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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25 Feb 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In India, a ban on the hijab in schools in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, along with an escalation of religiously motivated attacks against Muslims in the country, has prompted widespread solidarity in the Middle East and beyond, meanwhile in the United Kingdom, the Commons Speaker stated Parliament is “not the appropriate place” to be raising concerns about Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslims, and at the ICJ, lawyers for The Gambia urged the court to throw out Myanmar’s legal bid to end a case accusing the Southeast Asian nation of genocide against Rohingya Muslims, after the Buddhist nation tried to get the case dismissed. Our recommended read of the day is by Heather Greenwood Davis for National Geographic on how British hikers are facing discrimination in England’s Lake District, which has led to British marathoner Haroon Mota creating a grassroots initiative “to create a more inclusive hiking community and ensure a better experience for everyone venturing into wild outdoor spaces.” This and more below:

United Kingdom

25 Feb 2022

For Muslim hikers, an empowering community makes all the difference | Recommended Read

When Aysha Sharif, who wears a head covering, began regularly hiking in England’s Lake District, she says she attracted unwanted attention. “I was a hijabi and a brown woman and I was up in these mountains where there [were] a lot of white people,” the British Pakistani dentist and mother of three recalls. Comments from passersby made it clear that people felt she didn’t belong on the mountain. Exploring the surrounding towns was even worse. “That’s when you feel it,” Sharif says. “You’re the only one and it’s strange because you speak the language, you know the culture…but still there’s a barrier.” Hiking is one of the easiest activities for travelers to join in. With just a pair of sneakers, you can pick your destination and set out to explore. But for hikers who are Muslim the feeling of belonging can be harder to find. A grassroots initiative by British marathoner Haroon Mota has set out to create a more inclusive hiking community and ensure a better experience for everyone venturing into wild outdoor spaces. read the complete article

25 Feb 2022

Parliament is ‘not the appropriate place to be raising’ Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslims, Speaker says

Parliament is "not the appropriate place" to be raising concerns about Boris Johnson's comments about Muslims, the Speaker has said. At prime minister's questions on Wednesday Labour MP Imran Hussain said that Mr Johnson was "no stranger to derogatory remarks about Muslim women". As if about to ask a question, Mr Hussain continued and said "let me ask the prime minister..." before he was cut off by the Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. Sir Lindsay said: "This is not the appropriate place to be raising that", and moved onto another MP without asking Mr Johnson to answer the question or allowing Mr Hussain to continue. The Labour MP for Bradford began his question by raising concerns about Mark Spencer, the MP who has been appointed Commons leader despite being under government investigation for alleged Islamophobia, which he denies. read the complete article


25 Feb 2022

What does India’s hijab ban row mean for the Muslim community?

A recent hijab ban at some schools in southern India has reignited a debate over religious freedom in the world’s largest democracy. Citing new government restrictions, schools across Karnataka are prohibiting students from wearing religious symbols such as headscarves in class. Videos of young Muslim women and girls being forced to remove their hijabs before entering school have gone viral and sparked widespread protests in India and around the world. The ban comes as India grows less tolerant of its Christian and Muslim minority populations under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party. Elections in northern India this month are seen as a litmus test for Modi’s popular support. Critics say BJP officials are using the hijab ban to fire up far-right Hindu voters, and to distract from the party’s weak pandemic response and approach to the economy. “We have been wearing hijab for years without any problem but now, the issue has been suddenly taken up by the BJP … to rake up communal tensions,” said Kaneez Fatima, a Congress member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. However, government officials say they are simply banning any religious symbols in public schools that “disturb equality, integrity and public law and order.” The ban is being upheld while the Karnataka High Court consider a petition on its legality. In this episode of The Stream, we’ll discuss what’s happening in Karnataka, how it’s related to an election taking place 1,400 km away and the growing polarisation between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities. read the complete article

25 Feb 2022

'Islamic World': The Problems With India's Construction of West Asia as Uniformly Muslim

In September last year, right-wing media outlet OpIndia published an article titled, ‘Islamists in Middle East call for boycott of Indian products over Assam violence, urge Muslim countries to take action’. This article, like others about West Asia that one finds circulating in India’s media landscape, uses the terms ‘Islamists,’ ‘Islamic countries,’ ‘Muslim world,’ and ‘Middle East’ as synonymous, constructing the region, and the people who live there, as uniformly Muslim and violent. The image that comes to one’s mind upon reading this title is that of angry-looking men with beards carrying guns, similar to the portrayals of Taliban men in Afghanistan that one sees regularly in the international media. This conflation of terms used to refer to the region indicates a larger problem in the portrayals of West Asia in India; be it in media, political reports, Bollywood, or academic scholarship. It reflects the presence of discourses about West Asia that are a combined product of the Hindutva ideology, Orientalism, and Islamophobia – all three of which are constructed in relation to each other. Unfortunately, Islam becomes the only lens through which to view the region, erasing the social and political diversity that lies within. read the complete article

