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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29 Dec 2021

Today in Islamophobia: Indonesian authorities announced they will help repair a stranded boat packed with more than 100 Rohingya refugees off its coast, but will not allow its passengers to seek refuge in the country, meanwhile in France, President Macron’s government has announced that in a matter of days, it would seek to dissolve the state-backed French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) created almost 20 years ago, and in the United States, CAIR has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Rania Barakat, who contends that staff at Frontier Justice denied her access to the gun range after she refused to remove her hijab. Our recommended read of the day is by Aden Seaton for The Globe and Mail on the impact of Bill 21 on her children’s education as their teacher was removed from her position for failing to remove her hijab, noting that great harm is being done not only to students but also individuals who are losing job opportunities due to their appearance. This and more below:


29 Dec 2021

Bill 21 failed Fatemeh Anvari. But it also fails her students like my son, and Quebec secularists like me | Recommended Read

My son had been begging me to visit his Grade 3 class, and so, thanks to his teacher’s enthusiastic arranging of the logistics, I popped in on Dec. 3 to do a short presentation about Hanukkah. It’s something that Chelsea Elementary School welcomes every year during the Festival of Lights. I was disappointed when, the day before, his teacher sent me an email saying that she was going to have to miss our time together – but nevertheless, the next day, my son and I recounted the Hanukkah story to his classmates. When I shared that ancient story, I had no idea that on that same day, my son’s teacher, Fatemeh Anvari, had been reassigned to duties outside of the classroom because she wears a hijab. According to the Quebec government, that religious symbol rendered her ineligible for the teaching role she’d already held, even though Ms. Anvari says that she sees the hijab more as a part of her identity and how she chooses to represent herself. As a result, a smart, kind, trained teacher was prevented from doing her job because of her symbolic clothing. And now, Ms. Anvari has been reassigned in the school to working on a literacy project centred around diversity – a bitter irony. I was born in Quebec and have happily spent most of my life in this province. I myself am deeply committed to secularism, known in this province as laïcité, and I find that it has much to offer. But there is a chasm between compelling a child to recite or even sit through a religious devotional prayer during class time, and allowing individuals the freedom to dress according to their wishes and beliefs. Ms. Anvari taught my son English Language Arts, not Islamic doctrine; her hijab never interfered with the education she was providing, and it had no effect whatsoever on the curriculum she was teaching to the children in her class. In short, her teaching was secular, as it rightly should be in a public school. The problem, the provincial government would have us believe, was that she was insufficiently secular, at least in her appearance. Perhaps we could all benefit from being a bit more laissez-faire on issues of personal expression, even when there’s a hint of religion. What harm is caused by a hijab when freely worn? There was certainly no harm inflicted on the children in this case – that is, right up until they lost their teacher. On the other hand, there is enormous harm done to individuals who lose the opportunity to be hired, individuals who find themselves suddenly ineligible for advancement, and entire groups of people who are told explicitly that they simply need not apply for certain jobs when they are perfectly able to perform those roles. How does excluding people who wish to participate in and contribute to their communities serve the interests of Quebec society? read the complete article

29 Dec 2021

Canada is still reckoning with the hijab – and not just around Quebec’s Bill 21

With hate crimes against Muslims on the rise here, and continuing attempts to legislate what Muslim women can wear, Muslim Canadians are finding themselves increasingly on the defensive. While Muslim men have long been likened to terrorists innately prone to violence, the stereotype that follows us Muslim women is that we lack control and agency over our lives. But donning the hijab is an intimate matter of choice for most Muslim women in the West – a marker of empowerment, and an assertion of identity. And while there are some communities and three countries around the world where the hijab has been mandated, making generalizations about the veil and all women who wear it is paternalistic and Islamophobic. I, myself, choose not to veil. But my best friend, an Alberta-based physician, has worn the head scarf since she was a girl as young as the one pictured in the CMAJ, and I assure you that she bikes, swims and hikes – all while working at a medical clinic started by her mother, herself a hijabi physician. My sister-in-law was raised in a family where no one wore the hijab, and yet made the choice to start veiling shortly before starting her own journey in pediatric medicine. All of us consider ourselves practising Muslim women, doing our best to individually interpret and follow the modesty standards that the Quran asks of all Muslims, regardless of gender. The letter has been assailed by the Muslim Advisory Council of Canada and the National Council of Canadian Muslims. Hijabi health care workers have taken to social media to share examples from their personal lives. One physician shared the story of her 11-year-old daughter, who has chosen to wear the hijab and loves to skateboard, ice skate, swim and ride a bike. Others have noted that by publishing a non-hijabi, male health care provider’s letter to speak to experiences that are only known to a female Muslim hijabi, the CMAJ has signalled to hijabi health care workers that they have no voice or choice in matters that affect their own lives. And if the recent debates around Quebec’s Bill 21, Ms. Anvari’s case and now Dr. Emil’s letter tell us anything about ourselves, it is that Islamophobia very much has breathing space in Canada. It cannot simply be wished or ignored away. read the complete article

