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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13 Feb 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In an opinion piece, Dr. Farid Hafez writes that Charlie Hebdo’s recent political cartoon mocking victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria “reveals the extent of dehumanization that seems to be acceptable in French society,” meanwhile the editorial board of the New York Times warns that press freedom is under severe risk in India under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and in the United Kingdom, it’s been revealed that William Shawcross, the author of the controversial Prevent review, only analyzed six cases of extremism out of nearly 1,500 leading to “fresh questions over how thorough the research was that led to his conclusions.” Our recommended read of the day is by Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson and the CNN Visuals Team for CNN on a new website that has the largest data set ever made publicly available on Xinjiang, allowing exiled Uyghurs to “see official Chinese documents about the fate of their relatives, including why they were detained — and in some cases how they died.” 


10 Feb 2023

‘The darkness of not knowing disappears’ | Recommended Read

For years, this dystopian system of governance has been a reality in China’s far western Xinjiang region, where authorities have built a vast surveillance apparatus designed to detain, monitor and silence its population of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Now, the scale of that system is being exposed as a major leak of Chinese police documents enters a new phase. The giant cache of files has been made accessible to the public by a new online search tool that enables people to discover what details the Chinese state has about their loved ones in Xinjiang. A smaller subset of this data — known as the Xinjiang Police Files — was published last May. Further examination of the files then revealed their full extent, uncovering approximately 830,000 individuals across 11,477 documents and thousands of photographs. The police files were hacked and leaked by an anonymous individual, then obtained by Adrian Zenz, a director of China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. For the first time, exiled Uyghurs were able to see official Chinese documents about the fate of their relatives, including why they were detained — and in some cases how they died. On seeing the files, some described a sense of empowerment; others felt guilt that their worst fears had been confirmed. The new website represents the largest data set ever made publicly available on Xinjiang. It allows people to search for hundreds of thousands of individuals in the raw files, using their Chinese ID card numbers. read the complete article

United States

11 Feb 2023

Hamline University case shows a failure to appreciate the diversity of Islam

Early last month, there was a news story that resurrected some very old motifs in the long and winding history of Islam in the United States. "A lecturer showed a painting of the Prophet Muhammad. She lost her job," The New York Times reported. We learn that in December, Erika Lopez Prater, an adjunct professor, was fired "after an outcry over the art history class by Muslim students". It continues with a twist: "Hamline University officials said the incident was Islamophobic. But many scholars say the work is a masterpiece." So, was the work a masterpiece of Islamic art, and if so, how could showing it to a class be an act of Islamophobia? For the majority of Muslims, visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad - or any of the other prophets - are prohibited. Their belief is to be respected, and to the best of a teacher’s ability, accommodated. But other Muslims, both now and throughout history, have held a different opinion. Rather than immediately fire the adjunct professor, the university could have used this incident to open up the space for a more nuanced and balanced understanding of Islam. If we were to pull away from the incident and look at it from a bit of distance, the student and the university administration appear to be operating within an exceedingly impoverished and narrow conception of Islam. The incident demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the rich and diverse history of Muslim cultures around the world throughout the last 1400 years. Hence, academic settings should serve to train young minds to be critical and nuanced in their thinking, allowing for multiple viewpoints to be explored. read the complete article


10 Feb 2023

One year on, Muslim girls in Karnataka grapple with hijab ban, anxious about future

As another end-term exams approach, 18-year-old Aliya Assadi is nervous about what may unfold in the coming days. Assadi, a final-year school girl from Karnataka’s coastal district of Udupi was among the six girls who sparked the legal battle for the right to wear hijab in public schools. “I do not want to be heartbroken to see girls being turned away from exam halls for wearing hijab,” Assadi lamented. News about the ordeal of Muslim girls having a tough year due to the hijab ban in educational institutions makes her feel “guilty.” In reaction to the tensions, on 5 February 2022, the Karnataka government issued an order that said the dress code prescribed by the College Development Committee or the administrative supervisory committee must be followed. On 10 February 2022, the Karnataka High Court passed an interim order saying that no student should insist on wearing “religious clothes” until the court decides the matter — legalising the state-wide ban for the first time. The ban immediately triggered global outrage. While condemning the ban, Rashad Hussain, the US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, urged Karnataka state to “not determine the permissibility of religious clothing.” On 15 March 2022, the High Court upheld the ban. read the complete article

