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.

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03 Apr 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, “tense calm” prevails after days of clashes between Hindus and Muslims in several states, as a majority of these incidents occurred while Hindu groups were marching through Muslim-majority areas shouting provocative slogans, brandishing weapons and massing in front of mosques,” meanwhile in Canada, Toronto police are investigating a reported hate crime that occurred last week at an Islamic Centre where individuals sprayed hateful graffiti at the front entrance of the mosque, and in the U.S., Senator Aisha Wahab (D-CA) says that she has received threats and Islamophobic slurs after introducing a bill in March which would provide legal protections in California against caste discrimination. Our recommended read of the day is by Isaac Chotiner for The New Yorker on the recent disqualification of BJP opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s from India’s parliament and how this is further indication of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lean towards an authoritarian state. This and more below:


Has Modi Pushed Indian Democracy Past Its Breaking Point? | Recommended Read

Over the course of Modi’s premiership, which began in 2014, he has turned India into an increasingly illiberal democracy. Vigilante attacks on religious minorities have increased markedly, the ruling party has taken steps to strip citizenship from Indian Muslims, and the historically repressed Muslim-majority state of Kashmir has faced even harsher crackdowns. Still, Modi remains remarkably popular, with approval ratings above seventy per cent. The moves against Gandhi—the scion of India’s Congress Party, which ruled the country for most of the post-independence era—were surprising in part because Gandhi doesn’t seem to pose a real threat to Modi politically. To talk about Gandhi’s conviction and disqualification, I recently spoke by phone with Christophe Jaffrelot, a senior research fellow at Sciences Po, a professor of Indian politics and sociology at King’s College, London, and the author of “Modi’s India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy.” During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed how Modi’s government has evolved in a more authoritarian direction, the central role that anti-Muslim politics has played in his success, and where opposition to the B.J.P. is likely to emerge. read the complete article

Fragile calm prevails in Indian states after days of religious clashes

Tense calm has prevailed after two days of religious violence in four Indian states that began during Hindu festivities, in which at least two people were killed, according to local media. Saturday's shaky calm came after scores of people were arrested following clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Gujarat on Thursday and Friday during the Hindu festival of Ram Navmi which commemorates the birth of the Hindu deity Rama. Deaths were reported in West Bengal and Maharashtra states, and several injuries were reported in other states. The majority of these incidents occurred while Hindu groups were marching through Muslim-majority areas accompanied by DJ music, shouting provocative slogans, brandishing weapons and massing in front of mosques. read the complete article


Hate crimes targeting religions on rise in Canada; crimes against Catholics increase 260 percent

The various religious groups in Canada are all likely to be targets of hate crimes, but Statistics Canada closely examined mischief committed against three groups: Catholics (not Christians), Jews and Muslims. In 2021, there was an increase of 47 percent of hate crimes targeting Jews, 71 percent against Muslims and 260 percent aimed at Catholics. However, in considering numbers rather than percentages, out of 3,360 hate crimes in Canada, there were actually 487 hate crimes against Jews, 144 against Muslims and 155 against Catholics. Stephen Brown, president and CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, was not surprised to learn of the 144 hate crimes reported against Muslims in 2021. “We, too, are seeing a big rise in hate crimes. And, I don’t hesitate to say that Statistics Canada’s numbers are under the mark,” he said. The NCCM leader believes that many members of the Muslim community, especially those who recently immigrated or are from authoritarian countries, are reluctant to contact the police when they are victims of intimidation or harassment. Some even contact NCCM to inquire about possible consequences of their complaints, according to Brown. Regarding crimes against Muslims in 2021, the NCCM can’t “point to any one event” to explain a 71 percent increase. But Brown laments “the increasingly harsh media discourse when it comes to Muslims.” For example, since the adoption of Quebec’s Bill 21, secularism law, which contains statements of principle declaring the province’s commitment to secularism, or “laïcité,” Brown notes that some of the debates, especially in the media, are prejudicial to members of his community. What is worse, he said, “the majority of people who contact us about hateful acts are women and children. And it is often as a result of media reports that these people call us.” read the complete article

