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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31 Dec 2021

Today in Islamophobia:  As the world says goodbye to 2021, Uyghur human rights activist call on the international community to hold Chinese officials accountable for the ongoing Uyghur genocide in the new year, meanwhile in Germany, the foreign affairs minister has withdrawn its proposal to award Israeli historian Gideon Greif with the country’s Order of Merit after the academic was widely criticized over a report which denied the Srebrenica genocide, and in Europe, a new report analyzing Islamophobia on the continent warns that hate crimes against Muslims have “worsened, if not reached a tipping point,” over the last two years. Our recommended read of the day is by Ali Harb for Al Jazeera on the CAIR-Ohio informant episode that sent shockwaves across the American Muslim community and has some rights activist calling on the “federal authorities to investigate” anti-Muslim hate groups and their international connections. This and more below:

United States

31 Dec 2021

US Muslims call for action as ‘spying’ incidents shake community | Recommended Read

First, the major Muslim-American advocacy group reported that a “mole” had infiltrated the leadership of one of its state branches. Then, only days later, the organisation said a “spy” at a US mosque had passed information on to an “anti-Muslim” group. The two incidents, revealed earlier this month by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have shaken Muslim advocates in the United States and renewed longstanding concerns about spying on the community. “Community members were shocked and saddened to learn about this specific situation, but a lot of people were also not surprised that an anti-Muslim hate group was targeting CAIR and spying this way,” said Whitney Siddiqi, community affairs director at CAIR-Ohio. CAIR accused Iqbal of handing confidential information to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights organisation that tracks hate groups in the US, has said was founded by an “anti-Muslim activist”. Siddiqi said one of the aims of the spying is to create “fear and distrust in our own communities”, but she stressed that CAIR is moving forward “with transparency” and redoubling its efforts to battle Islamophobia. In the two decades since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim Americans have faced instances of surveillance, a slew of discriminatory policies – including travel bans – as well as a rise in hate crimes, while spying programmes run by federal and local law enforcement agencies targeted their communities. The Family and Youth Institute, a Michigan-based research institution focused on mental health, recently released a toolkit on how to deal with the fallout of spying allegations, advising people to acknowledge the effects of the news and channel their energy “towards efforts in your community”. “When spying is carried out by an individual who works for an organization that advocates for the civil rights of American Muslims, then the trauma, stress, and shock is overwhelming and the damage can last a long time,” the institute said. read the complete article

31 Dec 2021

US: Ohio Muslim community shocked after ‘spy’ identified

When Cair revealed that Iqbal was allegedly recording and sharing information around its advocacy work with the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a group identified as part of an "Islamophobia network" in the US, the community in Columbus, Ohio, felt shocked and betrayed. "This was the man who you went to when the FBI knocked on your door, and now this man has been accused of working for a group planning around hate for Islam," Dada told Middle East Eye. "This is a community issue, not just a Cair-Ohio issue." A week later, Cair announced that a second individual, whose identity has yet to be revealed, confessed to working with IPT and was allegedly paid $3,000 a month, a total of more than $100,000 over more than four years, by the group's founder, Steven Emerson, to spy on a mosque in the US and "record prominent Muslim leaders". This individual was not a member of Cair. Despite Muslims experiencing surveillance by the government in numerous ways for at least the past two decades, for the tight-knit Columbus community where Cair is a huge part of the Muslim experience, the news still came as a surprise. "When someone is in an organisation for 15 years and you find out later that 13 of those years included spying... what could you do in that situation?" asked Akhras. "The answer is legitimately nothing, and I think that is the hard part." In order to stop such surveillance, efforts need to be taken on the systemic level, rather than individually, according to Fatema Ahmad, the executive director at the Muslim Justice League. Ahmad told MEE that hearing about such types of surveillance was frustrating and an awful reminder that US Muslims get no privacy. She explained that groups such as IPT are sanctioned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the tax service for the US government. What this essentially means is that the IRS qualifies IPT as a charitable organisation that can receive donations. "We need scrutiny on the fact that these anti-Muslim non-profit organisations exist and are getting this kind of money," she said. read the complete article

31 Dec 2021

Beinart: In endorsing IHRA and opposing Islamophobia, Republicans guilty of racist double standards

