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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14 Feb 2020

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, Baroness Warsi accuses the government of hypocrisy over Islamophobia definition, as the resignation of Sajid Javid plunges Tory inquiry into partisan Islamophobia to a new low. Protests against anti-Muslim legislations continue throughout India with a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion of all citizens. Our recommended read is by Bridge Associate Jordan Denari Duffner on a priests comments about Muslims, and what it reveals about Islamophobia within U.S Catholic circles. This, and more, below:

United States

14 Feb 2020

A priest's anti-Muslim comments reveal US Catholics' Islamophobia problem | Recommended Read

Calling Islam “the greatest threat” to Christianity and to America, the Rev. Nick VanDenBroeke argued that Muslim immigration to the United States should be curtailed. After news of the homily spread, the local chapter of a Muslim advocacy group called upon the Catholic Church to repudiate the priest’s remarks. VanDenBroeke then published his own brief statement: “My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims. I’m sorry for this. I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam.” However sincere, this statement fails to acknowledge the fact that the views he expressed put Muslims at risk, nor does it indicate how the priest will seek to make amends. More than “hurtful,” VanDenBroeke’s comments were harmful, serving to drum up fear and suspicion, setting up an us-versus-them dichotomy that scapegoats Muslims and justifies discriminatory action against them. The whole incident is reflective of a deeper problem — the discrepancy between the church’s positive official teaching on Muslims and the Islamophobia that often permeates U.S. Catholic communities and discourse. read the complete article

Recommended Read
14 Feb 2020

It's high time to end medical complicity in torture

Last week, American psychologist and architect of the Bush-era torture programme, James Mitchell, took the stand at a hearing at the United States base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was there to provide evidence in the legal case against five men accused of planning and providing logistical support for the 9/11 attacks. His chilling testimony legitimising torture was yet another reminder of the shameful complicity of medical and health personnel in the horrific crimes committed in recent history under the pretence of "saving American lives". Almost two decades have passed since the start of the "war on terror" and the implementation of the US "enhanced interrogation" programme - a clinically friendly name for what until that time had been known by its proper name: torture. So, when he took the stand last week, did Mitchell finally accept responsibility for his crimes? Far from it. He simply gave a testimony mirroring his earlier justifications: "I'm just a guy who got asked to do something for his country". As a medical professional, my conduct is underpinned by principles of rehabilitation and respect for autonomy. Psychologists like Mitchell and his colleague Bruce Jessen, who helped him create the torture programme, were bound by similar ethics. Their involvement in torture is perverse and one of the worst conceivable violations of our profession. But Mitchell and his colleagues are hardly the only ones responsible for the atrocities committed in this period of recent history. Those crimes ripple beyond the individual. We know from the so-called "torture memos" and other evidence, that the expert opinion of scores of lawyers, doctors and civil officials was sought and relied upon to argue that "enhanced" interrogation techniques do not constitute torture. read the complete article

14 Feb 2020

Guantanamo’s Ugly Taint on U.S. Diplomacy

Though the five alleged 9/11 conspirators were charged more than seven years ago and have been held at secret CIA “black sites” or at Guantanamo since the early 2000s, their trial has not begun. The military commissions at Guantanamo don’t meet international fair trial standards and the process is mired in procedural chaos, but the delay seems to be driven by the torture that Mitchell and the CIA inflicted on the five men while they were held in black sites around the world. The destruction of those sites and of the evidence of what took place in them has made it harder for defense counsel to obtain evidence regarding the torture of their clients. That has been a key issue during pre-trial hearings on the admissibility of evidence obtained through torture. That torture — and the failure of successive U.S. administrations to hold anyone accountable for the abuse – also stains and weakens American diplomacy to this day, impairing the ability of the U.S. government to keep its citizens safe abroad and to credibly promote respect for human rights in its foreign policy. Just last year, the chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Government, Shohrat Zakir, criticized the passage of U.S. legislation calling for the closure of mass detention camps for Uighurs as hypocritical, comparing the conditions in the camps to those utilized by the United States at Guantanamo. What stood out to me listening to Mitchell describe vividly the way he tortured the men sitting before him was the similarities between what the United States has done at its “black sites” and at Guantanamo, and the actions the United States cites in its criticism of Egypt. read the complete article


