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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05 Aug 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, a newly released report by a government agency found that hate crimes against Muslim communities across the country increased by 71 percent in 2021, meanwhile the Commission for International Justice and Accountability found a cache of military documents that reveals discussions and planning around the purges of the Rohingya population — declared a genocide by the US — and efforts to hide military operations from the international community, and in France, a UN committee found that the country breached an international rights treaty when it barred a woman from wearing a headscarf while she studied at a school. Our recommended read of the day is by Kareem Shaheen for New Lines Magazine on how the recent illustration on the cover of The Economist is racist and Islamophobic because it “demeans an entire ethnic group and tars them with the brush of violence and terrorism.” This and more below:


05 Aug 2022

A Magazine’s Broad Brush Demeans All Arabs | Recommended Read

The Economist’s sister longform publication, 1843, has joined this hallowed company of racist stereotyping in a cover story about the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), which included multiple clever but supremely offensive illustrations. The cover illustration shows the back of a man wearing the traditional Saudi dress, with the agal, the black cord that surrounds the headdress, shaped to look like a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse. Another similarly shows the back profile of the full traditional gear but shaped like a missile, in case you didn’t get the message the first time. A third showed the headdress with an empty visage, inside of which is a hand holding a lit match curved to look like a stylized Arabic “Allah.” The illustration is offensive because it’s not about MBS as an individual but instead demeans an entire ethnic group and tars them with the brush of violence and terrorism. It is precisely the empty visage that makes it abhorrent — it is not about an ascendant, aggressive leader who is a ticking time bomb; it is about how an entire people, their customs and faith, are malign. Imagine if, in order to condemn the brutality of the Israeli occupation in Palestine, a mainstream publication had chosen art that portrays a man in a yarmulke to personify the abuse. (Several social media commentators have pointed out that the artist who penned the illustrations is Israeli, but I don’t see how that is relevant since the publication is British and racism is not the province of a specific nationality.) Stereotypes exist everywhere. It is part of human nature to try to simplify the world around us into easy-to-understand categories that belie the great diversity of the world. They are almost always harmful, even if they have not led (yet) to direct violence and large-scale discrimination, partly because they dehumanize through robbing individuals of their agency and otherizing them. read the complete article


05 Aug 2022

Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada jump 71 percent

Hate crimes against Muslim communities across Canada increased by 71 percent in 2021, according to a newly released report by the government agency Statistics Canada. The study, released on Tuesday, found that the number of recorded attacks against Muslims rose from 84 incidents in 2020 to 144 in 2021. The jump in attacks had followed a decline from the previous year, when in 2019 there were a total of 182 reported incidents targeting Muslims. "We lost Canadian Muslims to hate in 2021. These numbers also do not tell the whole story - we know that the numbers of hate crimes vastly exceed what show up in hate crime stats," the National Council for Canadian Muslims (NCCM) said on Twitter in response to the report's release. The rise in attacks in 2021 corresponds with the killing of four members of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario. "The increase also occurred in the same year as an attack in London, Ontario, which targeted a Muslim family and resulted in four homicides and one attempted homicide," the Statistics Canada report said. "While it is not possible to link police-reported hate crime incidents to particular events, media coverage and public discourse can increase awareness as well as draw negative reactions from people who share hateful attitudes." Experts in Canada had previously told MEE that, while the country is seen by the outside world as a haven for multiculturalism, Canada has witnessed decades of anti-Muslim rhetoric both from politicians and the media. Data from Statistics Canada shows hate crimes against Muslims have risen over the past decade. Last year, NCCM released a report that listed 61 recommendations that included the development of a federal anti-Islamophobia strategy to include a clear definition of Islamophobia as well as funding to help support victims of hate-motivated crimes. read the complete article

05 Aug 2022

Starbucks apologizes to Sudbury family following racist, bottle-throwing incident

