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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15 Dec 2021

Today in Islamophobia: The head of the Ohio chapter of CAIR, the largest U.S. Muslim civil rights group, has been fired for allegedly leaking confidential information to an anti-Muslim hate group, meanwhile the Washington Post has reviewed “confidential” documents that show Huawei make have close links to China’s state surveillance programs, and in Europe, an overview of the continent reveals a broad campaign to discriminate against Muslim women who wear the hijab. Our recommended read of the day is by Jonathan Weisman for the New York Times on the GOP’s anti-Muslim rhetoric targeting Rep. Ilhan Omar as the House passes Rep. Omar’s bill to address Islamophobia around the globe. This and more below:

United States

15 Dec 2021

Muslim Lawmaker Comes Under Fire in House Debate on ‘Islamophobia’ | Recommended Read

A House effort to pass a bill to combat anti-Muslim bigotry became enmeshed in charges of exactly that prejudice when a right-wing Republican from Pennsylvania accused the bill’s co-sponsor, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, of antisemitism and harboring terrorist sympathies. Representative Scott Perry, the incoming leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, assailed the measure, which would create a new special envoy position in the State Department to combat “Islamophobia and Islamophobic incitement.” But his harshest words were aimed at Ms. Omar, one of two Muslim women in the House and a co-author of the measure. “American taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay terrorist organizations, organizations that the maker of this bill is affiliated with, like the one that’s an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror finance case in the United States of America’s history,” Mr. Perry said. The attack was a convoluted reference to a case more than a decade ago against the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity that in 2008 was convicted of funding Islamic militant groups. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a human rights group, was one of nearly 250 organizations and individuals named as co-conspirators. The federal government at the time said it had included the organizations on the list to extract evidence for the trial, but the district court and a federal appeals court ruled that making the list public was a mistake. A decade later, the council, which is modeled on the Anti-Defamation League, honored Ms. Omar, who gave a speech to its California chapter. None of that information was imparted by Mr. Perry. Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan and an ally of Ms. Omar, moved immediately to strike Mr. Perry’s words from the official record of the debate, grinding the House floor to a halt. Ultimately, Mr. Perry was barred from speaking again Tuesday night. The bill passed late Tuesday night along party lines, 219 to 212. House Republican leaders denounced the bill, saying it would create what they called a redundant office within the State Department, and because “Islamophobia” was not clearly defined, they raised the prospect that such a new office could be used to police Israel’s efforts to counter Islamist organizations like Hamas. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

CAIR-Ohio director fired for allegedly leaking information to anti-Muslim hate group

The head of the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nationwide Muslim civil rights organization, has been fired for allegedly leaking confidential information to an anti-Muslim hate group. For several years, Romin Iqbal, the executive and legal director of CAIR-Ohio, has been recording network meetings and sharing information regarding CAIR’s national advocacy work with a known anti-Muslim hate group, according to a Tuesday press release from the organization’s Ohio chapter. The findings stemmed from an investigation conducted by a third-party forensic expert retained by CAIR’s national headquarters. Iqbal admitted to these ethical violations after being confronted by evidence of his misconduct, the press release said. Investigators concluded that no other employee at CAIR was aiding Iqbal. After CAIR-Ohio was informed of the investigation outcome last week, the team at the chapter’s Columbus office, located in Hilliard, said it found suspicious purchases from ammunition and gun retailers in recent weeks using an organization credit card at Iqbal’s disposal. On Monday, staff members said they also discovered a suspicious package mailed to the local office containing parts for an AR-15 rifle. They said they have reported the incidents to the police. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

Guantanamo in 2021: Are We a Nation of Laws or a Nation of Fears?

