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.

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20 Apr 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, this year’s Ram Navami Hindu festival saw scores of targeted attacks against Muslims throughout the country, meanwhile in the U.S., former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mansoor Adayfi reflects on his time in the prison during Ramadan, including being harassed and punished by US authorities for fasting and praying, and in the UK, Londoners reflect on the city’s first time ever Ramadan illumination displays in the famous Piccadilly Circus area and the meaning this has for Muslims around the world. Our recommended read of the day is by Douaa Qadadia for The Charlatan on the impact of anti-Muslim bigotry on Canadian Muslims, and how this has led to increased fear and anxiety within the community as a recent report reveals that hate crimes against the community increased by 71 percent in 2021. This and more below:


“They’ll never hear our voices”: Islamophobia and its impacts continue in Ottawa | Recommended Read

For Huda Khan, her hijab represents an act of worship. But when she started wearing it in September of 2022, it also put a target on her back. The first-year Carleton University biomedical and mechanical engineering student had never received any religious-based discrimination until she put it on. A frequent flyer, Khan started getting singled out by airport security in Canadian airports. “Actually, I started getting pulled over right after I started wearing the hijab. Before, that never happened. I never got pulled over, never checked my bags, but since I started [wearing] the hijab and I was flying, they would check my bags,” Khan said. A mere expression of her religious identity subjected her to harassment. Khan is not alone in this. According to a report released by Statistics Canada, hate crimes against the Muslim community increased by 71 per cent in 2021. According to research conducted in 2016 by the Environics Institute, approximately one third of the Muslim population in Canada experienced discriminatory treatment during the previous five years. In March, a Toronto mosque was vandalized with hateful messaging. When a Quebec City Mosque was attacked on Jan. 29 of 2017, Carleton University student Abdellatif El Badri felt as if the voices of his Muslim community went unheard. The 19-year-old has been living in Canada for 11 years, but when this attack took place across the border, he felt targeted and helpless. “There isn’t much we can do, they [government officials] will never hear our voices,” El Badri said. read the complete article

Quebec education minister issues directive banning religious practices in public schools

Education Minister Bernard Drainville formally banned all religious activities in schools, vocational training centres and adult education centres after issuing a directive early Wednesday evening. Under the directive, all institutions governed by the Education Act will have to ensure that "no place is used, in fact or in appearance, for religious practices such as overt prayers or other similar practices." The directive also said that the Loi sur la laïcité de l'État requires that school service centres respect the separation of the state and religions and that the development of places used for religious purposes is contrary to the spirit of the law. The missive also states that every student must be protected "from any direct or indirect pressure to expose or influence the student to conform to a religious practice." This follows the unanimous adoption of a motion in the National Assembly on April 5 that "the establishment of places of prayer, regardless of denomination, on the premises of a public school is contrary to the principle of secularism." Minister Drainville committed to issuing a directive to this effect on the same day. read the complete article

Islamophobia widespread in Canada, early findings of Senate committee study indicate

Islamophobia and violence against Muslims is widespread and deeply entrenched in Canadian society, early findings from a Senate committee studying the issue indicate. Muslim women who wear hijabs – Black Muslim women in particular – are the most vulnerable, and confronting Islamophobia in a variety of public spheres is difficult, the committee on human rights has found. “Canada has a problem,” committee chair Sen. Salma Ataullahjan said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. “We are hearing of intergenerational trauma because young kids are witnessing this. Muslims are speaking out because there’s so many attacks happening and they’re so violent.” Many Muslims across Canada live with constant fear of being targeted, especially if they have experienced an Islamophobic attack, witnessed one or lost a loved one to violence, the committee found. “Some of these women were afraid to leave their homes and it became difficult for them to take their children to school. Many were spat on,” Ataullahjan said. “ Muslims have to look over their shoulder constantly.” Last month, figures released by Statistics Canada indicated police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims increased by 71 per cent from 2020 to 2021. The rate of the crimes was eight incidents per 100,000 members of the Muslim population, based on census figures. read the complete article

