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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11 Aug 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In India, a journalist who went to cover a protest against colonial-era laws that ended up being an Islamophobic rally, was phsyically harassed by right-wing Hindu nationalists, meanwhile in the United States, the Biden Administration is under pressure from a coalition of international human rights organizations who have called for an official recognition of the atrocities against the Rohingya as genocide, and concerns have arisen over a paper in a scientific journal that talks about “male genetic landscape of China” as a bioinformatician raises questions about the use of genetic samples that came from Uyghurs. Our recommended read of the day is by Alexander Durie on the highly politicized “Mila affair,” which has raised questions about free speech and Islamophobia in France. This and more below:


10 Aug 2021

Free speech vs Islamophobia: A teenager fuels debate in France

Mila, then 16, with a head of newly dyed purple hair, went on a rant against Islam, addressing some of her 10,000 followers who tuned in. “The Quran is a religion of hatred. There is only hatred in it. Islam is s**t, your religion is s**t,” she said in her video, using crude imagery to refer to “your God.” In the following weeks, as she defended her stance, she received about 100,000 hateful messages. Soon, her legal case caught national attention and tested France’s new cyberbullying laws. Last month, a French court convicted 11 people for harassing Mila online. The case reignited a national debate about free speech, including the right to use blasphemy against religions, which is protected by French law. Highly politicised in France, the justice system, police, mainstream media outlets, and major politicians all became involved in the Mila affair, as it has become known. Juan Branco, the lawyer of Jordan, one of the 11 people convicted, said the trial was organised “as a show in a very disturbing way for me”. Branco told Al Jazeera, “When you try to create symbols through justice, in general, it is against the rights of individuals who are judged, but also potentially against the victims themselves. “I take cases in general in which you have normal citizens, or weak persons, that are attacked by a part of the system. Unfortunately, the Mila case became that.” He said that French mainstream media “instrumentalised” the trial to create “a new Joan of Arc” symbol out of Mila. Mila gave regular interviews on talk shows where she was portrayed as a victim, yet no space was given to those who felt offended by her anti-Islam posts, according to Branco. As the first significant case to use the Schiappa Law, Branco said the 13 defendants were chosen as “scapegoats” and that the trial was “clearly meant to send a message to the world, and especially to the French population”. “A society that does not respect belief and religion is in real danger,” Branco said. “That’s when “laïcité (secularism)” becomes spiteful.” Imen Neffati, an historian on race, Islam and press freedom in France, said that while the right to criticise religions should be respected, this principle is often used to cover up Islamophobia. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day

United States

10 Aug 2021

Lawful Carnage

Looking back, the war against terrorism was designed to be a forever war. Two months after George Bush launched the global “war on terror,” the United States–led coalition had wrested control of most of the country of Afghanistan from the Taliban government, and had killed a top al-Qaeda military commander in a bombing raid. Not long after, hundreds of Taliban soldiers across Afghanistan laid down their weapons, and their leader Mullah Omar agreed to surrender the group’s stronghold Kandahar to the local tribes. The Taliban had effectively handed the country to America. Yet none of this appeased Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He rejected the capitulation and called a “negotiated end” to the conflict “unacceptable to the United States.” Over the next 20 years, the U.S. would go on to spend nearly a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, over 2,400 American forces would die, and some 20,600 others would come home injured. More than 66,000 Afghan military and police would be killed, and countless more civilians would be dead. The U.S. will leave Afghanistan this year, with no certainty that the Taliban, which has been advancing across the country, won’t seize Kabul once again. Yet none of these tragedies—from the rejection of surrender in Afghanistan to around one million civilians killed in the war on terror—constitutes a crime, even if it violates our moral sensibilities. This is not because the United States acted with impunity after the 9/11 attacks; to the contrary, the Bush administration repeatedly pointed to the Constitution and international law to legitimate its wars. His successor, a constitutional lawyer, did the same. Two recent books, Humane by the legal scholar Samuel Moyn and Reign of Terror by the journalist Spencer Ackerman, consider how the cloak of legality has allowed the United States to continue one of the longest, and most immoral, wars in its history. Both are driven by an abiding concern: How did we arrive at a place where America continues to fight a failing war on terror that has damaged the world and itself and, perhaps, destroyed once and for all our claim to moral authority? read the complete article

09 Aug 2021

Meeting a Guantanamo Bay survivor showed me the sickening hypocrisy of Bush, Blair and the war on terror

