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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21 Apr 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., a bipartisan bill is introduced in Texas which would make it easier for Muslim state employees to celebrate Islamic holidays, as activists encourage grassroots movements in Myanmar to not forget the Rohingya in recent surges of pro-democratic support, and in Sri Lanka, new regulations are unveiled supporting ‘re-integration centers’ which many fear echo the camps within the Xinjiang region of China. Our recommended read for today is by Basit Mahmood on the forgotten U.K. Conservative Party Islamophobia investigation promised by PM Boris Johnson. This and more below:

United Kingdom

20 Apr 2021

Where’s the Promised Report Into Conservative Party Islamophobia?

Remember that time nearly two years ago when Boris Johnson committed, along with other Conservative Party leadership candidates, to hold an independent investigation into Islamophobia? I couldn’t blame you if you don’t, not least because most of the media has barely reported on the issue since. If its role is to hold power to account, then it has failed spectacularly to hold the Government to account when it comes to Islamophobia and bigotry towards Muslims. Since that promise in June 2019 to hold an investigation into Islamophobia among party members, a number of developments have occurred. The investigation, being led by Professor Singh was downgraded into one looking at “all forms of prejudice”, ducking the problem of a widespread culture of hostility among party members towards Muslims. A Hope Not Hate report published last year, found that 60% of party members believe myths about “no-go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter”. Another 57% expressed negative views about Muslims. The inquiry also has a narrow remit. Unlike the Labour Party’s Chakrabarti inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice which sought to consult widely with Labour Party members, the Jewish community and other minority representatives, the terms of reference for the Tory investigation implied no open call for evidence from civic society or those outside the party. Worse still, it’s been pretty selective in who it does approach. Last month, Peter Oborne and I revealed that while the investigation had approached Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz for evidence, who has previously criticised the use of the term Islamophobia, it had not approached a number of victims who had suffered Islamophobia at the hands of party members. It’s pretty clear that the party wants to be seen to be dealing with the problem, rather than actually doing anything tangible to combat it. Yet despite all the mounting evidence that this is going to be yet another whitewash investigation, the issue of widespread Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry within the party of government has barely raised a murmur among sections of the press or commentariat. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
20 Apr 2021

The Quilliam Foundation has closed but its toxic legacy remains

Despite the relief many of us feel, the foundation leaves behind a toxic legacy, which will continue to harm the Muslim community in the United Kingdom and beyond. The organisation was founded in 2008 by self-proclaimed ex-extremists and former members of the reactionary organisation Hizb ut-Tahirir (HT), Nawaz and Ed Husain. Named after Abdullah Quilliam, it received funding from the Home Office and purported to combat radicalisation in the wake of the 7/7 attacks in London. Instead, for 13 years Quilliam reinforced the idea that Muslims are a suspect community and supported the draconian “counter-terrorism” policies being pushed by the government. Its members peddled the unevidenced logic that to fight terrorism, the state had to identify and undermine extremist ideologies, which would lead to terrorist actions. This logic gave birth to the British government’s obsession with so-called “non-violent extremism”. This conveyor belt theory became the bedrock of anti-radicalisation policies and served to normalise the criminalisation of thought rather than actions, and therefore the targeting of individuals who had not committed any crimes but were imagined to be at risk of committing unlawful acts in the future. Quilliam was not only confident in making statements and publishing “findings” which were not backed up by data, but it was also ruthless in making sure it held the attention of the government and international arena when it came to Muslims and counter-extremism. The foundation, in assuming the role of protectors of democracy, attempted to tarnish a whole spectrum of Muslim groups and collectives as being aligned with terrorist ideology. In fact, it supplied the Home Office with a “blacklist” which included the Islam TV channel, Muslim Safety Forum and the Islamic Human Rights Commission. read the complete article

United States

20 Apr 2021

As Islamic holidays near, Texas Muslims back bill creating a more inclusive calendar for government employees

