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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31 Aug 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Biden issues a “Plan for Partnership” with Arab Americans as part of his presidential campaign. Writing for The Guardian, Philip Oltermann illustrates how Angela Merkel’s “great migrant gamble” paid off. Our recommended read today is on Stram Kurs, the far right Danish political party allegedly behind riots in Sweden. This, and more, below:


31 Aug 2020

Explained: Stram Kurs, the far right Danish political party being blamed for riots in Sweden | Recommended Read

On Friday, a riot broke out in the Swedish town of Malmo, where around 300 people had gathered to protest against anti-Islam activities, reported Reuters. According to the news report, right-wing extremists had allegedly set fire to a copy of the Quran, which escalated violence in the town that local police had found difficult to control. The AFP reported that Rasmus Paludan, a far-right Danish politician who leads the anti-immigration party Hard Line, also called Stram Kurs, was due to speak at a rally. However, Sweden authorities blocked his arrival in Malmo, prompting further violence among clashing groups. This far-right Danish political party is relatively new. It was founded in 2017 by Rasmus Paludan and is known for its openly anti-Islam stance. Much of the party’s agenda focuses on building an anti-Islam narrative and engaging in acts that are provocative and offensive towards Islam and Muslims. The party uses social media platforms and public gatherings to further their agenda. Along with having hardline views on ethnicity, immigration and citizenship, the Stram Kurs also seeks a ban on Islam and particularly singles out Muslims in Denmark. It is not known how many members the party has, but it did try to contest the 2019 Danish general election, gaining only a handful of votes. In the summer of 2019, the party had managed to secure the 20,000 voter signatures it had required to contest the parliamentary elections. Paludan is a former lawyer and politician, who is known for his anti-immgration, anti-Muslim and racist stance. In April 2019, he was convicted for making racist statements, an order that he tried to appeal but it was rejected. In June 2020, he was served a three-month suspended sentence in a case involving 14 different charges, where he was found guilty of all of them. read the complete article

Recommended Read
31 Aug 2020

Three years since their genocide began, the Rohingya remain desperate for help

The crimes against the Rohingya — and their ongoing misery — must not be forgotten. In August 2017, Rohingya militants attacked police posts in northern Rakhine state, killing 12 members of the security forces. Myanmar’s security forces responded starting Aug. 25 with a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohingya population of Rakhine state, in the western part of the country. Thousands of civilians were killed, their villages burned to the ground, and some 750,000 people fled for their lives to Bangladesh. The violence included massacres. On Sept. 2, 10 Rohingya men from the village of Inn Din were roped together and killed. At least two had been hacked to death by Buddhist villagers, and the rest were shot by Myanmar’s security forces, according to Reuters, which interviewed witnesses to the massacre and exposed it. Later, the Myanmar authorities cleared away the Rohingya homes and paved over the Rohingya villages to create new government barracks. Today, the Rohingya plight remains desperate. There are now about 1 million people living in five refugee camps of bamboo and plastic shelters over an area equivalent to about a third of Manhattan. Children make up about half of them. The refugees fear resettlement in Myanmar would subject them to more deprivation and violence, and efforts to negotiate a return to Rakhine state have failed twice, in 2018 and 2019. The refugees have followed closely as their case was taken up by the International Court of Justice, which ruled in January that Myanmar must implement emergency measures to protect them against violence and preserve evidence of possible genocide. The ruling came after Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, personally argued before the court in The Hague that the Rohingya exodus had not been mass murder. The Myanmar government has rejected the court’s ruling, which is only the first step in a process that will probably take years. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

