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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08 Apr 2020

Today in Islamophobia: In India, a Tablighi Jamaat event becomes the country’s worst coronavirus vector. In the U.S, as far-right activists “zoombomb” virtual Muslim-group meetings, black Muslims fear they could be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Our recommended read today is by Ravi Agrawal titled “How Islamophobia is making the coronavirus crisis worse.” This, and more, below:


08 Apr 2020

Islamophobia Is Making the Coronavirus Crisis Worse | Recommended Read

“We were just winning when they did everything to defeat us,” said Arnab Goswami, a fiery Indian television anchor and the majority owner of the pro-government channel Republic, on a primetime broadcast last week. Goswami’s “we” could refer to India and its fight against the coronavirus pandemic. “They” was Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamic missionary movement whose large gathering in New Delhi in early March has been identified as a key source of coronavirus spread in India. But for regular watchers of Goswami’s divisive program, the “we” and “they” could be interpreted as a way to divide the 1.1 billion Hindus and 200 million Muslims in the world’s largest democracy. The dog whistle seems to have had some success. Tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad appeared 300,000 times on Twitter, Time reports. Several politicians affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party called the Tablighi Jamaat gathering “corona terrorism”—an open display of Islamophobia. Meanwhile, fake news has fanned the sectarian flames: As BuzzFeed reports, one video showing a group of Muslim men breathing hard and another of a Muslim man spitting on a police officer—both seeming to indicate an intent to spread the coronavirus—went viral on social media. The videos were later shown to be months old and unrelated to the pandemic, but the damage was already done. read the complete article

Recommended Read
08 Apr 2020

How Tablighi Jamaat event became India's worst coronavirus vector

Of about 4,400 COVID-19 positive cases in India, nearly a third are related to the religious gathering at the Markaz, as the Jamaat headquarters is known. The government claimed more than 8,000 people, including foreigners, visited the headquarters in early March. While accusing the Jamaat leadership of "carelessness" during a global pandemic, experts and civil society members also blamed the central government for its delayed response and allowing foreigners, particularly those coming from COVID-19 hotspot nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia, into India. Jamaat has remained an apolitical organisation since its founding in 1926 and works to encourage Muslims to practise Islam the way it is believed to have been practised at the time of the Prophet Mohammed. The group was vilified by the mainstream media for its "carelessness", and the country's 200 million Muslims were blamed for spreading the virus that has killed more than 70,000 people worldwide. #CoronaJihad trended on Twitter, with many ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders calling the religious gathering "corona terrorism" - a term many said hinted at the Islamophobia of the governing party. A central minister called the Markaz gathering a "Talibani crime". According to a report in Time magazine, tweets with #CoronaJihad appeared nearly 300,000 times and were potentially seen by 165 million people since March 28. "It is unfortunate that people are calling it a conspiracy and using terms like Corona Jihad. Communalising it is not the right way. The media too has played a mischievous role," Mustafa told Al Jazeera. read the complete article

08 Apr 2020

Call it a mistake, not conspiracy against India, say Muslim scholars on Tablighi Jamaat event

The Tablighi Jamaat has been widely criticised for holding the congregation that has emerged as a Covid-19 cluster. ThePrint spoke to some of the leading Muslim scholars of different Islamic bodies on what they make of the incident and the controversies that followed. Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), said the narrative around the Tablighi Jamaat incident has “served to make every Muslim an enemy in the eyes of the majority”. “Woh chahte hain har Hindu yeh soche ki sirf Musalman unhe khatra pahucha sakta hai, isliye Musalman ke saath apni doori aur nafrat ko barkarar rakho (They want all Hindus to think that only Muslims can cause them danger, so maintain your distance). The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking directions to the Modi government to stop dissemination of fake news pertaining to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, and take strict action against those spreading communal hatred and bigotry. “Each time there was a bomb blast in the country, the home ministry would find some Muslim men to blame. These men would then rot in jail for eternity, even if they were innocent,” Madani said. “This is a continuation of the same vilification. The government wants everyone to think that Muslims alone have brought upon this crisis to the nation.” read the complete article

