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.

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21 Dec 2021

Today in Islamophobia: The New York Times releases another part of its series from Azmat Khan on America’s air wars, which finds that the government system “seemed to function almost by design to not only mask the true toll of American airstrikes but also legitimize their expanded use,” meanwhile in Australia, a parliamentary inquiry heard today about how a young Muslim woman was fired from her job at a pharmacy in Sydney’s east after refusing to remove her hijab while she was at work, and in the United States, Rep. Lauren Boebert has renewed her attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar, claiming the Minnesota representative faked tears and “played the victim.” Our recommended read of the day is by Hannah Allam and Razzan Nakhlawi for the Washington Post on Abdulrahman Farhane, who was targeted in a federal terrorism sting after 9/11 and spent a decade in prison. After his release, the family thought the traumatic experience was behind them until they received a letter from the Justice Department stating the government planned to revoke Farhane’s citizenship. This and more below:

United States

21 Dec 2021

He pleaded guilty in a terrorism case and did his time. Now the government wants to strip him of his American citizenship | Recommended Read

In the summer of 2018, Abdulrahman Farhane and his family were living together again for the first time since “the problem,” their delicate term for the federal terrorism sting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and led to his decade-long imprisonment. Farhane’s six children, now adults, had grown up with the fallout: FBI agents raiding their apartment in Brooklyn. Long road trips to visit their dad in prison. The soothing words of their mother, Malika, when the stain of the case cost them job opportunities and made them pariahs at the mosque. The family always maintained that the case was unjust, counting Farhane, a Moroccan-born naturalized U.S. citizen, among those they believe were persecuted in the government’s post-911 roundup of Muslims, which often relied on controversial sting operations. Farhane said he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and lying to agents to avoid the risk of an even longer sentence; he said his attorney had warned him that no Muslim would get a fair trial. After serving 11 years, Farhane won early release in 2017, and by the next summer, the constant fog over the family had begun to lift. They allowed themselves to glimpse a future beyond “the problem.” Then a letter arrived from the Justice Department, delivering a new blow. “Dear Mr. Farhane,” it began. There was a lot of legal jargon, but the most important part was clear: The government plans to “revoke your United States citizenship.” Farhane’s former attorney had not told him that a guilty plea could jeopardize his citizenship under laws that allow the government to reverse naturalization in certain cases. For decades, that punishment has been largely reserved for war criminals — naturalized Americans stripped of their citizenship for lying about participating in atrocities in, for example, Nazi Germany or the Balkans. In its first two years, the Trump administration filed nearly three times the average number of civil denaturalization cases opened over the previous eight administrations, according to an Open Society Justice Initiative report, “Unmaking Americans,” published in 2019. The report concluded that “such measures are now applied almost exclusively to marginalized communities,” in a campaign targeting people based on their race and religion. read the complete article

21 Dec 2021

The Human Toll of America's Air Wars

On March 2, military officials presented their findings for validation, as part of the Pentagon’s “deliberate targeting” process, which — as opposed to the rapid process of targeting in the heat of battle — required vetting at multiple levels and stages across the U.S.-led coalition. It had all the makings of a good strike. Unlike with so many other targets, military officials had human intelligence directly from the enemy and video surveillance that showed clear target sites. They had also concluded that there was no civilian presence within the target compound. Though the surveillance video had captured 10 children playing near the target structure, the military officials who reviewed this footage determined the children would not be harmed by a nighttime strike because they did not live there: They were classified as “transient,” merely passing through during daylight hours. But as investigators later documented, during the target-validation process one U.S. official disputed this conclusion: A “representative” with the United States Agency for International Development said that the children and their families most likely lived at or around the target compound. In the current environment, she argued, parents would be unlikely to let their children stray far from home. In her view, the determination that there was “no civilian presence” at the target was wrong, and authorizing the strike could lead to the deaths of these children and their parents and families. Military officials dismissed her concerns and authorized the strike. Three days later, on the evening of March 5, Abdul Aziz heard the explosions, maybe a dozen in all. They came from the direction of his brother’s house. He wanted to see what happened, but because bombings were often accompanied by a second round of missiles, he waited. Later, when he approached the block, he saw the flames and fire consuming what was once his brother’s home. “The place was flattened,” he told me when I first met him, nearly four years later. “It was just rocks and destruction. There was fire everywhere.” They returned at dawn, with blankets to carry the dead. “We searched for our relatives,” he told me, “picking them up piece by piece and wrapping them.” Across town, Ali Younes Muhammad Sultan, Sawsan’s father, heard the news from his brother. Everyone at the dinner had been killed: Zeidan and his wife, Nofa; Araj, Ghazala and their four children; Zeidan’s adult son Hussein, Hussein’s wife and their six children; Zeidan’s adult son Hassan, Hassan’s wife and their two children; and Sawsan, their own beloved daughter. Sultan and his wife went to the hospital where Sawsan’s remains were taken. What I saw after studying them was not a series of tragic errors but a pattern of impunity: of a failure to detect civilians, to investigate on the ground, to identify causes and lessons learned, to discipline anyone or find wrongdoing that would prevent these recurring problems from happening again. It was a system that seemed to function almost by design to not only mask the true toll of American airstrikes but also legitimize their expanded use. read the complete article

