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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24 Feb 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In France, a Muslim lawyer who wears the hijab at work is fighting to overturn a rule that bans her from representing her clients, stating “I cannot accept the idea that in my country, to practice a profession, of which I am capable, I need to undress myself,” meanwhile in India, elections are underway in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which is considered a bastion of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has seen highly communal political campaigns targeting the minority Muslim community, and in Canada, a new bill aimed at fighting Islamophobia and other hate crimes was due to be tabled in Ontario’s legislature Wednesday afternoon, but it was unclear if it would receive the support of the majority Progressive Conservative government. Our recommended read of the day is by Rob Faure Walker for Novara Media on how the Trojan Horse Affair resulted in the institution of the Prevent strategy, which is “Islamophobic, discriminatory, and undermines fundamental freedoms of particularly Muslims, and children.” This and more below:

United Kingdom

24 Feb 2022

The Trojan Horse Affair Gave Birth to the Prevent Strategy. It’s Time to Kill It | Recommended Read

Despite the letter that first described the “Islamist plot” being widely accepted as fake when it appeared in 2013, it was used by then education secretary Michael Gove to justify a massive investigation led by a former head of counter-terrorism and Ofsted, the schools’ inspectorate. Though no evidence of any plot or terrorist activity was uncovered, the affair didn’t end there. Instead, it prompted the coalition government to impose on public bodies across the country a strategy that has transformed the lives of British Muslims: Prevent. For most non-Muslims, Prevent is someone else’s problem. Though the Prevent Duty – introduced by Ofsted in 2011, and made statutory in 2015 – calls on public sector workers such as teachers and doctors “to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” in all its forms, Islam has always been the implied focus. 65% of Prevent referrals in 2017 were for “Islamist Extremism”, despite evidence that the far right presents the fastest growing terrorist threat to the UK, and that Muslims make up only 4.4% of the UK population. The forward to the Prevent Strategy written by Teressa May refers to both Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida while ignoring any other types of so-called “extremism”. When I was forced to adopt Prevent as a teacher in Tower Hamlets in 2015, I found my students cast as potential terrorists and myself as an informant. Muslim students fell silent in class as they feared that expressing a political opinion would see them referred to the police. This breach of trust destroyed their education. In other schools, children as young as four were referred to Prevent. Prevent has since been forced into universities and onto NHS workers: your GP, for example, must now put their duty to the police above theirs to you, damaging patient care. It has also emboldened the government to export their Islamophobia around the world, notably to China and India, where Muslims face increasing persecution guided by the UK government. read the complete article

24 Feb 2022

Speaker stops question on Mark Spencer’s promotion amid Islamophobia allegations

A Labour MP was stopped by the Commons Speaker from raising concerns about a Government minister facing accusations of Islamophobia. Sir Lindsay Hoyle ruled Prime Minister’s Questions was “not the appropriate place” for Labour MP Imran Hussain to address the allegations linked to Commons Leader Mark Spencer. Mr Spencer was moved from chief whip to his new post in Boris Johnson’s minor reshuffle, but his continued role in Government raised eyebrows as he continues to be investigated over his role in Tory MP Nusrat Ghani’s allegations of Islamophobia. The Prime Minister commissioned an investigation to “establish the facts” regarding Ms Ghani’s claim that she was told by a whip her dismissal as a minister in 2020 was partly because of concerns about her “Muslimness”. Mr Spencer identified himself as the whip but denied her accusation. At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Hussain (Bradford East) said: “The member for Sherwood is currently under investigation for Islamophobia following accusations he told a fellow MP that her being a Muslim was making colleagues uncomfortable. “How did the Government punish this behaviour? With a promotion that puts the accused member in charge of the complaints procedure. And, of course, we all know that the Prime Minister himself is no stranger to derogatory remarks about Muslim women, so let me…” Interrupting him, Sir Lindsay said: “This is not the appropriate place to be raising this.” As a result, Mr Johnson was not required to answer Mr Hussain’s question. read the complete article

