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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06 Apr 2020

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S far right groups seek ways to exploit the coronavirus pandemic, as U.K police investigates white supremacist groups in the country over anti-Muslim coronavirus claims. In Sri Lanka, the forced cremation of two COVID-19 victims sends shockwaves through the Muslim community. Our recommended read today is a New York Times investigation into India’s detention camps, and Modi’s continued denial that his government is targeting Muslims in the country. This, and more, below:


06 Apr 2020

Modi Denies India Is Targeting Muslims. We Found a Different Reality. | Recommended Read

How can someone who’s lived for years as a citizen of India suddenly be declared illegal? Whistle-blowers told us how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party is making Muslims stateless. State officials and workers told us this compound in Assam will house up to 3,000 detainees, people who are declared foreigners. Many of the people likely to be held in the compound might not even be foreigners at all. The fear is that most of them will be Muslims, and the state they live in is leading Modi's push to change India into a more overtly Hindu nation. read the complete article

06 Apr 2020

‘Muslims Are Foreigners’: Inside India’s Campaign to Decide Who Is a Citizen

For nearly two years, Mamoni Rajkumari, a lawyer, spent her days deciding who was an Indian citizen and who was not, as part of a tribunal reviewing suspected foreigners in the state of Assam. Then, she says, she was dismissed for not declaring enough Muslims to be noncitizens. “I was punished,’’ she said. Ms. Rajkumari, 54, has found herself on the front line of India’s citizenship wars. In addition to the tribunals, which Assam has operated for decades, the state has also recently completed a broader, separate review of every resident’s paperwork to determine if they were citizens. That review found that nearly two million of Assam’s 33 million residents, many of them desperately poor, were possibly foreigners. Now this group — which is disproportionately Muslim — is potentially stateless. What’s happening in Assam is a preview of what may be coming to India as a whole as Prime Minister Narendra Modi tries to pull the country away from its foundation as a secular, multicultural nation and turn it into a more overtly Hindu state. The New York Times interviewed one current and five former members of the Assam tribunals that review suspected foreigners. The five former members said they had felt pressured by the government to declare Muslims to be noncitizens. Three of them, including Ms. Rajkumari, said they were fired because they did not do so. read the complete article

06 Apr 2020

It Was Already Dangerous to Be Muslim in India. Then Came the Coronavirus

Indian authorities had linked dozens of cases of COVID-19 to a Muslim missionary group that held its annual conference in Delhi in early March, and health officials were racing to track down anyone who had contact with the participants. Coronavirus fears and religious tension were already at a fever pitch in India, and it didn’t take long for the two forces to intermingle. Videos falsely claiming to show members of the missionary group spitting on police and others quickly went viral on social media, exacerbating an already dangerous atmosphere for Muslims. “Islamophobia has been transposed onto the coronavirus issue,” says Amir Ali, an assistant professor of political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Since March 28, tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared nearly 300,000 times and potentially seen by 165 million people on Twitter, according to data shared with TIME by Equality Labs, a digital human rights group. Equality Labs activists say that many of the posts are in clear violation of Twitter’s rules on hate speech and coronavirus, but have yet to be taken down. “We are committed to protect and serve the public conversation as we navigate this unprecedented global public healthcare crisis,” reads a statement Twitter provided to TIME. “We continue to remain vigilant.” Coming just weeks after religious pogroms conducted by Hindu nationalists left 36 Muslims dead in Delhi, the surge in hateful tweets demonstrates how anxieties over the coronavirus have merged with longstanding Islamophobia in India, at a time when the Muslim minority — 200 million people in a nation of 1.3 billion — feels increasingly targeted by the ruling Hindu nationalists. “One of the key features of anti-Muslim sentiment in India for quite a long time has been the idea that Muslims themselves are a kind of infection in the body politic,” says Arjun Appadurai, a professor of media, culture and communication at New York University who studies Indian politics. “So there’s a kind of affinity between this long-standing image and the new anxieties surrounding coronavirus.” read the complete article

06 Apr 2020

After COVID-19 outbreak at Tablighi Jamaat conference, fake news targeting Muslims abounds

