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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28 Apr 2020

Today in Islamophobia: South African police apologizes for anti-Muslim rhetoric during lockdown, as Kuwait appeals to the OIC to tackle Islamophobia in India. Our recommended read today is by Talmiz Ahmad titled “How Hindutva Hatred is Jeopardising India’s Gulf Ties.” This, and more, below:


28 Apr 2020

How Hindutva Hatred is Jeopardising India’s Gulf Ties | Recommended Read

Now, when the world is grappling with the extraordinary challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic, relations shaped, elevated and solidified by the prime minister have been jeopardised – not by external rivals – but by cohorts from within his own ideological and political bandwagon, the Hindutva brigade. All of a sudden, tweets on social media and reports on mainstream television and newspaper columns are awash with harsh and angry exchanges between India’s Hindu nationalists and some sections of the Gulf’s elite – royal family members, business persons, professionals and human rights activists. These tirades began innocuously enough: in an exchange between two Indians, a resident in the UAE, Saurabh Upadhyaya, who heads a consultancy firm, tweeted abusive messages about members of the Tablighi Jamaat; he, inter alia, referred to the Tablighis spitting on people as a “new form of jihad”. He ended his virulent message with: “Death to radical Islamic tabligi (sic) terrorists and other radical Islamic sons of satan.” To this he added some choice expletives in Romanised Hindi. Then, in a unique development in Gulf annals, a member of the Sharjah royal house, Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi responded to this tweet. Recalling her family’s close ties with India, the sheikha said: “… your rudeness is not welcome. … You make your bread and butter from this land which you scorn and your ridicule will not go unnoticed.” She then quoted UAE laws prohibiting hate speech by citizens and non-citizens. Another Gulf resident, Preeti Giri, an executive director with a major local company, in her tweet told her followers that the actor Amir Khan belonged to the Tablighi Jamaat which was “Sunni, Hanafi ideology which was 99% Deobandi”; she exhorted them not to be so naïve as to “run after his films”. A prominent Emirati businesswoman, Noora al Ghurair, reprimanded Giri: “By your hateful logic Sunnis by association are terrorists because of propaganda against Muslims in India? Do U know [in] the country you live in all rulers are Sunnis? U want to boycott us?” An academic of Indian orign, Ashok Swain of Sweden’s Uppsala University, wrote an opinion piece in Gulf News, Dubai, on April 22 in which he detailed how the pandemic had been deliberately communalised by Hindutva elements. He said: “Islamophobia has reached its peak in India with the increasing rise of coronavirus crisis. This is not just a primordial reaction of society, but a very well planned and finely executed political project.” read the complete article

Recommended Read
28 Apr 2020

Kuwait appeals to Muslim world body to tackle Islamophobia in India

Kuwait has appealed to the Organisation of International Cooperation (OIC) to intervene in India to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. In a statement released on Monday, the General Secretariat of the Kuwait Council of Ministers expressed its "deep concern" about the treatment of Indian Muslims. It called on the OIC to take "necessary and urgent measures" to "preserve the rights of Muslims there". The statement follows comments last month in which Kuwait raised concerns about the treatment of Muslims in the country. read the complete article

28 Apr 2020

Exclusive: HSBC to block donations to Palestinian aid charity Interpal

The bank sent out letters earlier this month to account holders who make regular donations in support of the London-based charity, informing them any payments would stop on 17 May. It gave no reason for taking the action. The move from HSBC will come as a particularly heavy and bitter blow to Interpal because it has been announced during Ramadan, when traditionally Muslims give far more than at any other period of the year. Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of the board of trustees of Interpal, told Middle East Eye: "It is disappointing that a major bank would do this during Ramadan, which is so important for donors and our beneficiaries. But also during the coronavirus pandemic. No reason has been given, neither to the donors nor the charity. That is quite astonishing." Founded 25 years ago, Interpal is described on the Charity Commission's website as “one of the leading British charities focusing on providing relief and development aid to Palestinians” in the West Bank, Gaza, and in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. read the complete article

