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 2021

Today in Islamophobia: A prominent U.S. Muslim advocacy group says it received 6,000 civil rights complaints, with the majority involving the issue of immigration, as the court case against anti-Muslim media personality Tommy Robinson continues, while in India, an academic warns that discriminatory measures by the government “won’t stop at Muslims – others will be targeted too.” Our recommended read of the day is by Sitarah Mohammadi and Sajjad Askary


26 Apr 2021

The EU efforts to repatriate Afghan asylum seekers are dangerous

Currently, there are around 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees across the globe. In 2020, Afghan refugees were the second largest group of asylum seekers in continental Europe, having fled Afghanistan for a variety of reasons including persecution, conflict, economic hardship, and climate induced displacement. Each person has a different reason, in many cases multiple reasons, for leaving in search of safety. In late 2020, the European Union and the government of Afghanistan entered into negotiations to extend the “Joint Way Forward” – an informal agreement they signed in 2016 to facilitate the repatriation of Afghans who came to Europe to seek protection. The deal, which essentially ties aid for Afghanistan to assurances that it would streamline the return of Afghans whose asylum claims were rejected in Europe, has been controversial since its inception. Countless human rights organisations, refugee advocates and migration experts insisted since the beginning that the Joint Way Forward would only result in vulnerable people being returned to a volatile and increasingly hostile environment. The European governments and agencies are also aware of the many dangers posed by the agreement. In a leaked document from March 2016, EU agencies acknowledged Afghanistan’s “worsening security situation” as well as the “record levels of terrorist attacks and civilian casualties” in the country. However, they insisted that “more than 80,000 persons could potentially need to be returned in the near future”. Since the signing of the Joint Way Forward, European governments repatriated tens of thousands of Afghan asylum seekers, including young adults and children, with devastating consequences. Several refugees have faced attacks by the Taliban and other armed groups after being deported from Europe to Afghanistan, and many others are living with the threat of violence, hunger and death to this day. Despite all this, the EU still appears to be determined to repatriate as many Afghan refugees as possible. While the amendments, if any, that will be made to the deal as a result of last year’s renegotiation have not been made public yet, it is apparent that the EU will continue to use the Joint Way Forward to pressure the Afghan government to readmit its nationals in the coming years. But this is not the time to focus on repatriation. For many Afghan refugees in Europe, and particularly Hazaras, returning to the homeland is more dangerous today than ever before, for several reasons. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
27 Apr 2021

Australia examines modern slavery laws amid concerns over products linked to Uyghur abuse

The Australian government has left the door open to toughening up the nation’s laws against modern slavery amid concerns about human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region. Officials also revealed at a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the government was in regular discussions “with all China-facing businesses” and had used those conversations to highlight the risks of forced labour in supply chains from Xinjiang. Uyghur community representatives told the same hearing Australia had been too slow to respond to “severe oppression” and “atrocities” in the region, possibly because the government was afraid of facing further trade sanctions from Beijing, which denies the accusations. The Australian government signalled it would consider tighter restrictions as part of a forthcoming review of the Modern Slavery Act, which critics say is weak because it doesn’t carry fines for breaches. The legislation that passed the parliament in 2018 is limited in its scope, with only Australia’s biggest companies – those with annual revenue of more than $100m – required to submit annual statements on the steps they are taking to address modern slavery in their supply chains and operations. Vanessa Holben, an Australian Border Force group manager, said the government would review the law next year “to ensure it is delivering a targeted, effective response”. “The government will continue to monitor reports of forced labour globally, including in Xinjiang, and assess Australia’s policy settings and engage with stakeholders and partners with a view to supporting international efforts to reduce the risk of modern slavery, including forced labour, in Australia’s supply chains,” she said. read the complete article

United States

26 Apr 2021

How the 22-year-old who owns the @Muslim Instagram handle used it to launch a disruptive media company