A bipartisan bill introduced in the Texas House on Jan. 20 would make it easier for state employees like Qadri to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the two Islamic holidays following Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and worship that this year began on Tuesday. House Bill 1231 would designate the two holidays as optional employee holidays, which Muslim state employees then could observe if they worked on another state holiday instead. Texas optional holidays include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Good Friday and Cesar Chavez Day. The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the bill at a Tuesday hearing. Nabila Mansoor, executive director of Emgage Texas, a Muslim American lobbying group that proposed the bill to Moody, said it would show the Muslim community “that they're valued members of the Texas population.” Another bill Emgage pushed would add imams to the list of religious officials who can explicitly perform marriage ceremonies in Texas alongside rabbis, priests and ministers; Rep. James Talarico introduced the measure on Feb. 22. Muslim Texans also are working to get Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha recognized by cities and school boards. Haq said Frisco Muslim parents were unhappy when the school district scheduled the STAAR test on Eid Al-Fitr and hopes the bill would bring more awareness of the holiday. Emgage plans to remedy such conflicts by working to have Eid recognized by school boards with large populations of Muslim students. read the complete article

20 Apr 2021

Marjorie Taylor Greene Cancels Plans for Racist “America First Caucus” Amid GOP Pushback

Georgia Republican Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene has scrapped plans to form an “America First” caucus, following pushback from leaders in her own party. A flyer promoting the caucus obtained by Punchbowl News features racist, anti-immigrant language, while promoting “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.” Congressmember Greene was elected in 2020. She has promoted the racist QAnon conspiracy theory, made frequent anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments, and voiced support for political violence against top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. read the complete article

21 Apr 2021

'A change for the better': Recognition of Muslim holidays gains ground at US schools

Over the past several years, she has seen her home city of Anaheim evolve from largely white and conservative to increasingly diverse, with one small area having recently been designated as "Little Arabia" for its cluster of restaurants and other landmarks developed by immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia. As a trustee for the Anaheim Union High School District, Alkamalee Jabbar is spearheading efforts for official Muslim holiday recognition for the academic calendar. So far, he has identified around 20 schools in the district where the populations of Muslims are high enough to qualify for observing Muslim holidays (so as not to affect the average daily attendance, which affects school funding). One of the challenges he has encountered is that Muslim holidays, following the lunar calendar, fall on different dates every year on the Gregorian calendar. Another challenge is that school districts tend to not label religious holidays, with Christmas and Easter already falling during the winter and spring breaks. One solution is to have the schools take off personal development days and then tack on extra days at the end of the academic year. He is looking for guidance from the east coast, where a growing number of school districts have over the past several years gained the right to observe Muslim holidays. In Maryland, the Muslim days off school in several counties began around five years ago. The campaign for Montgomery County, Maryland began in 2014, resulting in a hard-fought victory (for both Eids) for the Muslim community the following academic year. "Month after month we'd pack the room," Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state legislator and co-founder of the Equality for Eid Coalition, tells The New Arab about his tactics to make his case at the school board meetings. His group created a website, sent out emails and made appearances on TV advocating for equal representation for school holidays. "It's a civil rights issue," says Ali. In the end, "They started to feel embarrassed." He says, "We were one of the early ones. The year before, New York did it, and we used it as an example. Then our neighbouring counties followed. It was a domino effect." read the complete article


