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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22 Dec 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In China, the government blacklisted four members of a US federal commission on religious freedom in the latest tit-for-tat response to Washington’s own sanctions targeting alleged perpetrators of genocide in Xinjiang, meanwhile in the United States, CAIR, the US’ largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, has said it has identified a second “spy” working for and paid by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, an anti-Muslim organization, and in Canada, a number of cities are joining together in contributing city funds to ongoing court challenges of Quebec’s controversial Bill 21. Our recommended read of the day is by Henryk Szadziewski for The Diplomat on China’s propaganda narrative that centers on the “personal transformations of Uyghurs,” with Beijing viewing the “most desirable Uyghurs [as] those who neither speak Uyghur nor believe in Islam, but express gratitude to a version of modernization soaked with human rights violations.” This and more below:


22 Dec 2021

Meet the New Uyghurs | Recommended Read

In December 2019, CGTN, China’s overseas television service, broadcast a four-minute report entitled “What’s China’s ‘re-education camp’ in Xinjiang really about?” In the segment, CGTN anchor Wang Guan poses a question about internment camps in the Uyghur region: “Was that a campaign of religious repression, or an unprecedented effort of deradicalization?” To seek an answer, he visits Kashgar and showcases four Uyghur former camp internees. Each person exhibits a vocational skill learned in the camps; there’s an artist, a real estate agent, a cashier, and someone in “hospitality.” It’s time to meet the “new” Uyghurs. In the past five years, the world has learned about the horrific scale of Chinese state repression against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples. The Uyghur homeland has been transformed into a land of arbitrary detention, hi-tech surveillance, and forced sterilizations. China has aggressively denied accusations of crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples through its media proxies, diplomatic corps, social media amplifiers, and some partner states. However, in 2019, a new discourse emerged about Uyghurs, particularly those who had experienced time in “vocational education and training centers,” which survivors call concentration camps. Xinhua, the Global Times, and CGTN promoted a narrative centered on the personal transformations of Uyghurs. These “new” Uyghurs are fluent in Mandarin, have marketable skills, and have left Islam behind. The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) examined 307 texts comprising CGTN’s output on Uyghurs and Xinjiang from 2017-2020. One of the clearest patterns to emerge was this narrative of cleansed Uyghurs, which manifested in two ways. The first was the ideological purification of Uyghurs, enabling them to participate in state-defined social and economic productivity. The second was the representation of a pristine Uyghur homeland cleared for economic exploitation. Combined, these discourses propagate deracinated Uyghurs and a sanitized Xinjiang open for state-managed tourism and investment. read the complete article

United States

22 Dec 2021

US police accused of mishandling Islamophobic attack on Muslim student

Members of the Muslim-American community in the US state of Virginia criticized the Fairfax City Police Department for mishandling an attack on a 16-year-old female Muslim high school student and refusing to characterize the case as a hate crime. The student was reportedly subjected to Islamophobic and racist slurs before she was physically assaulted and had her hijab pulled off by a fellow student at Fairfax High School in Fairfax City, a suburb of Washington, D.C. According to local news reports, the police said their investigation has determined that there were no racist or Islamophobic slurs made against the victim and that her hijab was not forcibly removed by the male student during the attack. But according to numerous witnesses and the victim’s legal representative, she was subjected to Islamophobic slurs and was attacked by another student. Several members of the Muslim-American community in the area who were familiar with the case told Arab News that they fear the police were engaged in a cover up because they mischaracterized the victim’s words in a way to make it appear as a fight between two students. They also said the police did not interview any witnesses before making their determination. The largest Arab-American civil rights organization, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, which has taken on the case to represent the victim, has rejected the police findings and insisted that the incident constitutes a “hate crime” against the Muslim student. read the complete article

22 Dec 2021

US Muslim body: Another 'spy' confesses to links with far-right group

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), US' largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, has said it has identified a second "spy" working for and paid by an infamous anti-Muslim organisation, Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). The "IPT spy has voluntarily come forward, confessed, and agreed to cooperate with us," said CAIR on Tuesday, adding he was not part of the Muslim advocacy organisation but "was an active volunteer in a large mosque who was invited to national community meetings and events." "The individual has informed us that Steven Emerson paid him $3K per month to record prominent Muslim leaders; over $100K over 4 years," CAIR said in a tweet. Emerson, a notorious Islamophobe and the founder of IPT, has not commented on CAIR's fresh allegations. Last week, CAIR fired the head of its Ohio chapter over allegations he shared confidential information with IPT. The rights body did not release the "second mole's" name, saying it's still investigating while alerting Muslim leaders and organisations the "IPT spy" had targeted. read the complete article

