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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27 Apr 2020

Today in Islamophobia: India’s Muslims face stigma and blame for surge in COVID-19 infections. Rohingya stranded at sea for weeks are denied refuge by Bangladesh. Our recommended read today spotlights a new report from the U.K that links COVID-19 to an increase in online Islamophobia hate speech. This, and more, below:

United Kingdom

27 Apr 2020

Coronavirus conspiracy theories and fake videos are fueling a rise in racism: research | Recommended Read

My colleague, Roxana Khan-Williams, and I have examined the impacts of COVID-19 on social media. We’ve found that COVID-19 has been used by the far-right to peddle Islamophobic hate. Our study provides a snapshot of the type of language used online about Muslims and COVID-19. And what we’ve found is that stereotypes fuelled by conspiracy theories, memes and fake videos create the perfect climate for the demonisation of Muslims. As someone who has spent their academic career researching Islamophobia, I am not surprised or shocked to see this level of vitriolic hate. But it does demonstrate how quickly the internet can act as an echo chamber – and how easily such narratives become normalised. Even more worrying, is that this type of Islamophobic bigotry found on social media reinforces the “them versus us narrative” by using issues such as deprivation, poverty, social cohesion and social mobility as a Muslim problem. Indeed, many of the online posts we analysed targeted Muslims because of social and economic issues. All of which leaves Muslims more at risk of Islamophobic attacks when lockdown lifts. We also found that levels of Islamophobia increase around certain events. Ramadan, for example, seems to have led to a wave of conspiracy theories around Muslims – with claims the virus is likely to spread around this time. We also found the depiction of British Muslims on social media was synonymous with “deviance” and being a “problem-group”. And that a number of fake news stories featured claims that Muslims are flouting social distancing measures to attend mosque. One picture, for example, taken outside a Leeds mosque appears to show Muslims breaking the rules of lockdown, despite this having been taken two weeks before the official lockdown began. read the complete article

Recommended Read
27 Apr 2020

Leading Muslims hit out at Trevor Phillips’s role in Covid-19 BAME deaths inquiry

The selection of Trevor Phillips to investigate why Covid-19 is killing more Black, Asian and minority ethnic people has sparked a row after leading Muslims criticised his appointment as “insensitive”. Phillips, the former chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, was asked by Public Health England to provide expert support to an inquiry into why increasing numbers of victims of the coronavirus pandemic are from BAME backgrounds. Early evidence shows that black people are dying from the virus at almost twice the rate of their proportion of the population, according to analysis of NHS England data for the first 12,600 deaths from the virus in English hospitals. While black people account for 3.4% of the population, they make up 6.4% of the deaths so far. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the umbrella group for leading mosques and other Islamic institutions, said the review into the deaths was urgently needed but have objected to Phillips’s appointment. They say it is inappropriate that a man recently suspended from the Labour party over allegations of Islamophobia, and who has a history of making controversial remarks about Muslims, should form part of the team leading the inquiry. read the complete article

United States

27 Apr 2020

RuPaul's Drag Race: Jeff Goldblum receives backlash for Islam comments to Jackie Cox

Jeff Goldblum has found himself the subject of a backlash after asking a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race if Islam is “anti-homosexuality” and “anti-woman”. Iranian-Canadian contestant Jackie Cox designed a red-striped kaftan with a blue hijab outlined with 50 silver stars. In a voiceover she said: “You can be Middle-Eastern, you can be Muslim and you can still be American.” During the judge’s critiques, Goldblum asked Cox if she was religious. “I am not,” Cox responded. “To be honest, this outfit really represents the importance that visibility for people of religious minorities need to have in this country.” Goldblum continued to question Cox about how Islam treats LGBT+ people. “Is there something in this religion that is anti-homosexuality and anti-woman? Does that complicate the issue? I'm just raising it and thinking out loud and maybe being stupid,” he said. The show’s other judges joined in on a conversation about Islam. At one point, Ru Paul noted that drag has “always shaken the tree, so to speak”, in an apparent reference to the sensitivity of the topic. read the complete article