24 Feb 2022

Trojan Horse affair: Michael Gove's Islamophobic witch-hunt

Despite the best efforts of the Tories to brush it under the carpet, the infamous Trojan horse scandal has resurfaced in the news. This month, Serial, one of the world’s most popular podcasts, released the entirety of an eight-part investigation into the scandal that rocked Birmingham schools from 2013 onwards. Presented by Brian Reed and Hamza Syed in association with The New York Times, the podcast takes a fresh look at the alleged conspiracy by Islamist educators to take over several schools in the city and use them as bases to promote a hardline Salafist agenda. The scandal matters because, even though it is almost a decade ago, it was exploited by neocons at the DfE, especially Michael Gove, as the justification to legally force public institutions to enforce the Islamophobic Prevent strategy and the nationalistic teaching of British Values which are still mandatory policies in UK schools. Despite widespread suspicions even at the time about the letter’s authenticity, the Murdoch-owned Times newspaper ran the story in 2013 with a clear Islamophobic agenda to undermine multiculturalism and to feed right-wing hostility against the UK’s Muslim population. The letter was passed on in 2014 to the DfE which was led at that point by arch-teacher basher and neocon ideologue Michael Gove. He predictably pounced on it, ordering an inquiry to be led by a national counter-terrorism chief, Peter Clarke. The Serial podcast includes evidence from Birmingham Council officials that they warned Gove the letter was "bogus", based on "a serious credibility gap" and contained "serious factual inaccuracies and in a number of areas, contradictions." The Education Secretary ignored these warnings, partly because of his ideological blinkers but also because he felt under pressure to act from Theresa May, who as Home Secretary in 2014 was rolling out her racist ‘hostile environment’ strategy. Gove has so far failed to respond to the charges made against him in the podcast. read the complete article


24 Feb 2022

Outrage as India actor arrested for tweet on hijab row judge

Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have arrested actor and activist Chetan Kumar over a tweet criticising one of the judges hearing pleas against ban on hijab in schools, causing outrage online. The police action comes a week after Kumar, a US citizen, questioned in a Twitter post whether Justice Krishna Dixit has “the clarity required” to oversee the hijab row case after previously making “disturbing comments” in a rape case. “Justice Krishna Dixit made such disturbing comments in a rape case. Now this same judge is determining whether hijabs are acceptable or not in government schools. Does he have the clarity required?” Kumar wrote on Twitter last week. Kumar’s wife Megha conducted a Facebook live on Tuesday evening after his arrest and said no one informed the family about the arrest or the reason, the Hindustan Times reported. On Tuesday evening, the police issued a statement, announcing that Kumar had been arrested for his tweet under “Intent to incite a class or community to commit offence against another class or community” and for “intentionally insulting, thereby giving provocation to any person to break public peace” of the Indian Penal Code, local news reported. read the complete article

24 Feb 2022

India's bellwether election: A test for Modi's Hindu nationalist project

On Sunday, more than 20 million residents of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh lined up outside polling booths to cast their vote in a highly polarised regional election that is widely regarded as a bellwether for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity in the country. "Whatever happens in Uttar Pradesh has a reflection on the national election and national politics because the state is the most populous in India with 80 parliamentarians coming from the region," Shabnam Hashmi, a veteran rights activist based in New Delhi, told The New Arab. Uttar Pradesh is considered a bastion of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has seen highly communal political campaigns targeting the minority Muslim community - which forms close to 20% of the province and 15% overall in India. In vicious election campaigns prior to the voting, leaders belonging to the ruling BJP have threatened to "convert Muslims to Hinduism", "pull off their beards", and referred to them as traitors. The atmosphere is no different from five years ago, when the BJP registered a landslide victory and took more than 75% of the total seats in the region - the biggest majority for any party in more than three decades. Experts say the hate-filled campaigns help to strengthen the BJP’s prospects. "Raising anti-Muslim rhetoric or inciting communal sentiments consolidates the larger Hindu voter base and that is something the ruling party [BJP] has traditionally banked upon," says Dr Mohammad Reyaz, an election observer and Assistant Professor of Communications at Aliah University in India. Reyaz believes that there will no respite in the obnoxious hate campaigns against minorities, at least in the short run. "There is talk of a larger Hindu state and Hindu pride where anti-Muslim sentiment plays a large role in wooing voters." Uttar Pradesh, which is currently ruled by the BJP, has seen a series of controversial decisions targeting Muslims. The state has been on a name-changing spree of places and locations associated with Muslim rulers of the medieval era. It has also enacted a law that discourages interfaith marriages, based on a controversial conspiracy theory that Muslims are luring Hindu girls to convert to Islam as part of a so-called “love jihad”. The state has also seen several cases of lynching by so-called cow vigilante mobs, who accuse Muslims of slaughtering the animal revered in Hindu traditions. The government has been accused of inaction and siding with the perpetrators, who are supporters of their Hindutva ideology. read the complete article