12 Feb 2023

India’s Proud Tradition of a Free Press Is at Risk

The misuse of their powers to intimidate, censor, silence or punish independent news media is an alarming hallmark of populist and authoritarian leaders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has fallen squarely into this camp, and his actions to suppress freedom of the press are undermining India’s proud status as “the world’s largest democracy.” Since Mr. Modi took office in 2014, journalists have increasingly risked their careers, and their lives, to report what the government doesn’t want them to. As a result, self-censorship has spread, along with a shrill Hindu nationalism in news reports that echoes the government line. Mr. Modi, who was re-elected in 2019 with a substantial majority for his Bharatiya Janata Party, remains extremely popular. But two decades later he has not been able to shake persistent questions about his role in the violence, especially as the government has suppressed an open discussion of his brand of Hindu nationalism. Instead, as a recent Human Rights Watch report noted, “the B.J.P.’s ideology of Hindu primacy has infiltrated the justice system and the media, empowering party supporters to threaten, harass, and attack religious minorities, particularly Muslims, with impunity.” read the complete article


10 Feb 2023

Tell me again where Amira Elghawaby got it wrong?

I’m in perfect agreement with Quebec’s political establishment that Amira Elghawaby is the wrong choice for Canada’s first special representative on combating Islamophobia. However, unlike federal Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, I don’t believe the former journalist is the wrong person for the job because she dared to criticize Quebec’s racist secularism law in a past column. Nor do I think she is the wrong person for the job because she once reportedly wrote a crass tweet at the expense of Quebecers. Rather, she is the wrong person for the job because the right person does not exist. Who, after all, would the likes of Blanchet find palatable in such a role? It’s impossible to “combat Islamophobia” in Canada without at the same time combating a law that is explicitly Islamophobic, as it prohibits hijab-wearing women — not to mention Jewish men in kippot and Sikh men in turbans — from working in the public service. Elghawaby would be justified if her only goal in her new role was to help strike the secularism law from the books forever. Instead, thanks to a politically unprepared prime minister, she’s doing damage control. Since this controversy emerged, it’s become clear that many of the pundits and leaders who commend the letter of the secularism law can’t grasp its insidious spirit because their loved ones don’t include people of faith who wear religious headgear on a daily basis. For those of us who do belong to minority faiths, the issue is starkly uncomplicated. read the complete article

12 Feb 2023

Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi expects ‘spicy’ conversation at Senate committee on Bill 21

Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi will be speaking at a Senate Committee on Human Rights on Monday, raising concerns about the increase in religious bigotry and Bill 21 in Quebec — and predicts some “spicy” words for federal politicians. Nenshi became the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city when he was first elected in 2010. He says that often over shadowed his thoughts on transit and taxes. Speaking in Calgary on Saturday, Nenshi said that him holding mayoral office for 11 years was not an indictor that there isn’t problem when it comes to Islamophobia in Canada. “We know that in Canada, the rates of hate crime have gone up. We know that overall we are seeing an increase in religious bigotry, whether it’s anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or anti-Christian bigotry. But we also know that there are certain policies in the country that are, on the face of it, discriminatory towards Muslims, towards Sikhs and towards Orthodox Jews. I feel like our political class has gotten too shy in calling this out,” Nenshi said. read the complete article

United Kingdom

10 Feb 2023

Prevent review: Imam criticised in anti-terror report denies claims

The report commissioned by the Home Office suggests the Prevent strategy, which aims to identify potential terrorists, needs "national reform". Nottingham Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain was among religious leaders alleged to have been "promoting Islamist extremist sentiments", according to the report. He insists the claims are "untrue". Dr Hussain, who is leader of the Prevent-funded Karimia Institute in Bobbers Mill, "made statements in 2021 that were sympathetic to the Taliban", the review's findings said. William Shawcross, a former chairman of the Charity Commission and renowned critic of Islamist political influence in Europe, highlighted in his report that the Imam "referred to militant Islamist groups - whose military wings were proscribed in the UK - as 'so-called 'terrorists' of the legitimate resistance groups'." Dr Hussain refuted the claims in an interview with BBC Radio Nottingham and insisted he had "been a very staunch opponent of extremism and violent extremism". read the complete article

