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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29 Apr 2020

Today in Islamophobia: US Commission on International Religious Freedom says India should join the ranks of “countries of particular concern,” as UN chief urges Bangladesh to accept Rohingya boats. Our recommended read today is from India, where a BJP leader has called for a boycott of Muslim businesses. This, and more, below:


29 Apr 2020

'Do not buy from Muslims': BJP leader in India calls for boycott | Recommended Read

India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has issued a notice to one of its leaders after a video showing him asking people not to buy vegetables from Muslims surfaced amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. "Keep one thing in mind. I am telling everyone openly. There is no need to buy vegetables from 'miyans' [Muslims]," legislator Suresh Tiwari from Deoria town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was heard saying in the mobile phone video that went viral on Tuesday. India's Muslims have been targeted in different areas of the country following reports of an outbreak of COVID-19 at a religious gathering in New Delhi last month that was organised by the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group. India's communal faultlines, still stressed by deadly riots in New Delhi in February over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims, were split wide open by the allegations against the Jamaat. Some BJP politicians and journalists were seen on TV describing the Jamaat incident as "corona terrorism" and accusing the Muslim community in general of hatching a "conspiracy" to spread the virus. read the complete article

Recommended Read
29 Apr 2020

India should be placed on religious freedom blacklist: US panel

In an annual report published on Tuesday, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said India should join the ranks of "countries of particular concern" that would be subject to sanctions if they do not improve their records. "In 2019, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault," the report said. The bipartisan panel recommends but does not set policy, and there is virtually no chance the State Department will follow its lead on India, an increasingly close US ally. But the lower ranking for the ally amounts to a stark show of disapproval of India's divisive new citizenship law, which the United Nations has called "fundamentally discriminatory". read the complete article

29 Apr 2020

In India’s Rohingya refugee camps, fears of Covid-19 spread and religious scapegoating

Three weeks after the Centre announced a country-wide lockdown and over 14,000 people tested positive for Covid-19, the Ministry of Home Affairs reportedly directed all states and Union Territories to screen Rohingya refugees as some may have attended last month’s Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin, which later emerged as a hotspot. Rohingya Human Rights Initiative, also known as R4R, a non-governmental organisation working for Rohingya welfare across India, says the situation in camps across Delhi-NCR is precarious. “There have been no reported cases yet, but we have seen some showing symptoms like fever and cough in the Kalindi Kunj and Madanpur Khadar camps. For the Rohingya, social distancing and quarantine is a privilege that they can’t afford,” R4R said. “Think of Dharavi in Mumbai. That is how cramped these camps are. Two rooms are a luxury and it would be impossible to self-quarantine someone without infecting their whole family,” said Arshad Nihal of the Ubais Sainulabdeen Peace Foundation, an NGO working with the community. Living conditions in Dharavi’s slum cluster have, in fact, generated a Covid-19 hotspot, with 220 cases and 14 deaths as of April 24. Although the government screening is a welcome move, the refugees fear targeting or a communalisation of the issue. “I am afraid that if any refugee gets the disease, they will say that the Rohingya brought the virus,” said Sabber. The Rohingya, not formally recognised by the Indian government as refugees, have also had members of their community deported to Myanmar, where they are not recognised as citizens and suffer persecution. read the complete article

29 Apr 2020

India coronavirus: Tablighi Jamaat gives blood for plasma therapy

Members of an Indian Islamic organisation are volunteering to donate blood for plasma therapy after their congregation sparked dozens of Covid-19 clusters across the country. More than 1,000 positive cases were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat event. The incident caused massive outrage and led to reports of Islamophobia from across the country. Plasma therapy involves transfusing antibody-rich blood into Covid-19 patients. Farooq Basa, from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was among the first 10 Jamaat volunteers who donated plasma on Sunday, the first day of the campaign. "The media had demonised us after some of us had tested positive for the virus. But by the grace of Allah this will help improve our image," he told the BBC. Anas Sayed, who also donated blood on Sunday said: "We had a difficult few weeks when everyone went after us and held us responsible for the spread of the virus. When the Maulana made the appeal we decided to volunteer." read the complete article