19 Apr 2021

In Death, at the Least, We Are One. But Not in Vadodara

The head of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Vadodara, Gujarat, Vijay Shah, and some other leaders of the party are reported to have objected to the presence of a Muslim person who was helping in the cremation rites of a party member. According to report, the Muslim man in question has been a contractor for the supply of wood and cow dung cakes for Hindu funerals. Shah is reported to have said that it was wrong for a Muslim to be inside the crematorium since he knew nothing about Hindu rituals. The mayor of Vadodara and some other BJP people differed with the view of the party president; they did not think it apposite for such a view to be taken during pandemic times. Apparently, Muslims have helped in some one thousand cremations at the site during COVID-19 mortalities. The reported episode raises an interesting question. At the time of the Pandit exodus from the Kashmir Valley in 1990, some few families chose to stay back and never leave the Valley. Depleted in numbers and wherewithal, the last rites of those among them who died in subsequent years have regularly been organised by Muslim Kashmiris. These Pandit families have often expressed their deep emotion of oneness with the Muslims and their gratitude for being so cared for, most of all in such times of calamitous helplessness. The president of the BJP in Vadodara may be asked this simple question: has it been right and proper of Kashmiri Pandits to accept with warmth the unfailing assistance rendered to them by Muslim Kashmiris in seeing that their dead receive dignified cremation? read the complete article


20 Apr 2021

Quebec’s Ban on Public Religious Symbols Largely Upheld

A Quebec court on Tuesday largely upheld a law barring public sector employees such as schoolteachers, police officers, and judges from wearing religious symbols while at work, in a ruling that human rights advocates said would undermine civil liberties in the province. But the ruling also made some big exceptions that dissatisfied the provincial government. Both sides said they intended to appeal. Religious minorities across the province said the decision marginalizes them. While the ban is supported by a majority of Quebecers, it has nevertheless proved deeply polarizing in Quebec society where minority lawyers and teachers, among others, say it has derailed their lives and careers, while fomenting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. “The law destroyed my career dreams,” said Noor Farhat, a lawyer who wears a head scarf and aspired to be a public prosecutor. She represented a large Quebec teachers’ union that is one of the plaintiffs in the case. “It is a clear violation of freedom of religion and the government is limiting human rights,” she said. François Legault, the right-leaning Quebec premier, has said that the law is necessary to ensure that the separation between religion and state is respected in Quebec, a province where secularism holds sway. The law, adopted in June 2019, applies to Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps, Sikh turbans and Catholic crosses, among other symbols. Human rights advocates and legal scholars counter that the law breaches the Canadian constitutional right to freedom of religion, while undermining social equality and denying minorities access to jobs in vital fields such as education and law enforcement. They also criticize the law as running counter to Canada’s vaunted model of multiculturalism. “It will drive religious minorities away rather than bringing them into society,” said Robert Leckey, dean of McGill University’s faculty of law in Montreal and a leading constitutional lawyer. “An inclusive society is surely one where schoolteachers are allowed to look like the kids they are teaching.” read the complete article


21 Apr 2021

The Myanmar Protests are Forgetting the Rohingya Muslims | Opinion

In the rivalry between the generals on the one hand and civilian National League for Democracy (NLD) Party leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi on the other, both sides seem comfortable with the crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority. If Suu Kyi's supporters really want democracy, they should demand a true democracy for all citizens of Myanmar—not a Buddhist-supremacist state where citizens are forced to live as refugees. The essence of a properly functioning democracy is not the law of the majority, but the protection of the minority. While Suu Kyi is clearly perceived as a better option than the military, she has nevertheless been an enabler of the military's policies in recent years. I hope that now those protesters have seen some of the brutality of the regime first hand, they will sympathize with those who have suffered more harshly, and for longer, namely the Rohingya. Despite her checkered past, even many Rohingya themselves expressed support for Suu Kyi, as an alternative to military rule. Let us hope that they will not be facilitating a friendly civilian face to the same brutality. It would be wrong to define the aggression against the Rohingya as purely a military act by the army; civil society, including Buddhist monks, is a key part of it. What Myanmar needs is a leader who can address the ghosts of the past and create an equitable future, with a democracy representing all ethnic groups who are native to the country, not just the ones listed in Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law. Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders, from the NLD party and the grassroots movement, should be encouraged to admit their complicity or ignorance of past events and take this spirit of honesty and reconciliation across Burmese society. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