25 Feb 2022

Muslim man beaten to death in Bihar

Days after the charred body of a Muslim youth was found in Samastipur district of Bihar, a video has emerged of him being beaten up brutally by a group, asking if he “ate beef”. The victim, Mohammed Khalil Alam, is said to be a leader of the JD(U) youth wing in the district. In the horrific video that has gone viral on social media, Alam is seen pleading with folded hands to the perpetrators saying he has not eaten beef. Amid the brutal beating, he then says he has consumed 50 kg of beef so far. One of the perpetrators asks him details of beef available in the Musrigharari area of the district and people involved in the trade. Alam’s body, which was found buried on the banks of river Budhi Gandak in the district, was recovered on February 19. The leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly, Tejashwi Yadav, took on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over the issue. “Law and order have completely collapsed under Bihar’s NDA government. A Muslim youth who himself was leader of the ruling party JD(U) was beaten, burnt alive and buried. Nitish Kumar should tell us why such incidents keep happening in Bihar? Why are people taking law into their own hands?” asked Mr. Yadav in his tweet in Hindi. read the complete article

25 Feb 2022

India hijab ban: Targeting of Muslim women condemned across the Middle East

A ban on the hijab in schools in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, along with an escalation of religiously motivated attacks against Muslims in the country, has prompted widespread solidarity in the Middle East and beyond. From Dutch-Palestinian supermodel Bella Hadid to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, public figures and social media users worldwide have spoken out against the discrimination against Muslim women because of their choice of how to dress. Videos circulating online have shown disturbing scenes of Muslim students being refused entry into school buildings and Muslim women being heckled outside educational establishments. Young Hindu men and women have been seen brandishing saffron scarves to symbolise their opposition to the hijab. On Wednesday, footage was widely shared of an Indian bank refusing to allow one of its veiled customers to withdraw money from her account. India’s 200 million Muslim minority community now fears that the hijab ban is infringing on their religious freedom. The events in Karnataka have triggered a major row, one that has reverberated into the Arab world, sparking protests and social media activism against the ban. read the complete article

United States

25 Feb 2022

Excluded: Islamophobia prevents some students from finding community in sports culture

Excited to meet two of her friends, Stella Aboshahba wrapped her hijab around her head before leaving her family’s house to enjoy an Ohio State football game on Sept. 11, 2021. Because of the threat of hostility toward Muslims around the mark of the 2001 attack, Aboshahba’s mother told her to stay home, but she reassured her mother that everything would be OK. For these three students, it was their very first Ohio State football game. Her two friends, one of whom was Khadijah Tounkara, a second-year in geographic information sciences, said they had a bad feeling the moment they arrived at the Ohio State-Oregon game. “I started feeling uncomfortable the second we parked at Buckeye Lot,” Tounkara said. “One of the things I noticed was we were getting a couple of dirty looks.” The women said students wearing the hijab are normally found on campus, but on Sept. 11, they saw none. Tounkara said students usually say hello and interact with other students on campus, but no one said anything to them. After the game began, Aboshahba said spectators in their section began to chant “F— Osama” right in front of them. She said she thought it was normal and part of football culture to chant that, particularly on that day. Some people began to give disapproving looks at the chant, she said, but still others in her section joined in. “It opened up my eyes because I feel like I was a little bit naive to think that our own peers, people we go to school with, would think like that and want to say stuff like that,” Aboshahba said. “That’s just what’s been making me really upset.” Khaled Beydoun, a professor of law at Wayne State University and author of “American Islamophobia,” a book about the resurgence of Islamophobia in the United States, said occurrences like the one at Ohio State’s football game have been pervasive since 9/11. According to data reported by the FBI, hate crimes against Muslims rose from 28 to 481 — over 1,600 percent — from 2000 to 2001. “The incident at Ohio State is reminiscent of similar incidents that have taken place across the United States, but also beyond the United States, at sporting events, social events, cultural events,” Beydoun said. “They haven’t declined.” Beydoun said what happened to the three students is not surprising. Beydoun said this was an act of private Islamophobia, which he defined in his book as “the fear, suspicion, and violent targeting of Muslims by private actors.” The spectators harassing their Muslim peers, in this case, serve as these private actors. read the complete article

