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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12 Aug 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, the revelation that a fellow Muslim was targeting Muslims in New Mexico has shocked the local Muslim community, meanwhile five years ago this week the “Unite the Right” rally took place as hundreds of right-wing extremists and fascists invaded Charlottesville, VA, and since then many of the attendees have been arrested, lost their jobs, kicked out of school and shunned by their local communities, and in India, as the country celebrates its 75th anniversary of independence on August 15, many note that “it is far from the equal society envisioned by its founding father, Mohandas Gandhi.” Our recommended read of the day is by Gerry Shih for the Washington Post on how right-wing voices in India are downplaying the legacy of Gandhi who advocated nonviolence and secularism, and instead embracing “a pantheon of other 20th century heroes, particularly leaders who favored armed struggle or overtly championed Hindus.” This and more below:


12 Aug 2022

As India marks its first 75 years, Gandhi is downplayed, even derided | Recommended Read

When Indian screenwriter Vijayendra Prasad set out five years ago to write an action film, he wanted to tell a fictional story but pay tribute to the “real warriors” of India’s freedom struggle. The result was “RRR,” a three-hour, visual-effects spectacle that was released this spring and instantly broke records at the Indian box office. In the film’s climax, a muscle-bound protagonist retrieves a bow from a shrine to the Hindu god Ram and cuts down hapless British soldiers with a hail of arrows. Then he arms Indian villagers with guns to fight their colonial oppressors before launching into a lavish song-and-dance number that eulogizes a list of real-life revolutionaries from Indian history. Absent from the names? Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian pacifist who has been celebrated by many — including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — as an inspiration and an icon of nonviolent resistance. But not by Prasad. “The time has come to let Indians know the truth, the real warriors who should be honored,” Prasad said recently in his office in Hyderabad, a hub of the fast-growing south Indian film industry. “The real reason why we got independence was not because of Mr. Gandhi. That’s the fact.” As India celebrates 75 years of independence on Monday, the legacy of the “father of the nation” who advocated nonviolence and secularism is being debated, downplayed and derided as never before. Instead, Indians are embracing a pantheon of other 20th century heroes, particularly leaders who favored armed struggle or overtly championed Hindus, in a reflection of the nation’s mood and its shifting politics. Today, at rallies of Hindu nationalist hard-liners, Gandhi is routinely vilified as feeble in his tactics against the British and overly conciliatory to India’s Muslims, who broke off and formed their own state, Pakistan, on Aug. 14, 1947. On social media and online forums, exaggerations and falsehoods abound about Gandhi’s alleged betrayal of Hindus. And in popular films and the political mainstream, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru — the first prime minister — are sidelined, while nationalists who advocated the force of arms have been elevated. “The current government has been trying to project itself as a government that is macho, defiant, strong, and won’t take nonsense from anybody,” said Tushar A. Gandhi, an author and the independence leader’s great-grandson. “There is an ongoing campaign to eradicate Gandhi from the psyche of the Indian people, or at least reduce his qualities to the point it is trivial and meaningless.” read the complete article

12 Aug 2022

'Laal Singh Chaddha' backlash: is Aamir Khan being targeted because he's Muslim?

A few weeks before the release of Bollywood star Aamir Khan's ambitious remake of the Oscar-winning 1994 drama Forrest Gump, the hashtag #BoycottLalSinghChaddha began to gain popularity on social media. Widely shared was a clip from an interview that Khan, one of Bollywood's most successful stars, did in 2015. In the interview, the actor spoke about his concern for the rising cases of violence against minorities in India — including cases of Muslims being lynched for the consumption of beef. Khan's comments sparked a backlash then, especially with members and supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP. Khan was forced to stress his patriotism, a key tenet of the BJP and its supporters. "Let me state categorically that neither I, nor my wife Kiran, have any intention of leaving the country. We never did, and nor would we like to in the future," he wrote on Facebook a few days later. Khan, who has since left social media, was again forced to reiterate his love for India last week as calls for the boycott of his latest film spread. "I feel sad that some of the people believe that I am someone who doesn't like India," he told local media. "That's not the case. Please don't boycott my film. Please watch my film." "Aamir Khan married two Hindu Women, yet named his kids Junaid, Azad & Ira. Kareena married a Muslim & promptly named her kids Taimur & Jehangir. That's enough reasons to boycott Laal Singh Chaddha," reads one widely-shared tweet, which also uses a derogatory term coined by Hindu nationalists who accuse Muslim men of marrying Hindu women and forcing them to convert. read the complete article

