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.

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22 Feb 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, a teenage Muslim girl was disqualified from her cross country meet in 2019 for wearing the hijab, an incident which led her to advocate for religious freedoms in sports, meanwhile lawyers for Myanmar’s military rulers on sought the dismissal of a case that accuses the country of genocide against the Rohingya, saying the United Nations’ top court lacked jurisdiction, and in India, Muslim women are seeking to overturn a state policy in Karnataka that allows schools to ban the hijab in a case that has polarized the country and added to concerns about discrimination against its Muslim minority. Our recommended read of the day is by Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shaikh Azizur Rahman for the Guardian on how the state police in Uttar Pradesh, India are accused of being ‘mercenaries’ of the hardline Hindu nationalist government. This and more below:


22 Feb 2022

‘Shoot them’: Indian state police accused of murdering Muslims and Dalits | Recommended Read

According to police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, it was suicide. The young Muslim man they had brought into their custody had, out of despair, killed himself in the police station toilets. But, as photos of the scene emerged, so too did suspicions. The 22-year-old man, Altaf, was 165cm (5ft 5in) tall and weighed 60kg (9.5 stone), but the toilet tap he had supposedly hanged himself from was just 76cm off the ground and made of flimsy plastic. And why, as the police later claimed in court, was the CCTV in the police station mysteriously not working that day? Family and friends tell a very different story: that Altaf, a Muslim man living in the town of Kasganj, was in love with and planned to marry a Hindu girl. That powerful local Hindu vigilante groups opposed to interfaith unions found out and reported him to the police. And that on 9 November 2021, Altaf was arrested and tortured to death in police custody and his family pressured to keep quiet. “The police murdered my son and then gave me money to say he was depressed and took his own life,” says Altaf’s father, Chand Miya, an illiterate mason who has taken the case to the state high court. “But I will not stay quiet, I want justice.” Last Friday, the courts ordered Altaf’s body to be exhumed and a new postmortem examination to be carried out. Altaf was not the first to die in such circumstances in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, which is holding a high-stakes election this month. In six cases examined by the Guardian of deaths in custody and police shootings of suspects, allegedly in self defence, from 2018 onwards, those accused of carrying out and covering up killings are the same: the Uttar Pradesh police, under the rule of the state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, and his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) government. The victims of these alleged unlawful killings were all from the communities that Adityanath’s government, with its sectarian Hindu nationalist agenda, is accused of routinely targeting and oppressing: Muslims, who make up 20% of the state’s population and who have been subjected to increased lynchings, hate speech and prejudicial legislation, and Dalits, who are at the bottom of India’s oppressive Hindu caste system and were previously referred to as “untouchables”. read the complete article

22 Feb 2022

Amid row over hijab, India's home minister says he prefers school uniforms

India's home minister said he favoured students wearing uniforms in school rather than any religious attire, but that his position might change once a court decides on the merits of a ban on the hijab in schools in the state of Karnataka. The ban imposed by Karnataka on Feb. 5 has sparked protests by Muslim students and parents, and counter-protests by Hindu students, forcing authorities to close schools there earlier this month. Home Minister Amit Shah, India's most powerful politician after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told the Network18 Group in an interview to be aired on Monday night that he would accept any court verdict on the matter. Karnataka is ruled by Modi and Shah's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, whose leaders have invoked the hijab dispute at election rallies in some northern states voting in phases. Karnataka's advocate-general, Prabhuling Navadgi, told the High Court there that those challenging the decision had not been able to prove that wearing the hijab was an essential religious practice. Further hearings will continue on Tuesday. The petitioners, including a dozen Muslim female students, earlier told the court that wearing the hijab was a fundamental right guaranteed under India's constitution and an essential practice of Islam. read the complete article

