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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18 Aug 2021

Today in Islamophobia: The Taliban’s triumphant takeover of Kabul doesn’t only mean that America may have lost the war in Afghanistan but it could signify the end of the US War on Terror as the US may have lost its premise for being a global policeman. In the post-9/11 era, the greatest threats to America are the far-right, systemic racism, the mishandled coronavirus pandemic, the opioid epidemic, and the record number of gun deaths, all of which point to the need to set reason-based priorities instead of fear-based priorities for national security. Meanwhile, in France a group of women from the southern French city of Grenoble, who call themselves the “Muslim Rosa Parks” launched a series of “swim-ins” in defiance of policies that systematically denied them entry into pools. Our recommended read of the day is by Marya Hanuun, on how the status of Afghanistan’s women is a separate question from the presence of American troops. This and more below:


17 Aug 2021

‘Saving’ Afghan Women, Now

In her 2013 book Do Muslim Women Need Saving?, Lila Abu-Lughod describes the reductive imagery around Afghan women—silent, shrouded, unable to leave their homes without male accompaniment—that pervaded U.S. airwaves in the early days of the 2001 invasion. Abu-Lughod didn’t deny the oppression faced by women at the hands of the Taliban. But, she argued, the way Afghan women were depicted in Western media was removed from the complex realities on the ground. Such representations reduced these women to a series of contextless images. They sought to blame culture or Islam, while ignoring the long history of foreign involvement in Afghanistan that contributes to the current situation—from the social disintegration during the Soviet occupation to the sexual violence during the subsequent civil war and mujahideen rule. They collapsed Afghan women—who encompass a complex mosaic of identities, ages, ethnicities, classes, and religious backgrounds—into a single voiceless image with a single set of desires, which in turn made it seem like the only solution for them was to be saved from their own society by Western forces. Twenty years later, as the precipitous U.S. withdrawal unfolds and the Taliban seize power, women are again at the center of the story. We are hearing fear that the gains in women’s rights of the last two decades will be lost under a new Taliban rule, hope that they will not, and a great deal of cynicism about saving women as a pretext for war to begin with. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
17 Aug 2021

The US Used Afghan Women to Justify Its War. Now, It’s Leaving Them Behind

Rhetoric around women’s rights in Afghanistan, and portrayals of US military forces as saviors of Afghan women, have been used to justify the US war there from the beginning. Nine days after US bombs started dropping, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) donned a burqa on the House floor to declare the offensive a “just war, which we have no choice but to wage” while listing the Taliban’s many restrictions on women’s lives—no work, no school, no medical care from male doctors—and their devastating economic and health consequences. The same day as Bush’s address, the State Department published a report that concluded: “Today, with Kabul and other Afghan cities liberated from the Taliban, women are returning to their rightful place in Afghan society—the place they and their families choose to have.” The following week, the New York Times editorial board hopped on the train, praising the liberation of Afghan women as a “collateral benefit” of the war, and calling for women’s participation in civic life and government. Now, 20 years later, as the Taliban retakes control of Kabul, Afghan women who heeded that call are poised to become some of the regime’s first victims. And US assistance for at-risk Afghan nationals, including journalists and women’s rights activists, is severely limited. “For some Afghan women activists, survival has become a matter of weeks—or days,” wrote Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, and Tayna Henderson, Mina’s List founder and executive director, in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday. Rana Abdelhamid, a Justice Democrats–endorsed candidate currently challenging Maloney to represent New York’s 12th House district, wrote on Twitter Monday that after watching Maloney’s burqa speech in 2001, “I knew that as a Muslim woman my identity would be weaponized to justify American wars.” She called for bringing in more Afghan refugees, expediting their processing, and prioritizing their “family reunification.” “We must be accountable to the crisis we helped create,” Abdelhamid wrote. “Anything less in unacceptable.” read the complete article

17 Aug 2021

Does the Afghanistan debacle end the US War on Terror?

