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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23 Aug 2021

Today in Islamophobia: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has declared that 2020 was the deadliest year on record for Rohingya refugees crossing the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman sea. In Canada, the Toronto police have been investigating a mosque that was broken into and vandalized, leaving the Muslim community feeling helpless and calling for justice after repeated acts of vandalism. In the Guardian, Nesrine Malik reflects on the 20 years of US-led war in Afghanistan, arguing “For more than two decades, this has been the governing logic of the war on terror: US and British leaders make the ‘difficult and brave’ moral decisions, and then someone else worries about the consequences.” Our recommended read of the day is by Hamid Khan for USA Today urging the media not to promote harmful stereotypes in their coverage of Afghanistan as there have already been headlines and commentary demonizing Islam and Muslims. This and more below:


21 Aug 2021

Taliban doesn't equal Islam: How news coverage of Afghanistan disserves a great religion

News outlets and commentators have recklessly referenced Islam, fundamentalism, Islamic law and Shariah with little, if any, context, definition or understanding of the religion and its complex layers of teachings, laws and people. And so, as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban this week, my heart broke twice. Once for all the work I did there building institutions that respect human rights in keeping with Islamic law and values, and a second time, for the way the media and politicians resorted to careless and often misleading rhetoric that stoked confusion, concern and outright fear of Islam and Muslims. If we have learned anything in the two decades since 9/11, it should be that Islam is not a monolith, Muslims represent a sixth of humanity, and any simplistic reduction of Islamic law to savage brutality is woefully ignorant and unhelpful. As the Taliban assert authority in Afghanistan, let us not fall prey to simply demonizing Islam and Islamic law. Instead, for the sake of the Afghan people, let us help them employ this astounding religious legacy to continue keeping the Taliban accountable. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
22 Aug 2021

Is the Taliban’s treatment of women really inspired by Sharia?

Reports have emerged that Afghan women are being forced to marry Taliban fighters, quit their jobs and schooling, as well as endure public flogging. Rather than call for expanding asylum programmes or even exerting political pressure on the Taliban to reform, right-wing politicians in Europe and the United States have instead weaponised the ongoing instability in this war-torn country to score political points against their Muslim citizens and immigration proponents. As Muslim citizens of Western nations, we have yet again found ourselves defending our community and faith against those wishing to exploit this tragedy to propagate Islamophobic tropes – the same tropes that were used to justify invading Afghanistan two decades ago. We are now, as we were then, expected to clarify, condemn and distinguish our faith from the actions of a militant group claiming to act in its name, an unfair and exhausting demand not made of our Christian compatriots, regarding any armed group or war criminal claiming to act in Christ’s name. Still, despite the double standard, we must take these moments as opportunities to educate. So let me be clear: The normative teachings of Islam are antithetical to the Taliban’s reported treatment of women. read the complete article

19 Aug 2021

A Critique on Western Media Coverage of Afghan Women

Twenty years later, we look back at how US media covered Muslim women and gender issues throughout the war in Afghanistan. The narrative of muslim women and girls needing to be saved is pervasive in western media, and over the last 20 years, American media has had a lot to say about Afghan women. The Takeaway discusses how Muslim women are portrayed in western media, especially with recent coverage of Afghanistan, with Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Founder of Muslim Girl, an organization working to normalize the word “Muslim” for both Muslims and non-muslims alike, and Rafia Zakaria, the author of the new book Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption. read the complete article

20 Aug 2021

2020 was ‘deadliest’ year ever for Rohingya sea journeys: UNHCR

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that 2020 was the deadliest year on record for refugees crossing the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, the favoured sea route for Rohingya attempting to reach Southeast Asia from the sprawling refugee camps in Bangladesh. Of the 2,413 people known to have travelled in 2020, 218 died or went missing at sea, the UNHCR said in a new report: Left Adrift at Sea: Dangerous Journeys of Refugees Across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, which was released on Thursday. That made an already dangerous journey eight times more deadly than in 2019. read the complete article

22 Aug 2021

A detainee says China has a secret jail in Dubai. China’s repression may be spreading.

Mounting evidence suggests that even the disfavored minority citizens and persecuted critics who manage to escape China remain within its brutal reach. Wu Huan, the fiancée of a Chinese dissident wanted for his critical social media posts, fled China for Dubai. She says Dubai police captured her on May 27 and sent her to a secret Chinese-run detainment camp, which held her for eight days. Based on their distinctive appearance and accent, she claims that her fellow captives were Uyghurs. One screamed, “I don’t want to go back to China; I want to go back to Turkey,” where many Uyghurs have found refuge. If Ms. Wu’s account is true, as the Associated Press says considerable evidence suggests, this is the first known instance of China exporting its “black sites” — secret jails where prisoners are held without charges or hope of trial. It wouldn’t, however, be the first time the United Arab Emirates did China’s dirty work. In 2018, Emirati police detained a Uyghur man and Chinese citizen, Abudujilili Supi, while he was visiting a Dubai police station to collect paperwork. He hasn’t been seen since. In late 2017 and early 2018, Dubai police arrested and deported at least five Uyghurs — delivering them back into the hands of a country credibly accused of genocide against this minority Muslim community. These arrests are part of China’s broader effort to harass and repatriate Uyghurs who have escaped the terrors of the Chinese government, and silence its critics. In early 2017, Chinese authorities told Uyghurs with Chinese citizenship living abroad to return to China; many who listened joined the more than 1 million Uyghurs housed in prison camps according to a Freedom House report. Chinese authorities have hunted those who did not return or who have since fled. Thailand alone has deported more than 100 Uyghurs and extradited journalists at Beijing’s request; Egypt has jailed hundreds. read the complete article

