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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07 Apr 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In India, in addition to calling for bans on hijabs, loudspeakers in mosques, and halal meat, Hindu nationalist groups are now advocating boycotting of Muslim fruit vendors, just as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and right-wing Indian news outlets have launched an attack against the Urdu language, calling it a ‘Muslim’ language, meanwhile Google recently banned over a dozen apps from its Play Store—among them Muslim prayer apps with 10 million-plus downloads—after researchers discovered secret data-harvesting code hidden within them, and in France, “before a single ballot is cast, another clear winner has already emerged from the race. The French right.” Our recommended read of the day is by Ania Nussbaum, Sarah Frier, and Daniel Zuidijk, for Bloomberg on how far-right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour utilized the power of social media to spread anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and push “nativism to the center of the campaign.” This and more below:


07 Apr 2022

By Any Memes Necessary: How the Far Right Took Over France’s Election | Recommended Read

Win or lose—and Zemmour will almost definitely lose, with a runoff between French President Emmanuel Macron and the other far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, looking likely—he has put racial grievances at the center of French politics. His promotion of the so-called Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which says that White, Christian Europeans are being supplanted by Muslim migrants, is now part of mainstream discourse. Credible news outlets employ the term in headlines; Valérie Pécresse, a more moderate candidate, has used it. One poll, which Zemmour often cites, shows that two in three French citizens are concerned about the supposed threat. Le Pen, who inherited the leadership of the National Front (now National Rally) party from her father, Jean-Marie, and who has attracted controversy for promoting strict border policies and the “de-Islamisation” of the country, carried the region in the first round of the last election in 2017, which she lost to Macron. But unlike Zemmour, Le Pen is also courting moderates. And she has stopped short of, for instance, implying that French Muslims themselves should be expelled, or that maybe France’s Nazi-collaborating Vichy government wasn’t so bad after all. Zemmour, on the other hand, has made his name by crossing exactly these lines. The name of his newly founded political party, Reconquête, refers to the 15th century Reconquista, when Spanish Muslims and Jews were forced to either convert to Christianity or be deported. “We are capable of saving France,” he says at the rally. “To make sure France remains France.” Among other proposals, Zemmour has suggested forcing newborns to adopt Christian names and deporting “undesirable foreigners.” Such positions had seemed taboo here until recently, but Zemmour is drawing audiences of thousands and has been polling around 10% in a crowded field, despite officially entering the race only in December. Zemmour’s rise can be attributed, at least in part, to his mastery of social media. Starting late last year, his volunteers created hundreds of Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, which were designed to look spontaneous, but appear to have been coordinated. This vast content farm spread misleading stories that promoted an image of a country overflowing with migrants, one in which White people were finally rebelling. This drew in commenters and followers, causing the false claims to spread further. All this happened despite the efforts of Twitter, YouTube, and especially Meta Platforms (Facebook’s parent) to stop hate speech, extremism, and misinformation suggesting that elections are rigged. Last year, Facebook set up a local team in France “to ensure that we take the right measures to protect the integrity of these ballots and prevent abuse during this period,” as it wrote in a blog post. But such efforts have done little to change the basic structure of social media, which by design rewards extreme and controversial content and which Zemmour has exploited, according to Cori Crider, co-founder of Foxglove, an organization in London that examines governments’ use of technology. read the complete article

07 Apr 2022

Even Before France Votes, the French Right Is a Big Winner

With just days to go before the first round of France’s presidential election, President Emmanuel Macron is still the odds-on favorite to make it through the political juggernaut and win a second term. But even if he does succeed, and before a single ballot is cast, another clear winner has already emerged from the race. The French right. Despite a late surge by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leading left-wing candidate, virtually the entire French campaign has been fought on the right and far right, whose candidates dominate the polls and whose themes and talking points — issues of national identity, immigration and Islam — have dominated the political debate. The far right has even become the champion of pocketbook issues, traditionally the left’s turf. In 2019, Mr. de Voyer co-organized “The Convention of the Right,” a one-day conference that featured leading figures of the right and the far right. It constituted a political launchpad for Éric Zemmour, the TV pundit and best-selling author. More than any other presidential hopeful, Mr. Zemmour has embodied the effects of the right’s cultural battle on the campaign. In his best-selling books and on his daily appearances on CNews, Mr. Zemmour over a decade became a leader of the new right-wing media ecosystem that painted France as being under an existential threat by Muslim immigrants and their descendants, as well as by the importation of multicultural ideas from the United States. Though he has now receded in the polls, to about 10 percent support, Mr. Zemmour’s meteoric rise last year captured France’s attention and ensured that the presidential campaign would be fought almost exclusively on the right’s home turf, as he successfully widened the boundaries of what was politically acceptable in France. read the complete article