22-year-old Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh founded Muslim, a publication and brand for Muslim youth. In two years, @Muslim on Instagram has gained more than 750K followers. The publication now has a sizable audience on all social media platforms and a Snapchat partnership. While religious publications in the past have focused on providing spiritual guidance for their audiences, Muslim focuses on being a unique space where young Muslims can get news, relate to other Muslim youth, and gain a sense of belonging. As far as mainstream media goes, Muslim is slowly making a name for itself. Even if you don't immediately recognize the platform's #MuslimTikTokMonday or "Muslims React To" YouTube videos, there's a chance you may have seen its viral infographics of the Yemen crisis, which were shared by celebrities including Gigi Hadid and Halsey, or the site's coverage of Rihanna's controversial use of an Islamic prayer during her Savage x Fenty Fashion Show. Al-Khatahtbeh first got the idea for Muslim during his time as an undergraduate student at Rutgers University. Donald Trump had become president during Al-Khatahtbeh's freshman year of college, which contributed to a surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric. Al-Khatahtbeh often found himself the only Muslim person in his classrooms. He often felt like he had to be the spokesperson and defendant for the Muslim community in school. He wanted to change that. read the complete article

26 Apr 2021

Hundreds show to clean up vandalized Moorhead mosque

The atmosphere was jubilant Monday, April 26, after nearly 400 people came to help the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center clean up after the mosque was vandalized over the weekend. So many people showed up with cleaning supplies, including pressure washers, chemicals and scrub brushes, that many had to wait on the sidelines for a chance to help. The volunteers mingled from the lawn to tables with pizza, doughnuts, bottled water and soft drinks, to discuss the hate speech that an unidentified person spray-painted on the mosque late Saturday. Phrases such as “Death to Islam” and women "can’t vote," along with racial slurs, were removed from the mosque in less than two hours Monday. The Moorhead Police Department is working with the FBI to investigate the vandalism. Although authorities did not give an update on the investigation Monday, Moorhead police called the act of vandalism "hate messages directed towards the Islamic faith," on Sunday. Cani Adan, chairman of the Moorhead Human Rights Commission said, “It is an ugly incident, but it has united us.” Matuor Alier, chairman of the Fargo Human Relations Commission, said he was impressed with the community’s response to the vandalism. “To see the possibility of the community. They showed up faster than we thought. This is how we should respond to the negative things in the community,” Alier said. read the complete article

26 Apr 2021

Report shows Muslim advocacy group received over 6000 complaints in past year

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has released a report detailing nationwide incidents of civil rights complaints by Muslim Americans that the group received over the past year. The 2021 report is named Resilience in the Face of Hate. The country’s “largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization” says it received 6,000 civil rights complaints, with the largest number of complaints involving immigration, travel-related and discrimination issues. Employment discrimination accounting for the majority of discrimination complaints. The report’s breakdown shows Muslim Americans submitted an increased number of complaints of anti-Muslim bias as the country lay in the grips of a deadly pandemic. The reports splits the 6,144 complaints into six complaint topics: Immigration and travel (1,814), Discrimination: (1,151: employment discrimination accounted for 57% of all discrimination complaints), Law enforcement and government overreach (439), Hate/bias incidents (241), Rights of the incarcerated (326), School incidents (114: bullying accounted for 44% of all school-related complaints) read the complete article

26 Apr 2021

Editorial: The No Ban Act would limit the power of future President Trumps

It took him three tries over 17 months to finally broaden the entry ban sufficiently for the Supreme Court to let it stand despite the clear anti-Muslim intent — Trump said during the campaign that he wanted a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” — and the administration’s legal dodges to achieve it. Lost in the debate was the issue of how the president had such power in the first place. It’s because Congress gave it to him. Federal law gives the president significant leeway to develop rules and regulations on how the immigration system should work, including wide latitude on deciding who can enter the country. In delegating such authority to the president, Congress assumed the elected chief executive would have the nation’s best interests at heart, would respect the democratic institutions that make government work, and would not base policies on a foundation of racial and religious animus. Well, Trump exposed the dangerous repercussions from that mistaken presumption. On Wednesday, the House began trying to wrest back some power by passing the No Ban Act, a bill by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) to bar a president from banning entry on the basis of religion. The proposal also would restrict temporary bans to those that “address specific acts implicating a compelling government interest” in protecting “the security or public safety of the United States or the preservation of human rights, democratic processes or institutions, or international stability.” Those are sound steps that boil down to Congress clarifying what powers it wants to give the executive in this section of immigration law, while making it more difficult for a rogue president to concoct another variation of a Muslim ban in the future. The sad part is that such a legal restriction is even necessary. Early indications are the measure faces an uphill fight in the Senate, but its members ought to join the House and send it along to President Biden, who has voiced support for the proposal. And Congress should not stop there. Trump taught us many things about the weaknesses in some of our democratic institutions, including the fact that the executive branch has, over the decades, knocked the balance of powers off kilter. In a sense, Trump merely accelerated the ongoing shift in power from an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to a president willing to act unilaterally. This isn’t about liberal versus conservative views on specific issues so much as it is about the legislative branch trimming the sails of the executive branch. read the complete article

