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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, journalist Azad Essa argues that western media outlets coverage of the BBC documentary, The Modi Question, is less focused on the victims of the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots, and more on how Elon Musk decided to block access to the film on Twitter, meanwhile in the UK, at least two mosques in London have received Islamophobic letters expressing joy at seeing the footage of aftermath of the deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, and in the United States, controversy is swirling around the U.S. based American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) due to internal findings that their chief of DEI initiatives has apparently been faking her ethnicity and has previously worked with anti-Muslim organizations. Our recommended read of the day is by Bridge Initiative Associate Director Mobashra Tazamal for The Middle East Eye on how politicians in Quebec are targeting Amira Elghawaby, a Muslim woman journalist, because her role as special envoy to combat Islamophobia would mean mean that “their tactics would be scrutinized and observed as playing a role in fanning the flames of anti-Muslim bigotry” in Canada. This and more below:


17 Feb 2023

Quebec: Why are politicians attacking an effort to combat Islamophobia? | Recommended Read

Just days before World Hijab Day, Quebec’s politicians took aim at Canada’s newly appointed special envoy to combat Islamophobia, Amira Elghawaby, calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to remove her from the position. These voices claimed that Elghawaby, a visible Muslim woman, held "anti-Quebec sentiments", pointing to a 2019 piece she co-wrote as evidence. In it, she rightly noted that statistics show that many Quebecers held anti-Muslim views. Between 2016-2021, Canada "suffered more mass killings motivated by Islamophobia" than any other country in the G7. There have been numerous studies and documented evidence showing the rise and spread of white nationalism across the country, with Muslims and immigrants of color remaining their primary target. Within this context, it's not only shocking but also disturbing that ruling elites would go after a veiled Muslim woman who has spent years researching, writing, and calling attention to the plague of Islamophobia. Not only is this manufactured outrage aimed at demonising Elghawaby and shutting down scrutiny into the prevalence of Islamophobia in Quebec, it also puts her life in danger. Just as Bill 21 aims to regulate and police Muslim women’s bodies, effectively forcing them to choose between their faith or their livelihoods and limiting their roles in public life, the response from Quebec’s politicians has been to regulate and police Elghawaby’s speech. read the complete article

United Kingdom

16 Feb 2023

How the Prevent review 'antagonises' its Muslim critics

After nearly four years of delay, the independent review of the UK’s counter-terror programme, Prevent, has been published. The highly-controversial strategy has been slammed by Muslim groups for creating an environment of fear and suspicion around ordinary citizens, who have been questioned in their workplaces, schools, and medical facilities as a result. But instead, the review by William Showcross praises Prevent, highlighting instead the need to counter what he calls "bad faith" actors trying to undermine the programme. In this episode of The Big Picture, we sit down with Dr Layla Aitlhadj, the director and lead campaigner of Prevent Watch, a Muslim-led initiative representing those impacted by the Prevent programme, some of whom are as young as four years old. read the complete article

16 Feb 2023

London mosques receive offensive letters in quake aftermath

At least two mosques in London have received Islamophobic letters following the Turkey-Syria earthquakes. The author of a letter received by Erkin Guney, chairman of Masjid Ramadan mosque, in Hackney, said they "could not stop smiling" seeing the footage of the disaster. The father of three said his "stomach turned" after reading it. The earthquakes have claimed more than 40,000 lives and seen some towns with 80% of buildings turned to rubble. The anonymous letter wished for "more deaths" saying "the more Muslims that suffer the better". It read: "I could not stop smiling watching the people being pulled from the rubble, some dead some still sadly alive." It expressed "comfort" at news of entire families being killed in the disaster and wished for another earthquake in the region. read the complete article

