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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22 Apr 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In Australia, a Muslim rights group lodges a complaint against Facebook accusing the company of failing to take down hate speech against minority groups, as lawmakers in the U.S. Congress pass a bill (No Ban Act) which would prohibit immigration discrimination based on religion, and in India, COVID-19 cases surge as the state’s health system struggle to cope with rising infection rates. Our recommended read of the day is by Rokhaya Diallo on France’s hijab ban and the social media activists who are standing up for women’s rights in the country. This and more below:


21 Apr 2021

France’s latest vote to ban hijabs shows how far it will go to exclude Muslim women

The hashtag (#handsoffmyhijab), created by American Muslim women to support their French counterparts, spawned millions of videos on TikTok after France’s senate voted to ban children under the age of 18 and mothers who accompanied them on school trips from wearing the hijab, and to ban burkinis at swimming pools. This global movement came in stark contrast to the silence of prominent French voices, who have said little about the new provisions that are part of a law designed to fight the “separatism” that is supposedly threatening France. These provisions came as amendments to a bill that was previously voted on by the National Assembly and condemned by major French human rights organizations as “targeting Muslims” and “violating human rights.” Despite the outcry, the right-wing senators of the party Les Républicains decided to toughen the initial law. The new version of the law creates new reasons to surveil Muslim citizens and restricts their freedom of religion in a way that has never been seen before. While the secular law in place bans hijabs in schools and for civil servants only, the senate decided to ban religious signs for parents who take part in extracurricular activities, which basically means the exclusion of Muslim hijab-wearing mothers from school life. Lawmakers also decided to forbid burkinis in swimming pools and to exclude any person wearing religious signs from taking part in a sporting event or a competition hosted by a federation or sport association. In a context where the French Football Federation is the only international body to restrict women with hijabs from participating in sport, the senate is amplifying the pressure on Muslim women who constantly face exclusion. France has been discussing the outfits of Muslim women for at least three decades. In 1989, girls were excluded from middle school for wearing headscarves. Since then, France has singled itself out for an incredible number of controversies over Muslim women daring to appear covered in public. Women have been attacked and dismissed for leading a student union, being nannies, being part of a television singing contest, running for office, participating in a news show, attending a public hearing, volunteering in a charity, wearing a long skirt at school, applying for a job, being provided adequate sporting equipment, and in so many other situations. This article would not be able to name all the times when Muslim women’s choices have been violently debated without them. The provisions received unfavorable opinions from the current government and the law commission, and French President Emmanuel Macron’s majority party in the National Assembly will probably not vote for them. But the fact that they have been approved by one of the two legislative chambers says a lot about how far lawmakers are ready to go to erase Muslim women from the public sphere. The debate, taking place without the participation of the main parties concerned, itself normalizes the exclusion of the community. Muslim women are reclaiming their freedom over their bodies. Pretending to save them from oppression while banning them from activities is nothing more than denying them agency. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day

United States

21 Apr 2021

US House passes bill to prevent another ‘Muslim ban’

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would limit the ability of any United States president to impose a travel ban on the basis of religion, a move that was welcomed by civil rights advocates as “a major step forward”. The legislation, known informally as the NO BAN Act, comes in response to former President Donald Trump’s controversial “Muslim ban” that barred travel to the US from several Muslim-majority countries. The bill, which must also pass in the US Senate to become law, was approved by a 218-208 vote in the House on Wednesday. “The Muslim ban tore families apart, put lives on hold for years and labelled Muslims, Africans and other targeted people as threatening outsiders,” said Madihha Ahussain, counsel to Muslim Advocates, a US civil rights group. “We must ensure that no president can enact discriminatory bans like this ever again and with the passage of the NO BAN Act in the House, we are taking a major step forward to ensuring that they won’t,” Ahussain said in a statement as the bill was passed. The NO BAN Act would revise US immigration law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion and would limit the ability of presidents to issue executive orders imposing any such future travel restrictions. Even though Trump was defeated in the 2020 presidential election and Biden reversed the travel ban, US legislators said it was important to take legislative action. “Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is a dark stain on our country’s history, and it must never happen again,” said Democratic Representative Don Beyer, a sponsor of the bill. read the complete article