28 Apr 2020

We are all niqabis now: Coronavirus masks reveal hypocrisy of face covering bans

Now that face masks are being used to help fight against the spread of COVID-19, it has caused some to look anew at general discrimination against Muslim women wearing niqabs. And it has got me wondering about Québec’s face-covering ban, which came into law in October 2017 as well as France’s ban which came into law in 2011. If Canadians, Americans and Europeans can get used to the new ubiquitous face masks, will they also get used to niqabs? Will discrimination against the few women in the West who wear it stop? The European disapproval of the face veil has a long history, as I learned while researching for my book on Canadian Muslim women and the veil. Niqab has been seen as both a symbol of cultural threat and also of the silencing of Muslim women. In her book, Western Representations of the Muslim Woman, Moja Kahf traces one of the first discussions of the veil in western fiction to the novel Don Quixote. One of the novel’s characters, Dorotea, asks about a veiled woman who walks into an inn: “Is this lady a Christian or a Moor?” The answer came: “Her dress and her silence make us think she is what we hope she is not.” As this scene from Don Quixote indicates, European women sometimes also covered their faces or hair but when they did so, it was not associated with something negative. Eventually, the rise of western liberalism, with its prioritization of the individual, capitalism and consumerism led to a new “face politics.” Jenny Edkins, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, studied the rise of a politics centred around this new meaning of the “face,” including the idea that the face “if it can be ‘read’ correctly, may be seen to display the essential nature of the person within.” The flip side of this new face politics became true as well: concealing the face became something suspicious, as if the person had something they wanted to hide, and prevent others from knowing the real them. In a recent op-ed for the Toronto Star, University of Windsor law student Tasha Stansbury pointed out that in Montréal hospitals, people are being asked to wear surgical masks. They walk in and interact with medical staff without being asked to remove their mask for identity or security purposes. But a woman wearing a niqab walking into the same hospital would be forced by law to remove it. read the complete article

28 Apr 2020

A Note to the Gay Community IN THE GLOBAL NORTH On Islamophobia

Just because you got called a f*ggot once in school, doesn’t mean you get to dictate how communities handle critiques, especially if that critique is based on no reading and is directed toward communities that are victims of state-sponsored violence on a scale this world hasn’t seen in decades. Islamophobia is systemic. It has been around since Napoleon ran amok in what is now Turkey. It is embedded in the history of Britain and America, where ‘Muhammedans’ were massacred and the violence justified because of their barbarism. And, to this very day, they are being put in internment camps, ethnically cleansed and facing an internationally-backed campaign to derail their lives. Whether that be in Iraq or Pakistan, the Uighurs or the Rohingya, Donald Trump or Narenda Modi. If for one moment you would extend your viewpoint outside of your own city, let alone your own home, you would realise that your experience at the hands of the state, and henceforth your ‘oppression’, is not the same as that faced by the Muslim community. And so you do not get to speak on the oppression of Muslims who are queer when we ourselves are met with that same, debilitating violence; when we are being deported from our home countries and sent to far-off states that want us dead. You are not being blown to bits. Your child is not being left, face-first, dead in the sand on a beach in Europe. Your parents are not being kept in an internment camp where they are indoctrinated and tortured, like the Uighurs. You are not being uprooted from your homes and massacred like the Rohingyas. You are not being outlawed as human beings worthy of refuge by Modi. You are not being kidnapped, raped and jailed for fighting against oppressive states. read the complete article


28 Apr 2020

‘Don’t Spread Misinformation or Blame a Community,’ Advises Centre as COVID-19 Cases Spike in India

Amid rising cases of coronavirus in India, the Centre on Monday stressed that spreading misinformation and panic should be avoided, adding that no community or area should be blamed for the spread of COVID-19. Addressing a press conference, Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) said, “We should avoid spreading misinformation and panic. No community or area should be labelled for COVID-19 spread.” He further said that in particular, healthcare and sanitary workers, or police shouldn’t be targeted as they were helping people. read the complete article

28 Apr 2020

How Indian Muslims Engaged in COVID-19 Relief Efforts Are Countering Hate With Love

