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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18 Feb 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In New Zealand, a 17-year-old girl was assaulted at school and had her hijab ripped off and suffered a concussion from the attack, which the Islamic Women’s Council said appeared to be a hate crime, meanwhile in China, the Beijing 2022 spokesperson Yan Jiarong dismissed human rights violations among the Uyghur Muslim population as “lies” and insisted Taiwan was part of China, and in France, the center-right presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse invoked the far-right “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory and thus further normalized a dangerous falsehood. Our recommended read of the day is by Frankie Vetch for Codastory on the risks and threats endured by Uyghur translators and interpreters who have played a central role in uncovering China’s Uyghur genocide. This and more below:


18 Feb 2022

Threatened, harassed, punished: The Uyghur translators defying China to tell Xinjiang’s story | Recommended Read

Rahima Mahmut is one of the few Uyghur translators willing to work in the open. Her commitment to enabling journalists to cover the Uyghurs exposes her family back home in China to enormous risks, where a vivid picture has emerged of systematic torture and sexual violence, forced sterilization, “reeducation,” and child-parent separation. Translators and interpreters like Mahmut have been indispensable for non-Uyghur journalists reporting on the Uyghur genocide. With more than one million Uyghurs imprisoned by the Chinese state, Mahmut’s ethnicity alone means that in Xinjiang she has a significant chance of being arrested and sent to a camp. Journalists — and advocacy groups, police-makers, and academics — are forced to rely on a small number of dedicated bilingual Uyghur-English speakers. Experienced translators estimate there are 10 to 20 people in the world capable of and willing to do public Uyghur-to-English interpretation, meaning to expose themselves to working in the view of the public —and under the gaze of the Chinese state. In the past several years, meticulously reported journalism has sent out global shock waves, and has fueled a movement to hold China accountable. Journalists have contributed essential reporting to public understanding of the scale of abuses in Xinjiang. Their ability to work, however, is hampered by the risks facing the Uyghur language translators they must hire to conduct their interviews and research. Journalists reporting on Uyghurs say they confront a growing risk to their physical safety from China’s security apparatus, online trolls, and numerous other sources. Uyghur language translators face these same risks –and more because of their families living in Xinjiang. Uyghur translators almost always have close family and other relatives and friends living in China and they, as much as the translators living abroad, are vulnerable to state reprisal, which can include torture and imprisonment. read the complete article

18 Feb 2022

The UN Shouldn’t Let the Olympics’ Celebration of Uyghur Repression Go Unchallenged

The honor of carrying the Olympic flame and lighting the cauldron at the Games’ opening ceremonies is typically reserved for people hosts wish to hold up as embodiments of excellence. But the Chinese government and the organizers of the 2022 Winter Olympics saw it differently, opting for Dinigeer Yilamujiang to fulfill this role. She is a member of the Uyghur community against which the government is committing crimes against humanity. There is no doubt about Yilamujiang’s athletic skills – but there is also no doubt about the government’s message. As these Games end they are hopelessly tarnished, not only by the Chinese government’s atrocities but also its grotesque gestures to flaunt impunity. The heat and light of a torch for Uyghurs should be lit in Geneva as the United Nations Human Rights Council goes into session on February 28. The Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the two U.N. bodies centrally responsible for protecting and promoting human rights worldwide, have been aware of Beijing’s campaign against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim communities for several years. Journalists, diplomats, and human rights researchers have documented mass arbitrary detention, torture, family separations, cultural persecution, and other human rights violations since 2017. U.N. human rights experts and Human Rights Council member states have been sounding the alarm and calling for U.N.-backed investigations. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, first requested unfettered access to Xinjiang, often referred to as the Uyghur region, in 2018 to initiate the kind of investigation her office has undertaken around the world. read the complete article

18 Feb 2022

Beijing 2022 organisers claim stories of Xinjiang human rights abuses are ‘lies’

