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 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In India, protests have spread across the country after a school banned Muslim girls wearing hijabs or headscarves in the classroom, and the “incident has become a flashpoint over Muslim rights in the country under the rule of PM Narendra Modi,” meanwhile in France, a court has overturned a ban on Muslim women wearing the hijab in sport and the issue is becoming a hot topic in French politics, just two months away from presidential elections, and in the United Kingdom, Dr. Chris Allen writes about the “Trojan Horse” conspiracy theory and “how the legacy of the affair is still felt today: both the city of Birmingham and its Muslim communities continuing to be perceived as problems.” Our recommended read of the day is by Norimitsu Onishi and  for the New York Times on the emigration of French Muslims, many of whom “say that discrimination was a strong push factor and that they felt compelled to leave by a glass ceiling of prejudice, nagging questions about their security and a feeling of not belonging.” This and more below:


14 Feb 2022

The Quiet Flight of Muslims From France | Recommended Read

“It’s really the 2015 attacks that made me leave because I understood they were not going to forgive us,” said Mr. Louatah, 38, the grandson of Muslim immigrants from Algeria. “When you live in a big Democratic city on the East Coast, you’re more at peace than in Paris, where you’re deep in the cauldron.” Ahead of elections in April, President Emmanuel Macron’s top three rivals — who are expected to account for nearly 50 percent of the vote, according to polls — are all running anti-immigrant campaigns that fan fears of a nation facing a civilizational threat by invading non-Europeans. The issue is top of their agenda, even though France’s actual immigration lags behind that of most other European countries. The problem barely discussed is emigration. For years, France has lost highly educated professionals seeking greater dynamism and opportunity elsewhere. But among them, according to academic researchers, is a growing number of French Muslims who say that discrimination was a strong push factor and that they felt compelled to leave by a glass ceiling of prejudice, nagging questions about their security and a feeling of not belonging. The outflow has gone unremarked upon by politicians and the news media even as researchers say it shows France’s failure to provide a path for advancement for even the most successful of its largest minority group, a “brain drain” of those who could have served as models of integration. French Muslims, estimated at 10 percent of the population, occupy a strangely outsize place in the campaign — even if their actual voices are seldom heard. It is not only an indication of the lingering wounds inflicted by the attacks of 2015 and 2016, which killed hundreds, but also of France’s long struggle over identity issues and its unresolved relationship with its former colonies. They are being linked to crime or other social ills through dog-whistle expressions like “zones of non-France,” used by Valérie Pécresse, the center-right candidate now tied with the far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, for second place behind Mr. Macron. They are singled out for condemnation by the far-right television pundit and candidate Éric Zemmour, who has said that employers have the right to deny jobs to Black and Arab people. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

Muslim women footballers spar with French government on hijab ban in sport

A day after police banned a protest by the ‘Hijabeuses’, women footballers fighting for the right to wear religious headscarves in competition, the ban was overturned by a court. Victories are beginning to mount for the activist group: France’s equality minister has also voiced her support for them. The affair is becoming a hot topic in French politics, just two months away from presidential elections. At Wednesday’s debate in the National Assembly, Les Républicains MP Éric Ciotti, an advisor to the party's presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse, lambasted the government for what he considers its meekness in the face of creeping Islamism in French society. “Islamism is spreading in prayer rooms, mosques, homes and now in sports clubs!” he said. Régis Juanico, an MP for the centre-left Socialist Party, responded that sport is “a vehicle for integration, republican fraternity, and not hate or division”. Communist Party politician Marie-George Buffet reminded the Assembly that “secularism and neutrality are at the heart of our sporting culture”. Speaking to radio station LCI on Thursday, France's Minister for Gender Equality Élisabeth Moreno said: "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.” She later added, in comments to press agency AFP, that "women should be allowed to dress as they please”. Her comments came in the wake of the court’s decision to overturn the ban on the Hijabeuses’ protest. The court said that the ban “constituted a serious and clearly illegal infraction on the fundamental freedom of the right to protest” and ordered the police commissioner to pay a €1000 fine, which would go to the activist collective and to rights charity the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (Human Rights League). read the complete article


