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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04 Apr 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, an Imam from the city of Bihar Sharif claims that over 4,500 books from the local Madrasa he manages were burnt in the violence and looting that took place over the weekend, meanwhile in Greece, Middle East Eye spotlights the beautiful Votanikos Mosque of Athens as Muslim residents of the region celebrate the month of Ramadan in a building that was decades in the making, and in the U.S., CBS has came under fire after devoting an interview on 60 Minutes to Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right  congresswoman who has espoused conspiracy theories and endorsed hate speech rooted in racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism. Our recommended read of the day is by Sara Ather for Al Jazeera on the BJP government’s targeting of mosques in India, which many Hindu nationalist claim “were actually temples at one point in time and were forcefully converted into mosques by Muslim rulers,” a claim that most historians deny. This and more below:


Politics of ruin: Why Modi wants to demolish India’s mosques | Recommended Read

A historic 16th-century mosque, Shahi Masjid, in Prayagraj city in India’s Uttar Pradesh state was demolished by bulldozers on January 9 under a road-widening project. The demolition took place even though, according to the mosque’s imam, a local court was supposed to hear a petition seeking a stay on the city administration’s plans on January 16, a week later. This incident should have caused public outrage, but the matter hardly made any headlines. The destruction of structures using bulldozers in India has become a banal occurrence and has already lost its shock value. Another mosque, one of the largest and oldest in India, Shamsi Jama Masjid, an 800-year-old national heritage site in Budaun, Uttar Pradesh, became a matter of dispute last year when a court case was filed on behalf of a local Hindu farmer — backed by the right-wing Hindu nationalist group Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) — alleging that the mosque is an “illegal structure” built on a demolished 10th-century temple of Lord Shiva. Their petition states that Hindus have rightful ownership of the land and should be able to pray there. The claim of illegality rests on a far-right narrative according to which most of the Indian mosques were actually temples at one point in time and were forcefully converted into mosques by Muslim rulers. Even though most historians today deny these claims because there is little material evidence to support them, they have enormous popular support. The party’s attempts to culturally homogenise India began with the renaming of places in an overtly Hindu vocabulary and progressed to new strategies such as bulldozing Muslim monuments and archaeological excavations to find Hindu roots at Muslim religious sites. read the complete article

Ram Navami violence: 77 arrested; mob vandalises madrasa in Bihar Sharif

Seventy-seven people have been arrested in connection with the violence that erupted at Bihar Sharif in the State’s Nalanda district during Ram Navami festivities, the police said on Sunday. Prohibitory orders have been imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC in the area. Internet services have been suspended in the district and the ban is expected to be in place for the next 48 hours. One person died in fresh violence on Saturday evening, the police said. An armed mob of around 1,000 people vandalised a madrasa in Bihar Sharif’s Murarpur locality and set fire to its library, said Mohammad Siyabuddin, the imam of the mosque and caretaker of the madrasa. The 110-year-old library with a collection of over 4,500 books was reduced to ashes in the attack, he said. The mosque’s minar (tower) was damaged and the district administration is carrying out repairs. “We had just finished Friday prayers when violence erupted at Gagan Diwan locality near Hotel City Palace. A mob then entered the madrasa and started hurling stones. A member of the mosque’s peace committee was threatened to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. They threw petrol bombs into the mosque and the library, and set vehicles parked on the premises on fire,” Mr. Siyabuddin said. read the complete article

With raids, arrests and hostile takeovers, India press freedom continues to decline

Ravish, 48, had been with NDTV for 26 years. At the time of his resignation, he was senior executive editor at the news outlet, known for its fierce and critical coverage of government policies and citizens' voices. But since last August, when Gautam Adani, a controversial magnate, announced his move to acquire the channel in a hostile takeover, anxiety in the newsroom grew — as did the departures of network leaders like Ravish. Adani, who is closely associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is the founder of the Ahmedabad-based Adani Group, India's largest port operator and largest coal trader. After a recent report by Hindenburg Research accused Adani Group companies of decades of stock manipulation and accounting fraud, the prime minister has tried to distance himself from the tycoon's controversies. "Much of Adani's wealth has been a direct result of this problematic relationship [with the prime minister]. ... So, it's only expected that an Adani-owned channel would work to keep up the Modi-Adani ties," says Somdeep Sen, a political scientist at Roskilde University in Denmark. According to Amnesty International, Indian authorities are increasingly imposing unlawful and politically motivated restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. (Amnesty International was itself targeted by Modi's government, and was forced to shut its India operations in 2020). The rights organization has repeatedly flagged authorities' targeting of journalists, coupled with a broader crackdown on dissent that "has emboldened Hindu nationalists to threaten, harass and abuse journalists critical of the Indian government." read the complete article

