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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20 Feb 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Sweden, the police have again refused to issue a permit for another event at which the Quran was to be burned in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, meanwhile in Canada, critics argue that Amira Elghawaby, the newly appointed special envoy to combat Islamophobia, is being targeted because of her work calling attention to Islamophobia in the country, and in the United Kingdom, a number of mosques received a hate-filled letter celebrating the deaths of thousands of people in Turkey and Syria as a result of the twin earthquakes. Our recommended read of the day is by Alishan Jafri for The Wire on the targeting and killing of Indian Muslims today and the increasingly hostile and dangerous environment for India’s 200 million Muslims. This and more below:


20 Feb 2023

Junaid, Junaid and a Country That Looks Away | Recommended Read

Last night, I kept thinking about Junaid, the lynching victim. I was not thinking about the grown-up father and husband Junaid who was reportedly burnt alive by Hindutva extremists last week with his friend Nasir. I was thinking about the 16-year-old madrasa student Junaid, who was stabbed over 40 times in a moving train in Haryana when I had just passed out of school six years ago. The graphic details, as they were divulged in the media, made my gut twist. As a teenager, I felt vulnerable – just as many other Muslims my age felt. This was the time when television channels had just begun their daily Muslim baiting, by asking why do Muslims not chant ‘Vande Mataram’ or ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ (in a few years, this narrative had shifted to ‘what’s the problem with shooting traitors’). I texted a close friend, who seemed unmoved. He asked me for evidence to prove that it was a hate crime. I was not a journalist at the time and it was not a part of my work to ogle at violent men threatening to kill millions, who, just like me, happen to be born Muslim. The murderers have been inspired by those “saints” who use prominent public squares to openly incite violence, a media that actively demonises victims, crumbling institutions that continue to look away, and many Hindus who fund and watch Monu Manesars. Except for a few Muslims and some of their well-meaning Hindu allies, the outrage against these horrors has been watered down with whataboutery, threats, abuse and, most annoyingly, the advice to not fall into the polarisation trap. read the complete article

20 Feb 2023

'Cow vigilante' charged with double murder in India after Muslim men's bodies found in burnt-out car

A man accused of abducting and murdering two Muslim men over cow smuggling in India has been arrested after the victims' bodies were found in a burnt-out car. Police say the charred bodies were discovered in the car a day after the two men went missing in northern Haryana state, west of Delhi. Both men were from neighbouring Rajasthan state, and their families named five men belonging to the Hindu hardline Bajrang Dal group in a criminal complaint to police after their disappearance. Vigilante squads that roam highways to stop the animals from being transported across state borders have proliferated since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014. Critics have accused the Modi government of turning a blind eye to vigilante attacks on minority Muslims in the name of cow protection. read the complete article

20 Feb 2023

Indian authorities accuse BBC of tax evasion after 3 days of searches

India’s Finance Ministry accused the BBC of tax evasion on Friday, saying that it had not fully declared its income and profits from its operations in the country. Indian tax authorities ended three days of searches of the British broadcaster’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices on Thursday night. Opposition political parties and other media organizations have criticized the searches as an attempt to intimidate the media. Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also questioned the timing of the searches, which came weeks after the BBC aired a documentary in the U.K. that was critical of Modi. “The department gathered several evidences pertaining to the operation of the organization which indicate that tax has not been paid on certain remittances which have not been disclosed as income in India by the foreign entities of the group,” the Central Board of Direct Taxes said in a statement. It said they found “several discrepancies and inconsistencies” and had gathered “crucial evidence” from statements of employees, digital evidence and documents which would be examined more fully later. read the complete article

20 Feb 2023

India enjoyed a free and vibrant media. Narendra Modi’s brazen attacks are a catastrophe

In January, the BBC broadcast a two-part series, India: The Modi Question, which looked forensically at the role of Narendra Modi in fomenting the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots of 2002 in which at least 1,000 people were killed. Now the prime minister of India, Modi was then the chief minister of Gujarat. The response in India was swift. Kanchan Gupta, an adviser to the ministry of information and broadcasting, called the documentary “propaganda and anti-India garbage” that “reflects BBC’s colonial mindset”. The BJP government invoked emergency laws to ban the documentary and any online links to clips. When students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University tried to screen the documentary, the university authorities cut off electricity to the whole campus. Then, last week, the authorities raided BBC offices in India, supposedly to investigate “tax evasion” by the corporation’s Indian operation. On Friday, the government claimed to have discovered “evidence of tax irregularities”. Most local journalists are deeply cynical. The raid on the BBC, the Press Club of India observed, was “a clear cut case of vendetta”. Since Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party came to power in 2014, he has pursued a relentless campaign to curb the independence of India’s media. “Criticise us and we’ll come after you,” is the banner under which the government operates. As the Editors Guild of India put it, the BBC raids (which the government, in BJP Newspeak, calls not “raids” but “surveys”) are part of a well-established “trend of using government agencies to intimidate and harass press organisations that are critical of government policies or the ruling establishment”. read the complete article

United Kingdom

20 Feb 2023

Trojan Horse: When 'facts' are contested, who decides the truth?

