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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20 Aug 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Laura Loomer, who once described herself as a “proud Islamophobe,” wins the Republican primary in Florida. Denver police seek masked suspects who set house fire in possible anti-Muslim crime. Our recommended read today is by Rowaida Abdelaziz on the Florida immigration facility that repeatedly fed Muslim detainees pork during the pandemic. This, and more, below:

United States

20 Aug 2020

Immigrant Detention Center Fed Muslims Pork During Pandemic, Activists Say | Recommended Read

A Florida immigration facility repeatedly served pork to Muslim detainees despite the fact the immigrants did not consume pork in accordance with their faith, several civil rights organizations said on Wednesday. Detainees at the Krome Service Processing Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Miami, were given the choice of pre-packaged pork-based meals or expired halal meals at least two to three times a week, according to a letter to ICE sent by Muslim Advocates, Americans for Immigrant Justice and the law firm King & Spalding LLP. Several dozen of Krome’s nearly 440 detainees are Muslim. The pork meals violated the immigrants’ religious practices ― but the expired halal meals made them sick. Those who ate the expired meals consequently suffered from “stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea,” according to the letter. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Muslim detainees were able to choose their meals at a cafeteria. But the facility switched to prepackaged meals when it suspended large gatherings to limit the spread of the virus. When Muslim immigrants complained to ICE staff and Krome’s chaplain, they were repeatedly ignored, and the chaplain told them, “it is what it is,” Azmi told HuffPost. Despite making up only 1% of the U.S. population, Muslims make up about 9% of the total U.S. prison population. In some states, such as Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, that number is higher than 20%. This is is not the first time Muslim detainees were forced to eat pork at various American facilities. Out of the 163 Muslim prisoner-related federal lawsuits pertaining to religious freedoms filed by Muslim Advocates between October 2017 and January 2019, 64 complaints, or nearly 40%, were about dietary needs. read the complete article

Recommended Read
20 Aug 2020

Anti-Muslim extremist and conspiracy theorist wins Republican primary

5) Anti-Muslim extremist and conspiracy theorist wins Republican primary (United States) Laura Loomer, who has described herself as a “proud Islamophobe”, won praise from Donald Trump early on Wednesday, who tweeted that she had a “great chance”, despite her Florida district being deep blue. The president shared multiple tweets celebrating Loomer’s victory, and called her opponent, a Democrat who has served in Congress for seven years, a “puppet”. Loomer has called Muslims “savages”, described Islam as “a cancer”, and said on Instagram that Muslims should not be allowed to run for political office in the United States. In 2017, Loomer was banned from using ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft after she posted a series of tweets blaming all Muslims for terror attacks and saying that someone should create a ride-sharing service that did not employ Muslims. In 2019, she wrote that she did not care about the white nationalist terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 51 people dead. The far-right provocateur has also spread conspiracy theories about the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, and about the 2018 pipe bomb plot targeting prominent critics of Trump. Loomer has built her public profile through vicious attacks against Muslims and immigrants, followed by public claims that she is being censored when social media companies take action against her. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, PayPal, Venmo, GoFundMe, Uber and Lyft have banned her, but her communications get out through tweets by supporters and other workarounds, the Palm Beach Post reported. read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

Muslim advocacy group wants investigation into Berkeley Co. council member Facebook photo

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling for an investigation into a Berkeley County council member posting a picture on Facebook of him and others "playing a terrorist" for a training exercise. Council member Tommy Newell posted the now-removed photo as the "Shiek of Berkeley County," according to the post. The people in the photo wore a traditional Arab “kaffiyeh” head scarf, as well as an Islamic “kufi” (skullcap) and “niqab” (face veil), CAIR officials said. Newell is the person dressed on the left. “By associating ordinary Middle Eastern and Islamic attire with terrorism, Councilman Newell and the organizers of the training exercise are placing local Muslim families in danger of stereotyping and bias,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “We urge county officials to investigate this incident and to repudiate the type of xenophobia and Islamophobia it represents.” read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

She Called Muslims ‘Savages’ And Islam A ‘Cancer.’ Now She’s A GOP Nominee.

