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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16 Dec 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, protests continue in support of a teacher who was forced out of her position and moved into a new job for wearing a hijab which contravenes the province’s secularism law, meanwhile in the United Kingdom, a new report finds that almost 60 per cent of articles from the British media “portrayed Islam negatively and one in five associated the faith with terrorism or extremism,” and in the United States, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a 77-year-old Jewish white woman from the Chicago suburbs who is the co-sponsor of the anti-Islamophobia bill in Congress, talks about allyship and the need to take action against rising anti-Muslim racism. Our recommended read of the day is by Aysha Khan for Religion News Service on the shocking revelation that for years, the director of the Ohio chapter of CAIR had been relaying confidential information to a known anti-Muslim group, and what this news means for the American Muslim community. This and more below:

United States

16 Dec 2021

Muslim civil rights group fires director for spying for anti-Muslim activists | Recommended Read

The Ohio chapter of a prominent Muslim American civil rights organization fired its director after learning he was for years secretly passing confidential information on to a “known anti-Muslim hate group.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Ohio said Tuesday (Dec. 14) that its longtime executive and legal director, Romin Iqbal, had admitted to working with the Investigative Project on Terrorism, an organization founded by former journalist Steve Emerson that experts have described as a central player in the so-called Islamophobia network. CAIR’s national organization said Iqbal’s collaboration with the anti-Muslim Investigative Project on Terrorism was part of a broader effort to infiltrate and spy on American Muslim organizations — an effort that CAIR leaders allege implicates the Israeli government. Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national director, said in a statement that his office last year received “extensive and unprecedented information” about the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s work monitoring U.S. Muslim figures and producing anti-Muslim content. The extensive evidence CAIR received showed the anti-Muslim group was “communicating with and providing assistance to Israeli intelligence” under then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Awad alleges. “Although this was a major discovery, the evidence revealed something even more disturbing,” Awad said. “Emerson’s hate group had spent years trying to infiltrate and spy upon prominent mosques and Muslim American organizations using ‘moles’ among their staff and volunteers.” Emerson founded the nonprofit Investigative Project on Terrorism in 1995. The liberal Center for American Progress think tank described Emerson as a “misinformation expert” and fearmonger who pushed notions of Islamist terrorist networks in the U.S. The Bridge Initiative says Emerson has a long history of “promoting falsified information and conspiracy theories about Islam and Muslims.” read the complete article

16 Dec 2021

House responds to Rep. Boebert’s anti-Muslim remarks with Islamophobia bill

The bill is unlikely to advance in the Senate. But the ordeal provides yet another window onto the state of affairs in the Republican Party left behind by Donald Trump, almost a year after his supporters stormed the Capitol trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election. Republican leaders are unwilling or unable to publicly admonish their own, particularly those allied with Trump, even when their everyday rhetoric borders on racist hate speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday’s vote will not be the last word from the Democratic leaders on Boebert’s behavior. But they have repeatedly said it’s up to the Republican leadership to stand up to their most outspoken members who cross a line. The Democrats so far have refrained from more punitive actions of censuring Boebert or removing her committee assignments, as they have for other lawmakers — and as some Democrats wanted. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has not signaled any further steps. In many ways, the Republican lawmakers are taking a page from Trump’s playbook. On the campaign trail and in the White House, Trump routinely mocked minority groups, derided certain African countries with a vulgarity, and slapped a ban on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries as one of his early executive actions as president. read the complete article

16 Dec 2021

A leader of an Ohio Muslim organization was fired for spying for a hate group

The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it fired one of its top leaders after discovering he was sharing information about the organization to "a known anti-Muslim hate group." The group's now-former Executive and Legal Director Romin Iqbal was terminated after national headquarters contacted the board of directors for CAIR-Ohio with information detailing his wrongdoing. A forensic investigation by a third-party expert found "conclusive evidence that Iqbal had spent years secretly recording CAIR network meetings and passing confidential information regarding CAIR's national advocacy work to a known anti-Muslim hate group," CAIR-Ohio says. "It is a complete act of betrayal," said Whitney Siddiqi, CAIR-Ohio community affairs director, said during a news conference Wednesday morning, according to WVXU. "He was sharing confidential information, audio recordings of meetings with our national leadership and emails." When confronted with the investigation's findings, Iqbal confessed, according to CAIR-Ohio. He was allegedly working with the Investigative Project on Terrorism, an organization founded by Steven Emerson. The group says it's focused on "radical Islamic terrorism." But Emerson has "a history of promoting falsified information and conspiracy theories about Islam and Muslims," according to The Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University research project on Islamophobia, and uses his group to further this effort. read the complete article