United States

Documentary Showcase Scores With Life Without Basketball, a Muslim Woman’s Fight for Her Faith and Her Career as a Professional Athlete

Life Without Basketball follows the struggles of female, Muslim American basketball star Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir as she fights to overturn a ruling that banned her from wearing a hijab on the court and ended her meteoric athletic career. Filmmakers Tim O’Donnell and Jon Mercer expose a controversy that crosses the worlds of sport, religion and gender in this poignant feature-length documentary. Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir’s journey goes from breaking records on the basketball court to breaking down barriers for other female athletes on the international stage. Shot over a period of four years, this intimate portrayal of her extraordinary talent, family life and faith are juxtaposed against an ambiguous ruling by women’s basketball’s international governing body, banning the expression of her culture and identity. And what ensues becomes the biggest, and most inspiring, challenge of her life. read the complete article

For this first time, the Islamic call to prayer is being broadcast in Astoria, Queens

SCOTT DETROW, HOST: In New York City, there have been new sounds on the streets of Astoria during Ramadan this year. Mosques have been broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer over loudspeakers with the city's permission. That's happened before in some U.S. cities and in some parts of the city, but as Zach Hirsch reports, it's a first for Queens. MOHAMMED YOUSEF: It is like you are in your own country, your home country. It's just like a little bit because in Egypt, honestly, it's going to be more loud. HIRSCH: Three mosques in the neighborhood have been amplifying the call with loudspeakers, announcing each of the five daily prayers except for the one at dawn. Rana Abdelhamid is a community organizer and former candidate for Congress who grew up here. She submitted the permit applications to local police, who gave the approval last month at the start of Ramadan. HIRSCH: Abdelhamid says the adhan came up in community town halls. Astoria has a large population of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. Abdelhamid says many of her neighbors were nostalgic for the call to worship. But for her, it's so emotional because of what it was like being Muslim in the city after 9/11. Mosques were under heavy surveillance, and lots of Muslims felt like they had to hide their identity. Abdelhamid remembers people changing their names, putting away their hijabs and shaving their beards. ABDELHAMID: Anything that marked them as clearly Muslim. I remember growing up, and there was a lot of shame around my identity, and now I'm like, nah - and, like, nah. You know, like, yes, there's xenophobia. Yes, there's this hate-based violence. But I'm, like, proud to be Muslim. read the complete article

White House careers are notoriously tough – but working during Ramadan presents its own challenges

More than 20 years since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, Muslim Americans still endure record discrimination and marginalization. There were 6,720 complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination and bias nationwide in 2021, a 9% increase from 2020, per the most recent data from CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In New York City, a 2022 CAIR survey found that 64% of Muslims had experienced a hate crime, bias incident, or both. Yet at the same time, the community’s diversity and heritage is being celebrated and encouraged at the highest levels of government, where a growing number of Muslim Americans, including those subscribed to the group text, are serving. But there is still no Muslim American serving in a Cabinet-level position, nor has there ever been. It’s a uniquely American juxtaposition underscoring the challenges of this polarized moment: increasing support and inclusion alongside a rising tide of hate. More than 100 Muslim American appointees are currently working in the Biden administration, and this month, many of them are observing Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, running from March 22 to April 21 this year. “You’re not eating, you’re not drinking, but also, you are really just trying to be your best self, or as close to it as you can get. And that means that you’re approaching the world and you’re approaching other people with as much kindness and grace as you can humanly offer and in an environment where everything is really fast paced, and there’s a lot of pressure, coming back to that frame always, even when it’s really hard, but also very rewarding,” Ibrahim, who works in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said. read the complete article

