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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02 Feb 2023

Today in Islamophobia: For the first time ever, UN special rapporteur Fionnuala Ni Aolain will visit the Guantanamo Bay detention centre this month and will meet with former detainees in what will be the first “technical visit” after two decades of international requests, meanwhile in Canada, newly appointed anti-Islamophobia representative Amira Elghawaby held a press conference yesterday where she apologized for past remarks about the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec, and in the UK, a new campaign led by the Aziz Foundation, hopes to enshrine the International Day to Combat Islamophobia into UK law. Our recommended read of the day is by Nabiya Khan for Middle East Eye on how the current political climate in Narendra Modi’s India has left many Indian Muslim women feeling marginalized and fearful within their own country. This and more below:


01 Feb 2023

Repression and fear: Life as a hijabi Muslim in Modi's India | Recommended Read

By 2018, Muslims had already been pushed further towards the margins in India, so this incident wasn’t particularly surprising. But as we step into 2023, being harassed for wearing the hijab has become a daily reality for many Muslim women under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. According to a recent report from the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, more than 1,000 Muslim girls in Karnataka have left college amid a systematic campaign to isolate hijabi women from educational institutions. Hindutva organisations have carried out a vicious campaign against students wearing hijabs, fuelled by government and police inaction. Karnataka’s ban on hijabs in educational institutions was upheld last year by the state’s high court, thus denying these women the right to an education. The so-called hijab row is a part of a larger design by the ruling BJP to push the Muslim community further into the margins of society and to establish Hindu supremacy, where Muslims are shown “their place”. This is a systematic attack on the right to education for Muslim women, exacerbating our Otherisation and stymying our chances for upward mobility. We are regularly reminded of the challenges inherent in being a hijabi woman in Modi’s India. It requires navigating a difficult landscape of prejudice, discrimination, and escalating religious tensions, in a society where diversity is celebrated as a defining characteristic of its heritage. Hijabi women, including myself, must negotiate a culture that frequently views us as second-class citizens, less deserving of respect and dignity, amid the growth of Hindu nationalism and the current political atmosphere. From being denied employment opportunities to facing verbal and physical abuse on the streets, the reality of being a hijabi woman in India today is far from the inclusive and tolerant society promised by the government. With the rise of Hindu nationalism, hijabi women increasingly face the burden of representing their faith, often having to defend their right to wear the hijab in the face of hostile public opinion and government policies that undermine religious freedom. read the complete article

United States

30 Jan 2023

When Ilhan Omar Asks Questions, Her Colleagues Should Listen

House Republicans are poised to make a grave mistake by removing from the Committee on Foreign Affairs the only person who consistently describes American foreign policy as it is experienced by much of the rest of the world. Those behind the effort to remove Ilhan Omar claim that she’s bigoted against Jews. Her Democratic defenders counter that the real bigots are those Republicans seeking to oust a Black Muslim woman. Yet neither side is talking much about what Ms. Omar has actually done on the committee from which she may soon be removed. That’s too bad. Because what Ms. Omar has done is extraordinary. In 2021, the Alliance of Democracies Foundation asked 50,000 people in 53 countries which global power they thought most threatened democracy in their nation. The United States came in first. Judging by their public statements, most members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee think these non-Americans are certifiably insane. The committee’s Republicans and Democrats both largely take it for granted that the United States — despite occasional blunders — defends liberty. When discussing threats to human rights, they generally attribute them to America’s foes. Ms. Omar is the exception. When Ms. Omar’s turn came, the self-congratulation abruptly stopped. She began by noting that during America’s last Cold War, the country supported “brutal dictators” like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and Indonesia’s Suharto because they shared “a common enemy.” She then asked Ms. Sherman why her administration was making Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India “our new Pinochet.” Ms. Omar’s colleagues discussed India primarily as a potential bulwark against China and Russia. Only Ms. Omar spoke about American complicity in the repression of minority groups in India. “How much does the Modi administration have to criminalize the act of being Muslim in India,” she asked, “for us to say something?” This pattern has repeated itself again and again in the four years since Ms. Omar entered Congress. The 50 other members of the Foreign Affairs Committee piously condemn the misdeeds of America’s foes. She asks uncomfortable questions about America’s own. In a hearing in May 2021, about Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, only Ms. Omar noted that the United States had itself imprisoned 22 Uyghurs at Guantánamo Bay and that China’s president had reportedly cited America’s “war on terror” as a justification for his own crackdown. A witness who leads the Uyghur Human Rights Project concurred that America’s actions had “paved the way for this comfortable labeling Uyghurs as a terrorist” group by Beijing. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

Muslim-American opinions on abortion are complex. What does Islam actually say?