The Winter Olympics have been plunged into further controversy after Beijing 2022 spokesperson Yan Jiarong dismissed human rights violations among the Uyghur Muslim population as “lies” and insisted Taiwan was part of China. Yan, a former member of the Chinese delegation to the UN general assembly, referred to “so-called forced labour” in Xinjiang in response to one question, before saying China was against the “politicising of sports”. She again intervened when a question was raised regarding the IOC’s position on reports of concentration camps and forced labour in Xinjiang. “I think these questions are based on lies,” Yan said. “Some authorities have already disputed such false information with a lot of solid evidence. You are very welcome to refer to all that evidence and facts.” Internment camps in Xinjiang was a major issue before the Games, with the US warning of a genocide in the region before leading a diplomatic boycott by several countries, including Britain and Canada. Those countries, and human rights groups, say that more than one million Uyghurs are subjected to forced labour and reeducation, and in some cases even sterilisation. The subject has largely taken a backseat in the past fortnight, as athletes’ concerns about Covid isolation camps and then the failed drugs of 15-year-old Russian skater Kamila Valieva have captured more of the public’s attention. But it was reignited in a remarkable final joint press conference held by the International Olympic Committee and the Beijing organisers, during which Yan dismissed questions about the issues in Xinjiang. read the complete article

18 Feb 2022

China's high-tech repression of Uyghurs is more sinister — and lucrative — than it seems, anthropologist says

When people started to disappear in China's northwest province of Xinjiang in 2014, then-PhD student Darren Byler was living there, with a rare, ground-level view of events that would eventually be labelled by some as a modern-day genocide. The American anthropologist, who learned Chinese and Uyghur languages, witnessed a digital police state rise up around him, as mass detention and surveillance became a feature of life in Xinjiang. He spent years experiencing and gathering testimony on the impact. "It's affected all of society," he told CBC's Ideas. Since those early days of Chinese President Xi Jinping's so-called "People's War on Terror," Human Rights Watch says at least one million Uyghur and other Muslims in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in what China calls "re-education" or "vocational training" camps, in prisons or "pre-trial detention" facilities. Survivors have recounted being tortured and raped in the camps, scruitinized by the gaze of cameras 24/7, and perhaps most crucially, forced to learn how to be Chinese and unlearn what it is to be Uyghur. Countless of their children, says HRW, are forced to do the same in residential boarding schools. China declared its campaign in 2014 after a series of violent attacks that it blamed on Uyghur extremists or separatists. But what all Uyghurs are now facing is more sinister and lucrative than that, said Byler, now an assistant professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. It is, he said, a modern-day colonial project that operates at the nexus of state surveillance, mass detention and huge profits, and is enabled by high tech companies using ideas and technology first developed in the West. Byler calls it "terror capitalism," a new frontier of global capitalism that is fuelled by the labelling of a people as dangerous, and then using their labour and most private personal data to generate wealth. read the complete article


18 Feb 2022

Labelling political identity to Islam fuels Islamophobia: Austrian scholar

A celebrated Austrian political scientist who was targeted in a controversial anti-terrorism raid on Muslims by his own government two years ago said on Thursday that the growing Islamophobia worldwide is being fuelled by European nations that label Islam as a political identity to justify their ban on mosques, hijab, halal or circumcision. Farid Hafez, a widely respected scholar who has written extensively on Islamophobia, was speaking through video conference at a conclave on human rights violations faced by Muslims worldwide, especially in Europe. Hafez, 41, teaches political science at the University of Salzburg, and is also associated with Georgetown University's The Bridge Initiative, a research project on Islamophobia. Hazez argued that one of the major problems that Muslims face today is “the weaponisation of political Islam” through which countries create terminalogies to target Muslims—Austria’s political Islam, France’s Islamist seperatism and Germany’s legalist Islamism. “They are against Islam and nothing else,” the academic said. Islamophobia is not only about having a bad image of Islam, said Fared, explaining that these European governments use anti-terrorism laws to clamp down on Muslims, jeopardising not only their freedom of speech but also freedom of association. The Muslim Austrian academic, whose house was raided on November 9, 2020 as part of the Austrian goverment’s anti-terrrorism “Operation Luxor”, said that nowadays even talking about islamophobia is criminalised and considered as instigating terrorism. “What is really at stake here? It is a question of power,” Hazez said, adding that the European governments do not know how to govern their own Muslim populations today. read the complete article

18 Feb 2022

China Is Holding My Uyghur Mother Prisoner. Will President Biden Say Her Name?