Anniversary of Genocidal Attacks on Rohingya Reminds Us They Are Still at Risk

The attacks three years ago were carried out with the intent to destroy the Rohingya people. There is a name for such crimes: genocide. This third anniversary of the attacks, as the Rohingya remain at risk of genocide, is a time to take stock of how we got here, and what more is needed to secure the rights of this long-persecuted, highly vulnerable group. We come together as a Rohingya woman and a descendant of Holocaust survivors to reckon with the unconscionable crimes the Rohingya community has faced, and affirm the obligations of the post-Holocaust commitment of “Never Again” to halt ongoing, and prevent future genocides. This year is an especially grim anniversary, as approximately one million Rohingya refugees remain displaced in Bangladesh with little prospect of safely returning home to Burma in the near future. Three years ago, we had no idea that those Rohingya refugees would now be at risk of a global pandemic, stuck between crowded, unsanitary living conditions in Bangladesh, and the fear of genocide in their home country of Burma. It’s a cruel twist that Rohingya refugees are now increasingly vulnerable to COVID-19 because they survived and fled a genocide. Rohingya who have fled elsewhere – to Malaysia and India, for example – face serious risks as well. Their situation is made more precarious by COVID-19-related scapegoating and targeted hate speech that casts Rohingya as dangerous. Rohingya refugees throughout the world face violent attacks, and Rohingya activists regularly receive death threats and other forms of intimidation. In addition to the threats that COVID-19 poses for Rohingya people, the pandemic has also begun to lead to a reordering of priorities on the part of the international community. On this anniversary, we must remain vigilant to the plight of Rohingya genocide survivors and the myriad risks they continue to face. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

Social Media and Populist Politicians are Natural Bedfellows

It is worth reflecting on the broad similarities between populist politicians and social media companies that make them such natural bedfellows. The former’s politics thrive on catalysing feelings of unfounded fear, anger, resentment and victimhood. The amplification of these emotions, amongst others, is precisely what social media thrives on. Although social media is celebrated as connecting people in a hitherto unprecedented way, does this necessarily mean that the average person is becoming more broad-minded or cosmopolitan? Sadly, it seems that most social media actually thrives on entrenching ethnic, religious, nationalist, sectarian or other tribal identities. The people or organisations that define the measure of this tribalism ‒ what it means to “authentically” be Muslim, American or Indian ‒ are those with the means and money to influence social media. Thus, many people instinctively end up inhabiting echo chambers of their primary online identity. Clicks, likes, shares or retweets translate into little dopamine hits which inevitably, albeit unconsciously, push people towards holding views for which they will know they will receive appreciation. Similarly, anger, fear and resentment give us an adrenalin rush as we leap to conclusions, lap up conspiracy theories and get furious about social, cultural, political or religious issues that we feel are under threat. Social media induces us into feeling we are permanently in a state of crisis. Across the world, populist politicians, particularly those from the ‘right-wing’, seek to use this sense of victimhood amongst their voters in order to consolidate their vote bank. In one sense, victimhood is the glue that binds these constituencies to their political leaders. The politics of Benjamin Netanyahu and Alexsandar Vucic rest on portraying Israel and Serbia as perennial victims of unresolved conflicts. Donald Trump and Viktor Orban use anti-elite and anti-immigrant sentiment to amplify feelings of victimhood amongst their voters in the US and Hungary. Aside from anti-elite rhetoric, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsanaro and Reçep Erdogan use religious nationalism to consolidate their vote base in India, Brazil and Turkey respectively. Vladimir Putin paints Russia as the world’s underdog. Since social media is driven by individual personalities, all these leaders also portray themselves as victims, thus conflating ideology with their own persona. This is then used to instigate fear and anger amongst supporters. Fear and anger are neither good nor bad emotions. Anger against injustice has often led to deep social and political changes. However, this very anger can be weaponised when it stems from the fear of manufactured threats ‒ immigrants, minorities, elites, religious communities, political opponents, take your pick. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

Israel approved grant to Tennessee anti-Muslim ‘hate group’

The Israeli government approved a grant to a Tennessee-based Christian Zionist organization that is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s watch list of hate groups, according to a government spreadsheet acquired by the Forward. The document, which details payments approved to entities around the world by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs in the first quarter of 2020, was uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Israeli Freedom of Information Movement and the Israeli news website The Seventh Eye, and shared with the Forward. The document showed a transfer of $40,000 to a group called Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, which has lobbied to pass laws preventing state agencies from working with groups that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, and has recently been active in mobilizing Christian Zionists in South Africa, a prime target of Israel’s public-diplomacy efforts. PJTN, whose annual revenue was $1 million in 2018, the latest year for which records are available, has hosted several notables of the pro-Israel right at events, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and radio host Dennis Prager. But its founder and president, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, is also known for her incendiary Islamophobic rhetoric. She has said that 30% of American Muslims are terrorists, that Islam is a “political system of global domination,” and that former President Barack Obama literally caused tornadoes when he announced his support for a Palestinian state. The SPLC has said since 2017 that Proclaiming Justice to the Nations is an anti-Muslim hate group, and last year Amazon removed the group from its charity donation program as part of a purge of extremist organizations. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

