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 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, the Periodic Review Board has approved the transfer of Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi, who has been imprisoned for nearly 20 years without charge, meaning that most of the 39 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison have now been cleared for transfer, meanwhile in France, Thibault de Montbrial, a French lawyer and adviser to France’s centre-right presidential hopeful Valerie Pecresse, has criticized the European Union over an advertisement for its Conference on the Future of Europe event featuring a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, and in India, the Karnataka High Court said on Wednesday that the hijab matter will be heard again on Monday, February 14 and students shall not wear any religious garments till the matter is pending. Our recommended read of the day is by Shabana Mir for Middle East Eye on the Karnataka hijab ban and how “women’s bodies end up serving as the battleground” for political and ideological conflicts, and that in India today, “Muslim women’s clothing is now either a virus to be removed or a cause to be championed; it is both fetishized and demonized.” This and more below:


11 Feb 2022

India hijab ban: Why targeting of Muslim female students raises fear of new pogroms | Recommended Read

Until recently Muslim men have been the conventional focus of Indian Islamophobia, under the guise of the anti-terrorism police actions and so-called "love Jihad" witch hunts. But now Muslim women are increasingly under attack. Hindutva networks and their foot soldiers have posted faux-auctions online, purportedly selling Muslim women and using derogatory slurs. Muslim students, meanwhile, worry about the impact a prolonged row could have on their grades, and are stunned at how the attacks on their religious identity have escalated. A Hindu member of parliament, Pratap Simha, suggested that Muslims who wear distinctive religious clothing should attend Islamic madrassas, adding that India was a Hindu country where Islam did not belong: “If you still insist on practising sharia, we have already given you a separate country in 1947… So why did you stay here?” For Indian Muslims, “Go to Pakistan” is not a new taunt, nor is it harmless teasing. It is reminiscent of the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat. Battle lines have been drawn in educational institutions overnight, forcing Muslim women into a corner. Their religious affiliation has become their primary identity, one used to excise them from the body politic like a virus. One Karnataka official instructed women wearing the hijab to quit attending college, as they had "polluted the atmosphere of the college". As with most political and ideological conflicts, women’s bodies end up serving as the battleground. Muslim women’s clothing is now either a virus to be removed or a cause to be championed; it is both fetishised and demonised. Hindu extremists have used the hijab issue to paint Muslims as trouble-making outsiders. On social media platforms, spokespeople for Hindu extremist organisations have derided hijab as oppressive, pitting Muslim women’s hijab against Hindu men’s saffron scarves in a false equivalency. Indian Muslims are cornered into an isolationist Islamic identity, deprived of a shared national and community identity, even deprived of an education. read the complete article

11 Feb 2022

Hijab protests spread in India as girls face off against Hindu nationalist crowds

Debate over the hijab in schools took off last month after students at a pre-university college in Karnataka state’s Udupi district began protesting a rule barring them from wearing the Muslim head covering in classrooms. In late January, the girls petitioned the state’s high court, challenging the restrictions. But protests quickly spread across the state, as more educational institutions began banning Muslim students from wearing the hijab. Hindu activists have staged counterprotests, demanding that the saffron shawl — a Hindu religious symbol — be allowed in schools. The opposing movements have deepened festering religious polarization in the region and prompted the state to temporarily close secondary schools this week. On Tuesday, protests turned violent, with reports emerging from some cities of stone-throwing and arson, according to the BBC. Demonstrations have spread to India’s capital, Delhi, and cities including Kolkata, where students blocked roads in protest of hijab prohibitions in Karnataka, Reuters reported. On Thursday, women in two cities in neighboring Pakistan protested in solidarity. Unlike in some European countries that have seen fierce debates over the veil, there are no nationwide restrictions on wearing the hijab in public places in India. But a growing number of schools and officials in Karnataka have begun saying that religious garments should not be worn in the classroom. A student identified as Al-Rifa told the Indian news publication that her school in Karnataka was “forcing us to choose between studies and the hijab” and that female Muslim students feel unsafe on campus. “I was made to realize that I am a Muslim. Someone who dresses differently,” she said. “I have never thought about these things before.” read the complete article

11 Feb 2022

Hijab row bid to ‘dehumanise’ Muslim women, alleges student; anti-Hijab protester rakes up uniformity