An anti-Muslim extremist who once said she didn’t care about the mass murder of Muslims won a Republican congressional primary election in Florida on Tuesday, and received a late-night congratulations from the president. Laura Loomer, a 27-year-old far-right operative whose bigotry is so vile she’s been kicked off multiple social media platforms, beat out five opponents to capture the GOP nomination for Congress in Florida’s 21st District. The district includes President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and the president took time Tuesday night to send Loomer some words of encouragement. “Great going Laura,” he tweeted a little before midnight. “You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!” Loomer will face Democratic incumbent Rep. Lois Frankel in the general election in November in a race Loomer is widely expected to lose. Frankel won the heavily Democratic district by 30 percentage points in 2018. But Loomer’s primary win underscores the degree to which explicit anti-Muslim bigotry isn’t just tolerated in the GOP, but rewarded. It’s hard to overstate her hatred for Muslims. Loomer — whose long extremist resumé includes stints as a writer and correspondent at far-right operations including The Rebel, Project Veritas and InfoWars — has called Muslims “savages” and described herself as a “#ProudIslamophobe.” She’s stated that she doesn’t want “another Muslim entering this country EVER AGAIN!” read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

Trump’s backing of far-right conspiracy theorist frames the stakes for 2020

It should be a much bigger story that the president of the United States has now enthusiastically endorsed the congressional run of a virulently Islamophobic far-right conspiracy theorist. This isn’t just highly newsworthy on its own. It also illuminates the stakes of the 2020 presidential race in a fresh way — one that should help forestall the sort of terrible errors in media coverage of President Trump’s hate-mongering that we saw in 2016. Trump’s championing of Loomer should compel a much clearer reckoning, one that faithfully conveys what we’re really seeing here: reactionary illiberalism, naked bigotry and nativist incitement of anti-immigrant hate. Trump has indulged in anti-Muslim bigotry all throughout his presidency. And regardless, Trump’s endorsement of Loomer lays his anti-Muslim bigotry bare once again. Seeing all this unfold brings back bad memories. After Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and called for banning Muslims, some observers in 2016 were far too credulous in crediting Trump with “softening” on immigration during the general election, based on utterly meaningless shifts designed to fool swing voters while winking to the hard-right base. An echo of this can now be heard in the euphemistic descriptions of Trump’s fomenting of anti-immigrant hate. But if there’s anything that should junk those euphemisms, it’s Trump’s explicit backing of an anti-Muslim bigot. Yet as Mehdi Hasan points out, few journalists have even taken note of this endorsement. In the next two months, all this will be heavily litigated. But no one should refer to what Trump is doing as “culture war politics” or “stoking divisions” or even “crazy Trump being crazy Trump.” It’s extreme radicalization. And we need to get the language right this time. read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

“Head-On Into Peril”: Connecting 9/11 and Law Enforcement Abuses in Portland

“When 9/11 occurred, our folks did not quibble about whether there was danger ahead for them[, t]hey ran head-on into peril,” wrote FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich in early June during the first weeks of protest over the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans. Bowdich’s mention of 9/11 compared protests of systemic racism across the United States by U.S. citizens, to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon by al-Qaeda, a transnational terror organization. His reference to “our folks” analogized our military forces sent to Afghanistan – ostensibly to fight terrorism – with the patchwork of untrained federal officials given generic military uniforms and munitions and instructed to counter the protestors. And “running head-on into peril” is an unmistakable comparison between the federal government’s suppression of protest, and war. The treatment of protestors as combatants to be battled, a framing echoed by Attorney General Bill Barr and President Donald Trump, should surprise no one. While the militarization of the police began long before 9/11, the hasty passage of the PATRIOT Act meant that major constitutional threats (such as Section 213’s authorization of warrantless searches by law enforcement in some situations) escaped sufficient national (and judicial) scrutiny. In the post-9/11 era, the National Guard and private contractors have been deployed alongside, and in some cases instead of, local law enforcement to monitor communities of color, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Long before military-grade munitions were used on peaceful protestors in Lafayette Square, weapons and tanks flooded police departments that considered themselves the domestic counterparts of the military sent abroad in the “War on Terror.” Instead of being part of their communities, police departments have acted as an oppositional – even occupying – force, simulating wartime roles. It was no accident that people of color (primarily Black and Latino Americans, and Muslims around the world) were the primary targets of both military and police agencies post-9/11 – allowing the militarization of law enforcement to largely escape censure from the majority even as it became entrenched in American society. While American police were militarized, elements of the federal response in Portland that have so horrified the nation became core features of – rather than aberrations from – post-9/11 counterterrorism, immigration, asylum and refugee policies. These shifts began with President Clinton’s “War on Drugs,” escalated under President Bush’s “War on Terror,” and became normalized under President Obama. The Trump administration’s response to the Portland protests and its manifestly bigoted, discriminatory “Muslim ban” policies, along with the more general destruction of asylum rights, among others, has predictably woven together different threads of post-9/11 national security policies (with widely disparate impacts at home and abroad) into a single ugly tapestry. read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