Since 30 March, when news broke that six attendees at the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic religious gathering in Delhi’s Nizamuddin locality, had died of COVID-19, fact-checking websites have reported a barrage of fake-news targeting Muslims for the pandemic. Many video clips shared on Facebook and WhatsApp purportedly showed Muslims actively working to spread the virus in India. Fact checkers said that despite each of the posts on social media being easy to disprove, the sheer quantity of false-information shared made it tough for them to flag all cases of disinformation. “Ever since the Nizamuddin incident is in the public domain, there is a surge in fake content targeting the Muslim community,” Rakesh Dubbudu, the founder of the fact checking website Factly, said. On 30 March, several videos appeared on both WhatsApp and Facebook that claimed to show Muslims engaging in various activities to infect others with the virus. #CHECKIT is a WhatsApp group started by an organisation called Confederation of Voluntary Associations which works towards maintaining communal harmony in south Asia. #CHECKIT have been attempting to spot false forwards on the platform and inform users of the same. Goutham Uyalla, a member of #CHECKIT, told me that they had been working on identifying such content from 2019. Uyalla said, “The organised communal propaganda wing of the right and its controversial leaders have been inactive ever since the COVID-19 outbreak. They are likely to be energised now as Tablighi Jamaat congregation is making headlines.” read the complete article

06 Apr 2020

Rajasthan: Baby Dies After Doctor Allegedly Refused to Treat Pregnant Muslim Woman

A doctor in Bharatpur refused to treat a pregnant Muslim woman in urgent need of help, following which she lost her baby, Vishvendra Singh, tourism minister in the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan, alleged in a video message on Twitter in which he expressed his anger over what had happened. He said that while he was monitoring his own constituency during the COVID-19 lockdown, he came to know about a doctor in Bharatpur who refused to operate a pregnant woman because of her Muslim identity and asked her to go to Jaipur for delivery. He named the woman as Praveena who is a resident of Bela Nagar in Bharatpur district. He said she was referred to Bharatpur’s government-run zanana hospital where a doctor outrightly refused to operate on her because she was Muslim. read the complete article

06 Apr 2020

A Cluster Of Coronavirus Cases Can Be Traced Back To A Single Mosque And Now 200 Million Muslims Are Being Vilified

Indian authorities fear that many thousands of people may have been exposed to the virus as a result of the congregation of the Tablighi Jamaat group at a mosque in the Nizamuddin neighborhood of New Delhi last month. In India, at least 647 attendees have shown symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, while six people have already died. (India has officially recorded 2,567 cases and 72 deaths.) While the Tablighi Jamaat is far from the only group in India that has ignored social distancing instructions across the country, it is the only one that has been singled out as a scapegoat. In India, news channels have focused on the link between the religious gathering in Nizamuddin and the spread of the virus, which in turn has led to a huge increase in anti-Muslim sentiment. They have been fanning the flames of communal hatred, declaring that the virus is being spread by “corona-jihadis” in an act of terrorism. And anti-Muslim narratives are being turbo-charged by constant disinformation spread online and via WhatsApp. Making matters worse was an audio clip that emerged last week, shared on WhatsApp and broadcast on some news channels, in which the voice of a man called on Muslims to reject social distancing and continue to gather at mosques. Indian news channels and WhatsApp forwards have said the voice belongs to Maulana Saad, the 56-year-old organizer of the religious gathering where thousands of Muslims met in March. The clip was originally posted on the YouTube page of Saad’s mosque in mid-March, according to the Indian news channel NDTV, before later being removed. Every night, Indian primetime television dubs Saad the “mastermind” of a terrorist operation meant to infect the whole of India, drawing blame away from the Indian government’s missteps in responding to the virus. While China and the US blame each other for the origin of the virus, and some have even falsely suggested that the coronavirus is a bioweapon, in India, the most popular conspiracy theory is that the spread of the virus can be solely blamed on Muslims. read the complete article

United Kingdom

06 Apr 2020

Police investigate UK far-right groups over anti-Muslim coronavirus claims

Counter-terrorism police in the UK are investigating far-right groups accused of trying to use the coronavirus crisis to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment. The monitoring group Tell Mama said that in March it recorded dozens of incidents of far-right groups allegedly trying to put blame on British Muslims for the spread of the virus. The group said it had had to debunk numerous claims made on social media that Muslims were breaching the lockdown by continuing to attend mosques to pray. There were also incidents where Muslims were attacked, it said. read the complete article

