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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28 Feb 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In France, “with almost two months still to go before the first ballots are cast, reactionary targeting of the French Muslim population has already become a defining theme of the election,” meanwhile as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, western media coverage has been criticized for airing racist views as one journalist says “this isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European,” while another states “these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine… They’re Christian, they’re white, they’re very similar,” and in the United States, federal prosecutors reveal that an 18-year-old man from Maine charged with having homemade explosive devices in his backpack discussed plans to travel to Chicago to attack a mosque and other houses of worship. Our recommended read of the day is by Carole Cadwalladr for the Guardian on Indian Muslim journalist, Rana Ayyub, who over the past few years has faced horrific abuse and threats both online and from the Indian authorities for reporting on India’s dangerous slide into authoritarianism. This and more below:


28 Feb 2022

Reviled, harassed, abused: Narendra Modi’s most trenchant critic speaks out | Recommended Read

When I talked to the journalist Rana Ayyub in her Mumbai home last Wednesday she was calmer than she was when I had spoken to her three days earlier. But that is not saying much. Last Sunday her words were jumbled, her voice on edge. She said she had not slept. That she could not eat or keep food down. That she had had thoughts of self-harm. “I was on a plane yesterday and I said to my brother, ‘Can you feel me sitting next to me?’ And he said, ‘Have you completely lost it?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m just not sure I’m sitting next to you. I feel like I’m in a dream.’ And afterwards, I spoke to my psychiatrist and she said, ‘You’re dissociating. You’ve had a traumatic experience –that’s your brain shutting down.’” In fact, this is a highly rational response to what Ayyub is going through. In a crowded field, she may well be the most hated journalist on Earth. As an investigative journalist, she had been a thorn in the side of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his allies for more than a decade. And as a commentator with a column in the Washington Post, she had repeatedly embarrassed him and his government on the international stage. But the attacks and abuse she has suffered for years reached a crisis last week. A crisis that mirrors what is happening in India itself. As a journalist, Ayyub has been repeatedly warning that the Modi government’s hostility to Muslims will tip into violence. And as a Muslim journalist, she knows it already has. She is not just reporting on India’s dangerous slide into authoritarianism and violent extremism, she is living it. In the past few weeks she has had police charges filed against her in multiple states and been subjected to a vicious propaganda campaign accompanied by horrific online abuse. read the complete article

28 Feb 2022

Hands off the hijab, please

The hijab controversy which began in Karnataka has caught national attention. Several schools have prohibited Muslim girl students from entering classrooms or the premises of institutions wearing the hijab. On February 25, the matter was reserved for judgment by the Karnataka High Court. Much of the deliberation on the issue — judicial and otherwise — seems to focus on essentiality, a doctrine developed by the Supreme Court in the Shirur Mutt case. The court held that Article 25, which guarantees freedom of religion and conscience, “covers all rituals and practices that are integral to the religion.” The current debate has led many to ask how essential the hijab is to the practice of Muslim faith. This focus on essentiality is misconceived because of, at least, two reasons. One, this results in mischaracterising an instance of hostile discrimination to that of interpretation of religious texts and rituals. One ignores that the Muslim women are simply discriminated on account of their religious belief. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before the laws and Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of several grounds, including religion and sex. When Muslim women are kept out of classrooms for wearing the hijab, it is a classic case of discrimination under the equality clauses of the Constitution. Moreover, the government order which bans clothes violative of “public order” amounts to indirect discrimination. The doctrine was recognised by our Supreme Court in Col. Nitisha (2021) as part of our constitutional jurisprudence. Indirect discrimination occurs when an action is neutral on its face, but disproportionately impacts a protected group. read the complete article

28 Feb 2022

UP: Prayagraj's Sizeable Muslim Community Wants 'Yogi's Reign of Terror' to End

In Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj district, there is a sizeable Muslim community. For them, the right to live with respect and dignity is the primary issue in the ongoing elections. Members of the community in unison say they want “Yogi’s reign of terror” to end. In the two Muslim-dominated urban assembly seats of Prayagraj district, Allahabad West and Allahabad South, the minority community will play a decisive role as against the rural constituency of Handia, where minority voters are fewer in numbers. When asked about their primary issues, the men said that more than anything else, fighting for the right to live with respect and honour will be the election issue during the ongoing elections in the state. At a tea stall in Allahabad South, he met a group of men and asked them about their concerns. “Tell me, what can be the issues of people in a Muslim-dominated area?” asked Tauheed, from among the group. “Safety and a respectable life are the biggest issues,” he quickly added. “To be able to go out freely with our family, and for our women to wear niqab and not hear insulting and provocative remarks.” “Politics should not be mixed with religion,” said Tahir, another local present there. “The BJP’s kind of politics is not in the interest of the country.” read the complete article


