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 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, many Muslim Americans—including lawyers, elected officials, and political operatives—are voicing concerns over a potential Biden federal judge appointee, as international pressure grows to confront China over its use of surveillance technology to monitor and track Uighur Muslims within China, and Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved a proposed ban on wearing full-face veils including Muslim burqas in public. Our recommended read of the day is by Arunav Kaul on the Supreme Court of India’s recent refusal to stay the deportation of Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar. This and more below:


27 Apr 2021

Indian Supreme Court’s Stance on the Deportation of Rohingya Refugees Violates International Law

In a recent order, the Supreme Court of India refused to stay the deportation of Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar and directed the Indian government to follow the prescribed procedure for their deportation. According to media reports, there are close to 150 to 170 refugees detained by the Indian police and set to be deported. This is not the first time the court has refused to stay such a deportation. The case was first filed in the Supreme Court in 2013 around when many people from the Rohingya community started fleeing Myanmar. Since then, the Supreme Court has refused to stay their deportation on multiple occasions. Persecution of Rohingya Muslims has been going on in Myanmar for several years. Today’s refugee crisis began in 2012 in the Rakhine state in Myanmar, where thousands of Rohingyas, an ethnic Muslim minority group, were systematically killed and forced to flee to nearby countries, including India. As per the estimates of the Indian government, there are more than 14,000 Rohingyas that have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in India. Another 40,000 of them are residing illegally and with no proper documents, according to the government. The move to deport Rohingya refugees poses a serious risk to their lives, including to the lives of their children. Further, given the recent military coup in Myanmar, and the violent crackdown on dissent that’s taken place in its aftermath, the danger of violence that Rohingyas would face if they returned to Myanmar has only increased. The Indian government’s decision to deport them goes against an established rule of non-refoulement that can be found, not only in the Refugee Convention of 1951, but also in several other international instruments and customary international law. However, India is not a party to the Convention, so to what extent does the rule of non-refoulement apply? This is an issue that needs thorough analysis. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day

United States

27 Apr 2021

A Biden Judge Would Be the First-Ever Muslim on the Federal Bench. Some Muslims Are Furious.

In March, President Joe Biden announced he would nominate Zahid Quraishi, a magistrate judge in New Jersey since 2019, to join the United States District Court for New Jersey, a post that would make him the first Muslim federal judge in America. Presented as part of an effort to make the federal judiciary reflect the “full diversity of the American people,” Quraishi’s nomination has earned some plaudits and the endorsement of several state legal groups, including the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey and the South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey. But privately, some Muslim Americans—including lawyers, elected officials, and political operatives—are arguing among themselves about the choice. Many are hostile to it. They say the Biden administration sidestepped many Muslim American civil rights organizations to nominate Quraishi, and that many of his legal positions are unknown. Most troublingly to them, they point to his résumé, specifically his past work as a lawyer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and, while serving in the military during the Iraq war, as a “detention advisor” while deployed. “I believe it’s the wrong guy,” said one Muslim former elected official in New Jersey, who asked not to be named because of the political sensitivity of the nomination. “Ask any African American how happy they are about Clarence Thomas. It’s a very similar perspective at a bunch of different levels,” he said. The official said the arguments and anger about Quraishi’s nomination are happening in private because many involved are elected officials or part of larger organizations that do not want to publicly oppose the Biden administration. Several of them told me they plan to closely watch Quraishi’s Senate confirmation hearing, set for Wednesday, for more answers about his legal record. “We don’t know what his stances are on civil rights because you can’t find one article or anything that he’s written publicly about the Muslim struggle in the last 20 years post-9/11,” the former elected official told me. “If I’m supposed to be happy for somebody, then he should have an affinity for the same things that I believe in.” read the complete article

26 Apr 2021

Moorhead, Minnesota Mosque Vandalized With 'Death to Islam'

In the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a mosque in Minnesota was vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti. Early Sunday morning, police officers in Moorhead, Minnesota, were dispatched to the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead Mosque on a report of vandalism to the building. According to a press release from the Moorhead Police Department, officers found hate messages directed toward the Islamic faith and its followers spray-painted on several areas of the building's exterior. Such messages include "Death to Islam," "F**k Islam" and a Nazi swastika symbol. Video surveillance from the building captured images of a suspect wearing a camouflage jacket and dark ski mask. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted that her heart was with the Muslim community in her state and that crimes like this are a "routine reality for many Muslims in this country." Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) is "not taking this lightly" and said this is not the first instance of anti-Muslim hate in the Fargo-Moorhead area. "[North Dakota] White supremacist militia groups in 2016 actually put out a video of them shooting at a replica mosque," Hussein told Newsweek. "So there are threats from white supremacy militia groups from that region that have been active and ongoing," including in private Facebook groups. read the complete article