14 Feb 2020

At the Kolkata Book Fair, a fight for India’s soul

At the annual Kolkata Book Fair, people flock from all over the city to browse millions of titles in Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit, and English. Islamic pop-up stalls sit alongside Hindu and Sikh neighbours. India’s 200 million Muslims make up the poorest religious community in India. Many cannot prove their place of birth, extending the risk of enforced statelessness to millions, irrespective of their migration status or country of origin. There are now fears that the government will use the registers and CAA to pursue mass incarceration, deportation, and violence towards India’s Muslims. The worry is that in Narendra Modi, India has a leader who not only has the potential to order Islamophobic violence, but also has a history of appeasing it. Specific to the protests in Kolkata is the prominence of Swami Vivekananda, a 19th century Hindu preacher born in the city in 1863, whose image accompanies anti-CAA slogans far more than any other figure. As a Hindu spiritual leader, Vivekananda’s status as an anti-CAA resistance symbol may seem contradictory. But in reality, he embodies the tolerant Hinduism—embraced in India as a spiritual framework rather than a devoutly followed religion—which has been subject to an alarming radicalisation by Modi and his allies. Indians of all faiths are pushing back and showing solidarity with their Muslim neighbours; diversity has been a key feature of the protests nationally. read the complete article

14 Feb 2020

In Search of India's Soul: From Mughals to Modi

Writer and journalist Aatish Taseer returns to India, his mother country, to explore the changes in this deeply religious yet secular nation. He takes an in-depth look at tensions between Hindus and Muslims, and how the hardline government of the country's prime minister, Narendra Modi, has fueled anger between Indians of different faiths. Cows are a sensitive topic in India - holy to Hindus and a commodity to Muslims. Taseer meets the families of cow traders and herders who have become targets of Hindu nationalist anger. Aatish also meets Hindus who believe Muslim men are forcing Hindu women to convert to Islam as some form of "Love Jihad" - and discovers the dangerous lengths they are prepared to go to stop Hindu women marrying Muslim men. He also examines the country's history of religious rule, stretching back to the Mughal Empire and beyond. He searches for answers as to why India finds itself in this position today, and what lies ahead for this religiously diverse nation founded on secular principles. read the complete article

United Kingdom

14 Feb 2020

Sayeeda Warsi accuses government of ‘hypocrisy’ over Islamophobia definition

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi who was also a former co-chair, said the party’s stance on anti-Muslim hatred was not as strong or principled compared to the measures it had taken against anti-Semitism. Lady Warsi challenged ministers at question time in the House of Lords to recognise ‘the irony and the hypocrisy of the Government’s position in relation to Islamophobia’ as opposed to the principled stand the Conservative Party had taken when it came to allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Her comments came as peers pressed the Government over its repeated refusal to adopt a definition of Islamophobia drawn up by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims. read the complete article

14 Feb 2020

As Sajid Javid departs, the Tory Islamophobia scandal reaches a new low

Let us not forget that the departing chancellor had promised to hold an inquiry into the party’s tolerance of Islamophobia after the Muslim Council of Britain and others documented mounting evidence of anti-Muslim racism. From all this evidence, it is difficult not to form the conclusion that the party does not truly care about being tough on racism, as long as it can pretend to look tough on racism. This tepid commitment to fighting bigotry was demonstrated in full force when, on Sunday, the government seemingly abandoned its own adviser on the Islamophobia definition, Imam Qari Asim after a non-story in the Sunday Times. Asim was reported as having explained how some Muslims may have different understandings of free speech. Let us not forget that he was appointed to the role after the government refused to endorse a definition of Islamophobia formulated by British Muslims at a grassroots level. These two cases are symptomatic of the wider approach we have seen the Conservatives take when it comes to Islamophobia: that is, letting its own representatives and members get away with legitimising or propagating racist views, while undermining Muslims. The actions of this past week alone suggest that either the party openly gives the greenlight to racism, or it fundamentally fails to understand what Islamophobia actually is – that is, so much more than just anti-Muslim hatred. Islamophobia is peddling conspiracy theories: Sajid Javid being part of “the Muslim brotherhood take over”. Islamophobia is playing into tropes: discussing “Muslim rape gangs” and the “Muslim invasion”. Islamophobia is not speaking out against structural discrimination, which leaves British Muslims earning £350 a month less than their non-Muslim counterparts. read the complete article