28 Feb 2022

Russia-Ukraine war: Western media criticised for racist 'blonde hair blue eyes' coverage of invasion

With cities across the country under attack, civilians fleeing the fighting, and hundreds of Ukrainians dead since the war began on Thursday, correspondents have flown in from around the world to the eastern European country as news sites have pumped out non-stop stories. But as the war has unfolded, numerous Western news outlets have aired racist views. “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking," wrote journalist and former Conservative politician Daniel Hannan in Britain's Telegraph newspaper on Saturday. "Ukraine is a European country. Its people watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts, vote in free elections and read uncensored newspapers. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations. It can happen to anyone." Prominent social media users have been quick to point out the racist tropes in this and other coverage. On Friday, CBS's senior correspondent, Charlie D’Agata, said in Kyiv that “this isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. "This is a relatively civilised, relatively European - I have to choose those words carefully, too - city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.” He later apologised. NBC News correspondent Kelly Cobiella also came under fire from fellow journalists after she stated on air that "these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine... They're Christian, they're white, they're very similar". One French sociologist pointed out how Ukrainians fleeing the conflict are being described as "refugees" while Afghans fleeing their country last year were described predominantly as "migrants". And Jean-Louis Bourlanges, a member of France's National Assembly, said during a broadcast that Ukrainian refugees would be “an immigration of great quality, intellectuals”. read the complete article

28 Feb 2022

The Muslim Reaction to the Ukraine War: From Crimean Tatars to Erdogan

Many wrote that this was the first time they had learned about the events of 1944, when Joseph Stalin expelled some 200,000 Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula, on the advice of the infamous head of the Soviet secret police Lavrentiy Beria. About 8,000 Tatars died during their exile and it was only upon the collapse of the Soviet Union at the start of the 1990s that they began returning to their homeland – which was occupied once more by the forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014. In 1944, too, Stalin used the pretext that currently serves Putin, when he accused the Crimean Tatars of collaborating with the Nazis. Some of the same Tatar families who had returned to their homeland were forced to flee once again after the Russian authorities began to abuse them, discriminate against them and arrest their children. Many found refuge in Turkey and others moved to other Ukrainian cities, where they found a more tolerant society acceptant of the fact that they are Muslims. The Tatars constitute about 12 percent of the Crimean population and hundreds of thousands of Muslims now live in Ukraine, including some 100,000 in the capital city of Kyiv. Last week, the mufti of Crimea called on the Muslim soldiers who serve in the Russian army to desert their units, for fear that they will be forced to fight against their Muslim brothers in Ukraine. The Muslim leadership in Ukraine demanded that the Muslim soldiers and civilians demonstrate loyalty and support for the war effort against Russia, “because Ukraine is your homeland.” But there is great anxiety among the Muslim community, with some turning to social media for advice. “What will happen if Russia occupies the entire country – will they exterminate us again?” asked one. Where should they flee? Is Turkey willing to take in Muslim refugees? The answer is yes. Turkey has absorbed and continues to absorb Muslim refugees and others escaping the Russian invasion. In general, it seems that, unlike most Arab and Islamic countries, Turkey has taken an unequivocal stance against Russian aggression. read the complete article

28 Feb 2022

Julia Fox In A Headscarf Is Cool But Muslim Women In Hijabs Do It Better, Thanks

I’ve been thinking a lot this month about how Vogue France posted to its Instagram a photo of fashion girl of the moment Julia Fox with a caption reading, “yes to the headscarf” — conveniently ignoring that the French government has actively introduced multiple bills and laws to stop Muslim women from wearing hijabs. After being criticized in the comments, Vogue France removed that line, but I’ve watched the backlash against the caption spark an outpouring of trending photos of hijabis (people who wear hijabs) in fashion by major influencers. Last week, Bella Hadid posted photos on Instagram along with some powerful statements addressing the attack of Huda, a Muslim high school student in New Zealand whose hijab was ripped off. At the end of January, France proposed a hijab ban on all national sports played in the country. This isn’t the first time France has discussed some form of anti-headscarf legislation; just last year, the country passed a bill that banned people under 18 years old from wearing a headscarf. That was later extended to all Muslim women college students in France. Even more recently, India has imposed a hijab ban students have been protesting against, which led to this viral video of a young woman screaming at a group of men. This started a movement online of people pushing against that bill with the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab, and Muslim celebs and influencers such as Hadid are speaking out. One of the images she reposted was taken by photographer Rayan Nohra for the French platform Zarafet Galleries. One of the young women in the photo, Amina Rachid, previously spoke to BuzzFeed’s Seasoned about her life as a hijabi in France, recalling a time when someone tried to kill her on the subway. Talking to Rachid now, almost exactly a year later, she told me she’s trying not to pay much attention to the government’s actions because “it will be too overwhelming.” “They keep pushing forward some laws,” she said. “I often think that I should just leave.” Rachid said she struggled to find a job that would accept her wearing a hijab — “I was always declined once they saw me in interviews” — but eventually found one in retail. She said the proposed ban on hijabs in national sports in France is ridiculous. “Because most of us can do sports as well as non-hijabis, it's not something that will stop us from doing it,” she said. read the complete article