10 Feb 2023

‘An attack on civil society’ - charities react to Shawcross’ Prevent review

Several charities have criticised William Shawcross’ review into the government’s anti-terrorism scheme Prevent, after the former Charity Commission chair published his findings. Shawcross’s review, published this week, claims some organisations have promoted extremist narratives, and that a few registered charities in the UK are listed as terrorist groups by key international allies. The Home Office welcomed the report and pledged to work with charities to help prevent radicalisation. But some charities criticised the final report, including those who had boycotted the review due to accusations that Shawcross had disproportionately focused on Muslim organisations during his time in as Commission chair. Amnesty International UK said the review lacked “legitimacy” and that it was “riddled with biased thinking”. Meanwhile, the Islamic Human Rights Commission dubbed the review “an attack” on “civil society as a whole” and race equality charity the Runnymede Trust said Prevent embeds anti-Muslim discrimination into public services. read the complete article

12 Feb 2023

UK counter-terrorism report author accused of basing conclusions on ‘handful of cases’

The author of a controversial review into Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy has been accused of failing to do his job properly because he attended only a handful of the thousands of meetings of its key deradicalisation programme. William Shawcross was appointed to review Prevent, the government’s counter-extremism programme, in January 2021. Last week his controversial conclusion that the programme had concentrated too much on the far right and not enough on Islamist extremism was met with widespread condemnation. Now it has come to light that Shawcross attended only six of the review panels charged with examining the more extreme cases identified by Prevent. This more intensive support, known as Channel, is needed for the small proportion of individuals seen as being at greatest risk. Between April 2021 and March 2022, almost 1,500 assessments for Channel took place. Critics say Shawcross’s attendance of such a small number of these raises fresh questions over how thorough the research was that led to his conclusions. read the complete article


11 Feb 2023

OPINION - I am not Charlie: Satire and dehumanization of Türkiye earthquake victims

Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that has sparked major controversies over republishing cartoons insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad but has received huge waves of solidarity after becoming a victim of an attack that left 12 people dead, has posted a cartoon that has rightly received major critique. On the first day of the earthquake in Syria and Türkiye, under the heading “Cartoon of the Day,” a Charlie Hebdo drawing showed buildings near collapse and lying in rubble, a flipped-over car, and piles of debris in the quakes’ aftermath. “Earthquake in Türkiye,” was written above the cartoon and the words “No need to even send tanks” at the bottom. What the painter depicted as satirical has nothing to do with critique of power structures, the ultimate target of any satirical pen. Mocking victims of one of the largest earthquakes in contemporary history, some of whom are still pulled out from under the rubble, reveals the extent of dehumanization that seems to be acceptable in French society. The depiction is not unique and stands not only in a continuity with Charlie Hebdo’s infamous racist history. It reflects on the one hand also the extent to which Muslims have been dehumanized by the French state, which has become one of the most aggressive countries cracking down on the Muslim civil society, closing their institutions and attacking the resistance of anti-racist nongovernmental organizations that want to defend their right to live as equal citizens. On the other hand, this depiction goes hand in hand with those far-right politicians, who have criticized their government’s support for the earthquake victims. read the complete article

11 Feb 2023

Erkin Tuniyaz: UK MPs urge government to block Xinjiang official's trip

A cross-party group of MPs are urging the government to block a planned visit to the UK by a senior Chinese official accused of overseeing severe human rights violations in Xinjiang. If the trip goes ahead, the MPs argue, a private prosecution should be allowed to be brought against him. One even suggested the Chinese official should be arrested. Erkin Tuniyaz is a top-level Chinese Communist Party member and the governor of China's north-western Xinjiang Province. In 2021 MPs approved a non-binding Commons motion which declared Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang were "suffering crimes against humanity and genocide". On Thursday in the Commons, MPs voiced their outrage after the government said Mr Tuniyaz might arrive in the UK at the weekend and have a meeting with Foreign Office officials next week. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 13 Feb 2023 Edition


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