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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13 Dec 2021

Today in Islamophobia: A new report from a human rights advocacy group finds that China has imprisoned over 300 Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim intellectual and cultural elites, meanwhile in Canada, the discovery of a model mosque used for military training raises concerns amongst the Muslim community, “especially in light of white supremacist elements in the forces,” and in the United States, members of the GOP mocked a bill put forth by Rep. Ilhan Omar aimed at combatting Islamophobia worldwide. Our recommended read of the day is by the The Star’s Editorial Board on Quebec’s Bill 21, described as “unapologetically discriminatory against religious and, in some cases, racial minorities,” and why politicians need to speak out against the unjust law. This and more below:


13 Dec 2021

It’s high time for politicians to speak out against Quebec’s Bill 21 | Recommended Read

Quebec’s Bill 21, the law that bars people who wear “religious symbols” like kippas or hijabs from a range of jobs in public institutions, is an abomination. It’s the clearest example in recent years of a law that is frankly, unapologetically discriminatory against religious and, in some cases, racial minorities. Yet for the past several years, as the law was extensively debated, federal politicians pretty much just stared at their feet and did their best to avoid the issue. They didn’t want to offend Quebec voters who see the law as a defence of the principle of secularism, or laïcité, in state institutions like public schools. And, not too subtly, as a way to limit the encroachment of outside influences on the values and practices of the province’s traditional francophone majority. It’s been embarrassing to see how far those federal politicians were willing to go to ignore or excuse Bill 21’s violations of fundamental human rights. Some MPs are finally taking their courage in their hands and speaking out. While Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole stuck to his old line that the consequences of Bill 21 are “best left for Quebecers to decide,” there are brave voices in his caucus who aren’t willing to stifle themselves anymore in the name of avoiding giving offence to Quebec voters. It’s good to see the silence around the law breaking down, and the federal leaders finally being challenged on this issue from among their own party ranks. There are those who argue there’s nothing Ottawa can concretely do to oppose a provincial law (aside from joining some future Supreme Court challenge), but surely there is merit in simply speaking the truth out loud about Bill 21. This law is not only unjust — it’s unworthy of a province that prides itself on its progressive values. Those who oppose it, whether inside or outside Quebec, have every right to do so and the treatment of Fatemeh Anvari make it more urgent that they speak out. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

Canadian teacher reassigned under a controversial Quebec law for wearing a hijab

A teacher in the Canadian province of Quebec has been removed from the classroom because she refused to remove a head covering worn by some Muslim women. The controversial Quebec law bans religious apparel on certain public employees, including public school teachers. This is one of the first cases in which somebody actually lost their job since the law came into effect. Reporter Emma Jacobs joins us from Montreal. Fatemeh Anvari was a young teacher who was hired to teach third-grade language arts in October in Chelsea, Quebec, so that's just outside the Canadian capital of Ottawa. And in November, it seems like someone in the district realized that under a provincial law that was passed a couple of years ago, the school wasn't allowed to hire her as a teacher because she wears a hijab. And that's the headscarf worn by some Muslim women. So they moved her out of running her own classroom to an assistant role working with students on literacy and diversity. Bill 21 is a law in the province of Quebec that bars people working in certain government roles from wearing religious symbols. It applies to people in positions of authority - judges, police officers and, where it's been most felt in practice, public school teachers. The rationale used to defend this legislation is that it's about maintaining the secularism of the state, that it's not targeted against one religion. So someone wearing a large cross could be asked to remove it. But it's been much more of an issue for people who belong to religious minorities in Quebec - so Sikhs who wear turbans or Jews who wear religious head coverings and particularly women who wear hijab, many of whom are teachers. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

Trudeau open to fighting Quebec law that cost hijab-wearing teacher her job

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not "closed the door" on legal action against a Quebec law that cost a teacher her job last week because of her hijab, his office said on Friday. A Grade 3 teacher in Chelsea, Quebec was transferred to a different position under a Quebec law that forbids public sector employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, Wayne Daly, interim chair of the Western Quebec School Board, told Reuters. He has been inundated with phone calls and emails since, he said - the vast majority opposing the move. In a hand-drawn card posted online by human rights advocate Amira Elghawaby, a Grade 3 student decried the transfer as "not fair." "Nobody in Canada should ever lose their job because of what they wear or their religious beliefs," Trudeau's office said in an email. "We haven't closed the door on making representation in court in the future," it added. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