In December last year the British think tank Policy Exchange released a long report which claimed to expose “a concerted campaign to rewrite history around the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal, where hard-line activists Islamised state schools in Birmingham”. Policy Exchange presented the report as a necessary response to the podcast released by the New York Times just over a year ago which sought to re-examine the “Trojan Horse” story. The podcast described how the letter at the centre of the scandal was initially dismissed as a hoax by officials and police. There was no attempt to identify the author of the letter, but nonetheless it prompted a number of inquiries into the allegations it made of an Islamist plot - with devastating consequences for students, teachers and governors at the schools under scrutiny. The most significant of these was ordered by the then-education secretary Michael Gove in 2014 after details of the letter were leaked to the media. Gove appointed a former counter-terrorism police chief, Peter Clarke, to head the inquiry, which the podcast examined at length. Gove, the podcast said, was told by officials that counter-terrorism police had decided the letter was a hoax, but “used the letter to sanction numerous high-level investigations into potential extremism in Birmingham schools anyway”. The Policy Exchange report is co-authored by Damon L Perry, a senior research fellow at Policy Exchange and an associate fellow at King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), and Paul Stott, Policy Exchange’s head of security and extremism. They take issue with the New York Times' podcast, describing it as a “travesty… replete with errors and omissions”. The purpose of the article is instead to challenge serious errors of fact and interpretation which bring into question Gove and Timothy’s assertion that the Policy Exchange report should be considered “the final word”. The need to challenge this claim, and the authority of Peter Clarke's flawed report, has grown more urgent with the publication this month of the Independent Review of Prevent in which reviewer William Shawcross calls for the controversial counter-extremism strategy to be focused more sharply on countering "non-violent Islamist extremism". read the complete article

20 Feb 2023

The desperate Tories have one idea left: target the migrants, ramp up the fear

A chilling preview of a new turmoil is unfolding. “Migrant hunts” at hotels housing asylum seekers, protests including the hard right or arranged by its members, most recently this weekend in Rotherham, have doubled over the past year. The signs are that it will only get worse, as the Conservative party, having run out of credibility and ideas, looks set to spin the wheel and put everything on culture war. During his party leadership campaign, Sunak robotically repeated vague claims about the left coming for “our women”, and has since made “small boats” central to his pledges in government. With a busted flush on the economy and political stability, and no hook on which to hang a positive, flourishing vision of the future, the Conservatives’ policy offering has been whittled down to the only thing they have left – fear. If you can’t fix your failures, weaponise them. So we end up hearing a lot less about how the government can make your life better, and a lot more about the number of arrivals, small boats, hotels dedicated to their housing and the “alleged” behaviour of asylum seekers harassing young girls, which to this day has not been proved. read the complete article

20 Feb 2023

'More Muslims didn't die': Letter to UK mosques celebrates quake deaths

Anonymous letter celebrating deaths of thousands of people in Türkiye and Syria in last week's twin earthquakes and wishing more misfortune to befall Muslims in the region has been sent to mosques in British capital London. Turkish mosque Masjid Ramadan and the largest one Aziziye Mosque said they received the hate-filled letter at a time when the whole world has mobilised in rescue and relief operations. "I wish to make it clear that it is not heartfelt sorrow that I feel that thousands of people died. I'm only sincerely sorry that more Muslims didn't die," the letter read. Expressing disturbing glee at the suffering and death caused by last Monday's earthquakes, the yet-unknown author wished for more deaths in the region. read the complete article

20 Feb 2023

‘An utterly Islamophobic verdict by a jury who didn’t care the evidence was bent’

The legal team of two men sentenced to life imprisonment for involvement in a terrorist bomb plot have spoken out about concerns about police corruption, the planting of evidence and falsifying of notebooks. In a new documentary screened last week in South London, the Birmingham Six’s lawyer Gareth Pierce claimed that the circumstances leading to the conviction of Naweed Ali, Khobaib Hussain, Mohibur Rahman and Tahir Aziz were ‘like being in a timewarp’. The men (known as the Birmingham Four) were sentenced to life in 2017 after the jury accepted that they were a terrorist cell planning to hit military and police targets. Their trial played out against a backdrop of terrorist atrocities including the Manchester Arena bombing and the London Bridge attack. The new documentary is presented by the former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, now director of the CAGE. ‘During the trial, there had been four separate terrorist attacks,’ defence barrister Stephen Kamlish QC recalled. ‘People were getting increasingly nervous and scared about being the next victim. Who’s going to let somebody – let alone, a Muslim with a beard accused of terrorism – out at this time? It was just an utterly Islamophobic verdict by this jury who didn’t care that the whole of the evidence was bent.’ The key evidence against the four was the discovery of a terrorist kill kit – a part-constructed pipe bomb, an imitation firearm and a meat cleaver – in Ali’s car as a result of an elaborate sting operation set by the security services. The men’s legal team accuse the police of planting the kit and then fabricating their notebooks in a botched attempt to cover tracks. read the complete article