United States

29 Apr 2020

200 Women Leaders Condemn Attack on 27-Year-Old Muslim Congressional Candidate

On April 21, 2020, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, New Jersey congressional candidate, received a phone call from an unknown number threatening to kill her and her family. The caller cited her address and used a slew of racial slurs targeting Muslims. As women leaders, we condemn and refuse to normalize this act. Amani is 27 years old and running to be a public servant for the benefit of all Americans. Yet, because she is a Muslim woman, she is faced with Islamophobic and racist vitriol that threatens her life and the lives of those she loves. Amani is the youngest Muslim woman to run in the United States for a congressional seat and has a history of advocacy and activism for American families and youth. Still, she faces barriers like this horrific threat on her life, that other candidates, and other women that are not Muslim, do not. We condemn this event and firmly resolve to stand with Amani because young Muslim girls in the future deserve to live in a world where their goals to have an impact are not marred by racist violence. We condemn this act because no woman is free while our Muslim sisters’ lives are threatened. read the complete article

29 Apr 2020

COVID-19 brings new challenges for Muslim inmates during Ramadan

The convergence of a global pandemic and the holiest month in the Muslim calendar has created new barriers for Muslims in custody that seek to observe their religious practices, according to advocates, current and formerly incarcerated people, and their families. It can be difficult under normal circumstances for incarcerated people, whose lives are dictated by their institution’s schedule, to observe the holiday, said Sufyan Sohel, the deputy director of Muslim civil rights organization CAIR-Chicago. “We had issues in the past where sometimes a meal wouldn’t be given until two or three hours after sundown,” said Sohel. Waiting to break the fast is considered by some Muslims to be a sin, according to Sohel. Last month, Yusef Hakeem called his mother from Centralia Correctional Center to complain that communal prayers had been cancelled as a social distancing measure, yet prisoners were still held in double cells and allowed to eat in the chow hall. (Hakeem was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a 2019 child pornography conviction.) Then, less than a week before Ramadan started, prison officials placed Hakeem in segregation after he allegedly refused to enter his cell while his cellmate was on the toilet, according to his mother, Evie Hakeem. Since then, she has been unable to talk to him on the phone, meaning she can’t read him a daily verse from the Quran, as she used to do. Even for those who aren’t in segregation, the pandemic has reduced access to prison commissaries, which is often how Muslim inmates get access to enough food to eat after the fast, according to CAIR-Chicago. The organization recently sent a letter to prison wardens explaining that “many Muslims inmates rely on the food items they buy from commissary to get the proper nutrition they need throughout the month of Ramadan.” read the complete article

29 Apr 2020

Suspect charged in fire that destroyed Missouri mosque

Police in Missouri have arrested a suspect with a history of mosque vandalism in connection with a fire that heavily damaged a southeastern Missouri Islamic center last week at the start of Ramadan. Nicholas Proffitt, a 42-year-old resident of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, was arrested Monday night (April 27). He is accused of setting a fire at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau early Friday, the day most Muslims celebrated as the first day of Ramadan. Over a dozen people, including several families who lived in the building that houses the mosque, had to be evacuated because of the blaze. No one was injured, but some tenants have been displaced by the fire. Proffitt has been linked to several other mosque attacks in the past 15 years. A witness who helped authorities identify him said Proffitt has a history of making “anti-Muslim derogatory remarks,” per a probable cause statement. In 2005, he was arrested and accused of throwing rocks at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn, Michigan, punching holes in the mosque’s siding and pouring a chemical on a wheelchair ramp. Law enforcement declined to pursue hate crime charges then, saying “it was just a drunk guy with a rock.” In 2009, he was accused of breaking windows at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau. Proffitt was convicted of a hate crime in that case and sentenced to three years in prison. read the complete article


29 Apr 2020

Will China replace Islam as the West's new enemy?