21 Dec 2021

Lauren Boebert sparks outcry after claiming Ilhan Omar faked tears over racist attacks: ‘This is disgusting and vile’

Lauren Boebert has sparked outcry after claiming Ilhan Omar faked tears and “played the victim”, barely a month after apologising over a comment widely considered racist and Islamophobic. A month after the Colorado Republican issued an apology to anyone in the Muslim community offended by her words, she accused the Democrat of playing the victim in order to help her fund-raising efforts. “She needed more fundraising for this quarter. This quarter was a little slow for her,” she said. “So let’s go on TV, shed some tears, and you know, play the victim.” Ms Boebert, a favourite among the more hardline member of the Republican Party and who frequently poses with one of her guns, made the comments as an interview before going on stage at an event in Arizona, organised by Turning Point USA, a youth conservative student movement for “freedom, free markets and limited government”. Last month, Ms Boebert issued an apology - though without naming Ms Omar - after she likened the Democrat to a bomb-carrying terrorist. read the complete article

21 Dec 2021

A Muslim teen copes with racism and Islamophobia in a new graphic novel set in Portland

Priya Huq’s new graphic novel opens with a pictorial ode to Portland: Mount Hood adorned with red roses, the downtown skyline standing proud in the distance under a blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds. But within a few pages, the illustrations in “Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab” turn dark and frightening as Huq’s eighth-grade protagonist, who like the author is Bangladeshi American, becomes the target of a profanity-laced attack. Her Iraqi American friend is a horrified witness to the hate crime, which drives a wedge into their friendship. Nisrin passes a bleak summer, then makes a decision before her first day of high school: She’s going to start wearing a hijab. Her family’s reactions and her subsequent experiences at school make for a poignant coming-of-age tale. Huq, who grew up in Oregon and Texas and now lives in New York, recently answered questions about the book by email. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity. read the complete article

21 Dec 2021

Juan Williams: McCarthy's inaction is a disgrace

How do you explain McCarthy now giving Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) a free pass for her anti-Muslim bigotry? In the past month, video has emerged of Boebert trashing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) as a terrorist. She also described the Muslim member of Congress at an event as a member of the “Jihad squad.” What we have here is Boebert openly branding an elected member of Congress as a threat to the country, based only on that member’s religion. Arguably her words are worse than King’s. Boebert’s libel is intended to revive voters’ lingering resentments over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and raise political donations from bigots who hate Muslims. McCarthy, however, refused to take away Boebert’s committee assignments. The mystery of McCarthy’s inaction after Boebert’s slander was quickly solved when she won endorsement for reelection from former President Trump. Trump’s early support for Boebert was apparently prompted by passage of a House bill condemning anti-Muslim bigotry. The bill, passed by the Democratic majority, was designed to shame Boebert in the face of McCarthy’s refusal to take away her committee assignments. Earlier this year, McCarthy showed the same deference to other Trump acolytes. He refused to discipline Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for blaming California wildfires on a plot by Jewish bankers involving space lasers and endorsing the idea of executing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). It fell to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to remove Greene from her committee posts. McCarthy’s only response has been to threaten to retaliate against Democrats for shaming his members. He said he will strip committee assignments from outspoken, progressive Democrats like Omar if the Republicans win majority control of the House in 2022. With McCarthy waving a Trump flag, Republicans in the House now have a free pass to imitate Trump-style violent, racially polarizing rhetoric. The guiding political fact here is McCarthy’s desire to become Speaker if Republicans win the majority in 2022. read the complete article

21 Dec 2021

'That kind of work is sacred': Allegations against CAIR-Ohio leader reverberate in Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati student Sohail Sajjad was shocked when he learned that a top leader in an organization he believes in so much was accused of being a traitor. Last week, Romin Iqbal, the now-former director the Ohio Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was fired. Ohio CAIR leadership in an investigation revealed he was leaking information to an anti-Muslim group. Sajjad, a senior psychology major, has been interning for CAIR, a non-profit civil rights organization, during this fall semester. “It was appalling. Working purely for the sake of helping people, that kind of work is sacred," Sajjad said. "Hearing he was taking advantage of that makes it even worse.” Like many who have worked with CAIR, Sajjad said he's shocked by the whole episode and cannot imagine what drove a man so high up in an organization to seemingly turn on it. An Indiana native, Sajjad was drawn to CAIR because of the work they do helping people, specifically disenfranchised Muslims. He said this fall he worked a phone bank at a local mosque running a non-partisan voting drive. Despite the situation with Iqbal, he said he's still deeply committed to the mission and many others are too. “No one is working here to achieve a level of prestige or acclaim, they’re working to give back to the community," he said. CAIR-Ohio Community Affairs Director Whitney Saddiqui said the organization's leadership is just as unclear about Iqbal's motivation. Saddiqui said it's important to realize that the problem of institutionalized Islamophobia is bigger than this situation and bigger than the one organization to which Iqbal is accused of funneling information. read the complete article

