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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26 Apr 2021

Today in Islamophobia: China continues its repressive campaign of targeting Uyghur Muslims, including labeling them as terrorists in efforts to silence critical Uyghur voices, as families in Bangladesh plead with the Indian government to investigate a missing boat packed with 87 Rohingya refugees that’s been missing for 2 months, and in the United States, British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed makes history as the first Muslim actor to be nominated for best actor. Our recommended read of the day is by Jane Bradley and 


23 Apr 2021

U.K. Far Right, Lifted by Trump, Now Turns to Russia

Two days after supporters of former President Donald J. Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, but failed to reverse his election defeat, a defiant shout sounded from across the ocean. Tommy Robinson, Britain’s loudest amplifier of anti-Islam, far-right anger, insisted the fight was not over. “You need to pick yourselves back up,” Mr. Robinson said in an online video viewed tens of thousands of times. “As Donald Trump says, it’s only just beginning.” A former soccer hooligan and founder of the English Defence League, one of Britain’s most notorious nationalist groups, Mr. Robinson has largely been a pariah in his home country but Trump loyalists embraced him much the way they embraced many of the American extremist groups whose members would join the Capitol riot, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. The Capitol riot on Jan. 6 has brought new scrutiny to the ties that bind the far right, not only within the United States but abroad. Few fringe figures have enjoyed more cross-national appeal than Tommy Robinson. Anti-Islam groups in Germany and Denmark have given him awards. Mr. Robinson’s American connection was deeper than previously known. Interviews and internal documents newly released in court show how the U.S. research institute, the Middle East Forum, provided him with financial backing for three years, using cash from an American tech billionaire and Trump donor, while its president helped shape his message. Now that Mr. Trump is out of office and the American money is apparently drying up, Mr. Robinson and some other far-right figures are turning to Moscow. Mr. Robinson, who is fighting a potentially costly libel case in London this week, did a media tour of Russia last year but three associates told The New York Times that part of his agenda was kept secret — to seek accounts with Russian banks. “Why else would you visit Russia?” said Andrew Edge, a former senior figure in the English Defence League and another far-right group, Britain First, who said that he discussed moving money to Russian banks with Mr. Robinson and Britain First’s leader, Paul Golding. In many ways, Mr. Robinson is now useful to the Kremlin — which has often encouraged fringe political figures who might destabilize Western democracies — for the same reasons he was welcome in Mr. Trump’s Washington. He preached an angry narrative of Western civilization in decline, of a society ruled by shadowy elites and of the persistent threat of Muslims to the Western world — never mind that he was an agent of chaos in Britain, a key American ally. read the complete article

Our recommended ready of the day
25 Apr 2021

She fled home to escape violence. Now she's been lost at sea for two months

Noor Kayas fled the refugee camp without telling anyone at home. At sea the next morning, the teenager used a satellite phone to call her mother, Gule Jaan, 43, to say she was heading for Malaysia on a small wooden boat, packed with 87 Rohingya refugees, including 65 women and girls. Some were fleeing what their families say is the increased risk of sexual assault and rape during the pandemic in the sprawling refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh, home to more than 1 million displaced people. The 16-year-old asked her mother to pay 40,000 taka ($470) to the trafficker for her passage to Malaysia, where she hoped to have a better life. Her mother was still arranging the payment when families of other passengers on board received a call to say the boat's engine had failed. They had been at sea for just five days. Now, more than two months later, the boat is missing. The passengers' families and rights groups are asking why more isn't being done to save the lives of those on board. They say Indian authorities were alerted to the passengers' desperate cries for help on February 20, but took 48 hours to respond with medicines, food and water. While they waited, nine people died, the families said. Indian authorities said they last delivered aid to the boat in mid-March, and have not responded to requests for more information on their dealings with the vessel after that date. They did not allow anyone to disembark. The boat's disappearance is compounding the misery of families in Cox's Bazar, where lax security is allowing militants to enter the camps at night to attack women and girls, according to rights groups. Over the past year, the UNHCR said more women and girls have boarded rickety vessels to flee sexual violence within the camps -- a trend likely to continue as the coup across the border in Myanmar makes returning home an even more distant prospect. read the complete article

