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 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, a new documentary probes whether the 9/11 museum treats Muslims and 9/11 victims’ families with sensitivity and questions if the site does enough to capture the way the attacks changed the U.S. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom the former leader of the UKIP, Lord Pearson was condemned after making islamophobic remarks during a debate on Afghanistan in the House of Lords. In France, French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to speak out in support of Afghan women was derided by critics as hypocritical given the country’s treatment of its own Muslim women. Our recommended read of the day is by Hafsa Lodi on the concept of Sharia and how it has been manipulated to serve patriarchal agendas. This and more below:


20 Aug 2021

As a Muslim feminist, I know what sharia really means — and it’s not what the Taliban thinks

“Sharia” is one of those elusive terms that many think connotes some sort of Islamic law set in stone. However, most Muslims cannot confidently define or describe it. I remember first hearing the word as an American teen during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when images of burka-clad women and armed terrorists dominated the mainstream media, inciting support for the eventual invasion of Afghanistan. I couldn’t reconcile these images with the Islam I was raised with, and was also oblivious to what sharia actually entailed. Questions about my faith and its compatibility with feminism led me to pursue my master’s degree in Islamic Law at the University of SOAS in London, and almost a decade later, I’m still unlearning patriarchal views on women’s roles and rights in Islam. Upon studying fiqh, or Islamic jurisprudence, I learned that sharia, which means “path”, in fact refers to human interpretation of divine sources. It is not in itself divine or immutable, but rather is continuously open to revision, according to numerous religious scholars. It is also not mutually exclusive with women’s rights – how could it be, when Islam is a faith that granted women unprecedented rights historically, such as consent before marriage, the ability to divorce, financial independence and property inheritance? Historically, however, many ruling regimes and religious groups in the Muslim world have manipulated sharia to serve extremist, patriarchal agendas. read the complete article

Our recommended read for the day
19 Aug 2021

Model Lily Cole sparks anger with burqa selfie

British model Lily Cole has been slammed online after posting an image of herself wearing a burqa to promote her new book. The post was shared the same week Kabul fell to the Taliban and has sparked a conversation online surrounding women’s rights, clothing and Islamophobia. read the complete article

17 Aug 2021

White Feminists Wanted to Invade

The George W. Bush administration, always looking for justifications for war, found just the thing in the Feminist Majority’s campaign. By November, first lady Laura Bush was arguing that the reason for the war was to “liberate Afghan women.” By November 20, the leaders of the Feminist Majority—including Ellie Smeal, the former head of the National Organization for Women—were attending events at the State Department and meeting with administration officials. The spring 2002 issue of Ms. magazine called the invasion a “coalition of hope,” adding bombs to the feminist toolkit. The brand of feminism those women collectively championed is what I call “white feminism,” meaning that it refuses to consider the role that whiteness and racial privilege play in universalizing white feminist concerns, agendas, and beliefs as those of all feminism and all feminists. Of course, not all feminists who are white are white feminists. No matter the person’s skin color and gender, advocating for an anti-racist, anti-capitalist feminism is a threat to white feminism. The belief that white women knew what’s best for Afghan women goes deeper than Hollywood and political posturing. The hundreds of millions in development aid that the United States poured into its savior-industrial complex relied on second-wave feminists’ assumption that women’s liberation was the automatic consequence of women’s participation in a capitalist economy. One of the most expensive development programs that Americans brought to Afghanistan was PROMOTE, which cost $418 million and was intended to provide 75,000 Afghan women with training, internships, and jobs. When the program was audited in 2016, it was almost impossible to trace where all the money had gone. The influx of cash wasn’t just wasted; it helped kill Indigenous feminisms that might have worked to achieve more culturally relevant goals. The aid economy meant that Afghan women activists abandoned their own programs and rushed to American ones. read the complete article