United States

16 Feb 2023

Our ‘father’ has finally been released from Guantanamo

When I recognised the voice at the end of the line, I struggled to hold back tears. It was Saifullah Paracha – Guantanamo’s oldest ever prisoner who was a second father to me throughout my years in the prison camp. “Welcome, welcome for the one who came,” I sang loudly into my phone in Arabic, greeting him with a song we used to sing together at Guantanamo. After spending almost two decades in prison, Saifullah was finally released in October 2022. He returned to his home country, Pakistan. He is now living there with his family. Saifullah is truly a second father to me. And as any father would, on our first call after years apart, he asked me if I was married yet. I told him I was waiting for him to get out of prison so that he could attend my wedding. He then asked me about the other brothers who had been released before him, and shared news from those who are still stuck in Guantanamo. Every one of us was clearly in his thoughts. In Guantanamo, Saifullah was our father, teacher, mentor, chef, therapist and mediator with the prison camp’s administration. He often told us that he views everyone at the camp – both prisoners and staff – as “his children”. Because of this, everyone, including all the guards, called him “father” or “shasha”. He dedicated all his time and energy to helping others – not only prisoners, but also guards and other staff. read the complete article

16 Feb 2023

US Muslim man says he was fired for using personal days to attend Friday prayers

A Muslim man is alleging that an airline company discriminated against him by not allowing him to switch his shifts in order to attend Friday (Jummah) prayers. Justin Mavins, who also goes by Dauwd Mavins, started working for Southwest Airlines at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on 28 November 2022. As a trainee, he worked Tuesdays through Saturdays and was given three days for personal leave. One month later, on 28 December, his employment was terminated. According to the complaint, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), Mavins asked his manager to swap his morning shifts on Fridays to afternoon shifts so that he could attend Jummah prayers. While he was going back and forth with the accommodation team waiting for their response, he continued to use his personal days to attend Jummah prayers on Fridays. On 21 December, his request to switch shifts was denied. On the following Friday, Mavins used a personal day to attend prayer services, which according to the Islamic faith is mandatory. “Had his accommodation request to swap shifts been granted, he would have shown up for work that day,” the complaint states. read the complete article

16 Feb 2023


Raquel Evita Saraswati, a Muslim activist who for years has encouraged people to believe that she is a woman of color, including Latina as well as of South Asian and Arab descent, is the AFSC’s chief equity, inclusion, and culture officer, a senior position that gives her access to the files of dozens of the organization’s staff and volunteers. But Saraswati, who was born Rachel Elizabeth Seidel, is not a person of color, according to her mother, Carol Perone. The concerns about Saraswati include what some AFSC members and supporters regard as a possible hidden political agenda. In an anonymous letter posted on Medium that The Intercept has confirmed is from AFSC members, they noted that after 9/11 she appeared in conservative and Islamophobic spaces, including right-wing TV shows, where she was presented as a “moderate” Muslim critical of Islamic extremism. While a change in political views is not unheard of, Saraswati has not publicly addressed her work from those years, and much of it appears to have been scrubbed from the internet. In the Medium letter posted last week, the group of AFSC members and supporters detailed what they allege to be Saraswati’s history of misrepresenting her identity as well as some of her connections to conservative groups earlier in her career. “People are concerned,” a member of AFSC’s leadership told The Intercept, requesting anonymity to avoid retaliation. “There’s a fear that she could be an agent, because she started her career right-wing. She was a token Muslim voice in that milieu. She never publicly apologized.” In 2007, Saraswati appeared on CNN with conservative commentator Glenn Beck, and also appeared on Fox News and the far-right channel Newsmax. In 2013, she also appeared in a film produced by the Clarion Project, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center said specialized in “rabidly anti-Muslim films.” And she worked with the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, another group that has been accused of promoting Islamophobia. read the complete article


16 Feb 2023

Haryana: Two Muslim Men Found Charred to Death in Alleged Case of Cow Vigilantism

In what is being described as yet another case of cow vigilantism leading to the loss of life, merely 100 kilometres from the national capital, two Muslim men from the Rajasthan-Haryana border were allegedly attacked and abducted by a mob that later set them ablaze, alive while they were inside their car. This is said to have happened after accusations of cow smuggling were made against the victims. The dead have been identified as Junaid and Nasir, both residents of Ghatmeeka village in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district. The Wire accessed a copy of the FIR and spoke to the family of Junaid. Junaid’s cousin, Ismail, told that when his family could not trace Junaid for several hours, they complained to the local police after learning that Bajrang Dal members had abducted the two men. Later, say Junaid’s relatives, the members of the Bajrang Dal took the duo to the Firozpur Jhirka police in Haryana. But they (Junaid and Nasir) were not taken into custody by the police since they were grievously injured due to the assault, the family has alleged. read the complete article