I will witness the Games through my unique perspective as an Uyghur-American, but also as the daughter of Dr. Gulshan Abbas, a Uyghur retired doctor and peaceful public servant who spent decades caring for the members of her community until she suddenly disappeared from her home in Urumqi in 2018. Since the day she vanished, my mother has been detained by the Chinese government in one of what it calls its "re-education camps." But the world has come to recognize them as 21st century concentration camps. We have not heard my mother's voice since 2018, and despite my family's pleas for even a simple update on her situation, we have received little to no information from the Chinese government. We do not even have proof that she is still alive. It is only hope and my fervent wishes that she will one day meet her three-year-old granddaughter that keeps me moving forward with the fight to see her freed. My mother is not in prison because she is a criminal. She is in prison for one simple fact: The Chinese Communist Party can't see past her ethnicity. She is in prison for the crime of being Uyghur. The Biden Administration showed moral leadership by refusing to send official representation to the Beijing Olympics and encouraging other countries to join the diplomatic boycott in protest of China's human rights abuses. But the administration can and must do more to stand up for individual Uyghurs like my mother, who sit behind bars for no reason other than their ethnicity or association with family in the United States. The Chinese government may dismiss the accusation that it is carrying out genocide against my people and disregard international calls to close the camps and free all those detained Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. But when we know the names and stories of unjustly imprisoned individuals, the perpetrators should at the very least face intense pressure from the U.S. to release those individuals, especially the family members of the American citizens. read the complete article

18 Feb 2022


Bella Hadid is using her platform to raise awareness of discrimination against Muslim women who wear the hijab. The supermodel, 25, shared a series of posts to her Instagram on Thursday 17 February detailing some of the struggles affecting Muslim women across the world today. As current fashion trends such as the balaclava grow in popularity, Hadid also urged the public to “remember where the hijab resonated from and why it is so important to Muslim women worldwide”. “Although different forms of the hijab and head coverings are starting to make an appearance in fashion, let’s still remember the daily struggle, abuse, and discrimination Muslim women face on a regular basis because of their faith and what they stand for,” she said. “If we are seeing more and more appreciation of hijabs and covers in fashion, we have to also acknowledge the cycle of abuse that Muslim women of all different ethnicities in fashion get met with on a regular basis within fashion houses, especially in Europe and America.” In a third post, the model called on leaders of France, India, Quebec and Belgium to end “discriminatory” laws against the hijab and other religious coverings in their countries. In January, the French Senate voted in favour of banning the wearing of “religious symbols” – which would include the hijab – in sports competitions. The ban, which was proposed by right-wing group Les Republicans and opposed by the Emmanuel Macron’s government, was approved with 160 votes in favour, and 143 against. The draft bill will now pass on to France’s National Assembly after the Senate declined to vote on the legislation this week. “I urge France, India , Quebec, Belgium, and any other countries in the world who are discriminatory against Muslim women, to rethink what decisions you have made or are trying to make in the future about a body that is not yours,” Hadid wrote. “It’s not your job to tell women whether or not they can STUDY or PLAY SPORTS, ESPECIALLY when it is pertaining to their faith and safety.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

18 Feb 2022

Q&A: Visibly Muslim Britons are still 'othered' in the UK

Zara Mohammed describes herself as “a third-generation British Pakistani representing the largest Muslim body in the UK". The description is apt since she holds the key position of the Assistant Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Zara is currently in Istanbul attending a two-day International Seminar on Human Rights Violations faced by Muslims. She shared her views on the UK during a plenary session titled “The Situation of Muslims in Europe,” highlighting a range of challenges Muslims are facing in the country. Zara also spoke about the challenges she personally faces as “a very visibly Muslim woman,” wearing a headscarf and shared some anecdotes on how it came as a shock to the British media to see her being elected by Muslims to one of the prestigious leadership positions. On the sidelines of the conference, Zara sat with TRT World for an interview. read the complete article