Billions of dollars have been spent, millions of lives wrecked, many thousands of people killed. In his speech to Congress following the 9/11 attacks, President George W Bush was joined by Tony Blair when he talked about defeating “every terrorist group of global reach”. Then he asked a rhetorical question: “Why do they hate us?” His answer was simple: the West’s enemies despised democracy and freedom. How naive such words seem now after two decades of carnage, chaos and conflict, culminating in the world’s most powerful nation being repelled by ragtag insurgents. Last week, I met a man who symbolises the sickening hypocrisy of politicians such as Blair and Bush, spewing out hollow words about freedom and democracy while unleashing an onslaught of state-sanctioned terror. His name is Mohamedou Ould Slahi and – in the name of that “patient justice” – he spent 14 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay camp after secret rendition through Jordan and Afghanistan. You may have seen his story in a searing and superb film called The Mauritanian, or perhaps read it in Guantanamo Diary, his first-hand account. We spoke again a couple of days later. This was his first visit to a Western nation since incarceration and he admitted he was terrified on landing, fearing he might be victim of a dastardly trick to send him back into hell. “I almost didn’t dare to come,” he said. “After two weeks, I am beginning to relax.” While President Joe Biden may be withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq, that wretched camp in Cuba soiling the concept of justice remains operational. read the complete article

10 Aug 2021

This Photographer Shines A Light On Muslim-American Women Athletes

As a member the Muslim-American community, photographer Eman Mohammed began thinking of how little she knows about other Muslim-American women and their accomplishments. To change that, Mohammed decided to start a long-term portraiture project featuring Muslim-American women. As she began the project, she turned her attention to sports and what Muslim-American women's roles looked like in that field. "The project isn't aiming to break stereotypes because these women already did the work and shattered it, " Mohammed said. "My goal is to highlight these women as they do it." The photos document each women's unique path in the hopes to inspire other Muslim-American women and girls by seeing representation from their own community. read the complete article

10 Aug 2021

Feds threatening to destroy Quranic tiles bound for Manassas mosque, Islamic group says

Federal officials have reportedly halted the transportation of 750 pounds of Quranic tiles from Iran that were headed to a Manassas mosque – and a Muslim organization is demanding that they be released. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Treasury are holding up the transfer at Dulles International Airport – and they’re threatening to destroy the tiles. The tiles were intended to decorate a niche inside the mosque indicating the direction of prayer. read the complete article

10 Aug 2021

What Trump Understood About the War on Terror That Others Missed

The core premise of “Reign [of] Terror” is that the policies and the politics of the 9/11 era, they didn’t only wreak havoc on the Middle East, but they transformed America itself. And they transformed us so profoundly that we’ve stopped seeing the way they’ve reshaped our country and culture. Now it’s just the water we swim in. In Spencer’s telling, the core of the war on terror itself was this narrative, a narrative of fear. America faces an existential threat from an undefined, though implicitly brown immigrant Muslim enemy that must be defeated at all costs. America is innocent in this threat. They hate us for our freedom. They hate us for what makes America America. And they are not just trying to defeat us. They are trying to change us. We are in a war of values, a civilizational conflict. Now you have the neoconservatives in the Bush administration who thought they could harness this fear, this fear of the other to power a very specific geopolitical agenda while keeping a lid on its most toxic manifestations at home. But then it spun way out of their control. And you get these anti-Sharia law bills and you get birtherism and you eventually get Donald Trump, which, of course, splits the neocons, too. But then it’s not just the right here. Many of these central premises of the war on terror also get accepted by liberals. In Spencer’s view, even though Obama runs as an opponent of the Iraq War, even though he is, in certain ways, the antithesis of post-9/11 xenophobic flag pin politics, his actual policies in his administration end up accepting key premises of the war on terror and giving them a bipartisan seal in internal processes within administrations that’s made them, if not effectively permanent, much harder to see and to criticize and to fight. read the complete article


10 Aug 2021

Researchers: Racist Twitter image-cropping algorithm ageist, ableist, Islamophobic

The social media giant largely stopped using its cropping tool this year after it went viral last September for automatically highlighting white people in photos that also included a Black person. Researchers have now found that the algorithm for highlighting faces in photos also discriminated against Muslims, people with disabilities and older people. The findings were part of a contest hosted by Twitter at the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas over the weekend to find new ways that the algorithm coded bias. A University of Toronto AI startup called Halt AI produced the research showing additional groups that were deprioritized by the cropping tool. read the complete article

