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 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, a Muslim producer and actor launches a film production company aimed at better representing Muslims in the UK, as French social media platforms react to the bill aiming to ban hijab for minors, and in India, a fierce election in the eastern state of West Bengal pits Hindu fundamentalists against the traditionally tolerant approach of the region. Our recommended read of the day is by Pragya Agarwal on the discrepancy between sexual tolerance and religious expression in France. This and more below:


07 Apr 2021

In France, the age of consent for sex could soon be lower than for wearing the hijab – that really is where we are

France’s relationship with the veil has been fractious for a while now. The latest drive to ban the hijab for anyone under the age of 18 – part of the “separatism bill” – stems from a movement, growing in Europe since 9/11, which targets women wearing headscarves and veils: the burqa and the niqab. In 2011, France became the first country to ban all women from wearing any sort of veil, or the niqab outside their homes in any public place. The niqab ban was the first in Europe and it really questioned France’s attitude to the integration of Muslims in the country. The right-wing parties, including the Republicans led by Nicolas Sarkozy and National Rally led by Marine Le Pen, started a nationwide debate on the place of Muslims in France and hailed France’s “Christian heritage”. Much of this is also rooted in the imperialistic legacy of France where, for part of the 20th century, it occupied many Muslim-majority lands in Africa and the Middle East. During this period, there was also a drive to separate Islamic symbols and practices from the oppressed areas by banning the veil and Arabic language from the public sphere. The colonial mindset has continued in France, and has been at the root of the blatant Islamophobia in the state. The ban on the niqab and the hijab is being justified as a means to empower women. However, it is grounded in anti-Islam rhetoric, which is deeply embedded in French society and governance. By assuming that all Muslim women in headscarves are being oppressed, a disregard and ignorance of Islamic religious principles and values is revealed. It is rooted in supremacy ideals where minority ethnic women are always oppressed and need to be saved. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
08 Apr 2021

As a Muslim teen my hijab was an expression of my spirituality – France’s ban is Islamophobia in action

I’m a hijab-wearing British Muslim woman and I know Islamophobia when I see it. Bills such as this one is a testament to the level of anti-Muslim sentiment present in France and must be called out by the UK. France has one of Europe’s largest Muslim populations and, with this legislation, is breaching its own constitutional rights which guarantees ‘freedom of religion’ as set in 1789. It is also incredibly hypocritical, served up under the guise of “women’s empowerment and secularism” when all it does is restrict women from making their own choices. Muslim women should be able to make their own choices about whether they wish to observe hijab or not. I personally decided to wear the hijab when I was 19 after drawing spiritually closer to my faith. I see it as an honor and symbol of my devotion to God. There are many Muslim women under the age of 18 who have chosen to wear the hijab as it forms an important part of their identity. Taking that away forces them to hide a part of who they are. It is a repressive move that could be detrimental to the wellbeing of young Muslim women. It is unacceptable that in 2021 Muslim women are still being stripped of being able to make their own decision on how they want to practice their faith. read the complete article

07 Apr 2021

France: Social media reacts to bill aiming to ban hijab for minors

Although it has been illegal for students to wear a hijab in French public schools since 2004, the amendment would expand the ban to minors in all public spaces. The "principles of the Republic" bill must first be approved by the country’s National Assembly before becoming law. If passed, it would also mean that mothers wearing a hijab would not be allowed to accompany school trips - while burkinis, full-body modest swimsuits, would be banned in public swimming pools. News of the latest amendment to the bill has sparked a backlash on social media, with a number of users using the hashtag “hands off my hijab” to express their disapproval. Some argued that stripping girls of their right to choose what to wear did not constitute a defence of women's rights, as some French politicians have argued. French social media users voiced their concern over their country's deteriorating relationship with Islam. read the complete article

United Kingdom

07 Apr 2021

Founded by Brit producer and actor Sajid Varda, U.K. Muslim Film aims to be a port of call for authentic Muslim representation.

A new charity has launched in the U.K. with the aim of challenging Muslim stereotypes on screen. U.K. Muslim Film, which launched Wednesday at a British Film Institute event, was founded by Brit actor and producer Sajid Varda in response to what he said were years working within the industry both in front of and behind the camera and "realising that Muslims need to be represented at all levels, in writer’s rooms and as commissioners." The charity will focus on advising the entertainment industry on how to better represent Muslims on screen, while also helping "support, nurture and fund projects" from emerging storytellers and be a port of call for authentic Muslim representation. "The lack of representation also impacts the types of stories that are told leading to more content based on negative stereotypes which impacts Muslims adversely on a daily basis," said Varda, who is known as the first Muslim character on the long-running BBC teen drama Byker Grove, covering a groundbreaking storyline around racism. "There are many talented Muslim creatives from the Muslim community and from other underrepresented groups that find it hard to get a foothold into the industry. We want to change this. Our aim is to encourage greater understanding and engagement between the Muslim and wider community, finding what connects us, and to advise the industry on better authenticity in productions." read the complete article

