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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09 Feb 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, Uyghur Muslims are determined to preserve their culture, with one member of the community launching the nonprofit Boston Uyghur School in 2019, offering language, religion, and cultural classes for Uyghur children and young adults across New England, meanwhile in the United Kingdom, Mark Spencer, the Tory MP at the center of Islamophobia allegations now has a role overseeing parliament’s complaints system, and lastly a new study by Boston University’s Cost of War Project found that “counterterrorism strategies which address the root causes of terrorism, rather than the organizations and people that commit it, might end the waves of terrorist violence.” Our recommended read of the day is by Al Jazeera on the current situation in the state of Karnataka, India where Muslim girls are protesting after being banned from attending a number of colleges for wearing the hijab, and has resulted in Hindu nationalists mobs heckling and harassing the young students. This and more below:


09 Feb 2022

Outrage after hijab-wearing woman heckled by Hindu mob in India | Recommended Read

A video posted on Twitter showing a hijab-wearing Muslim student being heckled by a Hindu far-right mob at a college in Karnataka state has caused outrage amid intensifying protests over ban on Islamic headscarves in the southern state. Muskan Khan was surrounded by men wearing saffron scarves as she arrived at her college in Mandya, the viral video showed, as she confronted the protesters, many of whom, she said, were outsiders. The ban on Islamic headscarves has outraged Muslim students who say it’s an attack on their faith enshrined in India’s secular constitution, while Hindu right-wing groups have tried to prevent Muslim women from entering educational institutions causing communal tension. “I was just there to submit an assignment; that’s why I entered the college. They were not allowing me to go inside just because I was [wearing] the burqa,” Khan later told India’s NDTV news channel. “After that, they started shouting the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’. (Hail Lord Ram). Then I started to scream ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is great),” she said, adding that she would keep fighting for her right to wear the hijab. “Ten percent [of the protesters] were from the college but [the rest of them] were outsiders,” Khan said. The Karnataka government run by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday announced shutting down of educational institutions for three days. The standoff in Karnataka state – home to India’s IT hub of Bengaluru, has galvanised fears among the minority community about what they say is increasing persecution under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Students at a government-run high school were told not to wear hijabs last month. Since then Hindu far-right groups have tried to prevent hijab-wearing Muslim women from entering educational institutions in the state. The government of Karnataka, where 12 percent of the population is Muslim, said in an order on February 5 that all schools should follow dress codes set by management. read the complete article

09 Feb 2022

‘We are losing our friends’, say Udupi Hindu students about Muslim classmates in hijab row

“My best friend is Muslim. She has always worn a (head)scarf to college — and today she is stuck there,” a 19-year old Hindu student at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College, Udupi, tells ThePrint. She’s pointing to a throng of hijab-clad students protesting outside the college, facing off against another crowd wearing saffron scarves — both clamouring for “justice” amid the ongoing row over the hijab in Karnataka’s educational institutions. “In this Hindu-Muslim fight, we will lose our Muslim friends. This is not right. We come to college to make friends and study. It’s painful to see our own classmates protest against each other,” another student tells ThePrint. Both these young women are first-year B.Com. students who don’t want to reveal their names. Protests broke out at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College Tuesday when a group of Hindu students arrived on campus, sporting saffron scarves and headgear, demanding that Muslim students remove their hijabs. A group of hijab-clad Muslim students walking towards the gate at the same time sent tempers soaring. Within minutes, saffron-clad protesters began scaling the college’s walls to demonstrate inside the campus, twirling their scarves in the air as more hijab-wearing women congregated. Soon — in a trend that has students worried about missing out on their education — the college was forced to declare a holiday despite scheduled laboratory exams for senior classes. “It infuriates me to see such protests in our college. We are neither for the hijab nor against it, but we should be united as students. Outsiders are coming and distributing saffron scarves,” alleges a third woman student, also in first-year of B.Com. like the others quoted before, and who doesn’t want to reveal her name either. read the complete article