Quebec politicians divided, federal MPs outraged after teacher removed for wearing hijab

A Quebec elementary school teacher who was recently forced out of her teaching position for wearing a hijab has multiple federal members of Parliament speaking out and the province's political parties on opposing ends of the sympathy spectrum. Until now, many Liberal and Conservative federal politicians have shied away from taking a stance against Quebec's secularist law. But now, some say they can no longer stay quiet. "I cannot in good conscience keep silent on this anymore," said Ontario Conservative MP Kyle Seeback in a tweet Thursday. "This is an absolute disgrace." The law, known as Bill 21, was passed in June 2019 and prohibits some public servants, including teachers and other government employees deemed to be in positions of authority, from wearing religious symbols on the job. On Thursday, the Parti Québécois's critic on secularism, Pascal Bérubé, confirmed the party's support for the bill, calling it necessary. "The reason why this teacher doesn't have a job ... is because she doesn't respect the law," he said. "The law is for everyone ... She tried to make a statement wearing a hijab." Bérubé added the ousted teacher in Chelsea, Que., "has a choice to make: her job or religion." Recently, the removal of Fatemeh Anvari, a new Grade 3 teacher at Chelsea Elementary School, gained national attention after she was told by her school's principal that she had to move to a position outside the classroom because she wears a hijab. Anvari says the religious headscarf is part of her identity. "Yes, I am Muslim, but for me, [the hijab] holds other meanings of just my identity and how I've chosen to represent myself as a strong person in a world that may not want me to be myself," she told CBC on Thursday. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

Edmonton man accused in 'hate-motivated' attack on Muslim women remains at large

A man accused of attacking a Muslim family outside an Edmonton shopping mall last year is still at large months after missing a court appearance. Richard Bradley Stevens, 42, remains the subject of an arrest warrant after he failed to attend trial in August , police confirmed this week. Stevens faces two counts of assault and a count of mischief for allegedly attacking a mother and daughter outside Southgate Centre mall on Dec. 8, 2020. The incident was the first in a string of allegedly “hate-motivated” assaults on Muslim women that took place in the Edmonton area in the past year. In a news release, Edmonton city police said Stevens approached the women — who are Black and wear hijabs — as they sat in their vehicle in the mall parking lot, 5015 111 Street. He allegedly began to yell racially motivated obscenities, then broke the passenger side window with his fist. When the woman in the passenger seat fled, Stevens allegedly pushed her to the ground. The second woman was reportedly knocked down when she tried to help her family member. Eventually, bystanders intervened and stopped the attack. Police arrived and arrested Stevens at the scene. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

Fake mosque on Canadian Forces base in Alberta raises concerns for Muslim community

As Mahmoud Mourra was out hunting on the prairie in southern Alberta, he came across a familiar sight in an unfamiliar location: the dome of a mosque, replete with minaret and crescent symbol. Only the mosque was not real. It was part of a training facility at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield, about 250 kilometres southeast of Calgary. Canadian Forces officials say such training facilities need to be as real as possible to simulate the types of environments that soldiers might see on tour. But for Mourra, who has made a life in Canada since emigrating from Lebanon decades ago, seeing the structure felt like a betrayal. "It is a symbol not for terrorists, it is symbol for Muslims and I think that's what is the problem," he said. "I do believe there's a systematic problem because this is a tip of the iceberg to see a field like this in existence." Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said video of the mosque taken by Mourra that began circulating online has raised concerns in the Muslim community, especially in light of white supremacist elements in the forces. "It's very concerning to think about such a mosque and its presence on any armed forces base," he said. "We understand this was a British installation, but to our understanding, similar constructions and façades of this nature have been put up in other bases historically in Canada." A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said the British installation is the only one the department is immediately aware of. CFB Suffield base commander Lt.-Col. Stephen Burke said the structure is part of a simulated village built in 2006 used exclusively by British forces. It is in a "dry" training area — meaning no live ammunition is used in the vicinity. read the complete article

