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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28 Aug 2020

Today in Islamophobia: A new report from the Brennan Center finds that white supremacists and militias have infiltrated police forces across the U.S. In Myanmar, Hindus and Muslims are sidelined in the upcoming elections. Our recommended read today is Buzzfeed’s feature of insider accounts in China’s mass imprisonment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. This, and more, below:


28 Aug 2020

What They Saw: Ex-Prisoners Detail The Horrors Of China's Detention Camps | Recommended Read

BuzzFeed News interviewed 28 former detainees from the camps in Xinjiang about their experiences. Most spoke through an interpreter. They are, in many ways, the lucky ones — they escaped the country to tell their tale. All of them said that when they were released, they were made to sign a written agreement not to disclose what happens inside. The stories about what detention is like in Xinjiang are remarkably consistent — from the point of arrest, where people are swept away in police cars, to the days, weeks, and months of abuse, deprivation, and routine humiliation inside the camps, to the moment of release for the very few who get out. They also offer insight into the structure of life inside, from the surveillance tools installed — even in restrooms — to the hierarchy of prisoners, who said they were divided into color-coded uniforms based on their assumed threat to the state. Like Nursaule, those detained all reported being given a full medical checkup before being taken to the camps. At the clinic, samples of their blood and urine were collected, they said. They also said they sat for interviews with police officers, answering questions on their foreign travel, personal beliefs, and religious practices. “They asked me, ‘Are you a practicing Muslim?’ ‘Do you pray?’” said Kadyrbek Tampek, a livestock farmer from the Tacheng region, which lies in the north of Xinjiang. “I told them that I have faith, but I don’t pray.” Afterward, the police officers took his phone. Tampek, a soft-spoken 51-year-old man who belongs to Xinjiang’s ethnic Kazakh minority, was first sent to a camp in December 2017 and said he was later forced to work as a security guard. After a series of blood tests, Nursaule was taken to a separate room at the clinic, where she was asked to sign some documents she couldn’t understand and press all 10 of her fingers on a pad of ink to make fingerprints. Police interrogated her about her past, and afterward, she waited for hours. Finally, past midnight, a Chinese police officer told her she would be taken to “get some education.” Nursaule tried to appeal to the Kazakh officer translating for him — she does not speak Chinese — but he assured her she would only be gone 10 days. After the medical exam and interview, detainees were taken to camps. Once inside, they were told to discard their belongings as well as shoelaces and belts — as is done in prisons to prevent suicide. After a security screening, detainees said they were brought to a separate room to put on camp uniforms, often walking through a passageway covered with netting and flanked by armed guards and their dogs. “I recognized those dogs,” said one former detainee who declined to share his name. He used to watch TV documentaries about World War II, he said. “They looked like the ones the Germans had.” “We lined up and took off our clothes to put on blue uniforms. There were men and women together in the same room,” said 48-year-old Parida, a Kazakh pharmacist who was detained in February 2018. “They treated us like livestock. I wanted to cry. I was ashamed, you know, to take off my clothes in front of others.” read the complete article

Recommended Read
28 Aug 2020

China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims

China has secretly built scores of massive new prison and internment camps in the past three years, dramatically escalating its campaign against Muslim minorities even as it publicly claimed the detainees had all been set free. The construction of these purpose-built, high-security camps — some capable of housing tens of thousands of people — signals a radical shift away from the country’s previous makeshift use of public buildings, like schools and retirement homes, to a vast and permanent infrastructure for mass detention. In the most extensive investigation of China’s internment camp system ever done using publicly available satellite images, coupled with dozens of interviews with former detainees, BuzzFeed News identified more than 260 structures built since 2017 and bearing the hallmarks of fortified detention compounds. There is at least one in nearly every county in the far-west region of Xinjiang. During that time, the investigation shows, China has established a sprawling system to detain and incarcerate hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities, in what is already the largest-scale detention of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II. These forbidding facilities — including several built or significantly expanded within the last year — are part of the government’s unprecedented campaign of mass detention of more than a million people, which began in late 2016. That year Chen Quanguo, the region’s top official and Communist Party boss, whom the US recently sanctioned over human rights abuses, also put Muslim minorities — more than half the region’s population of about 25 million — under perpetual surveillance via facial recognition cameras, cellphone tracking, checkpoints, and heavy-handed human policing. They are also subject to many other abuses, ranging from sterilization to forced labor. read the complete article

