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 Feb 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In India, a group of Muslim girls at a government-run high school in Karnataka have been barred from entering the school due to their hijab, meanwhile in China, along with the network of concentration camps, the ruling party has forcibly separated the Uyghur children of those imprisoned in the camps and sent them to state boarding schools, where they are melded into speaking and acting like the country’s dominant Han ethnic group, and in the United States, documentary filmmakers have been raising alarm bells about this year’s Sundance competition documentary Jihad Rehab for over a year, claiming it promotes Islamophobia and re-victimizes its protagonists. Our recommended read of the day is by Rushan Abbas for USA Today on how despite widespread knowledge about the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs in China, the Beijing Olympics are still taking place, ultimately making the “IOC an active accomplice in whitewashing the Chinese regime’s reputation.” This and more below:


04 Feb 2022

My people, the Uyghurs, suffer genocide while the world plays games at the Winter Olympics | Recommended Read

The 2022 Beijing Olympics opened this week. For the past three years, I have fought alongside fellow activists to call attention to the fact that the International Olympic Committee inappropriately gave Beijing the prestigious privilege of hosting the Olympics, again. This is despicable. My people, the Uyghurs, an ethnic and predominantly Muslim minority, are victims of a genocide perpetrated by the Chinese regime for their cultural and ethnic identity. The IOC has decided to make themselves complicit in this genocide. They have condemned Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and more by refusing to respect basic human dignity. They put athletes at risk. They make it impossible to watch the Winter Games without engaging in complicity. And we have seen that the sponsors of the Olympics have decided to press forward with their partnerships. These sponsors place profit over human lives. Broadcasters like NBC place profit over human lives. It is our duty now to make sure they feel the repercussions of their decisions by not watching these genocidal games. I ask that you join me. The 1936 Berlin Games were known as the "Nazi Olympics." More than merely a sporting event, these Games gave Germany a platform for Nazi propaganda. The Nazis already operated concentration camps, just as China operates and denies the existence of Uyghur concentration camps. The Nazis promoted a false image of a free and open society before the Berlin Games, just as China attempts to portray with Uyghurs. The entire world is well aware of China’s atrocities. We have no excuse. read the complete article

04 Feb 2022

Exiled Uyghurs fight for families far from home

Five years after China began the campaign of mass incarceration, cultural erasure and coercive labor, most Uyghurs abroad remain cut off from their families. Many kept quiet through the first years of the camps, afraid that contacting their loved ones would draw fresh persecution. But Uyghur exiles have since grown bolder — staging protests and filing legal complaints — in calling attention to their people’s plight and taking a stand against repression. Now, as the world’s gaze turns to Beijing for the Winter Olympics, Uyghurs, along with Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Chinese human rights advocates, are calling for governments to boycott the Games and for athletes to speak out against the Communist Party. More than 240 international nongovernmental organizations, many of them human rights groups, issued a statement last week urging governments, athletes and sponsors to not legitimize China’s abuses. read the complete article

04 Feb 2022

For China's Uyghurs, "the genocide doesn't stop" for the Olympics

Zumretay Arkin is an ethnic Uyghur Muslim whose family is from China's far western province of Xinjiang. Like thousands of other Uyghurs living outside the country, she has been unable to contact her family in China for years. While China's authoritarian government tries to keep attention focused squarely on the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Arkin and other activists want to make sure the world doesn't forget about the grim reality for the country's Muslims. Both the Biden administration and the Trump White House before it have said China's crackdown on Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnicities in Xinjiang amounts to genocide. it was largely the treatment of the Uyghurs that prompted the Biden administration to declare a "diplomatic boycott" of the Winter Games in Beijing, which means U.S. athletes and their teams are taking part, but no official U.S. government representatives are there. But only a handful of U.S. allies have joined the limited boycott of the Games. To Arkin, the message from the wider world to the Uyghur people right now seems to be: "We know that you're suffering… but let's just pause for, you know, just two, three weeks just to focus on the Olympics, and then we'll get back to your genocide." "It's just something horrible to say to an entire ethnic group and an entire people — that their genocide doesn't matter in the context of the Games," she said, adding that in her view and the view of the World Uyghur Congress that she works for, Beijing should never have been awarded the Olympics in the first place. "It's just ridiculous that this country that is committing such horrible atrocity, crimes, are permitted to host these prestigious games," Arkin told CBS News. read the complete article

