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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03 Aug 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post writes that the government’s operation “to kill Zawahiri can’t only be seen as evidence of successful pinpoint counterterrorism tactics, but a reminder of the far broader and more complicated legacy of the war on terror,” meanwhile a U.S. District Judge has ordered the Biden administration to meet with representatives of those seeking admission and develop new rules for allowing entry of those whose visa applications were denied as a result of the Trump administration’s Muslim Ban, and in Canada, the leader of a Muslim community organization writes that “Islamophobia is more than hate crimes. It is the result of deeply planned and developed practices that create and proliferate systemic racism.” Our recommended read of the day is by Medhavi Arora and Marco Silva for BBC on how social media users in India are proliferating a new Islamophobic conspiracy theory, claiming that Muslims in Assam are responsible for the devastating floods that recently hit the region. This and more below:


03 Aug 2022

Assam: Muslims falsely accused of waging ‘flood jihad’ | Recommended Read

After devastating floods hit India's north-eastern state of Assam, claims that members of the local Muslim community were to blame for the disaster began circulating online. But was there any truth to these allegations? One of the accused told the BBC his story. When the police knocked on his door in the early hours of 3 July, Nazir Hussain Laskar was puzzled. For years, he had worked as a construction worker in Assam, helping the state build flood protections. But, on that morning, the officers who arrested Mr Laskar accused him instead of "damaging public property" - more specifically, an embankment meant to protect communities from flooding. "I have spent 16 years working for the government to build embankments", Mr Laskar said. "Why would I damage one?" Mr Laskar spent nearly 20 days behind bars, before being released on bail. No evidence of his involvement has been found, but the social media storm around him has been raging ever since. Two waves of flooding hit Assam in May and June, killing at least 192 people. While the state floods every monsoon, this year rains came early and were heavier than usual. But for a number of social media users, something more sinister was at play here. They claimed, without proof, that the floods were man-made, and that a group of Muslim men had deliberately inundated the neighbouring Hindu-majority city of Silchar, by damaging flood defences. Mr Laskar's arrest, along with that of three other Muslim men, triggered a barrage of social media posts accusing them of supposedly waging a "flood jihad". These posts were shared thousands of times, including by prominent influencers with verified accounts. The claims were then repeated by some local media outlets. read the complete article

03 Aug 2022

Aligarh Muslim University drops teachings of two Islamic scholars from syllabus

The Aligarh Muslim University has decided to drop papers on Islamic thinkers Maulana Syed Abul Ala Maududi and Syed Qutb Shaheed. The decision has come after some right-wing ideologues had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the “Jihadi Islamic course curriculum” being taught at State-funded universities, including AMU, Jamia Millia Islamia and Hamdard University. AMU spokesperson Prof Shafey Kidwai said, “In order to avoid the controversy, the university has decided to do away with the optional paper on Islamic thinkers, including Maududi and Shaheed with immediate effect.” He said the decision was taken by the Chairman of the department of Islamic Studies. The decision created outrage in a section of students and teachers. “I have been studying and teaching Maududi for the last 50 years but I could not find a single line that encouraged violence and terrorism,” said Prof Obaidullah Fahad. Student leader Mohd Amir Minto said a central university should not change its syllabus because somebody has written a letter. “There is a process to change the syllabus and should not be tinkered with because of the likes and dislikes of some individuals.” read the complete article

03 Aug 2022

Not in my name: I am a Jain and Gurgaon meat ban isn’t about my religious sentiments

If my religious sentiments as a Jain were the sole reason behind the meat ban then, surely, onions, garlic, and potatoes would also be included? Or, in fact, any root vegetable? They are not, for obvious reasons. There would be havoc as the dietary and cultural life of multitudes and the livelihood of those involved in cultivating, transporting and selling these items would be deeply disrupted. But, fundamentally, isn’t the ban on any food – meat, in this case — equally absurd? This leads me to think that, perhaps, restrictions such as the one in Gurgaon have less to do with my sentiments and more to do with a larger political project. “Pure” and “impure” – think “pure veg restaurant” – have castiest and exclusionary notions attached to them (there is “caste” among Jains too). The ban seems more to do with who the powers-that-be think of as “meat eaters” than respecting those who do not. Many of the people selling meat are Muslim. As the economy struggles back to its feet after the shock of the Covid pandemic, should they suffer another blow to their livelihoods? Is this solidarity with “Jain sentiments” worth the suffering of Muslim and Hindu meat traders? Are Jains just being appeased for a hidden motive? To be honest, most Jains in urban areas don’t not know this ban is being done in their name. Most of them do not think of meat or its products in their daily life — there are enough vegetables to preoccupy them. read the complete article

