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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09 Apr 2021

Today in Islamophobia: Last year’s anti-Muslim riots in India leave a mark on the Muslim families and communities in New Delhi, as seven Muslim women share their stories surrounding France’s new hijab ban, and in Turkey, Uighur activists call into question the Turkish government’s silence on the plight of Uighur Muslims in China. Our recommended read of the day is by Sahar Ghumkhor and Anila Daulatzai on the American sitcom “United States of Al” and the tone and casting choices which have mired the show in controversy. This and more below:

United States

09 Apr 2021

United States of Al: Hollywood’s brown savior project

The plot of the show, which aired for the first time on April 1, is set around the friendship between Afghan interpreter Awalmir or “Al”, and an American marine veteran, Riley. The ongoing controversy is centered on the choice of Adhir Kalyan (South African of Indian descent) to play an Afghan, and the comedic approach taken to war. But there are stakes at hand that extend beyond the representation of an Afghan immigrant in a sitcom. Americans are consuming the war in Afghanistan curated through media – drone operators treat asymmetrical warfare as a video game, Lorre and Aslan turn war into entertainment. Forgotten seems Baudrillard’s warning that technologies of image consumption put distance between war and the audience, making it seem like atrocities did not happen and are not happening. The war is being sold to the public as something moral and necessary, through the figures of the white savior soldier and the deserving Afghan/Muslim. Despite executive producer Aslan’s proclamations of commitments to a “Muslim protagonist”, and his defensive claims that the USoA is centered on Awalmir, it becomes obvious even in the trailer what the show is really about: a white solider who returned home scarred by war, Riley, and his white American family. Telling the story of war trauma through a veteran, as USoA clearly aims to do, is a common trope, where “trauma” functions to eclipse the material realities of war, thereby equating the soldier with the victim. The Muslim Afghan, meanwhile, is assigned the role of the wise eastern figure whose purpose is to be a vanishing mediator in a story of self-discovery and redemption for the white American family. Even the title of the show gestures to this disappearing act by converting Awalmir, the grateful Afghan, into the assimilated “Al”. While the show highlights Awalmir’s enthrallment with America, we only catch a glimpse of the horrors that occur in Afghanistan through their impact on the white soldier and his family. America’s post-9/11 wars have a death toll estimated to be more than half a million, many of them Afghans. But an Afghan has seemingly only been included in this show to help an American audience navigate the difficult terrain of an American serviceman’s reassimilation into society after participating in this bloodbath. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
08 Apr 2021

Facebook sued for 'failing' to stop anti-Muslim hate speech

A US civil rights group launched legal proceedings against Facebook on Thursday, claiming the company's alleged failure to enforce its own moderation policies was responsible for a wave of anti-Muslim abuse. The complaint filed by Muslim Advocates in the superior court for Washington against Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and COO Sheryl Sandberg, claims the social media giant failed to remove content that violated its "Community Standards", despite telling lawmakers and other government officials that it enforced those standards. "Every day, ordinary people are bombarded with harmful content in violation of Facebook's own policies on hate speech, bullying, harassment, dangerous organizations, and violence," the lawsuit reads. "Hateful, anti-Muslim attacks are especially pervasive on Facebook." The Washington-based rights group said in its complaint that it presented Facebook in 2017 with a list of 26 groups whose pages violated the company's community standards. As of 1 April, 19 of those 26 groups still had pages available on Facebook While Facebook has generally been able to avoid lawsuits over removing abusive content under a 1996 federal law broadly protecting them from liability for user-posted content, Muslim Advocates asserts that Facebook officials breached a local consumer-protection law. read the complete article

09 Apr 2021

Paterson reaches $140K settlement in anti-Muslim discrimination case

The city has agreed to pay $140,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by three former members of Paterson's Board of Adjustment who claimed they were discriminated against because they are Muslims. The settlement brings to a close a bizarre controversy that unfolded five years ago when the Muslim members began boycotting their public meetings over allegations of bias, causing delays for construction projects that needed the board’s approval. The former zoning board members who sued the city were Montaha Deeb, Aheya Khan and Alaur Khondokar. Deeb, a longtime city employee, got $400,000 in a separate settlement in 2016 from a lawsuit claiming she was discriminated against in her municipal job. The Muslim former zoning board members said their colleagues suggested they not participate in decisions on variance applications from builders named Mohammed or Ahmed. In one instance, an accused board member made derogatory comments about an application for a poultry slaughterhouse that was going to follow Islamic food preparation procedures known as Halal. read the complete article


06 Apr 2021

An Indian man died after being beaten by police on video. One year later, no one has been held accountable.