14 Feb 2020

Sexual pleasure isn’t the sole key to women’s freedom – just ask sex workers and Muslim women

Modern-day sex positivity feminism manifests right now in fashion, art, film and TV shows, more than anything else. But the issue with sexuality-centred feminism as a tool for liberation is that it doesn’t entirely engage with the variety of understandings and body relationships women have towards sex and sexuality. Sex positivity feminism affirms that consensual activities are “fundamentally healthy and pleasurable”. But framing sexual pleasure as central to feminism denies entire classes of women their own experiences, thereby erasing their narratives and understandings of sex. From the burka to the burkini, any article of clothing Muslim women choose to put on while simply trying to exist become hyper-politicised symbols. In the eyes of this arguably colonial feminism, the mere prospect of being a Muslim woman is often equated with oppression. Liberal-minded activists, thanks to Islamophobic tropes, perceive Muslim women as people without sexual control. It’s no surprise then, that in an attempt for liberal feminists to “free” Muslim women, Muslim women are expected to showcase their sexuality. It’s a conversation that plays directly into an Orientalist framework – one which spotlights western feminism’s binary of being suppressed and in need of emancipation. The whole emphasis on sex and sexualisation in liberation movements allows the taming of radical feminism. We see it among feminist groups like Femen and many other spaces. Just two weeks ago, during a World Hijab Day conference in Sweden, a British Muslim woman presenter – one of the panelists at the conference – was targeted by a bunch of anti-hijab protestors who spoke against the hijab, regarding it as a symbol of oppression and sexism. In reality, it was an Islamophobic attack against a Muslim woman who chose to exercise her basic right to wear the hijab. Put simply, women who wish to wear things that have personal significance to them should not only be free to do so, they should have that choice respected. read the complete article


14 Feb 2020

How China spies on Uyghurs in Turkey

Nur was trapped. One of 10,000 or so Uyghurs now living in Turkey, he had thought himself free of the Chinese state. Back in Xinjiang, authorities were intensifying a crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities that held more than a million in vast internment camps, destroyed mosques and tarmacked graveyards. As this repression spread, so too has intimidation and monitoring of anyone able to escape it. A number of Uyghurs now living in Turkey recounted their experiences for this article. Others confirmed they had been approached by the state but declined to meet with a journalist for fear of reprisals. All of the individuals quoted spoke on condition of anonymity and their names have been changed accordingly. As well as gathering information for the state, Amnesty’s Poon added, these requests also damage the cohesion of exiled Uyghur communities, making everyone seem like a potential informer. “[Students] told me they are concerned about how some of their classmates might have answered,” he said. “It sews distrust in the community.” All three men said that simply by carrying a phone, they felt that they were still in the grip of the Chinese state — that the government was always watching them, able to listen in, demand that they become informers or threaten their loved ones. read the complete article

14 Feb 2020

Coronavirus And The Impetus To Close The Chinese-Run Concentration Camps

On February 5th, 2020, when the official Chinese government’s media were reporting that coronavirus death toll on mainland China was 600 – 700, Tencent briefly listed 154,023 infections and 24,589 deaths from Wuhan coronavirus. That is, the actual death toll is about 40 times higher than what the Chinese government reported. East Turkestan (known as Xinjiang) is far from the epicenter of the outbreak and just 55 cases have been reported in the region so far. We can easily believe that the actual number of the people who fell victim to coronavirus in East Turkestan is tens of times more than the above figure. Among those who died in Wuhan, 61% died in their homes. Currently, almost all the Uyghur population in East Turkestan is locked up in their homes. The situation of the 3+ million Uyghur concentration camp detainees is worse by several degrees. Keeping 3+ million Uyghur alive detainees is a complex, expensive and extremely difficult project. Are the 3+ million detainees still alive? Are they still being fed? How and from where? There is a real reason to fear a rapid spread of coronavirus in the controversial Chinese camps. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 14 Feb 2020 Edition


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