House Democrats call on State Department for information on Uighur prisoner Ekpar Asat

A group of House Democrats in the Blue Dog Coalition raised concerns Wednesday about the status of Uighur inmate Ekpar Asat, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a secret trial following his return to China. Prior to his imprisonment, Asat, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, participated in a State Department program in the United States and founded a social media platform for Uighurs. In a letter spearheaded by Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) sent to Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai on Tuesday, the lawmakers called for information on Asat, noting he had disappeared into the Chinese detention system and had not spoken to his family since 2016. The group noted that Asat has been portrayed in a positive light in the Chinese media, yet was accused of “inciting ethnic hatred” after taking part in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and for providing a digital platform for Uighurs, called Bagdax. read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

Trump’s praise of anti-Muslim GOP candidates isn’t a coincidence — and it isn’t subtle

On Tuesday, President Trump for the second time in one week promoted the primary victory of a conspiracy-theorist, anti-Muslim Republican House candidate. Last week, it was Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon supporter. This week, it was Florida’s Laura Loomer, another fringe figure in today’s Republican Party. It’s perhaps understandable that a politician would endorse a candidate from his own party while belying his true familiarity with their credentials. But it’s difficult to divorce all of this from Trump’s own past commentary on Muslims. He launched his political career on the racist birther conspiracy theory and even suggested that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate might reveal that “he’s a Muslim.” And that wasn’t the only time he suggested Obama was a secret Muslim. During the 2016 campaign, Trump proposed a full ban on Muslim immigration. He criticized a Muslim Democratic National Convention speaker and Gold Star parent for supposedly not allowing his wife to speak. As president, he banned travel from several majority-Muslim countries. He promoted unverified, anti-Muslim videos from a fringe group in Great Britain. In other words, the idea that it would be a coincidence that he promoted anti-Muslim or even just conspiracy-theorist candidates unwittingly — more forcefully and more frequently than other, less controversial GOP candidates who won primaries on the same dates — doesn’t really square with his track record. read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

Denver police seek masked suspects who set house fire in possible anti-Muslim crime

Denver police said they suspect three masked people in a house fire that killed five members of a Muslim family earlier this month. A surveillance photo released by the police shows the three suspects in full-face masks and hoodies. Djbril and Adja Diol died in the Aug. 5 fire, along with their 2-year-old daughter Khadiji, Djibril’s sister Hassan and Hassan’s infant daughter Hawa Baye, a Denver NBC affiliate reported. Three other people were in the house when the fire began but were able to jump to safety from the second floor. Police said the three suspects appeared to have set the fire deliberately and “fled the area in a dark colored 4-door sedan.” read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