22 Feb 2022

Ahmedabad blasts: Cartoon of hanging Muslims condemned and removed from Twitter

Twitter removed a cartoon posted by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) that showed Muslim men in skull caps being hung by a noose after uproar on social media. The cartoon was shared by the official handle of the party’s Gujarat division on Saturday after a court in Ahmedabad sentenced 38 people to death in relation to the 2008 serial blasts case which had killed 56 people. The tweet showed a caricature of men in skull caps being hung on a noose, while the background showed the Indian flag, the scene of the blasts along with the text: “Satyameva Jayate” or truth will triumph, which is India’s national motto. It also said: “No mercy to the perpetrators of terror.” The cartoon led to an uproar on social media, with users, social activists and opposition politicians calling out the ruling party for dehumanising Muslims. read the complete article

22 Feb 2022

For the BJP, the Muslim is Not Just the Message, It is the Only Message

The Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat which first gave us Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has now delivered a cartoon of such depravity and venom that it simultaneously reminds us of Nazi propaganda against the Jews and the celebratory visuals of lynchings that racists in the southern United States used to send each other as postcards. Posted on Twitter and Instagram but since deleted by the two social media platforms themselves, the party’s cartoon shows a group of Muslim men with nooses around their neck, swinging from a rope. ‘The truth alone shall triumph’, the cartoon says in Gujarati. The official emblem of the Indian state has been used (in violation of the law) for added effect. Is the message merely the party’s tasteless way of appreciating the fact that justice has been done to a specific set of individuals? In all likelihood, this is the plea its leaders are likely to make. Or are the bearded Muslim men in skull caps shown hanging grotesquely a metaphor for something else? Could the BJP actually be signalling to its supporters that this is the fate Muslims as a whole will face in the future? The question is relevant because of the centrality that Muslims as a group occupy in the ideology and propaganda of the BJP and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. At election time, this focus is almost obsessive. The campaign speeches made in Uttar Pradesh especially – by Modi, Shah, UP chief minister Adityanath and other party functionaries ­­– are full of hostile references to Muslims, either explicit or implied. That is why it should be obvious that in the cartoon put out by the BJP, the Muslims are the message. The reason their cartoon has evoked horror is because we have seen this sort of singular obsession with a targeted religious minority before and know where it leads. read the complete article

22 Feb 2022

Controversy brews in India over school dress codes and Muslim headscarves

At a high school in southern India, Muslim girls now have to take off their hijabs inside. Six girls refused and sued — their fight has drawn attention to discrimination against Muslims in India. LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Mumtaz Khan (ph) runs a boutique in Mumbai that sells Muslim headscarves or hijabs. Most of her customers, as you might expect, are Muslim women - until two weeks ago. KHAN: We have Hindus. We have Christians also. They also come and ask for scarf. Yes, Hindu also. FRAYER: When women from other religions started coming in, they told her they wanted to show solidarity with women like Mumtaz, who wears the hijab, because of something going on 500 miles south in the Indian state of Karnataka. FRAYER: But the change at this one school in Karnataka came abruptly, without warning, during election campaign season in parts of India. And it confirmed some people's suspicions of what's been happening to Muslim minorities under India's Hindu nationalist government. GHAZALA WAHAB: This is what we've been seeing, marginalization of the Muslims from public spaces. FRAYER: The involvement of Muslim activists triggered a backlash by Hindu activists and rival protests, marches, sloganeering. All of it then went viral on social media. The high court in Karnataka has now temporarily banned all religious garb in the state's public schools. No hijabs, no saffron Hindu scarves, nothing until it can rule on a lawsuit by six Muslim girls. Jyoti Punwani is another writer who spent decades chronicling Hindu-Muslim tensions in India. And she says, yes, this is a religious issue. But... JYOTI PUNWANI: It's also a issue of bullying young women. read the complete article

