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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04 Jan 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, the Muslim community of Verdun is on edge after a man appeared to have tried to force his way inside a local mosque just prior to the new year, meanwhile in India, threats, harassments, and calls for harm are being aimed at Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub due to her work calling attention to the discriminatory policies of Narendra Modi’s government, and in the UK, a court has found a young woman guilty of “perverting the court of justice” for making false sex trafficking claims that resulted in a rise in racism and Islamophobia in her local town. Our recommended read of the day is by Al Jazeera on how Myanmar’s military rulers honored Wirathu, an ultranationalist Buddhist monk who has a history of inciting violence against Rohingya Muslims, with a prestigious national award. This and more below:


04 Jan 2023

Myanmar’s military honours anti-Muslim monk, frees prisoners

An ultranationalist monk in Myanmar, who was once dubbed the “face of Buddhist terror” over his role in promoting religious hatred against Muslims, has received a prestigious national award as the country’s military rulers celebrate independence from Britain. The monk, Wirathu, was awarded the honorific “Thiri Pyanchi” title for his “outstanding work for the good of the Union of Myanmar”, the military’s information team said on Tuesday, ahead of the country’s independence day celebrations. Wirathu has long been known for his ultra-nationalist and anti-Islam rhetoric – particularly against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority. In 2013, he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine under the title, The Face of Buddhist Terror. He has called for boycotts of Muslim-owned businesses and restrictions on marriages between Buddhists and Muslims. Human rights groups have accused Wirathu of helping to whip up animosity towards the Rohingya community, laying the foundations for a military operation in 2017 that forced an estimated 740,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh. read the complete article


04 Jan 2023

"Where Were The Politicians When We Needed Them?"

Even before the massive BJY procession reached, many residents of North East Delhi had lined up the streets, bundled up to guard against the bitter cold. Many among them were survivors of the anti-Muslim pogrom that had engulfed their neighbourhoods in February 2020. That violence was unleashed just three winters ago, and the emotional scars remain fresh in the memories of those who witnessed, suffered, and survived to tell the tale. The violence had led to the deaths of 53 people and left hundreds injured, and many more robbed of their livelihood. The families are still mourning the deaths of their loved ones, and await a healing touch. Rahul Gandhi chose to walk the second phase of his anti-hate march through the neighbourhoods, from where the most reports of organised violence amidst police absence, dereliction or complicity had emerged in 2020. These included Maujpur, Jaffrabad, Gokalpuri. All the spots that the BJY planners chose as key points of the rally before it entered Uttar Pradesh at Loni, Ghaziabad, are said to be communally sensitive areas. On the ground, there were a lot of people gathered in support of Gandhi and his yatra, however, many on the sidelines asked "why did he not come here earlier?". That there is still some degree of hidden fear and insecurity among the locals, was also evident as many refused to share their real names, even as they shared their opinions. There were also more men, then women who had come out to see the yatra pass by. The people welcomed Gandhi with open hearts and many also said that the Congress will hopefully clock "better performance" in the 2024 elections, but should also do more for the people. "The yatra is just one of the elements the Congress has to bank on in the coming elections, but it is not the only one. Rahul Gandhi and other leaders need to continue meeting Muslims and not stop this public connection when the yatra ends in Kashmir," said a resident. read the complete article

03 Jan 2023

Rana Ayyub fights for press freedom in India despite harassment and death threats

The Indian government is increasingly cracking down on journalists critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The country, which once took pride in having a media landscape that was diverse in nature, has been moving in the opposite direction in recent years. Rana Ayyub, a prominent investigative reporter, Washington Post columnist and a frequent critic of Modi's government, often draws the ire of Hindu right-wing politicians. She's faced online harassment, death threats, and India's judiciary system for her work as a journalist. "There is nothing like press freedom in the world's largest democracy of 1.3 billion people," she told Morning Edition host A Martinez. "Most of the mainstream media is literally repeating the government's lies and the ones who are independent, who are critical, are paying a price." India's ranking on the World Press Index fell to 150 out of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders. Ayyub gained prominence through her investigative reporting on the 2002 Gujarat communal riots. She showed how the state government's lack of reaction led to over 1,000 fatalities, the great majority of whom were Muslims. She continues to raise her voice and speak out against the government's tactics, even though she knows she might be persecuted for it. In a conversation with Morning Edition's A Martinez, Ayyub talked about what it is like to be the recipient of digital threats, India's mainstream media, and how journalists can fight back. read the complete article