12 Aug 2022

India at 75: dreams of a Hindu nation leave minorities sleepless

The Hindu priest on the banks of the holy river Ganges spoke softly, but had a threatening message 75 years after the birth of independent India: his religion must be the heart of Indian identity. "We must change with time," said Jairam Mishra. "Now we must cut every hand that is raised against Hinduism." Hindus make up the overwhelming majority of India's 1.4 billion people but when Mahatma Gandhi secured its independence from Britain in 1947 it was as a secular, multi-cultural state. Now right-wing calls for the country to be declared a Hindu nation and Hindu supremacy to be enshrined in law are growing rapidly louder, making its 210-million-odd Muslims increasingly anxious about their future. Those demands are at the core of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity, and his government has backed policies and projects across the country -- including a grand new temple corridor in the holy city of Varanasi -- that reinforce and symbolise the trend. read the complete article

12 Aug 2022

Violence Against Indian Muslims Must Be Urgently Investigated

As India celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence on August 15, it is far from the equal society envisioned by its founding father, Mohandas Gandhi. Evidence is mounting that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is encouraging some of the most flagrant anti-Muslim discrimination seen in any democracy. Credible reports suggest that a growing number of the country’s 200 million Muslims are subject to planned and targeted threats, assault, sexual violence, and killings. Despite a grave deterioration in the protection of the human rights of India’s largest minority, the reaction from the international community so far is notable for its silence. This must change. Two decades ago, at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, I led the team that successfully prosecuted media leaders for direct and public incitement to genocide. Though there is no comparison between the current situation in India and the 100 days of mass murder that left over 800,000 dead in Rwanda in 1994, some of the hate speech that incited that genocide is familiar to the messages delivered at the highest levels of Indian politics and society today. In some cases, it is as explicit. In the northern state of Uttarakhand, Hindu religious leaders allied to the ruling BJP party, recently called for a “cleanliness drive” against Muslims. Sadhvi Annapurna, national president of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, called for the complete annihilation of India’s Muslims, saying: “If you want to eliminate their population then be ready to kill them…. If only a hundred of us become soldiers and each kills 20 lakhs (2 million) we will be victorious.” read the complete article

United States

12 Aug 2022

5 Years Later, The Hunt For White Supremacists Who Terrorized Charlottesville Continues

The hundreds of right-wing extremists and fascists who invaded Charlottesville, Virginia, five years ago this week were unashamed and proud, invigorated by the ascendance of then-President Donald Trump, who had campaigned with open bigotry — a call for a Muslim ban, calling Mexicans “rapists” — and still won the election. Some were veteran white supremacists, belonging to older groups like the KKK, League of the South, or the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. But others were younger keyboard warriors who felt they had helped meme Trump into the White House, and who saw the “Unite the Right” gathering in Charlottesville as a coming out party for the so-called “alt-right,” an opportunity to step out from behind their avatars for an IRL show of force. But after they terrorized the city for two days, and stories of their cruelty spread — a torch march across the University of Virginia campus chanting “Jews will not replace us,” death threats against local synagogues, the brutal beating of a Black counterprotester, and driving a car through a crowd of anti-fascists — many Unite the Right attendees found themselves pariahs when they got home. They were arrested, lost their jobs, kicked out of school and shunned by their local communities. Later, a lawsuit would drive many of the rally’s organizers into financial ruin, and some of the groups involved, such as Identity Evropa, Traditionalist Workers Party and Vanguard America, disbanded. This was due in large part to the work of anonymous anti-fascist researchers who pored over photos and video footage from Charlottesville, compiling evidence to identify the attendees. Friday marks the five-year anniversary of Unite the Right, and some of those same anti-fascists have a message for all the white supremacists who went to Charlottesville in 2017 and haven’t yet been identified: We will find you. read the complete article