Republican opposition to the creation of an envoy to monitor Islamophobia overseas while advocating for the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism reveals the racist double standards of Israel's strongest backers in Congress, argues prominent American Jewish commentator, Peter Beinart. Writing in the American magazine, Jewish Currents, Beinart commented on the latest split in Washington over tackling anti-Muslim racism during a vote on the creation of the position of "Special Envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia". Congress was split along party lines. While 219 Democrat representatives voted in favour of the proposed Bill, every single Republican voted no. In explaining why they think that the State Department does not need an envoy to combat Islamophobia, Republican lawmakers employed anti-Muslim tropes and double standards which, if applied to any other minor community, would have rightly been slammed as racist. Baseless claims about the threat to free speech was the common mantra of Republicans opposing the Bill during the floor debate. It was argued that because the legislation does not define Islamophobia, it could be interpreted in ways that violate constitutional rights. "Without clear definitions," warned Republican, Guy Reschenthaler, "even First Amendment-protected speech could qualify for an investigation." For Beinart, their remark was typical of the double standards often displayed when confronting anti-Muslim racism. "The irony is that in warning that an overly broad definition of anti-Muslim bigotry might infringe on individual freedom, congressional Republicans inadvertently highlighted the ways in which an overly broad definition of anti-Semitism already does" said the 50-year-old commenting on the IHRA's chilling effect on free speech. Beinart explained that a similar law used to create an envoy for anti-Semitism in 2004 did not offer a definition of Jew-hatred but, nonetheless, this did not prevent such a position from being created. He argued that that silence on that point had allowed establishment Jewish groups to successfully agitate for an extremely expansive definition of anti-Semitism when, in 2016, the State Department began using the IHRA definition. read the complete article

31 Dec 2021

Suit: Missouri shooting range made Muslim woman remove hijab

A firearms store and gun range in suburban Kansas City refused to let a Muslim woman use the range unless she removed her hijab, a Muslim civil rights organization alleged in a federal lawsuit. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the law firm of Baldwin & Vernon in Independence alleges that the gun range at Frontier Justice in Lee’s Summit enforces its dress code in a discriminatory way that disproportionately affects Muslim women. Rania Barakat and her husband went to Frontier Justice on Jan. 1, 2020, to shoot at the gun range. According to the lawsuit, Barakat was told she would not be allowed to use the range unless she removed her hijab, a religious head covering typically worn by Muslim women. The couple told the manager they had used several other shooting ranges with no problems caused by the hijab, and that people wear long sleeves and shirts that cover their necks to protect them from shrapnel, according to the lawsuit. The manager said the gun range had different rules, according to the lawsuit. The couple left the store after the manager became “aggressive and loud,” the suit alleged. The lawsuit contends that it is Frontier Justice’s policy to turn away Muslims wearing hijabs, citing several social media posts from other Muslims about being refused use of the shooting range. It also claims that Instagram posts from Frontier Justice show customers wearing baseball caps turned backward, and hats and scarves. read the complete article


31 Dec 2021

Islamophobia in Europe is at a 'tipping point', new report warns

A new report on Islamophobia in Europe has warned that hate crimes against Muslims in the continent have "worsened, if not reached a tipping point," over the last two years. The pandemic resulted in relatively fewer physical attacks on Muslims and their places of worship, but that didn't result in less hate speech. Instead, according to the authors, there was an increase in online hate speech, which has longer-term implications for how Islamophobia is tackled across the continent. A report in 2020 looking at online trends of Islamophobia found ubiquitous examples of fake news, which included themes that Muslims were super-spreaders of Covid-19, that mosques were covid vectors or that pandemic rules were applied more leniently towards Muslims out of fear of being accused of racism. Such fake news stories represented an intersection and a development in narratives against Muslims that are common themes amongst Islamophobes. Mainstream media outlets also contributed to the idea of linking images of Muslims to the pandemic and therefore legitimising negative tropes about Muslims and the pandemic. Another important feature of this year's Islamophobia report is the cover image depicting the French President Emmanuel Macron. When asked why this was significant, Bayrakli said that "Macron has become the face of institutional and structural Islamophobia in Europe. His policies are directly targeting, discrimination and criminalising Muslims in France." There are few countries in Europe where Islam and Muslims face as much scrutiny as they do in France. read the complete article