When riots broke out in India’s capital in late February last year, Faizan was feeding his pet pigeons at home. He rushed out to find his mother, who had been participating in a nearby sit-in to protest the country’s new citizenship law. His mother got home safely. Faizan did not. That afternoon, half a dozen policemen in helmets and riot gear converged on the 23-year-old Faizan, a meat-shop worker. Wielding batons and wooden sticks, they first beat him, repeatedly striking his head, and then taunted a group of injured men — including Faizan — to sing the national anthem. The assault was caught on multiple videos. Later that night, Faizan, who used only one name, was held at a police station without charge. When he was released the next night, he could barely walk, recounted his mother, Kismatun, 61. He died at a hospital the following day. The postmortem report detailed 20 wounds on his body and said he died as a result of a head injury. Faizan was one of more than 50 who died in the deadliest Hindu-Muslim violence in Delhi in over seven decades. Police were later criticized for failing to quell the clashes and in some cases were accused of participating in them. Hundreds of people from both communities have been arrested in many of the killings. But more than a year later, no one has been charged in Faizan’s death, raising questions about the police department’s ability to act as an impartial investigator in instances of police brutality. read the complete article

09 Apr 2021

After Ayodhya, another mosque-temple dispute brews in India’s UP

A court in India’s Uttar Pradesh state has passed an order related to a dispute over a centuries-old mosque and a temple situated next to each other – a case reminiscent of a similar and bloody dispute in another temple town, controversially resolved in 2019. The court in Varanasi town on Thursday directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to find out whether the centuries-old Gyanvapi Mosque “standing at present at the ‘disputed site’ is a superimposition, alteration or addition, or there is a structural overlapping of any kind, with or over, any other religious structure”, effectively meaning the adjacent Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The court’s decision followed petitions filed by right-wing Hindu groups which claimed that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb demolished a portion of the temple to build the mosque in the 17th century. The court ordered a five-member committee, comprising two Hindus, two Muslims and an archaeological expert, to oversee the “comprehensive physical survey”, setting May 31 as the date for the next hearing. read the complete article


08 Apr 2021

‘I Never Thought China Could Ever Be This Dark’

In recent years, Beijing has mounted a crackdown in Xinjiang against the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, subjecting its people to mass detention and unending surveillance in a merciless act of collective punishment. Roughly 1 million Uyghurs have been rounded up for “crimes” that include praying, wearing a headscarf, and having relatives overseas, human-rights groups say. The United States, as well as the Canadian and Dutch Parliaments, have labeled the repression a genocide. The offensive has triggered an exodus of Uyghurs, according to the World Uyghur Congress, and exiles like Muhammet have become some of the most important sources providing the world with a picture of what’s happening in Xinjiang. Yet even when Uyghurs are free of China’s territory, they do not feel safe from its reach. Those who have left Xinjiang face imprisonment if they return home and persistent insecurity abroad. Some have been hounded and threatened with deportation by immigration officials of countries seeking to improve ties with Beijing. Women—many of whom escape separately from their husbands—face particular difficulties when, as is often the case, their partners are caught fleeing. Even the most educated and highly skilled of these women, having grown up in a patriarchal society, are suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar position, becoming lonely migrants in new countries and tasked with heading households they had assumed would include husbands, fathers, uncles, and brothers. Muhammet, for example, had studied law in China and Arabic in Egypt. She had hoped to stay abroad for graduate school but, now a de facto single mother, has suspended those plans and instead tutors elementary-school students to pay the bills. Her story is far from unique. I spoke with half a dozen Uyghur women who had left Xinjiang, and corroborated their accounts with travel and asylum documents, as well as posts on social media. Despite their different backgrounds and income and education levels, their stories of life in Xinjiang and their experiences abroad follow a widely documented pattern of abuse and fear, say analysts who closely follow China’s detention system. read the complete article

09 Apr 2021

Under Pressure Over Xinjiang, China Takes Aim at Overseas Uighurs, Academics

It was one of over half a dozen such segments showing Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority in the western region, pleading with relatives abroad to come home and stop speaking out against China and the ruling Communist Party. Such press conferences have become a staple of Beijing's widening campaign to defend its Xinjiang policies amid mounting Western criticism, including U.S. sanctions and accusations of genocide, as Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in February. China for months has increasingly pushed back against global criticism of its Xinjiang policies, including with explicit attacks on women who have made claims of abuse. Beijing's propaganda campaign, which has included 11 media briefings in the capital since December, has repeatedly included efforts to discredit overseas Uighurs who speak to media. China has also conducted overseas press events, including one this week in Canberra, released state media documentaries and a musical movie, invited diplomats from friendly countries including Iran, Malaysia and Russia to visit Xinjiang, and promoted sympathetic foreign YouTubers and news sites. read the complete article


