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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01 Feb 2023

Today in Islamophobia: February 1st marks World Hijab Day and Muslim women write about their experiences wearing the headscarf and what it means to them, meanwhile in India, the Supreme Court is set to hear a public interest litigation as well as a separate plea next week challenging the ban placed by the central government on a documentary released by the BBC, and in light of the anti-Muslim stunts by Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan, some are asking questions about Denmark’s history of Islamophobia as “Muslim immigration remains a contentious political issue.” Our recommended read of the day is by Omar Suleiman for Religion News Service who asks if Islamophobia explains the double standards in the recent events in Sweden, where Rasmus Paludan burned the Qur’an and was protected by law enforcement, but the same authorities helped prevent a burning of the Torah outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm. This and more below:


01 Feb 2023

Quelling the obsession with burning the Quran | Recommended Read

In 2010, Terry Jones, a pastor in Florida, went viral with a video of his burning the Quran as he called for an international “Burn the Quran Day,” to be held on each anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, Jones has seemingly disappeared. You could argue that his virality was due to the public’s horrified shock at the gross act of desecrating Islam’s most sacred text — according to Islamic tradition, the literal word of God. Except that people just keep burning the Quran. This past week, Rasmus Paludan, the Danish-Swedish leader of the anti-immigration and anti-Islam group Hard Line, made headlines as he burned a Quran outside of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. Paludan, who first gained notoriety in 2017 when he began posting Islamophobic content on YouTube, has since remained in the headlines solely through multiple public displays of Quran burning. A few days after Paludan’s stunt, meanwhile, we learned that Swedish authorities helped prevent a burning of the Torah, the Jewish holy text, outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm. Does Islamophobia explain the double standard? The Islamophobia industry is a dumpster fire of various individuals and ideas, all inspired by ignorance. From Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the West Bank, including the killing of 10 Palestinians in a Jenin refugee camp this past week, to China’s concentration camps filled with millions of Uyghur Muslims, to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s record of egregious human rights abuses against Muslims in Gujarat, Islamophobia, like evil, has no uniform. It’s a global phenomenon that seeks to otherize, isolate and decimate Islam and Muslims alike. Defending free speech while taking exception to anti-Muslim hate in diplomatic language has no hope of moderating the views of people like Paludan. In a December 2018 video, Paludan said, “The best thing would be if there were not a single Muslim left on this Earth. Then we would have reached our final goal.” In football terms, the Islamophobia playbook is a bunch of random Hail Marys. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

We can throw escaped Uyghurs a lifeline by bringing more to Canada

At midnight on Dec. 27, Uyghur public speaker Abdulla Abdulhamit was home when armed Turkish police broke into his house. He was arrested and sent to a deportation centre. Despite numerous attempts by other Uyghurs in Turkey to learn his status, the authorities have not released any information and his fate remains unclear. His family and friends fear that he will be sent back to China, where he is likely to be executed. In Canada, our Parliament has been clear that Beijing is perpetrating a genocide of the Uyghurs, and they voted unanimously to call it that, consistent with the United Nations 1948 Genocide Convention. While some have criticized Liberal cabinet ministers for being absent from the vote, we can be sure that if the Prime Minister had opposed it, the Liberal whip would have persuaded Liberal MPs to vote nay. But what can Canadians tangibly do to help the Uyghurs? Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi proposed a motion to call on the government to design a program to bring 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims to Canada over two years. These are Uyghurs in other countries where they are at daily risk of being arrested and deported back to China to be incarcerated in indoctrination camps – what witnesses described to the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development as concentration camps – where deaths, torture, rapes and forced sterilizations of women are common, and where some detainees are executed without trial. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023