28 Feb 2022

LA Times Today: For California’s Uyghurs, Winter Games are a slap in the face

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are over, but the controversy and criticism of China’s policies are not. Some of the loudest voices of dissent have come from members of China’s Uyghur ethnic minority. There are roughly one thousand Uyghurs in Southern California, and for them, the games were not a crowning achievement, but a slap in the face because of a history of oppression in China. L.A. Times reporters Samantha Masunaga and Sarah Parvini wrote about the Uyghur community in Southern California and its reaction to the games. read the complete article

28 Feb 2022

How Western Muslims Fare May Foretell the Future

Indeed, Yiannis Baboulias notes in his work: “Anyone hoping to combat the rise of the far right and its Islamophobic narratives has no choice but to reckon with the powder keg of the Balkans, where the West’s darkest impulses have festered for decades.” I’m not sure we’re truly doing enough to combat that rise. And as Baboulias implies, there is a deep connection among the far right, Islamophobia and the West’s “darkest impulses.” Consider this metaphor: If the state of Western pluralism were a mine, then Muslim Westerners would be the canary. The carbon monoxide from the burning coal would poison them first but would get to everyone else soon enough. The European story takes heed of some of their lessons in the Holocaust. It’s why Holocaust denial is illegal in so much of Europe today; the recognition of the horrors of the Holocaust has played an integral part of the maturation of Europe, and it is sacred in a way. Yet we haven’t quite recognized the canary related to colonialism, and we see how the effort to redress this in how we teach history is so challenged in Europe; how slavery in the Americas is so controversial, from what is taught to whether the statues and icons that glorify it should be torn down. The canary of the Muslim, however, remains another issue entirely. The antipathy toward Muslims in Western societies today has become so mainstream, in ways that would have hitherto been unthinkable. Indeed, as I consider the analogy of the canary and the invisible carbon monoxide that a canary can perceive before humans, it’s worthwhile to question whether the analogy is the most appropriate. As Islamophobia isn’t invisible or odorless — it reeks pungently, so it’s less about the odd smell of carbon monoxide in a mine and more about the intense stench of methane on top of a landfill. That’s perhaps advancing the case too dramatically, but it’s worrying how the direction of travel seems to be. read the complete article

United States

28 Feb 2022

“Pulling the Curtain Back” on White Feminism: a discussion on Rafia Zakaria’s latest book

On Feb. 24, nine panelists, including Rafia Zakaria, came together to host a symposium centered on Zakaria’s latest book, “Against White Feminism.” Zakaria is an esteemed Pakistani-American attorney, journalist and author, and her latest book addresses white supremacy in the feminist movement. The book is based on Zakaria’s experience living as a Muslim woman both in Pakistan and the United States, her struggles with domestic abuse and the animosity she has faced in the American white feminist movement. At the event, the panelists shared their views on feminism and their experiences with the movement. “So many times, the real oppression is occurring within the frameworks of ‘saviorism’ within the Western countries we are living in,” Shaezmina Khan ’23, the event’s moderator, told the News. “We do not understand [that] the framework we are working in was built to champion certain women and certain women’s beliefs and backgrounds…while not just undermining the beliefs and backgrounds of other women but really sidelining and shaming [them].” “She’s looking at it from the perspective that upper-middle-class white women are seen as the gatekeepers of feminism,” Ahmad said. “She’s really pulling the curtain back on that and she’s also showing the intersections between different types of feminism. … She doesn’t hold back on anything. That’s really … what we’re missing, not only in journalism but also in academia.” Khan said that she similarly sometimes feels that she is not able to partake in discussions on feminism due to these misconceptions about Islam. As a Muslim woman, she feels that her background differs from that of mainstream white feminists, making it difficult at times for her to engage in dialogue. “[Islam] totally champions women’s rights … it is a religion completely centered around women, and the empowerment and liberation of women … but there are certain topics — when we talk about feminism and liberation — where I cannot sit there and partake in the same way that everyone else can because it is not of my background,” Khan said. “It is not necessarily the way I see things.” read the complete article