Toronto police investigate 'hateful messages' spray-painted on west-end mosque Social Sharing

Toronto police are looking into a suspected hate-motivated incident after graffiti was spray painted outside a mosque in the city's west end. Police say they received a call about a reported hate crime at an Islamic Centre in the area of Oak Street and Weston Road at around 5:30 a.m. Thursday. The words "Allah is a lie" and "Death to dictator" could be seen outside the Towfiq Islamic Centre Friday. In a news release Friday, police said two suspects spray painted graffiti that contained "hateful messages" on the property at approximately 12:26 a.m. earlier that day. The suspects were last seen wearing dark clothing and fleeing the area on foot heading east on Oak Street. The National Council of Canadian Muslims called the incident "disgusting and disturbing," saying it was was an example of "Islamophobic vandalism." read the complete article

MANDEL: Muslim brothers insist beating of Palestinian-Arab man not motivated by hate

Spewing hate as they mercilessly kicked and beat Mohammed Abu Marzouk to a pulp in front of his hysterical wife and daughters, the two brothers Corhmazic screamed, “F—— Arabs!, f—— terrorists.” The sad irony is that Janis and Adem Corhmazic are Muslim themselves with a Bosnian background and insist they’re not racist at all. Superior Court Justice Fletcher Dawson found the attack was “anti-Arab, but not anti-Muslim” when he convicted them in January of aggravated assault but acquitted them of attempted murder. He also found them guilty of assaulting Fuat Yucel as he tried to intervene. An Arab-Palestinian Muslim born in Saudi Arabia, Abu Marzouk suffered more than 10 skull fractures and needed 62 stitches from the July 15, 2018 attack in the parking lot of the Mississauga Valley Community Centre. His family had just enjoyed a picnic in the park and he was backing their van out of a parking spot when the Corhmazic brothers claimed he came too close to them and a child. His wife Diana Attar described the terror of thinking her husband was going to die that day at the hands of men who screamed “F—— Arab people what are you doing here? Go back to your country!” “These perpetrators were not even connecting on a human level. They were merciless,” she wrote. “Despite me pleading with them, they pulled off my hijab and also kicked me in the shoulder as I was trying to protect my husband. From the look on their faces, it seemed as if they were proud of what they were doing. They showed no sign of concern, guilt, or remorse.” read the complete article

Canada should offer refuge to Rohingya genocide survivors

In 2017, an estimated 770,000 Rohingya were driven from their homeland, escaping from the Myanmar military campaign of mass killing, rape and systematic arson. People fled across the border to Bangladesh and now inhabit the world’s largest refugee camp, enduring militancy, poverty, and intolerable and dangerous conditions. While these refugees have been allowed to remain, their Bangladeshi hosts increasingly view them as “a big burden.” Yet Rohingya genocide survivors have little chance of returning to Myanmar, where the military that slaughtered their people consolidated its power with a coup in February 2021. Almost six years after their exodus from their homeland, Rohingya refugees exist in a “suspended state” between global indifference and local hostility. In such dire circumstances, Canada should do more to assist one million Rohingya genocide survivors trapped in a cruel limbo. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Canada opened the door for more than 132,000 Ukrainian nationals without hesitation, creating new pathways for those fleeing an uncertain future. While this humanitarian act is laudable, it’s difficult to not worry about those genocide survivors in Bangladesh who are still suffering. Canada needs to embrace a similar open-door policy for them. read the complete article

United States

Meet US senator Aisha Wahab who faces Islamophobic slurs for introducing anti-caste bill