United States

Hamline University’s President Announces Retirement After Prophet Muhammad Controversy

The president of Hamline University, who had been under sharp criticism for the treatment of an adjunct professor who showed images of the Prophet Muhammad in an art history class, announced on Monday that she would retire in June 2024. Fayneese S. Miller, the president of the Minnesota school, had initially defended the university’s decision to not reappoint the lecturer who had shown students, after providing warnings, images of the Prophet Muhammad, igniting a debate about academic freedom and Islamophobia. Many Muslims say they are prohibited from viewing images of Muhammad out of concerns of idolatry, but Muslims have varying views about such representations. The university’s full-time faculty members overwhelmingly voted in January to support a statement that said they “no longer have faith in President Miller’s ability to lead the university forward.” The statement — which 71 faculty members voted for, 12 voted against and nine abstained from — said the administration’s handling of the Muhammad controversy did “great harm” to the university. The university has 116 full-time faculty members. read the complete article

US: California lawmaker faces Islamophobic attacks for introducing anti-caste bill

A US state senator in California has said she is facing a wave of Islamophobic hate messages and threats after she introduced an anti-caste discrimination bill. Aisha Wahab, a Democratic member of California's state senate, said in an interview with Time Magazine last week that her office received dozens of calls, hundreds of emails, and some people even came to her office and yelled at staff members. “My office has received a lot of violent threats. Within the first 24 hours of introducing the bill, the Senate received hundreds of emails in opposition to and in support of the legislation, Wahab told Time. "Some who felt very strongly came into our district office and tried to intimidate our staff by talking about the Mughal Empire, which is several hundred years old.” If the bill is approved, California will become the first state to adopt legislation banning caste discrimination. The city of Seattle did so earlier this year in February. However, several Hindu American groups have pushed back on these efforts, saying that such measures specifically target and malign their community. read the complete article

CBS faces backlash over 60 Minutes interview with Marjorie Taylor Greene

CBS came under fire after devoting an interview on its flagship current affairs show, 60 Minutes, to Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right pro-Trump congresswoman from Georgia who has espoused conspiracy theories and faced censure for threatening behaviour towards Democrats. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York progressive congresswoman among those threatened by Greene, told Semafor: “These kinds of extreme and really just unprecedented and dangerous notions are getting platforms, without much pushback or real kind of critical analysis.” Matthew Gertz, of the progressive watchdog Media Matters, told the same outlet: “Anyone who believes that the congresswoman from QAnon is serious about renouncing far-right radicalism and conspiracy theories should make me an offer on my Jewish space laser.” The CNN columnist Dean Obeidallah noted: “Stahl didn’t mention Greene spoke at a white nationalist event a year ago while a member of Congress or her extreme anti-Muslim views and her defense of January 6 rioters.” David Corn, DC bureau chief for Mother Jones, wrote: “It’s a failure on CBS and Stahl’s part to give [Greene] such an unimpeded platform to spread such garbage.” read the complete article

Former Guantánamo Prisoners Ask Biden to Let Them Keep Art They Made to “Escape” Inhumane Conditions

In Part 2 of our interview with former Guantánamo detainee Mansoor Adayfi, he discusses how he and others who have been released are calling on Biden to let them keep the artwork they produced during their years in captivity, and what the art means to them. The current policy lifts Trump’s complete ban, but the formerly detained men can only take “a practicable quantity of their art.” “Art actually connected you to yourself, to your memories, to who you are. It was our secret way to escape the pain … of being in prison,” says Adayfi. “What is the right for the government to hold the art?” he asks. read the complete article

United Kingdom

NSPCC warns against framing grooming gangs problem as ethnicity-based

The NSPCC and experts on grooming gangs have warned ministers against framing the issue as one based on ethnicity, warning that this could hamper efforts to tackle a crime that a Home Office report said was carried out predominantly by white men. One expert said Suella Braverman, who has argued that grooming gangs are “almost all” made up of British Pakistani men, appeared more focused on presenting “hard-right talking points” than tackling the wider issues over child sexual abuse. Braverman, the home secretary, and Rishi Sunak are to announce new efforts to tackle grooming gangs on Monday, with the prime minister due to say that “political correctness” has for too long hampered efforts. Citing high-profile mass cases of grooming in Rochdale and Rotherham, Braverman argued on Sunday that the crime was perpetrated almost exclusively by British Pakistani men against white girls, as happened in those instances. However, a Home Office report from 2020 on group-based child sexual exploitation found that the majority of offenders were young white men and it was not possible to conclude whether any particular ethnic group was disproportionately represented. read the complete article