23 Apr 2021

Southeast Asian countries should recognize the slaughter in Myanmar for what it is

Over the past three months, the Myanmar junta has failed to consolidate its power, and its violence is threatening regional stability. Instead of helping Min Aung Hlaing solidify military rule, ASEAN should make clear to him that he needs to step down and respect the democratically elected civilian government. This is a man who, according to the United Nations-backed Independent International Fact-Finding Mission, should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Offering him a seat at this summit does not just risk legitimizing a brutal regime that seized power through sheer force, terror and lies, it also signals to the millions of protesters who are putting their lives on the line for Myanmar’s democratic future that our neighbors have abandoned us and that our abusers will go free. Our deep skepticism about the regional bloc’s strategy comes from experience. In 2018, ASEAN addressed the Rohingya crisis only as a humanitarian “matter of concern,” overlooking the military’s brutality against us. A 2019 ASEAN “preliminary needs assessment” on repatriation of the Rohingya who had fled to Bangladesh again failed to condemn or even acknowledge the military’s campaign of murder, torture, rape and destruction that forced nearly 1 million Rohingya to flee in the first place. ASEAN’s weakness, masked as “non-interference,” has only emboldened Min Aung Hlaing and his peers. Now that the military has turned its guns on children, health-care workers and peaceful protesters, what message will regional leaders choose to send us? So far, the signs are ominous. Even though protesters overwhelmingly remain faithful to the principles of nonviolent civil disobedience, and even though the security forces are almost entirely responsible for the growing death toll, ASEAN has called on “all parties” to refrain from violence. The group has prioritized seeking a solution through “constructive dialogue” — meaning, apparently, a conversation between the murderers and their victims. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on stopping the killing? Just as with its response to the Rohingya genocide, ASEAN has failed to take any action beyond these trembling statements. How is constructive dialogue possible with a man — and an institution — determined to cling to power at all costs? read the complete article

United States

24 Apr 2021

George W. Bush Can’t Paint His Way Out of Hell

For his new book, Out of Many, One, Bush has selected immigrants for his subjects. Most are well-known, wealthy or established in some way, as if the American dream requires an M.B.A. One is Henry Kissinger, whom Bush describes as a “good friend.” Kissinger is by rights a war criminal, responsible for an American bombing campaign that murdered tens of thousands of Cambodian civilians. Here Bush’s hand slips, just a little. Amnesia is as beneficial to Bush as it is to Kissinger. Bush’s body count may even exceed that of his friend were they ever to compare notes. The reality of the Bush legacy is at painful odds with his post-presidential reputation. That discrepancy isn’t news. Here is what we know about Bush. Ever so eager to establish himself as the avatar of something he calls “compassionate conservatism,” he is responsible for torture and death on a mass scale. Because these abuses did not occur on American shores, did not target American citizens, the political class has decided to pretend the death does not matter. Bush has assumed the role of elder statesman, a sensible voice in a Republican party gone mad. His complicity is fading out of view. Even Bush’s book, with its emphasis on friendly immigrant faces, betrays an inability or willing refusal to cope with the sins of his past. For all the times Bush condemned Islamophobia, he did plenty else to stoke it. To speak of an “axis of evil” was to use language freighted with deep meaning. Bush and his speechwriters invoked Hitler and Fascism, and applied the analogy to two majority-Muslim countries that hadn’t attacked ours. People shortened the sentence. They heard “evil” and recognized Islam. Bush did not just go to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, the nations; he took on spiritual enemies in a civilizational conflict and undercut his own warnings against Islamophobia. Bush can’t paint his way out of his legacy, though it seems he’d like to try. read the complete article

25 Apr 2021

Oscars 2021 nominee Riz Ahmed in 'Sound of Metal' has already won by breaking stereotypes