United States

03 Aug 2022

The Shameful and Forgotten Origin of Guantanamo Bay

When I’m giving lectures about the criminalization of HIV, I often ask the audience, “When did the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay become a site of indefinite detention?” Nearly everyone who raises their hand and ventures a guess says the same thing: that this happened in the weeks following September 11, 2001, in the early days of the U.S. War on Terror. When I’m giving lectures about the criminalization of HIV, I often ask the audience, “When did the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay become a site of indefinite detention?” Nearly everyone who raises their hand and ventures a guess says the same thing: that this happened in the weeks following September 11, 2001, in the early days of the U.S. War on Terror. The Haitian refugee crisis of 1991, not the attacks of 9/11, was the inciting event that converted Guantánamo Bay into a space for indefinite detention. Much as the Los Alamos National Laboratory has been home to both the Manhattan Project and the Pathogen Research Database, the history of HIV in America is intertwined with U.S. militarism. A fear of immigrants bolstered by surgical eugenics formed the legal architecture for how the base would later be used for accused terrorists. The forced sterilizations weren’t happening in Nazi Germany; they were perpetrated by the U.S. government at the same time as Twin Peaks and The Oprah Winfrey Show were on the air. And when news broke in the summer of 2020 that women in ICE custody had had hysterectomies performed on them without their consent, it was clear that the centuries-long American practice of sterilizing Black, brown, and native women had still not ended. read the complete article

03 Aug 2022

CAIR-WA Files ‘Flying While Muslim’ Lawsuit Against Alaska Airlines

The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA), in conjunction with the CAIR Legal Defense Fund, today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Alaska Airlines on behalf of two Black Muslim immigrant men who received discriminatory treatment by Alaska Airlines employees and management based on the discredited complaint of a fellow passenger. In February 2020, friends and colleagues Mohammed and Abobakkr settled into their first-class seats for a business trip on an Alaska Airlines flight leaving from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Mohammed and Abobakkr are both male, Black, bearded, ethnically Sudanese, Middle Eastern-born, Muslim citizens of the United States who speak Arabic and English. Abobakkr was texting in Arabic with a friend who was not on the flight. Another passenger, who did not speak or read Arabic, was snooping as Abobakkr texted. Seeing the Arabic language made this passenger upset, and they complained to Alaska Airlines personnel. Instead of protecting their customers from the bigotry of other passengers, Alaska Airline added on this private act of prejudice with their own acts of discrimination that included: removing the men from the flight, humiliating them before their fellow passengers, unnecessarily deplaning the passengers, subjecting the men to additional security measures after having already reviewed Abobakkr’s phone and confirmed to police that the text messages were innocuous and that the men posed no threat, and explicitly prohibiting them from traveling together on re-booked later flights. read the complete article

03 Aug 2022

S.F. federal judge orders Biden administration to ease restrictions on victims of Trump travel ban

Upon taking office, President Biden immediately withdrew Donald Trump's ban on U.S. entry of anyone from a group of mostly Muslim countries. But Biden hasn't done much for tens of thousands who applied for visa waivers under former President Trump's program and were denied, and a federal judge in San Francisco says it's time to act. Trump’s order, which took effect in December 2017 and was upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2018, purportedly allowed residents of the affected countries to seek admission in order to rejoin close family members, or to meet business and professional obligations, if they could show that their exclusion was causing “undue hardship” and their entry was in the national interest. But immigrant advocates say the Trump administration granted fewer than one-third of the requests for visa waivers, and most of those denied entry are still waiting. On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Donato ordered the Biden administration to meet with representatives of those seeking admission and develop new rules for allowing entry of those whose visa applications were denied under the previous administration. The ruling was issued in a class-action suit filed in March 2018 by more than a dozen plaintiffs, some living abroad and others in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the U.S. with family members seeking entry. Lawyers for the groups said tens of thousands of people would be affected. “We are thrilled that the court heard the pleas of our plaintiffs and saw through the government's attempts to brush aside the very real harms inflicted by the Muslim ban, which continues even after its rescission,” said attorney Shabnam Lofti, using a common reference to the Trump policy. read the complete article