18 Aug 2021

Monsters, Inc: The Taliban as Empire’s bogeyman

The 20th anniversary of the so-called “war on terror”, which began with the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, is marked by the withdrawal of United States troops and the “return” of the Taliban to Kabul. In some ways, we are back in 2001, and in others – there is no going back, given that the US war on terror has killed over 800,000 people, and displaced 37 million more. As scholars committed to uncompromising anti-imperial analysis, and who study the “war on terror”, we stand with others in facing the daunting task of offering critical theorising of Afghanistan today that does not add another layer of betrayal of the Afghan population. The dominance of the geopolitics of statecraft and development approaches coupled with the overwhelming whiteness of Afghanistan Studies, however, contributes to what we consider and experience as a longstanding deep crisis of knowledge production on Afghanistan. Why have we come to see the logic of imperial violence on the Afghan population as more logical, instead of as (or more) illogical, as (or more) illegitimate, as (or more) repulsive as Taliban violence? Prevailing theories of the Taliban are not only racialising in the ways they present the group as a violent pathology, but also as belonging to a rural insurgency, always returning the Talib to a rural conservative Pashtun of the South – an unruly backward figure who prevents the nation’s progress. read the complete article

19 Aug 2021

Essay: Why the West failed to understand Afghanistan

After the Taliban had seized all major provincial capitals in a matter of days, they marched into Kabul on Sunday. Many members of the army and police abandoned their posts even before the insurgents entered the city. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ,for his part, hastily fled the country with his entourage. His behavior was like that of a neo-colonial governor — that's just how he has been described in recent years, not only by the Taliban but by many Afghans who did not benefit from his corrupt state apparatus. After Ghani's flight, the Taliban captured the presidential palace and posed for pictures in front of his desk. One of the commanders said shortly afterwards during a press conference for the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera that he had been detained and tortured by the Americans for eight years in Guantanamo. A coincidence? Probably not. Instead, it was evident once more that the American "War on Terror" had radicalized scores of people in Afghanistan – and that many of them have not forgotten it to this day. The latest scenes in Kabul have underscored more plainly than ever that the Western mission in Afghanistan has failed. During his speech yesterday, US President Joe Biden, in the midst of withdrawing his military forces, did not spare a single word for all the Afghans who have been killed by the American "War on Terror" over the past two decades. Instead, his words were once again marked by a denial of reality and by ignorance. The true winners of the war are not in the White House but in Kabul. Drone attacks and brutal nightly raids regularly caused numerous civilian casualties in Afghan villages. Many survivors shifted their support to the Taliban as a result. This was de facto also the case at the gates of Kabul. Long before the recent events, a 20- to 30-minute drive was enough to take you into Taliban territory. But those in charge did not want to face up to these realities. Instead, they were busy patting themselves on the back for a job well done. People spoke of their own oh-so-commendable values and focused on the supposed achievements made in Afghanistan since 2001. There was much talk of democracy, although not a single democratic transfer of power has taken place in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. read the complete article

United States

19 Aug 2021

The Outsider Unpacks the Controversy Behind the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a new documentary chronicles the controversy around the creation of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and goes behind the scenes to explore the purpose of the site, which opened in 2014. The Outsider, which premieres Aug. 19 as the first paid ticketed film event on Facebook, probes whether the museum treats Muslims and 9/11 victims’ families with sensitivity and questions if the site does enough to capture the way the attacks changed the U.S. Although upwards of 3 million people visit the museum each year—and many find it to be a powerful experience, the documentary scrutinizes the very purpose of the site—and the message sent not only by what it includes, but also by what it doesn’t. In an interview for the film, Philip Kennicott, the Washington Post’s chief art and architecture critic, considers what the museum could have featured. “Overwhelmingly, the message of the museum wasn’t educational as much as it was about grievance. In a sense, its fundamental message was: how could they have done this to us?” he says. “There’s been little discussion of how 9/11 actually changed America, how we’re all under surveillance. Our phones tapped, our emails collected. We learned nothing about the overwhelming cost of two wars, the loss of civil liberties… the systematic use of torture in prison camps.” Criticism of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum began with the site’s inception. A chief objection was over how the museum depicted Islam, including accusations that it failed to do enough to distinguish al-Qaeda from the majority of the world’s Muslims. In one scene in The Outsider, museum staff decide to describe the rise of al-Qaeda using the terms “Islamism,” “Islamic law” and “Jihadism” in an explanatory film at the permanent exhibit. In 2014, dozens of scholars, including professors at Harvard University, Georgetown University and Columbia University, signed a letter to museum leadership raising concerns about the explanatory film. “These terms could easily mislead and assign collective responsibility to Muslims and Islam,” the letter stated. (The museum has kept the film as is.) read the complete article


