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 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In France, Marine Le Pen has said the hijab is ‘a uniform imposed by Islamists’ and should be banned in public during the televised French leadership debate, meanwhile in the United States, a Jersey City couple has been convicted of making anti-Muslim threats and harassing a neighbor over a three-year period, and in India, authorities used bulldozers to raze a number of Muslim-owned shops in New Delhi before India’s Supreme Court halted the demolitions Wednesday. Our recommended read of the day is by Rim-Sarah Alouane for CNN who argues that “Macron’s administration flirted with the same right-wing themes that have powered Le Pen’s rise — including Islam, security and immigration.” This and more below:


21 Apr 2022

Opinion: Macron flirted with the far-right. And France lost | Recommended Read

During his first term in office, Macron's administration flirted with the same right-wing themes that have powered Le Pen's rise -- including Islam, security and immigration. Indeed, the entire political landscape in France is not immune to the appeal of policies that have profound effects on anyone who was not born White and on French soil. Whether or not Macron retains his seat, the effects of the creeping acceptance of the premises fueling Le Pen's rise will be profound. The focus on French Muslims, in particular, has been marked by a steady increase in fear-mongering for votes over the past 30 years. As successive waves of terrorist attacks in France galvanized public opinion since the mid-1980s, state authorities have been trying to create a framework to oversee Muslim religious practices and organization, through the idea of creating a "French Islam." But in the past 10 years, the threat has expanded from public safety to include Muslims being seen as an existential threat to the cultural identity of what is being called "traditional France." Seeing an opportunity to ride a wave of discontent, politicians have pushed measures instrumentalizing the once liberal concept of laïcité (France's form of secularism), including banning full-face coverings and burkinis in public spaces. While Macron is seen as an alternative to the far-right, he has also attempted to play both sides -- putting on a liberal face for an international audience, while quietly embracing the very policies that the far-right has championed at home. There is a need to proactively and constructively engage with Muslims, put in place programs that fight discrimination, and stop weaponizing laïcité as a tool for political identity. Muslims are simply not the threat some politicians and pundits make them out to be. France needs to allow Muslims to be full French citizens on their own terms, to express their identities openly and honestly, in a manner that is both true to their faith yet unambiguously French. read the complete article

21 Apr 2022

Marine Le Pen says she would ban the hijab during French presidential debate

Marine Le Pen has said the hijab is 'a uniform imposed by Islamists' and should be banned in public during the televised French leadership debate. Macron says he would never ban signs of religious belief in public because doing so would be contrary to France’s constitution: 'You will incite a civil war if you ban the veil', he said. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen went head-to-head in a live televised debate on Wednesday evening that could change the course of the presidential election this weekend. read the complete article

21 Apr 2022

France’s Constitution Can’t Contain Marine Le Pen

Forget the Nazi symbols and skinheads that defined the party’s previous iteration under her father: Today, the younger Le Pen aims to refocus far-right politics on France’s social and economic concerns, which have been brought into stark relief by the fallout of the war in Ukraine. But behind its cosmetic surgery, the RN’s soul as a profoundly racist and nativist party is still intact, and it has normalized far-right views in mainstream discourse across the political spectrum. Despite the RN’s political capital, France has never had a far-right president, and there are significant questions about how a President Le Pen would employ—or sideline—the country’s institutions to carry out her agenda. Her campaign promises include a number of measures that appear to violate the French Constitution as well as international agreements, such as European Union treaties. France’s current republican system of government, known as the Fifth Republic, was established in October 1958 and is designed to be a semi-presidential regime that increases the executive branch’s power at the expense of the National Assembly’s. This means that a potential President Le Pen would have considerable power at her disposal. To make matters worse, French leaders of the past quarter century—Macron included—have expanded this executive authority dramatically, priming the French political system for abuse by a would-be demagogue. If Le Pen is elected on Sunday, the first few weeks of her term will be decisive. Either the RN wins the legislative election, or the new president dissolves the newly elected National Assembly in an attempt to hold a referendum and organize new elections with its provisions. If Le Pen manages to pass her electoral reform, the stage would be set for her to follow through on her campaign promises. Some of the most far-reaching of these would face judicial scrutiny while others would pass into law somewhat easily. In either case, there would be a ripple effect through French politics, society, and culture whose consequences would be difficult to predict. Among Le Pen’s most controversial proposals is an amendment to the 1958 constitution to implement national preference designations and prohibit the entry of certain classes of immigrants into France who, according to Le Pen and the far right, are changing the composition and identity of the French people—a reference to the white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. She also plans to legally distinguish between “native-born French” and “others” for access to housing and welfare benefits as well as ban the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public spaces. Such provisions directly violate constitutional principles, such as equality and due process, as well as the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. read the complete article