A family in Sudbury says they've been impressed with coffee chain Starbucks' prompt response after a barista hurled racist insults – then a pop bottle – at them while leaving the cafe. Ishmeet Singh and Suchita Bali took their daughter, 11, to a Starbucks located in a strip mall on Sudbury's busy Barrydowne Road Friday night. Following a tense interaction with the barista over labels on the coffee cups, Singh spoke to her supervisor. Singh documented the exchange in a Twitter thread, saying the barista muttered "a–hole" at his family. The family then left the store, meeting up with friends in the parking lot. According to Singh, the same barista, then through her shift, left the Starbucks, hurling a pop bottle at the Singh family and striking one of the friends, yelling "pig f–-er" and a string of other slurs before driving away."I was borderline angry also because although the racial slur used wasn't obvious, it was ignorant because of the fact that she saw me wearing a turban and she used a very particular racial slur," Singh, who hails from Delhi, India, said. "It wasn't towards me or my faith, but it was very racist. And the intention behind that was very hurtful." "Going back to the physical location of the coffee shop where my family faced that harassment wasn't easy," Bali said. "I didn't know what to expect." She was pleasantly surprised, however. "I'm really grateful," she said. "The store manager was absolutely compassionate, kind. He was empathetic. He gave me his listening ear." read the complete article

United States

05 Aug 2022

Ayman al-Zawahiri killing proves the 'war on terror' was never over

Killed 11 years apart, both of their deaths were communicated in speeches by Biden and former President Barack Obama respectively - in very similar language - under the guise of attaining justice. After the killing of Zawahiri, two things beg our reflection: what does “justice” mean in the "war on terror" - and does the "war on terror" have any conceivable end? In his speech nine days after the 9/11 attacks, on 20 September 2001, to a joint session of Congress, Bush asserted that “whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done”. He did not specify how enemies would be brought to justice, but nevertheless established that “justice” would be inherent to any and all US interventions to combat the terrorist threat. If these statements make anything clear, it’s that justice is malleable; that these killings - and not, for example, legal proceedings like criminal trials - are the only way to obtain justice; that those killed were pure evil and deserving of their fate; and finally, that the assertion that justice has been served is subject to the US government’s interpretation, regardless of any other considerations. But extrajudicial assassinations contradict any meaningful semblance of justice, especially for a country that constantly parades the superiority of its values, legal system and adherence to the rule of law. Underscoring these repeated triumphalist proclamations of justice, Biden and his predecessors have continued to justify US actions by highlighting the US’s eternal victimhood, as a way of legitimising the never-ending war of avenging the wrongs done to the United States. In this case, the US’s victimhood was used to justify a targeted assassination - absent any stated legal process - nearly 21 years after the 9/11 attacks. read the complete article

05 Aug 2022

Two Muslim Americans sue Alaska Airlines, alleging discrimination

Two Sudan-born American men claim in a lawsuit that Seattle-based Alaska Airlines removed and barred them from a recent flight to appease other passengers' racist and xenophobic fears. In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington residents Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin allege Alaska employees ordered them to leave their first-class seats on a business flight to San Francisco on Feb. 17. The action came after a fellow passenger grew suspicious of the men's text messages in Arabic while waiting to depart Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Airline officials deboarded all other passengers from Flight 304 while questioning the men in public view at the gate, per the suit filed by the civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). An Alaska manager who spoke Arabic read Dirar's texts and found them "innocuous." Still, the airline called in FBI and TSA agents and a Port of Seattle police officer to "show [the other passengers] that Alaska Airlines was concerned about their security and took this incident seriously," the suit contends, citing the official police report on the incident. Despite knowing the men "posed no threat," the airline allowed all passengers except the men — both of whom are Black, bearded, Sudan-born Muslims — to reboard the plane, the suit state. The airline then forced Dirar and Elamin, both of whom are U.S. citizens, to go through airport screening again before putting them on separate flights hours later, with Elamin downgraded to a seat in coach, per the suit. Alaska "essentially weaponized Islamophobic, racist, and xenophobic fears by using Plaintiffs as human props in an admittedly unjustified, unnecessary, and self-serving display of discriminatory security theater," the lawsuit states. read the complete article


05 Aug 2022

France breached woman's rights over school headscarf ban, UN says

France breached an international rights treaty when it barred a woman from wearing a headscarf while she studied at a school, the UN Human Rights Committee has said. Naima Mezhoud, now 45, was due to train as a management assistant at a course held in a state secondary school where teenagers are prohibited by law from wearing the hijab. She was on a professional training course for adults in 2010. She underwent an interview and entrance test. But the headmaster of Langevin Wallon high school in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris refused to let her enter because of a ban on wearing religious symbols in public education establishments. In 2004, France banned the wearing of hijabs and other religious symbols in state schools. Preventing the woman from wearing a headscarf broke the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the committee said. It said that barring her from "participating in her continuing education course while wearing a headscarf constitutes a restriction on her freedom of religion in violation of the treaty". read the complete article


