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 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, a charter school in Massachusetts has had numerous incidences of racism, with critics saying the school’s culture is “racist, harms students, and should be investigated or even shut down,” meanwhile in France, the country’s top administrative court has given the green light for the expulsion to Morocco of an imam accused of “hate speech,” and in Denmark, some members of a commission that last week recommended a ban on young girls wearing the hijab at schools, have reversed their positions on the matter. Our recommended read of the day is by Frankie Vetch for Codastory on how a number of universities in the U.S. and U.K. are partnering with Chinese companies, who do state contracting work for Beijing, to research and develop surveillance technologies. This and more below:


31 Aug 2022

China invests in US universities to build its surveillance state | Recommended Read

It was recently revealed that Chinese tech giant Alibaba provided a $125,000 grant to Dinesh Manosha, a professor at the University of Maryland. The grant was for the development of a machine learning software that could “classify the personality of each pedestrian and identify other biometric features.” The software is designed to predict the behavior of pedestrians for surveillance purposes. Alibaba has in the past developed a product designed to recognize and classify the faces of Uyghur people, a Muslim minority in the Northwestern province of Xinjiang, on whom China has been conducting an unprecedented technology-driven crackdown. There is a significant possibility that Manosha’s research could be used to develop technology that expands the Chinese state’s surveillance capabilities. And he is not the only U.S.-based academic doing such research. Darren Byler, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada and an expert on Uyghurs, says, “There are numerous instances of U.S. universities partnering or collaborating with Chinese companies that do state contracting work.” Byler noted that funding was provided to the University of Illinois by surveillance company CloudWalk. He says, “Cloudwalk has done some of the most egregious work when it comes to automating surveillance of Uyghurs and others in China.” The problem is not just limited to the United States. Freedom of Information requests sent by the China Research Group, and published in June 2021, revealed a number of links between Chinese companies and U.K. universities. Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has provided millions of pounds in research funding to U.K. universities. The University of Lancaster alone received over £1 million from the company, to conduct research on semiconductors, computing and machine learning. This included £900,000 in 2020, the same year the UK banned mobile network providers from buying Huawei 5G equipment in part due to national security concerns. read the complete article

31 Aug 2022

UN rights chief leaving with China report still unreleased

A long line of country representatives took the floor at a UN rights council to praise how Bachelet had handled the challenges of the past four years. But while the former Chilean president was greeted with praise, flowers and a standing ovation, the row over a long-promised report on the rights situation in Xinjiang remains unresolved. Bachelet told the council nearly a year ago that her office was finalising a report on the situation in the far-western Chinese region, where Beijing stands accused of detaining more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. She steps down from her post on Wednesday with her successor still to be appointed -- and the report still unreleased. Rights groups have grown increasingly frustrated at the delay. With just a day to go before she steps down however, it looks increasingly unlikely that she will keep her promise to release it before she leaves. read the complete article

31 Aug 2022

A silent invasion: How Hindutva infiltrated US politics

Fascism has arrived in the United States, but from an unlikely source – a growing segment of the Indian migrant community, specifically those who have become radicalised by the far-right, ultranationalist political ideology of Hindutva. It’s a scourge that had gone largely undetected until the Indian Business Association (IBA) organised an India Independence Day rally in Edison, New Jersey, which featured a bulldozer adorned with the posters of leading Hindu nationalist figures, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The bulldozer not only symbolises the unlawful demolition of Muslim homes and businesses, but also the newest weapon in the Indian government’s quest for Hindu supremacy. This so-called “bulldozer justice” has been described as a tool of genocide, and now it’s being feted by Hindu nationalist forces on American streets. We are witnessing the infiltration of the Hindutva ideology among the Indian diaspora in the US, an ideology that borrows its hateful and genocidal beliefs from European fascist movements of the 20th century, including the Nazi Party. But this infiltration of the country’s political and civic spaces is happening totally undetected. Moreover, the ugly scenes witnessed in New Jersey cannot be dismissed as the actions of a fringe minority, but rather a reflection of the same kind of hateful and discriminatory policies espoused and enacted by the far-right, Hindu nationalist government in Delhi, given the event was supported by Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) – the foreign agent of India’s ruling party – with the motormouth BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra appointed grand marshal of the parade. It’s self-evidently obvious that both the event’s organisers and supporters intended to send an unmistakable and chilling message to Indian-American Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities: that you are not safe from persecution even here in the US. read the complete article