18 Feb 2022

Trojan Horse scandal explained and how it affects Muslim Londoners

The Trojan Horse scandal has been revisited in public discourse since the New York Times shared a podcast, investigating a hoax anonymous letter highlighting a plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate schools. Muslims across the country are shocked by the revelations of the podcast, hosted by Brian Reed and journalist Hamza Syed. The incident is alleged to have triggered a series of reforms, impacting the Muslim community across the country - reforms that are still in place today. But what is the Trojan Horse affair and why does it impact Muslim Londoners? It all started in 2013 when a letter was sent to Birmingham City Council and triggered the launch of four government investigations and a change in the UK's national policy. Two dozen schools were investigated in the Muslim-majority areas of Birmingham, and the Metropolitan Police's former head of counter-terrorism, Peter Clarke was involved in the investigation. However, when the investigation concluded, they found no evidence to show there was a plot called Operation Trojan Horse. "They had seen no signs that anyone had been radicalized, no evidence of violence or planned violence," Hamza added. "They didn't bring any terror charges against anyone working at the schools they'd looked into. But despite all of that, despite finding no plot, investigators still concluded that something terrible was happening in Birmingham schools." The letter also allegedly resulted in the demonization of Muslims in the media - not only in Birmingham, but nationwide. The incident fuelled suspicion towards the Muslim community. Despite a lack of findings, schools were revamped and renamed, teachers and educators were removed from their jobs and schools across the country - including London - were now required to start teaching 'British Values' to kids, to "counter extremist ideas". read the complete article


18 Feb 2022

Far-right French candidate turns a racist, taboo phrase into his mantra

Two words — taboo for many in France because they evoke a conspiracy theory embraced by white supremacists — have been haunting the French presidential campaign. “Great replacement” rolls off the tongue of far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who has unashamedly made the phrase the core of his campaign. It’s the false claim that the native populations of France and other Western countries are being overrun by nonwhite immigrants — notably Muslims — who are purportedly supplanting, and will one day erase, Christian civilization and its values. But when conservative presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse used the same phrase at her first major rally last weekend, politicians and pundits cried foul, saying she had crossed a red line. Critics said Pecresse, as a mainstream political figure in a way that Zemmour is not, was normalizing a dangerous falsehood that immigration figures in France do not support. The claim of “replacement,” popularized by a French author, has inspired deadly attacks in recent years from New Zealand to El Paso. Pecresse later denied she was venturing into Zemmour’s far-right territory, contending that her brief remark was misconstrued. Still, the dispute focused attention on Zemmour’s campaign mantra and underscored the threat he represents to mainstream conservatives. “If I’m a candidate in the presidential election, it is firstly and above all to stop the ‘great replacement’ and to fight immigration,” Zemmour — whose upstart party is named Reconquest — told France 2 TV. read the complete article

United States

18 Feb 2022

Here's what educators will learn about Islam after NJ teacher's 'terrorist' remark

Ridgefield educators will learn about Muslim students' faith in a training session Friday covering topics including religious holidays, misconceptions about Islam and the meaning of commonly used terms. The online training is set to take place four months after a teacher was accused of telling a high school student who is Muslim and Arab American "we don't negotiate with terrorists," after the student asked for a homework extension. The incident sparked headlines across the globe, a district investigation and calls for dialogue from Muslim leaders. "Any time we have an opportunity to bring in a specific group to enlighten us and share with us on a particular culture, we like to do that," said Ridgefield schools Superintendent Letizia Pantoliano. "We're committed to diversity." About 300 teachers, aides and administrators will participate in the 90-minute training, which will be offered during a professional development session by the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group. read the complete article

New Zealand

18 Feb 2022

Thousands sign petition seeking justice for assaulted Muslim teen

Hoda Al-Jamaa was sitting with her friends at Otago Girls' High School last week when three girls approached and started beating her while they filmed the attack. The 17-year-old had her hijab ripped off and suffered a concussion. The Islamic Women's Council said the attack appeared to be a hate crime. A petition is calling for the school to address the attack, and for people to unite against hatred and bigotry. Hoda's story even attracted the attention of American model Bella Hadid - who is of Palestinian and Dutch heritage. Hoda told RNZ the attack occurred when three girls asked her and her friends how to swear in Arabic and started taunting them. "Two of the girls held me and one hit me and after I fell on the ground, she ... was still hitting my face and my body. I was waiting for the teacher to help me," Hoda said. The girls then took her hijab off and continued filming her and the video has now been shared with boys and girls around the school. "My hijab... is my culture and my religion. My hijab is everything for me and I love my hijab and those other girls love their hijabs." The attackers tried to do the same to Hoda's two other friends. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 18 Feb 2022 Edition


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