21 Apr 2021

The central challenge in combating white supremacist violence remains

The Center for American Progress (CAP) and the McCain Institute have teamed up to produce a report recommending a list of strategies to address white supremacist violence. The report, which debunks the GOP and its right-wing media echo chamber’s denial that purveyors of this ideology pose a unique threat to the United States, notes that the white supremacist violence it describes is “American in origin ... [and] deeply intertwined in the country’s societal structures and governing systems.” It also increased following the election of the Barack Obama, the first African American U.S. president. The report explains: "Today’s white supremacist movement is rooted in the “white genocide” conspiracy theory, which warns that the “white race” is endangered by a changing demographic landscape caused by immigration and interracial relationships. The movement includes white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Christian Identity adherents, the alt-right, and those who espouse anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic beliefs.... There is also overlap with the QAnon conspiracy, which is built on long-standing anti-Semitic tropes, and with self-organized militias, some of which hold anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views." Republicans — including the disgraced former president, lawmakers such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Fox News’s Tucker Carlson — have brought White fear of “replacement” into the mainstream. (Disclosure: I’m an MSNBC contributor.) When right-wing commentators insist they do not “recognize” America or that instances of police violence against Black people are an excuse to persecute White people, they are helping spread white supremacy. When Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and others try to minimize the danger of extremist groups (including those responsible for a deadly insurrection) and falsely paint the Black Lives Matter movement as violent, they add kindling to the fire. Among its recommendations, the CAP-McCain Institute report zeroes in on strategies to address white supremacists’ infiltration of law enforcement and the military. Indeed, far too many law enforcement officials participated in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. NBC News’s Carol Lee confirmed that the nation has failed to address the issue in a devastating report on secret Facebook groups within the military that propound “disparaging and racist comments about America’s political leadership and even QAnon conspiracy theories.” More controversially, the report urges that we develop and enforce standards of conduct to ensure that federal employees, including law enforcement, “are not participating in and contributing to white supremacist violence.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

21 Apr 2021


After the organizations’ director, Ian Murray, responded to the complaints of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with a statement beginning “the UK media is not bigoted”, senior media figures – including the editors of the Financial Times and Guardian – briskly distanced themselves. Then an open letter from 168 journalists of color denounced Murray’s statement as proof of an industry in denial. Murray resigned and the Society’s board issued a cagey ‘clarification’, while its money-spinning annual awards ceremony – by then threatened with numerous boycotts – was postponed indefinitely. Given the pathological reluctance of the press to wash its own dirty linen in public – even grotesque journalistic abuses routinely go unreported – these events were little short of sensational, and they raised hopes that British journalism might just be changing. But taking a stand means something more than tweeting out lofty sentiments. So what progress have we seen since then? What is the follow-up? The Society of Editors and the newspaper industry have a record of ducking action on race even when they have promised it. (Take a look at the Society’s 2004 report, declaring that a lack of diversity in newsrooms is a matter of urgent concern, though there are other examples). But this status quo, which is little better than a denial of racism, should be uncomfortable for those who publicly distanced themselves from Murray. The Guardian‘s editor Kath Viner was one of them. The media, she asserted, “must be much more representative and more self-aware”. The Financial Times’ editor Roula Khalaf said: “There is work to be done across all sectors in the UK to call out and challenge racism.” The Evening Standard and Huffington Post expressed similar views. It might be tempting at this point to say that this is just about the Society of Editors – a relatively minor body that claims to be a voice for journalism but the principal function of which is, in reality, to organize an annual awards dinner for journalists. It pointed out that, although the IPSO receives thousands of complaints about discrimination in the press, it very rarely upholds them. (In fact, though the report did not say so, the IPSO has never upheld a complaint about discrimination on grounds of race, in well over six years of its existence). The reason is simple and a flagrant example of institutional racism at work. The relevant clause only allows complaints where discriminatory language is directed at named individuals and never where it is aimed at groups. This means that, under the Code accepted by our entire national press, there is nothing to stop a writer directing any form of hate speech – no matter how vile – towards Jews, Muslims, black people, travelers or any other minority. So long as no individual is named, complaints are dismissed out of hand. Giving evidence to the all-party group during its inquiry, press representatives defended this in almost desperate terms. Ian Murray, then still at the Society of Editors, actually asserted that changing the clause to cover the vilification of groups would mean “the end of press freedom as we know it”. read the complete article