14 Feb 2022

‘Modest fashion’ only works in a world where Muslim women aren’t criminalised for it

I cannot imagine that I am the only Muslim woman who is exhausted by the barrage of anti-Muslim hatred that we have seen in the past few days, particularly on the issue of the hijab. From the protests following a hijab ban in schools in India’s Karnataka Udupi district and a proposed hijab ban for Germany’s public sector, Muslim women who have come of age in the post 9/11 world will tell you that the demonisation of the hijab and the niqab are just one of the many forms of Islamophobia the community has long endured – especially in Western European countries like France. In light of the country’s plans to ban the hijab from competitive sport, and the launch of the government’s French Islam Initiative, the Forum of the Islam of France, one of its most important fashion media outlets said four words that were obtuse at best and revealing at worst. It comes amid a trend of more modest fashion choices that the Guardian speculatively describes as the “the great cover up”. The spectrum is pretty wide and includes everything from trench coats, oversized jumpers and midi dresses, to the burkini. “Dolce & Gabbana now sells abayas,” the article says, “Nike stocks hijabs for athletes. At almost every global fashion week, the dominant fashion aesthetic has tilted toward longer hemlines, higher necklines and more voluminous fabric.” Some people fear that this is a trend that ‘skirts’ around the issue of how Muslim women have been demonised for covering up. This is something Rashmee Kumar argues in an article for The Intercept. She describes Gap’s back-to-school-ads in summer 2018 featuring a young girl in a hijab, and draws comparison to how, meanwhile that same year, children in Delaware were forced to leave a public swimming pool for fears that their hijabs could clog the filtration system. Kumar also notes how, when Nike released its first sport hijabs in December 2017, that same month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pulled 14 Muslim women in the hijab out of a security check line at Newark airport, and searched and detained them for two hours. The article also looks at the homogenising of Muslim identity inherent in modest fashion which discounts racial diversity among Muslims (especially Black Muslims), class, and the variety of spiritual leanings within Islam, such as sufism or salafism. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

Mother of Guantánamo detainee ‘still waiting’ for US and German apologies

The mother of a German-born Guantánamo Bay detainee held at the camp for six years and tortured has said she is still waiting for an apology or compensation as a new film sheds light on a story she says remains an “open wound”. In Rabiye Kurnaz vs George W Bush,which premiered at the Berlin film festival on Saturday, the director, Andreas Dresen, whose socially engaged film-making has led him to be described as Germany’s answer to Ken Loach, revisits the case of Murat Kurnaz, who was arrested without explanation in Pakistan in October 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks. Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen born and raised in Bremen who says he had travelled to Lahore to study the Qur’an at a school affiliated with the ultra-orthodox Tablighi Jamaat missionary movement, was handed over to the US even though he had no ties to al-Qaida nor had he visited a terrorist camp. He spent 1,600 days enduring various forms of torture at Guantánamo. Aided by the British actor and activist Vanessa Redgrave, Kurnaz became one of the prominent faces of a class-action suit in the US that eventually won her son the right to legal representation from the supreme court. Fifteen years after Kurnaz was reunited with her son in August 2006, her lawyer has said the blame for his client’s miscarriage still lies above all with the US. “President George W Bush set up an offshore legal vacuum in the Caribbean and destroyed all the procedural safeguards the western world has known since the age of Enlightenment,” Docke told the Guardian in an interview. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