The British Pakistani actor’s nomination gives him a certain cachet within the industry and could catapult his surging career to astronomical heights. But the mere presence of Ahmed’s name and multihyphenated identity in the list of best actor candidates carries a significance that easily eclipses his individual success. For decades, Hollywood has regularly featured Muslim tropes such as the violent terrorist, the wealthy and crooked Arab sheikh and the woman who is either a fully veiled subordinate or a lascivious belly dancer. Yet a confluence of the #OscarsSoWhite social movement, Tinseltown’s push for greater Muslim inclusion as a counter-response to former President Donald Trump’s virulent Islamophobia and Ahmed’s own considerable talents allowed him to make a dent in these entrenched stereotypes. Though Hollywood has been replete with these facile and dehumanizing depictions since its earliest days, it was eminent academic Edward Said’s introduction of the seismic postcolonial idea of Orientalism in 1978 that illuminated how the West “otherised” the Orient (the Middle East, North Africa and Asia) and regarded it as violent, savage and exotic. It is these perceptions that informed Hollywood’s ugly and un-nuanced Muslim caricatures. The scope narrowed further after Sept. 11, as American Muslims were increasingly seen through the lens of national security and radicalization. Thisled to the emergence of the “good Muslim” and “bad Muslim” dichotomy. A good Muslim was a dependable patriot who combatted terrorism, while a bad Muslim abetted or committed terrorism. Though the good Muslim character gained traction in Hollywood, it further limited the range Muslim characters could have on screen. In a 2016 Guardian essay, Ahmed laid out the traditional stages ethnic minority actors must usually pass through to get to the “Promised Land” — playing a character “not intrinsically linked to his race.” The first is the “two-dimensional stereotype” (e.g., terrorist, cab driver or convenience store owner) and then the “subversive portrayal,” in which roles are still tied to one’s ethnicity but capable of challenging established stereotypes. Ahmed, however, eschewed the reductive roles that were readily on offer post-Sept. 11, making his achievement all the more remarkable and significant. He managed to start at stage two by playing a British Muslim who is mistakenly captured in Afghanistan by American forces in “The Road to Guantanamo,” an inept British jihadi in the terrorism satire “Four Lions” and a Pakistani who becomes disenchanted with America after 9/11 in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” read the complete article

26 Apr 2021

FBI Investigating Vandalism On Fargo-Area Mosque

The FBI is investigating hate messages found vandalized on a mosque that sits on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota. Police in Moorhead, Minnesota, were dispatched to the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center Mosque early Sunday in response to reports of vandalism. Officers found anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, and racist messages spray-painted on several areas outside the buildings. The incident happened during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Muslim civil rights organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said that officials with the mosque told its Minnesota chapter that vandals spray-painted hate messages such as “Death to Islam,” “F*ck Islam,” “Go to hell,” the N-word and a Nazi swastika on or near the institution, which also had a broken window. Police released photos on Sunday from the mosque’s building surveillance, showing a suspect wearing a camouflage jacket and dark ski mask. The surveillance shows the suspect at night, implying that the vandalism occurred Saturday night. read the complete article

23 Apr 2021

Muslims to Biden: Fighting Islamophobia requires more than lifting Trump's travel ban

In the letter, the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations told Biden a special envoy to monitor and combat Islamophobia at the State Department could help address the issue that affects the third largest religious group in the country. The envoy could support efforts both in the United States and internationally against anti-Muslim hate crimes and where Muslims are denied constitutional rights. The White House did not respond to questions about whether the administration will appoint a special envoy to combat Islamophobia. But Biden condemned violence against Muslim Americans in a statement last week marking the beginning of Ramadan. The special envoy requested by the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations also could confront anti-Muslim bigotry internationally in countries such as Myanmar, where 130,000 Rohingya Muslims are imprisoned in 24 internment camps, and China, where Uyghurs are systematically raped, sexually abused and tortured in “re-education” camps in Xinjiang Province, according to the U.N. report. To reverse the aftereffects of the travel ban, experts say, immigrants whose visas have been held up should be prioritized. Even if the effects of the so-called Muslim ban are fully remedied, experts say, the U.S. still disproportionately applies to Muslim-majority countries a vetting process aimed at preventing immigrants perceived to be national security threats from obtaining citizenship. “We need to seek that complete shift where Muslims are not presumed to be guilty until proven innocent,” Bazian said. read the complete article