21 Apr 2021

Tommy Robinson’s ‘anti-Muslim message’ saw boy facing death threats, court hears

Tommy Robinson’s “entirely distorted anti-Muslim message” about a Syrian schoolboy who was attacked at school led to the boy and his family “facing death threats and extremist agitation”, the High Court has heard. The English Defence League founder – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – is being sued by Jamal Hijazi, 17, who was filmed being attacked in the playground at Almondbury School in Huddersfield in November 2018. Shortly after the video went viral, Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos, which were viewed by nearly one million people, that Jamal was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”. On the first day of the libel trial in London on Wednesday, Jamal’s lawyer told the court that Robinson’s comments “turned Jamal into the aggressor, and the bully into a righteous white knight”. Catrin Evans QC, representing Jamal, said in written submissions that Robinson’s allegations had “a devastating effect on Jamal and his family” and led to them being relocated from the area in early 2019. She described Robinson as “a well-known extreme-right advocate with convictions for violence, as well as fraud and drug offenses”. Robinson “used his social media platforms, in particular his Facebook account, to spread his extremist views”, Ms Evans added. She said Robinson “falsely accused Jamal of being part of a gang that participated in a violent assault on a young girl and… also alleged that he had threatened to stab another child”, and did so “without any direct knowledge of the events in question”. Ms Evans told the court that Jamal was bullied from shortly after he started at the school in October 2016, having come to the UK with his family as refugees from Homs in Syria. She added: “The bullying, and the failure to do enough about it, culminated in 2018 in a series of incidents in the school, including serious threats made to Jamal.” Ms Evans said a fellow pupil attacked Jamal in October 2018 and “simulated waterboarding him” by pouring a bottle of water over his face when he was on the ground. read the complete article


21 Apr 2021

India no haven for Rohingya refugees

Indian authorities have cracked down on Rohingya refugees, putting them in holding centers before deporting them to Myanmar, where they face more persecution. Alam has been living in a makeshift camp in Jammu – the southwestern area of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) region – since 2008, where he risks being deported to Myanmar amid a deadly military coup and ongoing conflicts in that country. Indian authorities in the restive Himalayan state have arbitrarily arrested nearly 220 Rohingya refugees since 6 March, including Alam’s septuagenarian parents, and transferred them to holding centers. The refugees were moved to a jail that had been turned into a holding facility after they were invited to take Covid-19 tests. “The condition here for us is almost the same as it was in Burma,” says Alam, whose detained father was operated on and has been in treatment since the third week of February. “[Indian authorities] are killing us silently by separating us from families. This is just as suppressive as what we endured in Burma.” The administration in J&K maintains the refugees were detained after authorities initiated a procedure under the Foreigners Act to locate “illegal immigrants” in the Union Territory, and that those detained would be deported to Myanmar. On 11 March, the Delhi police arrested 71 Rohingya refugees who were demonstrating against the 6 March detentions in Jammu outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in New Delhi. The police detained 12 more refugees in the capital on 24 March, and arrested another five on 31 March. Following a petition by rights activists, the Supreme Court of India agreed to hear a plea seeking the release and protection of these refugees. The plea, filed by senior advocate Prasant Bhushan on behalf of Mohammad Salimullah, a Rohingya refugee in India, as part of a 2017 petition, sought to halt the deportation of Rohingyas. After initially reserving the order, the court refused on 8 April to grant any interim relief to detained Rohingyas, paving the way for their deportation to Myanmar. “The fear is that once they are deported, they may get slaughtered. But we cannot stop it,” said the court. During the hearing on 26 March, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said on behalf of the Indian government that Rohingyas were “not refugees” but “illegal immigrants”. Mehta maintained that the Indian government was verifying their nationality with Myanmar. “We are always in touch with Myanmar and if they confirm so, then they can be deported,” Mehta said. read the complete article