07 Apr 2021

Muslim engineer falsely accused of wishing death on British troops wins payout

A Muslim man has won a religious discrimination claim after a tribunal found that reports made by his employers claiming he said British troops in the Middle East "deserved to die" were baseless. Mo Master had been an engineer at Springfield Fuels in Preston, Lancashire for 28 years when he was accused of having "extremist views" by several of his superiors. Master's manager, Tim Berry, reported him in 2018 as a potential security risk to the head of security, Simon Johnson. Johnson in turn filed a report to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) in January 2018, which forwarded the complaint to the government's Prevent anti-radicalisation program. Berry told the tribunal: "Mo had changed. They [other colleagues] said that recently he had become a lot more outspoken, that he would say British troops in the Middle East deserved to die. "He would be quite vocal about Allah whereas before Allah was rarely mentioned, and he was prepared to voice opinions whereas before he would be quite quiet about things." Master was not told about the report, and he took voluntary redundancy in February 2018 with a payment of £70,000. Police visited him in May 2018. The tribunal found Johnson had reported accusations against Master as "fact" rather than "unsubstantiated rumor". The judge concluded that if Master had not been Muslim, the rumor would not have been reported to the ONR. read the complete article

07 Apr 2021

Shamima Begum: what the media’s fixation on her ‘western’ clothing means for Muslim women

Europe’s fascination with Muslim women, their bodies and their clothing choices – as seen in the passing of discriminatory face covering bans in several countries – shows no sign of abating. Throughout the western world, Muslim women have become expendable commodities, with offensive tropes dominating news coverage on a regular basis. In recent years in the UK, the most high profile victim of such rhetoric has arguably been Shamima Begum. When she was first pictured, as one of three London schoolgirls suspected of being groomed to join Isis, she looked no different to many young Muslim women in the UK at the time. She then reappeared on our screens in 2019 following an interview with the Times. In a picture used for the interview, Begum appeared in a black jilbab (long outer clothing worn by some Muslim women), black hijab (headscarf) and a niqab (face veil), which she had lifted over her head. This image aligned with western media’s portrayal of so-called “Isis brides”, often clad in all black. Images like these flooded the media at the height of Isis’s activity, playing into established Islamophobic views about a perceived correlation between Islamic clothing and extremism. In the summer of 2020, another article with images of Begum appeared. This time, reports pointed out her change in style, chiefly that she had “ditched her Islamic dress and instead [was] donning western clothes including jeans, a shirt and a blue hat”. In March 2021, another article highlighted how Begum was seeking to move away from her Isis past with “western clothing” and “straightened hair”. Aside from the bizarreness of suggesting jeans and t-shirts (clothes popular across the globe) are exclusively “western”, this comparison with Begum’s previous Islamic garb implies that only in the west can Muslim women be liberated. read the complete article

07 Apr 2021

'Racism, bigotry, hate crime': To do justice by Mohammed Saleem, UK must officially define Islamophobia

On 29 April 2013, as my father made his way home from the mosque after Ishaa prayer in Birmingham, he was tragically killed by a neo-Nazi terrorist called Pavlo Lapshyn. The very same Nazi then went on a three-month bombing campaign, planting bombs outside three mosques across the West Midlands. These acts were one of the worst acts of terrorism on UK soil in recent memory. Yet, to this day most people have no idea about the case, in part due to the silence of the mainstream media. Whenever terror related headlines reach our screens, they are often about those who identify with the Muslim faith. Rarely do we hear of the merciless violence of white supremacists who took my father's life. Mohammed Saleem is sadly not the only victim of Islamophobic attacks. In 2015, 81-year old Muhsin Ahmed was killed by two men in a racially motivated attack as he made his way to a mosque in Rotherham. Two years later, in 2017, Makram Ali was killed in the Finsbury Park terrorist attack during the holy month of Ramadan. Islamophobic attacks and racist verbal abuse are becoming more and more normalized. For so many Muslims in the UK, it has become practically an everyday occurrence. We desperately need urgent action to stop the poison of Islamophobia from spreading any further. An important start would be for an official, legal recognition of Islamophobia to finally be adopted by our government. The UK government continues to reject the Islamophobia definition put forward by several political parties, one that campaigners have been fighting for. How can we tackle the rise of Islamophobia without a definition of what it is? read the complete article