United States

13 Dec 2021

The GOP has an Islamophobia problem

More than 400 congressional staff members have called on House leaders to "categorically reject the incendiary rhetoric” coming from inside the Republican party. It comes after last month's incendiary remarks by GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert. Our members of congress shouldn't have to feel unsafe because of their religion. NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin spoke with James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, about how to stop this reprehensible behavior. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

House Republicans mocked Ilhan Omar's bill to establish an envoy to combat Islamophobia worldwide

In the wake of Rep. Lauren Boebert's Islamophobic comments suggesting that Rep. Ilhan Omar was a suicide bomber, House Republicans spent much of a Thursday hearing mocking a bill put forth by the Muslim Minnesota congresswoman to combat Islamophobia worldwide. "I have many Pennsylvania Dutch that feel that they're not treated properly," said Rep. Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania, sarcastically calling for their inclusion in Omar's anti-Islamophobia bill. "How about those that are gay, you know, the LGBTQ community? That should be part of this bill." "Let's keep going, you know, there are people that are overweight, and there are skinny kids that get picked on," Meuser added. "Why aren't they included in this as well?" Rep. Omar's bill, which she introduced in late October alongside Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, would require the State Department to establish a special envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia and is modeled after a similar position created in 2004 to combat anti-Semitism. The bill ultimately passed the House Foreign Relations Committee on Friday, with every Democrat voting in favor and every Republican opposed, and is expected to head to a full House vote on Tuesday. Democratic leadership is reportedly considering a vote on the bill as way to respond to the Boebert controversy, even as progressive lawmakers have introduced a resolution to strip Boebert of her committees. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

Ilhan Omar named 'American Muslim Public Servant of 2021' by CAIR

The Council on American-Islamic Relations recognized U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., as its “American Muslim Public Servant of 2021“ during the organization’s annual banquet on Saturday (Dec. 4). The virtual event was attended by a number of Muslim activists and three members of Congress. In her acceptance speech, Omar acknowledged it had been a “very difficult week” as the political feud between her and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., continued to draw headlines after a video clip featuring Boebert making disparaging remarks about Omar was posted Nov. 25 on Twitter. “For far too long, rhetoric like Lauren Boebert’s has been a routine part of our political discourse both in the United States and around the world,” Omar said during her acceptance speech at the CAIR banquet. The instance with Boebert, Omar said, is one of many reasons she is pushing for the creation of a global envoy for Islamophobia. Omar promised in her remarks that her bill on the matter would soon go before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In October, Omar, along with her colleague Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., introduced the Combating International Islamophobia Act, which would require the State Department to choose a special envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia across the globe, similar to the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, established in 2004. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

Freed after 14 years in prison without charges, Guantánamo torture victim speaks out

When the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the future of the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay this week, no Biden administration witnesses showed up — a glaring absence that underscored the paralysis among White House aides over how to achieve their publicly stated goal of shutting down the facility. But Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who spent almost 14 years at Guantánamo and says he was brutally beaten and threatened with execution without ever being charged with a crime, has some advice for his onetime captors: Come clean about what was done to the detainees there, and transfer those accused of committing the Sept. 11 attacks to the United States so they can be openly tried in a court of law. “They should take anyone who is alleged of those heinous crimes to court in America and let them face the music,” Slahi, 50, now a free man, said during an interview for the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast. “How can you be the leader of the free world if you don’t respect the rule of law?” Slahi’s story serves as a reminder that when Martin Luther King Jr. said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” the bending can take an excruciatingly long time. It is a story that is powerfully told in “The Mauritanian,” a movie released earlier this year starring Jodie Foster as Slahi’s defense lawyer who helped secure his release after years of legal battles. With so many suspicious links, Pentagon interrogators were determined to break him. He was, he says, beaten mercilessly and deprived of sleep for days at a time. Female interrogators — at times wearing masks — disrobed him. They taunted, humiliated, and, he said, sexually assaulted him. “Still to this day, I have a lot of issues and problems when people touch me, you know, when people close to me touch me, I don’t want them to get close to me,” he said. There was yet more: He was deprived of sleep for days at a time, bombarded with loud rock music, and, at one point, taken on a boat ride, force-fed seawater and threatened with execution. But what finally broke him was another ploy: His chief interrogator, an ex-Chicago cop with a checkered record of abusing prisoners, told him they were going to arrest his mother and bring her to Guantánamo. “When I was tortured, I wanted only to please my interrogator,” said Slahi. “If they told me I was on Mars, I will tell them I was on Mars. If they told me, ‘You were the hijackers and you died on one of the planes,’ I would tell them I died on the plane.” read the complete article