21 Apr 2021

India’s Health System Cracks Under the Strain as Coronavirus Cases Surge

India is now home to the world’s fastest-growing Covid-19 crisis, reporting 294,000 new infections on Wednesday and more than 2,000 deaths. As supplies of hospital beds, oxygen and vaccines run low, criticism of the government is building. States and cities are increasingly going into lockdown on their own, and critics say the government’s mixed messages are making matters worse. As examples, they point to recent political rallies held by Mr. Modi that have drawn thousands, as well as the government’s decision to allow an enormous Hindu festival to continue despite signs that it has become a superspreader event. A few days ago, Mr. Modi indicated that he wanted Hindu worshipers to stay away from this year’s festival, called the Kumbh Mela, which is held on the banks of the Ganges river considered sacred by many Hindus. But the worshipers keep coming — 70,000 showed up on Wednesday for a holy dip, bringing the total to more than 10 million since the festival began in January — and government officials on the ground are doing little to stop them. Photographs show a sea of worshipers packed together in the gray waters of the river, many without masks. More than 1,000 tested positive at the site in just 48 hours, according to reports by the Indian news media. Leaders of India’s political opposition and religious minorities say that Mr. Modi’s government, which is firmly rooted in a Hindu-first worldview, is giving preferential treatment to Hindus. He compared the government’s apparent endorsement of the Kumbh to the way it handled a much smaller gathering of a few thousand Islamic preachers in New Delhi last March. Not only was the seminary that hosted it shut down, but hundreds of people were also detained. Officials from Mr. Modi’s party blamed the seminary for spreading the virus. That spurred an anti-Muslim campaign across India in which Muslims were attacked with cricket bats and run out of their neighborhoods. Many of the Muslims arrested at the seminary a year ago are still awaiting trial. read the complete article


21 Apr 2021

Russia, China, Myanmar recommended for State Department list of religious freedom violators

In its 2021 annual report, released Wednesday (April 21), the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said India, Russia, Syria and Vietnam should be considered “countries of particular concern.” Those nations have been found to have engaged in or permitted ongoing, systematic and egregious religious freedom violations. Among the violations the commission highlighted were atrocities against Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s military, persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses by Russia’s government and China’s detention of millions of Uyghurs and other Muslims in concentration camps. During a virtual news conference announcing the report, commissioners of the independent watchdog expressed concerns about how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected global religious freedom. read the complete article

21 Apr 2021

This Manitoba couple lived in Xinjiang for 10 years. They can no longer stay silent about what they saw

Andrea and her husband Gary, who are both from small towns in Manitoba, had lived in Xinjiang for almost 10 years by that point. They were fluent in Uyghur and Mandarin, and their social group was made up of mostly Uyghur families and “ordinary office workers.” After stints with poverty alleviation NGOs in Central Asia, the couple had set up a social enterprise in Turpan that processed agricultural waste and sold compost to local farmers. They are now speaking out about the horrors they witnessed, when around them, an estimated million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities were forcibly taken to internment camps for “re-education.” When the roadblocks and extra security measures first appeared, some of the Dycks’ acquaintances believed the Chinese government was genuinely trying to root out terrorists, and that the heightened security checkpoints at every major road would protect Uyghurs, too. Andrea said they started seeing less of their friends because of daily flag-raising ceremonies which every Uyghur in their community had to attend, where Muslim women had to take off their head scarves. “They had never been in public with their hair exposed before, and were covering their faces in shame,” she said.“There were also daily propaganda meetings at workplaces, and our friends were very tired and had no energy to respond to what was happening.” Then came hushed whispers of people disappearing, being taken to internment camps. The Dycks were the only resident foreigners in the area, and because they were such outsiders, Uyghur friends trusted them with their stories. “One woman I know had a sister who was taken to a camp because of an international trip she did as a tourist years before. She was the primary caregiver for her elderly parents and sibling’s children. When she was gone, the whole family structure fell apart,” Andrea said. “We could see one camp from the road we lived on … just 10 minutes down our street.” The compound was surrounded by walls at least 15 feet high, with security cameras and a single entrance with multiple gates. Razor wire could be seen along the wall surrounding the courtyard. They estimate that in Turpan’s surrounding farming villages, around a third of farmers were either taken to the camps, or forced to take jobs in other parts of China far away from their families, by mid-2018. Uyghur farmers had made up their customer base for compost sales. read the complete article

