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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, Muslims observing the holy month of Ramadan have experienced a “staggering spike in Islamophobic incidents across the country,” with the “dominant target being mosques, where large crowds of Muslims are gathering for multiple daily prayers that can go late into the night,” meanwhile in India, a court has acquitted 69 Hindus, including a former minister from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), of the murder of 11 Muslims during communal riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002, and in the United States, young Muslim women wrestlers are “pushing back on what they say are arbitrary dress codes that keep women like them from advancing in the sport.” Our recommended read of the day is by our founding Director, Dr. John Esposito, who gave a keynote speech at a recent conference on global Islamophobia where he outlined the origins of anti-Muslim racism, and notes that “the biggest crises of Islamophobia now exists outside of the western world, with the genocides against the Uyghurs in China and the Rohingya in Myanmar, alongside the dangerous growth of Islamophobia in India under the Modi government.” 


How Islamophobia became a global scourge | Recommended Read

American and European domestic and foreign policies and politics, and the notion of a global “war on terrorism”, have played a major role in the growth of Islamophobia, both domestically and internationally. But the biggest crises of Islamophobia now exist outside of the western world, with the genocides against the Uyghurs in China and the Rohingya in Myanmar, alongside the dangerous growth of Islamophobia in India under the Modi government. While often overlooked, the origins and roots of modern forms of Islamophobia in the West shape attitudes and government policies towards Islam and Muslims, influencing the current globalisation of Islamophobia. Long before Samuel Huntington’s warnings of a “Clash of Civilizations”, one prescient scholar, Edward Said, warned in 1981, in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, of what was to come. He warned: “For the general public in America and Europe today, Islam is ‘news’ of a particularly unpleasant sort. The media, the government, the geopolitical strategists, and - although they are marginal to the culture at large - the academic experts on Islam are all in concert: Islam is a threat to western civilisation.” Negative images of Islam were prevalent, corresponding not to what it was, but to what prominent sectors of a particular society took it to be. The 9/11 attacks in the US and subsequent attacks in Europe, including the 7/7 bombings in London, led to an exponential increase in global Islamophobia - and with it, a fear of Islam and Muslims in popular culture. Islam and Muslims - not just Muslim extremists and terrorists - were cast, and in many cases demonised, as the radical “Other” in western media and society. The US-driven global “war on terrorism”, with all its rhetoric, policies and actions - including the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay - would ultimately lead to the globalisation of Islamophobia. read the complete article

Recent mosque attacks raise questions about the affinity between white supremacy and far-right Hindu nationalism

From the United States’ Muslim ban, to India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, to Québec’s Bill 21, Muslims face legal discrimination globally. Alongside these laws, Muslims face physical violence. This includes: the beating, lynching and burning of Muslims in India, the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand in 2019, the Québec City mosque shooting in 2017, and more recently the murder of the Afzaal family in London, Ont. Collectively, these policies and killings demonstrate a transnational quality of Islamophobic prejudice and violence. While the two incidents in Markham may not be directly linked to extremist groups, they have occurred within this global ecosystem of Islamophobia. To me, the attacks indicate that these online conspiracies do not occur in a vacuum and can have potentially horrifying real consequences. Over the last several years, I have carefully examined the digital and transnational connections between white supremacists in North America and far right Hindu nationalists in India. My preliminary findings show how these two seemingly unrelated extremist far-right groups have become increasingly allied on social media platforms as they position Muslims as a “common enemy.” read the complete article


Muslims in Indian cities barred from offering Ramadan prayers

Muslims in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, have been barred from performing Taraweeh night prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, following objections from Hindu residents. Despite a ban on public gatherings, Hindu festivals like Ram Navmi and Hanuman Jayanti witnessed large processions in the area. Muslim community members have faced ongoing discrimination, with incidents of arrests, hate speech, and lynchings creating a sense of fear and division in the country. Ahmad Hussain, a local resident, recalls being humiliated while offering prayers in a commercial mart near his society. Hindu residents disrupted Muslim prayers by playing Bhajans (Hindu religious songs) and chanting Hanuman Chalisa. The situation escalated further when Hindu residents demanded that outsiders be barred from joining the prayers. These incidents highlight the growing religious intolerance in India, with Muslims feeling increasingly targeted and unsupported by their neighbours. As elections approach, tensions continue to rise, with some arguing that these events are orchestrated to mobilise voters around a majoritarian platform. read the complete article

India court acquits 69 Hindus of murder of 11 Muslims during 2002 riots

An Indian court on Thursday acquitted 69 Hindus, including a former minister from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), of the murder of 11 Muslims during communal riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002. The killings occurred in Ahmedabad on Feb. 28, 2002, a day after a suspected Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, setting off one of independent India's worst outbreaks of religious bloodshed. A total of 86 Hindus were accused of the killings in the Naroda Gam district of Ahmedabad, 17 of whom died during trial. All the accused were free on bail. “We have been saying from the first day that they were framed," defence lawyer Chetan Shah, who represented 82 of the accused, said. "Some of the accused were not present at the scene on the day of the incident." Shamshad Pathan, who represented the victims, said they would challenge the court's decision in a higher court. “Justice has eluded the victims once again. We will study the grounds on which the court has acquitted the accused persons," Pathan said. Those acquitted include Maya Kodnani, a former minister of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP, who was a lawmaker at the time of the riots, former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Jaydeep Patel. Bajrang Dal and VHP are Hindu nationalist groups and have close links to the BJP. Kodnani was also an accused in a case in which 97 people were killed in the 2002 riots. She was convicted but later acquitted by a higher court. read the complete article

