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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10 Feb 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Cuba, a reported outbreak of COVID-19 at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility is causing concern for the legal counsel and family members of detainees due mainly to a lack of transparency about the status of those affected, meanwhile in the UK, analysts have found that the newly published PREVENT report’s core conclusions omits two far-right terror attacks carried out by men who stated their aim to kill Muslims, both of which were formally declared by police and the security services, and in Canada, CBC London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen interviews newly appointed Muslim community liaison Ahmer Khan about what he hopes to accomplish in his new position. Our recommended read of the day is by Simon Hooper for the Middle East Eye on yesterday’s announcement that a controversial Home Office-appointed counter-extremism advisor would provide “independent scrutiny” of the department’s response to the PREVENT review, an advisor who has compared Islamophobia to a ‘blasphemy law’. 

United Kingdom

09 Feb 2023

Prevent review: Home Office advisor compared Islamophobia to ‘blasphemy law’ | Recommended Read

The UK government’s contentious review of Prevent continued to face criticism on Thursday, after it was announced that a controversial Home Office-appointed counter-extremism advisor would provide “independent scrutiny” of the department’s response. Home Secretary Suella Braverman told parliament on Wednesday that she would implement all of the recommendations in William Shawcross’s report, which called for a renewed focus within the counter-extremism strategy on tackling Islamism. Braverman also said that her department would look to the Commission for Countering Extremism for “independent scrutiny and expertise” in delivering Shawcross’s recommendations. The Commission for Countering Extremism is currently led by Robin Simcox, whose appointment to the role in 2021 was described by Mend, a Muslim advocacy organisation, as “deeply worrying for Muslim communities”. Simcox has previously called on the UK government to “push back” against the use of the term “Islamophobia” to describe prejudice and discrimination against Muslims and Islam. In a 2019 article for the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank where Simcox was previously a research fellow, he dismissed Islamophobia as a “slippery concept”. Simcox was formerly a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative think tank in the UK previously headed by Shawcross which has been accused of stoking Islamophobia. read the complete article

09 Feb 2023

Reopen inquiry into claims of Islamophobia in Tory party, new chair urged

New Conservative chairman Greg Hands has been urged to reopen an investigation into alleged Islamophobia in his party following claims by an MP that she was sacked as a minister because of her faith. Nusrat Ghani, the MP for Wealden in East Sussex, claimed she was told by party whips that she was removed as transport minister during a 2020 reshuffle because her “Muslimness” had been “making colleagues uncomfortable”. Mark Spencer, chief whip at the time, rejected the claims and described them as “completely false” and “defamatory”. A Cabinet Office investigation was launched to “establish the facts” into the alleged incident but was left “outstanding” following the sacking of the government’s independent ethics adviser and two changes of prime minister. In a letter seen by The Independent, Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Party chair, calls on her opposite number Mr Hands to reopen the probe after prime minister Rishi Sunak’s appointment of Sir Laurie Magnus as Downing Street’s new ethics chief. Ms Dodds said the failure to properly investigate Ms Ghani’s claims and alleged Islamophobia with the Conservative Party would undermine Mr Sunak’s claims to lead a government of “professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels”. read the complete article

09 Feb 2023

Counter-terror report falsely claims there have been no recent far-right attacks in UK

Officials have failed to correct a false claim in a major counter-terrorism report that there have been no far-right attacks in recent years. The Independent Review of Prevent concluded that the intervention scheme should be “recalibrated” to focus more on Islamists, rather than other ideologies that currently take up a greater portion of its work. But the report’s core conclusions omitted two far-right terror attacks carried out by men who stated their aim to kill Muslims, which were both formally declared by police and the security services. In his foreword to the report, reviewer William Shawcross wrote that Prevent should “address all extremist ideologies proportionately according to the threat each represents. “Since this review was commissioned in 2019, six terrorist attacks have blighted our nation,” he claimed. “All these attacks were Islamist in nature.” But there have been eight attacks in the period, and counter-terror police have only confirmed five as motivated by jihadism. The Prevent review, commissioned over four years ago, was boycotted by major charities including Amnesty UK over previous comments where Mr Shawcross called “Europe and Islam one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future”. read the complete article