In Mumbai, “Food – Ek Chhoti Si Asha” is a broad community relief effort initiated by Nikhat Mohamedy, a Hijab-clad Muslim lady. Now serving over 25,000 meals a day to the poor and destitute across the metropolitan city and far-flung suburbs, it all started with Mohamedy coming across a daily wage worker from the slums who had not eaten for two days. This led to her cooking food for 150 people in the vicinity of her home near Crawford Market. The sheer extent of the need and Mohamedy’s passion for relieving hunger saw many more people join and contribute to the effort with their time and money. Today, the organisation has one main kitchen serving 15,000 meals a day and several “satellite kitchens” across the city serving an additional 10,000 to 15,000 people. Volunteers, donors and beneficiaries come from every religious community and every sect. “This is about recognising the fact that we are all children of Adam and Eve, and feeding those brothers and sisters who are hungry and deprived is fundamental to expressing our humanity, ” says Mohamedy. “For me, personally, this work is also an expression of my identity as a Muslim. Widespread prejudice against Muslims cannot be allowed to get in the way of serving all who are impacted by this crisis regardless of their religious identify or social status,” she adds. The point of highlighting Muslims doing the same is not to take anything away from the magnanimity of these laudable efforts. In the current climate, however, of unending vitriol being poured on Muslims by some public figures and media outlets, there is something especially uplifting about so many Indian Muslims rising above anger and bitterness to stay focused on providing relief to fellow citizens. read the complete article

United States

28 Apr 2020

I’m Sorry, Jeff Goldblum Said What About Islam on Drag Race?

For the episode’s “Stars and Stripes” runway, after a main challenge centered on a political debate, contestant Jackie Cox wore a blue starry hijab and a red-and-white striped caftan. During his comments, Goldblum wondered about the implications of wearing an Islam-related look on Drag Race. “Isn’t this an interesting wrinkle, though,” he said. “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.” Jackie, who ended up in the bottom two for her performance in the main challenge, explained that she wore the outfit as a commentary on Trump’s Muslim ban, as a drag queen of Iranian heritage. “You can be Middle Eastern, you can be Muslim, and you can still be American,” she says in her voice-over. Later, she defended her choice after Goldblum’s comments. “When the Muslim ban happened, it really destroyed a lot of my faith in this country. It really hurt my family. And that’s so wrong to me,” Jackie said, tearing up. read the complete article

28 Apr 2020

Mort Klein’s attack against HIAS isn’t just offensive. It’s dangerous.

In fact, the ZOA resorted to inexcusable and reckless rhetoric when presented with Lob’s potential leadership. The ZOA’s seven-page letter protesting Lob’s candidacy centers on Lob’s leadership of HIAS, which, per the ZOA, makes her unfit to lead the Conference. “HIAS relies on for its refugee streams and closely collaborates with anti-Semitic, anti-Israel U.N. agencies,” the letter claimed. “HIAS’s litigation positions are detrimental to the safety of the American (and especially, American Jewish) public.” But name-calling isn’t the only issue here. Jews like to debate, associations always have internal drama and personal vendettas, and one would expect a Jewish association to have plenty of both. It’s the clearly xenophobic language that ZOA’s president Mort Klein deployed against HIAS that makes this a true shonda. “The overwhelming majority of refugees HIAS brings to America are non Jews and mostly Muslims,” Klein tweeted. “The unvetted Syrian Muslims they bring here have gone to schools teaching hatred of Jews and Israel.” Even worse, the vision presented by the ZOA’s screed against Lob portrays HIAS as a sinister America-hating group scheming to bring over America-hating Muslims to the detriment of the U.S. That’s also the central claim of white genocide theory, which was the driving motive for white terrorist massacres in Pittsburgh, El Paso, and Christchurch, as well as the bloody Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. This isn’t just offensive; it’s dangerous. Because xenophobes capitalize on it. The ZOA’s latest attack on HIAS is already being amplified by anti-immigration conservatives. “Under Ms. Lob’s leadership… HIAS became preoccupied with making money on government contracts by resettling mostly unassimilable Muslims here,” anti-Muslim Republican operative Frank Gaffney wrote last week in a piece titled “ZOA is right, Lob is wrong for the Conference of Presidents.” read the complete article

28 Apr 2020

Trump’s Ramadan retweet questioned

US President Donald Trump has suggested there “could be a difference” in how social distancing rules are enforced for Ramadan versus Easter during one of his daily press briefings. Al Jazeera’s White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett asked the president about a retweet from the conservative author and political commentator Paul Sperry. “Let's see if authorities enforce the social-distancing orders for mosques during Ramadan like they did churches during Easter," the tweet read. Critics accused the president of promoting anti-Muslim rhetoric by retweeting the statement. “Do you know, Mr President, that in fact, you’re suggesting that imams wouldn’t follow social distancing?” Halkett asked Trump. “I am somebody that believes in faith,” Trump replied. “And it matters not what your faith is, but our politicians seem to treat different faiths very differently, and they seem to think, and I don’t know what happened with our country, but the Christian faith is treated much differently than it was, and I think it’s treated very unfairly.” read the complete article