United States

31 Aug 2022

US college launches centre to highlight Muslim American experience

A college in the US state of Arizona has launched a new centre that focuses on the experience and contributions of Muslims in the country. The Center of Muslim Experience in the United States by Arizona State University "will facilitate belonging for Muslim students" and "work to build mutually beneficial partnerships between Muslim communities across the country and university", the university said in a press release on Monday. "The Muslim contribution to world history and culture would be difficult to overstate - and the Muslim experience in the United States has helped to shape the nation," Jeffrey Cohen, ASU's dean of humanities, said in a statement. The university, which boasts a total enrollment of more than 70,000, is also home to more than 8,000 Muslim students, faculty and staff. The centre will host a variety of events including poetry readings and musical performances and will invite inspirational speakers and writers to ASU for public events. “By creating a space for students to share their own stories, both Muslim and non-Muslim students will benefit from knowing one another and learning to appreciate that socio-cultural differences can benefit improved community-building locally,” said Chad Haines, co-director of the new centre. It will also host a years-long, student-run academic study to document the Muslim experience specific to the city of Phoenix, the capital of Arizona. read the complete article

31 Aug 2022

Mountain View: Woman charged with hate crime in alleged anti-Muslim attack

A woman has been charged with a hate crime after being arrested on suspicion of attacking a Muslim-American woman on a downtown street in July, during which she allegedly pulled at the victim’s headscarf and tried to choke her, authorities said. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed misdemeanor hate crime and battery charges against 43-year-old Atoosa Biglari on Aug. 12, court records show. Biglari, who authorities described as transient, was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday but did not appear in court. A judge issued a $25,000 bench warrant for her, and the arraignment was postponed until she appears or is brought to court. The alleged hate crime was reported the afternoon of July 1 at Castro and Mercy streets in the heart of downtown Mountain View, according to police. Investigators determined that a woman — later identified as Biglari — crossed a street and approached and screamed at the victim, an 18-year-old woman who was walking alone. Two women who witnessed the attack and rushed to the victim’s aid told police that Biglari pushed the woman into a wall and put her hands around the victim’s neck. Biglari is accused of calling the woman a “terrorist” and saying the woman “hacked” her. The two women helped end the attack, authorities said, and Biglari fled on a bicycle but was arrested soon after. read the complete article

31 Aug 2022

After Malden’s Mystic Valley Regional Charter School handling of student’s hijab, questions swirl over why such incidents continue to occur

As long as charter schools have existed, they have generated controversy. But no single Massachusetts charter school has drawn more fire than Mystic Valley Regional in Malden, an institution as well known in recent years for the strictness of its dress code — and related allegations of racism — as for its academic reputation. Critics of the school don’t mince words: They say its culture is racist, harms students, and should be investigated or even shut down. In response, school leaders describe themselves as victims of intolerance in a raging culture war, under attack because they approach race differently than other schools by downplaying the differences between students and instead emphasizing their commonality. Tensions ratcheted higher this month after a Muslim student and her family complained publicly about the way the school handled the eighth-grader’s decision to wear a hijab, a traditional religious head covering. In the uproar that followed, school leaders met with members of the Muslim community Aug. 23, and with the school’s board of directors Monday night, where they discussed changing the policy to make it easier for students to seek religious exemptions to the dress code, steps some observers found encouraging. Yet others question why such incidents continue to occur — five years after the school’s ban on the hair extensions worn by some Black students drew condemnation from around the country, prompting a state investigation, changes to the dress code and diversity training for staff. “How many times does Malden have to make national news for some horrible xenophobic act?” said Ryan O’Malley, a Malden city councilor. “It tears us apart, and damages the fabric of our community . . . It feels like the state’s charter renewal process should assess the real-world impact of the school on the ground here, because it’s about more than just test scores.” read the complete article


31 Aug 2022

Hiring biases prevent Muslim women from joining the workforce

According to a recent study, Muslim women in India are half as likely to get callbacks for entry-level jobs as compared to Hindu women. What can organisations do to build a more inclusive hiring process? Muslim women are significantly under-represented in the workforce. According to the 66th round of the National Sample Survey Organisation (2009–10), out of every 1,000 working women, only 101—a meagre 10 percent—were found to be Muslim. The Sachar Committee report, set up by the UPA government to assess the status of Indian Muslims in 2005, also found the proportion of Muslim women working within their homes to be substantially higher at 70 percent as compared to other communities at 51 percent. The report highlighted the low participation of Muslim women in the workforce as a major reason for Muslims lagging behind in employment ratios. As per the 2011 Census data, the Indian worker population ratio of Muslims was found to be the lowest at 32.6; Hindus and Christians had a worker population ratio of 41 and 41.9 respectively. While these disparities are very telling, there isn’t sufficient research or data that does a deep dive into these numbers and explores them further. Most of the present literature on the marginalisation of Muslim women focuses on personal law and constitutional frameworks1 rather than on their presence in the labour force. There is also very little conversation in the public domain about their dreams, hopes, and ambitions. LedBy Foundation, India’s first leadership incubator that focuses on the professional development of Muslim women, conducted a study in June 2022 to investigate this gap between Muslim and Hindu women’s labour force representation. The aim of the research was to understand whether hiring biases are part of the reason for Muslim women not being proportionately represented in the labour market. read the complete article