The Karnataka High Court said on Wednesday that the hijab matter will be heard again on Monday, February 14 and students shall not wear any religious garments till the matter is pending. Zeba Shireen, a student who was part of the protest for hijab told India Today, "It is good to hear that schools and colleges are reopening. But the problem is not being addressed. Wearing hijab is an essential religious practice. Expressing our identity is a fundamental right. There is a clear violation of fundamental right and it is a conspiracy to target Muslim women." "We are addressing it [hijab issue] as an organised conspiracy to dehumanise Muslim women," the Campus Front of India member said. Meanwhile, a student who protested against hijab by wearing a saffron shawl said they did not want any religion in college and they were asking for uniformity. "It was never a matter of religion, it was a matter of uniformity. The issue started when a few Muslim students started wearing it suddenly. It was against the rules of college. They were valuing their religion over education," the student alleged. Zeba Shireen refuted allegations of outside influence in pro-hijab protest saying it is the saffron protests that are being supported by outside groups. "ABVP distributed saffron shawls and a BJP leader was leading the Parents Teachers Meeting in Udupi college," Shireen said. read the complete article

11 Feb 2022

Hijab row: The India woman who is the face of the fight to wear headscarf

Muskaan Khan has inadvertently become the face of resistance for young Indian Muslim women amid an escalating row over hijabs, or headscarves. In a video that has gone viral, the 19-year-old student can be seen entering her college as a mob of men approach her. Wearing saffron shawls - a colour associated with Hinduism and Hindu nationalist groups - they started shouting "Jai Shri Ram" or "victory to Lord Ram". As they continued to heckle her, Ms Khan, who was wearing a hijab and a face mask along with a long black gown, stood her ground - she shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) in return. Soon, college authorities escorted her inside. "All that I want is to stand by my rights and education," she told the BBC from her home in Karnataka state's Mandya city, where the video was shot. "I have no problems with what they wear," she said, adding people can wear saffron stoles or turbans to college, just like she wore the hijab. Ms Khan and millions of Muslim women in India wear the hijab and the burka every day - but the choice has turned controversial in recent weeks. It started when students at a pre-university college, equivalent to a high school, in Karnataka's Udupi district, began protesting last month over a ban on headscarves - the college said students could wear the hijab on campus but not in the classroom. The issue has since snowballed as other schools began implementing a similar ban - and has taken on communal overtones with supporters of Hindu nationalist groups launching protests in support of the ban. As protests turned violent in some places, the Karnataka government closed high schools and colleges - and the matter has even reached the state's high court. A three-judge constitutional bench is set to hear the case on Thursday. read the complete article

11 Feb 2022

PM Modi reaches out to Muslim women amid Hijab row; says 'attempts being made to instigate them'

Amid an escalating row over Hijab in Karnataka, Prime Minister reached out to Muslim women, saying that attempts are being made to instigate them. The PM without mentioning Hijab row accused the opposition of preventing the progress and development of Muslim women. He cited Triple Talaq law, saying his government freed the Muslim women from oppression and claimed that the opposition was unnerved by his popularity among the Muslim women. The PM was speaking at a poll rally in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur. read the complete article


11 Feb 2022

French politician Zemmour targets mosques in another anti-Muslim comment

French politician and French Presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has made a new scandalous statement targeting mosques and the call to prayer. "I don't want to hear the muezzin's voice in France, and if I become president, I won't.", Zemmour, who will run for president in April election, said on BFMTV channel. According to TRT Haber, Zemmour is trying to gather supporters with his far-right rhetoric. He said that France should remain "the landscape of churches. "I reject huge mosques," he added. Asked about the idea of a wall on European borders, proposed by certain leaders of the European Union, Zemmour said he was in favour. Zemmour told the CNews channel in September last year that child migrants were "thieves, killers, they're rapists. That's all they are. We should send them back." read the complete article

11 Feb 2022

French minister condemns headscarf ban for Muslim footballers

France's gender equality minister threw her support on Thursday behind Muslim women footballers who are seeking to overturn a ban on players wearing headscarves on the pitch. Rules set by the French Football Federation currently prevent players taking part in competitive matches from wearing "ostentatious" religious symbols such as Muslim headscarves or the Jewish kippa. A women's collective known as "les Hijabeuses" launched a legal challenge to the rules in November last year, claiming they were discriminatory and infringed their right to practise their religion. "The law says that these young women can wear a headscarf and play football. On football pitches today, headscarves are not forbidden. I want the law to be respected," Equality Minister Elisabeth Moreno told LCI television. Two months from French presidential elections, the issue has become a talking point in a country that maintains a strict form of secularism that is meant to separate the state and religion. read the complete article