United States

28 Aug 2020

White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US, report says

In a timely new analysis, Michael German, a former FBI special agent who has written extensively on the ways that US law enforcement have failed to respond to far-right domestic terror threats, concludes that US law enforcement officials have been tied to racist militant activities in more than a dozen states since 2000, and hundreds of police officers have been caught posting racist and bigoted social media content. The report notes that over the years, police links to militias and white supremacist groups have been uncovered in states including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. Police in Sacramento, California, in 2018 worked with neo-Nazis to pursue charges against anti-racist activists, including some who had been stabbed, according to records. And just this summer, German writes, an Orange county sheriff’s deputy and a Chicago policeman were caught wearing far-right militia logos; an Olympia, Washington, officer was photographed posing with a militia group; and Philadelphia police officers were filmed standing by while armed mobs attacked protesters and journalists. The exact scale of ties between law enforcement and militias is hard to determine, German told the Guardian. “Nobody is collecting the data and nobody is actively looking for these law enforcement officers,” he said. read the complete article

28 Aug 2020

Protesters in Multiple States are Facing Felony Charges Including Terrorism

PROSECUTORS AND LAWMAKERS in several states have responded to mass protests against police brutality by charging demonstrators with committing felonies, including terrorism charges. The trend of criminalizing protest has been on the uptick since the 2016 protests against the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, during and after which numerous states upped charges for protests “near critical infrastructure” as felonies. Since 2016, 14 states have enacted new laws to restrict the right to peaceful assembly, according to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, which tracks related state and federal legislation. But in the wake of the nationwide movement in support of Black lives, numerous states have increased the severity of criminal penalties for protesters along political lines and are prosecuting them more aggressively, as demonstrations continue with no sign of slowing down. Earlier this month, police in Muscatine, Iowa, apprehended two people they say were attempting to drive a vehicle into the city Public Safety Building and got stuck on a planter. They charged both men with numerous counts, including terrorism. That follows an Oklahoma district attorney’s pursuit of terrorism charges against five young people, including three teenagers and two people in their 20s. The fourth-term prosecutor also threw felony charges at numerous other people in relation to protests and damage to local and police property in late May. The terrorism charges reveal a “false equivalency between people who kill, and people who commit acts of property damage,” said Kate Chatfield, policy director at the Justice Collaborative, a policy and media organization focused on mass criminalization and incarceration. “Maybe not a great thing.” “To say that the power of the state will be wielded in this way against political enemies is incredibly frightening,” Chatfield said, drawing a parallel to the post-9/11 era, when many people who had never committed an act of violence were prosecuted for terrorism. “Let’s not ignore the fact that we have a history of this in this country. A very recent history. And a continuing history, unfortunately.” read the complete article

28 Aug 2020

Facebook has 'blood on its hands' over Kenosha shooting, rights group says

A Muslim civil rights organisation accused Facebook of having "blood on its hands" after a militia group reportedly used the social media platform to issue a "call to arms" for a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that resulted in the deaths of two people. On Tuesday, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old, killed two people and seriously wounded another during a protest after the weekend police shooting of African American Jacob Blake. Muslim Advocates said in a statement on Thursday that the gunman had "answered a call" from the Facebook page of Kenosha Guard, a militia group that has now had its account suspended. Citing the website The Verge, Muslim Advocates said that at least two people had warned Facebook regarding the militia groups' page, but the company had failed to take any action. read the complete article