10 Aug 2021

Genetic papers containing data from China’s ethnic minorities draw fire

When Yves Moreau, a bioinformatician at KU Leuven in Belgium, noticed a 2017 paper in Human Genetics that described the “male genetic landscape of China” based on a set of almost 38,000 Y-STR sequences, he saw a red flag. Y-STR stands for Y-chromosomal short tandem repeat polymorphism, bits of repetitive DNA often used in forensic investigations. Some of the samples came from Uyghurs and other minorities in China, and Moreau was skeptical that they had given informed consent for the use of their genetic data or understood that China might use it to profile their people. In June 2020, he asked the journal’s editors to retract the “indefensible” paper. Springer Nature, its publisher, launched an investigation that is still ongoing. So last month, Moreau stepped up the pressure: He wrote to the journal’s entire editorial board to complain about the lack of progress. For Moreau, the paper is just one of many studies, primarily in forensic genetics, that deserve scrutiny because of consent problems in China and the potential for abuse of the data. He says he has flagged about 28 papers at six journals over the past couple of years. And his campaign is gaining traction. Eight of 25 members of the editorial board of Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine, published by Wiley, recently resigned to protest the lack of progress in investigating a number of papers flagged by Moreau, as The Intercept reported last week. Moreau has long been concerned about threats to privacy posed by the use of genetic data. Forensic use of DNA databases has evolved from a narrowly focused law enforcement tool to a threat to personal privacy, he says. The potential for abuse is, at the moment, most clearly seen in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, he adds. read the complete article

10 Aug 2021

Will The Biden Administration Recognize The Atrocities Against The Rohingyas For What They Are?

On August 10, 2021, 95 international human rights organizations have sent an open letter to the Biden Administration calling for an official recognition of the atrocities against the Rohingyas as genocide and crimes against humanity. The atrocities in question refer to killings, including by random shooting, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, rape, including gang rape, and other forms of sexual violence, physical assault, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, looting, and much more, as perpetrated by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslim communities in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, as seen since 2016 and throughout subsequent years. These atrocities may constitute acts of killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers, namely methods to bring about genocide as under the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention). Because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part, are may amount to the legal definition of genocide. And indeed, several actors have considered them as such. read the complete article


10 Aug 2021

Why a hijabi Muslim convert challenged Germany’s neutrality law

Mariam* was a teacher at a preschool in the German city of Hamburg until the day she chose to wear the hijab. Born to a working-class family in a troubled neighbourhood of the city, Mariam, who is now 32-years-old, socialised with immigrant children from all over the world. It was no surprise for her parents when she converted to Islam at the age of 22. In 2014, after completing her training course in teaching, Mariam started her dream job at a kindergarten, also known as Kita in Germany. In 2017, “while I was on parental leave, I decided to start wearing the hijab. I wanted to start a new chapter in my life”, she says. But her lifestyle decision did not fare well with her employers. The employer cited the controversial neutrality regulation and said there had also been complaints from some parents about Mariam's hijab, and that if she continued to teach there while wearing her hijab they might stop sending their children to that Kita. The neutrality law, which has been widely criticised by rights groups and is in stark contrast to Germany's constitutional freedom to religious practice, suggests that teachers, judges, or anyone in public life cannot wear anything which might suggest religious symbolism. Mariam was first asked to remove the hijab by the school management, which she refused, she was then given warnings and eventually suspended in 2018. read the complete article


10 Aug 2021

A Journalist Went to Cover an Islamophobic Rally. He Went Viral for Refusing to Join In.

Anmol Pritam’s phone has not stopped ringing since yesterday. On Sunday night, a video surfaced on Twitter in which the 24-year-old is surrounded by a frenzied mob of angry men in India’s capital New Delhi. They’re pulling his arm, hitting him, and yanking his shirt. They’re forcing him to say “Jai Shri Ram” – an expression in Hindi translating to “glory to [Hindu] god Ram” but appropriated by Hindu right-wing nationalists who use it in political campaigns, or, worse, mob lynchings. “There were around 100 to 150 of them,” Pritam, a TV journalist who works for the independent digital news outlet National Dastak, told VICE World News. “The crowd was angry and spiralling out of control. For a brief second, I wondered if I should relent.” Pritam did not, and he went viral for it. On Sunday, hundreds gathered at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar – an 18th century monument commonly used as a protest site – purportedly to protest against colonial-era laws but ended up being an Islamophobic rally. Several videos surfaced that made calls to openly harm Muslims, despite heavy police presence during the protest. Some distributed pamphlets calling for “annihilation of Islam” and asking Hindus to “end” Islam. For someone who has been covering protests in the world’s largest democracy, Pritam said Sunday’s rally was different. “I’ve covered protests by the Hindu right wing. I’ve managed to piss off people with my questions in the past, too. I’ve been refused interviews, or been yelled at,” he said. “But this is new. The sense of heightened hate that I witnessed was something else.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 11 Aug 2021 Edition


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