After the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that ended the constitutional right to abortion, Zahra Ayubi started to notice a theme among some critics of the historic shift. "They'll draw analogies between abortion bans in the United States and Muslim conservatism," Ayubi, a professor of Islamic Ethics at Dartmouth College, said of some of the commentary she saw on TV and on social media. Critiques ranged from attempts at humor to outright Islamophobia. In some cases, as Ayubi recalled, critics blamed the so-called "Texas Taliban" for new abortion restrictions in that state. She also saw a widely-shared photo of Supreme Court justices edited to show them in beards, turbans, and burqas. The punchline? "To show that SCOTUS has now become ruled by Sharia," Ayubi said wearily. New York City-based artist and writer Maryam Monalisa Gharavi shares a similar weariness, given the difficulty she's faced in talking openly about abortion in her community, and in light of one simple fact: Sharia — the body of religious law in Islam — can, in fact, be very permissive of abortion. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

Hate Speech And Its Effect On The Health Of Muslim Americans

Think back to the tragic events of December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California when Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik orchestrated a mass shooting that killed 14 people and injured 22 others. The perpetrators were immediately labeled as Muslim extremists and the massacre described as a terrorist attack by mass media. Now think back to how differently other mass shootings have been presented by the media. 20-year-old Adam Lanza was responsible for the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 that resulted in the death of 26 individuals, 20 of which were school-aged children. On May 24, 2022, 18 -year-old Salvador Ramos fatally shot 19 students and 2 teachers at a Uvalde Elementary School in Texas. Most recently, just last week, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran killed 11 people and injured 9 in a dance studio in Monterey Park, California. In all three of these massacres, none of the perpetrators were identified by their religion or ethnicity, and none of the horrific events were labeled as acts of terrorism by the media. Why were the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shooting immediately associated with their Islamic faith? While Islamophobia has waxed and waned over centuries, it sky-rocketed after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Since then, the American media has consistently demonized Muslims as terrorists and extremists in these unfortunate events, and this has had major ramifications for the mental health and wellbeing of Muslim citizens all around America. Research demonstrates that negative stereotypical portrayal of Muslims in the news and popular media contributes to low self-esteem, influences perceived discrimination, and can be associated with feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and isolation. Low self-esteem has been proven in multiple studies to be linked with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Words matter, and the manner in which Muslims are portrayed in the media matters. Derogatory discourse aimed towards Muslims is affecting their mental health, and nobody is speaking up about this. read the complete article

02 Feb 2023

You Can Thank George W. Bush’s War on Terror for Donald Trump

In a three-part series on Jacobin Radio’s The Dig, Daniel Denvir interviewed journalist Spencer Ackerman, author of Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, about how the Forever Wars unleashed violence and wrecked countries across the world, very much including the United States. The following is a transcript of the first part, edited for length and clarity. They discuss the bipartisan war fever after 9/11, the campaign of mainstream misinformation around the Iraq War, the deflating 2004 John Kerry campaign, and the symbiosis between neoconservatives and nativists in the brutal projection of American military power. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

UN rights expert to visit Guantanamo detention facility for first time

The United Nations announced on Wednesday that one of its rights experts will visit the Guantanamo Bay detention centre this month, in what will be the first "technical visit" after two decades of requests. Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN special rapporteur on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, will undertake a visit to Washington next week, and from there will head to Guantanamo. A UN expert visited Guantanamo in 2007, at the invitation of the US, but only to attend an evidentiary hearing at the military commissions tribunal. Ni Aolain, who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but is unpaid and does not speak for the international body, will issue a statement on her findings and recommendations following the visit. In the following three months, Ni Aolain "will also carry out a series of interviews with individuals in the United States and abroad, on a voluntary basis, including victims and families of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and former detainees in countries of resettlement/repatriation", the statement said. In March 2022, Ni Aolain announced she had received a "preliminary invitation" from Washington to visit Guantanamo, explaining that the parameters for the trip were still under discussion. The UN expert has been critical of counter-extremism policies around the world, particularly in the US and UK, and said in a 2020 report that these policies have violated the rights of minorities, religious groups, and civil society advocates. read the complete article


01 Feb 2023

Muslim women share why they choose to wear a hijab in new short film

A new short film examines misconceptions around the hijab and why some Muslim women in Edmonton choose to wear the head covering. The film World Hijab Day shares its name with an annual event that was founded in 2013. "I wanted to do this video to spread awareness and kind of just educate people," said Amal Mohamud, the Edmonton filmmaker behind the project. The event World Hijab Day was founded in 2013 in the U.S. by Nazma Khan, a Muslim woman, to help foster religious tolerance and provide education by inviting all women to experience the hijab for one day. It takes place on Feb. 1. For Mohamud, the hijab symbolizes her faith and worship. "It's kind of like my submission to my God. It represents modesty, morality, privacy, and just being a good person and a good role model." A hijab is a garment that covers the head and neck. Modesty is an aspect of Islam, but not all Muslim women wear a head covering. Mohamud said she wanted people to know many Muslim women are not forced to wear a hijab and choose to do so. read the complete article