09 Apr 2021

India's top court rejects plea to stop Rohingya deportations to Myanmar

India's Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea to stop the government from deporting to Myanmar some 150 Rohingya Muslims police detained last month, paving the way for them to be sent to a country where hundreds have been killed following a military coup. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been trying to send back Rohingyas, a Muslim minority from Myanmar who have found refuge in India after fleeing persecution and waves of violence over the years. Two refugees petitioned the Supreme Court for the release of Rohingya refugees detained in the northern Jammu region last month, and to block the government from deporting them. Their plea argued that refugees in Jammu "have been illegally detained and jailed in a sub-jail now converted into a holding center." But Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde said the deportations could go ahead, as long as officials followed due process. "It is not possible to grant the interim relief prayed for," the judge said in his order. "Regarding the contention raised on behalf of the petitioners about the present state of affairs in Myanmar, we have to state that we cannot comment upon something happening in another country." read the complete article


09 Apr 2021

What happened after 9/11 to Muslim youth in Australia

In Coming of Age in the War on Terror, Randa Abdel-Fattah explores how these experiences have affected us, young people – Muslims and non-Muslims – growing up in a world that is distinctly post something that lives on the edge of our memories. Although there are descriptions of the everyday acts of racism that Muslims have come to expect (headscarves torn off, “go back to where you came from” etc), Coming of Age emphasizes how these behaviors, and the behaviors that Muslims have formed in response to them, have been shaped by 20 years of government policy that, even while removing “Islamic” from official policy documents, has continuously treated Muslims as pre-terrorists. Coming of Age alternates chapters that explore the media and policy landscapes that developed around Muslims with chapters focused on the voices of young people Abdel-Fattah interviewed – both Muslim and non-Muslim. Moments of the interviews remind me of reading an old diary – that embarrassment felt on encountering a voice that is still getting used to its own maturity, still a little awed by its own potential power. The teens are, at points, a little annoying. But this is a strength of the book; it shows young people as they really are, not always perfectly innocent, eloquent, prescient bearers of a new morality; yet thoughtful, passionate and deeply affected by the world around them. read the complete article


08 Apr 2021

France’s problem with the hijab: 7 young Muslim women share their reaction to the controversial Separatism Bill

If it becomes law the Bill would introduce two new amendments – one of which would ban French Muslim women under the age of 18 from wearing a hijab (headscarf) in public. A further amendment to the current law will ban parents who wear religious clothing to take part in any school trips or activities. Both these amendments will need to pass through the French National Assembly before the ban can legally be imposed but this week’s vote moves things further in that direction. The news has been met with global uproar by Muslims, non Muslims and of course young Muslim women in France. In light of the developments in France, hijabi fashion influencer Rawdah Mohammed, who is from Somalia, posted an image of herself with the words “hands off my hijab” on Instagram. In the caption, she also discusses her experience wearing hijab as a child and being bullied. She writes, “I have never felt so stripped off my rights, I’ve never felt so belittled. They reduced me to nothing.” Speaking to several different Muslim women in the UK (those who wear hijabis and those who chose not to) the concern is clear. The feelings expressed by Muslim women in France around the increasing infringement of their rights and their dismay at the French government’s unwillingness to recognize Muslim women’s wishes and make their own choices was echoed by young women here. Here’s what they said… read the complete article


08 Apr 2021

Turkey: Uighur activist condemns China's 'humiliating' interference in the country

A leading Uighur activist in Turkey has condemned China's "humiliating" interference in his host country's domestic affairs as a spat continues to roil between the two countries over comments made on the minority's persecution. On Tuesday, Turkey summoned China's ambassador after his office denounced tweets by opposition Iyi Party leader Meral Aksener and Ankara mayor Mansur Yavas commemorating a Uighur uprising in Xinjiang province that was repressed by China in 1990. Seyit Tumturk, president of the Uighur rights group East Turkestan National Assembly, told Middle East Eye the incident was indicative of an unhealthy relationship building between the two countries. Citing his own detention in his home by Turkish police during pro-Uighur demonstrations last month, Tumturk said it was becoming increasingly difficult to criticize China. "Turkey has tremendous problems with the western democracies right now and I think Turkey’s foreign policy is to try and create a new relationship with China and Russia. China knows that very well and they are taking advantage of that right now," he said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 09 Apr 2021 Edition


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