China has long targeted Uyghurs in the East Turkistan/Xinjiang region, where there is a history of tensions between the group and the Chinese majority Han people. In response to the Uyghur independence movement and an uptick in Uyghur attacks against civilians in 2014 — which East Turkistan groups claim were actually carried out by Chinese intelligence operatives — President Xi Jinping began detaining reportedly more than 1 million Uyghers in prisonlike camps for alleged infractions, ranging from having more than two children to wearing a headscarf. Despite global attention on the plight of the Uyghurs, China has unilaterally denied accusations of genocide and forced labor. While the government acknowledged the existence of the camps, it called them “vocational education and training centers” and said they were designed to promote counterterrorism. The government maintained that the centers closed in 2019. The United Nations has been unable to confirm whether the camps are still in use, but in a 2022 report, the U.N. contended that “the legal and policy framework that underpins the operation” remains and could be reengaged at any time. Since January 2021, other governments, including Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, have joined the U.S. in condemning China’s actions as genocide. In December 2021, Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which presumes that products made in Xinjiang were manufactured with forced labor and blocks them from entering the United States. But the leaders at Thursday’s conference said those actions fell short. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

Does the EU have hijab bans?

Across the European Union, the headscarves worn by some Muslim women have been hotly contested for years. Some nations claim hijab bans would tackle religious oppression and terrorism, while others argue bans would discriminate against women's rights and hamper integration. Some EU countries have already imposed strict bans on the burqa, a full body covering with mesh around the eyes so a woman can see; and the niqab, a face veil that only leaves the eyes free. Meanwhile, outright or partial bans on the hijab headscarf in educational institutions, the workplace and public spaces have also been imposed in some EU countries. According to a March 2022 report by the Open Society Justice Initiative — a group of lawyers advocating for human rights — such bans came into force after US policymakers declared a global war on terror in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, giving rise to suspicions around Muslims due to their attire. "The idea that Muslims as a group were the new 'enemy within,' with beliefs and practices reflecting values and norms inferior to those of Europe, acquired legitimacy across the political spectrum," the authors of the report wrote. After the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, France became the first EU country to impose a ban on the burqa and niqab in public places in 2010, calling them a sign of oppression. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy (in some localities), the Netherlands (in public places) and Spain (in some parts of Catalonia) followed suit. Germany on the other hand, remains divided on burqas and niqabs, with some states banning them in schools and public places, and others fearing bans could hinder integration. In July 2021, the European Court of Justice ruled that women could be fired from their jobs for refusing to remove their hijab if they work in a job that deals with the public. Asmaa el Idrissi, a lawyer and anti-discrimination consultant based in Bochum, Germany, told DW that such rules do not help companies grow and are discriminatory. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

BBC Modi film: Tory peer's racially charged attack on British Pakistanis must be challenged

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, still licking his wounds from the Nadhim Zahawi affair, is being drawn into a fresh crisis following inflammatory and apparently racist remarks made by senior Tory peer Rami Ranger about British Pakistanis. Lord Ranger, who has given more than £1m to the Conservatives, is patron of the Conservative Friends of India group. Lord Ranger’s remarks came in the wake of this month’s BBC documentary series on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s relationship with India’s Muslims. On 20 January, Lord Ranger wrote a letter to the BBC’s director general, Tim Davie, condemning the corporation's “insensitive, one-sided documentary”. In the letter, which closely reflected the Modi government official line, he added: "The BBC documentary has opened old wounds by creating hatred between British Hindus and Muslims by attempting to paint India as an intolerant nation where Muslims are persecuted. If this had been the case, the Muslims would have left India by now.” In a loaded comment, he asked Davie to "kindly confirm if your Pakistani-origin staff were behind this nonsense". Lord Ranger then broadened his criticism in a series of interviews on Indian TV. "We know what Pakistanis are capable of doing and how they kept Osama bin Laden hidden for 10 years while they were getting paid from America," he said in an interview on the Indian television channel NewsX. "So therefore I do not have any faith in the country which only wants to export terrorism. So therefore I just wanted to make sure that there is no Pakistani connection in that documentary.” Lord Ranger went on: “Indian Muslims are much more smarter, better and cleverer than the Pakistanis.” He added that they are “quite capable of looking after themselves”. Later in the interview, he asked: “Which community commits the maximum crime in [the] United Kingdom?” Before adding: “These Pakistanis have no right to speak.” These remarks were made over the weekend. However, 10 days have passed since Lord Ranger’s letter to the BBC, and there has been no response from Sunak. The situation may be complicated by the unspoken electoral alliance that appears to exist between the Conservative Party and groups in Britain affiliated with Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