09 Feb 2023

How a Quebec current affairs show offered a model for how to talk about Islamophobia

It has been a bruising two weeks, to say the least, in Quebec. Here, there has been strong reaction to the Justin Trudeau government’s appointment of Amira Elghawaby as Canada’s Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia, with a mandate of providing outside advice and guidance to the federal government. But Ms. Elghawaby’s previous writings pertaining to Quebec set off a firestorm in the province. In a 2019 opinion piece, she and co-author Bernie Farber cited a poll in saying that “the majority of Quebeckers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment” in their support for Bill 21, which restricts certain public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols while on the job. Now, this has unleashed calls for her resignation from four provincial and two federal political parties, in spite of her sincere apology for the hurt caused by her words; some have even called for the abolition of the position itself. In response to these accusations of Quebec-bashing and contempt for the people of Quebec, there have been counter-accusations of Islamophobia for the treatment of Ms. Elghawaby, as well as for Bill 21. It’s as if the two solitudes have been shouting at each other, which has only tragically entrenched them in their positions. So it was bold for Radio-Canada to enter the fray with a televised debate around these very issues, on the popular current affairs show Tout le monde en parle, hosted by the brilliant Guy A. Lepage. The guests were Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, the former mayor of Gatineau, Que., and Boufeldja Benabdallah, a co-founder and spokesman of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec, where six Muslim worshippers were murdered in 2017. But while the two men differed on a number of issues, they did so respectfully, with nuance, humour and a heartfelt appeal for mutual understanding. read the complete article

09 Feb 2023

Q&A: Meet London's new Muslim Community Liaison Officer

As part of London's action plan to fight Islamophobia, the city created the position of a Muslim Community Liaison Advisor in 2022. Ahmer Khan assumed the role in December 2022 and will be formally introduced to a city committee on Thursday. CBC London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen met Khan in his first public interview, where he described the position and his plans. RZ: What will you be doing? AK: The mandate is set in the action plan to combat and disrupt Islamophobia as per City Council. It's basically combating Islamophobia on a variety of levels: in education, health, and bylaw, creating youth fellowship to advise counsel, to celebrate Islamic art and history and making sure that the education piece is the most important piece where the future generations understand differences and support those differences. read the complete article

United States

09 Feb 2023

Lauren Boebert Faces Backlash After Repeating Ilhan Omar Elevator Barb

Republican Representative Lauren Boebert is facing backlash after she made reference to her previous controversial comments, where she suggested Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar had been mistaken for a terrorist in an elevator on Capitol Hill. Boebert spoke to commentator Tim Pool on his "Timcast" podcast show on Wednesday and made a joking reference to a story about Omar that the Republican had apologized for in November 2021. While discussing the fact that Omar has been stripped from her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee by the new Republican House Majority, Boebert joked about her previous comments. "Are you friends with the Squad members?" Pool asked, referring to Omar and a group of other progressive Democrats. "I pretty much have to take the stairs now because I'm not allowed in elevators with her," Boebert said. "Wait, what, really?" Pool asked. "No," Boebert joked. read the complete article

10 Feb 2023

‘Secrecy the priority’: Guantanamo battling COVID outbreak

A reported outbreak of COVID-19 at the United States’s Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba is causing concern for the legal counsel and family members of detainees amid a lack of transparency about the status of those affected. “As I understand it, many detainees in both camps have contracted COVID within the last couple of weeks, although the US government will not confirm numbers,” Alka Pradhan, an international human rights lawyer who represents one of the detainees at Guantanamo, told Al Jazeera. She added it was not clear how the virus was introduced to the camps and that some of the camp’s guards were also ill. “It’s a massive outbreak,” another source familiar with the situation and speaking on condition of anonymity told Al Jazeera. “This is the most severe outbreak in the detainee population in the camp itself ever and it is the first time that something like this has happened on this scale.” “As Guantanamo is so politically sensitive, the US government should be making handling it a priority.” The highly secretive US-run prison in Cuba, which opened as part of the so-called “war on terror” in the wake of the September 11, 2011 attacks, currently has some 34 detainees split across two camps. According to lawyer Pradhan, the COVID-19 outbreak highlights the veil of secrecy and incompetence that has long surrounded medical issues at the prison. “Medical care is a joke at Guantanamo, and legal experts have found that the US government is actively committing torture by withholding proper medical care to the detainees,” she said. read the complete article