12 Aug 2022

American Muslims have too many outside enemies to turn on one another

The killings of four Muslim Americans in Albuquerque, New Mexico, three of them in the last two weeks, sent shockwaves through a closely knit Muslim community that had in recent years become a safe haven for immigrants. Muslims in the city expressed fears of going to the store, to work or to the mosque to pray out of concern that a serial killer was preying on them. The head of the local Islamic center told NBC News that his community’s “whole world has been flipped upside down," with people feeling "broken" and "devastated." On Tuesday, Albuquerque police arrested a man suspected in at least two of the killings. But instead of relief, the arrest only raised more questions and concerns. The suspect, shockingly, is a Muslim man from the very community that was targeted. Syed is only suspected of committing these crimes. He hasn’t been convicted or even officially charged, but his arrest challenges the assumptions many had made. To be blunt, when Muslims heard of these killings many of us — myself included — believed the murderer was someone outside of our community who hated Muslims. After all, our community has seen a horrific spike in hate crimes in recent years. After Donald Trump made the demonization of Muslims a central part of his first presidential campaign, hate crimes against Muslim in 2015 and 2016 eclipsed the number of hate crimes our community suffered in the year after the 9/11 attack. Women wearing hijabs were assaulted and mosques in Iowa and New Jersey were defaced with the word “Trump” and with racist graffiti. Other mosques were burned to the ground. But a fellow Muslim targeting Muslims is not something we ever expected. Nor did we expect to hear that authorities are looking into the possibility of sectarian violence, which adds another layer of grave concern. read the complete article

12 Aug 2022

New Mexico man knew the 2 Muslim men he’s charged with killing, police say

The man charged in the killings of two Muslim men this summer in Albuquerque knew the victims, according to court records. Muhammad Atif Syed, 51, was charged with two counts of murder in the killings of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41. An investigation is ongoing into whether Syed was involved in the killings of two other Muslim men in the area. Syed left the home in the Jetta before authorities detained him in Santa Rosa, N.M., about halfway between Albuquerque and the Texas border. He told officers that he was driving to Houston “to find a new place for his family to live because the situation in Albuquerque was bad” and mentioned the recent shootings of Muslims, according to the court records. The shootings — a string of four killings within the past year, three of which occurred in a 10-day span — had rocked Albuquerque’s 5,000-strong Muslim community. Some closed businesses early, refused to go out after dark and stopped going to daily prayers at a mosque, the Islamic Center of New Mexico, where armed guards were installed. At least three of the shootings followed a pattern in which the victim was ambushed and left for dead, police said. read the complete article

12 Aug 2022

In Albuquerque Murders, American Shi'ite Muslims See Old Divides They Hoped to Leave Behind

When police in Albuquerque announced that they were investigating whether the shooting deaths of four Muslim men in the city were connected—or even targeted—it set off panic from many in the Muslim community. Some isolated at home, fearful to even step out and get groceries. Others fled Albuquerque altogether. Then came the news that three of the victims were Shi’ite Muslims—members of one of the two major branches of Islam—and the suspect, arrested Tuesday, is Sunni—a member of the largest branch. The killings, which were originally feared to be anti-Muslim or anti-Asian hate crimes—set off alarms for Shi’ite Muslims across the country—many of whom hoped they had left sectarian violence behind when their families came to the U.S. One of the victims, Naeem Hussain, who was killed Aug. 5, was a refugee from Sunni-majority Pakistan who came to America in 2016 to flee persecution for his Shi’ite beliefs. “We never thought this hatred was going to follow us here to America because this is the place where you can speak freely,” says Mazin Khadim, president of Alzahra Islamic Center in Albuquerque, which caters to the city’s Shi’ite population. “We just never thought it was going to be the same here in America.” Albuquerque police have cautioned that the motive for the killings is still unclear. The suspect, Muhammad Syed, 51—who moved to the U.S. from Afghanistan about five years ago—“knew the victims to some extent” and that “an interpersonal conflict” may have been to blame. But that has not quelled concerns and discussion among many Shi’ite Muslims in Albuquerque—and elsewhere in the U.S.—that centuries-old sectarian divides are manifesting in new ways for American Muslims. They argue that while anti-Shi’ite sentiment in the U.S. has not typically culminated in such violent acts, it has very much been present in Sunni-dominated mosques, student associations, and other places American Muslims gather. read the complete article