Last week, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) held a much-awaited hearing titled “Closing Guantanamo: Ending 20 Years of Injustice.” It was hardly the first such hearing or congressional discussion of closing the island prison. As Durbin had noted in 2013, “I have spoken on the Senate floor more than 65 times about the need to close this prison.” Eight years and many hearings on closure later, the issue has now once again been put before Congress. And yet as much as this was about Gitmo closure, the underlying debate has taken on a new sense of urgency in today’s political climate. Guantanamo now houses 39 prisoners, consisting of two groups of detainees: 12 whose cases come under the jurisdiction of military commissions (ten of whom still await trial; two have been convicted); and 27 who are in indefinite detention, never having been charged. At last Tuesday’s hearing, six witnesses addressed the Judiciary Committee—four in favor of closure, two decidedly against. Those who spoke in favor of closure repeated the arguments about the damage the prison’s continued presence causes. Witnesses and committee members focused on the issues of cost—more than $13 million per prisoner per year—and the need for closure for the families of the victims of 9/11. A centerpiece of the discussion was the rank failure of the military commissions. Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, who is stepping down as the chief defense counsel for military commissions after six years, spoke of the “20 years of injustice” as a “a failed experiment.” To back up his claim, he cited the hard-to-contest paralysis of all the military’s commissions, not just at Guantanamo, which have failed to function. In 15 years, as Baker summed it up, there have been just eight total convictions, four of which have been overturned, three still on appeal, leaving only one conviction still standing. Meanwhile, Baker noted that in the case of the four trials pending, including the 9/11 trial, no trial start date had been set. (Nor, for that matter, is one expected anytime soon.) Colleen Kelly, whose brother was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, and who co-founded September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, asked the committee for “a resolution to the 9/11 cases that provides justice for the deaths of our family members, answers to our questions, accountability for unlawful acts, and a path to closing Guantanamo.” Those speaking out against closure avoided the focus on justice; they saw survival of the nation in terms of physical safety, not values and principles. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

Waterboarded Prisoner Has Drowning Nightmares Two Decades Later, Doctor Testifies

A Saudi defendant in the destroyer Cole bombing case who was subjected to waterboarding and a mock execution by the C.I.A. in 2002 still has nightmares of drowning, sleeps with a light on in his cell and can shower only in a trickle of water, a doctor who specializes in treating torture victims testified on Tuesday. When he has been driven to court in a standard windowless detainee transport van, the defendant, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 56, also gets nauseated and vomits from flashbacks to a period when agents confined him nude and shivering inside a chilled, cramped box, part of the “enhanced interrogation” program at the agency’s secret sites. Defense lawyers elicited the testimony from Dr. Sondra S. Crosby, a Boston internist who has been evaluating and treating torture victims since the 1990s. Mr. Nashiri is accused of being the mastermind of the suicide bombing of the ship off Aden, Yemen, in October 2000 that killed 17 U.S. sailors. His lawyers are seeking a court order to let him spend the night before a hearing at a specially equipped holding cell at the court, as a disabled prisoner in another case has done. The trip from prison to court, they argue, is traumatic and interferes with his ability to concentrate on the death-penalty proceedings and cooperate with his defense team of Navy and civilian lawyers. The testimony highlighted how Guantánamo Bay, a Pentagon operation that turns 20 on Jan. 11, still has no formal program for providing care to torture victims. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

How Guantanamo's 'forever prisoner' has been held for 20 years

ABC News' Mireya Villarreal speaks with acclaimed director Alex Gibney about his new HBO documentary on the 20-year detention and alleged torture of Guantanamo captive Abu Zubaydah. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

US: Report finds lack of transparency in Washington's counterterrorism operations

The United States has often failed to accurately describe its counterterrorism operations around the world, according to a new report from Brown University's Costs of War Project, in many cases relying on the wide-ranging 2001 Authorisation for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to formally justify its actions. The report, published on Tuesday and using data from the Congressional Research Service, found that out of the 85 countries where the US undertook what it labelled as “counterterrorism” operations, it cited the 2001 AUMF for 22 of those countries. However, even within those countries, there were an "unknown" number of US operations, revealing a lack of transparency over how the AUMF was used. The AUMF was passed just a week after 11 September 2001, and gave Bush the authority to wage war and use "appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines" were involved in the attacks. The open-ended and broad nature of the AUMF has allowed successive presidents to wage war against a number of groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, al-Shabab, and the Islamic State (IS). The 2001 AUMF was also used by the Obama administration to kill former al-Qaeda propagandist and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011. It has been applied in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The report found that the US often used vague language to describe the locations of its counterterrorism operations, and when citing the 2001 AUMF, it referenced regions, not countries, where it was operating. It reported there was evidence that the US conducted air strikes in Mali and Tunisia, but Washington did not report them to Congress or reference the military authorisation. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