03 Aug 2022

Are algorithms promoting Islamophobia worldwide? Computer says yes

Researchers have found that algorithms have been spreading anti-Muslim propaganda and fueling broader animosity toward the Muslim population, a new study revealed. Experts have started monitoring several social media platforms around the globe to analyse the growing xenophobic language against US Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, who has been a continued target of bigoted language. Lawrence Pintak, a former journalist and media researcher, revealed that fake, algorithm-generated accounts have been amplifying hatred directed toward the Muslim official, opening more doors for targeted online attacks across several platforms. One of the most highlighted findings of the report was revealed through a thorough investigation into tweets that mentioned the US congresswoman when she was running for office. Pintak found that half of the tweets contained “overtly Islamophobic or xenophobic language or other forms of hate speech.” Interestingly enough, a large portion of the abusive messages originated from a small group of people who Pintak’s study refers to as provocateurs — user identities that were primarily associated with conservatives and who propagated anti-Muslim discourse. However, provocateurs weren’t driving much traffic on their own, but with the help of a technology that has been relentlessly dubbed as problematic. The research revealed that most of the foul language and heightened engagements came from ‘amplifiers’ or fake accounts using fake identities to manipulate conversations online by liking and retweeting. In fact, only four of the top 20 anti-Muslim amplifiers were authentic. The entire operation relied on real accounts, or provocateurs, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment and handing algorithm-generated bots over to spread it widely. read the complete article

03 Aug 2022

Jordan Peterson’s ‘Message To Muslims’ Is Utterly Tone-Deaf

In “Message to Muslims,” Peterson tells Muslims that perhaps it is time for them to stop fighting among themselves. He is, of course, referring to the almost 1400-year-long tension between Sunnis and Shias, the two main sects of Islam. After Prophet Muhammad died in 632 A.D., there was a struggle among his companions regarding who would succeed him as the religious leader. In the simplest of words, Sunnis believe the position was rightfully awarded to Prophet Muhammad’s companion Abu Bakr, while alternatively, Shias believe the position belonged to his cousin and son-in-law, Ali Ibn Abi Taleb. This is the main issue that has historically divided the two sects for so long, although there are also issues in the present day that stem from sectarian conflicts on the governmental level in various Muslim countries. These serious issues are definitely not to be taken lightly by Muslims; however, the solutions to these issues are complicated and cannot be fixed by regular people or citizens in Muslim countries. In his video, Peterson also places the responsibility on Muslims to bridge the gap between themselves and other “People of the Book.” Peterson’s use of the term “People of the Book” in a lecture about how Muslims should address Jews and Christians is ironic; the collective term for people of all Abrahamic faiths was coined by Islam. He also says that Muslims should stop regarding Christians and Jews as their enemies. However, Muslims do not have a problem with Christians or Jews. Since the term “People of the Book” was originally found in the Quran, it is incumbent on Muslims to love and appreciate Jews and Christians as fellow believers of God and followers of a prophetic tradition. When it comes to tension between Muslims and Christians, it is fair to say that there is an anti-Muslim attitude among many Christian conservatives in America as a result of anti-Muslim sentiments in Western media. The United States has also invaded and waged unnecessary wars on Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, while simultaneously being considered a Christian country by many. If there is any kind of tension between Christians and Muslims, it is the result of ongoing war and Islamophobia that is associated with Christianity in America. read the complete article

03 Aug 2022

Zawahiri’s killing and the bleak legacy of the ‘war on terror’