The so-called US "War on Terror" (WoT) spawned an attempt by Washington to export liberal democracy around the world through invasion and 'pre-emptive attacks'. An ecosystem of think tanks emerged that viewed Muslims with suspicion creating an "Islamophobia industry," which increasingly portrayed Islam as a security threat in need of management and reform. And laws were enacted that eroded the freedoms of citizens across the globe, including the US and the UK, two chief architects of such legislation. Following the 9/11 attacks in the US and subsequent toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan - American attention shifted to other foes in the Middle East. Yet even as its occupation in Iraq floundered, the Libya intervention soured, and drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria and the Sahel region in Africa failed to achieve long term measurable outcomes and civilian deaths mounted, Afghanistan continued to underpin the original rationale for America's global WoT campaign. The US' WoT was "flawed" from its inception, said Arif Rafiq, a scholar at the Middle East Institutes speaking to TRT World. The WoT narrative was a catch-all term to describe "networks that are transnational but ultimately rooted in local realities." Rafiq, however, is not optimistic that the WoT has been all together scrapped. Instead, it has been "rebranded" with covert and special operations forces leading the charge, "but the era of large-scale occupations is over," he says Unwinding the ideological narratives that provided the steam for the WoT will prove difficult, even as the US' global standing is diminished amid a chaotic retreat from Afghanistan. Far removed from Afghanistan but against that backdrop, the WoT had a "devastating and lasting impact on the discourse towards Muslims," says Farid Hafez, an Austrian academic focusing on the rise of Islamophobia in Europe. "It has created the idea that Muslims are a threat to national and global security," added Hafez, speaking to TRT World. read the complete article

17 Aug 2021

He Spent 14 Years at Guantánamo. This Is His Story.

As he tells it, Mansoor Adayfi was an innocent 18-year-old former goat herder and security guard from Yemen who was doing research in Afghanistan when, after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Afghan fighters ambushed his truck, kidnapped him and handed him over to the C.I.A. for a hefty cash bounty. At a black site in Kandahar, he and other men swept up by the Americans were stripped naked, beaten, piled on top of one another and interrogated about their links to Al Qaeda. Then they were bound, hooded and flown to the newly opened and soon-to-be-notorious detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The 14 years Adayfi was held there frame the narrative of “Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo,” a searing memoir written with Antonio Aiello. Riven with indignation about his internment, Adayfi builds bonds with his fellow detainees, endures brutal beatings and disorienting stretches in solitary confinement, and organizes hunger strikes to protest poor conditions. The result is a starkly human dispatch from the messy and often unheard receiving end of the war on terror. Throughout Guantánamo’s history, the knowledge the world has about the facility and what has happened there is only what has emerged from the long struggle between a government drastically restricting information on national security grounds and efforts by lawyers, journalists and human rights groups to pry out as much detail as possible. Adayfi’s voice adds to that knowledge because it comes firsthand from inside the walls. read the complete article


17 Aug 2021

Police fire tear gas to break up Muslim gathering in Kashmir

Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir fired tear gas and warning shots Tuesday to disperse Shiite Muslims who attempted to participate in processions marking the Muslim month of Muharram Dozens of people were detained. Hundreds of Muslims chanting religious and pro-freedom slogans took to the streets in the main city of Srinagar despite security restrictions banning the traditional procession. Government forces used batons to beat journalists covering the procession, according to a local reporter. Authorities erected steel barricades and barbed wire to block the crowds. read the complete article

18 Aug 2021

Arvind Kejriwal’s Puzzling Silence in the Face of Anti-Muslim Hate Mongering in Delhi

After the anti-Muslim video from Jantar Mantar went viral, a wave of shock, shame and anger was felt across the mainstream and alternative media. Various political parties, the BJP included, agreed that the slogans raised were unlawful and unacceptable. While two of the accused – Uttam Upadhyay and Pinky Chaudhary (now granted protection from arrest) – are absconding, and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay has been granted bail, public anger forced the BJP to distance itself from the slogans and condemn the actions of its leaders and affiliates. This time around, the argument that these are some fringe elements who should be ignored was rendered invalid by the sheer brazenness of the hate mongers at the event. The fact that it happened right in the heart of the national capital, not far from parliament, and in the presence of leaders of the ruling party and the police, is a lesson to those who still want to use the “ignore the fringe” argument. The most prominent amongst Delhi’s politicians who remained silent was chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. This, despite the fact that he won the 2020 assembly election in the aftermath of public revulsion against the “goli maaro” slogans of BJP leaders. In Muslim areas, voters overwhelming turned out to back his Aam Aadmi Party. In the face of Twitter trends pointing to Kejriwal’s silence, AAP spokespersons sprang to defend their leader. To every question, they had just two answers: First, Amit Shah controls the police. Second, Kejriwal is showing restraint and preventing polarisation by keeping quiet. read the complete article