22 Feb 2022

With BJP Facing the Heat in UP, Modi and Crew Pull Out Anti-Muslim Playbook

The Bharatiya Janata Party is raising its communal pitch in Uttar Pradesh, but will it work? Not surprisingly, Modi in his latest speech at a UP rally attacked the Samajwadi Party (SP) – BJP’s primary rival in the UP polls – for “shielding terrorists” to safeguard its “vote bank”. This was another not-so-veiled attempt to club terrorists and Islam. Speaking in the context of a court sentencing 38 people to death and 11 others to life imprisonment in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts case, the prime minister also wondered why many of the bombs were planted in cycles. “Have you seen the poll symbol of the SP?” he said, referring to the Akhilesh Yadav-led party’s symbol, a cycle. One may think that this connection is too overstretched to have any impact, but Modi’s speech was soon backed by the BJP machinery with a blatantly Islamophobic campaign. The most striking example of this was the party’s Gujarat unit posting from its official social media handles a cartoon of a group of Muslims being hanged. The cartoon’s caption read: “No pardon to those who spread terrorism.” Platforms took down the post for spreading hate. To any independent observer, the cocktail of Islamophobia and hyper-nationalism is a tired strategy that is put to use by the BJP as a last measure to consolidate its core supporters and swing undecided Hindu voters. To its credit, the strategy has worked in favour of the saffron party on multiple occasions in a Hindu-majority country. read the complete article

22 Feb 2022

Muslim women in India protest state’s ban on hijab in schools

Muslim women in southern India are seeking to overturn a state policy that allows schools to ban the hijab in a case that has polarized the country and added to concerns about discrimination against its Muslim minority. A court hearing on the issue in the southern state of Karnataka is continuing this week. Students challenging the ban on the hijab, or headscarf, say it infringes on their right to education and religious freedom in Hindu-majority India, where secularism is enshrined in the constitution. Hindu nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiment have been rising in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, critics say. In recent months, prominent Muslim women in India have appeared on unsanctioned apps listing them for “auction,” while Hindu nationalist leaders have openly called for Muslims to be killed. Modi says his policies benefit all Indians. But his party faces several key state elections this year, and political observers say the hijab debate could fire up his base. A ban on hijabs would “clearly impact” Muslim students’ access to education, said Shilpa Phadke, a researcher at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. “In a context where India’s claims to being a secular country are being eroded every day, it seems facetious to talk of keeping religion out of the classroom,” she said. “What we need to do is focus on classrooms that are more diverse and which foster a respect for difference.” read the complete article

United States

22 Feb 2022

Muslim athlete pushes for new law so others can wear hijab while competing in HS sports

Noor Alexandria Abukaram identifies as being both an athlete and a Muslim – two elements that clashed in a disappointing and humiliating manner at an Ohio high school cross country meet in 2019. Abukaram, then 16, had just run the best 5K of her life, finishing the course in 22 minutes and 22 seconds. But an official at the meet disqualified Abukaram. Why? Because she wore a hijab while running. “If I feel like as an athlete, I'm a person that competes,” Abukaram said. “And that's just a part of who I am. So, when that tries to be taken away from me, especially for something like my hijab, which is something that I love and hold so dear to my heart. It feels really humiliating.” In 2020 OHSAA changed the rule to permit athletes to compete while wearing a religious head covering unless the official deems it will fundamentally alter the sport or is dangerous for the participant, such as dangling jewelry. The Ohio association worked with its national counterpart to rework the rule. Abukaram said over the last few years the rule book has been changed numerous times. She knew a rule change would not be enough, and if she did not share her story, other girls would fall victim to the same discrimination she had experienced. Abukaram took the pain and ran with it. She started her own movement, hoping to bring support to others who had experienced what she has, and to advocate for religious freedoms in sports. The #LetNoorRun initiative took off, garnering national attention on social media and being covered in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, reached out to Abukaram and her family when she heard her story on the news. They met in a coffee shop for what they both described as an electric meeting which was the catalyst for real change in Ohio. Senate Bill 181, sponsored by Gavarone, passed both the Senate and the House unanimously. read the complete article

22 Feb 2022

Amid book bans, Muslim authors, parents advocate for children’s books representing Islam