19 Aug 2021

Travelling exhibit aims to answer questions about Islam, tackle Islamophobia

Saskatoon residents had a chance to ask any questions they have about Islam at an event Thursday afternoon in front of city hall. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association were there as part of a national initiative called Islam in Motion: I am a Muslim, Ask Me Anything. Organizers are traveling across the country with a mobile exhibition, talking to Canadians about Islam and combating Islamophobia. "A a lot of misconceptions are a result of a small group of people that don't really follow Islam, but use Islam as a political tool," said Shahrukh Abid, a representative with the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. "A lot of questions are being asked like is Islam a violent religion? Do you guys force people to convert? Things like that. But we're removing all those misconceptions and saying that no, we're here in peace and that's what Islam teaches us." The youth will travel about 16,000 km as they visit cities from coast to coast. "It's just a way for us to tackle Islamophobia and let people know that we're not dangerous. You know, that Islam means peace and that we're here as Canadians, loyal citizens of this country," Abid said. read the complete article

United Kingdom

19 Aug 2021

Peer condemned over Islamophobic comments during Afghanistan debate

During the debate, the former leader of UKIP who now sits as an independent in the unelected chamber said: “So I submit that it is not phobic to fear Islam, which is responsible for by far the most violence on our planet today. “However, if we so much as even try to learn and talk about Islam, we are immediately called Islamophobic by the Muslim Council of Britain, Tell MAMA and other suspect organisations, yet we can say what we like about any of the world’s other religions and nobody turns much of a hair.” His comments led to widespread condemnation online, with the former director of the Centre for Labour & Social Studies (CLASS) Faiza Shaheen tweeting in response to the comments: “Sure, let’s use the West’s failure to create more Islamophobia. “Also, the number of people who seem to equate the Taliban with all Muslims and Islam as a whole shows an outstanding level of ignorance . Dr H.A. Hellyer a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute also issued a scathing response to the comments. He said: “This is the same Pearson who hosted Geert Wilders (far-right Dutch politician) in the House of Lords, former leader of UKIP (more far right-wing nonsense) and is infamous for trying to get far-right nut ‘Tommy Robinson’ (later jailed) to speak in Parliament. But still a ‘Lord’. Now the Muslim Council of Britain has responded to Lord Pearson’s comments, saying Lord Pearson had ‘freely and consistently used his privileged position in the House of Lords to promote divisive rhetoric directed towards British Muslims’. read the complete article


19 Aug 2021

Macron: Freedom for Afghan women but not for French Muslim women

Can France's commitment towards Afghan women exists while Muslim women are banned from wearing the headscarves. French President Emmanuel Macron's attempt to speak out in support of Afghan women has been derided online as hypocritical given the country's treatment of its own Muslim women. In a televised speech earlier this week, Emmanuel Macron said that "Afghan women have the right to live in freedom and dignity." The Taliban's austere and extreme interpretation of Islam has meant that it has often forced women to don the hijab and a full face veiling. However, some people have argued that France has its own policies against Muslim women, particularly those who choose to wear veils, which in turn diminishes its voice to speak out against the Taliban's practices. "This place where women are ordered what to wear and if they don't conform they can't study or work and can even be arrested…is called France," said one user in a comment that was widely shared online. Recently the EU's highest court ruled that Muslim women can be fired from their jobs for refusing to take off the headscarf. In addition, the court ruled that businesses can ban headscarves from being worn if it protects the businesses image. France has also banned the full-face veil from being worn by Muslim women in public spaces who see it as a part of their religious conviction. Muslim women in France can face fines and even prison if they wear they choose to wear the face veil in public. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 20 Aug 2021 Edition


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