22 Aug 2021

Labour says PPE orders must not go to Xinjiang firms that use forced workers

Labour has written to the health secretary, Sajid Javid, urging him to ensure a new £5bn contract for NHS protective equipment including gowns and masks is not awarded to companies implicated in forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region. “As you will be aware, evidence has emerged in recent years of the widespread and systematic use of forced labour against China’s Uyghur population in the factories, farms and prison camps of Xinjiang region, and of the forced transport of Uyghurs to carry out similar work in other regions under the Chinese state’s so-called labour transfer programme.” Thornberry said it was important to discover if the NHS’s supplies of such PPE were connected to such forced labour, whether in terms of direct orders from Chinese companies, or supplies from UK or European firms which used manufacturers in the country. read the complete article

23 Aug 2021

Why the west will learn no lessons from the fall of Kabul

The attack, in other words, was simply an act of retaliation against a random target, without any connection to the crime purportedly being avenged. I was a university student in Khartoum at the time. I can remember the confusion the day after the explosions, then visiting the shattered site of the factory with other students. What was suddenly clear to us then, standing in front of the ruins in a sleepy city that had supposedly become the centre of Islamic terrorism overnight, was the real logic of the “war on terror”: our lives were fodder for the production of bold headlines in American newspapers, saluting the strength, swift action and resolve of western leaders. We, on the sharp end of it all, would never be the protagonists. Those were the policy and opinion makers far, far away, for whom our experience was merely the resolution of an argument about themselves. The operation was chillingly, but appropriately, called Infinite Reach. For more than two decades, this has been the governing logic of the war on terror: US and British leaders make the “difficult and brave” moral decisions, and then someone else worries about the consequences. The chaos in Kabul is simply the latest instalment in a long-running drama whose protagonists never change. There is no closure and no responsibility. read the complete article

United States

18 Aug 2021


Far from breaking with the Trump administration’s prosecution of civil disorder cases, the Biden administration has doubled down with an expansive view of so-called domestic violent extremism and domestic terrorism. Under President Joe Biden, cases involving violations of this civil disorder law have been overseen by the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section. In the first month of Biden’s presidency, the department was faced with the January 6 Capitol attack, and the anti-riot law proved useful in those prosecutions: At least 163 of the 570 Capitol defendants prosecuted at the federal level were charged with civil disorder offenses between January and August, along with an array of other charges, according to data compiled by the Prosecution Project. When the Justice Department began prosecuting protesters and other participants in civil unrest last year, public defenders and former U.S. attorneys said that such charging for property offenses and looting was unprecedented because cases would generally be handled at the state level rather than by federal authorities. Capitol attack participants, on the other hand, committed their alleged acts on federal property, where the jurisdiction is clear. Regardless of whom the Justice Department charges with civil disorder, however, legal experts we interviewed see the use of these once-rare statutes as indicative of a shift that could make it easier for the federal government to intervene when it alleges criminal activity during protests in the future. As pending legislation aims to bolster federal powers against domestic terrorism, there is political will among congressional Democrats to repress far-right extremism. But the Justice Department’s approach under Biden also appears to be sweeping up people like Pugh, who had no ties to extremist groups or even an activist background. With prosecutions of both Capitol defendants and protesters for racial justice, this use of the federal court system has become a bipartisan affair. read the complete article

19 Aug 2021

Tahereh Mafi Explores Being a Muslim Woman in Post-9/11 America Through Her Writing

Mafi, who lives in Southern California with her husband Ransom Riggs, the author of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,’” chatted over Zoom on what it’s been like promoting her two books throughout the pandemic and why she’s been inspired to write about the lives of Muslim women in the U.S. post-9/11. Tahereh Mafi: This book, “An Emotion of Great Delight,” is my second work of realistic fiction. I often struggle to talk about this book without talking a little bit about my first work of realistic fiction. My first work of realistic fiction, “A Very Large Expanse of Sea,” takes place in 2002, and that book follows an Iranian-American Muslim girl in a post-9/11 world. This book, the follow-up, takes place in 2003. It’s a totally different girl, she’s also Iranian-American, wears a hijab, visibly Muslim in a post-9/11 world, but now it’s a few months after the U.S. has officially declared war on Iraq, and the political climate has significantly changed. And so it felt like a follow-up to that book, and yet, they’re not exactly related. It’s just that I approached writing them both from different emotional avenues. “A Very Large Expanse of Sea” was a story about a girl unlearning anger, and “An Emotion of Great Delight” is about a young woman in pursuit of joy. So basically dealing with the grief of being a marginalized person in a world that is extremely bigoted and xenophobic, grieving that experience in different ways. I was a freshman in high school when 9/11 happened, and the horrific events which irrevocably changed the world on a huge macro level, and which simultaneously changed my world on a micro level. I mean, it’s not like it was ever particularly easy to be a very visibly Muslim woman, but after 9/11, suddenly there’s this major spotlight shining on you, and your family, and your community, and your every single movement is now political and controversial, and to be quite honest, terrifying to most people. Just existing in a space was radical; to be visibly Muslim in any public space at that time, it was polarizing, it was difficult. And that definitely shaped my high school years in a way that I never could’ve expected, and as a result, changed me and the person I became. read the complete article