28 Aug 2020

Delhi Riots Witness Who Named Police Says Cops Now Targeting Her Son

In March 2020, Rubina Bano filed a complaint in her local police station accusing local policemen of violently attacking women at a peaceful protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at the behest of Kapil Mishra of the Bharatiya Janata Party on 24 February. Rubina also said that supporters of BJP lawmaker Mohan Singh Bisht participated in the Delhi riots in February, the worst communal violence in the national capital in decades. Since then, Rubina, in a recent phone conversation with HuffPost India, said that she and her family have been living in fear. In June, the Delhi police issued a public statement claiming that some of those who had filed complaints against the police were actually complicit in the violence. In July, menacing strangers began appearing outside her home, she said. On 7 August, in a court hearing where Rubina was seeking protection from the Delhi High Court, the prosecutor for the state Amit Prasad told the High Court that the “application seeking non-bailable warrants has been filed but no coercive action has been taken on account of her pregnancy.” Then just last week, on 22 August, two plain clothes policemen showed up outside her home to summon her teenage son and nephew to the local police station to question them in connection with the riots. The police, Rubina said, showed her son an image of him and his cousin captured from the CCTV camera just outside their home. The screen capture, which HuffPost India has not seen, purportedly shows the two boys standing outside the house with a cricket bat and a wicket. Rubina says the boys were playing cricket when the riots broke out. Rubina is now a little over nine months pregnant, having missed her delivery date, and living with police protection – the same force she has accused of assaulting her with batons back in February. Rubina’s experience, rights activists say, reveals how the Delhi police is harassing witnesses in the course of the investigation into the February riots in the national capital. read the complete article

28 Aug 2020

India's police 'complicit' in anti-Muslim riots, alleges Amnesty

"The Delhi police personnel were complicit and an active participant in the violence that took place in Delhi in February 2020, yet in the last six months not a single investigation has been opened into the human rights violations committed by the Delhi police," the rights group said in a statement on Friday. Amnesty said it spoke to riot survivors, witnesses, human rights activists and retired police officers and analysed several user-generated videos for the investigation that reveals a "disturbing pattern of grave human rights violations committed by the Delhi police during the riots." The rights group called on the Indian government to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the alleged human rights violations committed by the police in what was the worst religious violence seen by the capital in decades. read the complete article

28 Aug 2020

It is Wrong and Unfair to Blame Muslims Themselves for their Trials and Tribulations

In a recent article with the headline, ‘Indian Muslims must rewrite their victim mindset to be indispensable in India’s rise’, Najmul Hoda, a serving Indian Police Service officer, blames the Muslim community itself for all its travails. This is both wrong and unfair because, in the first place, it absolves every other constituent of society of any responsibility whatsoever and second, indirectly supports a narrative which attributes the Muslims’ current plight to their ‘self-marginalization’. Hoda says that the Muslims did not create institutions of modern learning and instead created seminaries. Well, even if we accept that they ‘erred’ in this, is that the only reason for the discrimination they have to face, as brought out in numerous studies including the Sachar Committee Report? Isn’t it the state’s responsibility to ensure quality education for every citizen? Hoda claims that there is now a much higher number of mosques, madrasas and maulvis, and a much greater display of religious symbolism in dress and appearance than ever. Once again, such a generalization has been made without any supporting data. There is no proof that this is disproportionate to the increase in their population, or the rate at which the religious places of other communities have increased. The fact is that an increasing intolerance towards almost everything that is characteristic of the Muslims – food habits, manner of dressing, socio-religious practices, whatever – in the public sphere has made them feel deeply insecure and has driven them further into a ghettoized existence. No proof is required for the alienation that the Muslim community perceives – it is like pain; there is no pathological test that could ‘prove’ whether someone has pain in a particular part or not. read the complete article