27 Apr 2021

Georgia Muslim Voter Project: Nonprofit that provides refreshments to voters in line joins suit against new suppression law

On a December morning before Georgia’s runoff senatorial election, Shafina Khabani set up tables in a parking lot outside an early voting precinct and loaded them with boxes of doughnuts, hot chocolate and coffee. Blaring social justice songs from a portable speaker, Khabani and several colleagues merrily handed out what they had to all comers. For Khabani, executive director of the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, an Atlanta nonprofit that has registered more than 2,700 voters since its founding in 2016, the treats were sweet symbols of the civic responsibility that runs deep within her. But a sweeping new law would criminalize Khabani’s morning offerings. Enacted amid demonstrably false claims about “voter fraud” perpetuated by former President Donald Trump and his allies after Trump and two U.S. senators from Georgia were defeated at the polls, the law, SB 202, puts broad restrictions on when and how Georgians can cast ballots. The law even makes it illegal to offer food and water to people standing in line to vote. Among multiple provisions, the law also makes it harder to vote by absentee ballot, severely limits the number of secure ballot drop boxes, disqualifies most out-of-precinct provisional ballots, reduces early voting for runoff elections and dismantles local control of elections. In whole and in part, the law is a broad and blatant repudiation of voter rights in a Southern state with a long history of disenfranchisement, particularly for people of color. The Georgia Muslim Voter Project is one of a number of civil rights organizations on whose behalf the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Georgia, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), and law firms WilmerHale and Davis Wright Tremaine filed suit in federal court to challenge the new law. The lawsuit, Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kemp, charges that multiple provisions of the law violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and infringe on Georgians’ rights under the 14th and 15th amendments, as well as the First Amendment in terms of the ban on the free distribution of food and water. read the complete article

28 Apr 2021

What Riz Ahmed's Oscar nod means to South Asian, Arab, Muslim artists

“What is striking to me is that there are just so many communities who have been marginalized and underrepresented or demonized in Hollywood, and just how meaningful it is for various communities when you see yourself finally represented,” said Evelyn Alsultany, an ethnic studies expert at the University of Southern California. “I understand why this would be meaningful to people in the deaf community. And likewise, why Riz Ahmed’s (nomination) is so meaningful to Muslims,” Alsultany said. Though the story of Ahmed’s character isn't tied to ethnic and religious identities, the fact that a Muslim British Pakistani actor was chosen for the part signaled to artists from diverse backgrounds that representation makes a difference. “His religious identity and South Asian identity are just part of his complex identity on screen,” said Azita Ghanizada, an Afghan American actor based in Los Angeles. “We can be performers just like Amy Adams and Christian Bale and Matt Damon and so on, and not always have to play into a religious storyline,” she said. “In the beginning of my career, when I thought I would have such a much bigger battle to fight after 9/11, and being from Afghanistan, and all of these things, it actually became harder when diversity became important, because there was no box for me to check, so I was unhireable. I wasn't white enough, and I wasn't diverse enough,” she explained. In a recent SAG-AFTRA panel Ghanizada moderated with other actors from the MENA region, she shared her perspective on the portrayal of people from the region on screen. “Seventy-eight percent of the time that people from our part of the world are seen on screen, they are portrayed as violent,” Ghanizada said, referencing her team's 2018 research findings on MENA actors on TV. In addition to improved storylines for performers from the region, Alsultany said small changes like reflecting the actor’s own identity into a role, like a name change in the central character of "Sound of Metal," could represent a significant shift in representation on screen. read the complete article

28 Apr 2021

Broader US government surveillance powers won’t make us safer

Since Donald Trump’s presidency ended with a violent insurrection at the US Capitol that left five people dead, the country and its leadership have focused on how to address the “new” threat of “terrorism.” Bipartisan efforts backed by President Joe Biden seek to further escalate an already out-of-control US Intelligence apparatus. Supporters of civil liberties and defenders of Black, immigrant, and Muslim communities have urged caution against such measures. Nonetheless, we are told by some opponents of the far-right that supporters of equality and civil liberties should not be worried about expansions of US surveillance and counterterrorism capabilities. They are wrong. A new report published by Project South, a movement-building organisation rooted in the Black radical tradition, describes the lengthy history, practices, and law behind the US surveillance state and its systematic targeting of Black, immigrant, and/or Muslim communities, with a particular focus on the US South. Spying on the Margins: The History, Law, and Practice of U.S. Surveillance Against Muslim, Black, and Immigrant Communities and Contemporary Strategies of Resistance is intended as a useful guide and tool for community organizers, lawyers, activists, and all those concerned about the practical effects of the massive growth of the US surveillance state. Many associate systematic state surveillance practices against Muslims in the US with the 9/11 attacks and the “war on terror” that followed. But the reality is that Black and immigrant Muslim communities were subjected to discriminatory and abusive surveillance practices long before that. After the first world war, an increasingly nativist US government subjected diverse Muslim communities to surveillance and deportation when they began to engage in political organizing. For example, as the US government passed overtly xenophobic laws such as the National Origins Act of 1924, restricting non-white and non-Christian immigration, the FBI began to aim its surveillance at pan-Islamic and Islamic-influenced Black and pan-African movements that opposed white supremacy. During the second world war, the US government spied on Black Muslim organizations, alleging without basis that they might be allied with the Japanese government. And following the war, Black, Indigenous, and immigrant movement leaders, Black Muslims and Arab leftists were among many activists and civil rights groups targeted by the FBI’s infamous domestic political spying program, COINTELPRO. read the complete article