25 Apr 2021

Western brands tested by China in backlash over forced labor allegation

Some Chinese consumers, social media influencers and celebrities have moved to boycott fashion retailers such as H&M, Nike and Burberry as Beijing pushes back with growing ferocity against allegations of human rights abuses and forced labor targeting the country's Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang — home to 20 percent of the world's cotton supplies. The backlash to the boycott has left Western companies in an uncomfortable position. With 1.4 billion people, China, home to the world's second-largest economy, commands vast purchasing power, making it a lucrative market for retailers. But socially conscious young shoppers in Western countries have also looked for brands to take a stand on ethical issues linked to their products, from climate change to labor conditions. As the U.S. and its allies put pressure on China through sanctions, deeming the treatment of Uyghurs to be "genocide" — allegations Beijing denies — many brands expressed concern about reports of forced labor. Some even joined the Better Cotton Initiative, a global trade group of more than 2,000 members seeking to promote good practices in the industry. But their commitment has been tested as Chinese consumers, inflamed by the ruling Communist Party, appear determined to punish those that have taken stands on Xinjiang. "It is quite a tricky position. Companies flocked to China over the last 25 years with one purpose in mind: to make money," economist and author George Magnus said. Now, they face a "huge dilemma." In the weeks since the initial backlash to the boycott, images on Chinese state television have been subject to censorship that blurred Western brand logos on sneakers and sweaters. Meanwhile, some H&M stores seemed to vanish from prominent Chinese search engines and e-commerce sites, The Associated Press reported. read the complete article

23 Apr 2021

China calls these Uyghur parents 'terrorists' without evidence. But they say they just want to be with their children again

Three Uyghur parents who publicly appealed to Beijing to let their children leave China have been accused, without evidence, of child abandonment and terrorism by the Chinese government. In separate statements, all three denied the allegations and called on Chinese authorities to allow their families to reunite. In March, CNN revealed the stories of two Uyghur families torn apart by Beijing's crackdown in Xinjiang in the country's far west. The United States, which has labeled China's treatment of Uyghurs as "genocide," says up to two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been sent to internment camps in the region since 2017. Beijing strongly rejects any claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and insists that its actions are justified to combat religious extremism and prevent terrorism. Mamutjan Abdurehim, who lives in Australia, said he has been apart from his wife and two children for five years, after she became trapped in Xinjiang following a routine trip home to Kashgar to renew her travel documents. The children now live separately with their grandparents in Xinjiang. Mamutjan thought his wife had been sent to a detention center. From their home in Italy, Ablikim Mamtinin and his wife Mihriban Kader said they had to flee China in 2016, afraid that Mihriban would face forced abortion and sterilization after she became pregnant with their sixth child. The couple left their four eldest children behind, as they were told it would be too risky to try to apply for visas for the entire family. Once in Italy, they were able to obtain Italian visas for the children, now aged between 12 and 17, but the siblings were stopped by authorities in Shanghai in June 2020 when they tried to pick the documents up at the consulate. All four children were then put into a state-owned orphanage in their hometown of Payzawat, where the Chinese government says they're "leading a normal life and attending local schools." In a trip to Xinjiang in March, CNN tracked down both sets of children. Mamutjan's 10-year-old daughter Muhlise broke down in tears when asked about her parents. "I don't have mom with me right now, I don't have my dad either. I just want to be reunited with them," she said. read the complete article


25 Apr 2021

Model’s ‘hands off my hijab’ post sparks protest over France’s proposed ban

Rawdah Mohamed posted a selfie on Instagram with “hands off my hijab” written on her hand, starting a campaign that has been trending on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. #Handsoffmyhijab, along with its counterpart #PasToucheAMonHijab, has been taken up by the Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and the US congresswoman Ilhan Omar, as well thousands of women internationally. They have used the hashtag to protest against the French senate’s vote to ban anyone under 18 from wearing the garment in public. “I started the hashtag as I felt the need to humanize the movement,” Mohamed told the Guardian. “Ethnic minority women are always spoken for. I wished to take back the control of our narratives and tell our stories.” Mohamed added that the proposed legislation “stems from discrimination and deeply rooted stereotypes against Muslim women”. France was the first country to ban the niqab in public spaces, in April 2011, and French provinces have banned the burkini, starting a national conversation around nationalism, identity and feminism. read the complete article