16 Feb 2023

Indian tax inspectors leave BBC offices after nearly 60 hours of questioning

Indian tax inspectors left BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai late Thursday, after nearly 60 hours questioning staff, searching their devices and copying files. Some staff "faced lengthy questioning" and had been "required to stay overnight," the British broadcaster tweeted at 10:40 p.m. local time Thursday. "Their welfare is our priority." The raids began Tuesday, weeks after the BBC aired a documentary critical of India's prime minister. Around 10 BBC employees had been sleeping in their Delhi office since then. Some of the tax agents stayed overnight too. They searched the laptops and phones of some journalists as well as administrative staff. Indian officials call this a tax "survey." But press freedom advocates say it may have more to do with a recent BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role in anti-Muslim riots. His government banned it from being screened or shared online in India. While rights groups have criticized these raids, the governments of the U.S., France and the U.K. have not. They've been celebrating a big deal Modi presided over, in which Air India is buying airplanes made by U.S., French and British companies. read the complete article

16 Feb 2023

India: Modi's crimes eclipsed in western media storm over Twitter and Musk

The Modi Question, a two-part series, examined Modi's ascent to power, his longtime association with the Hindu right-wing in India, and the accusations of his complicity in anti-Muslim pogroms during his time as chief minister of Gujarat in 2002. Within hours of the first episode's airing, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government described the film as "propaganda", and blocked it from being screened in India. Delhi would go on to impose emergency laws to halt public screenings of the film. Naturally, much of the international media's attention diverted from the findings of the documentary to the intense censorship campaign by the Indian government. And when it became clear that Elon Musk's Twitter had also succumbed to Indian government demands to take down tweets and block content featuring the documentary on Twitter, western publications went into a frenzy. Even if they bothered to mention that Musk was neither the first nor the only one to have cooperated with Modi in silencing his critics, the singular focus on him was misleading. No one, besides his supporters, had believed he would protect free speech. In other words, that Musk had not lived up to his promise was not actually the news it was made out to be. And the media made no attempt to move the story beyond him. This angle distracted from the systematic erasure of Modi's victims that lie at the heart of the documentary Delhi had silenced in favor of embarrassing the tech giant at the center of a culture war. In truth, the Modi government had scored a lowkey PR coup. read the complete article


16 Feb 2023

Uyghur groups call for U.N. action against China over rights abuses

Uyghur advocacy groups called on United Nations bodies to take action against China on Thursday over its abuses against the mainly Muslim ethnic minority, after U.N. experts this week reviewed Beijing's rights record. During a two-day U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) review in Geneva, participants asked China's delegation about the country's treatment of minorities, including Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang, and measures to end forced labour and arbitrary detentions, among other issues. read the complete article

16 Feb 2023

‘I know how it feels to lose everything’: Rohingya refugees send aid to Turkey

With little to spare themselves, Rohingya refugees are among those in Bangladesh sending money, blankets and clothing to earthquake survivors in Turkey and Syria. Reports have emerged of people selling their last piece of gold or donating what little cash they could, as Rohingya have rallied together and bought about 700 blankets and 200 jackets which will be delivered by Turkish development agency, Tika. “When we saw the families being saved from the rubble, parents who lost their loved ones, little babies who lost their parents, people struggling for food and shelter, we felt the same pain as our own situation in 2017 after our homes were burnt by the Myanmar military,” said Sahat Zia Hero, a Rohingya photographer and activist, who helped organise the donations. “We felt that it was a call for us to show our solidarity towards our brothers and sisters in Turkey and Syria and to share their pain with us.” He said many remembered that Turkish charities were some of the first to help the Rohingya as they fled the massacres in 2017. Close to a million Rohingya now live in Bangladesh, in the world’s largest refugee settlement, where they are unable to work or travel. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 Feb 2023 Edition


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