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.

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22 Aug 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, a Muslim mom and her daughters were told they couldn’t swim at a waterpark due to their burkinis, meanwhile in the United States, police in Maine are investigating a string of concerning incidents connected to a local mosque as potential hate crimes against the area’s Muslim community, and in the United Kingdom, a Conservative councillor has been suspended from the group after sharing alleged Islamophobic posts on Twitter. Our recommended read of the day is by Apoorvanand for Al Jazeera on the release of 11 convicts who were convicted of gang-raping Muslim women during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat, and how this episode illustrates “how battles for justice will end in Modi’s India; that crimes against Muslims — even mass murders and gang rapes — will be treated lightly.” This and more below:


22 Aug 2022

Rapists freed: Is this how justice ends for Indian Muslims? | Recommended Read

It was Independence Day — for rapists and murderers. On August 15, 11 convicts serving life terms for having committed mass murder and gang-raping Muslim women in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 were released. The state government had ordered their remission. It is not a coincidence that their release came on a day when India marked 75 years of freedom from colonialism. The men were garlanded when they stepped out of prison. This wasn’t just about Bilkis. Scores of feminists, human rights defenders and organisations joined hands to shelter Bilkis, who had to live in hiding for her safety, constantly moving from one place to another. Their fight was also for every other person brutalised and murdered in what, in the eyes of many, was part of a genocidal crime against Muslims. When people with no criminal record decide to rape and kill women and men for their religion, as happened in 2002, it becomes all the more heinous. Now, justice is being trampled upon. After one of the convicts appealed to the Supreme Court for release, the top court of the land asked the Gujarat government to act in keeping with the state’s remission policy in 2002. Using holes in that policy, a Gujarat government-appointed committee — loaded with BJP members — recommended remission. Never mind that Bilkis, who lives in close proximity to the homes of the released convicts, must now fear for her life, and the safety of her family, once more. The message to Bilkis and all those who held her hands while she fought for justice is clear: This is how battles for justice will end in Modi’s India; that crimes against Muslims — even mass murders and gang rapes — will be treated lightly. Sadly, none of this is surprising. After all, it was under Modi’s rule in Gujarat that Bilkis first had to run for her life and hide from the state machinery. It was Modi’s government in the state that fought her as she battled for justice. Going back further, it is important to remember that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, one of the ideological gurus of the ruling dispensation, had once justified rape as a legitimate weapon that could deter Muslims from doing the same to Hindu women. It is also not a coincidence that calls for the murder of Muslims and rape of Muslim women have been given by so-called Hindu religious leaders in recent months. Instead of punishing them, Indian authorities have targeted those who exposed this hate speech, such as fact-checker Mohammad Zubair, who was arrested on spurious grounds. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

Terrorist tag, cramped space — life of Rohingya ‘refugees’ at Delhi camp behind Puri-MHA row

The four-storey building presents a shabby sight. Located in the national capital’s Sarai Rohilla area, it is one of two detention centres run by the Delhi government where “illegal” immigrants, including Rohingyas and Bangladeshis, are rounded up and kept. The Rohingyas inside are not allowed to interact with outsiders either, the officials at the premises said, and none could be seen outside the building when ThePrint visited this week. The only sign of activity inside was spotted through the windows. “There are times when people are sobbing and crying right outside the gates to meet those inside, but they are not allowed to meet,” said Abdul (he did not provide a last name), who works in an industrial unit right next to the centre. “No one comes out. Students don’t go to school. They don’t let anyone go out. The gates never open.” The Rohingyas are a persecuted minority in neighbouring Myanmar, and hundreds are said to live in India after having fled their home country. India houses thousands of refugees, but is officially not a signatory to the United Nations refugee framework and doesn’t have a national policy in this regard. It has neither signed the UN 1951 Refugee Convention nor its 1967 protocol. The detention centre at Sarai Rohilla is one of two Delhi government facilities where Rohingyas who are believed to be in India illegally are rounded up and kept. The second one is the Seva Sadan deportation centre in Lampur, which also houses ‘illegal’ foreigners from various other countries. Set up in line with Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines, the centres serve as a temporary base until the government determines the status of the inhabitants. The Rohingyas are deported if their stay here is proved illegal, and allowed to stay on otherwise. As India works to decide their fate, the residents of the Madanpur Khadar camp, located close to the Delhi-UP border, speak of a difficult existence in a country where they are allegedly seen with suspicion by some sections. “Some people call us ‘atankwaadi (terrorist)’. When employers get to know that we are from the (refugee) camps, they refuse to give us jobs a lot of the time,” he added. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