27 Apr 2020

Liberalism is the human face of white supremacy

The more attacks the white and corporate-controlled liberal US media outlets launch against the business-supported Trump, the more popular he becomes. As white liberals feign concern over Trump’s continued dismantlement of the welfare state and restoration of an unapologetic white supremacist system, his many supporters celebrate these achievements and demand more. What is it that makes Trump so much more persuasive to so many Americans than the liberal media and its pundits? US liberal journalism, mortgaged to big corporations and their crusade against communism, celebrated these transformations. It was the Eisenhower administration that enlisted religion and invented anti-communist Islamist jihadism as a weapon against Soviet communism and Third World socialism, with Saudi Arabia subcontracted for the role soon after. As a result of Eisenhower’s Protestant Christian institutionalisation, the proportion of religious Americans rose from 49 percent in 1940 to 69 percent in 1960. These transformations took place when the US South was run by a white supremacist, racial segregationist system, while racist institutions and structures dominated the north and the federal government. Federal laws created white-only towns called “the suburbs”, enforced by racially restrictive “covenants” for home ownership, while the 1944 GI bill made benefits in housing and education available only to white people. In the context of an institutionally white supremacist US, American journalists and intellectuals sang the glories of US democracy against Godless communism. read the complete article

27 Apr 2020

Stephen Miller has long-term vision for Trump’s ‘temporary’ immigration order, according to private call with supporters

Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller told White House supporters in a private call this week that the president’s new executive order curbing immigration will usher in the kind of broader long-term changes to American society he has advocated for years, even though the 60-day measures were publicly characterized as a “pause” during the coronavirus pandemic. Miller, the chief architect of the president’s immigration agenda and one of his longest-serving and most trusted advisers, spoke to a group of Trump surrogates Thursday in an off-the-record call about the new executive order, which had been signed the night before. Although the White House had seen the move as something that would resonate with Trump’s political base, the administration instead was facing criticism from immigration hard-liners who were disappointed that the order does not apply to temporary foreign workers despite Trump pitching it as helping to protect jobs for Americans. Miller told the group that subsequent measures were under consideration that would restrict guest worker programs, but the “the most important thing is to turn off the faucet of new immigrant labor,” he said, according to a recording obtained by The Washington Post. Miller indicated that the strategy is part of a long-term vision and not seen only as a stopgap. read the complete article

27 Apr 2020

Islamic Center Damaged in ‘Suspicious’ Fire at Start of Ramadan

The authorities said they were investigating a fire that significantly damaged an Islamic center in Missouri on Friday, the first day of fasting in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as possible arson. The Cape Girardeau, Mo., police said they were pursuing leads about the fire, at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau. Shortly before the fire began about 5 a.m., a man was captured on a security camera engaging in “suspicious activity,” according to Norman Baker, a Cape Girardeau Fire Department battalion chief. He declined to elaborate, but said the fire had been deemed “suspicious in nature” and was being investigated with help from the F.B.I.; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Missouri fire marshal. read the complete article

27 Apr 2020

Celebrating Ramadan During A Pandemic

We spent a lot of time on this program talking about how the coronavirus outbreak has changed religious practice, at least for now. So now we want to turn our attention to those who are observing the holy month of Ramadan. This annual month of fasting and reflection in Islam began Thursday evening. Normally, it would involve religious services and communal meals to break the daily fast. But those are the very activities banned in many states throughout the country. We've been checking in with religious leaders around the country to find out how they and their congregations are adapting to all this, so we've called on Imam Rizwan Ali once again. He is the religious director at the Islamic Center of Naperville in Naperville, Ill. read the complete article

