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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06 Aug 2021

Today in Islamophobia: Mohammed al-Qahtani remains imprisoned at Guantanamo for nearly two decades without charge; he’s one of 39 detainees left in the prison where torture and widespread human rights violations have taken place. Meanwhile in Hungary, Fox News host Tucker Carlson has become the face of right-wing support for the country’s authoritarian regime after praising Prime Minister Victor Orbán, who has a history of making anti-Muslim, antisemitic, and xenophobic comments. In the UK, a British Parliamentary committee’s call to ban Hikvision, a Chinese camera manufacturer implicated in human-rights abuses against the Uyghur minority in China, has been met with firm denial from the Chinese firm. Our recommended read of the day is by Patrick Iber on Spencer Ackerman’s new book, which argues that the war on terror initiated by the Bush administration created the conditions for Trump’s rise. This and more below:

United States

05 Aug 2021

How the War on Terror Undermined American Democracy

It is impossible to look back at the Bush administration’s actions and not see the groundwork for Trumpism. Like Trump’s “Muslim ban” 15 years later, Ashcroft’s database targeted Muslims, but threw in North Koreans for cover. Deliberate acts of cruelty were the hallmark of the Bush administration’s program of torture, carried out by the CIA at black sites around the world and at Guantánamo Bay. Nor was that the only place that abetted lawbreaking among government officials. It is hard to square Stellar Wind—the massive, secret, and warrantless collection of Americans’ communications data—with the Constitution, though the Bush administration’s lawyers tried. When CIA Director George Tenet told Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that the National Security Agency director would go to jail for the way he was intercepting and using data, Cheney said he would post bail. It is true that Bush decided to frame the conflict as a “Global War on Terror” rather than a conflict with Islam, but he acted in ways that virtually guaranteed that this would be a distinction without a difference. Bush proffered a “with-us-or-against-us” mentality and used the attack on 9/11 to build a case for war on Iraq based on distortions and selective intelligence. The public believed it: In 2003, 69 percent of Americans thought there was likely a connection between Saddam Hussein and the attack. The weak case for U.S. intervention was bolstered for many Americans by the sense that the United States was engaged in a civilizational conflict. And even if Bush did not, many conservative churches did blame Islam for 9/11; Bush’s use of the word “evil” helped supply a comfortable framework for conservative Christians. When the invasion of Iraq proved catastrophic, conservatives were furious not with Bush but with Iraqis themselves, who were not playing the part assigned to them by their narrative of American heroism and innocence. “I’d like to see one other thing in Iraq,” wrote Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard in 2004, “an outbreak of gratitude for the greatest act of benevolence one country has ever done for another.” “It’s inhumane to take a mother away from her children,” one man said that night. “She’s not a criminal.” When Barack Obama was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, he faced a right wing that was well-prepared and eager to associate him with foreign enemies. His candidacy united the War on Terror and the culture war in the minds of the Republican base. In a time before widespread adoption of social media, email chains proliferated suggesting that Obama was a secret Muslim. Sarah Palin, as the nominee for vice president, told crowds that Obama “pals around with terrorists.” People shouted at rallies for his head. When Obama was elected in the midst of economic collapse, anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia all came together in Tea Party activism. Tea partiers, encouraged by Fox News, could mobilize panic around a Muslim cultural center in Manhattan, calling it the “Ground Zero Mosque” and its moderate cleric a terrorist sympathizer. The ultimate expression of this framing of Obama as an un-American outsider was “birtherism,” the charge that Obama had faked his place of birth and therefore was not truly American. It was an absurd and obvious lie that was encouraged and repeated most notably by Donald Trump. It helped Trump establish a political persona and a connection to the voters who would once have been described as “fringe” but had become the core demographic of the Republican base. read the complete article

