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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11 Feb 2021

Today in Islamophobia: Faith leaders criticize Fairfax school board for delaying vote on adding four religious holidays to calendar. After U.S. Immigration battle, musician Kayhan Kalhor returns to Iran. As protests continue across Myanmar, Biden imposes new sanctions on generals who engineered the coup. Our recommended read today is by Sylviane Diouf on the forgotten history of Muslims in America. This, and more, below:

United States

11 Feb 2021

Muslims in America: A forgotten history | Recommended Read

Muslims are usually thought of as 20th-century immigrants to the US, yet for well over three centuries, African Muslims like Omar were a familiar presence. They had grown up in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria where Islam was known since the 8th century and spread in the early 1000s. Estimates vary, but they were at least 900,000 out of the 12.5 million Africans taken to the Americas. Among the 400,000 Africans who spent their lives enslaved in the United States, tens of thousands were Muslims. Though they were a minority among the enslaved population, Muslims were acknowledged like no other community. Slaveholders, travellers, journalists, scholars, diplomats, writers, priests and missionaries wrote about them. Part of the Muslims’ conspicuousness was due to their continued observance, whenever possible, of the most noticeable tenets of their religion. Prayer, the second pillar of Islam, was one of these visible manifestations of faith noted by enslaved and enslavers alike. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
11 Feb 2021

Harvard Law Review elects its first Muslim president

Founded in 1887 by future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, the Harvard Law Review is a student-edited law journal with the largest circulation of any law journal worldwide, according to Harvard University. A second-year law student at Harvard Law School, Shahawy first served as a general editor for the law review for six months before he decided to run for president this past January. "It's very humbling of course, to have a Muslim elected in a positive way," Shahawy said. He noted that while he felt the change was symbolic that "doesn't make a big difference to many people's daily lives...[or] the bad policies or laws that make their lives challenging. "It can serve as a small start or indication of new direction that might be arising in American public discourse, and the increasing importance of diversity." read the complete article

11 Feb 2021

Four years after the ‘Muslim ban’ migrants view the US with hope – and caution

The rejection was one of tens of thousands issued by US embassies across the world over the four years since Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769, the first of several attempts to enforce a policy that became notorious as the “Muslim ban”. Legal challenges chipped away at some of the restrictions, but travel bans on citizens from more than a dozen mostly-Muslim majority countries survived – until they were scrapped by President Joe Biden in one of his first acts in office. It was the end of a cruel regime of policies that did nothing to make Americans safer, according to national security experts. Instead, it cut US citizens off from their friends and families, upended educations and careers, and tarnished the reputation of a country that, despite its misadventures in the Islamic world, was still a magnet for ambitious and successful Muslim migrants. Many are now preparing to apply for visas again, hoping Biden’s election will turn the page on a dark era of American history. Some are still wary, wondering if the xenophobia that birthed the Muslim ban will linger long after the order has been scrapped. read the complete article

11 Feb 2021

Six years later, Chapel Hill murders continue to resonate in polarized nation

Six years ago Wednesday, three Muslim college students were gunned down in their Chapel Hill home. Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were killed on Feb. 10, 2015, by neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks in what prosecutors and the victims' relatives called a hate crime against Muslims. "A lot of people remember it like it was yesterday. For me, I feel like it was lifetimes ago," said Farris Barakat, Deah Barakat's brother. Farris Barakat has worked hard to correct details of the shooting, which Chapel Hill police initially attributed to a parking dispute at the complex where Hicks and the three students lived. "That was just the farthest thing that you could say it was," he said. He said he believes the killings were racially motivated, noting that Hicks had a history of hate speech and was known to harass Deah Barakat and his wife. The Chapel Hill police chief later said he regretted including the parking dispute narrative. read the complete article

11 Feb 2021

Faith leaders criticize Fairfax school board for delaying vote on adding four religious holidays to calendar