22 Dec 2021

Federal judge allows Muslim inmate's claims to proceed based on denial of religious diet

A Muslim inmate has plausibly alleged that the Colorado Department of Corrections and two food services workers violated his rights by canceling his religious diet, a federal judge decided in allowing the claims of Ray Anthony Smith to proceed. Smith is seeking to force the department to update its food list to reflect items that are appropriate for a diet that is halal — or permissible under Islamic law — as well as to pay $1,000 for each day he was allegedly denied his religious diet, totaling 246 days. Incarcerated at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in southeast Colorado, Smith believes the prison has improperly labeled some food items as halal when they are not. Conversely, some non-halal items are actually acceptable, but are not marked as such. That alleged discrepancy affected Smith's compliance with a corrections policy stating that an inmate's second violation of his religious diet "will result in cancellation of the diet for one year." Reportedly, prison staff terminated his halal diet in January 2020 because he consumed such items as kosher buffalo wing chips, tortilla chips and roast beef and gravy. Smith attempted to use the Qur'an to explain his dietary restrictions to no avail. He filed a lawsuit alleging the revocation of his halal diet placed a substantial burden on his religious exercise by forcing him to eat a non-halal diet against his beliefs or to forgo food altogether. read the complete article

22 Dec 2021

Lauren Boebert Claims Ilhan Omar Is Trying To 'Play the Victim' in Anti-Muslim Row

Rep. Lauren Boebert believes Congresswoman Ilhan Omar took advantage of the controversy surrounding the Colorado Republican's Islamophobic remarks to "shed some tears and play the victim" in an effort to secure fundraising. Speaking to Real America's Voice at Turning Point USA's "AmericaFest" conference, Boebert appeared unapologetic for her infamous "elevator story," in which she implied Omar—a Minnesota Democrat and practicing Muslim—could have been carrying a suicide bomb in the Capitol. "I don't have a victim mentality, I very much have a victor mentality," Boebert said in her interview. "And I guess not everyone has that." "Ilhan Omar, I would imagine if I were in that same situation as she was, I would've turned and said, 'It's fine, Lauren Boebert doesn't have her AK-47,'" she continued. "But she needed more fundraising for this quarter, this quarter was a little slow for her, so let's go on TV, shed some tears, and play the victim." Boebert's comments came weeks after Omar held a press briefing, during which she played a threatening voicemail she had received following her Colorado colleague's viral remarks. The unidentified man called Omar a "sand n***er bitch" and a "jihadist," adding that there were "plenty that will love the opportunity to take you off the face of the f***ing earth." "We know what you are, you're a f***ing traitor," the caller said. "You will not live much longer bitch, I can almost guarantee you that." read the complete article


22 Dec 2021

Why International Assistance for the Rohingya in Bangladesh is Declining

On December 13, the Dhaka Tribune ran an editorial titled, “No excuse for declining international assistance for Rohingya,” which lamented the lack of international support for Bangladesh in hosting the 1.1 million Rohingya refugees currently residing in Cox’s Bazar. The piece states, “Dhaka’s repeated calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears. And it is doubly frustrating when economic and other assistance are stalled…” The article goes on to claim that only $366 million of the requested $1 billion in required humanitarian assistance had been disbursed by July 2021. (Actually, the figure as of December 2021 stands at $652.7 million.) While it may be popular domestically for Bangladesh to lambast the “international community” for its failure to fund the humanitarian response, if Bangladesh is asking for $1 billion a year to provide humanitarian services, then it needs to allow the actors providing services to do so at a bare minimum standard. At present, that is far from the reality. What the Dhaka Tribune’s editorial fails to mention is the long list of concerns that donors have about the trajectory of Bangladesh’s response. Donor lethargy in relation to the Rohingya context is largely of Bangladesh’s own making. Bangladesh has been open about its strategy of ensuring that living conditions for the Rohingya are no better than they were in Myanmar, so as to discourage them from staying. Through policies such as restricting the movement of refugees and caging them in with barbed wire fencing; pressuring people to relocate to the remote island of Bhasan Char; denying refugees’ employment rights and access to education; only allowing humanitarian access between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and the extreme securitization of the camps, the government of Bangladesh has tied the hands of humanitarian workers so tightly that every time a decision to add more money to the humanitarian response is made, donors have to ensure they are not becoming complicit in a plan to push the Rohingya back to Myanmar. What Bangladesh calls protection is in fact containment and isolation. Rohingya and humanitarian workers have for years tried to voice their growing concerns about violence and insecurity in the camps, an issue that gained headlines in September of this year when the Rohingya leader Mohibullah was gunned down in his office in Kutupalong refugee camp. read the complete article