04 Jan 2023

‘Number Of Hindu-Muslim Couples Seeking Help To Get Married Has Fallen. Such Is The Fear’

Several Indian states have enacted laws to curb interfaith marriage, and Delhi-based non-profit Dhanak Of Humanity, which has helped over 5,000 couples of different faiths, castes and communities over a decade, says these laws could criminalise those aiding such couples. Co-founder Asif Iqbal told us the government and groups campaigning against the ‘love jihad’ trope do not want unions under a law that allows them to be married, while many states have not obeyed a 2018 Supreme Court order to set up a helpline and shelter homes for couples in love at risk of honour killings, violence by communal groups. read the complete article


04 Jan 2023

Rohingya Refugees Are Departing for Southeast Asia in Increasing Numbers

Rohingya refugees are increasingly embarking upon hazardous journeys to Southeast Asia to escape the dangers of an uncertain life in the refugee camps of eastern Bangladesh. In early December, around 150 such refugees were stranded at sea off Thailand’s coast after their boat broke down. Rights activists suspect that many may have died and requested the country’s authorities to rescue the survivors. The trail to Southeast Asia and the Middle East from refugee camps in Bangladesh and the Rohingya-inhabited region of Myanmar’s Rakhine State began decades ago, after the Myanmar military launched Operation Dragon King (Nagamin) against Rohingya in the late 1970s. Several more military operations followed in the decades thereafter, compelling hundreds of Rohingya to relocate to Bangladesh and other countries. The biggest exodus was in 2017, when the Myanmar military launched attacks that forced more than 700,000 people to cross the border into Bangladesh, where most now remain. The Rohingyas, a Muslim minority group living predominantly in Rakhine State, are often described as the world’s most persecuted people. They have been at the receiving end of institutionalized discrimination and repression by Myanmar’s ethnic Bamar-dominated military. read the complete article

04 Jan 2023

The complicated path to avoiding cotton from Xinjiang

It has become increasingly difficult for businesses to turn a blind eye to the plight of cotton pickers in Xinjiang. The United Nations suspects crimes against humanity. The United States has introduced an import ban; and the European Commission is seeking to adopt a similar instrument. In Switzerland, the federal parliament is considering whether to extend a newly adopted law to cover forced labour. Customers too are increasingly concerned about supply chains. China is the largest cotton producer in the world and almost all of its cotton fields are located in the province that the UN says is home to internment camps. There is also evidence that ethnic minority Uyghurs are being forced to work in the country’s textile industry. Avoiding products from suppliers that trample on human rights, however, is complicated. Trade routes are long and convoluted, and the origin of the fibres opaque. “Separating out Xinjiang cotton is extremely difficult,” says Dorothée Baumann-Pauly, director of the Geneva Centre for Business and Human Rights. “It is surprising how complex the cotton supply chain is. Important manufacturing sites like Bangladesh have no cotton production in-country, so they import everything. Raw cotton is traded by the bale in Dubai. There are multiple mixing points along the way.” read the complete article

United States

03 Jan 2023

An image of the Prophet Muhammad ignites an academic storm

A Minnesota university art history instructor who showed a treasured 14th-century painting depicting the Prophet Muhammad’s call to prophesy was dismissed amid a roiling controversy over Islamic representational art, academic freedom and campus speech debates. The controversy first broke in October at Hamline University, a United Methodist-affiliated school in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the instructor, whose name has not been publicly shared, was teaching an online global art history class. The instructor gave students both written and verbal notifications that the image would be shown and allowed students not to participate if they didn’t want to, according to a video recording of the class obtained by student newspaper, The Oracle. However, one of the students, who is also president of the Muslim Student Association, complained to the administration, saying it was offensive and disrespectful to Muslims, many of whom believe Islam prohibits figural representations of the Prophet Muhammad. A month later, the school responded in an email to students condemning the instructor’s decision as “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic.,” according to an email from the dean of students. Muslim scholars have rushed to defend the painting, which is owned by the Edinburgh University Library, saying it was intended to extol Muhammad, not to denigrate him. “To make blanket statements that this is prohibited, especially the image in question, is absolutely wrong,” said Ali Asani, professor of Islamic religion and culture at Harvard. “It shows illiteracy about religion." “I tell students we’re going to be looking at Muslim devotional art,” said Omid Safi, professor of Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke University. “I know some students may not have seen these before, and some may have even been told it’s not done, but it’s a historic part of the tradition.” read the complete article