How Facebook threatens vulnerable Muslim communities

The social media giant Facebook poses an existential threat to vulnerable Muslim communities. This assessment is based on how Facebook has failed to prevent its platform from being used to incite mob violence against adherents of the Islamic faith. Palestinian and Kashmiri human rights activists have long complained of having their accounts suspended or permanently deleted after posting videos of Indian and Israeli soldiers carrying out human rights violations. "Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended," said Yanghee Lee, a UN investigator who in 2018 described the social media platform as a vehicle for inciting "acrimony, dissension and conflict" and driving the Rohingya Muslim genocide in Myanmar. A recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal has revealed that when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable Muslim minorities, Facebook not only puts profits and politics before social and moral responsibility, but also before its stated user policies or what it calls "community standards" - as evidenced by how it refused to punish a right-wing Indian politician for advocating violence against Muslims because doing so would be bad for the company's business. read the complete article


31 Aug 2020

Talk of 'UPSC Jihad' a Baseless Attempt to Delegitimise Muslim Participation in Governance

The TV channel Sudarshan News (shared via the Twitter handle of its editor, @SureshChavhanke) had posted a 45-second-long promo of their programme titled Bindas Bol scheduled for daily relay from August 28 at 8 pm on Twitter. It is On Friday, the Delhi high court stayed the transmission of the episode. The promo claimed that Muslim candidates, in a conspiracy against the nation, had ‘infiltrated’ (ghuspaith) into the civil services in ‘large numbers with very high marks’, labelling it ‘UPSC jihad’ or ‘bureaucracy jihad’. A civil servant’s religion is her personal matter. According to the Government of India’s decisions under Rule 3 of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, civil servants should so conduct themselves in public as to leave no room for an impression that they are likely, in their official dealings, to favour persons belonging to any particular religion. In addition, they must uphold the supremacy of the constitution and democratic values. The Supreme Court had held in the famous Kesavananda Bharati case and reiterated in S.R. Bommai vs Union of India, that secularism is inherent to the basic structure of the constitution. It is therefore wrong to describe civil servants in terms of their personal religions. Do we, for example, ever speak of the relative contributions of Tamil Brahmin scientists to space research or that of Agrawal/Gupta doctors to medical research? However, since the TV channel has broached the subject, we are forced to counter it on facts. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

New Report Says Facebook's Ankhi Das Supported Modi, Hoped for BJP's Victory

The day before Narendra Modi and the BJP swept to victory in the 2014 general elections, Ankhi Das – the head of Facebook’s public policy in India – wrote, “We lit a fire to his social media campaign and the rest is of course history,” on a group designed for the social media giant’s employees in the country. This message, along with several others—posted between 2012 and 2014—were reported by the Wall Street Journal and suggest that they were in conflict with the company’s pledge to remain neutral in elections around the world. In an article published on August 30, WSJ pointed to Das’s posts written for internal consumption each time the BJP, particularly Modi, benefitted electorally. In October of 2012, Das wrote, “Success in our Gujarat Campaign,” of the training of Modi’s BJP team, further noting that the campaign was close to reaching a million fans on Facebook. Soon after this success, Modi was projected as a national leader and a campaign for national office was launched in full swing. Facebook once again offered training and assistance, the Wall Street Journal article states. Her Facebook colleague, Katie Harbath – a Republican and Facebook’s top global elections official – wrote that Das characterised Modi as “the George W. Bush of India,” according to a 2013 internal post featuring a photo of the two women and the future prime minister. Other messages show Das praising Modi as the ‘strongman’ who ended the Congress’s hold. Before the 2014 elections, she wrote that Facebook had been lobbying the BJP for months to include the company’s top priorities in the party’s campaign. “Now they just need to go and win the elections,” she wrote. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

Police disperse Muslim procession in Kashmir with pellets and tear gas, injuring scores

Indian forces on Saturday fired shotgun pellets and tear gas to disperse hundreds of Shiite Muslims participating in a traditional religious procession in Indian-controlled Kashmir, injuring scores, witnesses said. Police in the main city of Srinagar said the mourners on the outskirts of the city violated coronavirus prohibitions that restrict all religious processions and gatherings across the disputed region to stem the spread of the disease. Police said they were still confirming the number of injured. Medics at one hospital said they treated at least 30 people, some of them with pellet and tear gas injuries. Many others were admitted to another hospital. The procession during the Muslim month of Muharram included the faithful who were beating their chests and reciting elegies to mourn the death of the Prophet Muhammed's grandson in the seventh century battle at Karbala, in present-day Iraq. “The procession was not just peaceful but was also following health protocols,” said witness Sajjad Hussain. “They (government forces) unleashed such violence and did not spare even women mourners.” Officials said at least 200 people were detained in Srinagar this week for participating in Muharram processions, and at least seven were arrested under an anti-terror law for raising anti-India slogans. read the complete article