27 Apr 2021

China's Attempt to Spy on Uyghurs at Home and Abroad | Opinion

China today hosts a complex web of surveillance systems to keep track of its citizens and critics, both at home and abroad. Not only does the Chinese state operate multiple systems to maintain surveillance on its citizens, but it also tasks private companies working in China to further enhance its network of human and technical spies. Scores from China, including Uyghurs living abroad, face surveillance and find their families in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) occupied East Turkistan, also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) or Xinjiang, being threatened to cooperate with the Chinese state. Recently, another interesting fact on this subject came to light. IPVM, a surveillance industry publication shared information with The New York Times about Alibaba's website for its cloud computing business, showing how clients could use its software to detect the faces of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples via images and videos. This feature was built into Alibaba software, helping web platforms monitor digital content for material related to "terrorism, pornography and other red-flag categories." All Chinese companies are bound by law to work for the Chinese state and provide services, including those which assist in monitoring and persecuting the Uyghurs. When the NYT asked Alibaba about the tool, the company edited its website and removed the references to Uyghur and other Turkic faces. Alibaba has not revealed why it created the software in the first place, even if it was meant for testing. Surveillance technology has been crucial to China's efforts to monitor and track ethnic peoples within China. The Uyghurs in East Turkistan are ethnically and racially different from the majority Han population and do stand out, making it easier for software to pick out their faces. The Washington Post reported that Huawei, another Chinese technology giant, tested software that could automatically alert the police when its surveillance cameras detected Uyghur faces. French soccer player Antoine Griezmann responded to this news by cutting ties with the company as a brand ambassador. China's facial recognition system logs nearly every single citizen inside China, with a vast network of cameras across the country. A 2019 leak revealed that pervasive Chinese surveillance tools contained more than 6.8 million records in a single day. That China uses this technology to monitor the Uyghurs was made clear in March 2020, when a bipartisan group of 17 U.S. senators wrote a letter to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stating that "China use[s] facial recognition to profile Uyghur individuals, classify them on the basis of their ethnicity, and single them out for tracking, mistreatment, and detention." read the complete article

27 Apr 2021

Olympic uniform supplier rebuffs concerns over Xinjiang cotton

Chinese sports retailer Anta is continuing to use Xinjiang cotton, rebuffing international scrutiny of forced labor in the Xinjiang cotton industry as the Chinese government denies allegations of human rights violations there. Why it matters: Anta is the official Olympics uniform supplier and refuses to say if it uses Xinjiang cotton in them. Its products have not been directly tied to forced labor. Due to the opacity of supply chains in China and the secrecy surrounding forced labor factories, it's very difficult to determine which products are tainted. But if they are, it further signals that China's leaders intend to host the 2022 Winter Olympics on their own terms. Context: The Chinese government has implemented a campaign of forced assimilation and genocide in its northwest region of Xinjiang, putting more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities into mass internment camps and conscripting detainees to work in factories and agricultural production. The cotton and textile industries in Xinjiang are especially affected. Much of China's cotton comes from Xinjiang; and since Chinese factories are deeply integrated with global supply chains, numerous multinational companies including Nike, Asics, H&M, and Apple have found themselves facing reports of forced labor in their supply chains. Details: In October 2019, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced Anta would supply uniforms, shoes and accessories for the Tokyo Olympics, the Beijing Olympics, and several other events — becoming the first Chinese company to supply sportswear for IOC members and staff. That same month, Anta announced it had also become the first Chinese company to join the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), an international cotton watchdog organization with operations in Xinjiang. In 2020, BCI announced it was ceasing operations in Xinjiang because it couldn't engage ethically there. After Chinese state media criticized BCI's actions in March 2021, Anta announced it would withdraw from the organization. Amid a recent Chinese state-fanned consumer backlash against foreign companies that had publicly disavowed the use of Xinjiang cotton, Anta said that it used Xinjiang cotton and would continue to do so. read the complete article