Air Force captains bond over religion, even though they practice different ones

In 2018, Captain Maysaa Ouza, a lawyer who wanted to join the Air Force, was conflicted. As a Muslim American, she wears a hijab, a religious veil that covers her hair. And while religious accommodations are made once you officially join the Air Force, she didn't know if she could keep her hijab on for training. Captain Joe Hochheiser knows about religious accommodations. He wear a yarmulke, a cap traditionally worn by some Jewish men. Hochheiser, also a laywer, had recently joined the Air Force when his boss brought up Ouza. "He's like, 'I just met a great candidate.' And I said, 'Okay. Well, tell me about her,'" Hochheiser told CBS News. "He's like, 'You can actually help her. She really wants to join, but she wears a hijab. You wear a yarmulke. Can you help her process her religious accommodation?'" Through his own experience, Hochheiser knew Jewish men had paved the way before him and had kept their yarmulke, or kippah, on for training. He thought Ouza would be fine. "I did not realize that her process took a little bit longer," Hochheiser said. Ouza wanted pre-approval to wear her hijab, and didn't know what she'd do without it. "I would essentially be forced to choose between representing my faith or serving my country," she told CBS News. "And I felt conflicted because I identify as a Muslim American and I wanted nothing more than to serve my country." She not only received religious accommodation for training, she sought to get the Air Force's to change the policy. And they did – allowing others to now get pre-approval for religious accommodations before they joined training. read the complete article


15 Dec 2021

House passes bill targeting China over Uyghur treatment after bipartisan deal

The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would punish China for its treatment of the country's Uyghur population following a bicameral agreement on the legislation. The measure passed by voice vote, indicating unanimous support. The legislation now heads to the Senate, which is expected to send the bill to the White House for President Joe Biden's signature. The House voted 428-1 last week to pass a version of the bill written by Jim McGovern, D-Mass. The Senate unanimously passed a related measure, sponsored by Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in July. McGovern's bill would ban imports produced by ethnic Muslims in internment camps in northwest China, while Rubio's would clamp down on goods manufactured under forced labor conditions in Xinjiang. The compromise bill would instruct the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force to submit a notice to the Federal Register for public comment about how to best ensure that "goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor" in China by Uyghurs and members of other persecuted groups are not imported into the U.S., according to the text of the bill obtained by NBC. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

The real insult to the Chinese people is to condone the Uyghur genocide committed in their name

Xinjiang is now the world’s largest open prison, policed with the most intrusive methods of surveillance and control ever devised. Mosques and cemeteries have been desecrated and demolished; signs of faith prohibited and punished. Children are routinely taken from their homes, treated as orphans, and indoctrinated in special schools. There is more than one way to destroy an entire people. You can murder them one by one. Or you can crush their culture, erase their rituals, beliefs and symbols, break their will, take away their reproductive rights and brainwash those who survive until they have forgotten who they were and where they came from. The UK has a solemn obligation under the 1948 Genocide Convention to protect victims of genocide. But faced with inhumanity on a scale not seen in our lifetimes, our government has been resolute only in its determination to stick its fingers in its ears and keep whistling. It refuses to discuss the subject of genocide, arguing cynically that only the courts can decide it. It knows China would veto any recourse to the International Court of Justice – and that other international mechanisms are equally inaccessible. But it blocks all attempts to ask UK courts for the preliminary ruling they could provide. One can only speculate about why our government should be willing to pay such a high price in complicity. But our prime minister declares himself a “fervent sinophile”. His chancellor wants a relationship with China that is “mature and balanced” in accordance with “the potential of a fast growing financial services market”. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

Freedom in the veil

The latest controversy over the hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women, erupted at the end of October. Ironically, the trigger was an anti-discrimination campaign launched by the Council of Europe. The video caused an uproar in France, where government spokesman Gabriel Attal was quoted by the Financial Times as saying that “one shouldn’t confuse religious freedom with the de facto promotion of a religious symbol.” Attal called wearing the hijab an “identitarian” position “contrary to the freedom of conscience that France supports.” France is not the only European country that restricts the hijab. The inflow of Muslim immigrants to Europe and the threat of violent Islamist groups have made Muslim minorities a target of hostility and discrimination, and the hijab has become a visual symbol of these tensions. Of the 27 EU member states and the United Kingdom, nine have some legal restriction on veiling; there have been legislative proposals to limit the practice in five more. In countries with no national restrictions, some regions have decided independently to ban face coverings. There are only six EU countries – Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Portugal, and Romania – where there has been no public debate so far on restricting the veil. The supporters of restrictive measures represent a diverse range of perspectives. Many liberal politicians, staunch believers in the secular state, regard religion as a private affair to be kept out of sight. Some feminists view the headscarf as a symbol of patriarchal or religious oppression of women. But the most vociferous backers of bans have been populist, right-wing politicians who find it expedient to hide their xenophobia behind arguments that have broader ideological appeal. Amid all the grandstanding, little heed is paid to the perspectives of Muslim women. Sociologists long have predicted that modernisation would bring about a decline in religiosity and thus in the use of religious symbols such as the hijab. This prediction has been borne out in both Christian and Muslim societies, and as modernisation increases, the frequency of veiling generally decreases. But there is a crucial nuance in the interaction between prior levels of religiosity and modernisation. For example, among highly religious Muslim women, the probability of wearing the hijab increases with women’s participation in modern social life, particularly if they are young, educated, and single. This seems true not only in predominantly Muslim countries, but also where Muslims are a minority, as in Belgium. Veiling seems to be not just an expression of religiosity, but also a strategic decision. Religious women seem to wear the hijab to reconcile their life outside the home with the social norms of their community. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