08 Apr 2020

Why India's Muslim truckers and aid workers fighting Covid-19 face attacks

For India's mainstream media and right-wing parties, the outbreak offered an opportunity to demonise the country's Muslim minority. Twitter soon exploded with a vile hashtag 'coronajihad,' insinuating that the upsurge in Covid-19 positives was a Muslim conspiracy against majority-Hindu India. The impact of such a hostile campaign is now squandering the emergency measures the country is taking to battle the spread of the virus. Reports about angry mobs attacking Muslim truckers, health professionals and emergency rescue workers, who are playing an essential role from transporting supplies to examining people suspected of contracting the virus, are emerging from different parts of the country. In Arunachal Pradesh state, an official at the government-run Food and Civil Supply department wrote a letter to the police saying several Muslim truckers, who unloaded rice at a Koloriang district, were beaten up by a group of men on Saturday. As their trucks were also vandalised in the attack, they left their vehicles behind and fled to Assam, the letter said. read the complete article

United States

08 Apr 2020

US wages endless war on terror, but fails in war on coronavirus

The United States built an entire infrastructure to counter terrorism and criminalise Muslim communities, spending nearly $6.4 trillion in wars that killed half a million people since 2001. In contrast, there has been little focus on preparing the country for the Covid-19 pandemic. To address the now-acknowledged seriousness of Covid-19, the administration recently approved a $2.2 trillion economic rescue plan to support businesses and residents, aiming to alleviate the financial burden of the virus and associated lockdowns. Rather than offering universal protection however, the CARES Act excludes undocumented immigrants, thus continuing the administration's xenophobic and anti-immigrant policies that base access to resources on citizenship. What would the response have been if growing numbers of people in the US were being targeted by terrorists? Would it take nearly two months to address this seriously? The "war on terror" - one built on structural and institutionalised Islamophobia - demonstrates as much, as it resulted in putting multiple systems in place to combat terrorism almost immediately after 9/11. Eighteen years later, the war has cost $6.4 trillion and yet there is no affirmative answer as to whether or not the United States is safer. When it comes to the war on terror, the contrast in the speed of addressing different threats to the country shows how policy responses are developed based on the extent to which a problem, such as terrorism, can be constructed as inherently more threatening to our security than others, such as a pandemic, regardless of the actual impact. read the complete article

08 Apr 2020

Trump's new press secretary has a history of defending Islamophobia

At a 2014 Fox Business panel, Kayleigh McEnany was all smiles. Sitting next to her was Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of the white nationalist group Proud Boys. Her smiles persisted even as he said that Muslims are genetically inferior because of "inbreeding". She also appeared to agree with McInnes when he argued that Muslims are "totally irrational". On Tuesday, she was appointed as Donald Trump's new White House press secretary, replacing Stephanie Grisham, who held the job for just nine months and did not hold any press briefings. Trump's new press secretary has also pushed back against the idea that US foreign policy in the Middle East may be contributing to anger that causes militant attacks. "US foreign policy has done a lot of good for the Muslim people. I think Bush liberated 15 million Muslims from the hands of dictators," she said in 2014. As a Trump advocate, in 2017, she argued that "deadly political correctness perpetuates terrorism," berating European governments' immigration policies. "Refusing to utter the words 'radical Islamic extremism,' opening the door to millions of half-vetted refugees and decrying the concepts of borders and assimilation have resulted in a culture in crisis – a culture without democratic, freedom-loving identity and constantly under murderous attack from cancers within," she wrote in a column for the Hill. read the complete article

08 Apr 2020

Far-right racists in US are 'Zoombombing' Muslim groups during coronavirus lockdown meetings

Far-right and racist groups in the US are using the video meeting platform Zoom to spread Islamophobic hate, as millions of people are forced to rely on the app due to the novel coronavirus lockdown. Dubbed "zoombombing" by The New York Times following an extensive investigation into these spaces, there has been an increase in incidents of individuals and groups "raiding" Zoom meetings. The Times found 153 Instagram accounts as well as Twitter profiles and private chats on Reddit and 4Chan message boards organising Zoom harassment campaigns. It comes after a right-wing group infiltrated a Zoom call organised with the Concordia Forum, a global network of Muslim leaders who had been discussing ways to maintain spirituality and wellbeing during the coronavirus lockdown. Zahed Amanullah told the publication that he had paused the meeting after he noticed a cursor begin to draw a racial slur across one of the slides. Shortly after, the person who had hacked into the call began to screen-share a pornographic video and repeating the racial epithet verbally. read the complete article