12 Aug 2022

US: Muslim men sue Alaska Airlines after removal from flight over Arabic text messages

Two Muslim men are suing Alaska Airlines alleging discrimination, saying staff removed them from a flight for "talking and texting in Arabic". In a lawsuit filed on 2 August made public this week, Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin claim the incident happened after they boarded an Alaska flight from Seattle to San Francisco on 17 February 2020. While they were awaiting departure, they made small talk with each other in Arabic. According to the lawsuit, Dirar also texted his friend something in Arabic and used an emoji. The lawsuit says there was an "admittedly unjustified and unnecessary display of security theatre" which allegedly included humiliating the two men by "deplaning" them, surrounding them with law enforcement officers and subjecting them to additional "unnecessary" security measures after already confirming with police the text messages were innocuous and posed no threat. Dirar and Elamin had been immediately escorted off the plane with uniformed law enforcement saying the pair had "ticketing issues". According to the complaint, Alaska Airlines personnel informed a responding officer that the incident was a "misunderstanding between passengers", that "everything was fine", that "there was no threat of any kind", and that "police were no longer needed". "By the time Plaintiffs finally reached their destination, they were too humiliated and traumatized by Defendant's actions to enjoy their trip," the lawsuit reads. "Their trauma was exacerbated by knowing that such public mistreatment would give credence to Islamophobic, racist, and xenophobic beliefs which have plagued the Muslim community in the United States for decades." read the complete article

12 Aug 2022

Islamophobia: What Christians Should Know (and Do) about Anti-Muslim Discrimination

Jordan Denari Duffner is an author and scholar of Muslim-Christian relations, interreligious dialogue, and Islamophobia. Jordan is currently pursuing a PhD in Theological and Religious Studies at Georgetown University. A former Fulbright scholar, she is also an associate of the Bridge Initiative, where she previously worked from 2014 to 2017 as a research fellow. Jordan’s writing on Islam and Catholicism has appeared in numerous outlets including TIME, The Washington Post, and America. This episode discusses her newest book Islamophobia: What Christians Should Know (and do) about Anti-Muslim Discrimination (Orbis, 2021) You can find her at and on twitter @JordanDenari. read the complete article

United Kingdom

12 Aug 2022

Wearing a hijab can be terrifying but, after 14 years, I’m grateful for mine

This week marks 14 years since I started wearing the hijab, meaning I’ve now spent exactly half my life as a hijabi. As I reach this milestone that some Muslim women lovingly refer to as our hijabiversary, it’s had me reflecting on the journey of the last decade and a half: the good, the bad, the rejection and the harassment, but also the hidden joys. For me, wearing the hijab came out of an identity crisis that left me searching for who I was. It was like I had failed at being white, so now it was time to embrace my otherness – and becoming visibly Muslim was my way of doing that. Being a visibly Muslim woman can sometimes feel stifling, as though I’m only allowed to live in the preconceived boxes created by other people – that I’m only allowed to exist in the way the media, society, politicians and even Muslim men believe Muslim women should be – that we are oppressed and uneducated, that we have no agency and that our covered bodies constitute a failure of feminism. It can also feel terrifying. It means not standing at the edge of the Tube platform because that video of a hijabi being pushed into the path of an oncoming train is etched into the insides of my eyelids. It means walking the long way round to avoid the white men standing outside the pub, pumped up on alcohol and male hubris. Often, it leaves me weighing up my chances of experiencing violent misogyny or brutal islamophobia (or sometimes both) wherever I go. But in other ways, it has been hugely liberating. By wearing the hijab, by facing alienation and rejection at the hands of my white friends and discomfort in the white spaces that I could once inhabit with ease, it forced me to carve out a space for myself that I could fill with people like me; friends and family who I could be my true unapologetic self around. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 12 Aug 2022 Edition


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