Canadian Government To Be Reviewed For Its Response To The Uyghur Genocide

In February 2022, lawyers for the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, a non-governmental organization, made an application for judicial review of the Government of Canada’s acts and omissions in relation to the ongoing genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China. The application makes the case that by its acts and omissions, “the Government of Canada is violating its international obligations, by failing to prevent the ongoing genocide in that region, thereby contributing to the crimes committed against the Uyghur population, here and abroad.” As the application explains, in March 2021, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and its Subcommittee on International Human Rights (the Committee) published a report on the dire human rights situation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China, having been compiling the evidence since 2018. The report commented upon the nature of the atrocities and identified several recommendations for the Canadian Government in order for it to meet its legal obligations under the Genocide Convention, including to name the crimes for what they are, denounce the genocide, investigate the crimes, protect the victims, sanction the perpetrators, end any activities that may facilitate the genocide, and prevent the benefiting from the genocide. These have not been implemented to date. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

Hijab ban in Indian state violates religious freedom: US official

A US official has voiced concerns about the controversial banning of the headscarf at schools and colleges in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, prompting a strongly worded rebuttal from New Delhi. Rashad Hussain, the US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, said in a tweet on Friday that the hijab ban would stigmatise and marginalise women and girls. “Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire,” Hussain tweeted. “The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls.” On Saturday, India’s external affairs ministry hit back at what it called “motivated comments” on its internal issues, adding that the case was under judicial examination. “Our constitutional framework and mechanisms, as well as our democratic ethos and polity, are the context in which issues are considered and resolved. … Motivated comments on our internal issues are not welcome,” said ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi. The dispute erupted last month, when a group of Muslim students protested after they were barred from entering their college because they were wearing hijab – a headscarf that many Muslim women wear. Since then several other colleges have seen protests both for and against the hijab ban, with Hindu right-wing groups wearing saffron shawls holding protests against hijab. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

Developments in Gambia’s Case Against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice

From February 21 to 28, 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, will hold public hearings in the Case of The Gambia v. Myanmar concerning Myanmar’s alleged violations of the Genocide Convention against the ethnic Rohingya population in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State. The following questions and answers address key issues regarding those hearings. read the complete article

14 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. The poster for the ongoing event, which gives EU citizens the opportunity to have their say on possible reforms of the bloc’s policies and institutions, includes a call to “make your voice heard” and states “the future is in your hands”. 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 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


14 Feb 2022

‘We have no option but to protest’: Thousands march against India’s hijab ban

Protests have spread across India after a school banned Muslim girls wearing hijabs or headscarves in the classroom. The incident has become a flashpoint over Muslim rights in the country under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, The BJP. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

Indian Muslim students say hijab ban forces choice of religion or education

Ayesha Imthiaz, a devout Indian Muslim who considers wearing a hijab an expression of devotion to the Prophet Mohammad, says a move by her college to expel hijab-wearing girls is an insult that will force her to chose between religion and education. "The humiliation of being asked to leave my classroom for wearing a head scarf by college officials has shaken my core belief," said the 21-year-old student from southern Karnataka's Udupi district, where protests over the head covering ban began. "My religion has been questioned and insulted by a place which I had considered as a temple of education," she told Reuters. "It is more like telling us you chose between your religion or education, that's a wrong thing," she said after studying for five years at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial college in Udupi. Several Muslim girls who protested the ban had received threatening calls and were forced to stay indoors, she added. College officials say students are allowed to wear the hijab on campus and only asked them to take it off inside the classroom. Udupi is one of three districts in Karnataka's religiously sensitive coastal region, which is a stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

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

A request by a group of high school girls to wear the hijab in class has snowballed into dueling protests between Hindu and Muslim students in India, deepening religious polarization as regional elections approach. 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. 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. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