29 Dec 2021

Anti-Muslim sentiment is alive & well in medicine

Last week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), Sherif Emil, a pediatric surgeon at McGill University, penned a letter criticizing a picture of a young girl in a hijab used in an earlier piece. The result was an Islamophobic tirade denigrating the dignity of Muslim women in Canada and around the world. Emil’s letter has since been formally retracted with an apology issued(link is external) by CMAJ, which has committed to adding Muslim representation to CMAJ “advisory bodies.” The actions taken by CMAJ are a welcome first step. However, this incident, which demonstrates how easily Islamophobia slips into even academic spaces, demands more than words from CMAJ. To inspire real accountability, actions must be taken to educate or shake-up CMAJ leadership. As for Emil, it should be requested he no longer be able to evaluate medical trainees at McGill. The letter, which can be viewed here(link is external), lays out some ludicrous points, including claiming hijab-wearing is a practice of “the most extremist religious homes,” likening the hijab to “child abuse,” and claiming young girls who wear the hijab are “typically also banned from riding a bike, swimming, or participating in other activities that characterize a healthy childhood.” Muslim women continue to expose the harmful impact of this article. You can read their stories in various places, including here(link is external) and in the countless responses to the article. CMAJ’s Interim Editor-in-Chief, Kirsten Patrick, claims in her retraction and apology that she takes “full responsibility for the inadequacy of editorial process that led to this error”. The idea that Patrick could be swayed by one phone conversation(link is external) about personal traumas to publish such a floridly Islamophobic letter without consulting a broader group of Muslim women is flabbergasting. The fact that she published this piece despite acknowledging(link is external) the deadly consequences of Islamophobia, as well as outlining plans and making statements embracing anti-racism at CMAJ in a March 2021 editorial(link is external), is a clear indication that placating words alone are meaningless in the fight for racial justice. read the complete article

United States

29 Dec 2021

What I’ve Learned as a Lawyer Representing Prisoners at Guantánamo

But after 9/11, many others turned away from our values. Around the globe, American agents arrested men on thin allegations of terrorist activity, and secreted them away to clandestine black sites for years of torture or — to use the legally-approved euphemism — enhanced interrogation. Many of those arrested eventually made their way to the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which was established 20 years ago, in January 2002. American leaders have all too often excused our moral departures at these black sites, and in the prison at Guantánamo, as an end justifying the means. But even if one was to set aside the immorality or illegality of the means, the ends have proven both ineffective and counterproductive, pushing this country ever further down a path of forever war and incalculable loss. And , as underscored at a recent hearing in Guantánamo, we cannot ignore the immorality. At that hearing a Pakistani man named Majid Khan, who went to high school in suburban Maryland, described the brutal beatings, forced sodomy, and other inhumane treatment he said he suffered at the hands of American interrogators: Tubes covered in hot sauce before being inserted into his nasal cavities. Repeated simulated drownings. Garden hoses forcibly inserted into his rectum. If we’re going to choose the latter path, we must acknowledge our mistakes, and show we can learn from them. What’s happened at Guantánamo is an example of one such error. Twenty years on it is time for us to choose how — or if — we can begin to repair the damage. read the complete article

29 Dec 2021

Muslim woman alleges Kansas City area gun range turned her away for wearing hijab

A Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization has filed a federal lawsuit against Frontier Justice in Lee’s Summit claiming the gun range’s dress code discriminates against Muslim women in hijab. Rania Barakat, who was named as the plaintiff in the lawsuit, contends that staff at Frontier Justice denied her access to the gun range on after she refused to remove her hijab, a religious head covering worn by Muslim women, according to a news release from The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights organization. The lawsuit alleging that Frontier Justice discriminates based on religion was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City by CAIR and the Independence law firm of Baldwin & Vernon in Independence. read the complete article