United States

06 Apr 2020

Claire Danes responds to claims that Homeland is racist: ‘It’s inherently problematic’

Claire Danes has responded to claims that Homeland is “racist” and “Islamophobic”, as the political thriller reaches the end of its eighth and final series. Homeland has had a mixed reception since it launched in 2011. While its first series was a critical triumph, gained fans including Barack Obama and won many Emmy awards, the show has also been accused of being “bigoted”. Writer and filmmaker Laura Durkay wrote in the Washington Post in 2014: “Since its first episode, Homeland has churned out Islamophobic stereotypes as if its writers were getting paid by the cliche.” On the broader issue of racism in the show, she added: “I get it. I think it’s tricky and kind of inherently problematic, right? There are a lot of brown people in our story who are doing really bad things, and there aren’t enough opportunities to create a more balanced portrait of that demographic. “That was always going to be a point of vulnerability for us, but I also think that our heroes are really problematic and really flawed. We’re wrestling with some pretty challenging questions and ideas and those two sides of various arguments were personified by our characters.” read the complete article

06 Apr 2020

US far right seeks ways to exploit coronavirus and cause social collapse

Neo-Nazi groups in the US are looking for ways to exploit the coronavirus outbreak and commit acts of violence, according to observers of far-right groups, law enforcement, and propaganda materials reviewed by the Guardian. The watchdog group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) raised the alarm last week about opportunism from far-right so-called “accelerationist” groups who believe sowing chaos and violence will hasten the collapse of society, allowing them to build a white supremacist one in its place. Late last month, the FBI warned such extremist groups were encouraging members to deliberately spread the virus to Jewish people and police officers. Similarly, British hate monitors Hope Not Hate warned these groups are expressing “gleeful expectation of social turmoil”. read the complete article

06 Apr 2020

FBI Opened Terrorism Investigations into Nonviolent Palestinian Solidarity Group Documents Reveal

Documents reveal sprawling investigations involving FBI field offices in multiple states and the national headquarters, as well as local law enforcement. FBI agents resorted not only to confidential informants and physical surveillance, but a scandal-prone unit formed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks accessed the phone records of at least one activist. In both investigations, the FBI relied heavily on biased right-wing publications making fantastical claims of questionable veracity. The investigations, the documents show, cast a wide net. Other groups making nonviolent objections to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories were named as associates of ISM; their board members and other affiliations were listed in the documents simply owing to glancing associations with the group under investigation. Throughout the documents, the political beliefs of ISM members and other Palestinian solidarity activist were treated as though they were synonymous with terrorism. The approach is of a piece with the FBI’s long history of using its intelligence and national security powers to track domestic dissent. “These cases demonstrate the FBI’s unwillingness to distinguish non-violent civil disobedience protesting government policy from terrorism,” Michael German, a former FBI agent and current fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, who reviewed the documents, told The Intercept. “The first” — the Los Angeles probe — “shows the FBI doesn’t even follow its own rules in opening Terrorism Enterprise Investigations. And the second” — in St. Louis ­— “shows the FBI’s use of tools designed to target foreign enemies against Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.” read the complete article


06 Apr 2020

Malaysian authorities hold 202 Rohingya from boat off Langkawi

Malaysian authorities have detained more than 200 ethnic Rohingya, including five children, after they intercepted a boat off the coast of the northwestern island of Langkawi. Malaysia, which is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees, is a common destination for Rohingya fleeing Myanmar - where fighting continues in the western state of Rakhine - and squalid conditions at refugee camps in Bangladesh where hundreds of millions now live. Amnesty International on Monday warned that older Rohingya refugees in the camps were being left behind in the humanitarian response to COVID-19. The rights group said basic accurate information about the illness and measures to prevent its spread was failing to reach people in the camps, especially older refugees. read the complete article

06 Apr 2020

Why Are Beauty Brands Afraid To Say They’re Halal?