22 Dec 2021

China sanctions four US officials over Uyghur criticism

China blacklisted four members of a US federal commission on religious freedom on Tuesday in the latest tit-for-tat response to Washington's own sanctions targeting alleged perpetrators of genocide in Xinjiang. The move came as Beijing also hit out at Washington for appointing a new special coordinator for Tibet and blasted global powers over their criticism of local elections in Hong Kong that vetted out the opposition. China's treatment of Tibetans, Muslim minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang and an ongoing crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong have contributed to worsening diplomatic relations between Western powers and Beijing. Xinjiang in particular has prompted Washington to slap sanctions on a growing list of Chinese politicians and companies as well as a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics, sparking fury in Beijing and reciprocal measures. On Tuesday China announced the latest targets - four members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Beijing's foreign ministry named chairwoman Nadine Maenza, vice chairman Nury Turkel, as well as commissioners Anurima Bhargava and James W. Carr as newly sanctioned. read the complete article

22 Dec 2021

Beyond stereotypes: How Muslims are represented in movies across the globe

The Arab terrorist, the submissive veiled female; the stereotypical representation of Muslims in the media is well known to most of us, and that's when they make an appearance at all. However, a new volume of work called Muslims in the Movies, edited by Kristian Petersen, looks beyond Hollywood's lens at how Muslims reveal themselves in films worldwide. It's part of a series by the Mizan Project looking at interdisciplinary scholarship on the history, culture, and religion of Muslim societies and civilisations. The book's curators have sought to learn from global cinema in mainstream and indie circles. In some cases, the results expose the usual typecasts, while at other times, interpretations are surprising and more nuanced. In particular, Muslim stories by Muslims themselves, including from the Muslim world, provide new depth to this topic. "Muslim-ness can be constructed and expressed in radically different ways across various cultures and Muslim cinema allows viewers to see how filmmakers imagine this range of possibilities," says Petersen, speaking with The New Arab. From this analysis, films are being used to ask questions about Muslims in modern society. It also comes at a time when there have been public calls for greater visibility of Muslims on screens and initiatives to support Muslim filmmakers and writers. read the complete article


22 Dec 2021

Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21 causes hijab-clad teacher to be permanently removed from the classroom

A third grade teacher at an elementary school in Chelsea, a small Quebec town on the border with Ontario, was removed from her classroom earlier this month because she wears a hijab, an Islamic headscarf that covers her head but not her face. This discriminatory act, which puts a teacher’s career in jeopardy because of her personal religious choices, is a serious attack on democratic rights. It underscores the reactionary, chauvinist character of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s “state secularism” law, or Bill 21 as it is popularly known. The immediate repeal of this reactionary and Islamophobic legislation must be demanded by all class-conscious workers. In 2019, François Legault, the Quebec premier and multimillionaire ex-CEO, pushed through Bill 21, which prohibits public sector employees, including elementary and high school teachers, said to be “in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols.” Its intent was to limit or prohibit religious practices of Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and other minorities, while allowing the Roman Catholic religion to continue to effectively enjoy official sanction as part of the “historic heritage of French Canadians,” in the oft-repeated words of Quebec Premier Legault. Bill 21 also mandated that public services, including health care, must be provided and received “with faces uncovered,” an explicit attack on the tiny minority of Quebec Muslim women who wear the full veil. The targeted teacher, Fatemeh Anvari, had been in her position since October 25 this year after serving for well over a year as a substitute teacher. On December 3, the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) informed parents of the decision to remove Anvari from her classroom at Chelsea Elementary School. According to WQSB interim President Wayne Daly, the board had no choice but to remove Anvari from teaching and reassign her to administrative duties as she was violating Bill 21 by wearing a hijab. read the complete article

22 Dec 2021

Mississauga, other cities mulling financial aid for legal fight against Bill 21 after Brampton pledges $100K