Editorial: New India not on the bodies of women, especially Muslim women

In fact, if recent events bear witness to the larger story, then there is ample scope to aver that not only has the situation for India’s women remained largely unchanged through the last decade but that sexual violence has now been weaponised and normalised in the larger pursuit of creating a majoritarian India. Two instances call our attention in the week that India commemorated her 75th year of independence from the British. On the very day that the Prime Minister spoke of “nari shakti” from the Red Fort, the Gujarat government signed off on a remission order to release 11 convicts who had gang-raped Bilkis Bano and killed more than a dozen of her family members including her baby daughter during the Gujarat riots in 2002. The men walked free the very next day – to garlands, sweets and aarti by their families as well as organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. There is enough and more cause for outrage, even a mass uprising. In both the cases, the message is clear: Women are responsible for sexual violence, and men convicted of gang-rape and murder can walk scot-free in the ‘New India’ being built. The men feted for committing heinous rape during a politically-charged communal conflagration are not ordinary criminals; they had performed the highest duty in seeking revenge against the targeted community, in this case Muslims. An MLA even spoke of them as Brahmins with sanskar. The ideological pater of the men of power, VD Savarkar, had written about how tribes had a long practice of capturing enemy women alive. In his “Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History,” the man for whom India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna is strongly advocated, wrote that Muslim women “whether Begum or beggar” did not protest against the atrocities committed by their male compatriots; on the contrary they encouraged them to do so and enticed Hindu girls “…locking them up in their own houses and conveyed them to Muslim centres in masjids and mosques” which is why he argued that Hindu men who did not seek revenge “had a perverted idea of women-chivalry”. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

Rohingya and CAA: What is India's refugee policy?

India's refugee policy is back in the spotlight after the government contradicted a minister's announcement that there are plans to provide housing and security to the Rohingya community in the capital. Hours after Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri's tweet on Wednesday, the government said the refugees would be held in detention centres until they were deported. The Rohingya Muslims are seen by many of Myanmar's Buddhist majority as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Fleeing persecution at home, they began arriving in India during the 1970s and are now scattered all over the country, with many living in squalid camps. In August 2017, a deadly crackdown by Myanmar's army sent hundreds of thousands of them fleeing across the border. According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 40,000 Rohingyas are in India - at least 20,000 of them are registered with the UN Human Rights Commission. Rights groups have criticised India for its attempts to deport the refugees instead of offering them asylum. Mr Puri's proposal to provide housing for the Rohingya was "perfectly correct", senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves told the BBC. "The Rohingya cannot be put into detention camps as they have not committed any crime," he said. "They come here because they are forced to flee persecution." read the complete article

United States

22 Aug 2022

Massachusetts student cited for uniform violation for wearing a hijab

A Massachusetts charter school where an 8th grade student was written up for a uniform infraction for wearing a hijab says it understands its “handling of the situation came across as insensitive.” A family member of the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School student posted on social media a picture of the “School Uniform Compliance Form” the student received from a teacher for the hijab on Thursday. In the description of the infraction, the headscarf worn by Muslim women was misspelled as “jihab.” The school said in an emailed statement that it allows students to wear religious attire “as an expression of their sincerely held beliefs,” but asks students to provide a letter “expressing this desire from a member of their clergy.” School Superintendent Alex Dan said there were no consequences given to the student and that the form sent home was meant to start the conversation with the family about obtaining a religious accommodation. But Dan acknowledged that the situation was mishandled. The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says its lawyers are representing the student’s family and are investigating the situation. The student is now wearing a hijab at school, the group said. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

Police in US state of Maine probing series of anti-Muslim incidents

Police in the US state of Maine are investigating a string of concerning incidents connected to a local mosque as potential hate crimes against the area’s Muslim community. Members of the Omar Bin Alkhetab Masjib in the city of Portland said that in April someone entered the mosque and started livestreaming details about the mosque. Then in early August, they reported to police that a video had been shared on social media of a copy of the Quran being burned. In a third incident, also in early August, someone spraypainted a threatening message near the home of a Muslim family. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

Laura Loomer, A Self-Described Islamophobe, Is Running For Congress Again

Laura Loomer, a self-described ”#ProudIslamophobe,” is making her second run to represent Florida in Congress. And this time she might actually win. Loomer has earned a reputation for her anti-Muslim extremism, repeatedly promoting conspiracy theories related to Islam and its adherents. In the past, she has tweeted that the religion is a “cancer” and that Muslims are “savages” who shouldn’t be “entering this country EVER AGAIN!” She is now challenging Rep. Daniel Webster for the state’s 11th Congressional District in Tuesday’s Republican primary. A Loomer victory could underscore how anti-Muslim bigotry is welcomed by some Republican voters. She would join Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, as another far-right member of the House with a history of Islamophobic statements. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