21 Dec 2021

Keeping the Faith column: Islamophobia has forced American Muslim community to evolve

As a faith leader who regularly delivers the Friday sermons at our local Islamic centers, I always emphasize the message of integration, where Muslims not only positively integrate into mainstream American society but also join the local and national politics of this country. The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, were a wake-up call for the Muslim community. This was the first time we felt that if we don’t educate our fellow Americans about our faith and speak ourselves, others will speak for us and define us. Before 9/11, Muslims were not active in the political space of this country. Our Islamic centers were mostly more of a spiritual space where people came to pray, take a few Islamic classes and then go home. Also, our efforts and fundraising activities were mostly focused on places like the Middle East or Southeast Asia, countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia. But today, Islamophobia has made us mature as a community and pushed us to rethink our role in this country. It made us fight two extreme wings: one is right-wing Islamophobia forces who always link the American Muslim community with terrorist organizations, and the other is the Islamic State and similar groups who try to hijack our faith and present Islam as a religion that promotes terrorism. Islamophobia, while evil and racist, also is a blessing in disguise. Because of Islamophobia, we matured very quickly. We demanded to be given the dignity and respect we deserved. read the complete article

21 Dec 2021

America Is Losing the Ball on White Supremacist Terror Groups

In late November, Australia became the latest country to list the Base, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group, as a terrorist organization. Australia’s move is indicative of militant white supremacist groups’ growing global reach. In turn, Canberra’s move highlights the need for Washington, which has only designated a single such group as a terrorist organization, to wield that power more aggressively. Designating white supremacist groups as terrorist entities, as Australia has done, will be a key step to fighting the threats they pose. Designations allow governments to curb the groups’ operational capabilities by making it illegal to give them money or any other material support. Designations have been a primary means of combatting terrorism in the past two decades as Washington focuses on stopping the flow of terrorist financing. The Base was established in 2018 by Rinaldo Nazzaro, a U.S. citizen living in Russia. Although the group has not carried out any attacks, its explicit goals make the dangers associated with the group clear enough. The Base’s ideology is accelerationist: The group aims to commit violent acts to foment a civil war, overthrow the current system, and ultimately establish a white ethno-state. Australia’s move—and those by other U.S. allies—puts the spotlight on Washington. Why does the United States lag so far behind many other countries in cracking down on militant hate groups? Despite the presence of a deep, networked white supremacist movement on its soil, Washington has been slow to designate such groups as terrorist organizations. To date, the United States has imposed sanctions on only one white supremacist group: the Russian Imperial Movement, which was designated a terrorist organization in April 2020. One limiting factor is U.S. law, which only allows for foreign groups to be labeled terrorists. The Base, for example, does not fall in this category since it is based in the United States. The prospect of congressional action to change the law and allow the designation of domestic groups is dim, and there is significant resistance from both sides of the aisle: Progressive Democrats are concerned anti-terrorism legislation could trample civil liberties while many Republicans worry such legislation could open the door to targeting people for their political views. read the complete article


21 Dec 2021

Inquiry into Religious Discrimination Bill hears shocking story of woman fired for wearing a hijab

A young Muslim woman was fired from her job at a pharmacy in Sydney’s east after refusing to remove her traditional headdress while she was at work, a parliamentary inquiry heard today. Speaking on behalf of the Australian National Imams Council, Bilal Rauf told the inquiry the young pharmacist was instructed not to wear her hijab at work because it would offend the residents of the Eastern Sydney suburb where the pharmacy was located. “A female who was a pharmacist, during the course of her employment, decided to wear the hijab,” Mr Rauf said. “This was at a place in the eastern suburbs and she was told in very clear terms: ‘look, around here, people don't like this thing, so if you want to wear the hijab that's a matter for you, but I won't be able to keep you on here’.” Mr Rauf said the woman refused to stop wearing her hijab at work and was subsequently forced by her boss to resign from her position. “She ended up losing her employment because she had no choice or ability to do anything about that,” he said. The shocking story comes amid hot debate in Australia about the need for a Religious Discrimination Bill. While some argue that the bill will simply offer protection from discriminatory acts like those suffered by the Muslim pharmacist, others hold grave concerns that the bill will provide a loophole for people and organisations of faith to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Mr Rauf said the National Imams Council – Australia’s largest Muslim advocacy organisation – supported the proposed bill. “So many other attributes relating to a person‘s identity are protected, acknowledged and recognised,” he said. “With Australian Muslims, so often they are identifiable by what many women, for instance, choose to wear their hijab, men grow the beard, or they attend congregational prayers. “It's an extraordinary position that that part of their identity, not only is not protected, but not acknowledged at law.” read the complete article


21 Dec 2021

Is There Any Solution to Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis?