How India’s Hijab Protests Could Bolster the BJP

Will Banning Hijabs Help the BJP Win Votes? Tensions between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities have flared this week following the state of Karnataka’s decision to ban the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in educational institutions. The hijab ban, which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) argues is simply a way of keeping religious symbols out of the classroom, has been attacked by activists who see it as another way the Hindu nationalist BJP seeks to degrade Muslims in the country. A legal challenge to the ban is currently under consideration by Karnataka’s high court. The episode is the latest flash point over Muslim identity in a country with rising Hindu nationalist sentiment. Although India is home to 200 million Muslims, they make up just 14 percent of the overall population. They have been targeted by several moves in recent years, including a 2019 citizenship law that discriminates against Muslims as well as laws that discourage interfaith marriages. Anti-Muslim sentiment has also boiled over into mob violence: 56 people were killed, 40 of whom were Muslims, during riots in New Delhi in March 2020. The unrest in Karnataka is likely to fuel the BJP in its efforts much farther north in Uttar Pradesh. India’s most populous state holds state assembly elections over the next few weeks, considered a major test of the BJP’s grip on power. The campaign has already carried barely veiled anti-Muslim undertones, with Uttar Pradesh chief minister and BJP member Yogi Adityanath saying the election would come down to the “80 percent versus 20 percent,” a statement considered a swipe at the state’s roughly 20 percent Muslim population. Without addressing the hijab controversy directly, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday told a rally in Saharanpur, India, that the BJP stood with Muslim women who were victims and chastised opposition leaders for “trying to trick Muslim sisters to push them back in their lives.” For FP columnist Sumit Ganguly, the hijab controversy could become another way for the BJP to drum up votes with an electorate attracted to anti-Muslim rhetoric and help the party avoid tough questions on its economic record. “This is the old ‘bread and circuses’ … except there’s no bread and only circuses,” Ganguly said. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

We Spoke to the Teenager Who Faced Off With Hindu Supremacists in India’s Growing Hijab Ban

She has become India’s most well-known Muslim student. “I had no idea my life would change overnight,” the teenager, who studies in Mandya’s PES College of Engineering, told VICE World News. On Tuesday, a video of her boldly responding to a group of heckling Hindu extremists outside her college went viral. The men with scarves of saffron – a colour associated with Hindu nationalism – ran towards the burqa-clad student and started shouting, “Jai Shri Ram,” a popular war cry chanted by Hindu supremacist mobs that translates to “long live Lord Ram.” But Muskan, with no trace of fear in her eyes and no idea she was being videoed repeatedly shouted back, “Allahu Akbar,” the Arabic phrase that is also an Islamic war cry and translates to “God is great.” She kept shouting it until she was escorted inside her college. By the time Muskan got home, the internet had already made her the face of a resistance that’s been brewing over the last month and is led by young Muslim women across her state. The hashtag #Muskan became an alias for the movement. Although unfazed, Muskan said that her parents are worried about her physical safety, but are also supporting her. Hussain Khan, Muskan’s father, told VICE World News that they won’t silently accept the ban. “I’m proud of my daughter,” said Khan, who owns a gym in Mandya. “She’s inspired us all.” read the complete article


14 Feb 2022

Uyghur torch lighting made Beijing Winter Olympics the most political games ever

Viewers of the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony in Beijing were treated to what will be remembered as one of the most overt political statements in Olympic history. China and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) claim that ethnicity was not a factor in Beijing’s selection of a cross-country skier from Xinjiang as one of the final torchbearers at the ceremony, but this was a crass and insensitive political ploy seemingly designed to show open defiance of Western charges of ethnic genocide committed by China against the Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups. The IOC — which calls itself the guardian of the Olympic Games and the leader of the Olympic movement — became complicit by allowing this, while at the same time reiterating assertions that politics should be divorced from sport. This can’t continue, and the international community must stand firm against China’s human rights atrocities. read the complete article