27 Apr 2020

How Trump is using coronavirus to push his white nationalist election agenda

Trump's latest immigrant ban has little to do with a collapsing labour market during a global pandemic, and everything to do with election year politics. Rather than focus on improving our public health infrastructure and emergency management systems, Trump is exploiting the Covid-19 global pandemic to mobilize his anti-immigrant voter base. His executive order barring issuance of immigrant visas for 60 days is the latest in a string of anti-immigrant executive actions. From building a border wall with Mexico to issuing a Muslim Ban within weeks after becoming president, deporting and excluding non-European immigrants is the only consistent characteristic of Trump's otherwise erratic administration. What Trump's executive order will do quite well, however, is continue his emblematic strategy of blaming immigrants for America's problems past, present and future. read the complete article


27 Apr 2020

India: Charged with anti-terror law, pregnant woman sent to jail

Safoora Zargar, a research scholar from Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university, spent her first day of Ramadan in the high-security Tihar jail in the Indian capital, New Delhi. The 27-year old, in the second trimester of her first pregnancy, was arrested on April 10 and subsequently charged under the stringent anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2019 (UAPA), by the Delhi police. Zargar was associated with the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), which organised weeks of peaceful protests in the capital against a citizenship law passed last December. Police accuse Zargar of being a key "conspirator" in the February violence that erupted in northeast Delhi after supporters of the Hindu nationalist government attacked peaceful sit-ins. At least 53 people were killed, mostly Muslims, in the worst violence in the capital since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Speaking to Al Jazeera, one of Zargar's teachers described her as "outspoken and hard working". "I really hope that the judiciary will consider her academic record and her medical condition and release her soon," she said, requesting to remain anonymous. read the complete article

27 Apr 2020

Indian Muslims Face Stigma, Blame for Surge in Infections

India's government is blaming an Islamic missionary meeting for a surge in coronavirus cases, triggering a wave of violence, business boycotts and hate speech toward Muslims that experts warn could worsen the pandemic in the world's second-most populous country. The stigma faced by India's Muslims, poorer and with less access to health care than other groups, is making health workers' battle against the virus even tougher, according to veterans of other epidemics. India has about 24,500 confirmed coronavirus cases — about one in five of which have been linked to the missionary meeting — and 775 deaths, and the outbreak may not peak until June. “Not only is the (Muslim) community at a higher risk of being infected, but they will also be at a high risk of spreading the virus,” said Dr. Anant Bhan, a bioethics and global health expert. "It becomes a cycle that will continue.” India’s communal fault lines, still stressed by deadly riots over a new naturalization law that excludes Muslims, were split wide open by the allegations against Jamaat. Politicians in Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party were quoted on TV and in newspapers describing the Jamaat incident as “corona terrorism.” False news targeting Muslims began to circulate, including video clips purportedly showing congregation members spitting on authorities. The clips were quickly proven to be fake, yet by April 1, the hashtag “CoronaJihad” was trending on Twitter in India. Lav Aggarwal, joint secretary of India’s health ministry, repeatedly called out the congregation by name in daily news briefings. On April 5, he said the number of virus cases was doubling in just 4.1 days, and would have been a slower 7.4 days “if the additional ... cases due to the Tablighi Jamaat meeting would not have arisen.” read the complete article

27 Apr 2020

India's lockdown: Narratives of inequality and Islamophobia

India is now one month into the world's biggest lockdown. Just hours before it was announced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with media owners and editors and asked them to "serve as a link between the government and people" - in other words, to produce positive news stories. Simple request or tacit warning? The pandemic has also exacerbated a chronic condition in Indian news media - Islamophobia. Some outlets have even accused Muslims of creating and spreading the virus, a hateful narrative that not only plays right into the hands of Modi's BJP government, but also leaves millions bereft of potentially lifesaving information. read the complete article