08 Apr 2020

The 9/11 Era Is Over

After reading bin Laden’s own words and studying the lives of the hijackers, I could no longer so easily square their motivations with what Bush had said after 9/11. The people who had attacked us didn’t seem focused on their hatred of America’s “democratically elected government.” What they hated was American foreign policy. What they sought was the overthrow of their own governments—chiefly, that of Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers came from, and that of Egypt, where the plot’s ringleader, Mohamed Atta, came from. I was angry, above all, at myself. I was a Democrat, but I had come to Washington to be part of the bipartisan response to 9/11—one that was going to cast the terrorists, in Bush’s words, into “history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies,” alongside “fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism.” I had believed Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. I had cheered the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein. I had ignored obvious signs of overreach—our government opening a gulag at Guantanamo Bay and torturing people who might have been innocent. I had bought into the idea that Democrats needed to demonstrate their willingness to vigorously prosecute the “global war on terrorism,” even as it led us into war with a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. I had been naive and wrong, swept along by my own post-9/11 emotions and the assurances of my own government. Donald Trump drafted on these dark currents as he launched his presidential campaign in 2015, tapping into America’s post-9/11 fears of a faceless “other” and the frustrations of Americans who had been promised great victories in Iraq and Afghanistan but found only quagmires. Instead of reckoning with the ways that we might have gotten the response to 9/11 wrong, Trump scapegoated enemies within: a black president, brown-skinned immigrants, Muslim refugees. Social media mainlined these fears into tens of millions of American households, and made us an easy mark for a Russian influence campaign. read the complete article

08 Apr 2020

Black Muslims in US fear they could be 'disproportionately impacted' by coronavirus

Black Muslims in the United States fear they could be at a higher risk from coronavirus infections, as cases continue to climb and hospitals in communities of colour struggle to flatten the curve. As the crisis worsens, a lack of access to quality healthcare, insurance and other essential resources has left the community feeling they could be among the most impacted. Making up a fifth of all US Muslims, Black Muslims sit at multiple intersections and are often rendered invisible within both the larger Black and Muslim community. Dr Kameelah Rashad, the co-director and founder of the Muslim Wellness Foundation, told Middle East Eye that decades of unequal healthcare access and research that is racially biased, could result in Black Muslims witnessing an alarming rate of deaths in their communities. Last month, the Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF) and Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) launched the National Black Muslim Covid Coalition to help the community contain the disease. The decision to form the coalition comes as cities such as Charlotte, North Carolina, are reporting a disproportionate number of coronavirus cases among African Americans, with black residents accounting for more than 40 percent of confirmed Covid-19 cases. "Unless we mobilise - and do that effectively and efficiently - [Black Muslims] will be disproportionately impacted in a year where there's a census and a presidential election," Rashad said. read the complete article

08 Apr 2020

The Far-Right Helped Create The World's Most Powerful Facial Recognition Technology

Advanced facial recognition technology poses a mortal threat to privacy. It could grant the government, corporations and even average citizens the ability to capture a photo of anybody and, with a few keystrokes, uncover all kinds of personal details. So when The New York Times published an exposé about a shadowy facial recognition firm called Clearview AI in January, it seemed like the worst nightmare of privacy advocates had arrived. Clearview is the most powerful form of facial recognition technology ever created, according to the Times. With more than 3 billion photos scraped surreptitiously from social media profiles and websites, its image database is almost seven times the size of the FBI’s. Its mobile app can match names to faces with a tap of a touchscreen. The technology is already being integrated into augmented reality glasses so people can identify almost anyone they look at. Exclusive documents obtained by HuffPost reveal that Clearview’s CEO and co-founder, Cam-Hoan Ton-That, as well as several people who have done work for the company, have deep, longstanding ties to far-right extremists. Some members of this alt-right cabal went on to work for Ton-That. Big Brother, it turned out, was wearing a MAGA cap. By 2015, Ton-That had joined forces with far-right subversives working to install Trump as president. They included Mike Cernovich, a Trump-affiliated propagandist who spearheaded the near-deadly Pizzagate disinformation campaign; Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, a neo-Nazi hacker and the webmaster for The Daily Stormer; and Pax Dickinson, the racist former chief technology officer of Business Insider who went on to march with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia. read the complete article