03 Jan 2023

In Tennessee, need for immigration legal help far outweighs demand

On Super Bowl Sunday in 2017, Fuad Suleman, his wife and three children were greeted in the Nashville International Airport by a crowd of hundreds who welcomed them to their new city after an exhausting journey from Iraq. The family had been caught in what was known as the Trump administration's "Muslim ban" and had been denied entrance weeks earlier. "They were chanting, 'Welcome home,'" Suleman said. "I never forget that moment." Suleman had worked as a translator for an organization helping the U.S. government in Iraq, and his family had been approved for special immigrant visas. They had sold their home, their car and were no longer safe in their home country. In mid-December, Suleman and his family became U.S. citizens, a status that they obtained with the free help of Tennessee Immigration & Refugee Rights Coalition's legal team in Nashville. During two visits and through emails, Coalition legal representatives guided him through the application and interview process and helped him avoid pitfalls that had delayed or disrupted the process for others he knew. In Tennessee, there were 2,200 undocumented immigrants for every immigration legal professional at charitable organizations, well above the national average of 1,400, according to a recent report from The Center for Migration Studies in New York. There are fewer than 45 Tennessee immigration attorneys listed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and close to half offer help with deportation and asylum cases. read the complete article

United Kingdom

03 Jan 2023

Woman who lied about grooming gang guilty of perverting course of justice

A 22-year-old woman from Barrow-in-Furness has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice by telling “malevolent” lies about being trafficked by an Asian grooming gang and making false rape allegations against a series of white men. Eleanor Williams, known as Ellie, sparked a worldwide solidarity movement when she posted graphic photos of herself on Facebook, alleging she had been beaten and raped by men who took her to sex “parties” around the north-west of England. The post, made during the first Covid lockdown on 20 May 2020, prompted more than 100,000 people to join a Facebook group called Justice for Ellie. It prompted a crowdfunder, which saw more than 1,000 people donate £22,000 to help her and bring her abusers to justice. It set off a chain of events that included a far-right group gaining a foothold in Barrow, and drove a sharp rise in racism and Islamophobia. Curry house windows were smashed, beloved restaurants were boycotted and one Muslim takeaway owner was chased down the street by men who poured alcohol over his head. A local reporter who covered the case had to leave Cumbria on police advice after receiving numerous death threats. Simon Fell, the MP for Barrow and Furness, said the case had caused huge community tensions in Barrow, with an increase in racist attacks on Asian people and “unofficial surveillance operations” being carried out on Asian businesses “I know one gentleman who ran a curry house, his wife left him and took his children away, because accusations were made against him. This really affected people, genuine people who’d been in the community for years and years and years.” read the complete article


03 Jan 2023

Muslims in Verdun, Que., worried after man appears to try to gain access to mosque

The Islamic community in Montreal's Verdun borough is on edge after a man appeared to try to force his way inside a mosque. The incident took place on Dec. 30 at the Islamic Centre of Verdun and was captured by a surveillance camera. The video, which was posted to social media on Dec. 31, shows a man cross the street to pursue two men toward the mosque, located just beside the Verdun Metro station. The man attempts to follow the men inside. He tugs the door once but is unsuccessful in gaining access because the men are holding it shut. He gestures, points at the men inside the centre and appears to say something before walking away. Samer Elniz, the communications co-ordinator of the Muslim Association of Canada in Quebec and spokesperson for the mosque, said the incident has scared those who frequent the centre. "We feel fear and we feel insecure. It's a place of peace. It's a place where we have peace and relaxation," he said of the centre. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 Jan 2023 Edition


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