21 Apr 2022

Voting for Macron is a bitter pill to swallow for some French Muslims

Ever since Lisa Troadec converted to Islam and began wearing a hijab almost a decade ago, the Frenchwoman says she has been subjected to verbal abuse, dirty stares and tripped in the street. She worries the alienation she feels will only deepen if far-right leader Marine Le Pen wins Sunday's presidential vote. Le Pen's insistence on banning Muslim women from wearing the Islamic headscarf in public spaces would, Troadec said, be an act of discrimination against the strong majority of Muslims like her who adhere to France's strict secular values. In the hope of keeping Le Pen out of power, she will vote for Macron, but only begrudgingly. The president's track-record on Islam has left her deeply disillusioned and convinced that anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise in France. Data supports how she feels. Interior ministry figures show a sharp increase in anti-Muslim discriminatory and other acts in 2021, even as other faiths saw a decline. She describes voting for Le Pen or Macron as president as "a choice between Islamophobia and Islamophobia." Macron says he will keep fighting what he calls "Islamist separatism" and defend French secularism, which he says allows every citizen to freely practice their faith. He says he's against banning religious symbols in public space. Le Pen wants to outlaw the wearing in public spaces of the hijab but not other religious symbols such as the Jewish kippa. She promises to fight "Islamist ideologies" that she calls "totalitarian." read the complete article


21 Apr 2022

Muslim properties razed in New Delhi after communal violence

Authorities used bulldozers to raze a number of Muslim-owned shops in New Delhi before India's Supreme Court halted the demolitions Wednesday, days after communal violence shook the capital and saw dozens arrested. Shop owners searched through the rubble of their shops afterward to collect their belongings. But for nearly an hour after the Supreme Court order, officials continued to demolish structures, including the outer entrance and stairs leading into a mosque. They stopped the bulldozers just outside the entrance of a Hindu temple, about 50 meters (160 feet) from the mosque, and began to retreat, spurring outrage from Muslim residents who said they were being targeted. Anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks have risen across India in the past 10 days, including stone throwing between Hindu and Muslim groups during religious processions and demolitions of a number of properties, many belonging to Muslims, in another state last week. Officials say their demolition drive targets illegal buildings and not any particular religious group. But critics argue this is the latest attempt to harass and marginalize Muslims, who are 14% of India’s 1.4 billion population, and point to a pattern of rising religious polarization under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. read the complete article

21 Apr 2022

‘Hindu Rashtra’: How Hindutva Has Created a Self-Propelled Market of Mobs

This phase of Hindutva mobilisation – churning out agitations, hate speech and violence at breakneck speed – is not quite being meticulously directed from the top, like pieces on a chessboard, with every move being carefully planned in advance in pursuit of clearly defined outcomes. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime has fomented a huge market of Hindutva mobilisation that has changed the nature of communal violence from an episodic to a pervasive and endemic phenomenon. This is not ‘Hindu Rashtra’ by intelligent design but by an accelerating mass of de-centralised mob action. The country is being transformed not just by big men sitting in Delhi or Nagpur, but by millions of little people in towns and cities, who are devising their own ways of putting Muslims ‘in their place’ and responding to the facilitative conditions created by the regime. In this thriving market of Hindutva mobilisation, local entrepreneurs of bigotry – the sadhus and sadhvis, the Hindu senas and sangh – are exploiting the incentives provided by the regime and competing among themselves to extract their market share. Like in any booming market, veterans of established formations, such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Hindu Jagran Manch, have broken off and started their own little Hindu militias. It has become hard to keep up with all the names. For instance, the group that recently burned houses of Muslims in Agra over ‘love jihad’ is called Dharam Jagran Samanvay Sangh. These upstart mobs are little more than small gangs striving for power and influence in local politics, even more diffusely connected to the RSS than its formal affiliates. read the complete article