16 Dec 2021

GOP trafficking in anti-Muslim rhetoric

On a more local scale, in November, Tania Fernandes Anderson became the first Muslim American to win a seat on the Boston City Council, and Etel Haxhiaj became the first Muslim American elected to the Worcester City Council. Also this year, Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui was elected by her City Council colleagues to a second term after making history as the first-ever Muslim mayor of the city in 2020. Anderson called her win “something different, and something that is intersectional,” while Haxhiaj referred to her election alongside two other immigrant candidates and a Black candidate for school board “historic.” But despite growing diversity among elected officials in Massachusetts, the Bay State has not been exempt from right-wing hate speech both in and out of the political arena. During the District 7 City Council race, perennial candidate Roy Owens attempted to use anti-Muslim rhetoric against Anderson, who handily beat him with 73% of the vote. She said his comments were not unheard of to her and were based on ignorance. “I’ve heard many, many stories, and you’re mocked on a daily basis, or you’re stared at or pointed at or laughed at on a daily basis in Boston,” Anderson said. “My opponent was telling people that I was going to spread Sharia law and he was calling me a hypocrite and all that stuff, but he’s working with very little resources.” Both Haxhiaj and Siddiqui had similar stories to share about experiencing xenophobia, especially attacks conflating Islam to terrorism. “I get the whole ‘Siddiqui, that’s associated with a known terrorist — are you related to one?’” the Cambridge Mayor told the Banner. “These types of things … you have to call it out because it’s all rooted in ignorance, bigotry, hate.” read the complete article

16 Dec 2021

Why Combating Islamophobia Is So Important to This U.S. Jewish Lawmaker

The bill was the brainchild of two lawmakers: Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of three Muslim House members frequently subjected to hate speech and death threats; and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a 77-year-old Jewish white woman from the Chicago suburbs. “We have seen in so many ways – in my community, and in the Congress of the United States – what we know is happening all around the world, and that is increased incidents of dramatic Islamophobia,” Schakowsky says. “Not just people saying bad things to each other, but all the way on the spectrum toward violence.” Schakowsky recalls seeing such hatred firsthand in her Illinois community during her first years in office after 9/11. “The narrative is the country came together, but people in my community – many of them Muslim – were targets of violence. A cabdriver was beaten almost to death, moms not wanting to cover their heads to send their children to Islamic school. A lot of Islamophobia came out even then.” Such anti-Muslim attitudes have not dissipated during Schakowsky’s two decades in Congress. Republican opposition mentioned concerns that the legislation would hinder the fight against antisemitism or be used to weaponize criticism of Israel – on top of conspiracy-theory attacks on Omar. “To me, it’s evidence of Islamophobia among the circles of the Republicans in Congress at this moment. Believe me, some of those individuals have also been guilty of saying very antisemitic things as well,” Schakowsky says. The native of Evanston, Illinois, cites her local synagogue, Beth Emet, and its leader, Rabbi Andrea London, as examples of how the Jewish community can be an ally. “She and I both have been to the Islamic center in my district on several occasions, standing when there’s been attacks on communities around the world,” Schakowsky says. “This is part of the environment that we now live in. We need to stand up and the Jewish community needs to be part of that and have a presence at these crucial moments.” read the complete article

16 Dec 2021

U.S. Waited Months to Book C.I.A. Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay

Criminal investigators at Guantánamo Bay waited nearly three months before obtaining DNA samples and fingerprints from the accused plotters of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.S. Cole, it was disclosed this week, further deepening the mystery of who was responsible for the prisoners in their earliest days here. The question of who was in charge — the C.I.A. or the U.S. military — is key to defense lawyers’ efforts to exclude potential evidence from two death-penalty cases at Guantánamo. The lawyers have argued that years of C.I.A. detention and torture of the prisoners have tainted the evidence. read the complete article

16 Dec 2021

What is the Investigative Project on Terrorism?

The Investigative Project on Terrorism is a known anti-Muslim group based in Washington, D.C. The group bills itself as a nonprofit research group with a mission to "expose the activities of terrorist networks and supporters in the U.S. and abroad and to educate the public about this threat." The organization was founded in 1995 by Steve Emerson, a pundit, former journalist and self-proclaimed expert on on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups. Critics, however, say IPT is an anti-Islamic hate group. According to the Islamophobia Network –– a project of the Center for American Progress that tracks anti-Islamic groups and donors –– IPT uses "unsubstantiated threats that portray Muslims as dangerous to accrue funding" and that Emerson has a reputation "for fabricating evidence to substantiate his ravings about Muslim extremism." Whitney Siddiqi, CAIR-Ohio community affairs director, called IPT a "hate group for Muslims." "It is dangerous," she said. "We know that Islamophobia has been on the rise over the past two decades and when you are spreading hate against Muslims it is not simply something you're just posting or saying to someone, that has a direct impact on our lives." IPT has taken repeated aim at CAIR over the years. Its website is host to dozens of articles criticizing CAIR, its national leaders and advocacy work. "They have called us (CAIR) a terrorist organization, so that alone is really disturbing," Siddiq said. "It's obviously false, it is dangerous in general, for all Muslims, for all Muslim Americans." IPT earned $2.2 million in revenue in 2018, according to 990 forms filed with the IRS. read the complete article