Biden campaign's attacks on Linda Sarsour alienate Muslim voters, activists say

Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour offered advice to the Democrats on Tuesday on how to engage Muslim voters: ensure representation, treat Muslims as a decisive voting bloc in swing states and reach out to them in their communities. Right-wing media outlets and Donald Trump's campaign denounced the Muslim organiser's appearance at the Democratic convention, and Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates joined them in condemning Sarsour. "Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her (Sarsour's) views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform," Bates said in a statement, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. "She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever." Sarsour's support for BDS has made her a target of anti-Muslim activists, who have also tried to smear Democrats who associate with her. Muslim Americans, who have been complaining about a lack of representation on the main stage of the convention, were quick to voice disappointment in the campaign's statement. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a major Muslim advocacy group, issued a strongly worded statement in defence of Sarsour on Wednesday. "Our sister Linda Sarsour is an outspoken advocate of justice for all, including the Jewish community," the statement said. "Smearing her and other American Muslims as anti-Semitic for supporting Palestinian human rights is predictable, despicable and unacceptable. Our political leaders must stop doing it." Maya Berry, Executive director of the Arab American Institute, said the Biden staffer who attacked Sarsour was falling to "the hateful tactic of Arab baiting". "What the Biden campaign cannot do as it seeks to heal America is take actions that appear to defame or exclude communities. We urge the Biden campaign to issue a correction," Berry said in a statement. read the complete article


20 Aug 2020

Facebook staff ask company to denounce anti-Muslim bigotry: Report

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Facebook and Ankhi Das, the executive at the centre of the controversy, are facing questions from employees of the social media giant about how political content was regulated in India, its biggest market. "In the United States and around the world, Facebook employees are raising questions about whether adequate procedures and content regulation practices were being followed by the India team," Reuters quoted sources as saying. In addition, 11 Facebook employees have written an open letter to the company's leadership, demanding they "acknowledge and denounce 'anti-Muslim bigotry' and ensure more policy consistency". "The letter also demanded that Facebook’s 'policy team in India (and elsewhere) includes diverse representation'," Reuters reported. “It is hard not to feel frustrated and saddened by the incidents reported... We know we’re not alone in this. Employees across the company are expressing similar sentiment. The Muslim community at Facebook would like to hear from Facebook leadership on our asks," the letter said. In addition to the open letter, Facebook employees are also calling for policy changes. "Facebook employees were discussing whether there should be strict separation between government relations and content policy teams, and there is 'an internal debate happening about the (content moderation) processes'," Reuters reported. read the complete article


20 Aug 2020

Chinese hospitals aborted late-stage pregnancies and killed newborns as part of a campaign to purge the Uighur culture, report says

Hospitals in Xinjiang, China, aborted late-stage Uighur pregnancies and even killed newborns, Radio Free Asia reported on Monday. Since 2016, China has operated a so-called counterterrorism campaign against its Uighur Muslim minority. At least 1 million Uighurs have been detained in camps designed to brainwash them. Uighurs are prevented by law from having more than two children if they live in cities or more than three if they live in the countryside. Hasiyet Abdulla, a Uighur doctor with 15 years of experience in Xinjiang, told RFA that if families reached that limit their babies would be killed in utero or after their birth. Other recent reports have detailed how China is seeking to cut the Uighur birth rate by forced sterilization and mandatory contraception. The effort to curtail the numbers of Uighurs born each year appears to be working. The birth rate in Xinjiang fell by nearly 24% in 2019, according to the AP. read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

On Xinjiang, even those wary of Holocaust comparisons are reaching for the word “genocide”