09 Feb 2023

The Role of Gender in European Islamophobic Structures

Thomas Hammarberg, the Former Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, defines Islamophobia as a symptom of the “disintegration of human values”; human values such as non-discrimination, tolerance, freedom of thought, justice, solidarity, and equality. These values are supposed to be inherent in European societies. They are values upon which the European Union and the Council of Europe were built. Gendered Islamophobia refers to the belief that Islam has a patriarchal character that must be condemned. Some think that the major targets of violence and discrimination are men in society; however, this is not the case within the Muslim community. There, women and girls are extremely vulnerable to violence motivated by their status as Muslims. In part, this is because those who are covered with scarves or veils are easily identifiable. Violent hate crimes and hate speech due to gendered Islamophobia in Europe is on the rise. It has been fuelled by tensions in the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7, the rise of populist nationalist politicians, and high-profile terrorist attacks carried out by Muslim extremist groups. It is has been exacerbated by new legislation, policing, and counter-terrorism measures, which have lead to visible discrimination of Muslim women throughout Europe. read the complete article

09 Feb 2023

Britain defends possible talks with governor of China's Xinjiang

Britain on Thursday defended the possibility that officials will hold talks with Erkin Tuniyaz, the governor of the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, amid outrage from lawmakers who have highlighted alleged rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims there. Junior foreign office minister Leo Docherty said that Tuniyaz might visit Britain next week, though he had not been invited to London by the government and would not be "dignified" with a ministerial meeting. "China's actions in Xinjiang are of course abhorrent and we will not legitimise them in any way," Docherty told lawmakers. "However, robust engagement to challenge human rights violations and stand up for the rights of the oppressed is at the core of the UK's diplomatic work around the world... hence officials would be prepared to offer him a meeting." Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority that numbers around 10 million in Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps. The United States and some other foreign lawmakers and parliaments have accused China of genocide. read the complete article


10 Feb 2023

Book Burning and the Far-Right in Sweden

On 21 January 2023, the far-right Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan set fire to a copy of the Quran in front of Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm. While Paludan considers his deed an act of ‘free speech’, Muslims worldwide condemn it and consider what happened in Stockholm a hate crime. It is well known that Islamophobia has increased since 9/11. The attack on the world’s superpower made many people see Muslim populations as a threat to the West. The effects of 9/11 spread beyond the US, with Islamophobic verbal and physical abuse soaring in Europe, where many fear a transformation into ‘Eurabia’. Paludan is one of these extremists who exaggerates the threat of Islamisation and ‘Eurabisation’. He considers himself an ethno-nationalist who rejects Islam’s presence in Europe. He has previously said that ‘the enemy is Islam and Muslims. The best thing would be if there were not a single Muslim left on this earth. Then, we would have reached our final goal’. This anti-Muslim rhetoric is used to justify such hateful crimes as setting Muslims’ holy book on fire with a lighter. The common element linking these different book burners is that they want to destroy different ideas and different identities. They all use the barbaric ritual of book burning in order to silence, repress and degrade those they hate. Moreover, all of them burn books in order to achieve ideological and political aims. In the case of Paludan, it is important to highlight the electoral goal that drove his offensive act. Indeed, this is not the first time Paludan has burnt the Quran. The leader of the anti-Islam and anti-immigration group Hard Line has a history that testifies to his Islamophobic ideology and its appeal to right-wing extremists. In order to win the support of fundamentalist electorates ahead of the September 2022 elections, in April 2022 he declared a ‘Quran burning tour’ of Sweden. This year, Paludan’s political career is at stake, as he plans to run in the June 2023 elections. Again, it looks like one of his strategies for winning votes is Islamophobia. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 10 Feb 2023 Edition


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