17 Aug 2021

Meet the Muslim Rosa Parks: How France’s pools have become the latest site of a civil right battle

They call themselves the “Muslim Rosa Parks”. A group of women from the southern French city of Grenoble have launched a series of “swim-ins” in public pools across the city, after Muslim women wearing full length swimsuits known as “burkinis” were systematically denied entry to the pools. The city of Grenoble is not alone in prohibiting the so-called “burkini” in public pools. Across France, Muslim women in full length swimsuits are routinely denied access on the grounds their dress code infringes rules of hygiene and/or security. In 2016, local mayors in several French cities banned women in full length swimsuits from attending public beaches — a ruling subsequently overturned by France’s Council of State for breaching “fundamental freedoms”. And France’s recently passed “anti-separatism” bill flirted with an amendment to prohibit the “burkini” in public pools on the grounds of “secularism and the neutrality of the public space”. Though subsequently rejected, the debate rages on. In 2018, Taous and a collective of concerned citizens, including feminists and local activists from the group Alliance Citoyenne (“Citizens Alliance”), began writing to the mayor about access to the pools for women in full length swimsuits. Armed with evidence from France’s national agency on occupational health and safety (ANSES) which they claim shows their swimwear does not pose a hygiene issue, the women began lobbying their representatives for change. They say their letters, petitions, and requests to meet with the mayor were denied (the mayor’s office has confirmed he has not met with the women). “That’s when we realised we were left with no choice but to take action”, Taous says. Public pools in France have become the site of its latest civil rights battle — the right for women to wear what they please and for Muslim women specifically to no longer be unjustly targeted on the basis of their religious appearance. read the complete article

United States

17 Aug 2021

In the post-9/11 era, America’s greatest threat isn’t jihadist terrorism any more

The biggest problems our nation faces today have little to do with the terrorist groups that have consumed so much of our attention. Far-right militants launched a deadly attack on the US Capitol. Systemic racism continues, vividly illustrated by the killing of unarmed Black men by police. The mishandled coronavirus pandemic killed more than half a million Americans and put millions out of work. The opioid epidemic has claimed more than 500,000 lives, while 2020 saw a record number of gun deaths. Climate change drove natural disasters costing a record $22bn across the US in 2020. When government officials claim that national security demands a particular action, few interrogate how national security is defined. Is it the territorial integrity of the nation? The physical safety of its people? Or something less tangible, such as the preservation of constitutional rights, economic prosperity, or the institutions of democracy? Absent a clear definition, the “national security” label is often affixed in ways that seem arbitrary, inconsistent, or politically driven. And yet the invocation automatically elevates the issue’s priority of the issue, triggering increased government attention and resources regardless of any objective measure of the threat’s magnitude. After 9/11, “national security” became nearly synonymous with preventing attacks from groups such as al-Qaida and Isis and any individuals who identified with these groups’ stated goals. Congress practically threw money at counter-terrorism efforts – by some estimates, the United States spent $2.8tn on counter-terrorism between 2002 and 2017. In the meantime, white supremacist violence was often treated as a civil rights or violent crime problem, far lower on the government’s list of priorities, even though this type of terrorism kills more Americans most years than any other. Only recently has the government labeled it a national security threat, with the attendant resources and attention. Moreover, terrorist acts of all kinds are prioritized over problems that are generally not viewed through a national security lens but are far more damaging to public health and safety. Terrorism is typically responsible for fewer than 100 fatalities a year – smaller than the number of Americans killed in bathtub accidents. In comparison, there are over 16,000 annual homicides, mostly by firearms. And the homicide numbers pale in comparison to estimates of American deaths due to environmental pollution, substandard healthcare, and poverty. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 18 Aug 2021 Edition


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