07 Apr 2021

A Fierce Election Tests Modi’s Campaign to Remake India

The monthlong election unfolding in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal is deeply personal. Mamata Banerjee, the state’s chief minister for the past decade, is facing off against her former protégé of 20 years, Suvendu Adhikari. He and dozens of other local leaders have defected from her party and are now allied with Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister. But the heated vote could indicate something broader: whether anybody can stop Mr. Modi’s movement to reshape India’s secular republic into a Hindu-first nation. West Bengal represents a test of Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist reach. The state of 90 million people remains deeply proud of its Indigenous culture and tolerance of minorities. It is run by a strong regional leader with the heft and profile to challenge Mr. Modi directly. Even if the B.J.P. loses when results are announced on May 2, a strong showing would help Mr. Modi signal that his party could be nearly unstoppable, said Vinay Sitapati, a professor of political science at Ashoka University who has chronicled the rise of the B.J.P. “They would have shown that the B.J.P. is an all-India party, that our Hindu nationalism is capable of vernacular adaptation,” Mr. Sitapati said. “And that is a powerful symbol.” Mr. Modi and his lieutenants paint Ms. Banerjee as someone who has appeased Muslims, who make up about a quarter of the state’s population, at the expense of the Hindu majority. If she is re-elected, they say, she will turn West Bengal into another Bangladesh or Pakistan, where Hindu minorities are increasingly persecuted. read the complete article


06 Apr 2021

Human rights lawyer: Genocide in Xinjiang is "crystal clear"

Djaouida Siaci is an international lawyer who focuses on human rights violations, genocide and sexual violence. She spoke to Axios about the international human rights law perspective on the Chinese government's actions in Xinjiang. Why it matters: Siaci believes that a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics wouldn't just be symbolic; it could help persuade international legal institutions to open an investigation related to allegations of genocide in Xinjiang. What she's saying: "It is crystal clear that there is a massive violation of China’s obligation under the genocide convention in destroying the Uyghur group in whole or in part," Siaci told Axios. Details: The Chinese government's intent to cause the "slow death" of a group of people has been made clear through leaked government documents and government statements, Siaci said. read the complete article

08 Apr 2021

In China's war on Uighur women, nothing is sacred, everything is permitted

Dance for us! Dance for us! Gulmira froze. Her husband was away on business and for the third night running her inebriated Han Chinese male so-called "relatives" were demanding that she fetch her girls to dance for them. Five of them had wolfed down the meal she had prepared. They were smoking and drinking and calling for their evening's entertainment. The house was filled with a suffocating fog. My friend had no choice but to laughingly agree to their request. She knew the penalties too well for those who failed to enthusiastically embrace the CCP "pair up and be family" policy, where one million Communist Party cadres have been billeted with Uighur families, ostensibly as a cultural exchange. Comply or disappear, that is the subliminal deal. The whole evening had been excruciating. Forcing herself to smile at their lewd jokes and flirtatiously fending off their wandering hands, she wished it would end and she could join her daughters. But it was not to be. She turned on the music, dressed them in national clothes, and bade them dance. Uproarious clapping and laughter accompanied the show as her little ones shyly performed their simple act. They kept a brave face, good-naturedly putting up with the agony and mockery of their culture. The international community, for all its posturing and outrage, has been unable to change anything for Gulmira who with countless unsung women and girls, are at this very moment enduring unspeakable cruelties in internment camps, subject to draconian sterilisation procedures, rape and sexual violence amid the acculturation "pairing up" experiment, and suffering the ultimate loss; that of their own children forcibly removed into State-run institutions. read the complete article


07 Apr 2021

Fire becomes new fear for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Three Rohingya men died after a fire gutted shops at a makeshift market near the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar district on Friday. Their bodies were found in one of 20 shops burned after the fire broke out before dawn at the market near the Kutupalong refugee camp. While the reason behind the fire is yet to be known, it is the latest incident to cost lives of the refugees, who have been living in the Muslim-majority country for decades. The refugees have witnessed several other fire incidents in recent weeks, including the most devastating one on March 22 that killed at least 11 people, burned over 10,000 shanties and left more than 45,000 others homeless. Louise Donovan, the spokesperson for the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Cox's Bazar, told DW that apart from the bigger incidents, multiple smaller fires have also been reported across camps in Kutupalong and Nayapara in the past week. "This is a very worrying trend. Refugees have managed to put out the fires quickly with only a limited number of families affected," she said, adding: "Investigations by camp authorities are underway." The fire service authority of Cox's Bazar has recorded 73 fire incidents in the Rohingya refugee camps since 2017, claiming the lives of at least 25 refugees. read the complete article

United States

08 Apr 2021

Call for US probe into Hindu right-wing groups getting COVID fund

Following an Al Jazeera investigation, a broad coalition of Indian American activists and United States-based civil rights organizations has called on the US Small Business Administration (SBA) to probe how Hindu right-wing groups received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds. A statement issued by the Coalition to Stop Genocide in India this week said the Hindu groups that received the funds have “existential links” with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the “fountainhead of Hindu supremacist ideology” and “ideological parent” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Last week, Al Jazeera reported how five Hindu right-wing groups with links to Hindu nationalist organizations in India received more than $833,000 in direct payments and loans, according to data released by the Small Business Administration (SBA), a US federal agency that helps small business owners and entrepreneurs. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 08 Apr 2021 Edition


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