24 Apr 2021

Terrorism Fears Feed the Rise of France’s Extreme Right

“Marine Le Pen does not have to say anything,” said Alain Frachon, a former editor of the French daily Le Monde. “Each time France is hit by terrorism, the extreme right benefits.” Mr. Frachon was reflecting on the fatal stabbing Friday of a police officer by a Tunisian immigrant who had been in France for a decade without legal status before securing authorization to stay in 2019 and a temporary residence permit last year. In fact, Ms. Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally, did say something. She told the BFM-TV news network that France needs “to expel hundreds of thousands of illegals in France. We need to return to reason. Support our police, expel the illegals, eradicate Islamism.” In France, where tensions are simmering after a series of terrorist attacks, Ms. Le Pen’s rhetoric resonates. The left, which is in tatters, bereft of an effective leader or message, appears to have no answer for the moment. France is divided between vehement supporters of the police on the right, who view the force as beleaguered by the government and exposed to the double threat of vandalism and Islamist terrorism, and a left that has focused on repeated cases of police violence and the state of some French Muslims in ghettoized suburbs of misery. Mr. Macron, a centrist, has tilted to the right given the apparent absence of any threat from the left, and has identified “Islamist separatism” as a threat to the Republic. A bill still before Parliament aims to counter the sources of radicalization in France’s large Muslim population. Attacked by the right as too mild and by the left as a twisting of France’s secular model into an instrument of anti-Muslim action, it has illustrated the country’s ever-sharpening fractures. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

25 Apr 2021

The Case of Forced Cremations in Sri Lanka

Since the war ended, there have been intermittent episodes of violence between ethno-religious groups. Although the patterns seem similar, different communities are now involved in the confrontations. The focus has shifted to make Sri Lankan Muslims — who make up around 9.7% of the country’s total population — the new target of extreme Buddhist Sinhalese factions that jumped on the bandwagon of rising Islamophobia. In Sri Lanka, Muslims are defined by faith, not ethnicity since they are neither Tamil nor Sinhalese. During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential term in office from 2005 to 2015, as well as under incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Muslims experienced a rise in Islamophobia. Acts perceived as anti-Muslim include calls, in 2013, by a hardline Buddhist Sinhalese group to boycott halal food items. In 2019, the government banned burqas following the Easter Sunday bombings in which Islamist militants killed 269 people at churches and hotels. The most serious incidents involving the Muslim community since the end of the war took place in Aluthgama in 2014, Gintota in 2017 and the Ampara and Kandy’s districts in 2018. Acts of violence involved the burning of mosques, the destruction of Muslim-owned property, the displacement of thousands of civilians and the loss of lives. The brutal attack on Easter Sunday led to, among other things, the draconian application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which increased pressure on an already scrutinized minority. A well-known example of this backlash against Muslims was the case of Mohamed Shafi, a gynecologist at the Kurunegala Hospital. Shafi was arrested in 2019 under the PTA on trumped-up charges of illegally sterilizing Sinhalese women. Hejaaz Hizbullah, a senior lawyer, peace advocate and human rights activist, is currently in detention under the PTA. He has been accused of “aiding and abetting” one of the suicide bombers who attacked churches on Easter Sunday and “for engaging in activities deemed ‘detrimental to the religious harmony among communities.’” In December 2020, Fahim, a three-wheeler taxi driver, and his wife mourned not only the death of their 20-day-old son, but the forced cremation of his tiny body by state authorities. The newborn was admitted to the hospital, where he passed away after contracting COVID-19. Fahim was denied access to his son’s corpse and, despite refusing to give his consent, the baby was cremated just days later. That family’s grief was felt by many Muslims across Sri Lanka. Since COVID-19 first reached Sri Lanka in early 2020, the government announced a mandatory cremation-only policy. The government claimed this was to prevent the possible spread of the disease by coming into contact with infected corpses. The policy alarmed Sri Lankan Muslims as cremation is forbidden in Islam. Several petitions and pleas were made by the minority community to allow for the burial of their loved ones. Yet the Sri Lankan state, which has a long history of violence against minorities, refused to change its policy for over a year. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 26 Apr 2021 Edition


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