Ramadan Mubarak, Guantanamo

Ramadan is a special time of year for Muslims around the world. It is a month that brings families, communities and entire countries together. For me, it was always a time of peace, spiritual dedication and reflection, and family bonding. In 2001, after I was sold to the CIA by local warlords in Afghanistan, I spent my 18th Ramadan in a black site – naked, blindfolded, and chained all day in a cold, dark cell under the ground. The American agents would blast loud music constantly and would only stop it when they would take me out for an interrogation. I didn’t – and couldn’t – know when Ramadan started, as I had no way to estimate the time of day. I was given a “meal” every other day which basically involved soldiers pushing food and water into my mouth, feeding me “Meals Ready to Eat” (MREs). There was no going to the toilet, I defecated where I was chained. I lost so much weight that I passed out and I was given intravenous transfusions every few days. Still, I wanted to observe Ramadan and decided that whenever they fed me, it was when I broke my fast. When I told the interrogators that I needed to fast because I thought the holy month had started, they mocked me. By the time my 19th Ramadan came, I had already been transferred to Guantanamo along with hundreds of other Muslims. We were quite a diverse group; some 50 nationalities were represented and 20 languages spoken. Apart from the many challenges we faced during our first Ramadan in Guantanamo, we also spent the holy month thinking a lot about our families and homes, we missed them and missed observing Ramadan with them. But we also realised that we had a new family – one big Guantanamo family. We talked about the different Ramadan traditions we had back home and the food we cooked. The beautiful memories we shared brought happiness and made us appreciate the holy month even more. And so the Ramadans in detention rolled on, one after the other. We always prayed for freedom and justice, not only for ourselves but for everyone in the world who was unjustly imprisoned and oppressed. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Why London’s first Ramadan lights celebration has been so important for Muslims everywhere

On March 21 2023, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Hamza Taouzzale, lord mayor of Westminster, stood on Coventry Street in central London and switched on the capital’s first ever Ramadan illuminations. Every evening throughout the holy month, 30,000 coloured lights have lit up this busy streetscape. “Happy Ramadan” is spelled out in a white florid script against a golden half-disc, supported by crescent moons, five-pointed stars and lanterns. This marks the first time that Ramadan has been celebrated this way – not just in London’s West End or the UK capital at large, but in any major European city. The significance of lighting up Piccadilly Circus during Ramadan for Muslims in Britain and around the world cannot be overstated. Major news outlets across the Arab and Islamic world, including Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia, have praised the initiative for the diversity and tolerance it signals within British society. In my research of Muslims’ participation in architecture and urban projects across the UK, I have found that empowering these communities to co-design and shape the area they live in, so they can see their cultural and religious practices taken into account, is crucial. read the complete article

For Britain founder returns to UKIP after leaving to form breakaway far-right party

The founder of the far-right group For Britain has rejoined UKIP years after setting up the breakaway party. Anne Marie Waters has returned to politics as UKIP’s justice spokeswoman in a move that campaigners say “shows how extreme the party has become”. Ms Waters , who spent years as a Labour Party member before a dramatic shift to the right, first joined UKIP in 2014. She left the party to form For Britain after an unsuccessful leadership bid in 2017. UKIP, formerly led by Nigel Farage, said on Wednesday Ms Waters’ return would help it “unite” the “fragmented” right wing of politics in Britain and “fight back” against “woke-drunk” politicians. But Hope Not Hate researcher Gregory Davis said: “Ms Waters, formerly leader of the defunct far-right For Britain Movement, returning to UKIP shows how extreme the party has become since it has found itself more and more politically irrelevant. “When Waters stood for UKIP leader in 2017 she was rejected for being too extreme, now they’ve welcomed her back with open arms. Both UKIP and Waters are a spent force in British politics.” Hope Not Hate has previously called Ms Waters “one of the UK’s most prominent anti-Muslim campaigners,” highlighting how she has “spent years relentlessly attempting to associate Islam with violence and social degradation.” read the complete article

Suella Braverman Considered Posing As Radio Caller To Defend Herself Against Racism Accusations