It is in recent weeks that a shift among experts to call the human rights abuses in Xinjiang crimes against humanity—or even genocide—has rapidly gathered speed. For members and advocates of the Uyghur community, that would be an important step in their campaign to raise awareness globally of their plight. Jo Smith Finley, an expert on Uyghurs at Newcastle University in the UK, said that some scholars of Xinjiang had been hesitant to label the abuses a full-blown genocide, given the historic weight the term carries, choosing instead to use terms like “cultural genocide” or “demographic genocide.” But, she added, the confluence of recent testimonies and images out of Xinjiang have “produced alarming echoes of the atrocities of the Holocaust”—the horror that gave rise to the word “genocide.” A growing number of people moved to use the term genocide last year as more testimonies of forced sterilizations endured by Uyghur and Kazakh women in camps in China came to light—forced suppression of births in a specific community, under the UN’s definition, is one of the five acts that constitutes genocide. In late June, the Associated Press published an investigation that detailed measures conducted by Chinese authorities to curtail the Uyghur birth rate, including the forced use of IUDs, sterilization, and abortions, prompting the Washington Post to state in an editorial headline, “What’s happening in Xinjiang is genocide.” The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews noted in a letter to ambassador Liu that “(p)eople being forcibly loaded on to trains; beards of religious men being trimmed; women being sterilised; and and the grim specter of concentration camps” bears similarities to “what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago.” Jonathan Sacks, the UK’s chief rabbi, tweeted on July 22 that he was “deeply troubled” by the plight of the Uyghurs. “As a Jew, knowing our history, the sight of people being shaven headed, lined up, boarded onto trains, and sent to concentration camps is particularly harrowing,” he wrote in a lengthy thread. read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

How China is Violating Human Rights Treaties and its own Constitution in Xinjiang

The global community is finally starting to describe China’s “Strike Hard” campaign against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang accurately, normalizing usage of terms including “genocide” and “concentration camps” to describe it. The campaign, questionably framed by the Chinese government as a counterterrorism operation, violates a half dozen international treaties, along with China’s own constitution. While recent condemnation by liberal democracies is much-needed progress, a crisis of this magnitude will require a whole-of-community response, along with continual legal and policy enforcement, to hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable for the full scope of atrocities it’s committing in Xinjiang. New research has revealed that Uighur labor is being trafficked in supply chains relied on by major multinationals brands, driving more global attention to Xinjiang. And as Lisa Reinsberg recently wrote in Just Security, China’s official policies to dilute and reduce the Uighur population appear to violate the Genocide Convention. But these policies also violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD); and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), all of which China has ratified. And unsurprisingly, the campaign appears to violate China’s constitution, despite its oft-ambiguous wording. Studying the full spectrum of violations of international and Chinese constitutional law committed by the CCP in its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang could help inform diplomatic strategy and inspire popular support. read the complete article

20 Aug 2020

Confessions of a Xinjiang Camp Teacher

Qelbinur Sedik has witnessed wanton cruelty, gratuitous violence, humiliation, torture, and death meted out to her people on an unimaginable scale — but has been forced to keep the crushing secret until now. “An employee shouted: ‘The lesson is about to start!’” In front of her were CCTV screens on the wall where she could see 10 cells of roughly 10 people each. “They were plunged into darkness, their windows boarded up with metal plates,” she said. “There were no beds, just blankets on the floor.” She made out a total of 97 prisoners, who had been locked up since ‪February 14. She noticed they all still had their hair and beards. Among them she picked out seven women, three of whom were extremely elderly. She waited for what would happen next. “The adult pupils came into the classroom 10 by 10, chained hand and feet. When they were all seated on little plastic chairs, without tables, I was let in. There were several men over 70 with long beards. Normally I have to show them respect. But they kept their heads down. Some were crying. I said: ‘Salam alaikum’ [a religious greeting among Muslims]. No one answered me. I immediately understood that I had said something terribly forbidden.” She looked at the eight surveillance cameras and continued. On March 20, the first floor of the camp filled with new arrivals. Whereas her first group had been religious and often elderly, the second group were intellectuals, business people, or students whose Chinese was perfect. Their crime, it seemed, was consulting Facebook, banned in China. Her educational mission was now beginning to make no sense at all. Her task with this group was to teach them communist songs and the national anthem. Qelbinur told the DUHRO that she was forced to live a secret double life. The weeks went by and she confided in no one but her husband. As the network of camps — and random arrests to fill them — accelerated, so did the crushing web of surveillance outside that kept track of every movement, every face, and every voice of those who were still free. Police checks and roundups were commonplace. Everyone was waiting for a knock on their door. “Even my neighborhood became an open-air prison,” she said, telling how one day she saw police pounce on five young men chatting on the sidewalk, and arrest two of them. read the complete article

Content Warning
Today in Islamophobia, 20 Aug 2020 Edition


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