The school board met earlier this month to discuss the recommendations and had planned to vote on a final 2021-2022 school calendar. But then it postponed the vote until next month — with some board members signaling they preferred adopting a calendar that did not include the four new religious holidays. In a letter sent to the board Tuesday, seven D.C.-area faith groups — all of which sent representatives to serve on Fairfax’s Religious Observance Task Force — wrote that the delay had caused “deep disappointment [for] thousands of Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs” in the county. read the complete article


11 Feb 2021

The military coup in Myanmar is terrible for the Rohingya

The role of the civilian government in this cannot be ignored. While there is a legitimate claim that the military has always been independent of Suu Kyi’s government, what cannot be ignored was how she and her party, the National League for Democracy, aided the genocide by continuously denying it happening, minimising countless atrocities, failing to prosecute guilty soldiers, and then repeatedly shifting the blame onto the Rohingya. Even at the ICJ hearing brought forward by the state to Gambia on possible genocide in Rohingya, Suu Kyi refused to admit such genocide occurred. read the complete article

11 Feb 2021

In Myanmar, one blackout ends, another begins

For the past 18 months, Swe Pann was living under the world’s longest internet shutdown, a near-total internet blackout across much of Rakhine and Chin states. Her name and those of the other Arakanese people interviewed for this piece have been changed for their protection. Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, had been engaged in conflict with the Arakan Army — an armed rebel group seeking autonomy for the Arakanese. Nearly 1,000 people have been killed or injured, and 230,000 have been displaced, since an escalation in late 2018. In June 2019, amid intense fighting, the government blocked internet services in nine townships, claiming it was necessary to “maintain stability and law and order.” Since then, the restrictions ended in one township and have been partially lifted in the other eight, but with 3G and 4G services blocked, the internet remained effectively unusable. On February 2, the day after the coup, the military abruptly restored services. read the complete article

11 Feb 2021

'We all know what we're facing': divided Myanmar unites against coup

In Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, strangers greet each other with the three-finger salute – a symbol of resistance against the regime – and trucks offer free rides for demonstrators. Protesters of all ages and backgrounds have taken to the streets, including beauty queens, shirtless musclemen, cosplayers and snake owners along with their scaly pets. Marginalised groups have also joined rallies, among them LGBT members who say the mass gatherings present a path for their future acceptance. Meanwhile, in the south-east coastal city of Mawlamyine, Kyaw Minn Htike, 25, broke one of Myanmar’s biggest taboos by protesting openly as a Rohingya – the predominantly Muslim minority from Rakhine state subjected to a brutal 2017 crackdown by the Myanmar military that human rights lawyers have described as genocide. Rohingya are widely seen in Myanmar as interlopers from Bangladesh, and labelled “Bengalis”. However, Kyaw Minn Htike said his group had received “no bad reactions” when they waved signs reading “We (Rohingya) Stand for Democracy”. “The majority of people realise that in a national crisis these marginalised communities came out to the frontline,” he said. “That’s the citizen spirit. After the protests I believe there will be better unity between the majority and the minorities.” read the complete article


11 Feb 2021

After U.S. Immigration Battle, Musician Kayhan Kalhor Returns To Iran

He was already a very promising young musician — a child prodigy. At age 13, he was invited to join his country's national radio and television orchestra. And because he started learning his craft so early, he had a chance to learn from older virtuosos — before the revolution, before music was entirely banned. Once he reached Rome, he studied Western classical music; later, he moved to Canada and earned a music degree at Ottawa's Carleton University. Back then, as his international career blossomed, Kalhor's global career seemed unbound by the strictures of what passport he was carrying. "To tell you the truth, I never thought of becoming a permanent U.S. citizen back then," Kalhor says. "I was a Canadian citizen and an Iranian citizen, so I had a Canadian passport. I used to travel very comfortably back and forth." He had a series of O visas for the U.S., a work visa that the U.S. grants to "aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts. "I renewed it every two years, I paid my [American] taxes," he continues. "So I never thought an American green card would be necessary until 9/11 happened. And things got...a little more difficult." read the complete article

11 Feb 2021

Biden imposes new sanctions on generals who engineered Myanmar coup.