24 Feb 2022

India hijab row: Brother of girl at centre of controversy is attacked

The brother of a student from India’s southern state of Karnataka, who has moved court against a ban on hijab, was attacked by an alleged mob of right-wing supporters, according to reports. Zoya Ahmed* alleged that her 20-year-old brother Saif was assaulted by a mob due to her decision to protest the ban on Islamic headscarves at educational institutions. She is one of the six students who had approached the Karnataka High Court seeking permission to wear hijabs in classroom after it was banned by the Pre-University College in Udupi district. On Monday night, a mob of alleged Hindutva supporters – those who support the idea of Hindu hegemony in India – pelted stones at a restaurant owned by Ms Ahmed’s father Hyder Ali in Udupi district. Her brother was closing the restaurant when the mob barged in and assaulted him, following an argument over the hijab row. The window-panes of the restaurant were damaged in the attack. “My brother was brutally attacked by a mob. Just because I continue to stand for my hijab which is my right. Our property were ruined as well. Why?? Can’t I demand my right? Who will be their next victim? I demand action to be taken against the Sangh Parivar goons,” she tweeted. Sangh Parivar is an umbrella term for Hindu nationalist organisations in the country. read the complete article

24 Feb 2022

‘International Community has Moral Obligation to Act Now’: Indian Diaspora Groups Hold Summit on Preventing Genocide

Mob lynchings, along with other forms of vigilante justice, hate crimes and discriminatory laws, are why experts, including Dr Gregory Stanton – a man who predicted the Rwandan genocide three years before it occurred in 1994 – are warning that the preparation for genocide is now well underway in India. Dr Stanton has pointed to the Islamophobic rhetoric of Modi and his party – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the Citizenship Amendment Act, which targets the citizenship of Muslims, the revocation of Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, and calls for genocide from Hindu nationalist leaders at a recent religious gathering in Haridwar. Dr Stanton has said that the level of discrimination Muslims face in BJP-ruled states is akin to that endured by the Rohingya under the Myanmar Government. Against this backdrop, Indian diaspora organisations around the world have partnered with internationally-recognised human rights organisations and civil society groups to host a three-day virtual summit, ‘India on the Brink – Preventing Genocide’, starting on 26 February. The goal of the summit is to raise awareness about the rapid deterioration of human rights for Muslims and other religious minorities in India, with the aim of encouraging policies that can safeguard lives. read the complete article


24 Feb 2022

Ontario NDP introducing anti-Islamophobia bill in wake of London attack on Muslim family

An Opposition bill aimed at fighting Islamophobia and other hate crimes was due to be tabled in Ontario's legislature Wednesday afternoon, but it was unclear if it would receive the support of the majority Progressive Conservative government. The New Democrats said their bill, if passed, would establish a provincial review of hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents that happen in Ontario. It would also designate safe zones around houses of worship, prevent white supremacist groups from registering as societies and establish an anti-racism council that would provide input on government policies. The NDP said the bill, which was created with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and follows similar recommendations put forward by that organization, would also present new tools for schools to combat racism. Additionally, it would empower the Speaker to ban protests at the legislature that promote hate. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party was proud to have worked with Muslim leaders and communities on the "Our London Family Act," which was named for the Afzaal family, victims of a deadly truck attack in London, Ont., last year. "We're proud of [the] Act and looking forward to its tabling and hopefully its passage with the support of the government," she said on Wednesday. read the complete article