08 Apr 2020

India's Modi Imports American Discrimination

Even before President Donald Trump brought nativism front and center in U.S. politics, India was rummaging through American jurisprudence for intellectual ammo to justify similar policies. The world's second-most-populous country experienced a massive influx of Bangladeshi refugees in 1971 when Pakistan declared war on Bangladesh to prevent it from seceding. Pakistan's brutality triggered the single largest displacement of people in the second half of the 20th century, with 10 million Bangladeshis, predominantly Muslim, fleeing to bordering Indian states. Although two-thirds of these refugees eventually returned home, the rest settled in places such as Assam, a lovely, bucolic state famous for its tea, nestled in the northeastern Himalayan range. This generated tensions with the local Assamese. After some grisly episodes of bloodletting, the Indian Supreme Court intervened in 2005. It scrapped an existing law that it insisted was hamstringing the government's expulsion efforts and created an expedited deportation timetable. How did India's highest court justify all this? By quoting an entire passage from the notorious 1889 ruling Chae Chan Ping v. United States, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Chinese Exclusion Act and declared that "the highest duty of a nation" is to "give security against foreign aggression and encroachment," including from "vast hordes" of foreigners "crowding in upon us." This is exactly how Trump characterizes Central American refugees—and how Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi characterizes Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants. Moreover, just as Trump is expanding detention camps to house asylum-seekers who illegally cross the border, the Modi government is building a vast network of detention camps to segregate Indian Muslims who can't prove that their ancestors hailed from India. read the complete article


08 Apr 2020

Muslims Held in China’s Detention Camps Speak Out

“You were like a zombie in the camp, like someone who had lost their mind,” Rahima tells FRONTLINE in the above clip. “You just think about being released and dream of that moment.” Rahima is one of two former detainees who share their stories in China Undercover, a new FRONTLINE documentary that investigates the Chinese Communist regime’s mass imprisonment and surveillance of Uyghurs and other Muslims. Like Rahima, Gulzira is a Kazakh Muslim who was detained in China’s Xinjiang region. Of life inside the camps, she remembers being surrounded by mesh and barbed wire,cameras everywhere, and brutal treatment. Twice, she says, she was made to sit on a hard chair for 24 hours. She went to the bathroom where she sat. And “if you exceeded two minutes in the toilet, they hit our heads with an electric prod,” Gulzira tells FRONTLINE. The two women’s accounts offer a rare firsthand glimpse of life for Muslims caught in China’s crackdown. The country’s government has publicly portrayed the camps as “vocational education and training centers,” but classified Chinese government documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists depict them as involuntary indoctrination centers with high watchtowers, constant camera surveillance, harsh punishments and dedicated police bases to prevent escapes. read the complete article

08 Apr 2020

The Story of Chinese Muslims Is A “Story That has Global Implications”: Q&A With Filmmakers

Producers Robin Barnwell and Gesbeen Mohammad describe what’s unfolding in Xinjiang as a new model of governance — “digital authoritarianism” — that is now being exported from China to other countries. “We are basically seeing, through Xinjiang, a new form of governance being developed to control humans through technology,” Robin told FRONTLINE. “I think people need to realize that this is not just a local story in Xinjiang, it’s a story that has global implications,” he added. “This is going have serious implications for human rights and democracy around the world.” Robin and Gesbeen spoke to FRONTLINE about how they made China Undercover, why they decided to capture undercover footage, and what the story of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang means for the rest of the world. read the complete article

United Kingdom

08 Apr 2020

Coronavirus pandemic being exploited to fuel Islamophobia

Dozens of incidents of far-right groups allegedly trying to blame British Muslims for the spread of the virus were recorded in March by the hate crime-monitoring organization Tell Mama. It said it had debunked 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 added. Tommy Robinson, the founder and former leader of the English Defence League, and one of the most prominent far-right figures in the UK, shared a video online that was alleged to show a group of Muslim men leaving a “secret mosque” in inner-city Birmingham. The claims were subsequently dismissed by West Midlands police. West Yorkshire police similarly dismissed images allegedly showing Muslims attending Friday prayers, pointing out that they were taken before the lockdown was announced. David Jamieson, the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, said counterterrorism police were looking into reports that right-wing groups were trying to use the pandemic to create division. “It’s something we are monitoring very closely,” he added. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 08 Apr 2020 Edition


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