31 Aug 2022

‘Anti-Muslim in its soul’: A boycott hurts Bollywood’s Aamir Khan

In early August, Aamir Khan, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, made a public declaration of love for India designed to counter a virtual campaign being waged against him and his latest film. The statement came after #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha had been trending on Twitter for weeks. Led by handles predominantly belonging to upper-caste Hindus, the boycott posts, videos and messages – many of them blatantly Islamophobic – were amplified by thousands of anonymous handles, mostly aligned with the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Hindu-first, majoritarian ideology. Some alleged that Khan, a Muslim, was anti-Hindu. They cited his 2014 film, PK, where he played an alien who lands in India and is confounded by how the devout are exploited in the name of religion. Laal Singh Chaddha, a film with a budget of $22m to $25m, has been in the making since 2018 and was expected to bring cheer to Bollywood, which has been struggling financially since the COVID pandemic. But the box office verdict was unanimous: The film is Khan’s biggest flop. Ishant Sharma, 35, a resident of the northern Indian state of Punjab, is the national president of Shiv Sena Hind – a vigilante group of upper-caste Hindu men he says is devoted to protecting Hinduism and is not affiliated with any political party. On August 11, the day of the film’s release, he and a few other saffron-clad men with long red marks on their forehead – a sign of Hindu religiosity – marched to a multiplex where Laal Singh Chaddha was playing. They shouted slogans, submitted a complaint and forced the show to be stopped. Similar protests by other groups took place in Delhi and in India’s biggest state, Uttar Pradesh. “Our protest is not against Laal Singh Chaddha. The protest is against Aamir Khan because he insulted our Dharam [religion] in PK,” Sharma told Al Jazeera, adding that he was happy Khan’s latest film had struggled. “Hindus are not watching the film. The film is a flop,” he said. read the complete article


31 Aug 2022

France to expel French-born imam to Morocco over ‘hate speech’

France’s top administrative court has given the green light for the expulsion to Morocco of an imam accused of “hate speech”, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. Hassan Iquioussen “will be expelled from the national territory” in “a great victory for the republic,” Darmanin wrote on Twitter, citing Tuesday’s ruling by the Council of State. The case landed before the highest court after Paris judges blocked the imam’s deportation, which the interior ministry ordered in late July over “especially virulent anti-Semitic speech” and sermons calling for women’s “submission” to men. Iquioussen, 58, reaches tens of thousands of subscribers via YouTube and Facebook accounts from his home in northern France. He was born in France but holds Moroccan citizenship. His lawyers successfully applied to the Paris court for a block on the order, saying it would create “disproportionate harm” to his “private and family life”. An interior ministry lawyer last week told the Council of State Iquioussen “has for years spread insidious ideas that are nothing less than incitement to hatred, to discrimination and to violence”. But the preacher’s lawyer retorted that some of the remarks including anti-Semitic or misogynistic speech dated back more than 20 years, pointing out that he had never been prosecuted for his public statements. “Yes, Mr Iquioussen is a conservative. He has made retrograde statements on women’s place in society,” Lucie Simon said. “But that does not constitute a serious threat to public order.” The interior ministry representative retorted that the imam’s words “create fertile ground for separatism and even terrorism,” insisting that he “remains an anti-Semite”. read the complete article


31 Aug 2022

Danish schools hijab ban advice reversed by commission members

The commission last week recommended a ban on young girls wearing the hijab or Muslim head scarf at schools. The recommendation received negative press coverage and feedback from educators. In its report, the commission argued that wearing the hijab marks out Danish Muslim girls as being different from other Danish girls. “We all become wiser in this debate, including those of us who sit on the commission,” one member of the commission, former headteacher Lise Egholm, told broadcaster DR. Egholm said she now believes that the oldest primary school students should be exempted from a potential ban since some Muslim girls begin wearing a headscarf after they start their first period. She also said discussion of the issue had turned into a “media storm”. The commission, appointed by the government earlier this year, has 10 members. The members stated they were all in agreement when they last week made a total of nine different recommendations related to minority ethnic girls in Denmark. But another member, Kefa Abu Ras, co-founder of organisation Sisters Against Violence and Control (Søstre mod vold og control), wrote last weekend on Facebook that she no longer supports the measure, DR reports. Instead, she said, the hijab should just be discouraged in primary schools, rather than forbidden. Egholm on Monday became the second commission member to change her stance. She also called for the commission to meet to discuss the matter. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 31 Aug 2022 Edition


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