07 Apr 2022

The 2022 elections are a monument to France’s deteriorated democracy

For Muslims, the election of Emmanuel Macron was supposed to provide relief after five years of Francois Hollande. However, like his predecessor, he posed as the providential man protecting the nation against the enemy within — French Muslims. So much so that his Minister of Interior accused Marine Le Pen of being “too soft, not on Islamism but on Islam.” While passing reforms to dismantle the welfare state and protections for millions of workers, Emmanuel Macron claimed — and continues to claim — that he has been waging a battle against so-called “political/radical Islam.” With just days before the 2022 presidential election, the political offerings will likely, once again, push many to abstain. Extreme far-right candidate Eric Zemmour broke into the election with an unapologetically anti-Muslim platform. His chances of making it to the second round are slim, but his nine percent in the polls does confirm that Marine Le Pen, polling at 22 percent, is not only capable of reaching the second round but could also win the presidency. For fear of seeing Macron reelected or Le Pen replacing him, grassroots organisers have managed to overcome their differences to work together in a campaign for left-wing candidate Jean Luc Melenchon, despite his years of stoking anti-Muslim racism. The rationale is that he is the “lesser evil” and that voting for him is the only way to defeat the far-right. But one can only question how come the same organisers and activists have been unable to work together as a collective for the past five years in order to prevent this long-forecasted far-right blackmailing. They could not work together for themselves, but they managed to do so for the white man who had a role in the racism they had supposedly been fighting against. Emmanuel Macron has waged a war on Muslims during the past five years, culminating in the “anti-separatism law” passed in August 2021 after a year-long tsunami of anti-Muslim racism within the halls of parliament and media. Today the French government can shut down any Muslim organisation — and has been doing so — at will. read the complete article

07 Apr 2022

The quest for égalité: What's at stake for women in the French election

At his final campaign event before the first round of the 2022 French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron told a packed stadium that gender equality would be the "grand cause" of his second term if he won. It was also the grand cause of his first. Gender equality has otherwise featured little in a campaign dominated by the war in Ukraine and the cost of living, but feminist organizations and academics are nonetheless working to highlight the major challenges women in the country face over the next five years, including femicide, gendered Islamophobia, pay inequality and precarious employment. For many French feminists, Macron's choice of hard-right Gérald Darmanin as interior minister in 2020 is an original sin that has been hard to forgive. Darmanin was under investigation for rape when he was given the job, through which he is responsible for the police force. The appointment spurred hundreds of women to take to the streets in protest. Darmanin was also the public face of France's "separatism" law, passed in 2021, which gave the government new powers to close mosques, exert greater control over religious charities and NGOs and refuse homeschooling in certain cases. The law was intended to reinforce official Republican values and combat Islamist extremism, but civil rights advocates say it has had a chilling effect on the Muslim population more widely, in a country where veiled women in particular have often been the target of debates over laïcité, the French version of secularism. "The law is reshaping most civil liberties by weakening them," says Rim-Sarah Alouane, a legal scholar and researcher at the University Toulouse Capitole. "It affects a whole range of people, but the law was designed to frame and control Muslims. And the first victims will be Muslim women." read the complete article


07 Apr 2022

After halal, loudspeaker ban, Karnataka outfits call for end of 'Muslim monopoly' in fruit business

Even while the demand for a ban on halal meat and the use of loudspeakers in masjids during azan is being criticised, some Hindu outfits in Karnataka have now sought an end to the "monopoly of Muslims" in the fruit business. Chandru Moger, Coordinator of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti in Karnataka, took to Twitter and urged Hindus to buy fruits from Hindu vendors, claiming that most fruit businesses is done by Muslims. “There is a monopoly on the fruit business by Muslims. We are also seeing that they are spitting on fruits and bread before selling it,” said Chandru Moger. He said that these Muslim businesses are "spitting Jihad". “I am requesting all Hindus to help end the monopoly of Muslims in the fruit business. I also urge them to only purchase fruits from Hindu vendors,” he said. Hindu right-wing leader Prashanth Sambargi also shared his thoughts on boycotting Muslim fruit vendors. read the complete article