31 Aug 2020

Satellite Images Show China's Expansion Of Muslim Detention Camps

There are signs that China's internment of Muslims has become even more enormous, mechanized and horrifying. BuzzFeed News has used satellite images and interviews with former inmates to identify 260 fortified detention compounds built in the western regions of China to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims. It is the largest detention of ethnic and religious minorities since the Second World War. Megha Rajagopalan, along with Alison Killing and Christo Buschek, worked on this story. Megha Rajagopalan joins us from London. read the complete article

United States

31 Aug 2020

Muslim Inmate Challenge to Common Area Prayer Ban Partly Revived

A Muslim man incarcerated in a private prison in Oklahoma convinced the Tenth Circuit on Friday to revive part of his religious discrimination lawsuit challenging prison officials’ decision to block him from praying in the prison’s communal day room. Damea Shandale Tenison can move forward with claims under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, because he presented sufficient evidence that he was treated less favorably than Christian inmates, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

How Trump's Republican National Convention speech wove faith into the 'great American story'

In attacking his opponent, Trump said Biden “supports deadly sanctuary cities that protect criminal aliens. He promised to end national security travel bans from jihadist nations, and he pledged to increase refugee admissions by 700 percent.” Although rarely acknowledged by critics, the concept of “sanctuary cities” emerged out of a 1980s religious phenomenon known as the Sanctuary Movement, which encouraged religious communities to house migrants fleeing violence in Central America in their sanctuaries in direct defiance of federal law. The movement reemerged in a new form — aptly called the “New Sanctuary Movement” — under the Obama administration. It exploded in popularity during the onset of the Trump administration, with houses of worship taking in undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation and essentially daring immigration officials to raid their churches (officials do not do so as a matter of internal policy). Last year, the Trump administration began issuing massive fines on immigrants taking sanctuary in houses of worship, presumably as a deterrent against the practice. Meanwhile, religious groups have increased their efforts: Last year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America even declared itself a “sanctuary church body.” As for Trump’s reference to travel bans barring entry to people “from jihadist nations,” there are questions about what he is referring to — and his language. His administration has long claimed the travel ban that Trump initiated within a week of assuming office was not a “Muslim ban,” despite the countries on the ban list being primarily majority Muslim. Trump himself called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States during his campaign. Jihad, however, is a term used within Islam that is often interpreted to mean “to strive” or “struggle.” While it has been used to denote a call for war or violent action, as Trump implied, it can also be used to describe striving to make the world a better place in other ways. Trump’s ban was widely opposed by religious groups. Lutherans again were among a number of faith-based agencies who sued the Trump administration over the president’s executive orders banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries, calling it, in effect, a Muslim ban. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

Top Colorado RNC official spread conspiracy theories and made Islamophobic and sexist comments

Randy Corporon, a Denver-based attorney, is a radio host and Tea Party activist. After being elected in April as an RNC committeeman, he started his term August 24 as one of three officials representing the state in the body that governs the RNC. In addition to his job at the RNC, he also is a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention. CNN's KFile reviewed his social media posts and hours of Corporon's radio show and found he repeatedly spread far-right conspiracies on a wide range of topics. On his radio show, Corporon falsely claimed former President Bill Clinton had an illegitimate son and that Chelsea Clinton wasn't his biological daughter in 2019. He spread the conspiracy that Barack Obama's birth certificate wasn't born in Hawaii and his real father wasn't Barack Obama Sr. He also asserted Obama had a fake Black accent and falsely suggested he was a Muslim. He also repeatedly shared conspiracies on social media. He spread the racist birther conspiracy theory about Obama's birth certificate and dared the President to admit "he's from Kenya." He falsely claimed that Obama made a sexually explicit gesture at reporters on his campaign plane, and he falsely pushed a conspiracy that former CIA director John Brennan was a "closet Muslim." As an attorney, Corporon represented the website VDARE, an anti-immigration website known for publishing white nationalists, in a civil lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs after the city declined to provide city services, including police protection, to the group's nearby convention in late 2018. On his weekly radio show, Wake Up! with Randy Corporon, he said he agreed with former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore that Muslims should be prevented from holding office. "I understand [Muslims] can't be prevented from holding office. If we now have Muslims in Congress and so be it. That's what the voters chose, but that doesn't mean [Moore] can't express his opinion about it and it doesn't mean I can't agree with him," said Corporon in December 2018. He added, "I don't think you can hold a Muslim view and believe in constitutionally limited government." In the same episode, he added, Muslims were "incompatible" with judgeships. In 2016 on social media, Corporon said "we are at war with Islam. They started it. We must end it." He painted Islam as needing "reformation" but "until then, they are the enemies." He also claimed violent behavior from Muslims is "not radical" and "straight out" of the "Koran." read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