14 Feb 2022

China continues its labour abuse practices against Uighurs: UN

China continues to carry out discriminatory work policies, such as forced labour, impossible production expectations and long working hours, against the Uighurs in its northwest province of Xinjiang, a United Nations committee said on Friday, urging Beijing to bring its employment practices in line with global standards. The report from the International Labour Organization stressed that China has violated various articles of the Employment Policy Convention of 1964, which Beijing ratified in 1997, including the right to freely choose employment. The 870-page report, titled Application of International Labour Standards, was an assessment by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. The ITUC alleged that China continues to engage in widespread and systematic “programmes” involving the extensive use of forced labour of the Uighur and other Turkic and Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Some 13 million members of the ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang are targeted based on their ethnicity and religion, the ITUC said, adding that Beijing’s justified its methods in a context of “poverty alleviation”, “vocational training”, “reeducation through labour” and “de-extremification.” A key feature of China’s programme is the use of forced labour in or around internment or “re-education” camps housing some 1.8 million Uighur and other Turkic or Muslim peoples in the region. The abuses take place in or around prisons and workplaces across Xinjiang and other parts of the country, according to the ITUC. read the complete article

United Kingdom

14 Feb 2022

The Trojan Horse Affair: Islamophobia scholar on the long shadow cast by the scandal

A new podcast series from the New York Times is likely to rekindle interest in “Operation Trojan Horse”: an alleged plot by “hardline” Muslims to “take over” around 20 state schools in the city of Birmingham in 2014. Despite numerous investigations being undertaken at the time, no evidence of a plot was found. Across eight episodes, journalists Brian Reed and Hamza Syed seek to discover the author of the anonymous letter that triggered the scandal. As someone who has lived in Birmingham for more than two decades and has undertaken extensive research into the city’s Muslim communities for most of that, I was conflicted. While it was interesting to investigate who was behind the allegations, I was concerned that this could deflect attention away from the very real way the scandal has had a negative impact on the lives of many ordinary people. It’s important for me that others understand how the legacy of the affair is still felt today: both the city of Birmingham and its Muslim communities continuing to be perceived as problems. And, indeed, no evidence emerged. Not of terrorism, violent extremism or radicalisation in any of the schools examined. Yet the response from the government was that more needed to be done to tackle the problem of extremism in schools. The UK government’s solution was to embed the teaching of “fundamental British values” in schools, effectively attributing the “problem” to Muslims. While most have since carried on as normal, local schools and the communities they serve have continued to suffer the consequences. In a telling moment from the podcast, former pupils of a Trojan Horse school explain that they fear saying which school they attended because of the potential detrimental impact it might have on their future education or career prospects. They fear guilt by association – that they will be seen as extremists or at least sympathetic to extremist views. For me, the shadow of Trojan Horse has the potential to stigmatise a whole generation of Birmingham’s Muslims. read the complete article

United States

14 Feb 2022

Wajahat Ali on the ‘American Nightmare’ and the ‘American Dream’ of being a Muslim son of immigrants

The son of Pakistani immigrants, popular author and speaker Wajahat Ali has published a memoir on the experience of becoming an accidental spokesman for all things Muslim. In his book, “Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American,” he confronts a range of issues, including Islamophobia, white supremacy and chocolate hummus. Ali, who lives with his wife and three children in the D.C. area, traces his winding journey from lawyer to playwright to essayist to TV commentator to book writer. This interview has been condensed and edited. Q: How do you detangle whether people might be fearful of the theology of Islam or are they afraid of foreigners? A: It’s all bigotry, and it’s intertwined. The first hate crime after 9/11 was against a brown-skinned Sikh man with a turban and a beard. (Balbir Singh Sodhi was a man who followed Sikhism, not Islam.) Was the attacker like, “Excuse me, Mr. Singh. Are you a Sunni or Shia? Do you pray five times?” Muslim becomes the villain; Muslim becomes the boogeyman. Muslim institutions, Muslim charities, Muslims must be surveilled. Those who are brown-skinned or wear a hijab or have a beard are seen as markers of radicalization. That’s how you see race, ethnicity, immigration gets tied up into Islamophobia. And the fear of this thing called Islam becomes a civilizational threat and must be eradicated. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 14 Feb 2022 Edition


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