In the 10 months since the Myanmar military’s seizure of power tipped the nation into a toxic, nationwide political emergency, another serious crisis – that facing the Rohingya refugees of Bangladesh – has largely been consigned to the margins of international attention. More than 1 million mostly Muslim Rohingya civilians have been entrapped, limbo-like, in the rambling refugee camps that surround the town of Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh, since fleeing in scorched-earth military offensives in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017. While a solution was remote even before the coup, the new crisis has further compounded their troubles, complicating any resolution to the refugee emergency, while also distracting international attention away from what might be done to resolve it. A special rapporteur of the United Nations said on Sunday that despite the country’s current troubles, the world should not forget the massive humanitarian crisis next door in Bangladesh, nor the Myanmar armed forces’ ultimate responsibility for creating it. He also said that the world should rethink the ways they would respond to the crisis in the future. “I believe that there must be a fundamental reassessment of how we, as an international community, have responded to this crisis. This means consideration of options to increase pressure on the military regime. It also means consideration of how we support its victims, including the Rohingya community,” he said. The trouble is that a resolution to the Rohingya crisis was complex even prior to the coup. At that time, a solution to the refugee crisis hinged on paving the way toward voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to the villages that they fled at the point of a bayonet in 2016 and 2017. The problem was that the conditions within Rakhine State were mostly inhospitable to the return of those who fled. Rohingya returnees would face the likely hostility of the military and the Buddhist Rakhine nationalists, who made up the vigilante groups that accompanied the military’s “clearance operations” in 2017. read the complete article


21 Dec 2021

Dress codes in spotlight as Quebec teacher dismissed for wearing hijab

An elementary school teacher in Quebec was recently removed from her class because she wore a hijab to work. This was in accordance with a controversial law in the province, but usually such a ban would lead to a human rights challenge, says Nicole Toye, an employment lawyer and partner at Harris & Company in Vancouver. “If a policy is implemented in a way that negatively impacts employees who subscribe to particular religions, that’s likely to result in human rights complaints and financial liability for the company,” she says. “There are obviously human rights issues anytime an employment policy is making a distinction based on a protected ground, and religion or creed is a protected ground under most, if not all, human rights legislation across the country.” Quebec’s Bill 21 has come under a lot of scrutiny since it came into force in 2019. The provincial law bans certain public sector employees — such as teachers, lawyers, and police officers — from wearing religious symbols like crosses, hijabs, turbans, and yarmulkes while on the job. The law has faced challenges from the likes of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and other groups in Quebec and has resulted in disdain across the country. In 2019, a Quebec teacher’s union announced it was suing the province over the religious symbols ban. Such dress codes not only face legal liability under the charter or human rights legislation, but could present challenges for diversity, says Toye. “Young people, they want to know what employers are doing to encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace and I think this kind of policy is quite the opposite,” she says. “I can see that as having a detrimental impact on people’s interests in working for that kind of employer, and wanting to continue to be employed in that sort of workplace that is willing to outwardly make those kinds of distinctions.” read the complete article


21 Dec 2021

RSF urges Morocco not to extradite Uyghur journalist to China, where he risks torture

On 16th December, the United Nations called on the government of Morocco to halt the extradition to China of Uyghur journalist Yidiresi Aishan, 33, citing the risk of “serious human rights violations”, including torture. One day before, the Moroccan Court of Cassation ruled in favour of his extradition despite the cancellation by Interpol on 2nd August of the “red notice” under which he was originally arrested. Aishan, who holds a humanitarian Turkish residency permit, has been detained in Marocco since his arrest at Casablanca airport on 19th July, following the Chinese regime’s accusations of “terrorism”. Aishan, also known as Idris Hasan, a Chinese national born in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, co-founded in 2016 Shebnem, a publication intended to help Uyghurs integrate into Turkish society. For years, RSF and other human rights NGOs have denounced the surge in politically motivated Interpol “red notices” targeting dissidents in exile. Since launching a repression campaign in the Xinjiang region in 2014 , officially “against terrorism”, the Chinese regime has arrested 71 Uyghur journalists and media professionals, including Ilham Tohti, laureate of the Council of Europe’s Václav Havel Prize and the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, who currently serves a life sentence for "separatism". read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 Dec 2021 Edition


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