26 Apr 2021

The refugee cap the Biden administration touted — then ditched — is back on the table

The White House is again considering setting the number of refugees who can enter the United States through September at about 62,500, according to three people familiar with the deliberations, under pressure from immigrant rights groups furious about President Biden’s recent retreat from that target. Less than two weeks after White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden intends to announce a new cap for the fiscal year by May 15, but signaled that his original target was no longer realistic, people inside and outside the White House suddenly sound hopeful about landing at or near the number the Biden administration announced with some fanfare in February. One of the people familiar with the deliberations attributed the moving target in part to a review the White House is conducting of policy developments, progress and legal considerations relevant to the decision. read the complete article

26 Apr 2021

Supreme Court to consider terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida’s request to learn more about his CIA-sponsored torture

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would take up a request by a Guantánamo Bay terrorism suspect for more information about his CIA-sponsored torture, a disclosure the U.S. government opposes, calling it a threat to national security. The prisoner is Abu Zubaida, once a prized capture whose torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been extensively documented. But the government has invoked the “state secrets” privilege to oppose his efforts for additional information about foreign intelligence officials who partnered with the CIA in detention facilities abroad. The government already has declassified vast amounts of information about Abu Zubaida, whose birth name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein and whose closeness to Osama bin Laden, the deceased founder of al-Qaeda, is now questioned. But he and his attorney have asked for more disclosure and to question two CIA contractors, James Mitchell and John Jessen, about the interrogations. Abu Zubaida wants the information because he has intervened, through his attorneys, in a Polish investigation of the CIA’s conduct in that country, where he was once held. President George W. Bush described Abu Zubaida in 2002 as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” But intelligence, military and law enforcement sources told The Washington Post in 2009 that officials later concluded he was a Pakistan-based “fixer” for radical Islamist ideologues, not a formal member of al-Qaeda, much less one of its leaders. Abu Zubaida told a 2007 panel of military officers at the detention facility in Cuba that “doctors told me that I nearly died four times” and that he endured “months of suffering and torture” on the false premise that he was an al-Qaeda leader. read the complete article

United Kingdom

26 Apr 2021

Syrian teenager suing Tommy Robinson for libel seeks up to £190,000 damages

A lawyer for Jamal Hijazi, who was filmed being attacked in a Huddersfield playground and had to flee the town after the far-right activist aired “entirely distorted anti-Muslim” claims about him, also said Robinson had continued during the libel trial to exacerbate distress caused to the family. She made the comments during her closing submission at the end of a high court case in which Robinson is representing himself. Catrin Evans QC, representing Hijazi, called for “substantial damages” between £150,000 and £190,000 for the teenager if her client won the claim. “In relation to the allegations, which the defendant has sought to prove as substantially true, we suggest that he has not proved either of them,” she told the court. There was a lack of evidence for the claims of Robinson, she said, adding: “We do rely on the defendant’s agenda, which we say is an anti-Muslim one, which is why he waded into this … Jamal was the victim of that.” “Not only has the defendant sought to try and prove a case that he was never going to be able to do, but he has even, in his closing submissions, … continued to exacerbate the hurt and distress the claimant has experienced.” read the complete article


27 Apr 2021

Podcast: Muslims Are Feeling Excluded, But Anti-CAA Protests Provided a Positive Opportunity Forward

In recent years, the Muslims of India have been besieged by the forces of Hindutva and by a series of legal measures that appear designed against them, from the Citizenship (Amendment) Act to various states’ ‘love jihad’ laws. Ali Khan Mahmudabad feels that it won’t stop at Muslims – others will be targeted too. Mahmudabad, an academic and scholar who teaches at Ashoka University, says the community is feeling excluded. In a podcast interview with Sidharth Bhatia, he says that the emergence of young voices, especially of women, is a chance for Muslims to come together. read the complete article