04 Aug 2021

Senate panel votes to repeal 1991 and 2002 laws authorizing wars with Iraq.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Wednesday to repeal the 1991 law that authorized the Persian Gulf War and the 2002 law that authorized President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, sending the resolution to the Senate floor. The committee vote came a day after Biden administration officials testified before a Senate panel, saying that both of the Iraq war laws were obsolete and were not being used anymore. Supporters of repealing them argue that it would be irresponsible to leave them on the books, lest a future president abuse the laws by claiming they amount to standing authorization to undertake new acts of warfare in the Middle East without coming to lawmakers for permission. A senior State Department official at the hearing on Tuesday also addressed the far more complicated question of whether and how to tighten a much-stretched 2001 law that authorized war against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, and that now serves as the domestic legal basis for the open-ended “forever war” against terrorists around the world. read the complete article

05 Aug 2021

He is one of only 39 detainees left at Guantanamo. Once tortured, prisoner's case is a test of larger political realities at play.

Nearly two decades ago, in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, a man named Mohammed al-Qahtani was captured on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Saudi national, US authorities alleged, was an al-Qaeda operative who was supposed to have been the "20th hijacker" but he failed to board United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania. After his capture, al-Qahtani was imprisoned, tortured by the US government and -- when charges against him were dropped in 2008 -- left to languish behind bars with no end in sight. Today, he sits in an isolated cell at Camp 6 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he is one of only 39 detainees left in a facility that once housed approximately 680 so-called enemy combatants, a Department of Defense spokesperson confirmed to CNN. His attorneys have waged a protracted legal battle for al-Qahtani's repatriation to Saudi Arabia. His quest for freedom is forcing the Biden administration to consider whether to release the 45-year-old man whose attorneys say is severely mentally ill battling schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his torture or seek to hold him indefinitely without charging him with a crime. Al-Qahtani's case, experts say, stands as a litmus test for whether President Joe Biden is committed to his pledge to shutter the controversial facility -- an enduring symbol of the George W. Bush administration's global "war on terror" that persisted through the Barack Obama and Donald Trump presidencies. And, they say, the case has troubling implications for the humane treatment of other prisoners of war, including any US servicemembers who may be captured in future conflicts. read the complete article

05 Aug 2021

Utah Muslim sues his ex-employer, alleges a boss said he’d be ‘cast into outer darkness’

A Utah man is suing a Cedar City car dealership, accusing his former employer of discriminating against him and eventually firing him because of his Muslim faith. When Allan Goodson was hired as a mechanic at Bradshaw Chevrolet two years ago, he was a Christian. He converted to Islam a couple of months later, after which his supervisors denied his requests to take prayer breaks at work, the lawsuit says, and his colleagues began to harass him. Goodson is suing Bradshaw Chevrolet over alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act’s Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The federal lawsuit was filed Monday on Goodson’s behalf in U.S. District Court in Utah by a Salt Lake City law firm, as well as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C. According to the lawsuit, one of his supervisors refused his request to take breaks to pray, as well as a request to shift his work hours so he could attend an hourlong prayer meeting on Fridays. A supervisor later used a racist epithet to refer to a Middle Eastern friend of Goodson’s, allegedly saying, “The darker your skin color, the more evil you are,” according to the lawsuit. That manager also called Goodson a “terrorist” and said “that [Goodson] was wrong for not being a Mormon and that [he] would be cast into outer darkness” in the afterlife. When Goodson reported his colleagues’ alleged comments to another supervisor, the person said they were “just joking around.” read the complete article