Egyptian asylum seekers decry 'Islamophobia' by Canada's border agency

Attia Elserfy was expecting a second lease on life when he escaped Egypt with his family, landing in Vancouver in October 2018. But the Elserfys say their lives are in limbo because the Canada Border Services Agency challenged both Attia and his wife's admissibility as refugees over their ties to a political party outlawed by the Egyptian government. The Elserfys took part in a hearing in November 2021, but have not heard from immigration officials since, unable to work, they have had to resort to welfare after the Egyptian government froze their assets. “It's making me feel crazy, because it's not the democratic Canada that I expected,” Elserfy said in an interview through an Arabic interpreter. “It makes me feel like I'm still living under the authoritarian regime that I escaped from.” Elserfy and other Egyptian asylum seekers spoke Monday alongside New Democrat MP Don Davies at his constituency office in Vancouver, decrying the CBSA's treatment of recent claimants affiliated with the Freedom and Justice Party and the potential denial of their refugee bids. Members of the Egyptian community protested outside in support of the families. Five families from Egypt claim the CBSA's actions are fuelled by “Islamophobia” and information provided by the Egyptian government, which is leading Canada to withhold protection and causing severe “distress and trauma.” read the complete article


A mosque for all seasons: Worshippers mark the third Ramadan at Athens' Votanikos Mosque

A 20-minute drive from the centre of Athens, behind a row of industrial buildings, a narrow side street passes through a steel gate and opens up to a broad plot of land where the Votanikos Mosque is located. Once a naval garage, the site became home to the Greek capital’s only government-sanctioned mosque in November 2020, when it opened its doors during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Long the focus of local pushback, the mosque and its worshippers are now marking the third Ramadan since it opened. Even two and a half years after its inauguration, a small group of police officers still provide security 24 hours a day. The government first approved its construction in 2006, after the Muslim Association of Greece submitted an application to the Ministry of Education and Religion. Muhammadi, who first came to Greece in 2001 after fleeing Afghanistan, explained that the efforts of other advocacy groups to get the mosque built came amid an anti-Muslim push spearheaded by the far right and other groups. “During the building of the mosque, there were a lot of demonstrations,” he said. For some 14 years, construction was delayed time and again, and the mosque faced opposition in the courts as well. Opponents included the Greek Orthodox Church and others. Amongst the most vocal of those far-right groups was Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party that surged into the Hellenic Parliament in 2013 and later became the third-largest party in the country. read the complete article


'How I feel about representations of Muslim women on TV'

When it comes to representations of Muslim women on TV, well, there isn’t much. We are largely left off your screens and if we are portrayed, it’s usually a cringe-worthy and inaccurate stereotype that forgets that we are real people, not just oppressed housewives or creepy, Orientalist fantasies. A study in 2021 found that just 1.1 per cent of characters in popular TV shows were Muslims, despite us being literally one quarter of the world’s population, and less than a third of those characters were women, showing how often we’re ignored in the media. But, there are some portrayals of us that are done pretty well – and some not so well – so I’ve ranked recent representations of Muslim women on TV. Representations of Muslim women on TV can have a real life impact on how we're treated in society, and we deserve more than to be ignored, stereotyped or put into boxes of being oppressed or in need of saving by others, as we're so much more than that! It's about time for TV to realise it, too. read the complete article


Hijab-Wearing Women Face More Islamophobia than Muslim Men in Austria

While Islamophobia is a major, regular occurrence in Austria, hijab-wearing women are more subject to acts of anti-Muslim racism than Muslim men in the country, the Austrian NGO Dokustelle has reported. Munira Mohamud, an activist with Dokustelle, recently spoke to Anadolu Agency (AA) about the struggles that women wearing hijab face in the European country, stressing that a “lot of women face more anti-Muslim racism.” Women wearing headscarves face anti-Muslim racism because “of the visibility of the hijab,” the activist said. According to Dokustelle, anti-Muslim hate crimes Austria witnessed over 1,000 Islamophobic acts in 2021, of which around 69.2% were perpetrated against women. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 Apr 2023 Edition


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