31 Dec 2021

Germany withdraws award for Srebrenica genocide denier

The German foreign affairs minister has withdrawn its proposal to award Israeli historian Gideon Greif with the country’s Order of Merit after the academic was widely criticised over a report which denied the Srebrenica genocide. Germany had announced earlier this year that it planned to award Greif for his contributions to Holocaust research, which focuses on the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. However, a wave of criticism followed, as Greif served as head of a commission which published a controversial report in July concluding that a genocide did not happen in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995, contradicting rulings by international courts. Bosnia’s Serb-run entity of Republika Srpska had commissioned Greif to conduct the report. Serb leaders openly deny the genocide, including Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the country’s tripartite presidency who is now seeking secession for the entity. The award ceremony was supposed to take place on November 10, but Germany postponed the event until further notice and said it was reconsidering its decision. On Wednesday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a letter to Esnaf Begic, president of the board of directors at the Islamic College in Osnabruck, Germany that the foreign ministry had withdrawn its decision to present the award to Greif. read the complete article

31 Dec 2021

China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. American Jews must act now

In Xinjiang, not far from where Disney recently filmed the live-action Mulan in partnership with the Chinese Communist Party, millions of people live in what Amnesty International’s Secretary General called a “dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale.” Through constant surveillance, torture, sterilization, forced labor, “reeducation” and the destruction of thousands of mosques and holy sites, the Chinese government is attempting to eradicate a thousands year-old minority. More than 1 million Uyghurs have been sent to internment camps since 2017; millions more face systematic persecution. Historians and politicians from across the ideological spectrum have been sounding the alarm about the Uyghur genocide for years. Whether we allow it to continue is the moral test of our generation. We are failing that test. Holocaust experts were among the first to compare what the CCP is doing to the Uyghurs and what the Nazis did to the Jews of Eastern Europe. That it can be characterized as a genocide is one the few things that top diplomats for Presidents Trump and Biden agree on. Tens of thousands of mosques, shrines, sacred pilgrimage sites and graveyards have been systematically destroyed — reminiscent of Kristallnacht. Like the Jews locked in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940, most Uyghurs have no hope of ever leaving China; the families of the lucky few who escape Xinjang are often imprisoned, tortured or killed. Posessing a Quran or anything related to Islam — or even a scrap of paper in the Uyghur or Kazakh language — can get you sent to the camps; Islamic crescents and pictures of mosques are banned, replaced with Chinese flags and pictures of President Xi Jinping. Loyalists of the Chinese Communist Party are sent to live with Uyghur families and watch their every move. Today, as in the 1930s, accurate information about the extent of the atrocities is hard to obtain. Journalists and human-rights organizations generally cannot get inside Xinjiang, and rely instead on the rare few Uyghurs who manage to escape — and risk their families’ lives by speaking about the horrors they witnessed. read the complete article

31 Dec 2021

In 2022, The World Must Hold China to Account for Genocide

On December 25, 2021, Chen Quanguo was replaced as the Chinese Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. For some observers, this might be seen as a Christmas present from the Chinese government, indicating a possible shift away from the hardline policies in the region. Uyghurs are not so naive. We know that Chen’s replacement, Ma Xingrui, a party technocrat who was the governor of Guangdong before his new appointment, will not bring any relief for peoples targeted for genocide. What was most confusing in the reactions to the leadership change was the absence of calls for Chen to face accountability. To me, and many other Uyghurs, Chen Quanguo’s name is synonymous with genocide. Speculation about the end of Chen’s rule of terror is beside the point. What matters is the pursuit of justice for Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples who have been disappeared, interned, jailed, sterilized, tortured, and murdered. The accountability of Chinese officials responsible for a 21st century genocide is critical for the future of the Uyghur people. 2021 saw some steps toward the goal of accountability, but the world can and must do more. This genocide is far from finished. Unless a state, a multilateral organization, or a private company operating in China is actively seeking accountability or answers to questions from Chinese officials about genocide in East Turkistan, it risks becoming complicit. In 2022, the world needs to step up on accountability measures, especially Muslim majority states. read the complete article


31 Dec 2021

Rohingya refugees brought ashore after dramatic Indonesia rescue

A standoff involving a boat carrying Rohingya refugees and the Indonesian navy has ended with a dramatic rescue that took 18 hours to complete due to heavy rains and high seas. The refugees – mostly women and children – were brought ashore at Lhokseumawe in Indonesia’s northwestern province of Aceh in the early hours of Friday. They were immediately screened by health department officials as part of the country’s protocol against COVID-19. “We are very relieved and extremely grateful to the Indonesian government for granting the Rohingya permission to disembark in Aceh on humanitarian grounds,” Lilianne Fan, the co-founder of Geutanyoe Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that supports refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia. “Indonesia once again has shown great humanity towards the refugees and this principled response must be not only commended but adequately supported,” she told Al Jazeera. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 31 Dec 2021 Edition


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