07 Apr 2022

With Religious Tensions Worsening in India, Understanding Caste Is More Urgent Than Ever

A new Bollywood movie is galvanizing Hindu audiences and stirring up a fresh wave of anti-Muslim bigotry. In the name of India’s Hindu majority, hijabs are banned in one Indian state and Muslims attacked for praying publicly in New Delhi. A hardline Hindu supremacist, infamous for his anti-Muslim comments and for policies that demonize or exclude Muslims, wins a second term as chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. His victory is seen as a ringing endorsement of the ideology of Hindutva. The belief that India is not a secular nation, or even multi-religious, but an intrinsically Hindu country, is the central platform of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But the “Hindu majority” invoked by supporters of Hindutva, in their agitation against Muslims and other minorities, is not a monolithic bloc. In fact, it is highly stratified, with elite groups of Hindus exploiting the vulnerability of marginalized communities for their own political ends. To understand the nuances of Indian politics, one needs to understand the complex caste system. At three thousand years old, this system of organizing Hindus by their professions and obligations is the world’s longest running hierarchy and probably the most rigid. Lying outside this system are the Dalits (formerly called “untouchables”) and the Adivasi (indigenous tribes), together totaling 350 million people, or just over a quarter of India’s population. They are the most socio-economically marginalized groups in the country, but they are also contested over by Hindu nationalists, who see them as useful foot soldiers in the struggle against Islam. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu Nationalist group and the parent organization of the BJP, is also making strenuous if belated efforts to include Dalits and the Adivasis in the Hindu fold. Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the RSS, told a gathering in January that the caste system was “an obstacle to Hindu unity.” Last year, he also said “we consider every Indian a Hindu.” Using such language, the RSS is able to appeal to emotionally vulnerable Dalits, helping them feel accepted in a society that has historically excluded them. Dalits are told that they are “the real warriors of Hinduism.” The next step is conversion “into active anti-Muslim sentiments,” says Bhanwar Meghwanshi. Compounding the issue is the fact that the Muslim community is also stratified on caste lines, in ways that mirror the Hindu system. read the complete article

07 Apr 2022

India's ruling BJP, right-wing news outlets attack ‘Muslim language’ Urdu

Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and right-wing Indian news outlets have launched an attack against the Urdu language, calling it a ‘Muslim’ language. Araga Jnanendra, the home minister of the BJP-ruled state of Karnataka in southern India claimed on Wednesday that a 22-year-old was murdered in the state's capital because he did not speak Urdu. He later retracted the statement, saying that his initial statement was ‘not right', as reported in The Times of India. Other BJP leaders and right-wing news outlets however have continued to amplify this false claim, including BJP National Secretary CT Ravi. In a separate incident, popular food company Haldiram’s was targeted by a right-wing news outlet that claimed the company was using Urdu to ‘hide’ the contents inside its food packaging from Hindus. The text is not Urdu but Arabic, as Haldiram’s is widely exported from India to the Gulf states. Sudarshan News is known for its support for Hindu nationalism and for spreading hatred against Muslims, and is one of the biggest beneficiaries of government advertising since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Both ‘Urdu’ and ‘Haldirams’ are trending on Twitter in India, with hundreds of users calling for the company to be boycotted for using a ‘Muslim’ language. Attacks against Muslims and Islamic culture in India have skyrocketed over the past few weeks, most notably in the southern state of Karnataka. The state is home to Bengaluru, a centre of India's IT industry and one of the country's most cosmopolitan and progressive cities. Karnataka’s dangerous slide towards Hindu nationalism began when Modi’s right-wing BJP took power in the state elections in 2018. read the complete article