United Kingdom

20 Aug 2021

Sarfraz Manzoor on how prejudice works both ways in British Muslim communities

When the broadcaster, author and journalist Sarfraz Manzoor started his career, he wrote mostly about the British Muslim experience. But doing this soon grew to feel reductive. Editors would shoehorn his Muslim identity into pieces that were not about religion, or ask him to comment on Pakistani politics as if he were an international relations scholar, rather than the son of working-class immigrants who settled in Luton in the 1970s. Now, aged 50, Manzoor is returning to the subject of British Muslims with his book They, a nuanced exploration of the lives of the 3.4 million Muslim people living in Britain today. (They specifically focuses on Muslims of south Asian descent, the community with which Manzoor is most closely connected.) In They, Manzoor interrogates stereotypes about British Muslims: that they follow a violent religion, are homophobic or antisemitic, or oppress women. He also confronts his own preconceptions, about, for example, women who wear the niqab. “When I read about Islamophobic attacks on Muslim women wearing the niqab, I would feel outrage and sympathy, but also wonder whether it might not be better for everyone if the women weren’t wearing the niqab at all,” he writes in the book. After meeting four independent-minded niqab-wearing women in Leicester, Manzoor realised he had got it wrong. “I … projected an entire set of beliefs on to women who wear the niqab … and made all sorts of assumptions without having ever had a meaningful conversation with any of them.” Manzoor was motivated in part to write his book after the Finsbury Park mosque attack, which took place not far from his home in 2017. He asked himself: “Is there anything I can do to make a difference? Because increasingly this is starting to feel like a hostile environment.” I ask Manzoor whether he thinks we live in an Islamophobic country. His response is characteristically thoughtful. “People can say things about Muslims – people do say things about Muslims – that would not be tolerated about virtually any other group,” he says. “The fact that columnists can do it and there are no repercussions implies there are certain things you can get away with in society. But out there in the world, in the country, are people generally hostile towards Muslims? I have a more optimistic view. I don’t believe that social media or newspaper headlines are necessarily what is in the heart of most people.” read the complete article


22 Aug 2021

Police investigate mosque vandalized in Scarborough, multiple break-ins

Toronto Police are investigating after a Scarborough mosque was broken into and vandalized over the weekend. The vandalism at the Baitul Jannah Islamic Centre at Kingston Road and Brimley Road was discovered when the mosque opened at around 5:30 a.m. Sunday for morning prayer. Multiple prayer rooms were vandalized, several copies of the Quran thrown to the floor, two donation boxes were smashed and the office was ransacked. Rahman believes the suspect(s) broke into the mosque sometime overnight through a window or doors that were found open when he arrived this morning. In addition to the vandalism, several surveillance cameras were disconnected and the surveillance system's digital video recorder was stolen. “It was pre-planned I think – so we don’t have anything to show,” said Rahman. Officials say the mosque has been targeted several times since 2018, with similar acts of vandalism and theft occurring. In one instance, more than a dozen donation boxes containing thousands of dollars were stolen, according to Rahman. read the complete article


09 Aug 2021

Junaid Ashraf: Support for Muslim women needs to start closer to home

I do not need to elaborate on what I mean by the gendered violence that has been inflicted upon women under the previous Taliban regime. We are all fully aware of the horrifying videos, photos and stories. However, this outpouring of support for Muslim women’s freedom of autonomy for their bodies, education and general welfare in Afghanistan has not gone without a slight raised eyebrow from within the Scottish Muslim community, which faces a regular battle against prejudice and discrimination here at home. To be clear: the support and concern shown for Afghan women and girls is indisputably appreciated and necessary. However, when Muslim women in Scotland, the majority from ethnic minority backgrounds, face a higher battle against prejudice than their white Scottish counterparts due to the intersectionality of gender, religion and race barriers, one must ask the question why the support shown to Afghan women is not fully replicated here at home. Within the Islamophobia in Scotland public inquiry published this year, substantive research found more than 80% of all Muslim respondents had a friend or family member who has experienced Islamophobia. After verbal abuse, the second-largest form of Islamophobia in Scotland involves acts of aggression such as Scots pulling off Muslim women’s headscarves. These actions have significant ramifications on the mental wellbeing of Muslim women. Female Scottish Muslims, like female Afghan Muslims, deserve the same respect and support by virtue of our shared humanity. This is not a comparison of suffering between Afghan women and Scottish women but an advocation that discrimination is an injustice wherever, and however, it arises. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 23 Aug 2021 Edition


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