Aisha Wahab, the California state lawmaker said she received threats and Islamophobic slurs after introducing a bill on March 22 in the California State Senate against caste discrimination. Democratic Party member Aisha claimed that her office received dozens of calls, hundreds of emails, and some people even came to her office to intimidate the staff. Mostly, the people who have been running a hate campaign against Aisha Wahab are the upper caste sections of the South Asian community and especially the Hindu right organizations in the US. “My last name is Wahab, so they love to tie it to Wahhabism, or call me a jihadist or a Talibani. Basically, every racial slur and dog whistle,” she said in an interview with the Time magazine on Wednesday, 29 March, a week after she introduced the legislation against caste discrimination. The bill will become California the first state in the US to officially forbid caste discrimination if it is approved by the California Senate. Seattle was the first city in the US to accomplish this in February. read the complete article


Muslim Women Are Reclaiming The Narrative

Why is the international community so quick to pounce on the subject of “veiled” Muslim women’s bodies? For decades, Muslim women’s bodies and clothing—especially the burqa and hijab—have been the subject of intense media and political scrutiny. Images and feature stories perpetuated by news outlets worldwide impact how Muslim women’s identities are perceived, by themselves and others, influencing their lives and social roles—and global politics. While the last few months of protest have been nothing short of revolutionary in Iran, let’s be clear. What’s groundbreaking isn’t protesters’ fight against the hijab—it’s their unflinching, active struggle against national and global powers for their freedom. Yet, this garment has long been discussed in relation to Muslim women’s lives, and it continues to be the focus of mainstream reporting on the protests. Mobashra Tazamal, an academic researcher on Islamophobia, points out that hijab-centric media coverage limits a full understanding of Iran’s uprisings—particularly for those outside the country. Often, it also perpetuates Islamophobia through simplistic interpretations of the hijab as oppressive. “Western media coverage has largely been focused on hijab and the veiling laws. This [movement] is about the hijab and not about the hijab at the same time. In the context of Iran, the government is using hijab as a tool—it’s not [about] the hijab but the way government is using it. But Western media is simplifying it, so the hijab has come to represent everything,” she says. This focus on religious garb as a symbol of women’s oppression obscures the social and political context behind the protests. Tazamal says it’s more important to look at how Muslim women and their bodies are situated within global discussions to push a Western agenda in which countries like the US and UK are Muslim women’s saviors. Examples where women are forced to wear or forced to take off their hijabs stem from the same system of control. However, any time Muslim women’s voices differ from the views of the popular White feminist movements that dominate gender justice arenas—or when Islamophobia impacts Muslim women in particular—popular media silences their voices. read the complete article

University Campuses in India Will Be a Tool in the Hands of Hindu Nationalists

In 2022, sixteen academics based at the University of Melbourne resigned from their posts at the Australia India Institute, citing interference from the Indian High Commission. The complaint wasn’t just about Indian authorities themselves — for they also cited a lack of support from their own university authorities in protecting academic freedom. Over in Canada, the Indian High Commission pressed the organizers of a student film festival sponsored by Toronto Metropolitan University to remove a documentary from the program because it hurt the sentiments of Hindus. The sponsoring faculty member and university administrators capitulated to the pressure, censoring the student’s work. Again last year, there were suspicions of similar interventions when the University of Chicago withdrew an invitation for the head of Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel, to deliver a lecture on campus. He tweeted “[I] asked if someone close to the govt of [I]ndia had pressured them. [N]o response yet.” His passport was then confiscated by government authorities, and he was prevented from leaving India to deliver other invited lectures at US universities. In India itself, attacks on academic freedom and government repression of students and faculty have increased dramatically since Narendra Modi’s rise to power in 2014. There has been a rash of government policies targeting academics who refuse to promote — never mind oppose — Hindu nationalism in the classroom and in their research. New “anti-terror” legislation has brought rising numbers of arrests of academics and students. In the midst of this academic landscape, on January 5, the University Grants Commission (UGC) in India unveiled its plan to allow foreign universities and institutions to establish campuses in India. According to the UGC, any university listed in the top 500 of global rankings is open to apply through a formal process. As university administrators and financial officers start modeling price/cost ratios for opening campuses in India, it’s vital to keep in mind that India today is experiencing the most profound and troubling education crisis in its history, one closely tied to the government’s ever more repressive policies — and the broader democratic backsliding they represent. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 03 Apr 2023 Edition


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