27 Apr 2020

Modi’s Government Has Botched Its Response to India’s Pandemic

Acche din aane waale hain (“good days are coming”) was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign promise in 2014. Yet the country remains dangerously ill-prepared and vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic under Modi’s leadership. His is partly because of the government’s lethargic response to the crisis. On January 30, just a few hours before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus outbreak to be a global public health emergency, Indian authorities announced the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the country. This was after a week of media reports speculating that the outbreak had already begun in India. At the time, China had reported 7,711 cases. The authorities had taken few preventive measures at this point. Until late January, only three airports in India were carrying out thermal screenings, even though there had been confirmed cases of the outbreak outside China. When the first Indian case was reported, there was just one laboratory in the whole country conducting tests on coronavirus samples. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare didn’t launch its COVID-19 awareness campaign until March 6. With the COVID-19 pandemic coming hard on the heels of an uptick in misinformation stories, heightened Islamophobia, and a period of widespread communal violence, there have also been ongoing efforts to blame Muslims for the outbreak. This began when a group of Muslim missionaries who were infected with the coronavirus unknowingly spread it to communities across the country after a meeting in Delhi in March. Later, images from Pakistan went viral across social media platforms as supposed “evidence” of Muslim communities in India openly flouting the lockdown. There are now reports of hospitals refusing to admit Muslim patients unless they have test results proving that they are not infected with COVID-19. But none of this can erase the fact that neither India’s public health care system, nor its wider economy, is ready to cope with a major outbreak. A 2019 study exposed the dire state of the health care sector: with only 1.4 percent of India’s GDP allocated for health spending, public infrastructure was already severely under-resourced when the pandemic began. read the complete article


27 Apr 2020

Rohingya stranded at sea, Bangladesh says not its responsibility

The Bangladesh government has refused to allow some 500 Rohingya refugees stranded on board two fishing trawlers in the Bay of Bengal to come ashore, drawing criticism from rights groups. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told Al Jazeera on Saturday that the Rohingya refugees, who are believed to have been at sea for weeks, are "not Bangladesh's responsibility." "Why you are asking Bangladesh to take those Rohingyas? They are in the deep sea, not even in Bangladesh's territorial water," Momen said, adding that there are at least eight coastal countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal. "It's your duty to ask Myanmar government first because those are their citizens," Momen told Al Jazeera. The two trawlers - carrying an estimated 500 Rohingya women, men and children - are in the Bay of Bengal after being rejected by Malaysia, which has imposed restrictions on all boats in light of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, the stranded Rohingya might "have been at sea for weeks without adequate food and water." read the complete article


27 Apr 2020

A Ramadan Like No Other: Images From Around the World

Sprawling banquets that convened crowds of relatives have shrunk to modest meals for immediate family. Imams who led prayers in packed mosques have been addressing the faithful over Zoom. And stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines have sapped the nighttime jubilance of cities with large Muslim populations, from Cairo to Jakarta to Dearborn, Mich. For the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan is a social and spiritual high point, a time to gather with friends and family, and to focus on fasting, prayer and scripture. But the coronavirus pandemic is transforming this Ramadan across the world, clearing out mosques, canceling communal prayers and forcing families to replace physical gatherings with virtual meet-ups. read the complete article


27 Apr 2020

Ramadan For Muslim Uyghurs Could Mean Jail

For ethnic Uyghur Muslims in northwestern China’s Xinjiang province, observance of Ramadan – banned by the Chinese Communist Get together (CCP) – could land them in prison. In accordance to the Globe Uyghur Congress, the CCP systematically targets Uyghurs – and other ethnic minorities, like Kazakhs and Kyrgyz people – in Xinjiang during Ramadan by burning copies of the Quran, banning halal foods merchandise, and forcing dining places to continue being open in the course of the month of fasting. Dusk-to-dawn fasting – a person of the hallmarks of Ramadan – is selected a “sign of extremism” in Xinjiang by the CCP, according to a report published final summertime by Amnesty Intercontinental. All through Ramadan, other signals of “extremism” include “conducting organization as usual” and “women wearing religious garments to function,” Radio Free Asia (RFA) reviews. These displays of spiritual affiliation, no matter if open up or non-public, are prohibited by the communist country. Uyghurs caught demonstrating these rituals could be punished with an assignment to a Chinese concentration camp, in accordance to RFA. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 27 Apr 2020 Edition


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