Guantanamo Voices is Comics Journalism at its Most Transparent

Sarah Mirk plumps for a curious creative choice with Guantanamo Voices. In the back pages of the comic, she explains that she purposefully instructed her contributing artists to adhere to a ‘sunset tones’ colour palette, in an effort to give the horrific accounts of her interviewees an engaging appearance for the reader. Guantanamo Voices does indeed look the part. The colouring throughout the eleven comics is unified in its warm splendour, whilst the individual qualities of the strips themselves easily stands out with every turn of the page. All of this then is hugely at odds with the actual stories these comics are telling. Guantanamo Voices consists of numerous real accounts from former prisoners, workers, lawyers and more who became entangled in the horrendous prison, all of which tell a story of a corrupt, racist system that unfairly punishes the wrong people. None of the accounts feel forced, contrived or filtered. The greatest strengths of Guantanamo Voices is how it portrays an honest and unflinching account of the prison. Remaining active through three Presidencies (so far…), the message is routinely and clearly stated how Guantanamo is a law unto itself, that the majority of inmates aren’t charged with an actual crime, and that it stands as a symbol of racially-driven fear and scapegoating to a general population left reeling from the events of 9/11. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

‘Honor killings’ a false narrative in Irving teens’ deaths, Muslim community says

Alia Salem remembers how horrific the killings were, and the photos and videos on the TV news of the two girls who died. She also remembers how Muslims in North Texas worked to fight rumors and Islamophobic stereotypes, to distance their community from the man suspected of killing his daughters. “There was a palpable sense of trying to disown him — to say, ‘This guy is not part of our community. This is not indicative of the Muslim community,’ " Salem said. Amina Said, 18, and Sarah Said, 17, were found shot to death in their father’s taxi on New Year’s Day 2008. Their father, Yaser Said, had vanished. In 2008, while the Muslim community grieved the loss of the two sisters, others began pointing the finger at Said’s faith and the allegation that he had been upset about who his daughters were dating. An “honor killing,” they called it, stoking Islamophobia that already was prevalent in the years after 9/11. A dozen years later, that’s what people remember: the ancient practice in some cultures of murdering a family member who is believed to have brought dishonor upon a family. “That was the sickening part,” said Salem, founder and executive director of Facing Abuse in Community Environments, a nonprofit that addresses abuse in the Muslim community. “It has nothing to do with honor. It has nothing to do with religion. These two babies were killed because this man needed to be in control.” The stereotype that the deaths were somehow justified by Islam caused a secondary trauma for the community in mourning. Now, Said’s arrest has sparked new fears that Islamophobic stereotypes will re-emerge, Salem said. “We can’t even be with the rest of Americans in just taking a sigh of relief that this person has been apprehended, because there’s this sense that they’re going to make it about Islam,” she said. “Is there even any sort of respite?” read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

Biden issues historic commitment to Arab Americans

Democratic nominee Joe Biden has issued a comprehensive “Plan for Partnership” with Arab Americans as part of his presidential campaign. He vowed to enforce the plan if he wins November’s election, but refused to back down on his criticism of extremism, opposition to the BDS movement and support for Israel. Biden, who issued a YouTube video in which he cites an Islamic Hadith last month and appealed to Muslim US voters to “do the right thing” when they “see a wrong,” is pursuing support from Arab and Muslim Americans who have been ostracized by US President Donald Trump. In his historic statement, never before promised by any presidential candidate, the former vice president called Arab Americans “essential to the fabric of our nation,” adding that he will not only fight “anti-Arab bigotry,” but will include Arab Americans in his administration, something Trump has failed to do while in office. The nine-page partnership statement has been welcomed by Arab American leaders and activists who previously expressed concern about several of Biden’s remarks, including a TV interview in August 2008 in which he declares himself a “Zionist” and one of Israel’s strongest supporters. Arab Americans have also raised concerns about his running mate Kamala Harris’ close ties with the Israeli right. Harris, elected to the US Senate representing California in 2016, has addressed Israel’s AIPAC lobby twice and co-sponsored a resolution rebuking fellow Democrat and former president Barack Obama for not being tougher in defending Israeli settlements. read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

