started tracking such data in 1995. Perhaps, we have summitted the mountaintop of bias directed at American Muslims, and while we are still way up where the eagles fly, we are, nevertheless, entitled to some hope. Complaints about law enforcement and government overreach dropped by 38 percent. In educational settings the picture remains troubling. School incidents of Islamophobia rose by 63 percent in 2022. Among them was the case of a Florida teacher interrupting praying Muslim students and accusing them of doing “magic”. She told them she was “interrupting the floor” and almost stepped on a child, as she walked over the group’s prayer mats while the children were still engaging in prayer. There was also the case of an employee at a Maryland school who allegedly locked an Afghan Muslim ninth grader in a bathroom where the child was beaten by other students. A week later the student still had a severe concussion. read the complete article


“Hijab, in Islam, means to, you know, cover yourself and stay modest,” said Aisha Sadaat, a freshman medical studies student. “But further than that, the hijab is a kind of relationship and constant connection to Islam. It’s a constant reminder of what I follow and what I value.” Hijab means something different for every Muslim. Across the Muslim diaspora, the hijab symbolizes different things, ranging from traditionalist practices to more modern views. Each Muslim woman has her own relationship with the hijab, but it remains a symbol of her religious identity. “It’s a form of identity, comfort, and security,” said Safa Elhassan, a freshman studying journalism and mass communication, describing the hijab as “a walking representation of what Islam is.” Since 9/11, the American perception of Islam has changed drastically, heavily influenced by news and entertainment media. The fear-mongering of the War on Terrorism increased Islamophobia in the 2000s and led to widespread harmful stereotypes of Muslims, especially Muslim women. In addition to the Western mass media affecting views of Muslim women, laws in Islamic states like Iran and Western countries like France have also influenced global perspectives on hijab. This has led to the hijab becoming politicized globally; debates and discussions filled with misconceptions about hijab often leave out the voices of the Muslim women wearing it. The spread of Islamophobia comes from a place of ignorance and misinformation, Salih said, and it can spur many forms of violence against Muslims. But she still wears the hijab regardless of what others say or think about it. read the complete article

Clifton man charged with bias for smearing feces on Paterson school sign, AG says

A Clifton man was charged on Friday with fourth-degree bias intimidation for allegedly vandalizing a sign at a local school, authorities said. Mohamad Bekheet, 32, smeared suspected feces on the sign in front of Dr. Hani Awadallah School, a K-8 building on Marshall Street in Paterson, according to state Attorney General Matthew Platkin. The substance covered the last five letters of Awadallah’s name; Allah means God in Arabic. The vandalism was first discovered on Saturday, a day before an imam at a mosque on Getty Avenue was wounded in a knife attack. The suspect in that case was not charged with a bias crime, but authorities believe he intended to kill the prayer leader. Bekheet was also charged with criminal mischief and harassment in connection with the alleged vandalism, which was investigated by Paterson police, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the state Division of Criminal Justice. read the complete article

Minneapolis allows Islamic call to prayer five times per day

The Islamic call to prayer, or “adhan”, will soon echo through the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, as it becomes the first large US city to approve mosques to publicly broadcast the call to prayer five times each day. Since the 1990s, Minneapolis has had a vibrant community of immigrants from East Africa, and mosques have become commonplace throughout the city, where three of the 13-member city council identify as Muslim. The resolution received support from people of numerous faiths in the community, including Christian and Jewish leaders who spoke in favour of extending the hours at a recent public hearing. The effort faced no mobilised public opposition, notable in a country where efforts to promote mosque activity have sometimes been subjected to Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric. read the complete article


Dr. Bruce Jessen, who helped develop the CIA's post 9/11 interrogation strategies, testified in pretrial hearings in the USS Cole case this week, telling a defense lawyer on Friday morning that he was disappointed with how their exchange was going because she was not being as forthcoming as possible. “We’re going to give you some time to think about this,” Jessen said from the witness stand to Annie Morgan, a civilian lawyer for Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. “Get into the box,” Jessen ordered calmly. Morgan played the role of a detainee and complied, sitting on the floor in front of a rectangular plywood structure about 30 inches tall, then scooted backward into the box. She pressed her knees against her chest and held her arms over her shins, while another defense lawyer closed the box's small door. Several silent seconds passed as Morgan sat crammed in the re-creation of the box in which her client spent up to two hours at a time. The brief, eerie reenactment of al Nashiri’s abusive treatment by the CIA at an overseas black site came on the third and final day of Jessen’s testimony. Twenty-one years earlier, in November 2002, Jessen and another former contract psychologist for the CIA, Dr. James Mitchell, subjected al Nashiri to a series of harsh interrogations that included boxed confinement, walling, waterboarding and other techniques at a black site referred to in court as Location 3. Defense lawyers claim that al Nashiri’s torture by the CIA prior to statements he later gave renders his subsequent confessions involuntary. read the complete article