The City of Toronto has joined Brampton in contributing city funds to ongoing court challenges of Quebec’s controversial Bill 21, and now other Canadian city councils, including Mississauga, are considering doing the same. Bill 21 bans public servants in Quebec, including teachers, lawyers, police officers and some others, from wearing religious symbols while on the job. The legislation has been widely denounced by critics, who claim it tramples on religious freedoms guaranteed under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Brampton council convened a special meeting on Dec. 15 and approved a motion committing $100,000 to support ongoing court challenges by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and others, including the National Council of Canadian Muslims and World Sikh Organization. Toronto council voted to do the same the following day after Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown called on Canada’s 100 biggest cities to join the fight. “Toronto City Council has unanimously taken a consistent and firm stance in opposition to Bill 21 since it was first proposed. City Council reaffirms its support for freedom of religion and expression and its opposition to any legislation that would restrict or prohibit such freedoms,” reads a release from the City of Toronto. Some cities have condemned the legislation but have decided against contributing money to legal challenges. Others such as Mississauga, London and Winnipeg are still considering financial aid. read the complete article


22 Dec 2021

Conservative Pécresse looks to establish herself as the ‘only threat’ to Macron

For much of Macron’s term France expected – and did not want – a replay of the 2017 Macron vs. Le Pen duel in the 2022 presidential election second round. In this landscape, traditional conservatives Les Républicains (LR) looked trapped in a constricted political space between President Macron and the Rassemblement National's Marine Le Pen, then unassailable as the far-right’s standard-bearer. But new developments have changed the dynamic. As political scientist Jérôme Jaffré put it, just like Eric Zemmour “shook” Le Pen by outflanking her on the extreme right, Pécresse is “shaking” Macron as she encroaches on his territory – the far more vote-rich centre ground. Pécresse established her attack line against Macron at the end of summer, long before she became the LR candidate. Knowing that the president has moved to the right along with the centre ground of the French electorate, Pécresse cast Macron as a “pale imitation” of a centre-right leader. She said he promised to transform France but has done “almost nothing” except manage crises. Now Pécresse has imposed herself as a major threat to Macron in the second round – as demonstrated by an Elabe survey in early December showing her beating him in the runoff, amid a polling surge after her LR primary triumph. While Pécresse’s campaign is keen to entrench her in the French public consciousness as the only viable alternative to Macron, her climb in the ratings has only gone so far. Politico’s first-round polling aggregate puts Macron at 24 percent and Pécresse at 17, with Le Pen at 16 and Zemmour at 13. And historically French elections have often confounded early polls. “She is a big threat to Macron because she can pull off her own en même temps, straddling the divides within the right,” Smith noted. “She has one foot in the technocratic, centre-right approach to matters like economic policy; and another foot in the rather more identitarian politics of order, security and France’s Catholic heritage – issues that can be addressed without going as far as the extreme right.” Yet over the course of a long campaign that still has months to run, Smith cautioned, Pécresse could end up walking “a bit of a tightrope” as she pursues this en même temps. On one front, she is targeting Macron’s voters. On another, she is fighting Zemmour and Le Pen for a ticket to the second round. read the complete article


22 Dec 2021

Protests Erupt in Lakshadweep After Weekly School Holiday Changed from Friday to Sunday

The Lakshadweep Union territory administration has changed the weekly holiday for schools from Friday to Sunday, resulting in protests from the archipelago’s dominant Muslim community, The Times of India has reported. Muslims constitute 96% of the population in Lakshadweep, according to the 2011 census, and Friday has been a holiday for schools for decades. On Friday, December 17, the Union territory’s education department in an order said school timings and regular activities are “suggested” to be modified to “ensure optimum utilisation of resources and proper engagement of learners and necessary planning of teaching-learning process”. According to Lakshadweep MP, Mohammad Faizal, Friday was a weekly holiday for schools for the last six decades. “The decision was taken without any discussion with the district panchayat, elected representatives of PTAs. It is a unilateral and unpopular decision; the people of Lakshadweep will not accept it,” TOI quoted Faizal as saying. Faizal also said that changes would disturb the madrasa system in the islands on Friday mornings. Protests have become a regular feature in Lakshadweep ever since Praful Khoda Patel took over as its administrator on December 5, 2020, with residents and local civil society organisations accusing the administration under him of implementing “draconian” and “arbitrary” policies with “anti-Muslim prejudice“. Among many such policies was the introduction in January 2021 of PASA (Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation), colloquially known as the Goonda Act, under which the administrator can jail individuals for up to one year without trial. In Patel’s appointment, many see a design to take Hindutva to Lakshadweep. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 Dec 2021 Edition


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