07 Apr 2022

India is being run like a fascist organisation

The Modi government's policy is to scapegoat religious minorities in order to divert the attention of the masses and mainstream media away from the burning issues including corruption, mounting poverty and unemployment levels. Muslims have been the persistent targets of the radical Hindu regime, and are still facing new forms of persecution. But, what is the ideological motivation behind the anti-Muslim policy of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? The BJP is actually the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Founded in 1925, the RSS is a right-wing, Hindu nationalist and militant organisation. It has emerged as the symbol of terror for religious minorities, particularly Muslims. RSS mobs has been behind several lynchings of Muslims and have attacked their places of worship. The ultimate objective of the RSS is to make India a Hindu-only nation. Its leaders have been known admirers of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Modi’s introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in 2019 are initiatives he has used to render Muslims second-class citizens in India. Since BJP politics revolve around Hindu supremacy, the party pushes for the glorification of Hindu culture and nationalism. Religious minorities, for example, are forced to chant Hindu supremacist slogans. Muslims continue to be labelled as Pakistan's agents and then harassed and tortured under the Modi administration. Every Muslim is treated as a suspect by India's security and intelligence agencies. read the complete article

07 Apr 2022

Bangalore: How polarisation is dividing India's Silicon Valley

Last week one of India's richest women tweeted an unusual appeal to ruling politicians. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who heads Biocon, a leading biotechnology firm, urged the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Karnataka to "resolve the growing religious divide" in the southern state of 64 million people. Shah's enterprise is based in Karnataka's capital, Bangalore, India's booming info-tech hub. Her remarks came in the wake of a blistering controversy over demands by radical Hindu groups in the state to ban Muslim traders from setting up stalls at temple fairs. These groups have also been urging Hindus not to buy meat sold by Muslim butchers who kill the animal under the requirements of the community's halal slaughter. Now the groups are seeking a ban on the use of loudspeakers in mosques, and a boycott of Muslim mango sellers. That's not all. In the past months, Karnataka has been roiled by tension over a government order barring entry to colleges of Muslim girls wearing hijab. A court has upheld the order, and many students have skipped exams and classes in protest. Last year, the government banned trade and slaughter of cows in a state where some 13% of people are Muslims. There are plans to include the Hindu holy book Bhagvad Gita in the school curriculum, and a proposal to remove a chapter on Tipu Sultan, the 18th Century Muslim ruler of Mysore, because it glorifies him. Ms Shaw tagged Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai in her tweet and said Karnataka had "always forged inclusive economic development". If [the city] of information and biotechnology "became communal", it would "destroy its global leadership", she said. Her concerns are understandable. Karnataka's economic success flows from Bangalore. More than 60% of the state's revenues are generated from this lively and chaotic city of some 10 million people. It's home to more than 13,000 technology start-ups. Some 40% of India's 100-odd unicorns - unlisted companies with a valuation of more than $1bn - are based here. Thanks to Bangalore, the state generates 41% of India's info-tech exports. read the complete article


07 Apr 2022

Muslim Women and the Politics of the Headscarf

The hijab, however, as well as other traditional modest garments, including the abaya and the jilbab—cloaks that envelop the body from the neck down—and face-covering niqab played a much more complex role for women who wore them than helping them gain social approval. For many women, wearing the hijab was—and is—an element of piety. The attacks of September 11 introduced a new era: Muslims were collectively punished for terror committed by 19 men, most of them from Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally. Anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 17-fold in 2001 compared to 2000. Women who wore the hijab were conspicuous targets. They frequently experienced discrimination at work and racial profiling at airports. American propaganda for the “War on Terrorism” blamed Islam for acts of terror, and American Muslims had to choose Islam or the United States order in order to survive. American Muslim women overwhelmingly decided to step outside of this manufactured binary; thousands took up the hijab, simultaneously claiming the right to be Americans. In reference to her newly adopted hijab, one interview subject said: “Islam is beautiful! Deal with it!” The impact of those initial portrayals of women in burka reverberated beyond the theater of war. In 2004, the French “hijab ban” initiated a wave of legislation that took aim at Muslim women who wore the more concealing form of Muslim dress, the niqab. That ban was followed in France by a country-wide ban on niqab. Politicians who were in favor of it argued that the niqab is forced on women by male relatives. They compared niqab wearing to Taliban-enforced burka wearing in Afghanistan. Counterarguments presented by French Muslim women who insisted they wore the niqab by choice were largely ignored. Legal challenges to this legislation in the European Court of Human Rights were unsuccessful, but the rulings were widely criticized by legal scholars who viewed the Court’s interpretation of “religious practice” as rooted in Christian theology. They argued that the Court could instead accept the position taken by the women who wear the niqab that it is their choice. Otherwise, such laws criminalize the niqab, which eventually results in the erasure of niqab-wearing women from the public space. As of now, 16 countries, including seven in Europe, have instituted a similar ban on the niqab, most recently Switzerland in 2021. Elsewhere regional or partial bans are in effect, notably as in the Francophone province of Quebec, where government employees are forbidden from wearing “religious symbols” on the job. These bans remained intact over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, when countries introduced mask mandates, creating a paradoxical situation whereby a Muslim woman could be fined 130 euros (ca. $160) wearing a niqab, and 150 euros (ca. $180) for going without a mask. read the complete article