22 Apr 2021

It Matters We Call China’s Treatment Of Uyghurs What It Is: Genocide

We have heard survivors give testimony, describing systemic rape, forced abortions and people having contraceptive devices implanted against their will in detention. We have the CCP’s own data that shows sterilization rates have risen seven-fold in Xinjiang between 2016 and 2018, and we can see that in 2018, 80% of all IUD insertions in China were performed in Xinjiang despite the region accounting for just 1.8% of China’s population. We know the CCP is implementing deliberate, targeted policies to humiliate and destroy the Uyghurs – because they have said as much. Leaked party speeches reveal President Xi Jinping told his officials to “show absolutely no mercy” using the “weapons of… dictatorship” to crush Uyghurs in Xinjiang. We are witnessing the largest mass incarceration of a minority since the Second World War – and when accompanied with the clear intent to deliberately destroy language, culture, faith, families and reproduction, it meets the very high bar for genocide. Today, Parliament has a chance to discuss, assess and make that determination too. Genocide is the crime of all crimes, and the term must not be used inaccurately, of course. The responsibility to declare it has traditionally fallen to the International Criminal Court (ICC); the UK government says it can only define an incident as a genocide if this has been determined by the ICC. Unfortunately, the only way anything gets to the ICC is if the UN Security Council sends it there, and China has the power to veto anything that the UN Security Council does. That’s why our capacity to respond to genocide is so fatally flawed – and why we so desperately need to end this paralysis. For shining a spotlight on the state orchestrated enslavement of the Uyghur in Xinjiang I was one of five MPs sanctioned by the CCP. My crimes? Leading on the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill – which looked to stop the UK seeking preferential trade agreements with countries committing genocide– and leading the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee Report which exposed Uyghur slave labour in UK supply chains and security vulnerabilities. These sanctions show how little the CCP understands how democratically elected MPs work, and how weak the CCP is when challenged. Its attempt to intimidate my colleagues – and by extension Parliament – into silence has backfired. Along with the prime minister, parliamentarians from all parties and across the world have got in touch to offer solidarity and work with us to protect our democracies and the Uyghur. read the complete article


21 Apr 2021

Canada: Campaigners continue the fight against French anti-religion law

A Canadian court has struck down elements of a controversial piece of legislation that restricted the religious rights of public sector employees wearing religious attire in French Quebec. One Canadian academic of Sikh heritage called the decision "a small victory in the fight to eliminate one of the most discriminatory and xenophobic laws in Canada." The Quebec superior court ruled that the region's secularism law violates the basic rights of minorities, however, it upheld major tenants of it anyway, much to the dismay of opponents. The ruling struck down one contentious part of the law - that government employees are banned from wearing religious symbols - which it said can't be applied to English schools. But critics of Quebec's secularism law were surprised by the judge's decision to recognize discrimination and affirm it. Bill 21, which is the official name of the secularism law in the predominantly French region of Quebec, has been widely criticized since it was passed in 2019. It is seen as discriminating against religious minorities who wear conspicuous religious symbols, particularly Muslim women and Sikhs. Quebec is a predominantly Catholic region of Canada and has adopted a rigid form of secularism - an import from France. read the complete article


21 Apr 2021

Australian-Muslim rights group lodges hate speech complaint against Facebook

An Australian-Muslim rights group has lodged a complaint against Facebook under the Racial Discrimination Act, accusing the social media giant of failing to take down hate speech against minority groups. The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network has long campaigned for Facebook to do more to remove hate speech and Islamophobia from the platform since the 2019 Christchurch terror attack. In the complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the group alleges Facebook is responsible for direct and indirect discrimination and liability for hate speech under section 9 and 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. They accuse Facebook of allowing pages that “superficially position themselves as ‘anti-Islam’” to remain live despite “routinely and dangerously” proliferating hate speech against Middle Eastern, African, South Asian, and Asian people. The group has previously highlighted a lack of action from the platform against comments, such as, “Muslims are the only people on Earth who will earn their genocide", "Drown 'em at birth", and "Can we go kill these f***ers yet". “Our concern is that Facebook only takes action when the community does the heavy-lifting in documenting the violations and is prepared to escalate through media,” AMAN advisor Rita Jabri-Markwell said on Thursday. “This approach isn’t sustainable and places an unreasonable burden." read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 Apr 2021 Edition


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