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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17 Feb 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In France, the center-right presidential candidate invokes the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory and calls on her supporters “to rise up,” meanwhile in India, the ban on hijab in colleges in the southern Indian state of Karnataka has triggered a major row amid growing concerns that the attacks on Muslim symbols and practices are part of the larger Hindu far-right agenda of imposing majoritarian values on minorities, and a new academic study analyzing Twitter conversations has found several parallels and the discovery that seemingly disparate right-wing movements use similar logic, including relying on several myths such as the yearning for a golden age of freedom. Our recommended read of the day is by Assia Boundaoui for the LA Times on what it’s been like to navigate the film industry as a Muslim filmmaker, noting that she often felt “doubly compelled to prove my own innocence, while also asserting that I could tell my own story and that my perspective was legitimate.” This and more below:

United States

16 Feb 2022

Op-Ed: As a Muslim filmmaker, I want to tell my own story | Recommended Read

As a Muslim American filmmaker, I’ve found that how I am seen — not how I see myself — has dictated whether I get to tell my stories. How my diverse community is seen has dictated what stories about us get told. It’s exasperating. From books to films, there are frames that box us in. We are often portrayed as either villains or victims. At worst, we are condemned as monsters; at best, we are objects of pity in stories that attempt to “humanize” us. We so rarely get to tell our stories from our own lens. The latest example of this came last month, with the premiere of the controversial film “Jihad Rehab” at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary follows Yemeni men, formerly detained but never charged at Guantanamo Bay, who are sent to a “rehabilitation center” in Saudi Arabia to be “deradicalized.” The director, a white American woman, says she approached the film from an informed perspective, since she spent time in Yemen. But a chorus of filmmakers have widely criticized the movie and human rights activists have raised ethical concerns. In a review, Filmmaker Magazine called it “unapologetically anti-Muslim jingoism.” Meanwhile, two senior staffers at the Sundance Institute reportedly resigned because of the decision to include the film at the festival. The film hits on two problematic narrative frames that plague storytelling of Muslims and people from the Middle East and North Africa. First, there’s the “war on terror.” We seemingly cannot be viewed outside of notions of terrorism and violence. Last year, a USC Annenberg study of Muslim representation in 200 popular films found that roughly one-third of Muslim characters depicted are perpetrators of violence, and more than half are targets of violence. The second is the empathy frame. The Sundance synopsis claims that “Jihad Rehab” was made with empathy. But often, such “empathy” reinforces biases because it’s loaded with power dynamics about whose humanity is taken for granted and whose humanity needs to be proven. In an essay, novelist Namwali Serpell writes: “The empathy model of art can bleed too easily into the relishing of suffering by those who are safe from it.” It can be, she argues, “an emotional palliative that distracts us from real inequities, on the page and on screen.” read the complete article

16 Feb 2022

Their ‘Ask a Muslim’ project went viral. Now they have a travel show about Islam in the U.S.

Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins felt they had a deep understanding of Islam. But filming “The Great Muslim American Road Trip,” a docuseries that will air on PBS this summer, made the married couple realize how much more they had to learn. Haydar, a Syrian American rapper and activist whose music videos boast millions of views on YouTube, grew up Muslim. Robins, a writer and educator, converted to Islam after they met. The show follows the couple as they traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles via historic Route 66 in September. Along the way, they learned about Islam’s roots in America, explored nearby Muslim communities and took in the sights. In Chicago, they met with Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum Ali and toured the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) to learn about structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan, known for his work on the innovative tubular design for high-rises. On more than a dozen stops, Haydar and Robins visited with restaurateurs, doctors and authors. By The Way talked to the Michigan-based couple about the goals of their show, how the trip informed their feelings about identity and assimilation, and how they handled the long drive. read the complete article

16 Feb 2022

State senator who once denigrated Islam as a 'cult of hate' seeks recognition for Muslim holidays

Selaedin Maksut didn’t expect anything specific to come out of his meeting late last year with then-state Sen.-elect Ed Durr after an anti-Muslim tweet of Durr’s surfaced. But what was initially planned as a meeting to explain Islam to Durr — who in the 2019 tweet denounced it as a “false religion” and “cult of hate” — turned into something more. It made Durr an ally to one of the major causes of the Council on American-Islamic Relations: Getting the Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha officially recognized in New Jersey, just like some major Christian and Jewish holidays. Durr’s tweet, which WNYC’s Matt Katz reposted the day after the Nov. 3 election, was condemned by CAIR as “hate-filled, xenophobic and anti-Muslim.” Durr quickly apologized and accepted the group’s invitation to meet the following week. “I stand against Islamophobia and all forms of hate, and I commit to that going forward,” Durr said in a statement at the time. Soon after the November meeting, Durr (R-Gloucester) called Maksut to say he would seek to make the two days state holidays. “I was really touched that it came from an organic thought, that he took it seriously when I was describing my work, and he took that opportunity to extend that olive branch,” Maksut said. read the complete article