07 Apr 2022

Mega-Popular Muslim Prayer Apps Were Secretly Harvesting Phone Numbers

Google recently booted over a dozen apps from its Play Store—among them Muslim prayer apps with 10 million-plus downloads, a barcode scanner, and a clock—after researchers discovered secret data-harvesting code hidden within them. Creepier still, the clandestine code was engineered by a company linked to a Virginia defense contractor, which paid developers to incorporate its code into their apps to pilfer users’ data. While conducting research, researchers came upon a piece of code that had been implanted in multiple apps that was being used to siphon off personal identifiers and other data from devices. The code, a software development kit, or SDK, could “without a doubt be described as malware,” one researcher said. For the most part, the apps in question appear to have served basic, repetitive functions—the sort that a person might download and then promptly forget about. However, once implanted onto the user’s phone, the SDK-laced programs harvested important data points about the device and its users like phone numbers and email addresses, researchers revealed. One of the apps was a QR and barcode scanner that, if downloaded, was instructed by the SDK to collect a user’s phone number, email address, IMEI information, GPS data, and router SSID. Another was a suite of Muslim prayer apps including Al Moazin and Qibla Compass—downloaded approximately 10 million times—that similarly pilfered phone numbers, router information, and IMEI. read the complete article


07 Apr 2022

The Path Out of Genocide | Opinion

Five years since brutal attacks by Myanmar's military forced more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees to flee their homes, the United States has finally recognized those horrors as genocide. This determination is a historic and profound step toward justice for the Rohingya people. But those were words. Now we need action. This momentous assessment must serve as a catalyst to hold the Myanmar military accountable for its unceasing atrocities against people across Myanmar and to take urgent steps to end them. As a Myanmar-born Rohingya activist now living in the United Kingdom and a refugee advocate in Washington, we have frequently visited the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh and spoken with countless genocide survivors. Nearly all of them have asked the international community first for justice, and usually, the chance to return to their homes when safe to do so. The U.S. decision to describe their plight as genocide means a lot to them. As one refugee told us in the days following the announcement, "[We are] very happy and hoping for justice and early repatriation." But the impact of the declaration must not end there. The expectations it has raised among Rohingya refugees must be carefully managed, to avoid further disappointing and despairing people who have already suffered too much. One path is to take a series of meaningful actions. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's promise of nearly $1 million to help investigate and collect evidence for future prosecutions was welcome. But it was his only concrete commitment. There are several steps the Biden administration can and must take to put heft behind its words. read the complete article

United States

07 Apr 2022

Judge Brown Jackson and America’s moment of racial reckoning

In an historic first, an African American woman, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, has been nominated to the Supreme Court. Her nomination to the highest judicial body of the nation is rightfully seen as a product of the United States’ current moment of racial reckoning. Despite being well-qualified for the position, she has baselessly been accused of incompetence, faced heightened scrutiny and has needlessly been subjected to questions on Critical Race Theory – only because she is a Black woman. Some within our nation, especially conservative politicians, however, still insist that moments of racial reckoning are a thing of the past and “race no longer matters in the US”. Of course, regardless of what they may claim for political capital, as the racially charged hounding of Judge Jackson during her confirmation hearing once again laid bare for everyone to see, race does matter in the US – a lot. The US has always been and still is a racialised social system in which “economic, political, social, and ideological levels are partially structured by the placement of actors in racial categories or races”. Thus, in American society, different races experience positions of subordination and superordination. As I explain in The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom, this racialisation creates a hierarchy within society and leads to systemic inequality. Throughout American history, there have been several moments of racial reckoning in which groups suffering the harms of racialisation mobilised collectively to eliminate the hierarchy. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 07 Apr 2022 Edition


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