28 Feb 2022

Maine Teen Planned ‘Mass Murder' at Chicago Mosques and Synagogues: Authorities

An 18-year-old man from Maine charged with having homemade explosive devices in his backpack discussed plans to travel to Chicago to attack a mosque and other houses of worship, federal prosecutors said. Xavier Pelkey, of Waterville, was in communication with two juveniles about his plans to attack a mosque, and possibly a synagogue, prosecutors said. A federal magistrate judge this week ordered him held without bail. “It’s fair to say that based on the information that investigators received, that this was more than just talk,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff said Thursday. Federal agents discovered three improvised devices in Pelkey’s backpack during a search of his Waterville apartment on Feb. 11, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court. The devices were made of fireworks bundled together with staples, pins and thumb tacks to create shrapnel if detonated, an FBI agent wrote. read the complete article

United Kingdom

28 Feb 2022

Muslims still bear the stigma of the ‘Trojan horse’ scandal. Maybe that’s what was intended

I’m also pretty certain that even if you told those people that the main allegation – that there was an organised plot to take over schools in the UK and run them to strict Islamic principles – was debunked, they would still think: well, there’s no smoke without fire. Maybe the smoke didn’t come from this particular fire, but there is definitely another one elsewhere. The podcast has itself became a second act in the Trojan horse scandal, because its findings are still resolutely denied by the main players implicated, from Michael Gove to the media establishments that played their part. None has been moved to humility. Instead they point to different smoke, more fires, other concerns that were raised by whistleblowers about worrying practices in some schools. For those who have tried to counter misinformation about Muslims, this is a familiar disappointment – to take on wild untruths and then realise that even when they are exposed and even partially corrected, little changes. The podcast is essentially about a state and media captured by prejudice, either unconsciously or knowingly, but it is tangentially about many other things. Each of these is a strand that, when joined with others, tells a story about a country in which the truth can be so easily buried through the fumblings and machinations of a whole cast of protagonists. Some are well meaning, but among them are credulous bureaucrats, jobsworth civil servants, motivated ideologues and a few useful idiots. In short, it is about structural racism – a bland, blame-diffusing term that comes to life during the podcast. Listening to The Trojan Horse Affair, I went from thinking not how was this allowed to happen, but how was it ever not going to happen? This highlights the fact that it is virtually impossible to go about setting the record straight when it comes to false stories about Muslims without running into the charge that in that process one is minimising real stories about Muslims. Perhaps, some say, there was no Trojan horse plot, but there were findings and whistleblower reports of casual homophobia, the teaching of creationism, and students being told that women could not refuse to have sex with their husbands. Doesn’t that justify everything? read the complete article


28 Feb 2022

Macron on course for a second term: harsh economic reform coupled with structural racism ahead

Far from standing as the defender of a tolerant, open society against the threat of hard-right xenophobia, the overt racism and Islamophobia of campaign discourse is a central feature of Macron’s politics and the long-term trends that propelled the President into the Élysée Palace in 2017. With almost two months still to go before the first ballots are cast, reactionary targeting of the French Muslim population has already become a defining theme of the election. Far-right Reconquest party candidate, Eric Zemmour was joined last Sunday by the centre-right Les Républicains (LR) candidate Valérie Pécresse in espousing the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory. A variant of the neo-Nazi ‘white genocide’ conspiracy theory, the French ‘Great Replacement’, fabricated by ethnonationalist Renaud Camus, holds that elites are committing a ‘genocide by replacement’ against the ‘ethnic French’ through encouraging non-white, largely Muslim immigration in the pursuit of the destruction of ‘French civilization’. The adoption of a renowned fascist talking point by two leading candidates, collectively polling at 29% of the first-round vote, is a damning indication of the political establishment’s willingness to fuse French republican conceptions of an apparently colour-blind, secular and universal citizenship with reactionary nationalism and the targeting of minorities. Over the course of his first term, Macron has repeatedly been guilty of cultivating this trend, gracing xenophobia with an air of legitimacy and bringing open Islamophobia into the political mainstream. Despite its marketing as a challenge against “separatism”, the ‘Strengthening Republic Values’ bill has been criticised as an attack on French Muslims’ civil liberties and freedom of association. Coupled with government rhetoric like Minister of Interior Gérald Darmanin’s criticism of Le Penn for not being “tough enough on Islam”, events such as the 2020 forced dissolution of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) reflect a broad enactment of repressive and discriminatory measures. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 Feb 2022 Edition


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