When in September 2021, Pennsylvania’s Central York School District banned “The Arabic Quilt,” Aya Khalil’s award-winning debut picture book about fitting in at school, Khalil decided to write a book about her experience. “The Banned Books Bake Sale,” due out in spring of 2023, is about a young woman who fights a ban at her school by telling about experiences in the Egyptian “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. The experience also prompted Khalil to redouble her support of Kidlit in Color, a group of children’s book authors who are trying to create more diversity in children’s literature. With the rise in book bans across the country, purportedly aimed at suppressing the teaching of critical race theory and other anti-racist ideas, books for and about Muslims, already rare in school libraries and curriculums, are increasingly being put out of reach for young readers. When Khalil helped to launch Kidlit in Color in 2019, the group’s primary focus was to shift attitudes toward diversity in the publishing industry. “I started Kidlit in Color because I wanted to be part of a group of BIPOC authors who shared the struggle of the publishing world but also the struggles of being from a marginalized community in the publishing world,” Khalil explains. As the U.S. Muslim population grows, parents looking for books that recognize the existence of Muslim children have few choices. Books in English that teach Muslim values or tenets of the faith are even rarer. “It would be nice to see editors and agents specifically look for these types of books,” Khalil said. But the racially oriented book bans have made the group’s advocacy even more important, she said. “It’s really dangerous, especially because books by Black Muslim authors were on that ban list a few months ago, and there are very few Black Muslim authors,” explained Khalil, who is an immigrant from Egypt. For authors like Khalil, the bans have highlighted the need for schools to de-escalate diversity as a hot-button issue. Their goal is not to inculcate children with Islamic ideas, only to recognize the existence of Islam on the American religious landscape and to welcome Muslims of color as neighbors. read the complete article


22 Feb 2022

Eric Zemmour: A nexus between French populism and political Christianity

One of the most in vogue far-right candidates in this campaign has been Eric Zemmour. Born in the Parisian suburbs to a Jewish family originally from Algeria, Zemmour is a French polemicist, pundit, writer, and politician. His rise in the French public sphere was accompanied by his controversial and defamatory statements, for which he was indicted several times by the courts. Unrepentant, he continuously feeds the media controversy with anti-Muslim, racist, and sexist statements. Journalist Etienne Girard, who wrote a book about Zemmour, asserts that he struggled with his own identity because he was born to an underprivileged family. He argues that Zemmour never got rid of “a class complex, which always pushes him to seek the approval of the intelligentsia,” evidenced by his efforts to enter the very select club of power. Zemmour found a shortcut to climb up the social ladder. His fiery punditry was welcomed by multi-billionaire media mogul Vincent Bolloré, who had his own political agenda. The latter gave Zemmour the chance of his life: A nightly show at CNews, in which Zemmour spread his vitriolic messages and furthered his political agenda. However, this arrangement had strings attached. Bolloré, who is the descendent of a long lineage of Breton industrialists from his father’s side, while also connected to the powerful Goldschmidt family from his mother’s side, is active on many fronts. He has long aspired to bring political Christianity to the driving seat of French politics. The tycoon, often described as a “conservative Catholic,” has manoeuvred over the years to propel Via, the new label of the Christian Democratic Party, into a prominent political position. However, no one within their ranks had Zemmour’s ability to create media buzz. Hence a marriage of convenience was sealed between this long-marginalised conservative Catholic clique and firebrand polemicist Eric Zemmour – who is not even a Christian. read the complete article


22 Feb 2022

Myanmar seeks to have Rohingya case thrown out of UN court

Lawyers for Myanmar’s military rulers on Monday sought the dismissal of a case that accuses the Southeast Asian nation of genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority, saying the United Nations’ top court lacked jurisdiction. The decision to allow Myanmar’s military-installed government to represent the country at the hearings drew sharp criticism. “It is outrageous for the ICJ to proceed with these hearings on the basis of junta representation. The junta is not the government of Myanmar, it does not represent the state of Myanmar, and it is dangerous for the court to allow it to present itself as such,” said Chris Sidoti of advocacy group Special Advisory Council for Myanmar. “We are glad the case is going forward but find it deeply troubling that the military is allowed to appear before the court as representatives of Burma,” Burma Human Rights Network’s Executive Director Kyaw Win said in a statement. “The coup regime is in the middle of a horrific campaign of violence against civilians, and the last thing they should be given is any legitimacy in a U.N. body.” Lawyers representing Myanmar argued that the case should be tossed out because the court only hears cases between states and the Rohingya complaint was brought by Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic States. They also argued that Gambia could not bring the case to court as it was not directly linked to the events in Myanmar and that a legal dispute did not exist between the two countries before the case was filed. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 Feb 2022 Edition


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