04 Feb 2022

The Muslim World Isn’t Coming to Save the Uyghurs

Majority-Muslim countries, which have largely chosen to ignore the Uyghurs’ plight, wouldn’t make the podium at all. Silence from majority-Muslim countries’ governments on China’s treatment of the Uyghurs is not new. For years, countries that purport to be defenders of the world’s Muslims—among them Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey—have largely skirted the issue of China’s treatment of its Muslim population in the northwest region of Xinjiang, where the government is believed to have corralled at least 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in concentration camps (or, as Beijing prefers to call them, “reeducation camps”). Some of these countries have even aided the Chinese government’s efforts by deporting Uyghurs living within their borders back to China, where they are all but certain to face persecution. The return of the Olympics to China, which is counting on these Games to bolster its global image and validate its authoritarian system, accentuates the silence of governments in the Muslim world. Although these countries are certainly not the only ones that have excused or even abetted China’s human-rights abuses, they have essentially given the Muslim world’s tacit blessing for China to continue its mass atrocities. The Muslim world isn’t homogenous, of course. It spans dozens of countries on multiple continents and includes a wide array of cultures, languages, and interests. But even with all of their diversity, majority-Muslim countries do occasionally find opportunities to speak with one voice. When it comes to issues such as Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and even caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Europe, you’d be hard-pressed to find Muslim leaders unwilling to speak out. But on the crisis in Xinjiang, and on China’s human-rights abuses more broadly, the response from these countries has been more erratic. Although Turkey and Malaysia have at times offered tepid criticism of China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, a much bigger group of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, have gone out of their way to endorse China’s policies in Xinjiang. Indeed, all four countries’ leaders are among the international dignitaries slated to attend tomorrow’s opening ceremony of the Winter Games. read the complete article

United States

04 Feb 2022

Why Filmmakers Have Had a Problem With 'Jihad Rehab' for Years

Documentary filmmakers have been raising alarm bells about this year’s Sundance competition documentary Jihad Rehab for over a year, claiming it promotes Islamophobia and re-victimizes its protagonists. The controversy around the film was only just made public after its premiere on January 22; the film received disparaging reviews published in POV Magazine (“A Question of Ethics”) and Filmmaker Magazine, and was criticized in opinion pieces by filmmakers Jude Chehab and Assia Boundaoui; and a loose-knit critical Twitter campaign was joined by award-winning filmmakers such as Sami Khan (St. Louis Superman), Malika Zouhali-Worrall (Call Me Kuchu) and Sonia Kennebeck (National Bird). But members of the documentary community have been warning the filmmakers behind the scenes that the project “inadvertently perpetuates the stereotypes that it seeks to overcome”—as POV’s Pete Mullen wrote—since 2019. Directed by Meg Smaker, and executive produced by Fork Films’ Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker, among others, Jihad Rehab follows four Yemeni men transferred from the US prison in Guantánamo Bay to a “rehabilitation center” called the Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Multiple specific critiques have been lobbed at the film, from the way it frames its participants, to the filmmaker’s interrogatory process, to a title that many find offensive and reductive. In December, when Sundance announced the film’s selection, several filmmakers contacted the organizers and arranged a meeting with Festival Director Tabitha Jackson and Director of Programming Kim Yutani to voice their concerns. “They listened to what we had to say, but they didn’t have any answers,” says Amber Fares, the director of Speed Sisters, who penned the letter to Sundance along with filmmakers Assia Boundaoui, Marjan Safinia, Sami Khan, Jude Chehab, and Samia Khan, accusing the film of having “a rhetoric of ‘nation-based racism’ in which Arabs and Muslims are constructed as potential criminals who constitute a danger for the safety of white civilians.” read the complete article

04 Feb 2022

Guantanamo: Biden rejects using torture-obtained testimony in trial of Saudi prisoner

The Biden administration has said it will no longer cite a Saudi prisoner's statements obtained through torture in his death-penalty case currently being pursued by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay. In a 37-page filing submitted on Monday in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Justice Department said the law governing military commission trials at Guantanamo Bay "prohibits the admission of statements obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment at all phases of a military commission". It is a reversal from the position of the former chief prosecutor of military commissions, Brigadier General Mark Martins, who argued last year that such evidence could be used in pretrial proceedings before a jury was chosen. Martins left the job last September over disagreements with the Biden administration. The individual at the centre of the case is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi man who is one of the "high-value detainees" identified by the US government. read the complete article

United Kingdom

04 Feb 2022

Why Claiming British Identity Is Complicated

The story of Britain’s Pakistani community, the largest Muslim community in the United Kingdom, begins in 1947. Following India’s independence from colonial Britain and the bloody Partition that accompanied it, the creation of Pakistan incited one of the largest mass migrations in history across the region, and beyond. As the sun began to set on the British Empire a wave of nonwhite immigrants arrived on British soil, including former colonial subjects from a nascent Pakistan. Since that time, straddling the hyphens between “British,” “Pakistani” and “Muslim” has always been precarious — a negotiation only heightened by a scandal in 2014 known as the Trojan Horse affair, when an anonymous letter was leaked to the press, outlining a supposed plot to infiltrate public schools in Birmingham, the second largest city in Britain, and run them according to strict Islamic principles. The letter was later revealed to be a hoax. But at the time, it provoked national outcry and a political crisis over a city unfairly maligned as an incubator for Islamic extremism. Of course, the Trojan Horse affair didn’t just affect British Pakistanis. Other Muslims, and especially those at the intersection of various class and racial backgrounds, were profoundly impacted by the Islamophobia and racism that spewed out from the scandal. However, the schools that were the focus of the affair were located in neighborhoods in east Birmingham with majority British Pakistani demographics. And a number of the teachers prominently embroiled in the Trojan Horse affair were also Pakistani and Muslim too. In the new “The Trojan Horse Affair” audio series, the reporters Brian Reed, known for his work on “S-Town,” and Hamza Syed, a British Pakistani Muslim who watched the scandal unfold in his home city, seek to uncover who wrote the letter and why. Their investigation examines not only the origins of the scandal, but also the fragility of British identity for British Pakistanis living with the legacies and contradictions of colonialism and counter-extremism policies every day. Inspired by “The Trojan Horse Affair” audio series, through a package of essays and photographs, we ask: Who are the British Pakistani community today? And what does it mean to straddle the hyphens between “British” and “Pakistani,” an identity pairing that continues to be scrutinized? read the complete article