26 Apr 2021

After A Deadly Fire, A Somber Ramadan For Rohingya Children

The embers were still burning in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh as UNICEF teams rushed to help children and families after a devastating fire swept through four Rohingya refugee camps on March 22, 2021. UNICEF staff and community volunteers immediately began working to reunite separated children with their families and to support relocation efforts for families whose shelters had been destroyed. The fire is believed to have killed at least 11 people, including 3 children. An estimated 50,000 people — half of them children — were left homeless by the blaze. "The fire yesterday destroyed almost everything," UNICEF Cox's Bazar Communication Officer Nazzina Mohsin said on March 23. "Everything will have to start from scratch now." Observing Ramadan without fear of reprisal is a relatively new concept for the Rohingya community. Before they were forced out of Myanmar's Rakhine State, where they had lived for centuries, they prayed in secret or risked arrest. Mosques sprang up in the crowded encampments of Cox's Bazar and refugee families felt free to fast, pray and study the Quran. "It feels good to do that," Jafor Alam told a reporter during his first Ramadan in Bangladesh in 2018. "Here we can pray." But this Ramadan is unlike any other for the families struggling to survive amidst the wreckage of the fire. More than 140 learning centers were destroyed; water and sanitation facilities sustained significant damage and will need to be repaired. Meanwhile, COVID-19 remains a constant threat in the crowded camps, where social distancing and access to soap and water for hand washing remain hard to come by. read the complete article

Bosnia and Herzegovina

26 Apr 2021

Homage to Ratko Mladic Provokes Fear in Bosnian Town

Near the school and the municipality building in the little town of Foca, which lies on the River Drina in eastern Bosnia, a huge new mural has appeared in recent days that depicting former Bosnian Serb Army general Ratko Mladic appearing to salute passers-by. The mural tribute to Mladic, who is currently appealing against his conviction for genocide and other wartime crimes, is about 20 metres long and features the slogan “Praise be to your mother”. Its appearance is one of a series of recent troubling incidents in Foca, which is located in the country’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity and was the site of widespread ethnic cleansing by the Bosnian Serb Army, which was commanded by Mladic, during the 1992-95 war. An unknown person also opened fire at the minaret of the Aladza Mosque, a cultural, historical and religious monument for which Foca was famous before the war. The mosque was blown up by Bosnian Serb forces during the war in 1992 and only reopened again after renovation in 2019. Bullets from an automatic rifle were also found outside the front door of Serif Halilovic, a Bosniak who fled Foca during the war but returned to his hometown with his family seven years ago. Halilovic expressed dismay that no one has been arrested yet by the local police. “We are sort of used to hearing bursts of gunfire fired by drunk people when bullets are flying around our heads. However, the shooting at the Aladza Mosque, at the minaret, sounded all the alarms. It also saddens us. The reaction by the police and local institutions scares us even more,” he said. An unknown person also opened fire at the minaret of the Aladza Mosque, a cultural, historical and religious monument for which Foca was famous before the war. The mosque was blown up by Bosnian Serb forces during the war in 1992 and only reopened again after renovation in 2019. Bullets from an automatic rifle were also found outside the front door of Serif Halilovic, a Bosniak who fled Foca during the war but returned to his hometown with his family seven years ago. Halilovic expressed dismay that no one has been arrested yet by the local police. “We are sort of used to hearing bursts of gunfire fired by drunk people when bullets are flying around our heads. However, the shooting at the Aladza Mosque, at the minaret, sounded all the alarms. It also saddens us. The reaction by the police and local institutions scares us even more,” he said. A controversial mural of World War II-era Serbian nationalist Chetnik leader Dragoljub ‘Draza’ Mihailovic was also painted in Foca’s town centre last year. Mihailovic was executed for high treason and Nazi collaboration by the Yugoslav authorities in 1946 but rehabilitated by a Serbian court in 2015. “The mural of convicted war criminal Mladic and the mural of Chetnik commander Draza Mihailovic are only 20 meters away from the notorious Partizan hall in Foca, where our mothers, sisters and other loved ones were raped during the last war,” said Dzemal Imamovic, president of the Association of Returnees and Displaced Persons of Foca Municipality. “Imagine what it feels like to come here for a woman who has experienced such unpleasant things from their neighbors,” he added. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 27 Apr 2021 Edition


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