28 Aug 2020

'Dragon's favourite': Hindu groups target Bollywood's Aamir Khan

On August 15, Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan posted a picture of her meeting Bollywood star Aamir Khan on Twitter. It soon went viral. Pro-government supporters were furious at Khan for taking a picture with the wife of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has criticised the Indian government's decision to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status last August. Erdogan has backed Pakistan in the dispute over Kashmir, a territory both India and Pakistan claim as its own but rule in parts. Khan, one of the biggest Bollywood stars, was soon the top Twitter trending topic along with Erdogan, with Hindu nationalists branding the film star "anti-national" and "unpatriotic" for standing with the "enemy". The RSS magazine, Organiser, put Khan on its cover calling him "The Dragon's favourite Khan", a reference to China. read the complete article

28 Aug 2020

From Tourists to Terrorists: How Foreign Muslims Were Vilified and Arrested in India

Ibrahim, a U.S. citizen, is a member of Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary organisation with more than 70 million members across the world. Ibrahim’s March visit to India to deepen his faith and call people towards the way of life practiced by the Prophet Mohammad, was his second. But his trip took an extraordinary turn when the Indian government launched a crackdown on members of the organisation and attributed the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country to them. The smear campaign against the group encouraged the far right to berate the Muslim minority–14 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion people—which feels increasingly disparaged by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Fact-checkers worked over time, debunking tweets with hashtags #CoronaJihad, #CoronaBomb, #TablighiJamaatVirus and #Coronaterrorism claiming that Muslims intentionally transferred the virus through sneezing, coughing, spitting and praying in large congregations. In the last week, three Indian courts have criticised the Indian government and media for vilifying members of the Tablighi Jamaat. The courts ruled that since the government was unable to handle the COVID-19 crisis, it made the organisation a scapegoat, branding its members as “super carriers.” Back in April, when COVID-19 cases were surging in the country, Ibrahim spent one month in a quarantine centre in Amravati district in western India’s Maharashtra state. “The police kept watch throughout our time there,” he said. As per the police report, Ibrahim is accused of breaking six laws. read the complete article


28 Aug 2020

In the shadow of a pandemic, Rohingya challenge our ideas about refugees

I remember watching with horror images of Rohingya families fleeing Myanmar, trudging barefoot through rice fields, their lives on their backs, leaving behind their homes, their livelihoods, their dead, the friends and loved ones too old, too weak, or too beaten, to follow. They reached the border exhausted, injured, traumatized, and in need of urgent care. Yet even as I write this, I'm aware that too many refugee stories focus on trauma and escape. Too often in the public consciousness, a refugee is a vulnerable, helpless person fleeing violence and in desperate need of rescue. That is an incomplete telling of the story and further injustice to its protagonists. While refugees do in fact need protection, they are defined far less by their status as beneficiaries of care than by their unfathomable courage, resilience, and desire for self-reliance. This is true of every refugee community I have visited, be it Syrians or Afghans or South Sudanese, and it is certainly true of the Rohingya. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar, who despite living in the country for generations, have not been afforded the same rights as its citizens and who have been forced to flee persecution numerous times over the years. From the outset, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh took critical leadership roles in the humanitarian response to their own suffering. With support from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and NGO partners, they formed a community-based protection model, giving fellow refugees the opportunity to have a measure of control over their own lives and learn new skills. The model gave agency to all members of the Rohingya community. That was before the coronavirus pandemic struck. The outbreak of Covid-19 has seen an 80% reduction of humanitarian workers in the camps. The role of the Rohingya refugee community volunteers has therefore become even more essential. As a former physician, I am in awe of the refugee community health workers who have rolled up their sleeves and volunteered to meet the needs of their community. They have worked together to reduce the risk of viral transmission and, given the circumstances, it is nothing short of inspiring. read the complete article