04 Feb 2022

Muslim Athlete Charter: Middlesex first county cricket club to sign pledge

Middlesex have become the first County Championship side to sign the Muslim Athlete Charter, ensuring cricket is a game "that can be enjoyed by everyone". By signing the pledge, the Lord's-based team said they are able to firmly demonstrate their commitment to equality and diversity for all. The aim of the charter is to implement best practices across the club for Muslim players, staff and supporters. BBC Sport understands a second county side will sign up later this month. Middlesex said the pledge is a positive move towards the club building a greater understanding of the needs and requirements of their Muslim players and followers. The club also said they will aim to become fully accredited to the Nujum Sports Muslim Athlete Charter in the future. read the complete article


04 Feb 2022

Uyghur kids recall physical and mental torment at Chinese boarding schools in Xinjiang

In quiet, polite voices, Aysu and Lütfullah Kuçar describe the nearly 20 months they spent in state boarding schools in China's western region of Xinjiang, forcibly separated from their family. Under the watchful gaze of their father, the two ethnically Uyghur children say that their heads were shaved and that class monitors and teachers frequently hit them, locked them in dark rooms and forced them to hold stress positions as punishment for perceived transgressions. By the time they were able to return home to Turkey in December 2019, they had become malnourished and traumatized. They had also forgotten how to speak their mother tongues, Uyghur and Turkish. (The children were being raised in Turkey but got forcibly sent to boarding school during a family visit to China.) "That was the heaviest moment in my life. Standing in front of my two Chinese-speaking children, I felt as if they had killed me," says Abdüllatif Kuçar, their father. Since 2017, authorities in Xinjiang have rounded up hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority group, and sent them to detention centers where they are taught Mandarin Chinese and Chinese political ideology. Camp detainees have reported being forced to work in factories during their detention or after they are released. The children of those detained or arrested are often sent to state boarding schools, even when relatives are willing to take them in. Experts say this is part of Chinese authorities' efforts to mold minority children into speaking and acting like the country's dominant Han ethnic group. read the complete article


04 Feb 2022

Memorial proposed to honour members of Muslim family who died in London, Ont., attack

A permanent memorial to honour a Muslim family attacked while out for a stroll in London, Ont., last June has been proposed for the city. It’s among several recommendations in a proposed action plan from the City of London to tackle Islamophobia. In the report released this week, city manager Lynne Livingstone recommends one-time funding of up to $150,000 for a memorial plaza at the site of the attack, the creation of a mural and establishment of a community garden, all in honour of the Afzaal family. In addition to the permanent memorial, mural and community garden, the city report recommends more education about the contributions of Muslims in London, dedicating funding for community-based anti-Islamophobia initiatives, and establishing an anti-Islamophobia advisory council in the city. City politicians are set to discuss the proposed action plan at a committee meeting next Tuesday. read the complete article


04 Feb 2022

‘Hijab is my pride, dignity’: Girls in India fight to wear headscarf to school

For the past couple of months a group of Muslim girls at a government-run high school in the southern Indian state of Karnataka ghave been locked in a bitter stand-off with the administration over their right to wear the hijab – a fight they have now taken to the court. Simmering for days, the dispute between the students and the authorities at the Pre-University College in Udupi first began on 28 December last year, when the students attended the classroom wearing traditional Muslim headscarves. “When we entered the classroom, the teachers started scolding us,” recalls 17-year-old Zoya Ahmad*, a grade 12 student at the college. “They went and complained to the principal that we were wearing hijab.” While the principal allowed them to attend the first day, he told them to call their parents, Zoya tells The Independent. “Our parents also requested them [to allow us to wear] the headscarf,” says Shabana Ruksar*, 17, one of the protesting students. “Not once but many times. They did not listen.” And on 1 February, Zoya and seven of her friends were again denied permission to enter their classroom while wearing the hijab. The controversy also lingers over the lack of clarity surrounding uniforms in government-run colleges in the state. The state’s department of undergraduate education does not mandate uniforms for its colleges, reported The Indian Express, adding that individual colleges have come up with their own rules. To resolve the issue, the Karnataka government has set up an expert committee which will review judgments in the Supreme Court and various state high courts regarding a dress code, said the government in a 25 January order. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 Feb 2022 Edition


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