Suella Braverman has revealed that she considered posing as a caller to defend herself over accusations of racism. The home secretary dismissed the claims, writing in a column: “You can’t please all of the people any of the time.” She has been heavily criticised for comments she made about Asian grooming gangs amid a crackdown on child sexual abuse. Braverman told Sky News vulnerable “white English girls” had been “pursued, raped, drugged and harmed” by gangs of British Pakistani men worked in “child abuse rings or networks”. Muslim organisations have written to Rishi Sunak over the “irresponsible and divisive rhetoric” from the home secretary. But writing in the Spectator magazine, Braverman defended herself and revealed she even thought about calling a radio phone-in to quote her heroine Margaret Thatcher. Braverman’s remarks were criticised as factually inaccurate given that a home office-commissioned study in 2020 found that group-based child sexual exploitation offenders are most commonly white males under 30. Former Tory chairman Baroness Warsi accused Braverman of using “racist rhetoric” over her comments on sexual grooming by British-Pakistani men. Warsi said the home secretary’s “extreme views” meant she was “not fit for high office”. read the complete article


Aung San Suu Kyi: Queen of Selective Compliance

The Rohingya refugee crisis is one of the greatest migration crises of the 21st century. Rohingya Muslims have been confined to camps without access to free movement, food, healthcare or education for decades. The nearly 1 million members of the minority ethnic group have sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh since 2017, as decades of persecution by Myanmar’s military government reached a violent boiling point: The Rohingya genocide in Rakhine State. The genocide is one of the worst human rights atrocities since the conception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In 2016, Myanmar held its second recognized democratic election since 1960 and elected human rights stalwart Aung San Suu Kyi as the leader. Her trailblazing election was seen as an opportunity to escape from one of the most repressive military regimes in the world and transition into a state of peace and prosperity. Suu Kyi was a world renowned human rights activist and had won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her fight–which began in the 1980s–to bring democracy back to her country. How is it then possible that one of the most damning genocides of the 21st century–which mirrors the Holocaust and Rwandan Genocide in terms of strategy–unfolded in under a year into Suu Kyi’s leadership of a newly democratic Myanmar? Suu Kyi’s shift from opposition movement organizer during the years of military dictatorship to leading the state has revealed that her advocacy for basic human rights was limited to Myanmar’s majority Buddhist population and never extended to the Rohingya minority. For Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, the dehumanization of the Rohingya evoked images of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. He knew it was the international community’s duty to take rapid action. He brought the case forward to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), echoing a sentiment felt all over the world, telling BBC News that this was “an attempt by Myanmar authorities to completely destroy the Rohingya ethnic group”. read the complete article


The Hindu festival of Ram Navami sparked anti-Muslim riots across India

In Vadodara, Gujarat, the Hindu festival "Ram Navani", which celebrates the birth of the god Rama, was the scene of violent clashes. Videos posted on Twitter show processions filled with saffron-coloured flags – the symbol of Hindu nationalists – and men throwing stones or cinderblocks at Muslim homes and mosques. They also chanted Hindu nationalist slogans in the city's Muslim neighbourhood. Shaukat Indori is a lawyer in Vadodara and a member of an Islamic civil rights association. He said that a number of Muslims were wrongfully arrested after the festival. The scenes of arrests in Vadodara have been described as unjust and abusive by several Muslim community members. A video showing the arrest of a Muslim woman just as she and her family were preparing to break their fast for Ramadan was particularly controversial. The five women arrested were released on bail on April 14, 2023. For several years, this Hindu religious festival has been the scene of heated tensions between the Muslim and Hindu communities in Gujarat. So much so that most members of the Muslim community simply do not dare to go out, as Indori explains: It is a celebration of the victory of Ram, Lord Ram according to the Hindu scriptures, but for the last four or five years the way they have been celebrating this Rama Yatra is targeting the Muslim community. Fundamentalist organisations [...] use this festival to teach a lesson or to tease and harass the Muslim community. They want to polarise the whole political scenario. They want to tease and target the Muslim community as an enemy, and they celebrate in this way, not like they celebrate Diwali or other festivals. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 20 Apr 2023 Edition


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