25 Feb 2022

Military torturers at Guantanamo Bay: When the government breaks its own laws

After a jury in 2006 declined to impose the death penalty on Zacarias Moussaoui, who had just pleaded guilty to being the 20th 9/11 hijacker, the government announced that another person was the 20th. Yet, that person, Mohammed al-Qahtani, was ordered released from the U.S. Naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last week. Stung by the jury's verdict on the death penalty, the government changed its characterization of Moussaoui as the 20th hijacker and declared that Mohammed al-Qahtani was the real 20th hijacker. He was transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay where he was tortured for two months in 2002 and 2003 by the military, pursuant to orders issued by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. He told his torturers what he thought they wanted to hear. His torture was so persistent and horrific that Army medics were frequently called upon to prevent his death and to revive him from his frequent blackouts so that the torture could resume. When detailed logs of his torture were leaked to the media, Susan J. Crawford, President George W. Bush's emissary overseeing tortures and prosecutions at Gitmo, acknowledged publicly that "we tortured (him)" and thus it would be impossible to try him. Last week, the government decided to release Qahtani — whom it believes was the true 20th hijacker -- to officials in Saudi Arabia. The stated reason for his release is his diminished mental capacity. The true reason is that he has become an embarrassment for the government. read the complete article


25 Feb 2022

Anti-Islamophobia plan sent back to regional staff over lack of funding, bylaws

A plan to better support Waterloo region Muslims and protect them against Islamophobia was sent back to staff on Wednesday night after the Coalition of Muslim Women KW pointed out the plan lacked funding and bylaws with teeth. The staff report that went before council on Wednesday recommended actions of solidarity such as joining the green square campaign — in commemoration of the victims and survivors of the Quebec City mosque shooting — as well as using local art spaces to showcase Islamic heritage. It also included anti-hate training for regional staff and working with area municipalities to address Islamophobia in a collective approach. The report came after the coalition presented a list of recommendations to regional and municipal councils in October 2021 to help tackle hate targeting Muslims and racialized community members. Regional council asked staff to consider the recommendations and report back on how they can be implemented. Executive director Fauzia Mazhar said the report staff have been working on since October does consider most of the organization's recommendations, however key items were missing; specifically new bylaws to better protect racialized citizens and long-term funding of the coalition's hate and discrimination reporting and support program. read the complete article


25 Feb 2022

Rohingya Genocide case legitimate, The Gambia tells UN top court

Lawyers for The Gambia have urged the United Nations’s top court to throw out Myanmar’s legal bid to end a case accusing the Southeast Asian nation of genocide against Rohingya Muslims, after the Buddhist nation tried to get the case dismissed. Banjul dragged Myanmar before the International Court of Justice in 2019, accusing it of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority following a bloody 2017 military crackdown. “We seek to protect not only the rights of the Rohingya, but our own rights as a state party to the genocide convention,” The Gambia’s attorney general Dawda Jallow told the court on Wednesday. They were doing that “by holding Myanmar to its … obligation not to commit genocide, not to incite genocide and to prevent unpunished genocide,” he added. “These violations of the genocide convention are a stain on our collective conscience and it would be irresponsible to pretend that it is not our business,” the Gambian lawyer told judges. read the complete article


25 Feb 2022

How a controversial hijab ban in India's Karnataka state is affecting Indian-Australians

The decision to prohibit female students from attending their place of education if they wear religious garments has sparked outrage across the world, with Indian-Australians feeling the effects of the ongoing controversy. Maria Zaidi, 23, is an Indian-Australian Muslim woman who chose to wear the hijab when she started high school in Sydney. That's a decision school-age Indian Muslim girls and women living in Karnataka do not have the right to make. "The ban is a symbol of fascism in the modern world because by ... quite tacitly taking away these human rights, you sort of lay the foundation for socio-economic collapse of those people," Ms Zaidi told SBS News. Karnataka's High Court placed an interim order against the wearing of religious garments after a college in the Udupi district in the state shut its gates on five Muslim hijab-wearing students. The matter has now reached its eighth day in Karnataka's High Court, as Indian-Australians wait for a final ruling they say will have rippling effects on Muslims who live across India. One of them is Ms Zaidi, who said that the ban has forced Muslim women to make what she describes as an impossible choice to either follow their religious requirement of wearing their hijab, or to attain an education. She said when Muslim girls are banned from wearing their hijab, it is an "insidious way" to prevent them from becoming literate, chasing their dreams and reaching their career goals in the future. "[The ban] really reinforces the notion that you are the other and that you don't enjoy the same freedoms as others around you do." Dozens of people gathered in Melbourne's CBD on Sunday to show their support for Muslim women in India, and a protest in Sydney is scheduled for Wednesday. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 25 Feb 2022 Edition


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