13 Dec 2021

Rohingya lawsuit against Facebook a 'wake-up call' for social media

A landmark lawsuit by Rohingya refugees against Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, is a "wake-up call" for social media firms and a test case for courts to limit their immunity, human rights and legal experts said. The $150 billion class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that Facebook's failure to police content and its platform's design contributed to violence against the Rohingya community. "The Rohingya lost everything. But in Myanmar, there is no law for the Rohingya," said Nay San Lwin, co-founder of advocacy group Free Rohingya Coalition, who has faced abuse on Facebook. "Facebook profited from our suffering. The survivors have no option other than a lawsuit against Facebook. It will be an injustice if Rohingya survivors are not compensated for their losses," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. A day after the lawsuit was filed, Meta said it would ban several accounts linked to the Myanmar military, and said on Wednesday it had built a new artificial intelligence system that can adapt more easily to take action on new or evolving types of harmful content faster. It was a sign that the tech giant was rattled, said Debbie Stothard, founder of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN), an advocacy group. "The timing of these announcements shows the lawsuit is a wake-up call. The lawsuit itself is quite a bold move, but the Rohingya clearly felt there were sufficient grounds," she said. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

Mass surveillance and the creation of a Muslim suspect

We often associate the so-called War on Terror with invasions, bombings, renditions, and torture. But it was also a war for information. The last two decades have been marked by a deep and sophisticated strategy of surveillance in western nations that has often stood in stark contrast to fundamental rights and freedoms. Soon after 9/11, mass surveillance based on crudely defined categories of what constitutes a threat scooped up entire communities. Asim Qureshi, research director for the UK-based advocacy group, CAGE, works with British Muslims on the receiving end of state scrutiny. "The war on terror instrumentalized a fear of Muslims and of Islam in order for states to centralize increased powers for themselves, powers of surveillance, profiling, or discrimination," Qureshi said. Long-established privacy protections were upended, allowing government agencies in the U.S., for example, to partner with telecom giants and social media platforms to capture unprecedented amounts of data. Hina Shamsi is the director of the ACLU's National Security Project and says American citizens, especially Muslims, are still struggling with mass surveillance. She says that despite the fact many of the earlier programs like the NYPD's mass surveillance of Muslim communities of the Bush-era, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) — effectively, a "Muslim ban" — were disbanded. The framing of those programs still informs the ways in which Muslim Americans are regarded today. "When you think about war as a legal matter, countries of the world have a set of international laws which are supposed to govern exceptional situations," said Shamsi. She says they govern all kinds of safeguards for individual rights and freedoms that citizens take for granted in non-war contexts. Shamsi adds that war context was applied to the domestic sphere. There was a "rhetorical shift" which, ultimately, resulted in a "cynical fear mongering to enforce and put in place policies and practices that really tore apart people's lives and had a really harmful impact on people's civil rights and civil liberties at home." read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

U.S. bans investment in Chinese surveillance company SenseTime, saying it supports repression of Uyghur minority population

The Biden administration on Friday banned U.S. investment in a Chinese company that it said supports China’s use of repressive surveillance technology, calling the move part of a broad effort to unite democracies against authoritarian states. The sanction adds the facial recognition company SenseTime to a list of 59 Chinese companies in which U.S. citizens and entities are prohibited from investing. The Biden administration widened that list this summer to include firms that it said support China’s military and state surveillance, building on a Trump administration effort. The Treasury Department, which oversees the investment prohibition list, said SenseTime “has developed facial recognition programs that can determine a target’s ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying ethnic Uyghurs,” a persecuted Muslim minority population in China. It added that China has used digital surveillance technology to track Uyghurs’ movements and activities and to “create a police state in the Xinjiang region.” read the complete article