16 Feb 2022

In France, a Racist Conspiracy Theory Edges Into the Mainstream

Until a couple of years ago, the “great replacement” — a racist conspiracy theory that white Christian populations are being intentionally replaced by nonwhite immigrants — was so toxic in France that even Marine Le Pen, the longtime leader of the country’s far right, pointedly refused to use it. But in a presidential race that has widened the boundaries of political acceptability in France, Valérie Pécresse, the candidate of the mainstream center-right party in the coming election, used the phrase over the weekend in a speech punctuated with coded attacks against immigrants and Muslims. The use of the slogan — in what had been billed as the most important speech so far by Ms. Pécresse, a top rival of President Emmanuel Macron — has fueled intense criticism from both her opponents as well as allies within her party. It also underscored France’s further shift to the right, especially among middle-class voters, and the overwhelming influence of right-wing ideas and candidates in this campaign, political experts said. The “great replacement,” a conspiracy theory adopted by many white supremacists worldwide, has inspired mass killings in the United States and New Zealand. Éric Zemmour, a far-right author, television pundit and now presidential candidate, was the leading figure to popularize the concept in France in the past decade — describing it as a civilizational threat against the country and the rest of Europe. In a 75-minute speech before 7,000 supporters in Paris — intended to introduce Ms. Pécresse, 54, the current leader of the Paris region and a former national minister of the budget and then higher education, to voters nationwide — Ms. Pécresse adopted Mr. Zemmour’s themes, saying the election would determine whether France is a “a united nation or a divided nation.” read the complete article

16 Feb 2022

Rights watchdog warns of rising attacks against Muslims in France

A European watchdog has warned that far-right ideologies and attacks against Muslims were increasing in France, adding that all of Europe should be concerned. The statement by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) accused French governmental organisations of targeting Muslims and civil rights groups who fought racism. “The French government has not been shy about its increasingly divisive discourse and strategies,” the ENAR statement read. "Under the guise of national security, civil society organisations have been dissolved, mosques have been raided, and schools and Muslim-owned businesses closed in ways that defy the rule of law and free association and expression, with a chilling effect on Muslim communities and civil society, who are being considered guilty until proven innocent," the statement continued. Anti-Muslim sentiment has been rising in France for a number of years, but particularly saw a spike following some Islamist attacks in the country. Two popular candidates for the upcoming French presidential elections, Éric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen, have both stood on far-right and anti-Muslim platforms. In their statement, ENAR said that the French government’s policies declared French Muslim communities and civil society groups to be “guilty until proven innocent”. read the complete article


16 Feb 2022

India’s Hijab Debate Fueled by Divisive Communal Politics

The recent protests in India’s Karnataka state over the wearing of the hijab, or headscarf, in educational institutions have exposed communal rifts in India that are increasingly fueled by divisive political campaigns. These rifts are so strong, they have even led to temporary school closures in the state over the hijab issue. The government’s hijab restrictions in schools and colleges violate India’s obligations under international human rights law, which guarantees the right to freely manifest one’s religious beliefs, to freedom of expression, and to education without discrimination. A court in Karnataka is hearing petitions challenging the ban. Discussions around students’ choice of garments should be recognized as yet another form of disenfranchisement of women and girls in India, regardless of faith. Many contend the hijab is often being imposed on Muslim women, and that those calling for the freedom of choice are actually causing harm. However, forbidding the use of religious garments, or otherwise forcing women and girls to dress in a particular way, both undermine their rights to choose their attire. Instead of engaging in communal politics, Indian authorities should focus on protecting the rights of all women and girls, including to freedom of religion and expression, and to education. read the complete article

17 Feb 2022

What’s behind the escalating row over hijabs in India?