05 Aug 2022

Long-awaited Rohingya report provides new evidence of genocide in Myanmar

The Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) released its long-awaited report Thursday on the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. CIJA began its investigation in 2018, looking for evidence to clear a path toward international criminal prosecutions. CIJA has previously worked in Syria, gathering evidence on Bashar Al-Assad and IS. According to the UN fact-finding mission in 2018, crackdowns on the Rohingya ethnic minority began in the Rakhine region of Myanmar in 2017. Refugees have described widespread massacres, sexual violence, and other crimes against humanity throughout 2017. The UN used satellite footage to show the many villages that were burned, allegedly via arson. The current military junta in Myanmar claims these burns were committed by the Rohingya themselves. However, documents and testimony obtained by CIJA dispute this. CIJA found 865 documents, initiated 10 interviews, and gathered 24 videos and over 3,500 files in total from military and border personnel insiders. The insider documents consistently refer to the Rohingya as “Bengali,” a reference to the false belief that the Rohingya aren’t really Burmese but actually Bengali invaders. The documents show a government effort to reach out to extremist Buddhist monks in the region to garner support ahead of the 2017 attacks, which the government referred to as “area clearance.” One military presentation obtained by CIJA refers directly to potential global condemnation for the military’s actions. It specifically refers to the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine, which requires UN member states to step in if there is a risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. The presentation asserts if other countries step in, Myanmar will become a “failed state.” It goes on to claim that, “[d]espite pressure from the UN and international community on the military regarding the issues in northern Rakhine and demands on the Myanmar government to accept Bengali refugees [the Rohingya], there is no likelihood of R2P being triggered and violating Myanmar’s sovereignty.” read the complete article


05 Aug 2022

‘We’re All to Blame for the Bigotry Spreading in India but the South Is Beacon of Hope’

In an interview on what 75 years of Independence means for India, the author, historian and Congress MP, Shashi Tharoor, has said we are all to collectively blame for the bigotry and polarisation that is spreading in the country but South India could be a beacon of hope for the future. However, Tharoor believes and hopes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could step in and reverse this trend towards majoritarianism and Hindutva nationalism if he realises that he can win elections without policies that polarise the country. Tharoor’s is the first of a series of select interviews to mark the 75th anniversary of Independence and explore what this anniversary means: how has India changed over the last three quarters of a century; what are the achievements we can be truly be proud of; and what are the errors and lapses as well as willful mistakes that have embarrassed us. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

05 Aug 2022

In Sri Lanka, Buddhist monks’ involvement in protests raises familiar questions

The street protests that drove Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from office last month brought together people from across the country’s diverse and sometimes warring ethno-religious groups: Tamils, Muslims, Christians and Sinhala Buddhists — including, unmistakably, the saffron-robed Buddhist monks who are fixtures of Sri Lanka’s political scene. But with Rajapaksa in exile in Singapore and life returning closer to normal, decades-old questions are being raised about Buddhism’s role in Sri Lanka’s government. Political involvement by the monks — easy to spot in the protests against Rajapaksa’s inaction on Sri Lanka’s economic woes — also includes taking seats in Parliament and joining political parties. Last year, a controversial monk named Galagoda Atte Gnanasara was appointed to a presidential task force for legal reforms despite his vociferous anti-Muslim views. “The role of monks is to help people improve their spirituality. During the last 10 years, their political involvement has become too much, I think. People don’t view them as religious leaders anymore,” said Venerable Mahayaye Vineetha, a Sri Lankan monk living in Kandy, a city in Sri Lanka’s central highlands. Sinhala Buddhist nationalism can be traced back to Anagarika Dharampala, an influential anti-imperialist and nationalist monk from the early 19th century. His speeches, filled with anti-Muslim and anti-Tamil rhetoric and aimed at creating a Buddhist dominated nation, are infamous in Sri Lanka. Dharampala’s goals were realized with the 1956 Sinhala Only Act and further enshrined in Sri Lanka’s 1972 constitution, which privileged Buddhism over other religions, essentially cementing an ethno-religious majoritarian state. In recent years, the blatant racism and violent language of the first wave of Sri Lankan independence have reappeared. Hard-line monks with ties to politicians like the Rajapaksas have led to racist rowdyism among their followers; some monks have even committed violence themselves. “People should be able to see that there is a weaponization of religion for political purposes, to promote a certain political agenda,” said Gajaweera. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 05 Aug 2022 Edition


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