It was the first concrete steps the U.S. government has taken since Mr. Biden demanded that the generals restore democracy and release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s civilian leader, and other leaders, and announced that the army chief would take control. Noting that protests are growing, Mr. Biden warned that “violence against those asserting their democratic rights is unacceptable,’’ and he said “the world is watching.” He said he had consulted with the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, and a range of nations across Southeast Asia. But Mr. Biden’s options are limited. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

11 Feb 2021

Sri Lanka to allow COVID burials for Muslims after outcry

The United Nations also raised concerns with the government. The World Health Organization and Sri Lankan doctors’ groups have said COVID-19 victims can either be buried or cremated. Muslim lawmaker Rishard Bathiudeen said while he was happy with Rajapaksa’s assurance, the government should implement it by withdrawing the compulsory cremation rule. “Many people have been cremated before and their families are living in great agony. I am happy that they showed some compassion even at this stage, but it has to be implemented soon because people are dying every day,” said Bathiudeen. UN special rapporteurs have twice called on Sri Lanka’s government to reconsider its policy in letters sent to authorities in January this year and last April. read the complete article


11 Feb 2021

Beijing’s Ban on Clubhouse Won't Deter Some Listeners

China blocked the audio app Clubhouse on Monday after a remarkable few days in which it brought together people from both sides of the Great Firewall. Quickly, some Chinese turned to virtual private networks to continue using the app and join discussions about controversial topics, including Taiwan independence, Tiananmen Square, and the treatment of Uighur muslims. In a chat Monday night US time, one speaker who claimed to be accessing the app from mainland China using a VPN said the government was probably now monitoring the discussions but said he felt it was important to be heard. Others offered a parallel to the US government’s crackdown on social media misinformation. Grace Tien, a postdoctoral researcher in sociology and a visiting scholar at Princeton University’s Center on Contemporary China, moderated one room in which participants discussed the ban. In an interview, she says a few tech-savvy friends in Shanghai were able to sign up for Clubhouse even after the apparent ban. read the complete article

11 Feb 2021

The Roots of Cultural Genocide in Xinjiang

Over one million Uyghurs and other Muslim peoples in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang are in mass internment camps, prisons, and other penal institutions where they are subjected to psychological stress, torture, and, as recently reported by the BBC, systematic rape. Outside these penal institutions, the Chinese government has placed the indigenous people of the region under constant surveillance using cutting-edge technologies, involuntarily sterilizes women, strips children from their families and sends them to boarding schools, and has dispatched hundreds of thousands of people into forced residential labor programs in factories throughout China. All the while, the Chinese state is erasing the Uyghur characteristics of the region, destroying mosques and sites of pilgrimage, bulldozing traditional neighborhoods, and suppressing the Uyghur language. read the complete article


11 Feb 2021

How An Indian Stand Up Comic Found Himself Arrested for a Joke He Didn't Tell

Everything changed on the evening of Jan. 1, when a group of Hindu nationalists walked into the café in Indore, a city in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where Faruqui was to perform, clad in jeans and trendy white sneakers. One of the men forced his way onto the stage and accused the stand-up, who is Muslim, of hurting Hindu sentiments. The intruder was referring not to a joke Faruqui had just made, but one that he’d uploaded on YouTube in April 2020. It referenced Rama, a widely worshipped Hindu deity, and his wife Sita. “O Lord, my beloved, has come home,” Faruqui starts, dropping lyrics from an enormously popular Bollywood song in which a woman celebrates the return of her lover. Then comes the punchline: “Ramji don’t give a f-ck about your beloved.” The audience erupts. “He says, ‘I myself haven’t returned home for fourteen years.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 11 Feb 2021 Edition


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