21 Apr 2021

New de-radicalisation regulations will further dehumanise Muslims

Two years after the Easter Sunday bombings, the victims have not seen justice, and their suffering is coopted to distract from bad governance. While the State delays accountability for those actually at fault, it collectively punishes the Muslim community at large with zero due process guarantees. On 12 March 2021, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unveiled new Regulations under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA) by way of an Extraordinary Gazette (Number 2218/68). Entitled ‘De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology’, they permit the Ministry of Defence to create “Reintegration Centres” designed to rehabilitate those who cause or intend to cause “acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups.” This Gazette will strengthen the already draconian provisions of the PTA. Potentially emboldened by China’s policies in Xinjiang – which senior Sri Lankan officials have publicly defended – Sri Lanka has embarked on a similar path. As with China’s “re-education centres”, the camps to be established under Sri Lanka’s new Regulations would go beyond punishing overt acts and instead proscribe thoughts. The current De-radicalisation Gazette is vague in what it prohibits and is open to subjective enforcement, facilitating overbroad application and the deprivation of fundamental rights. Human rights activists have raised these objections in fundamental rights petitions now pending before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. read the complete article


19 Apr 2021

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana

An Albanian man with a knife attacked and wounded five people Monday at a mosque in the capital, police said, as investigators tried to determine a motive for the attack. Rudolf Nikolli, 34, entered the Dine Hoxha mosque in downtown Tirana about 2:30 p.m., a police statement said. Police said they reacted immediately after the attack began and took him into custody. The Top Channel private television station, however, showed civilians blocking Nikolli before the police arrived. A police investigation has been launched into the case. The five wounded, all men ranging from 22 to 35, were taken to a hospital and police said their conditions weren’t life-threatening. Ahmed Kalaja, imam of the mosque, said the man attacked worshipers and staff at a time when the mosque was filled with believers during the fasting month of Ramadan. read the complete article


20 Apr 2021

Muslim-Crusader interactions: a clash of civilizations?

The story of Fakhr al-Din sums up the history of Muslim-crusader interactions during the period. There were times for war a lot of it. There were other times for diplomacy, alliances, friendships, commerce and the exchange of science and knowledge. There were also times when war and peace coincided. This complex legacy of the crusader period in the Middle East is little known. The reason is simple: many modern histories of the crusades have focussed on the violence of the period – and, in doing so, have blurred our ability to see the other side. This was no honest mishap. We have inadvertently allowed modern agendas – one Eurocentric, the other Islamocentric – to determine the way we have reconstructed crusader history. When crusader history is treated as ‘European’ history, it becomes easy to think of it as a past extension of modern Europe, tied to the national narratives of modern European countries (Italy, France and Germany, to name a few – none of which existed as such in the Middle Ages). This also tempts scholars and readers to reassess and evaluate the crusades in terms of the values they personally cherish. The Eurocentric agenda led some to imagine the crusaders as predecessors of those later colonialists whose duty was to ‘civilise’ the world – as in the French scholar Joseph-François Michaud’s 1840 Histoire des Croisades (‘The History of the Crusades’), a book that still exerts tremendous impact in Europe in general, and France in particular. Other Europeans, influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment or enraptured by oriental romanticism, were critical of the crusades and treated them as an ugly mix of religious fanaticism and savagery – the Europe they wanted condemned. The Eurocentric reading of crusader history also gave medieval European sources a place of dominance in writing the modern narrative of the crusades. As such, non-European medieval sources, which document the experiences of Greek-Byzantines, Armenians, Muslims and Arab-Christians, are read according to the European sources. I do not mean to say that these other sources furnish a more accurate history, but they are indispensable for a proper understanding of the complexity of crusader history, and must be given a central place in the rewriting of the narrative, rather than a secondary role. The crusades was not a clash of civilisations. Only a fool would say that the Muslims and crusaders loved each other, but this does not justify going to the other extreme – for the contemporary sources (especially the Islamic ones) draw a mosaic picture of the period, featuring wars and alliances, boycott and exchange, hatred and amicability and myriad shades in between. In other words, there were never two camps. There were, however, many actors, with different agendas and varying schemes to achieve them. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 Apr 2021 Edition


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