28 Aug 2020

Facebook executive who shared anti-Muslim post apologises: Report

A Facebook India executive has apologised to Muslim staff for sharing a post that dubbed Muslims in India a "degenerate community", according to a report by BuzzFeed News. The post, originally written by a police officer last year in response to nationwide protests against a new citizenship law, said for Muslims, "nothing except purity of religion and implementation of Shariah matter". The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed last year by India's Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi fast-tracks nationality for non-Muslim minorities from neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The United Nations has termed the law "fundamentally discriminatory". "The intent of my personal Facebook post was not to denigrate Islam," Ankhi Das, the social media giant's policy director for India and South and Central Asia, wrote in an internal message obtained by BuzzFeed News. Facebook is under fire after The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Das refused to apply the company's hate speech policies to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians and other "Hindu nationalist individuals and groups". Facebook ignored its hate speech policy and allowed anti-Muslim posts on its platform to avoid ruining the company's relationship with India's governing party (the BJP), said the report by The Wall Street Journal. read the complete article


28 Aug 2020

'I want to vote': Myanmar's Muslims, Hindus sidelined in election

One of Myanmar's five million young adults, May Thandar Maung had been excited to cast her ballot for the very first time in November's election. But the 18-year-old is Muslim and says that means she will remain voiceless. "My religion means I haven't been able to get an ID card," she tells AFP in her hometown of Meiktila in central Myanmar -- and no ID means no vote. She describes how local officials have obstructed her attempts for over a year, while Buddhist peers faced no such delays, in a town where memories of brutal inter-communal violence in 2013 are still raw. The majority-Buddhist nation is widely expected to return Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party to power on November 8 in the second polls since Myanmar emerged from outright military rule in 2011. The country's Rohingya Muslims -- whether in Bangladeshi refugee shelters or confined to camps and villages in Myanmar -- will nearly all be completely disenfranchised. But Myanmar also has many more Muslims of other ethnic heritage -- about four percent of the population -- whom the country, in theory, accepts as citizens. In practice, however, it can be very different. read the complete article

New Zealand

28 Aug 2020

New Zealand mosque shooter sentenced to life without parole

The white supremacist who slaughtered 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the first time the maximum available sentence has been imposed in the country. Judge Cameron Mander said the crimes committed by 29-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant were so wicked that a lifetime in jail could not begin to atone for them. He said they had caused enormous loss and hurt and stemmed from a warped and malignant ideology. The March 2019 attacks targeting people praying at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch shocked New Zealand and prompted new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons. They also prompted global changes to social media protocols after the gunman livestreamed his attack on Facebook. read the complete article

28 Aug 2020

'There's Still a Lot to Do.' After Christchurch Shooter's Sentencing, New Zealand Muslim Leader Urges Reforms

“There’s a whole lot of issues we still need to deal with,” Ikhlaq Kashkari tells TIME by phone Friday. “How do we ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, what went wrong and how do we ensure those things are rectified?” Despite the distractions of COVID-19 and upcoming elections, he says New Zealand needs to think carefully about how to prevent further acts of extremism. “It’s a beginning to the closure,” Kashkari says of the sentencing. Still, he notes, right-wing extremists “haven’t disappeared, they are still there, they haven’t gone away.” The killer had pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of committing a terrorist act for the March 2019 attack, which he live streamed for 17 minutes. He also shared an 87-page white-nationalist “manifesto” online. Within hours of the the worst mass shooting in the country’s modern history, New Zealand’s government jumped into action, pledging reform. Two weeks after the attack, New Zealand’s justice minister Andrew Little said the government would fast-track a review of its “woefully inadequate” hate speech and human rights laws, but amendments have not yet been implemented. “There’s a lot of things the government has done, and there’s still a lot to do,” says Kashkari, who is part of a group representing New Zealand’s Muslim community in the official investigation into the attack. For true closure and healing, he says the government must figure out how to support the victims of last year’s shooting on a long-term basis. Wider problems include a lack of representation in some decision-making organizations and stigma against Muslim people, who comprise about 1% of the population of the country of 5 million. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 Aug 2020 Edition


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