India history debate after chapter on Mughals dropped

The deletion of a chapter on Mughal rulers from Indian school textbooks has reignited a debate on how history should be taught to schoolchildren. The discussion was sparked by the publication of a new set of textbooks by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), an autonomous organisation under the federal education ministry. The NCERT oversees syllabus changes and textbook content for children taking exams under the government-run Central Board of Secondary Education. Other changes include the removal of some references to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and the 2002 riots in Gujarat state. Critics argue that the omissions are worrying and will affect the students' understanding of their country. They are particularly alarmed at the removal of references to the Mughal dynasty and accuse the NCERT of erasing portions of history that Hindu right-wing groups have campaigned against for years. Many right-wing activists and historians view the Mughals - who ruled large swathes of the Indian subcontinent for centuries - as foreign invaders who plundered Indian lands and corrupted the country's Hindu civilisation. "Students are learning about our nation's history in a deeply divided time. By removing what is uncomfortable or seen as inconvenient we are not encouraging them to think critically," says Hilal Ahmed, who works on political Islam and teaches at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. read the complete article

United States

Muslim Women Wrestlers Just Want To Compete — But They Can't For An Arbitrary Reason

Zainab Ibrahim was excited to compete in the World Team Trials wrestling tournament. At stake was the opportunity to represent Team USA at the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, this fall. But shortly before she was set to wrestle at the 2023 Women’s National Championships in Spokane, Washington, last weekend, her coach called with some news: Ibrahim, who is Muslim and wears a hijab and modest clothing for religious reasons, would be allowed to cover her hair ― but she’d have to compete in a singlet without any clothing underneath, leaving her arms and legs exposed. Ibrahim withdrew from the competition. “I was angry,” said Ibrahim, who is 18 and a first-year political science major at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. “I can’t help but feel it’s targeted by not letting Muslim women compete.” Wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports among girls in the United States. Young Muslim women from a range of ethnic backgrounds and experience levels have taken to the sport, competing across the country while adhering to their Islamic faith. But many Muslim women wrestlers have hit obstacles due to their need to dress modestly. They’ve been prohibited from participating in competitions and even forced to forfeit their wins. They’re pushing back on what they say are arbitrary dress codes that keep women like them from advancing in the sport. read the complete article

Pentagon’s Repatriation of Algerian Leaves 30 Prisoners at Guantánamo

The U.S. military repatriated a prisoner to Algeria on Thursday who had been held at Guantánamo without charge for more than two decades, as the Biden administration continues its efforts to reduce the detainee population at the Navy base. The prisoner, Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush, 52, was among about 20 suspected low-level fighters who were swept up by Pakistani security services in a 2002 raid in Faisalabad on dwellings believed to be Al Qaeda safe houses. The suspected fighters were ultimately taken to Guantánamo Bay. His release leaves only one prisoner captured in the raid still at the Pentagon prison in Cuba. The others have been transferred or repatriated. Lawyers who have tried to speak with Mr. Bakush described him as reclusive. He boycotted hearings where his suitability for release was reviewed and mostly stayed in his cell at Camp 6, the prison building where cooperative captives are held and allowed to eat, pray and watch television together. H. Candace Gorman, a defense lawyer based in Chicago who has represented Mr. Bakush for the past 17 years, said he stopped meeting with her in 2017 or 2018. Mr. Bakush’s repatriation was the sixth transfer in six months by the Biden administration, which in statements has described each release as consistent with its goal of “responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantánamo Bay facility.” Now, 16 of the 30 men held there are eligible for transfers, but require more complex diplomatic negotiations than the recent repatriations. read the complete article


This Ramadan, the wave of Islamophobic incidents has gotten out of hand

It’s been a strange few weeks. Canadian Muslims just finished the holy month of Ramadan, a time of expected vibrancy and community. But happy times have been dimmed by a staggering spike in Islamophobic incidents across the country that have ruined the month for many. The dominant target seems to be mosques, where large crowds of Muslims are gathering for multiple daily prayers that can go late into the night. A few of these alleged incidents have made headlines. Like the man who tried to drive his car into congregants at the Islamic Society of Markham. Or the two Muslim women who had a gun pointed at them by a fellow driver in Kitchener, Ont., as they headed home from the masjid. Or the guy who shattered the glass doors of a mosque in Montreal. Or the young Muslim woman who had a knife pulled on her in the Toronto subway. Or the increasing cases of vandalism at Muslim community spaces. The list goes on and on. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Most cases don’t make the news. The National Council of Canadian Muslims, which helps community members respond to such incidents, has received over 40 reports from community members across Canada since Ramadan started — a record number. The single day high is seven reports, another record. But not every case makes headlines. Community members who come to us for help often don’t want media attention. NCCM records a higher volume of troubling reports almost every Ramadan, but this year was especially bad. The holy month already makes the Muslim community more visible than usual. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 Apr 2023 Edition


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