29 Dec 2021

Guantánamo Film Ignores the War on Terror’s Ongoing Tangible Harms

"There is no them, there is only us,” says filmmaker Alex Gibney reflecting on the story of Abu Zubaydah, a torture victim and Guantánamo prisoner who is the focus of his HBO documentary, The Forever Prisoner. Expanding on this, he poses a challenge: “If we believe in that idea, how can we imprison a man without charge for the remainder of his life — not for what he did to us, but for what we did to him?” In this statement made at the conclusion of the documentary, Gibney explicitly notes that the empirical measure of which values the United States truly upholds is its own behavior, alone — without justifications rooted in the concept of a real or imagined “them.” This truth is powerfully evident when we look at the U.S.’s use of torture. However, The Forever Prisoner deeply buries this powerful and necessary point. The film, ostensibly focused on Abu Zubaydah, ultimately seems to use him as a narrative tool, while ignoring the ongoing brutal harms against him and all victims of the “war on terror.” As a longtime researcher, writer and organizer focused on closing Guantánamo Bay and ending torture, I was anticipating a film that would provide new insight and perspectives on Abu Zubaydah’s case in the context of the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 and the resulting war on terror. While The Forever Prisoner did reveal some new and lesser-known details surrounding the case, nothing in it fundamentally altered the known contours of Abu Zubaydah’s story. Similarly, the film’s details offered no truly new perspectives on the “enhanced interrogation program,” in premise or implementation, nor the underlying fact that there has not been (nor is there ever likely to be, without a truly dramatic shift) genuine accountability for its abuses. Abu Zubaydah himself is absent from the film — as the title suggests, he remains in custody and incommunicado — and little new information is provided about his case. Instead, the film’s main emphasis is Gibney’s reflection on how the United States could have engaged in this conduct, a reflection that has been aired many times over the years. Even before the war on terror and its particular abuses, the United States has consistently retreated to empty assertions of its unique values in order to whitewash state violence, and documentary explorations of the tension between how the U.S. sees itself and its actual actions abound. Instead of exceptionalizing Abu Zubaydah’s case in order to retread this well-worn path, Gibney might have done better exploring the trajectory of the violence Abu Zubaydah and other war on terror prisoners have experienced in the context of how, if it is even possible, to chart a way forward. Instead, he remains fixated on who the U.S. is, its identity and values, rather than reckoning with what it does, the costs of its actions and the possibility of a different future. For viewers like me, this documentary offered little hope of that possibility. read the complete article

29 Dec 2021

California Man Sentenced to Life Followed by 30 Years in Prison for Federal Hate Crimes Related to 2019 Poway Synagogue Shooting and Attempted Mosque Arson

John T. Earnest, a California man who entered the Chabad of Poway on April 27, 2019, opened fire and killed one woman, injured three others, and attempted to kill 50 others, was sentenced today in the Southern District of California to life followed by 30 years in prison for his crimes. Earnest previously pleaded guilty to a 113-count indictment that included 54 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, 55 counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, and four firearms offenses. Investigators found a manifesto written by Earnest and posted on the Internet shortly before the attack. In the manifesto, Earnest made many anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements, including expressing a desire to kill people because of their Jewish faith, and regret that he could not kill more. Earnest also admitted that on March 24, 2019, he attempted to set fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, California, because of his hatred of Muslims and the religious character of the building. Seven missionaries were asleep in the mosque, but no one was injured. read the complete article

29 Dec 2021

How anti-Muslim bias on campus harms students’ education

For Amna Omar, who recently graduated from San Diego State University, the worst moment came in her freshman year, when a classroom discussion about religion turned to Islam. One student singled out Omar, telling her she was “oppressed” because of her jilbab, or full-body covering. Far from being concerned about her oppression, the student told Omar, she said, to “go back home” because her attire was not mainstream. No one else objected to her treatment, she recalled. “The professor did not say anything. Nor did any students get involved. It was as if nothing happened,” Omar said. Omar chose not to tell administrators, saying the incident, which was hardly the only one she’d experienced or heard about, made her feel “defeated.” Despite American academia’s reputation as strongholds of social justice consciousness, Muslim students on campus are frustrated by the acceptance of Islamophobia from school administrations and fellow students. Experiences like Omar’s are compounded by constant slights such as the lack of spaces to pray, a deficit of chaplains as well as meal and exam schedules that don’t accommodate Muslims’ religious needs. Some students and their advocates are now pushing for recognition that anti-Muslim bias is as much a problem as discrimination against other ethnic or racial groups and needs to be addressed in similar ways. read the complete article


29 Dec 2021

Indonesia says it will turn away Rohingya refugees in stricken boat

Indonesian authorities will help repair a stranded boat packed with more than 100 Rohingya refugees off its coast, but will not allow its passengers to seek refuge in the Southeast Asian country and will turn the vessel away, officials told Reuters on Tuesday. Fishermen spotted the skiff on Sunday, adrift off the coast of Bireuen, a district on the western island of Sumatra, carrying around 120 men, women and children fleeing Myanmar. "The Rohingya are not Indonesian citizens, we can't just bring them in even as refugees. This is in line with government policy," said Dian Suryansyah, a local navy official. Authorities would provide humanitarian aid to the stricken vessel, including food, medicine and water, before turning it away, he added. Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and is predominately seen as a transit country for those seeking asylum to a third country. Badruddin Yunus, a local fishing community leader, said the refugees had been at sea for 28 days and some of them had fallen ill and one had died. read the complete article