05 Aug 2021

Air Force JAG officer sparks policy change by wearing a hijab

By her own admission, Capt. Maysaa Ouza is not a typical U.S. Air Force officer. The 29-year-old JAG officer (or Air Force attorney) grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, and she proudly wears a hijab. "When I first joined, I personally didn't see any other Muslim women who wore a hijab in uniform," she said. It was something Ouza had to fight for, too; a hijab, along with other religious dress in the Air Force, requires approval through a religious accommodation process. Back in 2018, before she was commissioned as a JAG officer, Ouza had to find legal guidance of her own. "I wanted to join because I wanted to protect and defend the freedoms of this country, yet ironically enough, it felt like my religious freedom was being stripped away," she said. "So I called my mentor, and with her advice, we solicited the representation of the ACLU and Hammoud & Dakhlallah Law Group." Because of those efforts, the Air Force not only granted Ouza a religious accommodation but changed its policy within a year. "They changed their policy to allow pre-accession of religious accommodation requests," she said. That meant airmen could start the process of applying for and getting religious accommodation right away. read the complete article

05 Aug 2021

Sikh temple under construction vandalized in New Hyde Park

A Nassau County Sikh gurdwara under construction in New Hyde Park was vandalized with graffiti declaring “Trump 2024 Make America Great Again!,” according to the Sikh Coalition and law enforcement. The graffiti was discovered Tuesday (Aug. 3) afternoon at Darbar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji New York and was reported to the Nassau County Police Department, said Rajanpreet Kaur, a spokesperson for the Sikh Coalition. Since then, the gurdwara retained the Sikh Coalition to assist in the case. The graffiti also included the phrases “I love Jesus! Only God!” and “this aint ya trap,” followed by an an ethnic slur against Arabs. Sikhs are commonly mistaken for Muslims because of their turbans and often experience anti-Muslim discrimination. read the complete article

05 Aug 2021

US lawmakers urge Biden to shut Guantanamo prison

Democratic lawmakers called on US President Joe Biden Thursday to immediately shut down the Guantanamo prison and either release or place on trial in federal courts the 39 remaining "war on terror" detainees there. With the United States approaching the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, 75 lawmakers signed a letter saying the US Navy-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was in disrepair, costly and a two-decade-old human rights embarrassment to the country. The prison has become a symbol of the excesses in the "war on terror" launched after the 2001 attacks. "The prison at Guantanamo has held nearly 800 prisoners throughout its history but currently holds only 39 men, many aging and increasingly infirm," they wrote. "The continued operation of the prison is a stain on our international reputation and undermines our ability to advocate for human rights and the rule of law," they said. The prison was activated in late 2001 when the United States combed the world for members and supporters of Al-Qaeda complicit in the September 11 and other attacks against US assets and facilities. But detaining and secretly rendering hundreds of men to Guantanamo, subjecting many to torture, and holding them for years without charges or due process heavily tainted Washington's demands for justice after the 9/11 attacks. read the complete article


05 Aug 2021

US lawmakers urge Biden to shut Guantanamo prison

Team outfits and fashion were not supposed to be a big talking point at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But protests over skimpy uniforms by two women’s teams in the months before the games have brought bikinis and high-cut leotards into the spotlight. Now these high-profile campaigns are leaving Olympians, fans and aspiring young athletes wondering: why are women expected to bare their bodies while men cover up? These campaigns reject sexist norms prevalent in sports and object to women’s uniforms being designed for the “male gaze”, leading to women being judged for their aesthetic appeal alongside their athletic talent. Undoubtedly, these women are taking a brave and laudable stance. Yet their voices carry an influence that women of colour and advocates for athletes in non-western countries are often denied. With much less fanfare and media attention, they have been lobbying for changes to kit for decades, often on behalf of Muslim athletes and/or people of colour. In table tennis, a rule change for full-length sportswear and head coverings – as opposed to shorts and T-shirts which leave arms and legs bare – was successfully lobbied to increase participation by Muslim athletes. This victory went largely unnoticed in the west, despite the fact that table tennis is a mainstay of the Olympics. Campaigns led by Muslim athletes led to similar rule changes in basketball and judo, where women were finally allowed to wear head coverings and long-sleeved tops underneath, as their faith required. In contrast, swimming has rejected proposals to adapt uniforms for Muslim and black athletes, including a ban on “burkinis” and prohibiting use of the “soul cap” swim hat designed for natural black hair. read the complete article