16 Dec 2021

Protest held in Montreal in support of Quebec teacher reassigned over hijab

Support is growing for a Grade 3 teacher in Chelsea, Que who was recently forced out of her position and moved into a new job for wearing a hijab which contravenes the province’s secularism law. People gathered in Montreal to show their support and denounce the law known as Bill 21. The Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives are facing calls from within to mount a more direct challenge to Quebec’s controversial secularism law after a teacher was removed from the classroom for wearing a hijab. Federal parties and their MPs have spent the past week reacting to the law, known as Bill 21, which bans some public servants deemed to be in positions of authority such as teachers, judges and police officers from wearing religious symbols on the job. The law was passed in 2019, but received renewed attention outside Quebec last week after news broke that Fatemeh Anvari, a Grade 3 teacher, was told she could no longer teach in a classroom because she wore a hijab. One of the federal politicians calling for a more forceful condemnation of the law was Conservative MP Mark Strahl, a representative from British Columbia. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said that while he personally opposes the law, he believes it’s one that Quebecers alone must deal with and that a government led by him would not intervene in any court challenge to it. But Strahl said he thinks “some issues transcend jurisdiction.” read the complete article

16 Dec 2021

School board says it erred in hiring Chelsea, Que., teacher removed from duties because of Bill 21

The interim chair for the Western Québec School Board says the school board made a mistake in hiring Fatemeh Anvari, the Chelsea, Que., elementary school teacher who had to be removed from her position under Quebec's secularism law because she wears a hijab. Wayne Daly said in an interview Tuesday that his school board was not aware Anvari taught with the hijab and somehow made a mistake in hiring her. Daly said the school board is against Quebec's secularism law — also known as Bill 21 — but says the board wasn't trying to make a statement. It simply did not know Anvari wore a hijab. "From what I see of it, we did make a mistake in hiring the teacher. But the bigger question is, did the premier make a mistake in making this law that's keeping a perfectly good teacher out of the class?" Daly said in an interview on CBC Montreal's Radio Noon. Daly said the discussion the situation provoked is important, but that he sees no real benefit to it since Anvari's class and the children's parents are unhappy about losing such a good teacher. read the complete article

United Kingdom

16 Dec 2021

Coverage of Muslims and Islam in UK media is mostly negative, study finds

The report by the Centre for Media Monitoring analysed more than 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast clips from 34 media organisations that mentioned Islam and Muslims between 2018 and 2019. The study, commissioned by the Muslim Council of Britain, found that almost 60 per cent of articles portrayed Islam negatively and one in five associated the faith with terrorism or extremism. The 162-page study has been welcomed by editors of publications including The Mirror and The Sunday Times, who said news outlets have a “duty” of accuracy and fairness to their audiences. The report revealed that 59 per cent of online media outlets associated Muslims and Islam with negative aspects or behaviour, with right-leaning newspapers and wire services being most likely to do so. It also found that 47 per cent of all broadcast clips analysed showed Islam and Muslims in a negative light, and one in 10 articles misrepresented the faith. Other key findings were that seven per cent of articles analysed included generalisations, with most made on the topics of terrorism and extremism (25 per cent), followed by politics (18 per cent) and the Middle East (17 per cent). Upon publication, Alison Phillips, editor of The Mirror, said: “This report by the Centre for Media Monitoring shows how much we as journalists must question ourselves and the work we are producing in relation to reporting of Muslims and Islam. read the complete article


16 Dec 2021

Documents link Huawei to Uyghur surveillance projects, report claims

Huawei has helped Chinese authorities create surveillance technology that targets the country’s Uyghur minority population, an investigation has alleged. A series of marketing presentation slides reviewed by the Washington Post found Huawei had a role in developing surveillance projects created in a partnership with other Chinese companies. They included analysis of voice recordings, monitoring detention centres, tracking locations of political individuals of interest, police surveillance in the western Xinjiang region, and corporate tracking of employees and customers. While the slides did not specify who the presentations were for, the report said some of them showcased surveillance functions specific to police or government agencies, which suggests Chinese government authorities may have been the intended audience. read the complete article


16 Dec 2021

The British Army Has a Fake Mosque in Canada for Training Troops

There’s apparently a fake mosque on a military base in Canada. But the Canadian Armed Forces, or CAF, promise it’s not used for training with live ammunition. A Muslim man who came across the mosque on publicly accessible military grounds said it was the first time he ever felt not welcome in Canada. Lieutenant-Colonel Lena Angell, director of the army’s public affairs, told VICE World News that British armed forces using the base for training put up the mosque in 2006 as part of a simulated village. The fake mosque was used to train British soldiers for the war in Afghanistan and, Angell said, it was only used for non-live fire training and never by Canadian soldiers. The structure is still standing but is scheduled to be deconstructed next year. A UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson told VICE World News the mosque is used in tandem with cultural advisors to “teach soldiers how to interact appropriately with Muslims and respect protected sites.” Mustafa Farooq, the CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told VICE World News that he’s “gravely concerned… Many Canadian Muslims have reached out to us, flabbergasted, as to why such an installation exists.” “We are skeptical of the notion that the mosque had to be installed to teach soldiers not to attack it. Indeed, the construction of a mosque to teach soldiers not to commit war-crimes is deeply concerning,” said Farooq. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 16 Dec 2021 Edition


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