When the United States killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, the act brought about a moment of national catharsis. Nearly a decade after carrying out the deadliest single attack on U.S. soil, al-Qaeda’s leader had been apprehended in his Pakistani hideaway and slain. It was an ignominious end for a militant commander whose shadow had loomed over the world and whose actions ushered in a new geopolitical era — the age of the U.S.-declared “war on terror.” In remarks announcing Zawahiri’s death, Biden cited the United States’ ongoing prosecution of its war against Islamist terror groups. “The United States continues to demonstrate its resolve and capacity to defend Americans from those who seek to do it harm,” Biden said, making it “clear again [that] no matter how long it takes, no matter how you hide … the United States will find you and seek you out.” The U.S. operation to kill Zawahiri can’t only be seen as evidence of successful pinpoint counterterrorism tactics, but a reminder of the far broader and more complicated legacy of the war on terror. Al-Qaeda is “weaker than it was on Friday, but parsing what exactly that means is academic,” wrote Spencer Ackerman, author “Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump,” on Monday. “Far more substantial is the reality that the apparatus of the War on Terror, with the exception of the Afghanistan War, the original CIA torture program and Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, remains in place.” U.S. troops remain on the ground in a host of Middle Eastern and African countries. U.S. drone strikes continue across a wide swath of the planet, from West Africa to South Asia. Airwars, a watchdog group, estimates that U.S. drone and airstrikes have killed some 22,000 to 48,000 civilians since Sept. 11, 2001 — a figure exponentially larger than that of the U.S. citizens slain by bin Laden and Zawahiri’s violent plots. read the complete article


03 Aug 2022

China’s fake email onslaught ensnares human rights activist

On July 21, an email was sent to the Chinese Embassy in London saying: “This is Drew Pavlou, you have until 12pm to stop the Uyghur genocide or I blow up the embassy with a bomb. Regards, Drew.” Drew Pavlou, who at the time was protesting outside the embassy, was promptly arrested by U.K. police. The 23-year-old Australian human rights activist, who is vocal on Chinese human rights issues, says he was then detained for 23 hours. The catch was, Pavlou says he did not send the email. Most people working on Chinese human rights issues have inevitably received an email claiming to be from someone it is not. Having worked for an organization investigating Chinese human rights abuses, the Uyghur Tribunal, I have seen this first hand. But from my experience the emails are often easy to spot. In the context of more sophisticated attempts at harassment and disruption, which Coda has written about before, these fake emails are of less concern. While the police must take bomb scares seriously, one would hope that they would be able to quickly discern between a fake email and a real one. But perhaps Pavlou’s case is evidence that the fake email tactic eventually pays off. If you send thousands of emails day in day out, at some point one is likely to have an impact; causing, as in Pavlou’s case, significant disruption to someone’s life. Pavlou is now out on bail, but on top of having to raise legal costs, he says he has been unable to leave the U.K. and was prevented by the police from attending another Uyghur human rights protest. We do not know where the email came from, but with an army of around two million paid trolls and twenty million volunteer trolls, the Chinese state certainly has the capacity to send a tidal wave of fake emails. read the complete article


03 Aug 2022

Tackling Islamophobia begins by rebuilding trust with the Muslim community

The first anniversary of the killing of four members of the Afzaal family in London, Ont., passed with marches and vigils and a commitment to fight Islamophobia. Last winter, another grim anniversary of the Quebec City mosque massacre was commemorated in a similar manner. Both left an indelible imprint on the Muslim community across the country. One glaring similarity in the two tragedies is the preference to identify and restrict the solutions towards Islamophobia through a narrow and ineffective focus on hate crimes. However, to truly address Islamophobia, we need to look at the deep systemic racism that exists in Canada. Islamophobia is a complex phenomenon. It must be seen through the larger context of systemic racism such as anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism and anti-migrant discrimination. Fundamentally, Islamophobia is an outcome of the racialization of Muslims as an “other” — mostly through targeting the expression of their “Muslimness.” Islamophobia has been on the rise since 9/11. Under the “war on terror” and the anti-radicalization framework, Muslims were securitized within public, political and media discourses. These policies stigmatized Muslims and made it easy to propagate dangerous Islamophobic discourses. This normalization process rose to a crescendo around 2011 when it moved from the fringe towards the centre as its political utility became evident. These examples demonstrate the reality that Islamophobia is more than hate crimes. It is the result of deeply planned and developed practices that create and proliferate systemic racism. It will require considerable ingenuity, as well as political will, to change things. Tackling Islamophobia begins by rebuilding trust with the Muslim community. This starts with strong government leadership to review the anti-terrorism laws and policies, and replace them with new fit-for-purpose alternatives. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 03 Aug 2022 Edition


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