United Kingdom

21 Apr 2022

Muslim worshippers attacked outside East Ham mosque

Police are investigating allegations of a racially aggravated assault after a group of worshippers were injured in an attack outside a mosque in East Ham. Officers were called at about 21:00 BST on Tuesday to reports a number of men, armed with bottles and hockey sticks, had attacked members of the Masjid Bilal and Islamic Centre. A bin containing paper was set on fire outside the building on Pilgrims Way. read the complete article

21 Apr 2022

New NUS leader welcomes antisemitism inquiry, but fears for her safety

Shaima Dallali, the incoming president of the National Union of Students, is supporting an investigation into allegations of antisemitism within the organisation she will soon lead – but says the controversy has made her feel unsafe after she became a target for online abuse and violent threats. In an interview with the Guardian, Dallali, who is due to start her role in July for a two-year term, said she had been misrepresented since her election and denied that she was antisemitic. “The investigation is the right thing to do,” she said. “I know quite a few Jewish students feel alienated. This is the first step to start bridging the gap and reaching out to Jewish students and ensuring that Jewish students feel like they have a place in NUS, so I do welcome it.” Dallali, 27, currently the president of the students’ union at City, University of London said the backlash against her election was part of pattern, seen with previous student leaders including Malia Bouattia, who in 2016 became the first black Muslim woman to become NUS president. “Unfortunately, as a black Muslim woman, it is something that I expected because I’ve seen it happen to other black Muslim women when they take up positions in the student union or the NUS, where they are attacked based on their political beliefs or their pro-Palestinian stance.” She said she had received a lot of Islamaphobic, racist online abuse. “I’ve had private messages of people calling me a raghead, people telling me to go and kill myself, calling me a Jew hater and an antisemite. That has been difficult to read. “And so many threats as well – if I continue to do this then things will happen to me. I just try to delete, to block, I try not to let it get to my head. It’s something I receive every day and I’m continuing to receive. It’s affected me mentally and physically. Sometimes I don’t feel safe.” After the ex-presidents’ letter, a letter in support of Dallali has been circulating, which calls for there to be simultaneous NUS investigations into Islamophobia and racism, as well as antisemitism. read the complete article

United States

21 Apr 2022

Jersey City couple convicted of years of anti-Muslim harassment of neighbor

A Jersey City couple has been convicted of making anti-Muslim threats and harassing a neighbor over a three-year period, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said. William Ong, 76, and Beverly Ong, 73, were found guilty of bias intimidation after a trial in front of Hudson County Superior Court Judge Vincent J. Militello. William Ong was acquitted of the charge of making terroristic threats. Both Ongs are scheduled to be sentenced on June 7 for the fourth-degree offense. Beverly Ong and her daughter were acquitted of similar charges in 2012, but they were convicted of harassing a damaging the property of a Iranian neighbor. In the latest case, an investigation determined that William and Beverly Ong made threatening and harassing statements to a neighbor, who they believed to be Muslim, about his religion on multiple occasions between 2016 and 2018. They were arrested in September of 2018. Police at the time said that William Ong pointed his finger at his neighbor and imitated shooting him, and Ong also pointed at the victim’s 3- and 7-year-old children and then ran his finger in a slashing motion across his own throat. Beverly Ong called the man “dirty” and said “you are going to rot in hell,” police said. read the complete article