Once at dinner at a London restaurant, I asked whether the steak was halal. Horrified and unprepared, the managing staff explained they had a vegan menu instead. While there's no denying that veganism and 'clean eating' have truly taken off, it's fair to say the halal requirement is rarely catered to. It isn't just food. The same disregard can be applied to halal beauty products. If you're unaware, for a beauty product to be halal (this means 'permissible' in Islam) it must be alcohol-free and contain no pig, carnivore or blood-based ingredients. But it also encompasses many other things, such as being cruelty-free (not tested on animals), sustainable and ethical where both ingredients and packaging are concerned. Not all halal beauty brands are vegan, however, as ingredients such as beeswax and honey are allowed. Unlike 'clean', 'natural', 'vegan' and 'eco-friendly', 'halal' is rarely plastered across beauty packaging, even though it often encapsulates many of these buzzwords. In fact, it is barely noted at all. This is surprising when you consider that by 2025, the global halal beauty market is predicted to be worth $52.02 billion. It is only slightly behind the global natural beauty market, which is set to be worth $54 billion by 2027. For some time I've wondered whether halal beauty isn’t as common in the UK's skincare lexicon because Muslims themselves don’t mention it enough. Are other communities louder than us when requesting what they need? Or is it to do with the erasure of brown and black beauty rituals and requirements, which some might argue have been whitewashed as 'clean' or natural beauty? The word 'halal' may not be explicitly advertised on beauty products for a number of reasons. Firstly, it could suggest that being halal is a 'Muslim thing'. In reality, halal practices are a lifestyle choice which everyone can follow – not just the Muslim community. Secondly, the term 'halal' has become politically charged. Do brands think that this might have a knock-on effect on sales or how they are perceived? With Islamophobia at an all-time high, being a halal beauty brand might imply allyship towards the Muslim community. This could be viewed as risky business, given that frankly, we’re not seen as 'cool' right now. All of this begs the question: Are beauty brands reluctant or even afraid to state that they are halal? read the complete article


06 Apr 2020

In Xinjiang, Tourism Erodes the Last Traces of Uyghur Culture

About half of Xinjiang’s 25 million people belong to Muslim ethnic minority groups, the largest of which are the Uyghurs. Muslims have long faced discrimination from the Chinese government, but the repressive measures were radically expanded in 2014 following an outbreak of ethnic violence timed around President Xi Jinping’s visit to the region. Acting on President Xi’s direction, local Communist Party officials rapidly built a series of indoctrination camps that hold an estimated one million Muslim men for months or even years at a time. French photographer Patrick Wack first visited Xinjiang in 2016-17 to shoot a series inspired by American landscape photography. He returned last year, hoping to document the effect of the crackdowns on the local population. “There are police and military checkpoints everywhere now,” he says. “It feels like martial law.” Traditional markers of Uyghur culture had largely disappeared, he noticed. “The women are not wearing veils. Any Muslim or remotely Middle Eastern–looking symbols have been removed. It was a completely different place.” Most startling was the conspicuous absence of men aged 20 to 60, many of whom had likely been rounded up and herded into indoctrination camps. Unlike Tibet, where visitors need special permission to visit, Xinjiang is still open to visitors. But in several cities Wack was followed by plainclothes police officers, and at checkpoints he was sometimes asked to show his photographs. On one occasion, he was asked to delete images; fortunately, he kept two copies of the files. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

06 Apr 2020

Anguish as Sri Lanka forces Muslims to cremate COVID-19 victims

The forced cremation of two COVID-19 infected Muslims in Sri Lanka has sent shock waves among the minority community, which accused the authorities of violating Islamic burial rites. "My father was taken in a vehicle under the supervision of the police force and was cremated. We did some prayers outside the morgue, but it was not a Janazah that us Muslim typically do," Fayaz told Al Jazeera. "The government needs to make arrangements for us Muslims to be able to bury our loved ones in accordance with our Islamic burial rites." Muslim leaders and activists have pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) allows both burial or cremation for people dying due to the pandemic. Prominent lawyer Ali Sabry said in a Facebook post that he was disappointed with authorities' decision to cremate bodies of Muslims, as it was in disregard to the WHO guidelines, which say that a body can be either buried or cremated. "The Muslim community sees this as a racist agenda of extremist Buddhist forces that seem to hold the government to ransom," Hilmy Ahamed, vice president of Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 Apr 2020 Edition


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