20 Feb 2023

Canada should debate notwithstanding clause's existence, says Liberal MP

A Liberal MP from Montreal says it is time for the country to debate whether the notwithstanding clause should be on the books. Sameer Zuberi's comments come after a week where the Bloc Québécois forced parties in the House of Commons to vote on whether they felt provinces had the legitimate right to use the constitutional power however they wanted, including pre-emptively. Both the Liberals and federal New Democrats voted down the motion to defeat it, while the Conservatives supported the Bloc's call. The notwithstanding clause is a provision in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that allows provincial and federal governments to pass laws that circumvent parts of the Charter for a period of up to five years. While it's not new, debate around its use has heated up in recent years as provinces such as Ontario and Quebec have invoked it pre-emptively, effectively preventing anyone from launching a legal challenge in court. Quebec Premier François Legault's government used it pre-emptively to usher in his government's secularism law, known as Bill 21, which prohibits public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job. read the complete article

20 Feb 2023

Amira Elghawaby is victim of a double standard

Let’s get straight to the point: Canada has an Islamophobia problem, and that includes Quebec. Islamophobia may not be the sole driver of support for Bill 21, but poll after poll has shown at least a correlation between the two. A 2021 poll by Ekos showed that the rate of negative opinion toward Muslims is higher in Quebec (29 per cent) than elsewhere in the country (13 to 19 per cent). Amira Elghawaby, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first special representative on combatting Islamophobia, has been under attack since the end of January for pointing it out. What was supposed to be a moment filled with hope for sincere and open dialogue has turned into a barrage of attacks – against Elghawaby, the new position itself, and the very concept of Islamophobia, as evidenced by the call to abolish the post of special representative. Fourteen months before Elghawaby’s appointment, Irwin Cotler was reappointed Canada’s special representative on combatting antisemitism. Rightfully so, no one asked for that post to be abolished. Elghawaby isn’t the first to note a correlation between anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec and support for the law restricting religious freedom in certain public service roles, but she seems to be the only one to apologize for doing so. We see a double standard at play here. read the complete article

United States

20 Feb 2023

What FBI data about anti-Hindu hate crimes in the US reveals about fears of ‘Hinduphobia’

In December, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released Hate Crime Statistics for 2021, an annual compilation of bias-motivated incidents in the United States. What does the Federal Bureau of Investigation say about hate crimes against Hindus? They rank “anti-Hindu” incidents at the near bottom of the table, just like in 2020, at the 34th rank out of 35 communities reporting, with only the Jehovah’s Witnesses encountering a fewer number of hate incidents. To put it more starkly, Muslims are eight times more likely, Jews are 12 times more likely and Sikhs are 128 times more likely to be victims of hate crimes than Hindus. This is a clear refutation of the drum beats of “Hinduphobia” that are being heard in the community in recent years. Anyone who still thinks that Hindus are being targeted in large numbers for their faith is either unaware of the facts or is playing to the victimhood gallery. But this suggestion has been put forward by Hindu groups in the US such as the Hindu American Foundation, the Hindu Students Council and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad America. What is even more ominous is that some of the same groups in the United States, who lobbied hard with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to add “anti-Hindu” hate crimes to its database, are the ones providing cover for Modi’s efforts to hide the reality of anti-minority from the outside world. Why are Hindu nationalist proxies for the Modi government embarking on such a campaign? The answer is obvious: to distract from the rising Islamophobia and ugly cries from Hindu religious leaders for the attacks on Muslims. In effect, the Hindutva strategy appears to be, “If we can’t defend the ugliness of Islamophobia in India, let’s elevate the notion of Hinduphobia in the US to the same level” as a defensive prop for the benefit of American lawmakers. read the complete article


20 Feb 2023

Stockholm police continue to deny permits for Quran burning events

Stockholm police have again refused to issue a permit for another event at which the Quran was to be burned in front of the Turkish Embassy in the city, Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported on Thursday. With this most recent rejection, two applications for Quran burnings have been denied by the Stockholm police in a short period of time. The decision not to allow the burning of the Quran at public gatherings has a legal basis under Swedish law as it threatens the interests of the country and society, the press secretary for the Stockholm police, Ola Österling, said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 20 Feb 2023 Edition


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