I proudly wear a hijab. Forget the stereotypes – it’s a sign of style and strength

At first, he began with, “What the fuck are you staring at?” The man was shouting at my friend and me as we travelled through east London on the underground. Then he stood up and stepped towards me screaming, “F***ing Muslim whore”, beginning a tirade of disgusting Islamophobic abuse. Though it lasted about five minutes, it felt like hours. Finally, another male passenger confronted him and managed to make him sit down. But as he left at the next stop, he came up close to my face and said, “If you get off here, I’ll be waiting for you.” With depressing regularity, hijab-wearing women like myself are being subjected to appalling abuse and discrimination. Last year, a shocking video shared on social media showed a group of white men and youths in Sheffield launching a vicious attack on a veiled Muslim woman and her daughter. A 2019 paper from Nottingham Trent University reported that attacks against hijab-wearing women in the UK were on the increase, suggesting that this was because veiled Muslim women were “represented as ‘agents’ of terrorism”. And Tell Mama UK, the watchdog that monitors Muslim hate crime, reported in 2018 that 58% of recorded Islamophobic incidents were related to Muslim women because of their “overt religious identity”. Today is World Hijab Day, founded 10 years ago by Nazma Khan in the US, in which people from more than 190 countries take part. The day supports people’s rights to personal choices and creates respect for each other. In 2013, David Cameron said he would “back up” British schools and courts demanding the removal of the veil. And in 2018 Boris Johnson mocked Muslim women in burqas as looking like “bank robbers” and “letter boxes” – sparking a huge increase in anti-Muslim incidents, half of which were targeted at women wearing the face veil. Across Europe things are no better. The Netherlands and Switzerland have imposed burqa bans. In Norway, a Muslim was offered a job only on condition that she removed her hijab. Ever since 9/11, it seems, Muslim hijab wearers have been either demonised as fanatics, or pitied as downtrodden. read the complete article


01 Feb 2023

Ottawa’s new anti-Islamophobia advisor is facing backlash. Here’s what to know

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is standing behind Amira Elghawaby, Canada’s first special representative on combating Islamophobia, as officials in the Quebec government continue to call for her resignation. Elghawaby, who was appointed last Thursday, has faced criticism since her appointment was announced over an opinion piece she co-wrote in 2019. In the piece, Elghawaby criticized Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans certain public-facing employees, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols on the job. While the Quebec government says the law is intended to defend secularism — the province’s official policy of separating religion and state — critics like the National Council of Canadian Muslims have called it discriminatory and a law that “causes second-class citizenship.” Federal cabinet ministers have faced repeated questions about the concerns from Quebec over the past two days and walking into his cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Trudeau said he supports Elghawaby “100 per cent.” “She has demonstrated, throughout her years of work, an … openness and a rigor that we need right now,” he said, speaking in French. “I understand that dealing with Islamophobia will require important and sometimes difficult conversations, but we need someone who is knowledgeable, who is deeply grounded, and I know she’s the right person.” read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

Community gathers to honour victims of the Quebec City Mosque attack

On January 30, McGill hosted a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the January 29, 2017, shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, when a lone gunman killed six Muslim worshippers and injured 19 others. Monday’s ceremony was marked by solemn tributes to victims, thoughtful discourse, and impassioned pleas for people to do their part to combat Islamophobia. Held in the atrium of the Macdonald Engineering Building on McGill’s downtown campus, the event drew community members from McGill and Montreal. Ehab Lotayef, IT & Technical Services Manager, served as emcee. Lotayef is a long-time advocate for inclusion on campus, and a tireless organizer of the annual commemoration ceremony. read the complete article