White House appoints new Muslim community liaison

President Joe Biden has appointed Mazen Basrawi as a senior adviser and White House liaison to American Muslim communities, making good on a campaign promise to fill a slot eliminated by former President Donald Trump, according to a spokesperson for the National Security Council, where Basrawi currently serves. Multiple Muslim groups have publicly hailed Basrawi’s expected appointment in recent weeks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations also praised the appointment, with Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the group’s deputy director, saying in a statement that he hoped Basrawi would work to address issues such as “institutional Islamophobia within federal law enforcement programs, the threat of hate crimes, and protecting religious freedom.” read the complete article


Mughals, RSS, evolution: Outrage as India edits school textbooks

By the 2021-2022 academic year, Darwin’s theory was quietly removed from the examination syllabus for the students of Class 9 and Class 10. By 2022-2023, the topic of evolution was completely purged from school textbooks, teachers and education experts told Al Jazeera. Now, millions of school students will not know who Darwin was or what his theory says – unless they opt for biology in Class 11 and Class 12. Evolution is not the only glaring omission in the textbooks, introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government that has ruled India since 2014. Modi’s BJP and its ideological mentor, the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have long campaigned for a revision of India’s textbooks that aligns with their political objective of replacing a constitutionally secular India with an ethnic Hindu state. In pursuit of that goal, the BJP and other RSS-affiliated Hindu groups are running a campaign to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims, who constitute 14 percent of its population. Denying the historical fact that Muslims ruled over the Indian subcontinent for centuries – and demonising those rulers by creating an alternate history of alleged Hindu persecution – are major elements of that campaign. As part of the same campaign, references to the Mughals, who ruled over the subcontinent between the 16th and 19th centuries, have also been removed from history textbooks. In a move that the NCERT claimed would “rationalise” textbooks and reduce the workload on students affected by the pandemic, it deleted several pages from the Class 7 history textbook that referred to the Delhi Sultanate rulers, such as the Mamluks, Tughlaqs, Khiljis and Lodis. It also removed a two-page table explaining in detail the milestones and achievements of the Mughal emperors. Along similar lines, three pages talking about the expansion of the Delhi Sultanate and a section explaining in detail a “masjid” (mosque) were also removed. A chapter called Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts, which dealt with Mughal-era manuscripts including Akbar Nama and Badshah Nama, were removed from Class 12 history textbooks. read the complete article

Former MP and his brother shot dead on live TV in India

A former Indian MP convicted of kidnapping and facing murder and assault charges has been murdered along with his brother in a dramatic shooting broadcast live on TV. Atiq Ahmed, a former MP who was serving a life sentence in jail, and his brother Ashraf Ahmed were in police custody outside a hospital in Prayagraj, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, when three men fired more than 20 rounds of bullets at them from close range as they took questions from reporters. The two brothers died on the spot. The men responsible quickly surrendered to the police after the shooting and handed over their pistols, with at least one of them chanting “Jai Shri Ram” or “Hail Lord Ram”, a slogan that has become a battle cry for Hindu nationalists in their campaign against Muslims. The state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, is one of the most hardline Hindu nationalist figures in the BJP and has regularly deployed incendiary language and a disregard for the rule of law in his pledge to crack down on crime in the state. Since Adityanath came to power in 2017, the Uttar Pradesh police have a notorious record of carrying out extra-judicial encounter shootings of criminals who they claim attempted to make an escape from custody or who fired on officers first. In the past five years, there have been almost 9,000 police shootings in Uttar Pradesh, with more than 170 fatalities, and Muslims and Dalits, the lowest caste of Hindus who used to called untouchables, disproportionately targeted. read the complete article