United States

24 Feb 2022

Brentwood school crossing guard harassed for wearing hijab; community sends messages of support

A show of support Wednesday for a Muslim crossing guard who was harassed outside of a Brentwood elementary school. She was working Tuesday outside Ron Nunn Elementary School when someone within a group of anti-mask protesters told her, "This is not the Taliban, this is America, take off your mask." She was wearing a hijab and a face mask. The superintendent says he's touched by the outpouring from the community. "I think that's great. I was out there this morning with the crossing guard and it was wonderful to see so many kids and families and staff came up and present her flowers, candy and cards. it was just heartwarming," said Dana Eaton, Brentwood Union School Dist. Superintendent. The superintendent says the school knows the person responsible for the hate speech and says it has been reported to police. read the complete article


24 Feb 2022

French barrister fights for right to wear her hijab in court

French lawyer Sarah Asmeta wears a hijab at work but that means she is banned by her local Bar Council from representing clients in the courtroom. She has been fighting to overturn that rule. Next Wednesday, France's highest court is due to rule on Asmeta's case in a judgment that could set a nationwide precedent and will resonate in a country where the hijab - a headscarf worn by some Muslim women - has become a flashpoint in a debate over identity and immigration. "I cannot accept the idea that in my country, to practice a profession, of which I am capable, I need to undress myself," Asmeta, 30, told Reuters. Asmeta, who is French-Syrian, was the first person in her family to pursue studies in law. She was also the first person at her law school IXAD in the northern city of Lille to wear a hijab. Back in 2019, when she was due to take an oath and enter the profession as a trainee barrister, there was no specific law that said she could not wear her hijab. But in the months that followed her taking the oath, the Lille Bar Council passed an internal rule banning any signs of political, philosophical and religious conviction to be worn with the gown in court. Asmeta challenged that as targeted and discriminatory. She lost the case in an appeals court in 2020, pushing the matter up to the highest court, the Court of Cassation. The March 2 judgment will lay the groundwork for Bar Councils nationwide, Patrick Poirret, the attorney general, told the court last week. read the complete article


24 Feb 2022

Why Muslim women choose to wear headscarves while participating in sports

The French Senate recently voted in favor of a bill to ban headscarves in sports competitions. The advocates of the legislation claim that headscarves, or hijab, symbolize Islamic radicalism, patriarchy and lack of women’s empowerment. Muslim women athletes and women’s rights activists have condemned the proposed law, with one commentator calling it “gendered Islamophobia.” Others have pointed out how such laws have the potential to limit Muslim women’s inclusion in sports. As researchers who study diversity inclusion in sports, we conducted several studies focusing on sports participation among Muslim women over a period of three years. Our recent study, published in 2021, shows that many Muslim women want to wear a hijab while participating in sports, and they list many reasons for doing so. We employed a three-study approach to collect data. This meant that we collected data through open-ended questions from 23 Muslim women living in the United States in the first study. Based on these results, we developed an online survey questionnaire and conducted a preliminary test with 282 women from 11 countries. We further revised our materials and conducted the final study with a sample of 347 Muslim women from 34 countries. Women in our study were wearing hijab already, so we asked them why they wanted to wear the hijab during sports. Among reasons they listed were that the hijab allows them to adhere to their religious beliefs, is comfortable and makes them feel empowered. One of the participants stated: “The idea of a hijab is tied with the concept of freedom and human rights. To me, a hijab is a personal belief and ideology, and everyone has the right to follow it or not.” The influence of other people in their lives was also a big factor. For instance, several participants reported that men or women in their families could influence their choice of wearing a hijab. We also found that the views of other Muslim women were often influential in their decisions. For example, women were enthusiastic about purchasing the sportswear when their friends had also done so. However, some Muslim women expressed the fear of being harassed in Western countries when they wore a hijab in sports. For example, one participant reported: “Sometimes other community members do not accept a pro-sport hijab and treat the woman with a hijab differently. That can bring some negative feelings to that woman, like fear of being judged and mistreated in society.” We argue that this fear of harassment as a result of wearing a hijab in sports within Western countries could be a major barrier in enhancing Muslim women’s sports participation. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 24 Feb 2022 Edition


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