21 Apr 2022

Sweden: Far-right anti-Islam politician taps into backlash against immigration

When far-right Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan announced he was organizing a series of meetings across Sweden last week during which he planned to burn a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, the reaction was intense. His first rallies were met by counter-protests with demonstrations escalating into riots across a string of cities. These resulted in burned cars, scuffles and arson that left some police and protesters injured. While governments in the Middle East spoke out against the planned Quran burnings, Swedish police said Monday that some protesters who joined the riots and were suspected of being behind the violent flare-ups were actually linked to criminal gangs targeting Swedish police and society, not Paludan and his stunt. In an interview with Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper on Sunday, Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson called Paludan a "right-wing extremist fool, whose only goal is to drive violence and divisions." "This is exactly the kind of publicity and violent reaction that Paludan wants so that he can point to it and say: 'this shows what kind of society Sweden has created by being so lax on immigration,'" Anders Widfeldt, a Swedish lecturer in politics at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, told DW. Widfeldt, who has researched right-wing movements and populism in Scandinavia, said Paludan previously used the same stunts in Denmark. He has staged offensive protests against Muslims like tossing a book he claimed was the Quran into the air and letting it fall to the ground or wrapping the book in bacon, often in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations. The lawyer, who grew up in Denmark, first gained notoriety through a series of online videos in which he made derogatory comments on Islam and its followers as well as Black people, and confronted people with his views in immigrant-dominated neighborhoods. read the complete article


21 Apr 2022

The faces of China’s Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang and the brave researcher uncovering their cases one by one

Rahile Dawut disappeared in China in 2017. Her family have heard nothing from her since then. It feels increasingly likely they never will again. But they have no doubt why she vanished: she was a Uyghur. In fact, Dawut was one of the most respected experts in Uyghur traditions and folklore. Her work made her a prime target five years ago when Beijing’s regime began its merciless oppression – many call it a genocide – of Uyghurs and other minority ethnic communities across Xinjiang in north-west China, where Dawut was a professor at the region’s top university. This has involved incarcerating hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps more than a million. But more than that, the persecution aims to eradicate their cultures and languages, everything Dawut had spent her career trying to promote and protect. It’s hard to grasp the true scale of an atrocity like this. Individual stories can be lost in the swirl of numbers when they’re so big. But search for Dawut’s name online and soon you’ll find a website that is trying to record this vast crime against humanity person by person: the Xinjiang Victims Database. Dawut was the very first entry in 2018. Another 37,507 people have been added since then, each with their own page detailing whatever is known about their nightmarish experiences. More than 10,000 have been included just this year. We have become familiar with satellite shots of the concentration camps that at their peak were terrorising and indoctrinating around a 10th of all adult Uyghurs in Xinjiang – a region seven times larger than the UK – but here we learn about those held inside. The creation of the Xinjiang Victims Database was also largely the result of tireless dedication by a single person: Gene Bunin, a Russian-American engineer. Speaking to i from Taiwan, he calls it a “horrible, inhuman, incredibly cruel situation, that has no right to exist and cannot be justified”. He once lived in Xinjiang himself and met Dawut during his travels. It was only for a few minutes but he has a great respect for her. “We have no idea what has happened to her,” he says. “I don’t know why there isn’t a bigger stink about it.” read the complete article


21 Apr 2022

'We lost our paradise': The Uyghur Muslims keeping their culture and identity alive

Rahima Mahmut is a well-known London-based Uyghur singer who performs traditional songs in her native language. It’s just one of the meaningful activities she does to keep the Uyghur culture alive, despite being miles away from her home and family in China. She also runs the UK office of the World Uyghur Congress, an international advocacy office for Uyghur human rights. Rahima last saw her family more than 20 years ago in her home town of Ghulja, Xinjiang but hasn’t been able to have any contact with them since 2017. “My last conversation with my brother was in January 2017 but then I couldn’t get hold of anyone. The last words my brother said to me was ‘leave us in God’s hands and we leave you in God’s hands too,’” Rahima told The New Arab. Due to the safety concerns of her family, she lives with the hope that although she cannot get through to any of her family members she prays they will one day be able to get in touch. “Everyone (Uyghurs) that I have spoken to whether it’s their mum or dad or family members have told them not to call them or it could be a safety risk for their life." China has been cracking down on the Uyghur community for years, repressing them from practising their religion, wearing Uyghur attire or speaking the Uyghur language. Many Uyghurs have been sent to concentration camps, suffer from torture, and abuse and are living under strict surveillance from the Chinese Communist Party. “The Chinese government is trying to completely re-engineer Uyghurs to be in the Hans culture. We are Uyghurs, this is our identity and we want to keep it. There is no freedom for Uyghurs and no oneb is free to practice their religion or culture the way we want.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 Apr 2022 Edition


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