29 Dec 2021

What France can learn from an Algerian football victory

Clearly, in France, it is “liberté, égalité, et fraternité”, unless, of course, you are of Arab or African descent. It is a country where generations of marginalised communities originating in former colonies have been subjected to over-policing and surveillance, racist vitriol from establishment politicians, and systemic barriers to work, education, and public life, such as the various veil bans and closures of Muslim mosques and organisations. The attempts by Algeria fans to celebrate in Paris despite the police ban, then, should be seen as a form of protest and resistance to what it means to be Arab, Muslim, Maghrebi, or Black in France. Underlying this protest is also a critique of the racial logic that underpins the post-colonial notion of Frenchness. This was demonstrated by the degree of support received by the Algerian team, which played in the Arab Cup. Called the A’ team, it is made up of players solely from within Algerian or other Arab domestic leagues, who have no formal contractual ties to France at all. While the “first team”, which competes in the African Cup and the World Cup, often relies on players who were either developed or currently play in French and other European domestic leagues, this Arab Cup team is a fully “independent” one. This is because, for many, the A’ team has come to represent a rejection of one of the main features of neocolonialism – the former colonies’ continued dependence upon and domination by colonial powers even after formal independence. In addition to this pride in national achievement, celebrations among North African supporters demonstrated a remarkable politics of inclusion throughout the tournament. At the core of this politics of inclusion on display during the Arab Cup is a resistance to the legacy of the European colonial policy of divide and conquer which created the modern national borders and then sowed divisions within the various nation-states. While the French authorities have tried to present Maghrebi citizens and immigrants as separatists, it is in fact the logic of colonial modernity that employs division and exclusion. read the complete article


29 Dec 2021

Can France monopolise control over its Muslim community?

The French government announced that in a matter of days, it would seek to dissolve the state-backed French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) created almost 20 years ago. Founded in 2003 by the then French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, the CFCM, from its inception, has been a controversial body with no legal standing but acts as a conduit between the French state and its Muslim population. Now the government of President Emmanuel Macron is calling for its dissolution because it says the body has been "completely paralysed" and unable to do the government's bidding. It accuses the body of posing in front of cameras to remind people that Islam was "a religion of peace and love" instead of talking about the government's talking points on Islam, including alleged radicalisation and extremism. The new body that the government aims to replace CFCM with will be called the "forum of Islam in France." Macron's right-wing Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wants the new body to remain uninfluenced by foreign governments and to show an active commitment to the state ideology of secularism. Rayan Freschi, a legal jurist in France and a researcher at the British-based human rights organisation CAGE, says that the French state wants to enjoy a monopoly of influence over its Muslim citizens. "They're trying to establish a community whose leaders are fully submitted to the State's ideology," says Freschi speaking to TRT World. The state wants to ensure that there is "no faith inspired political dissent," adds Freschi. read the complete article


29 Dec 2021

Two Years Since Killing of Anti-CAA Protesters in UP, NHRC Conducts Spot Inquiry

Two years after the Uttar Pradesh police allegedly killed 22 Muslims, caused grievous injuries to hundreds of people and vandalised the property of Muslims during the all-India anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests on December 19, 2019, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has finally opened an inquiry into the allegations. Headed by Investigation Officer Rajvir Singh, the inquiry was carried out in October 2021, based on several complaints by members of civil society. One such complaint, filed by Henri Tiphagne and Maja Daruwala among others, had highlighted the complete suspension of fundamental rights in Uttar Pradesh in December 2019, relying upon media reports and personal interviews with survivors to address the ways in which the state government and police personnel had used excessive force against peaceful protesters and citizens to curb freedom of assembly and expression. The complaint had also noted cases of arbitrary and widespread arrests carried out by the police, including cases of custodial torture and the illegal detention of minors. During the anti-CAA protests around the country in December 2019 when it was learned that the Citizenship Act was to be amended to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan provided that these illegal immigrants were not Muslim, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath had openly threatened the protesters in the state with consequences, declaring that he would take ‘revenge’ on them and those who were ‘vandalising state property.’ When the CAA was passed on December 12, 2019, the protests grew stronger, with an unprecedented show of opposition on the streets and demands to reclaim India’s constitutional promise of secularism. However, states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also cracked down hard on the protesters in ways that appeared to encroach on the dissenters’ fundamental rights. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 29 Dec 2021 Edition


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