28 Apr 2020

How Stars and Stripes Hijab on 'Rupaul's Drag Race' Reveals American's Troubling Relationship to gender, ethicity and 'that' religion

That said: if we had known Ms. Cox would be featuring this garment on tonight, we could’ve clocked Jeff Goldblum’s Islamophobic response from clear across the club. We would’ve told you that women who dress like Cox to express modesty are immediately racialized as Muslim, forced to defend Islam against accusations that it is uniquely hostile toward women and queer people, and especially vulnerable to violence. Cox has made much of her Iranian heritage, dubbing herself “the Persian Princess of Drag” and tearfully thanking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants like Cox’s mother, an American citizen born in Iran. But so far this season—as we literally just said!—Cox has claimed her Iranian-ness solely in racial and cultural terms. Even when commending AOC for “working in Congress in solidarity with Congresswoman Tlaib and Congresswoman Omar,” the first two Muslim women elected to serve in Congress, Cox never said the words ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslim’. We assumed that Cox or the producers or both had decided to frame Cox’s story explicitly in terms of racism and immigration, which fit neatly into season 12’s pronounced emphasis on urging viewers toward increased political engagement. read the complete article

South Africa

28 Apr 2020

South African police apologize for anti-Muslim remarks during virus lockdown

South Africa's Police Minister Bheki Cele apologized to the Muslim community Sunday for blasphemous remarks made by a police officer while arresting worshippers for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules. Cele's apology came hours after a video clip circulated on social media showing police officers arresting 24 worshipers in Mpumalanga province Saturday. At the end of the clip, one officer is heard asking the worshippers: "Are you bigger than the president? Is Muhammad bigger than the president?" South Africans are currently observing a lockdown due to the novel coronavirus which was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on March 27. They are not allowed to leave their homes or congregate in churches or mosques. National Police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said in a statement that the comments made by the officer are "rather unfortunate, and it is unacceptable that someone could make such an utterance.'' He said the police management has directed that the matter be investigated and the person or persons who made the comment be identified and punished. read the complete article


28 Apr 2020

Poland's government is leading a Catholic revival. It has minorities and liberals worried

I'm in downtown Warsaw in the middle of Europe's biggest far-right rally and it's messing with my mind. The weird part isn't the souvenir stands selling anti-Muslim t-shirts or the angry young men wearing skull masks and chanting "f*ggots forbidden". That's standard for an ultranationalist rally. What's really jarring is the sight of priests standing behind them clutching rosaries. Then there are the old ladies singing songs about bashing Marxists and the young families who've brought their babies out in prams to celebrate the parade. In Poland, ultranationalists aren't just obsessed with white civilisation and getting rid of foreigners. They're also big on Catholic family values and determined to stamp out what they see as decadent Western liberalism. "You know what Marxists and Lefties are afraid of?" far-right leader Robert Bakiewicz shouts to the crowd of 60,000. "They are afraid of this," he says, holding up a crucifix and kissing it. Since the populist Law and Justice Party was elected in 2015, it has tried to make abortion even more restricted, cracked down on IVF, voted to make sex education a criminal offence and declared much of the country to be "LGBT-free zones". read the complete article

United Kingdom

28 Apr 2020

Man Like Mobeen Is One of TV's Best Takes on Islamophobia

Man Like Mobeen usually addresses sociopolitical issues in humorous fashion, which started with Guz Khan depicting the title character, Mobeen, in his web series as a funny gangster trying to reform and break stigmas. But these stigmas aren't just that of at-risk youth like himself who embarked down the wrong path; he also wants to remove the idea that Muslims are threats in Britain. And while Khan's Mobeen keeps it cheeky and punchy, it's still very profound, evoking memories of how Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show deftly called out American racism in the 2000s. Here, there are a few instances where Mobeen gets to really wade into the topic, the first coming when he gets arrested at a white supremacist rally for allegedly throwing a thermos at a racist speaker. His sister, Aqsa, did it, but Mobeen takes the rap and is locked in a police jeep by Officer Harper with the man until the rally ends. There, Mobeen shows the man despite him being labeled an Islamic threat, they love the same thing: culture such as art and food, etc. They relate on so many levels, the man starts to empathize with Mobeen, but as usual, when they're let back out, he forgets how Mobeen tried to save him during an asthma attack, and resorts to his hateful ways. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 Apr 2020 Edition


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