02 Feb 2023

Canada votes to take in 10,000 Uyghur refugees amid Chinese pressure to force their return

Canada’s parliament has unanimously passed a motion to take in 10,000 Uyghur refugees who fled China, but are now facing pressure to return. The vote on Wednesday builds on a February 2021 move by Canadian lawmakers to label Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in its north-western Xinjiang territory as genocide. Rights groups believe at least 1 million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in internment camps in the region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour. Tens of thousands have fled the region, and according to Canadian backbench MP Sameer Zuberi, who sponsored the motion, at least 1,600 have been detained in other countries at China’s behest or forcibly repatriated. read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

Anti-Islamophobia representative Amira Elghawaby apologizes for past comments about Quebecers Social Sharing

The federal government's new anti-Islamophobia representative Amira Elghawaby apologized Wednesday for past remarks about the prevalence of anti-Islam sentiment in Quebec. Elghawaby, who was appointed the special representative on combating Islamophobia last week, made the remarks before meeting with Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, who had requested the meeting to push back against her 2019 remarks. "I would like to say that I am extremely sorry for the way that my words have carried, how I have hurt the people of Quebec, and this is what I am going to express to Mr. Blanchet," she said. "I understand that the words and the way that I said them have hurt the people of Quebec. I have been listening very carefully. I have heard you and I know what you're feeling and I'm sorry." The controversy is linked to an opinion column Elghawaby co-authored with Bernie Farber, the former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen in 2019. The column comments on Quebec's controversial Bill 21, which bans provincial public servants from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs. "Unfortunately, the majority of Quebecers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment," Elghawaby and Farber wrote. In the column, Elghawaby and Farber said that they came to that conclusion after a Léger Marketing poll found that the 88 per cent of Quebecers who held negative views of Islam overwhelmingly supported the ban on religious symbols for public servants. read the complete article


02 Jan 2023

Commission appoints a new Coordinator for Combating anti-Muslim hatred

The European Commission has appointed Marion Lalisse as its new Coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred. Ms Lalisse will work with Member States, European institutions, civil society and academia to strengthen policy responses in the field of anti-Muslim hatred. In her new role, the Coordinator will be the main point of contact for organisations working in this field in the EU. Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, said: : “I welcome Ms Lalisse, as the new Coordinator on combating Anti-Muslim hatred, whose work will ensure responses to hatred, as well as structural and individual discrimination against Muslims. We must fight anti-Muslim hatred in all areas of life including education, employment and social policy. We must also gather data about, monitor and tackle all instances of anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination.” read the complete article

01 Feb 2023

Driven by desperation, Rohingya refugees risk their lives at sea

Almost 1 million mostly Muslim Rohingya refugees remain stateless in Bangladesh years after having fled neighboring Myanmar, a majority-Buddhist country where they are not considered citizens and were the targets of a deadly military campaign that the U.S. has declared genocide. Seeing no future in Bangladesh, where they are not officially allowed to work and have limited opportunities for education, growing numbers are risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to countries in Southeast Asia where they hope to find something better. In recent weeks, hundreds of Rohingya refugees have landed on the shores of Indonesia’s Aceh province, including 185 whose boat arrived Jan. 8. At least 180 others are presumed dead, the U.N. refugee agency says, after their boat is believed to have sunk in early December. More than 3,500 Rohingya refugees in 39 boats tried to cross the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal last year, the agency said last month, compared with 700 the year before. At least 348 of them died or disappeared at sea, making 2022 one of the deadliest years in the last decade. Calls for maritime authorities in the region to rescue those stranded at sea have been ignored, the agency said, adding that more people will die without a “comprehensive regional response.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

01 Feb 2023

'Nearly half of all hate crime in the UK is against Muslims - we need International Day to Combat Islamophobia enshrined in law'

A new campaign led by Aziz Foundation, hopes to enshrine the International Day to Combat Islamophobia into UK law. The day was adopted by consensus by the UN last year after it was first suggested by the former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Of the 140 countries agreeing to adopt a "International Day to Combat Islamophobia," the UK was one of the countries to sign the UN agreement. The day March 15, was chosen to commemorate the mosque shooting in Christchurch in 2019 which saw 51 people killed and over 40 injured. According to the UN, the day would expand the dialogue around religion and tolerance. The Aziz Foundation believes that the UK Government's acknowledgment of this day would highlight the contribution of British Muslims in UK. Between 2021 and 2022, religious hate crimes in the UK increased by 37 per cent to 8,730 offences. Over two in five, 42 per cent of these were targeted against Muslims. Last month, MyLondon reported the story of a young hijabi Muslim from Hounslow alleged that she was attacked and had her hijab beaten from her head. Almost half of all religious hate crimes in the UK are directed at Muslims. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 02 Feb 2023 Edition


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