The Republican National Convention: Even more dangerous than 4 years ago

The 2016 Republican National Convention was filled with chants of “lock her up” and “build that wall,” packed with fear-mongering and often openly racist messages. The 2020 convention has clearly been designed to convey a different message, highlighting speakers of color and showcasing US President Donald Trump’s pardons and his granting of citizenship to people of color. As someone who studies racist rhetoric, I find this version even scarier than the previous one. For several years now, I have been especially interested in what I call “racial fig leaves,” utterances or actions that work to prevent people from recognizing the racism in front of them. I use the term fig leaves because they serve to just barely cover something you aren’t supposed to show in public. Fig leaves are needed because most white people don’t want to think of themselves as racist. Fig leaves work because some white people are so keen to convince themselves that something apparently racist really isn’t racist after all. In Trump’s famous comment about Mexican rapists, he went out of his way to indicate that he wasn’t talking about all Mexicans, and that some Mexicans are good people. These incongruous additions to the diatribe serve as fig leaves for those who falsely believe you can only be racist if you condemn all members of a group. As I studied online discussions among Trump followers, I saw them making precisely this case to one another, to convince themselves that Trump wasn’t racist. Now turn to where we are now. Trump as president instituted a Muslim ban, albeit after some changes to get it past the courts. He locked immigrant children in cages. He quoted a violent segregationist, calling for the shooting of peaceful protesters seeking racial justice. He told 4 congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from. And that’s just off the top of my head. And now, after all this, Trump and the Republican party chose to feature Black Republican Sen. Tim Scott and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, of Indian descent, along with other Black and brown speakers, to showcase their apparent embrace of people of color. Trump’s high-profile pardon and naturalization ceremonies at the White House are also aimed at showing his ostensible benevolence toward people of color. These are attempted fig leaves, probably directed squarely at the suburban voters the party missed out on in the 2018 mid-term elections. These fig leaves were meant to convince voters that Trump and his party are not racist after all. They may have done some things that seemed alarmingly “racially charged,” perhaps, but in their hearts they were not really racist, as shown by the kindness to people of colour now on display. read the complete article


31 Aug 2020

Berlin headscarf ban is illegal, court rules

A German court ruled that a ban on teachers wearing headscarves in schools in Berlin is unconstitutional. The Federal Labor Court was ruling in a case brought by a Muslim woman who was turned down for a job in a Berlin school in 2017 because she was not prepared to take off her headscarf. Teachers in the city were banned from wearing headscarves under Berlin's neutrality law, dating from 2005, which forbids public sector workers from wearing religious clothing and symbols. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that a ban on religious clothing would violate the right to freedom of religion, and such a ban could only be imposed in individual cases where there was a threat to peace at the school. Berlin's ruling coalition of the Socialists, Greens and Left is divided on the issue. Sandra Scheeres of the Socialists, and Berlin's top education official, said: "We would have wished for a different decision. We will wait for the written statement to examine the reasons for the judgment and then decide whether we will lodge a constitutional complaint.” However, Dirk Behrendt of the Greens welcomed the court decision, writing on Twitter: "In the multi-religious society it must be about what someone has in his head and not on his head." read the complete article