09 Feb 2022

Schools shut in Indian state as protests grow over headscarf ban

Authorities in southern India have ordered schools to shut as protests intensified over a ban on Islamic headscarves that has outraged Muslim students. The standoff in Karnataka state has galvanised fears among the minority community about what they say is increasing persecution under the Hindu nationalist government of the prime minister, Narendra Modi. In fresh demonstrations on Tuesday, officers fired teargas to disperse a crowd at one government-run campus, while a heavy police presence was seen at schools in nearby towns. The chief minister, Basavaraj Bommai, appealed for calm after announcing that all high schools in the state would be closed for three days. “I appeal to all the students, teachers and management of schools and colleges … to maintain peace and harmony,” he said. Students at a government-run high school were told last month not to wear hijabs, an edict that soon spread to other educational institutions in the state. “All of a sudden they are saying you are not supposed to wear hijab … why did they start now?” said Ayesha, a teenage student at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College in the coastal city of Udupi. Ayesha said a teacher had turned her away from her chemistry exam for wearing the garment. “We are not against any religion. We are not protesting against anyone. It is just for our own rights,” she told AFP. read the complete article

09 Feb 2022

Ban on hijab in Indian classrooms sparks wave of protests - both for and against

Protests reached a peak on Tuesday as the Karnataka High Court began hearing pleas to overturn a ban on the hijab in government-run schools. The state government, which is run by Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has urged pupils not to wear clothing that “disturbs... public order” until the court gives its ruling, taken as a reference to the hijab. The standoff began on 28 December last year when the authorities barred students at the Pre-University College in Udupi from attending college wearing the traditional Muslim headscarves, forcing them to turn to the state’s top court to seek relief. Chilling videos emerged on Tuesday showing confrontations between students of different religions in class, including one from a college in Mandya where a burqa-clad student is heckled by a large group of boys wearing saffron scarves — a colour that can be seen as symbolic of Hindu nationalism. "Why are we not being allowed inside? They are wearing saffron scarves only now. We have been wearing the hijab since childhood. They pushed us out of the college gates," a young woman in hijab told the outlet, after students from both groups were denied entry to the college. These scenes of protest between those in the hijab and those in saffron scarves have taken hold of many college campuses, with reports of students getting injured during demonstrations that involved a stone being thrown in the Bagalkot district in Karnataka. There are also those who have come out in support of Muslim students’ right to wear the hijab. Donning blue scarves, symbolising the lower castes, a group of nearly 30 students began chanting the slogan Jai Bhim (a cry of support for India’s founding father and social reformer BR Ambedkar) as they protested against an equal number of saffron-clad boys on Monday at the IDSG Government First Grade College in Chikkamagaluru, reported the Deccan Herald. Fearing an untoward incident, the college was forced to declare a holiday. read the complete article


09 Feb 2022

Why France Is Targeting Muslim Women Athletes

This week we speak to Shireen Ahmed from the Burn It All Down podcast and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation about a prospective law in France that would ban the wearing of the hijab or any headscarves on the field of play. read the complete article

09 Feb 2022

The hijab: A French obsession that should have expired during the pandemic

In the face of a health and economic crisis ravaging the country, France’s hang-up over Muslim women’s clothing is bordering on farcical. As the world enters the third year of a health pandemic during which face coverings have become universally acceptable, you would think France might have toned down its opposition to how some women dress. For years, politicians from the far Left and Right, together with many in between, have rallied against Muslim-linked garments they view as challenging secular values. Particular angst has been aimed at anything that might conceal distinctive features in a public space. This led directly to the so-called “Burqa Ban” of 2011. The deceit behind the legislation was that any kind of potential face disguise – from balaclavas to full vizor motorbike helmets – was not allowed in inappropriate situations because of “security concerns”. In fact, everyone knew that coverings had to be vaguely Islamic for the police and then judges handing out fines and prison sentences to take an interest. This much-vaunted law certainly seems redundant in 2022, when the vast majority of France’s population is routinely hiding mouths and noses behind a mask. Under such circumstances, how can anyone be remotely bothered by the tiny minority of Muslims – estimated at less than 2,000 – who choose to wear niqabs, which cover the face except for the eyes? The answer is, sadly, that plenty of vindictive reactionaries are still very angry. Their meddling now extends to the hijab, which is best described as a modest headscarf. Incredible as it might sound, precious parliamentary time has just been devoted to the issue of whether the state should allow sportswomen to wear it. read the complete article