Huntington asserted that identity, rather than ideology, lay at the heart of contemporary politics. "What are you?", he asked, "and as we know, from Bosnia to the Caucasus to the Sudan, the wrong answer to that question can mean a bullet in the head." He added:"Islam has bloody borders." Western politicians like former US President George W Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair followed Huntington’s lead. For the last quarter century, many Muslim countries have been the target of the US and its allies. Meanwhile Muslims have often been portrayed in Western media as lawless, radical ideologues and an existential threat to the world. This has given rise to virulent Islamophobia in the West with the rise of far right political parties in Europe. I will argue today that much of this noxious hostility may soon abate in the aftermath of the coronavirus tragedy. This is partly because (especially in Britain) the sacrifices made by Muslims are so obvious and have been so great that this may lead to a belated change in public attitudes. The first four medics to die from the outbreak were all Muslim. But there is a second factor at work: the coronavirus pandemic is reshaping global geopolitics. The West likes, perhaps needs, an enemy and the latest target is China. China is being presented as the new existential enemy, just as Islam was 20 years ago. And by the very same people. The same newspaper columnists, the same think tanks, the same political parties and the same intelligence agencies. After Huntington’s famous essay that led the charge against Muslims - or what they often call radical Islam - now they have turned their attention to the Far East. read the complete article

29 Apr 2020

A California prison or an Istanbul mosque? Why the media links coronavirus to Muslims

For its coverage of this announcement, the BBC website used an image of a group of medical personnel - the majority of them Muslim women in niqabs - looking at a monitor. The logic behind the selection was not evident; it seems a photo of Trump would have worked just fine. But for the average, moderately xenophobic western news consumer, the takeaway from the display was likely that coronavirus and/or the WHO are somehow inextricably linked to Muslims - who, thanks to dutiful political and media fear-mongering over the years, are already widely regarded as the enemy. The BBC is not the only outlet guilty of deploying irrelevant Islam-related images in the context of coronavirus. In March, the New York Times reported Trump’s suspension of travel from Europe to the US with the help of a photo of a mosque in Turkey, complete with a Turkish flag in the foreground. Given that Turkey was not included in the travel suspension - and is not generally permitted in the category “Europe” in the first place - it was anyone’s guess as to the rationale. Again, though, the implication is that coronavirus is tied up with Islam, that perennial plague from the East. Even more ludicrously, CNN ran a photograph of a worker disinfecting the interior of an Istanbul mosque to accompany news of the announcement by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that prisons in the American state were prohibiting visits due to coronavirus. read the complete article

United Kingdom

29 Apr 2020

Man Leading COVID-19 Bame Deaths Inquiry is being Investigated for Islamophobia

Public Health England (PHE) has been criticized for appointing someone being "investigated for racism" onto an inquiry that looks at the disproportionate of impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minority communities. Trevor Phillips was asked by PHE, along with Professor Richard Webber to investigate why the coronavirus is leading to more deaths among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. Figures show that more than a third of people in intensive care with COVID-19 are from BAME backgrounds – over double the 13% proportion in the UK population as a whole. However, the appointment of Phillips to provide advice to PHE has been described by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and race equality campaigners as "insensitive" and call on the body to reconsider the appointment. Phillips was suspended by the Labour Party after allegations of Islamophobia were made. Earlier statements which he likened Muslims to being "a nation within a nation" are being investigated by the party. He has also been criticized for previously stating that Muslims "see the world differently from the rest of the us." Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Phillips stood by his previous assertions that Muslims were "different", adding: "Well, actually, that's true. The point is Muslims are different and in many ways I think that is admirable." read the complete article


29 Apr 2020

UN rights chief urges Bangladesh to accept Rohingya boats

On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned of a "human tragedy of terrible proportions" unless action is taken to help the Rohingya on the boats. "In a spirit of solidarity and at the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan, I appeal to you in the strongest terms to open your ports and allow the boats to land," Bachelet said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP news agency. "The reportedly more than 500 men, women and children aboard these boats have been at sea for an extended period of time, and we understand that they require urgent rescue, food, medical care and other necessary humanitarian assistance." The appeal was made to the Bangladesh government after Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said the South Asian country would not accept the boats. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 29 Apr 2020 Edition


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