United Kingdom

27 Apr 2021

Britain First duped into protesting at hotels with no asylum seekers

The far-right group Britain First has been duped into protesting outside hotels which do not contain asylum seekers after being supplied with a fake list including the Dorchester on Park Lane, London, and a pub hotel owned by an associate of Dominic Cummings. Supporters of Britain First last year entered hotels used by the Home Office to accommodate asylum seekers and started banging on bedroom doors and antagonising the asylum seekers there. They are now resuming these hotel visits and put out an appeal to members of the public to give them the names of hotels where they knew asylum seekers were being accommodated. Pro-migrant groups responded in droves. About 600 people contacted Britain First provided the names of decoy hotels. Pro–migrant groups have hailed the stunt sending the far right on a wild goose chase as a success. One member of a pro-migrant group, who only wished to be identified by their twitter handle, Marsh4LL, said: “Paul Golding put out a request via the Britain First website so I contacted every like-minded person that I know to bombard Paul and Ashlea with as many hotel addresses in the north-west that had zero connections with housing asylum seekers and it worked a treat. They were most definitely taken in by this.” read the complete article


27 Apr 2021

Canadian author's second book touches upon love and Islamophobia

A new book resonating with readers across Canada is a romantic comedy featuring an inventive Muslim woman, while also touching upon Islamophobia and other weighty topics. “Hana Khan Carries On” -- which has already landed on bestseller lists in Canada -- is the second hit Author Uzma Jalaluddin. Her debut novel “Ayesha At Last” hit bookshelves in 2018 and was a Muslim spin on literary classic “Pride and Prejudice.” Her latest novel is a romantic comedy centering around a 24-year-old Toronto Muslim woman whose Indian family restaurant gets into a spat with a rival hipster halal restaurant that opens up down the street. The main character Hana, who wears a hijab and is the daughter of South Asian immigrants, is trying to carve her own path by breaking into radio. “Yet, she feels this pull towards her community, especially her parents, when the restaurant is trouble.” “I think that really taps into something that a lot of the children of immigrants face. Even when they don't have overwhelming familial pressure and they still feel the pressure to sort of give back to their community,” Jalaluddin said. Although the book is full of funny characters and “hopeful, joyful moments,” the book does touch upon a persistent issue for Muslim Canadians: Islamophobia. There has been a string of vicious assaults against Muslim women in Alberta recently, with Edmonton's Anti-Racism Advisory Committee noting there’s been a rise of racist anti-Muslim attacks in the region throughout the pandemic. And last year, a Toronto mosque was repeatedly vandalized over several months. In one scene in the book, racist protesters overtake a street festival. Jalaluddin said she wanted to ensure that she didn’t shy away from the real racism Muslims, especially visible Muslims wearing hijabs, face. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

28 Apr 2021

Sri Lanka cabinet approves proposed ban on burqas in public

Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved a proposed ban on wearing full-face veils including Muslim burqas in public, citing national security grounds, despite a United Nations expert’s comment that it would violate international law. The cabinet approved the proposal by Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, Weerasekera said on his Facebook page. The proposal will now be sent to the Attorney General’s Department and must be approved by parliament to become law. The proposal could easily be passed as the government holds a majority in parliament. Weerasekara has called burqas, a garment that covers the body and face worn by some Muslim women, a “sign of religious extremism” and said a ban would improve national security. The wearing of burqas was temporarily banned in 2019 after Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks killed more than 260 people. The UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed tweeted that a ban would be incompatible with international law and the right to free religious expression. Muslims make up about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people, with Buddhists accounting for more than 70 percent. Ethnic-minority Tamils, who are mainly Hindus, comprise about 15 percent. read the complete article


27 Apr 2021

Australian Uyghurs throw support behind Senator's bill to ban imports from Xinjiang

Representatives of Australia's Uyghur community have spoken out in support of proposed legislation to ban imports from the Xinjiang region of China in response to claims of forced labour. Independent senator Rex Patrick tabled the bill which would amend Australia's Customs Act to prohibit the importation of all goods from the region plus any made through the use of forced labour from elsewhere in China. China has reportedly established scores of forced labour camps along with indoctrination centers in the Xinjiang region, which some Uyghurs in the region call East Turkistan. Senator Patrick has also been pushing the federal government to officially label the Chinese government's treatment of Xinjiang's Uyghurs as "genocide". Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women's Association president Ramila Chanisheff on Tuesday told the committee every Uyghur in Australia had family in labour camps in the region and Australia had been too slow to respond to reports of forced labour. "Whether in Australia or internationally, legislation prohibiting and penalizing the use of slave labour must be implemented and done so urgently," she said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 Apr 2021 Edition


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