The ban on hijab in colleges in the southern Indian state of Karnataka has triggered a major row amid growing concerns that the attacks on Muslim symbols and practices are part of the larger Hindu far-right agenda of imposing majoritarian values on minorities. The country’s 200 million Muslim minority community fear the ban on hijab violates their religious freedom guaranteed under India’s constitution. The US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom on Friday said the hijab ban would stigmatise and marginalise women and girls. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which runs governments in Karnataka as well as at the centre, has backed the discriminatory ban. The BJP has for decades campaigned for the application of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), which minorities believe would be tantamount to the imposition of Hindu laws. On Tuesday, hijab-wearing Muslim girl students were barred from entering schools and colleges across the state. The visuals of Muslim girls removing their hijab outside their schools created a furore, with social media users calling it “humiliation”, while Sujatha Gidla, author of the book Ants Among Elephants, said it reminded of “the French police terrorising Muslim women in burkinis” in 2016. “Around 13 of us were taken to a separate room because we were wearing a headscarf over the school uniform,” Aliya Meher, a student at Karnataka Public School in Shivamogga district, told Al Jazeera. “They told us that we cannot write the pre-board exam if we don’t remove our hijab. We responded by saying: ‘In that case, we will not write the exam. We cannot compromise on the hijab.’” “Suddenly, they are asking us to remove hijab.” Reshma Banu, the mother of one of the students barred entry to the same school, said the hijab ban is “unacceptable”. “The hijab is an integral part of our faith. We admitted our children here since we thought their rights would be respected,” she told Al Jazeera. read the complete article

United Kingdom

16 Feb 2022

UK must address discrimination concerns over Prevent counter-extremism programme, UN expert says

Authorities must urgently address concerns about discrimination and the “de-facto criminalisation of children” in the Prevent counter-extremism programme, a United Nations expert has said. Professor Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in counterterrorism, said police and the Home Office must have the confidence of all parts of society for “long-term success in preventing violence”. She warned that a report by campaigners, which called for the Prevent programme to be withdrawn, raised questions about its “pre-criminal” interventions over radicalisation concerns. “The data provided underscores the critical need to directly attend to deep concerns about discrimination, stigma, de facto criminalisation of individuals, particularly children, privacy violations, intrusion on the freedom to practice one’s religious beliefs, and negative impact on the right to education, health, and participation in public affairs for targeted individuals, primarily Muslims,” she added. “It is my sincere hope that this report will enable a broader and necessary conversation to take place about the operation of the current Prevent strategy in the UK.” Her comments were published in a report produced by the People’s Review of Prevent, which was mounted by campaign groups that withdrew from a separate review commissioned by the government. After collating around 600 testimonies taken between 2014 and 2021, the report labelled the Prevent programme “ineffective, disproportionate and discriminatory” and called for it to be stopped. It accused Prevent of undermining “genuine safeguarding”, by placing national security above the best interests of children and the right to family life. read the complete article


17 Feb 2022

Mural dedicated to members of the Afzaal family to be unveiled this weekend

A new, permanent memorial to the London, Ont. Muslim family that was killed last June in an alleged hate-motivated attack, will be unveiled this weekend. Leaders of the London Muslim Mosque will be on hand Saturday morning for the art installation at White Oaks Mall dedicated to the Afzaal family. The mural has been commissioned by mall officials and is the work of renowned artist Amer S.M. It's inspired by a piece of art that was originally done by Yumna Afzaal, 15, who was killed in the incident. The mural will stay at the mall until the one year anniversary of their deaths on June 6. The mural will then be moved to its permanent home at a London Muslim Mosque community centre. read the complete article


16 Feb 2022

A Twitter investigation reveals what the ‘freedom convoy,’ Islamophobes, incels and Hindu supremacists have in common

The so-called “freedom convoy,” which began in January in Ottawa, has garnered international attention and sparked a flood of social media conversations. To get a sense of how these conversations are framed, we analyzed tweets circulating in the “freedom convoy’s” social media sphere. Posts associated with #IStandWithTruckers and #TruckersForFreedom2022 claim to be fighting against state control. Our analysis of Twitter is part of a larger preliminary examination of social media used by right-wing extremist movements in Canada, the United States and India. What we found is a story of fascinating parallels and the discovery that seemingly disparate right-wing movements use similar logic. Their arguments rely on several myths, which are not mutually exclusive. The nostalgic yearning for a golden age of freedom is a common theme across extremist movements. This is often a shared desire to return to a time when their nation was racially “pure.” There is a general feeling among far-right groups that there was less state intervention in that “golden age,” and that men could do what they wanted as long as they could defend themselves. By framing their struggle as one for freedom and self-determination, the convoy presents its members as “saviours” of a once-unsullied nation, now contaminated by immigrants, racialized peoples, Muslims and others. Other extremist movements use the same logic. Islamophobes desire a return to a Christian nation; racists crave a return to a white nation; and Incels wish for a patriarchal society in which men had unimpeded sexual access to women. In India, right-wing Hindus yearn to restore a Vedic golden age, aspiring to restore the purity of their mythical Hindu-only rashtra (nation). read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 Feb 2022 Edition


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