Facebook put profit before Rohingya lives. Now it must pay its dues

In 1977, the Myanmar military launched a national drive to register citizens and drive out people they deemed to be “foreigners”. Since then, more than 2.5 million Rohingya people have fled the country, with 740,000 fleeing to Bangladesh in the displacement crisis of 2017 alone. It is nearly a decade since the Myanmar regime and its supporters were first denounced by the international community for carrying out a “campaign of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya people. Legal initiatives on behalf of Rohingya survivors issued this week allege that the campaign of clearances and genocide perpetrated on the Rohingya people was facilitated by a Goliath, Facebook. “Facebook turned away while a genocide was being perpetrated,” claims Tun Khin, the president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK. “Putting profit before the human rights of the Rohingya people, permitting the spread of hateful anti-Rohingya propaganda which directly led to unspeakable violence.” We believe Facebook is guilty of many things. Facebook was greedy: it sought to monopolise the Myanmar market by providing access to its platform without incurring data charges. This meant that, for many in Myanmar, Facebook was the internet. The design of Facebook’s algorithm promoted hateful and divisive content: it handed the Myanmar military and its extremist supporters the perfect tool for distributing and amplifying hate speech and for inciting violence against the Rohingya people. We believe Facebook was negligent: it failed in its policy and in its practice to invest sufficiently in content moderators who spoke Burmese or Rohingya, or local factcheckers with an understanding of the political situation in Myanmar. Moreover, it allowed vast numbers of posts inciting violence or containing hate speech to be published, and permitted many accounts that posted such material to stay online. read the complete article

15 Dec 2021

The Guardian view on China’s Winter Olympics: remember the Uyghurs

Last week, the UK and Canada joined the US and Australia in announcing a diplomatic boycott, and New Zealand has said it will not send anyone of ministerial level – to the wrath of China, which warned that countries will “pay a price” for the decision. (France will participate as usual, with Emmanuel Macron describing the boycott as “insignificant”, and much of Europe remains undecided). Concern for tennis champion and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai, since she alleged that a former senior leader had coerced her into sex, have magnified attention to China’s human rights record – and to the International Olympic Committee’s keenness to reassure the world that there is nothing to worry about, a repeated pattern. But the primary issue is the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, up to a million of whom have been held in camps. Last week, an unofficial British-based inquiry’s report described the torture and rape of detainees and concluded that the treatment of Uyghurs constitutes genocide – the deliberate attempt to destroy all or part of the ethnic group. The inquiry’s chair, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, stressed that there was no evidence of mass killing, with his finding based instead on the suppression of births, including through forced birth control, sterilisation, hysterectomies and abortions; he argued that the “vast apparatus of state repression could not exist if a plan was not authorised at the highest levels.” read the complete article


15 Dec 2021

Documents link Huawei to China's surveillance programs

The Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has long brushed off questions about its role in China’s state surveillance, saying it just sells general-purpose networking gear. A review by The Washington Post of more than 100 Huawei PowerPoint presentations, many marked “confidential,” suggests that the company has had a broader role in tracking China’s populace than it has acknowledged. These marketing presentations, posted to a public-facing Huawei website before the company removed them late last year, show Huawei pitching how its technologies can help government authorities identify individuals by voice, monitor political individuals of interest, manage ideological reeducation and labor schedules for prisoners, and help retailers track shoppers using facial recognition. The divergence between Huawei’s public disavowals that it doesn’t know how its technology is used by customers, and the detailed accounts of surveillance operations on slides carrying the company’s watermark, taps into long-standing concerns about lack of transparency at the world’s largest vendor of telecommunications gear. This marketing presentation appears to show that Huawei helped design some technical underpinnings for China’s controversial reeducation and labor programs for detainees. These programs raised international alarm starting in 2017, because of a sweeping drive against Uyghurs. The slides also detail how Huawei equipment was used in China’s far west Xinjiang region. The Xinjiang government’s sweeping campaign against Uyghurs has drawn international denunciation, and Huawei has faced questions for years about whether its equipment was used in the crackdown. A Huawei executive resigned in response to a Washington Post report in 2020 about a “Uyghur alarm” the company tested that could send an alert to police when it identified a member of the ethnic minority native to the region. Xinjiang surveillance projects are highlighted in several of the presentations, with the Huawei logo on each slide, though the slides do not mention the Uyghur ethnic minority. In one titled “One Person One File Solution High-Level Report,” the company’s technology is touted as having helped public security in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, capture a number of criminal suspects. read the complete article