01 Feb 2023

How Narendra Modi tried to censor a critical BBC documentary—and failed miserably

If you want to know how not to censor a critical television documentary, look to the behaviour of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his reaction to India: The Modi Question, the BBC’s two-part exploration of the approach taken by his government towards India’s Muslims and the conflicts and tensions that have arisen from its ideology and policies. Since its release the government has engaged in an astonishing attempt to prohibit its screening and I, along with fellow petitioners, am challenging this censorship in the Indian Supreme Court. But to understand what the government is so afraid of, one has to know the context. India’s Muslims constitute nearly 15 per cent of the country’s population and number over 200m. India has the third-largest Muslim population in the world, after Indonesia and Pakistan. It is projected to have the largest by 2050. A pracharak, or full-time missionary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who had been drawn to the fascistic organisation as a child, Modi is assigned to work within the rising Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a mass political party guided by the RSS. Modi gets an unexpected opportunity to helm the BJP government in his native state, Gujarat. Establishing a reputation as a strongman, he wins international notoriety for presiding over an anti-Muslim pogrom that claims an estimated 2,000 lives. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

India dispatch: Supreme Court to hear pleas against government ban on BBC Modi documentary

Next week the Indian Supreme Court is set to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) as well as a separate plea by advocates in India challenging the ban placed by the central government on a documentary released by BBC. The documentary, titled India: The Modi Question, was released in the form of two episodes on 17 January, 2023 and 24 January, 2023. It explores the circumstances surrounding the 2002 communal riots in the Indian state of Gujarat when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister, as well as the reportedly debatable term that he continues to serve as the Prime Minister of India. The documentary released by BBC took India by storm, especially as it discussed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the riots and claimed to tell the story of Modi’s “troubled relationship with India’s Muslims.” The Prime Minister held the position of the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time of the riots and was accused of being involved in the incident and the following outbreaks. He was subsequently acquitted of criminal conspiracy in February 2012, ten years after the incident in Godhra, a verdict that was confirmed by the Indian Supreme Court in June 2022. The documentary claims that there was an active role of the state executive, led by the then CM Modi, in not preventing or mitigating the violent acts, if not instigating them, and that a secret UK government inquiry had found Modi ‘directly responsible’ for the riots. The central government of India, strongly criticizing the two-part series and calling it propaganda, restricted circulation of the documentary in India on 21 January 2023, by making use of Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules). The provision allows blocking of information in cases of emergency, where “no delay is acceptable.” read the complete article


01 Feb 2023

Does Denmark have an Islamophobia problem that it doesn't like to admit?

A wave of deep sorrow, regret and anger swept across the Muslim world after extremist Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan last week burned copies of the Quran outside mosques and the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. Under police protection, the far-right provocateur, infamous for his anti-Islam views, torched the Muslim holy book and announced that he will keep repeating this act until Sweden is admitted into the NATO alliance, something it has sought amid Russia's military action against Ukraine. "This mosque has no place in Denmark," said Paludan in a live stream on his Facebook page, while being protected by riot police personnel. Denmark, meanwhile, maintained their hands are tied over the hate crime due to the revocation of the country's blasphemy laws in 2017. The Nordic country's now-defunct blasphemy law called for up to four months in prison upon conviction, although most people were fined instead. It appears that Paludan's action remains short of conviction, as there is no law in the country to challenge him. This entire situation prompts questions over a country where Muslim immigration remains a contentious political issue, where mainstream political parties entertain the idea of shifting asylum facility to Rwanda in order to stop accommodating refugees in Denmark, and where no law enforcement action is taken on a far-right politician who continues to wound the sentiments of millions of people: does Denmark present the case of anti-Islam hate in action? read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Feb 2023 Edition


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