05 Aug 2021

Why Tucker Carlson went to Hungary

Orbán, who came to power in 2010 and quickly began to dismantle the framework of democracy in the country, has argued that he has been saving Hungary by turning it into an "illiberal democracy" (though to call Hungary a democracy these days would require stretching the word beyond any recognizable definition). The virulently anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim leader has built a wall on the country's border with Serbia, repelled migrants and refugees, and created policies to encourage Hungarian families to have more children -- policies Carlson has applauded on his show. With this trip, which he will cap with a speech to Orbán's far-right party, Carlson has become the face of right-wing support for the authoritarian regime. But praise for Orbán's illiberal authoritarianism is widespread on the right. In part that is because they share common enemies: liberal politicians, immigrants, and George Soros, the Hungarian-born philanthropist who has become the most prominent boogeyman of both Orbán and the US right. But it is also because many on the right see something to admire in the authoritarian leader, a model they hope to replicate in the US -- most importantly, how to sidestep democracy while still praising it. Hungary, which became a bellwether for the crisis of democracy in Europe and the US when Orbán took power a decade ago, has become the touchstone for illiberal nationalists in Europe and the US. And Orbán's regime has, in turn, reached out to the US right to gain legitimacy within US politics, something Carlson and others are happily providing. read the complete article

United Kingdom

05 Aug 2021

Intisar Abdul-Kader Believes ‘You Can’t Be What You Can’t See’

When Intisar Abdul-Kader says that she wants to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, she’s simply letting you know that it’s only a matter of time until she does, not a question of whether she actually will. After all, Abdul-Kader, who works as a patient and public involvement coordinator for the National Health Service in London, has already run four marathons and climbed 5,364 meters above sea level to Mount Everest’s base camp I; by comparison, Kilimanjaro stands at 5,895 meters. Abdul-Kader enjoys crossing big achievements off her bucket list, but she’s also on a mission to prove that as a Black, Muslim, hijab-wearing woman, she can do everything just as well as anyone else. “I’ve always believed that you can’t be what you can’t see,” she says. “My mom, my aunties, my grandmother, my great grandmother — they’ve been around me my whole life, and they’ve always worn a headscarf. I thought, They did, so I’ll do it too, so I started wearing one at the age of 14. Now, you see all of these hijab bans and regulations coming up in the European Union. Islamophobia is so high around us, and combine that with racism and sexism, I’m battling and fighting every day by going out there running in a headscarf, by practicing yoga in a headscarf, by climbing Mount Everest in a headscarf, by getting scouted by Nike [and] Glossier in a headscarf.” She wants to remind everyone: “All of these things that I’m doing, I hope they inspire a young person to be like, ‘She did it, so I can do it, as well.’ Every day that we do what we do is a fight, and I’m going to keep fighting.” read the complete article

New Zealand

05 Aug 2021

Muslim group slams ministry over lack of time given for hate speech feedback

A Muslim group says it's “disheartening” and “insensitive” that it was not given enough time to make a submission on proposed changes to hate speech legislation. The Government announced proposed changes to the Human Rights Act 1993 and a new criminal offence under the Crimes Act 1961 on June 25 and called for submissions until August 6. The changes would make it an offence to incite hatred on the basis of sex, martial status, religious belief, ethical belief (meaning the lack of a religious belief), colour, race, ethnic or national origins, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status, or sexual orientation. In a provisional submission, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) said a “dysfunctional process of engagement” meant there was “insufficient time to make any truly meaningful response” to the proposals. President Ibrar Sheikh said the Christchurch terror attack on March 15, 2019, was “a seminal lesson on the impact of unabated hate” but legislation would not alone protect against those who were “determined to subject others to misery through hate”. The proposed legislation was “a step towards ensuring the safety of all people” but the rushed process had made consultation difficult. A lack of specific wording was the most significant limitation for consultation, the group said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 Aug 2021 Edition


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