United States

09 Feb 2022

5 Years After Muslim Ban, Middle Eastern and North African Americans Remain Hidden

President Joe Biden, like other critics of the ban, proclaimed that those affected "were the first to feel Donald Trump's assault on Black and brown people." But since a 1944 lawsuit in which a Arab Muslim man successfully argued that he was white in order to become a naturalized citizen, people from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA, which includes Iran, Syria and Yemen) have been counted as white in the U.S. As a result, and unlike other minorities, an estimated 3 million MENA Americans do not have a box to mark their identities on the Census or most surveys. And when MENA Americans are masked under the white category, the everyday group- and individual-level inequalities they face are made invisible, making clear that adding a MENA box to the U.S. Census is long overdue. In a newly published study, we show that MENA people are not seen as white by other Americans—and don't see themselves as white, either. First, to understand how MENAs are perceived by others, we presented MENA and non-MENA white people with randomized profiles of fictitious individuals that varied by name, religion, class, skin color and family ancestry. We then asked respondents to classify the fictitious individuals as Black, white, or MENA. We found that most respondents strongly distinguished profiles with MENA cues from non-MENA Black and white profiles. Next, we replicated an experiment originally undertaken by the U.S. Census to see how MENA Americans identify themselves on forms when they are—and are not—offered a separate MENA category. We found that on forms like the Census, when a MENA box is not offered, 80 percent of MENA respondents chose white (and 15 percent chose "Some Other Race"). But when a MENA box was offered, just 11 percent continued to only choose white. Instead, the vast majority—88 percent—chose "MENA." read the complete article

09 Feb 2022

Guantanamo detainee to be transferred to mental health facility in Saudi Arabia

The US government is set to transfer a detainee from the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba who authorities once alleged was an al-Qaeda operative who planned to be the "20th hijacker" on 9/11 but failed to board United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania. After his capture nearly two decades ago, Mohammed al-Qahtani was imprisoned, tortured by the US government and -- when charges against him were dropped in 2008 -- left to languish behind bars. CNN previously reported that al-Qahtani's lawyers said he is severely mentally ill, battling schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his torture. They have waged a protracted legal battle for al-Qahtani's repatriation to Saudi Arabia. On Friday, the Periodic Review Board, a government entity established during the Obama administration to determine whether detainees at the facility were guilty, recommended repatriating al-Qahtani to a mental health facility in Saudi Arabia. The board "determined that continued law of war detention of the detainee is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States," according to public documents. read the complete article


09 Feb 2022


ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2001, CIA officers collected cardboard boxes filled with $3 million in nonsequential $100 bills to buy off Afghan warlords, beginning America’s martial response to the 9/11 attacks. A day later, President George W. Bush stood before Congress and declared a “war on terror” that would “not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.” Over the next 20-plus years, the tab on that conflict, which began in Afghanistan but spread across the globe to Burkina Faso, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen, has ballooned to more than $6 trillion. The payoff has been dismal: To date, the war has killed around 900,000 people, including more than 350,000 civilians; displaced as many as 60 million; and led to humanitarian catastrophes and the worst U.S. military defeat since the Vietnam War. American cash has built armies that have collapsed or evaporated when challenged; meanwhile, the number of foreign terrorist groups around the world has more than doubled from 32 to 69. It didn’t have to be this way, according to a new study of counterterrorism approaches from Brown University’s Costs of War Project. “Terrorism is a political phenomenon,” writes researcher Jennifer Walkup Jayes in “Beyond the War Paradigm: What History Tells Us About How Terror Campaigns End,” which was shared exclusively with The Intercept ahead of its release on Tuesday. “Counterterrorism strategies which address the root causes of terrorism, rather than the organizations and people that commit it, might end the waves of terrorist violence.” Sophisticated statistical analyses have demonstrated that there are proven, effective methods to hasten the demise of terrorist organizations, according to Walkup Jayes’s report. But the “war paradigm,” which was a departure from America’s previous law enforcement approach to counterterrorism, is not one of them. read the complete article