New breed of video sites thrive on misinformation and hate

A day after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York last May, the video-sharing website BitChute was amplifying a far-right conspiracy theory that the massacre was a so-called false flag operation, meant to discredit gun-loving Americans. BitChute has boomed as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook tighten rules to combat misinformation and hate speech. An upstart BitChute rival, Odysee, has also taken off. Both promote themselves as free-speech havens, and they’re at the forefront of a fast-growing alternative media system that delivers once-fringe ideas to millions of people worldwide. Searching the two sites on major news topics plunges viewers into a labyrinth of outlandish conspiracy theories, racist abuse and graphic violence. As their viewership has surged since 2019, they have cultivated a devoted audience of mostly younger men, according to data from digital intelligence firm Similarweb. Online misinformation, though usually legal, triggers real-world harm. U.S. election workers have faced a wave of death threats and harassment inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged, which also fueled the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol riot. Reuters interviews with a dozen people accused of terrorizing election workers revealed that some had acted on bogus information they found on BitChute and almost all had consumed content on sites popular among the far-right. read the complete article

United Kingdom

22 Aug 2022

Tories suspend Ipswich councillor over alleged Islamophobic tweets

A Conservative councillor has been suspended from the group after sharing alleged Islamophobic posts on Twitter. Steve Flood, who represents the Sprites ward on Ipswich Borough Council, allegedly shared tweets that criticised Islam on his account. Ipswich Conservative Association suspended him from the group on Friday and his Conservative Party membership will be be discussed on Wednesday. The BBC has contacted Mr Flood for comment. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

Ex-minister abandons hope of Tory Islamophobia probe promised by Boris Johnson

Former Transport minister Nusrat Ghani has abandoned hope of a Tory Islamophobia probe promised by Boris Johnson. The MP for Wealden, 49, said: “I have tried to progress this but it’s clear nothing is going to happen.” The former charity worker says she was told her “Muslimness” was one reason she was fired from her post in 2020. She said a Tory whip had told her that her faith made colleagues uncomfortable. Then Tory chief whip Mark Spencer, now Commons leader, admitted having a conversation with Ms Ghani but denied he said anything of the sort. But the PM agreed to hold an inquiry led by his ethics adviser Lord Geidt. But before it could be finished Lord Geidt quit after expressing unhappiness about the way Mr Johnson handled the row over No10 lockdown parties. He was Mr Johnson’s second adviser to go after Sir Alex Allan resigned in 2020 when his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants was ignored. Now the PM has washed his hands of the whole Islamophobia affair and dumped the problem on his successor - either ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

In the Tory leadership race, white is what’s right

Several British and international media outlets and pundits have commented recently on how the ongoing Tory leadership race was “surprisingly” diverse as the party fielded a number of candidates of colour who hail from minority backgrounds. Indeed, in the final leg of the race stands Rishi Sunak, the Indian origin former chancellor who, since betraying his old boss Boris Johnson, now seeks to take the top seat at Downing Street. These pundits are perhaps only surprised by Tory diversity because of a history of racism that has tainted the party to the extent that it has merited the authoring of several books. Johnson himself is no stranger to allegations of racism, particularly the racialised abuse he heaped on Muslim women who cover themselves - he compared them to bank robbers and letterboxes. That outburst led to a 375 percent spike in anti-Muslim incidences in the week after he made those hateful remarks. In a party such as this, how is it that it is fielding contenders from diverse ethnic backgrounds for the post of prime minister? Are the Tories simply misunderstood? Or is there something else at play? The answer, of course, is whiteness. Before we press on, it is important to caveat that I am not blaming white people writ large for all the ills of the world. Rather, I am talking about a concept, one that thrives on the insecurities of those seeking a greater station in their adoptive home - the UK - far from their brown or black origins. read the complete article


22 Aug 2022

Star American Professor Masterminded a Surveillance Machine for Chinese Big Tech

A star University of Maryland (UMD) professor built a machine-learning software “useful for surveillance” as part of a six-figure research grant from Chinese tech giant Alibaba, raising concerns that an American public university directly contributed to China’s surveillance state. Alibaba provided $125,000 in funding to a research team led by Dinesh Manocha, a professor of computer science at UMD College Park, to develop an urban surveillance software that can “classify the personality of each pedestrian and identify other biometric features,” according to research grant documents obtained via public records request. “These capabilities will be used to predict the behavior of each pedestrian and are useful for surveillance,” the document read. Alibaba’s surveillance products gained notoriety in 2020, when researchers found that one of its products, Cloud Shield, could recognize and classify the faces of Uyghur people. Human rights group believe these high-tech surveillance tools play a major role in the ongoing Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang. “The bottom line is that Alibaba financed U.S. academic research that was tailor-made for China’s surveillance state,” Ryan Fedasiuk, an associate fellow at the Center for New American Security, said in an email to The Daily Beast. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