13 Dec 2021

The Guardian view on French Gaullists: keeping the far right at bay

The extent to which that continues to be the case may depend on the candidate for the Gaullist Républicains party, Valérie Pécresse, who recently won her party’s primary. Ms Pécresse, who would be France’s first female president were she to defeat Mr Macron, hails from the moderate, centrist wing of her party and has enjoyed a notable bounce in the polls since her victory. In a second-round runoff with the president, predicted one survey of opinion, she would score a narrow win. But to reach the second round Ms Pécresse will need to defeat both Ms Le Pen and Mr Zemmour, in what promises to be a tight three-way race on the right. In an effort to attract support away from both, and prevent defections from the more conservative wing of her own party, she has promised controversial constitutional reform to limit immigration and a referendum “on internal security and against Islamism”. In her victory speech she said she felt the “anger” of voters who felt culturally threatened by migration. Ms Pécresse’s closest rival in the primary race, Éric Ciotti, who has warned of a coming “war of civilisations” and called for a French “Guantánamo” for terror suspects, has been promised a central role in her campaign. The electoral maths – and Mr Macron’s proven ability to win support from centrist former Républicains voters – means that Ms Pécresse may feel obliged to tack in this direction, in what is becoming a race to the bottom on xenophobic policies. But it is vital that France’s traditional centre-right party remains within the political mainstream, and does not succumb to what has been described as the “Zemmourisation” of French political debate. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

France's Zemmour calls for defence of Armenia, a ‘Christian’ nation in ‘Islamic ocean’

Eric Zemmour, far-right candidate for the 2022 French presidential election, called on Sunday to better defend Armenia, a "Christian" nation in the middle of "an Islamic ocean". During a visit to the monastery of Khor Virap, his first overseas trip as a candidate, Zemmour invoked what he described as a historical clash between Christianity and Islam. “It is the great confrontation between Christianity and Islam which is reborn today,” he said. “We see it here with a Christian nation, which intends to remain so, in the middle of an Islamic ocean.” Zemmour delivered the remarks following a Christian mass at the historic monastery located near the border with Turkey. The 63-year-old presidential candidate for the Reconquete party has been described by some as "France's Trump" because of his hostile rhetoric on migration and Islam. read the complete article


13 Dec 2021

‘This is our voice’: The Uyghur traditions being erased by China’s cultural crackdown

On Thursday, the Uyghur Tribunal delivered its damning judgment on the human rights abuses allegedly committed by the Chinese state in Xinjiang. Over the past months this London-based people’s tribunal has heard testimony from international scholars as well as survivors of Chinese detention and “re-education camps”. While the ruling has no legal standing, the aim is to highlight the treatment of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslims in north-west China. Rachel Harris, a British ethnomusicologist and Uyghur specialist, has described the state’s strategy as an attempt “to hollow out a whole culture and terrorise a whole people”. Much has been written about the destruction of the Uyghur heritage: of the mosques and shrines, old city centres and traditional burial grounds. In order to understand what intangible heritage is being lost – what is being quite literally silenced – amid that bulldozing, I interviewed 10 specialists, including both Uyghurs in exile and international scholars with extensive experience on the ground. In Muslim soundscapes the world over, the adhan is the most salient of notes. Calls to prayer, though, have long been absent from urban Uyghur life and now, even private devotion has reportedly been muted. Through a policy called “becoming family”, government officials are sent to stay in Uyghur homes so as to root out anything deemed illegal (owning Uyghur-language books, wearing traditional clothing). Academics and pop culture figures have been disappeared en masse, among the estimated 1.5 million people detained in “re-education” camps, with children as young as one separated from parents and put in Mandarin-language state orphanages. Schools have been banned from teaching Uyghur and no Uyghur-language books have reportedly been published in China since 2017. “People used to bury their books,” the American photographer Lisa Ross tells me, “but now they’re afraid to even do that.” In a bid to cut off an indigenous culture at the root, the Uyghurs language, sound and music are being excised from the public and private spheres. read the complete article

13 Dec 2021

China Has Locked up Over 300 Uyghur Intellectuals in Detention Camps: Report

The Chinese regime has detained hundreds of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim intellectual and cultural elites in its sprawling network of detention camps in China's northwestern Xinjiang region, a report has found. A report titled "The Disappearance of Uyghur Intellectual and Cultural Elites: A New Form of Eliticide" published on December 8 by the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a human rights advocacy group based in Washington D.C, found at least 312 intellectual and cultural elites were currently being held in some form of detention in the region. These include scholars, professors, poets, musicians, doctors and writers. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 13 Dec 2021 Edition


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