31 Aug 2020

How Angela Merkel’s great migrant gamble paid off

Five years to the month after arriving in Germany as an unaccompanied minor, Hallak is now in his third term studying computer science at the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences and harbours an aspiration to become an IT entrepreneur. “Germany was always my goal”, he says, in the mumbled sing-song of the Ruhr valley dialect. “I’ve always had a funny feeling that I belong here.” Hallak, an exceptionally motivated student with high social aptitude, is not representative of all the 1.7 million people who applied for asylum in Germany between 2015 and 2019, making it the country with the fifth highest population of refugees in the world. Some of those with whom he trekked through Turkey and across the Mediterranean, he says, haven’t picked up more than a few words and “just chill”. But Hallak is not a complete outlier either. More than 10,000 people who arrived in Germany as refugees since 2015 have mastered the language sufficiently to enrol at a German university. More than half of those who came are in work and pay taxes. Among refugee children and teenagers, more than 80% say they have a strong sense of belonging to their German schools and feel liked by their peers. “The motive with which we approach these matters must be: we have already managed so much, we’ll manage this.” During the German TV broadcast of her interview, headlines flashed up to report that Hungary was sending trainloads of people to the German border, 20,000 of whom turned up at Munich central station the following week alone. The German phrase Merkel used, Wir schaffen das, became so memorable mainly because it would in the weeks and months that followed be endlessly quoted back at her by those who believed that the German chancellor’s optimistic message had encouraged millions more migrants to embark on a dangerous odyssey across the Med. “Merkel’s actions, now, will be hard to correct: her words cannot be unsaid,” wrote the Spectator. “She has exacerbated a problem that will be with us for years, perhaps decades.” By 2017, there was a prevalent view that Wir schaffen das would be Merkel’s undoing, a “catastrophic mistake” as Donald Trump said in January that year. “The worst decision a European leader has made in modern times,” Nigel Farage told Fox News. “She’s finished.” Yet today Merkel still sits at the top of Europe’s largest economy, her personal approval ratings back to where they were at the start of 2015 and the polling of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), buoyed to record levels by the global pandemic. When Merkel steps down ahead of federal elections in 2021, as is expected, her party’s successor currently looks more likely to be a centrist in her mould than a hardliner promising a symbolic break with her stance on immigration. read the complete article

United Kingdom

31 Aug 2020

The right's culture war is no longer a sideshow to our politics – it is our politics

The only mercy in this grotesque US election – which will only get uglier – is that the fearmongering is totally naked. It’s not about “making America great again” again, or the plight of the little guy. It is about order. The threats to order are always present, and always held at bay, just barely, by conservative leaders valiantly fighting the imminent deluge. This authoritarian populist strategy is founded on an essential fiction: the pretence of powerlessness among politicians, and their voters, who are very much in charge. The weak and the marginalised, and especially their fragile movements for racial and economic equality, are cast as a terrifying force, influential and deeply embedded – a shadow regime that will bloom into tyranny the instant the Democrats are elected. In Britain, we watch this American political horror from behind our fingers, with the bewildered bemusement of a country far from this madness. But we are there too. The right in the UK now is following the same playbook. The approach is just as calculated, but the presentation is slightly less crude, and therefore more difficult to challenge. Over here, fearmongering is altogether more refined. Instead of hyped-up nonsense about emptying prisons and killer migrant gangs, there are subtle and insidious threats to British values. Consider the latest attack on our national pride: thinly sourced reports that Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory might be axed from “BBC’s ‘Black Lives Matter Proms’”. Much like Biden’s secret plot to set criminals loose, the Proms scandal isn’t true: there was no demand that the songs be dropped. There will be an orchestral version online this year because there’s a pandemic on, and there will be no audience to sing along. A vocal version is “fully expected to return next year”. This dubious tale wasn’t invented by a Fox News-style propaganda network: it was carried by the Sunday Times and the Times and followed up by all the other papers. But it wasn’t an innocent misunderstanding: it was the result of a desire to exaggerate the threat to “our culture” from the unnamed vandals set on destroying it. read the complete article


31 Aug 2020

Riot in Sweden after anti-Muslim Danish leader banned

At least 10 people were arrested and several police officers injured during clashes in southern Sweden after an anti-Muslim Danish politician was blocked from attending a Koran-burning rally, police said Saturday. Rasmus Paludan, leader of the far-right Danish anti-immigration party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), was due to travel to Malmo to speak at Friday's event, which is the same day as the main weekly prayers for Muslims. But authorities pre-empted Paludan's arrival by announcing he had been banned from entering Sweden for two years. Police later arrested him near Malmo. Protesters threw stones at police and burned tyres on the streets of Malmo late Friday, with the violence escalating as the evening wore on, according to police and local media. The demonstration of about 300 people was connected to an incident earlier in the day in which protesters burned a copy of the Islamic holy book, police spokesman Rickard Lundqvist told Swedish tabloid Expressen. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 31 Aug 2020 Edition


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