15 Dec 2021

Community members rally in Chelsea in support of hijab-wearing teacher and against Bill 21

Chelsea residents gather in solidarity with hijab-wearing teacher and to protest against Quebec's secularism law known as Bill 21. Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. More than 100 people attended a rally in Chelsea, Que., on Tuesday, more than one week after a teacher who wears a hijab was removed from her Grade 3 classroom over Bill 21. The Western Quebec School Board informed parents on Dec. 3 that the teacher was being reassigned due to the province’s secularism law that prevents certain public sector workers from wearing religious symbols while working. Last week, Quebec Premier François Legault said the teacher should have never been hired in the first place. On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while he wouldn’t challenge the law in court — at least not now — he said he deeply disagrees with it. Parents, students and community members in Chelsea aren’t backing down. They held a protest at noon outside the offices of Robert Bussière, the MNA responsible for Gatineau. Amanda De Grace, says it’s important to keep the issue at the forefront. “A lot of students and their parents came out today to this event, and the conversations are going to continue in our community as we come together, rally together and push for a change,” she said. Rab says she’s been against what Bill 21 stands for since it was passed into law. “The law discriminates whether it was meant to discriminate or not,” she said. “If some people can’t do certain jobs, then that’s discrimination. And in our society, discrimination is wrong.” read the complete article


15 Dec 2021

French government seeks new initiative targeting Islam

France's right-wing Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has announced that he will organise a "forum of Islam in France" early next year in a bid to exert what some see as influence over how Muslims practice their faith. The French government will select between 80-100 individuals who it puts forth as religious leaders, imams and members of civil society, but more crucially, buy into the state's narrative that Muslims and Islam have a problem in the country. In 2020 The French President Emmanuel Macron pressured the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) to sign up to a charter of "Republican values" in a move that singled out Europe's largest Muslim population of 5.4 million. At the beginning of this year, Macron's government pushed for a "Charter of Imams," a set of principles that would define an Islam of France. At the beginning of this year, Macron's government pushed for a "Charter of Imams," a set of principles that would define an Islam of France. Both initiatives failed as they have mainly been perceived as lacking legitimacy. The latest initiative, set to be held in February of next year, recognises that failure and Macron's government is now seeking a new approach. read the complete article

United Kingdom

15 Dec 2021

Plans for cemetery with 35,000 burial plots divide Lancashire town

People rarely move to Oswaldtwistle, locals say. The 11,000 residents of the town outside Blackburn are mostly descendants of miners and textile workers, with some saying the last significant conflict was the 19th-century power-loom riots. But a dispute over a cemetery is now causing division. The Blackburn billionaires Mohsin and Zuber Issa – the new owners of Asda – have proposed building a cemetery with up to 35,000 burial plots alongside a Muslim funeral parlour and prayer rooms to allow traditional Muslim burial rites on the site. The cemetery would “meet the needs of all communities that wish to be buried at the site and will accommodate people from all faiths and backgrounds”, according to the Issa Foundation. Currently, Muslims in the area have to wash and shroud the body at a mosque before transporting it to a cemetery. The foundation said vacant Muslim burial plots in the UK were running out, especially after the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affected Muslim communities. “Covid has put so much strain on our burial grounds that we are quite literally running out of space,” said Sabir Esa, a businessman from Lancashire. “In Blackburn we are now burying our dead on scrap pieces of land. It is a terrible situation.” But about 200 people attended a rally against the plan and more than 3,500 have signed a petition opposing the development. Some have cited water drainage as a problem. There have been unsuccessful attempts to build a Muslim cemetery in Lancashire for the past nine years. Esa tried in 2012 and again in 2015 to build a cemetery in the Ribble Valley but faced similar opposition from residents. “The arguments they used were: ‘First they put a cemetery, then they’ll put a mosque,’” Esa said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 15 Dec 2021 Edition


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