11 Feb 2022

French lawyer attacks EU over poster featuring Muslim woman

A French lawyer has criticised the European Union over an advertisement for its Conference on the Future of Europe event featuring a hijab-wearing Muslim woman. Thibault de Montbrial, an adviser to France’s centre-right presidential hopeful Valerie Pecresse, said the use of such an image to illustrate the continent’s future left him “speechless”. “The Muslim Brotherhood dared not dream of it, the useful idiots did. For my part, I will fight with all my might to avoid such a future for Europe,” de Montbrial tweeted on Wednesday, citing the political group founded in Egypt nearly a century ago. Picking up on de Montbrial’s outburst, Mehreen Khan, EU correspondent for the Financial Times newspaper, said the bloc was “once again being accused of being a clandestine Islamist plot puppeteered by the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ because there is a Muslim woman on a poster”. Khan highlighted remarks made by French reporter Jean Quatremer, who claimed there were known “links” between the European Commission – the bloc’s executive arm – and the Muslim Brotherhood. Khan drew comparisons between those comments and the fractious, anti-immigration, pro-Brexit campaign waged by some British politicians in 2016. “For all those who lamented the racism of parts of the Brexit Leave campaign, in 2022 apparently serious media from the EU’s biggest country hold up Brussels as a rotten Islamist conspiracy because there are brown women in some EU stock photos archive,” she tweeted. read the complete article

11 Feb 2022

Macron's colonial nostalgia: anti-Muslim Islamic project

In yet another Islamophobic measure, the French regime is set to establish a new body to manage the largest Muslim population in the European Union: The Forum of Islam in France. This Forum will consist of people selected by Paris, not to represent the Muslim community but to help Macron shape Islam in France's own image. Macron and his ministers assert that the Forum will prevent extremism, curb the influence of foreign powers in affairs of religious minorities in France and ensure Muslims abide by the country's claims of secularism in public life. It is difficult to take these justifications seriously when, at the same time, the French regime is to double its funding of Christian schools in countries with large Muslim populations. For a self-proclaimed secular country like France to fund foreign Christian schools would seem to contradict its policy on Islam and Muslims at home. Alas, we have all become so used to the double standards of Western powers that such contradictions rarely surprise us anymore. Western powers have a long history of preaching democracy at home and supporting tyrants and thugs abroad, and one could argue that France is engaging in this usual absent-minded hypocrisy. However, since the early 1990s, successive regimes in France have embarked on a crusade against expressions of Muslimness. Many analysts assume that the Islamophobia of Macron is only an election ploy. However, this view neglects how Islamophobia does not retreat to the pre-election levels after each election campaign but settles, and the subsequent campaign extends it further. As a result of this constant ratcheting, Islamophobia has spread from being the preserve of right-wing parties to becoming the default position of large sections of the French State and society across the political spectrum. read the complete article

United States

11 Feb 2022

Panel Approves Transfer of Saudi Engineer From Guantánamo Bay

The decision in the case of Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi, who has been held for nearly 20 years, means most of the 39 detainees at the wartime prison have now been cleared for transfer, but must wait for U.S. diplomats to reach security agreements with countries willing to take them in. Mr. al-Sharbi, 47, was of particular interest to the United States because, according to a U.S. intelligence profile, he had taken flight school courses in Phoenix with two men who would become hijackers in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He had also obtained an engineering degree, attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona and was fluent in English. The Periodic Review Board said in a short statement that Mr. al-Sharbi had unspecified “physical and mental health issues,” and that, with rehabilitation and security measures, including travel restrictions, he could be safely transferred to the custody of another country. The board released the decision less than a week after disclosing that it had approved the repatriation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a mentally ill Saudi prisoner who was considered to be Al Qaeda’s intended 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks. read the complete article

United Kingdom

11 Feb 2022

Best podcasts of the week: the Serial team tackle Islamophobia in Birmingham

The Trojan Horse Affair: This Serial-backed podcast tackles the scandal that saw Birmingham schools accused of an Islamist plot. Given the affair stemmed from authorities being sent an amateurish-looking letter that was supposedly correspondence between Muslims plotting to take control of schools, it asks: who wrote it? The storytelling is as hooky as you’d expect, given it was part created by S-Town’s Brian Reed. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 11 Feb 2022 Edition


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