British Indians have a racism problem – we need to be honest about it

I was recently sent a WhatsApp clip of a street vendor in India, dressed in a manner that suggested he was Muslim, apparently spitting into food containers. The clip was clearly doctored and shared in the name of “raising awareness”. But in fact it was intended to stir up more hatred against India’s Muslims – not just there, but among Hindus here in Britain. I come from a family of immigrants – my parents came to the UK from India and we all experienced racism, particularly in the early days. Yet despite this, I am heartbroken by how much racism I am seeing from British Hindus today, directed at Muslims and stirred up by India’s extreme right-wing government. Since the election of the BJP government in 2014, Hindu fundamentalism has been growing in India. Legislative changes from the top, with the judiciary and mainstream media capitulating to this agenda, are turning India from a secular country to one that puts “Hindu” first. Despite this, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the government, enjoy widespread support amongst the Hindu diaspora. This is in part due to the underlying belief that India should put Hindus first. While the founders of post-independent India were firm in their view that it must be a secular country, other nationalists from that time fostered the ideology of “Hindutva” (Hindu nationalism). The BJP has embraced this ideology. Sadly, now I belong to a group that is itself perpetuating racism. Hindus have become more used to using “Indian” and “Hindu”, with a deeper feeling that only Hindus are the “true” Indians. I see normally kind and mild-mannered people in my community becoming callous when speaking about Muslims. Such anti-Muslim sentiments are then turbo-charged through social media with sharing of (fake) stories on WhatsApp. read the complete article

22 Aug 2022

Protesters at an Indian Independence Day parade in California were shoved and called ‘stupid Muslims’

A large Indian Independence Day parade and festival in Anaheim, California, earlier this week devolved into shoves and Islamophobic slurs after a group of demonstrators brought signs protesting Hindu nationalism and discrimination in India. In a video viewed by NBC Asian America taken during the physical confrontation on Sunday, men can be seen jostling and grabbing at the young group of protesters, some shouting things like “stupid Muslims” and “get out” along with various nationalist chants. The parade celebrates India's independence from British colonialism in 1947, which transpired along with the violent partition between India and Pakistani. On the 75th anniversary, activists said they came out to uplift oppressed minority voices on the subcontinent. “It felt really urgent, especially around India’s Independence Day,” said Shanelle Gulabi, one of the protesters. “Because whose independence is being celebrated? Who gets to celebrate freedom? And freedom from whom when there’s been so much active violence and targeting of Muslim, caste-oppressed communities, Christian communities, Sikh communities.” They intended to simply walk through the festival with their posters, they said. The 14 or 15 protesters were easily outnumbered by the hundreds present at the event, they said. But the event was at a public space in Anaheim, and it was advertised as being open to all. “They just started pushing and jostling us,” another protester, who chose to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said. “It was just a line of men. They were pushing at us, grabbing us, grabbing our signs, and yelling obscenities in Hindi and English.” The yelling soon turned into slurs, the protesters said. “We were being called terrorists. We were being asked questions like, ‘Are you Pakistani?’” Gulabi said. “A lot of Islamophobic slurs were being thrown at us as a group.” read the complete article


22 Aug 2022

'I was very uncomfortable': Muslim family told they couldn't swim at Manitoba waterpark due to burkini

A Winnipeg family is looking to raise awareness about burkinis after an incident at a Manitoba water park. Halima Jelloul, her husband and two daughters were excited to take a trip to Lilac Resort on Friday. Minutes after arriving, they were told they couldn't enter the pool because of what they were wearing. "About 10-15 minutes, the owner approached us and said that due to the burkini me and my daughter were wearing we aren't allowed on the waterslide," said Jelloul. "I was very uncomfortable, obviously. I wasn't shocked it happened," said Jelloul's 14-year-old daughter Salma Douida. A burkini is a full-body swimsuit similar to a wetsuit, designed to respect Islamic traditions of modest dress. Lifesaving Society Manitoba says there shouldn't be a reason that a burkini isn't allowed. "As long as the burkini in question is properly constructed, there are no safety concerns," said Christopher Love, the organization's safety management coordinator, in an email, "I have seen some in use, and they really do function like wet suits and provide for modesty while also allowing a full range of motion in the water." Lilac Resort's owner, Dan Manaigre, said he approached the family because he didn't know what a burkini was and thought it was streetwear -- a major public health violation if worn in a pool. "I want to apologize to the family because I just didn't know," said Manaigre. After a discussion with the family and a health inspector, Jelloul was told they could swim, but they chose to leave. "My daughters were crying. It wasn't really a pleasing moment for us, so I had to check in with my daughters to see if they were okay and wanted to stay or leave," explained Jelloul. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 Aug 2022 Edition


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