09 Feb 2022

In Boston, a growing community of Uyghurs fights to save its culture and its people

China’s brutal crackdown against the Uyghur people, a mostly Muslim Turkic minority in the contested Xinjiang region, had yet to grab international headlines; it would be years before any American lawmaker would use the word “genocide” and before the controversy would cast a shadow over China hosting the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. But even then, men from Sidiq’s community in northwestern China had begun to disappear. The Uyghur language was vanishing from the streets. And Sidiq began to realize this erasure was occurring in his own life, too. Though in Boston his Uyghur language skills were considered strong, he could barely keep up with his friends in Xinjiang. Determined to preserve Uyghur culture, Sidiq set aside his college plans to launch the nonprofit Boston Uyghur School in 2019, offering language, religion, and cultural classes for Uyghur children and young adults across New England. Against the backdrop of a global superpower’s intensifying repression of the Uyghur people, Sidiq, now 19, is part of a small but growing community fighting to preserve its heritage from complete erasure. An estimated 200 Uyghurs live in the Greater Boston area today, according to the Boston Uyghur Association, working urgently to strengthen community bonds, which they see as integral to preserving their culture and protecting their people. “The same Uyghur identity that was fading from within me was also fading from the homeland under Chinese pressure,” said Sidiq, a name he created to use publicly to protect relatives in Xinjiang, where authorities are known to target families of those who speak out. “It’s a long-term strategic plan,” explained Sidiq’s father, who serves as the Boston school’s dean. “It may not have immediate results in a political sense, but it will help the Uyghur people to at least maintain their culture.” Sidiq, who moved to the United States when he was 5, helps manage the school along with a board and several paid instructors. Launched out of a mosque in Wayland and now online due to the pandemic, the school is now among the largest Uyghur American organizations, with over 30 students. “In this genocide, we feel completely helpless,” Sidiq said. Watching the horror play out in his homeland, he feels a sense of survivor’s guilt. It drives him to keep busy and keep pushing on behalf of relatives who cannot speak for themselves. read the complete article


09 Feb 2022

Bearing an Olympic Torch, and a Politically Loaded Message

The lighting of the Olympic cauldron is traditionally an honor given to people who symbolize the host nation, or its sporting history, or its vision of itself. China’s selection of the Uyghur athlete, Dinigeer Yilamujiang, 20, for that role, along with a teammate of the Han Chinese ethnic majority, was immediately divisive. To many Chinese, it was a feel-good message of ethnic unity. But to human rights activists and Western critics, it looked like Beijing was using an athlete in a calculated, provocative fashion to whitewash its suppression of Uyghurs in the far western region of Xinjiang, where Yilamujiang is from. Chinese state media declared after the ceremony that Yilamujiang had “showed the world a beautiful and progressive Xinjiang” with her “smiling face and youthful figure.” The propaganda effort was offensive to many overseas Uyghurs, who have long sought to raise awareness about China’s mass detention and re-education campaign targeting Uyghur Muslims that the United States has declared as genocidal. “When my country is completely turned into an open-air prison, they show this kind of happy Uyghur lighting the Olympic torch,” said Rahima Mahmut, the United Kingdom director for World Uyghur Congress and executive director of Stop Uyghur Genocide, a charity. “It is disgusting, absolutely disgusting.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

09 Feb 2022

Tory MP under investigation for Islamophobia given role overseeing complaints

The Tory MP at the centre of Islamophobia allegations now has a role overseeing parliament's complaints system, following Boris Johnson's reshuffle. Mark Spencer, who was chief whip, was made Leader of the House of Commons on Tuesday, replacing Jacob Rees-Mogg. Among the responsibilities of the job is "upholding the rights and interests of the backbench members of the House", according to the government's own description. The Commons leader is the custodian of the complaints system, as well as all standards-related matters. But Mr Spencer was last month criticised after a fellow Tory MP claimed he told her the fact she was a Muslim was making colleagues uncomfortable. She says the whip indicated that this was why she was sacked as minister. Boris Johnson launched a Cabinet investigation into the matter, which relates to an exchange which occurred in March 2020. Mr Spencer has no role in this inquiry. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 09 Feb 2022 Edition


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