Busted: Growth in population does not mean all is well for Muslims in India

In response to a query about perceptions of Muslim minorities in India at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) in the USA, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman denounced the claims of Muslims facing violence in the country, saying: “India has the second-largest Muslim population in the world, and that population is only growing in numbers. If there is a perception, or if there’s in reality, their lives are difficult or made difficult with the support of the state, which is what is implied in most of these write-ups, I would ask, will this happen in India in a sense, will the Muslim population be growing than what it was in 1947? You would find every strand of Muslims in India doing their business, their children are being educated, and the government provides fellowships.” Socio-economic data and reports of unabated, unchecked violence against India’s marginalised Muslim minority sharply contradict the claim that a rise in the population after partition means the religious minority is as secure as the rest of Indians and faces no persecution and discrimination. It takes no genius in the social sciences to conclude that it may not be necessary to have a steep fall in numbers or even a full-blown genocide to substantiate the claims that a minority suffers from unchecked violence. Lack of political representation over decades declining to a zero over the past nine years, the absence (denial) of education and other basic rights including health services combined with socially and politically sanctioned entrenched prejudice –that in the same period of the past nine years has taken the form of unchecked calls for both social ostracism and economic boycott– are some clear manifestations of a systemic exclusion and denial. read the complete article


Quebec wrong to attack school prayer rooms, which offer refuge from harassment

Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville’s recent edict to ban prayer spaces in Quebec schools, once again demonstrates the Islamophobic posturing of Quebec political elites. They are creating problems where they don’t exist and using Muslim civil rights and liberties as a punching bag to score political points with an increasingly Islamophobic Quebecois voter base. Growing up in Montreal, I was fortunate to attend a public high school that accommodated Muslim students with a dedicated prayer room. Having a prayer space in my school allowed me to develop pride in my identity as a Canadian Muslim. It instilled a strong sense of discipline within me and helped me develop a moral framework with stable principles to live by. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that having a prayer space in school fundamentally impacted my life in a positive way. Prayer spaces have existed in public schools across Montreal since the 1990s. I’m living proof of this. It’s no surprise that the Minister of Education for the ruling Coalition Avenir Québec party was oblivious to this as this issue has never raised any serious concerns or public outcries. That is until Drainville’s veil of ignorance was lifted. Anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia is a troubling reality in Canada. read the complete article

N.B. woman speaks out after racist encounter at Caraquet grocery store

A New Brunswick woman who was the subject of a racist incident in Caraquet, N.B., last week is speaking out. Sonia Ryma Ait Kheddache, 24, shared the incident that happened on Wednesday on social media, along with a 20-second video she took on her cellphone of a man making racist and Islamophobic comments toward her in a grocery store. "It remains a minority, but it exists." Kheddache said in French. "These kinds of statements, this kind of person needs to be exposed." She said the man first addressed her in English. After an exchange about her wearing a headscarf, she says he raised his voice and made several comments suggesting she is not welcome in Canada and should go back to "her country." read the complete article


Dutch far-right leader desecrates Quran in Netherlands

A far-right Dutch politician and leader of an anti-Muslim group has torn apart a copy of the Quran in Amsterdam on Saturday. Edwin Wagensveld, leader of the racist anti-Muslim group PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) shared footage of the provocative act in front of the Amsterdam Municipality on social media. Mentioning that he has been facing an investigation for insulting a group while tearing up the Quran, Wagensveld said tearing apart the Muslim holy book again was how he could best express his opinion. On January 22, the far-right Dutch politician tore up the Quran in front of the temporary Dutch parliament building in The Hague while under police protection. He did it again on February 13 in Utrecht. Muslim groups had warned at the time that PEGIDA would desecrate the Quran, the demonstration was still not prohibited, prompting a counter-protest by the Muslim community. read the complete article


Galtier deeply hurt by accusations he made racist comments

Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier said he feels hurt “at the deepest level” of his humanity by accusations that he made racist and anti-Muslim comments when he was in charge of French club Nice. RMC Sport and other French media this week quoted a leaked email from former Nice director of football Julien Fournier to the club’s owners, in which he accused Galtier of saying there were too many Black and Muslim players in the squad. “I am deeply shocked by the comments that have been attributed to me and that were relayed by certain people in an irresponsible way,” the 56-year-old Galtier said Friday ahead of league leader PSG’s home game against second-place Lens on Saturday. “They hurt me at the deepest level of my humanity. I was a child who grew up in council estates, brought up in a mixed environment (with) the values of sharing and respect for other people, whoever they are, (whatever) their origins, their color, their religion.” Galtier said he is taking legal action. Nice prosecutor Xavier Bonhomme said Friday a preliminary investigation has been opened into “discrimination on the grounds of alleged race or religion.” He said it is being handled by Nice police with searches of the club’s headquarters. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 Apr 2023 Edition


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