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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., after twenty years of detention in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, Abdul and Ahmed Rabbani have been released to reunite with family in Pakistan, meanwhile in Canada, Al Jazeera columnist Andrew Mitrovica, argues that “Muslim Canadians are still largely treated as the ‘other’ by suspicious journalists and politicians,” and this has played a role in the rising attacks against the community, and Volkswagen’s China chief visits a car manufacturing plant in Xinjiang and says that there are “no signs of forced labor.” Our recommended read of the day is by Hanan Zaffar and Danish Panditfor Al Jazeera on how Indian Muslims jailed during the 2020 Delhi riots are being denied bail due to a misuse of the country’s anti-terror laws. This and more below:


28 Feb 2023

India terror law haunts Muslims jailed since 2020 for Delhi riots | Recommended Read

Saima Saleem, 27, has been waiting for hours on a bench outside a court of law in New Delhi, her eyes glued to a corridor as she waits for her father, Mohammad Saleem Khan, to appear. Khan, 49, was arrested three years ago for rioting and murder during the religious riots in the Indian capital, in which 53 people – most of them Muslims – were killed. The courts provided him bail in both the cases. But Khan continues to languish in jail as he has not been able to secure bail in a case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a controversial anti-terror law that has been used against Khan and several other Muslims accused of allegedly “pre-planning” the riots. “My father is innocent. He was a prominent social worker in the community who helped people and he was targeted for that,” Saima told Al Jazeera while waiting for her father to arrive at the Karkardooma court. “People now treat us like terrorists even though everyone knows all these charges are politically and communally motivated,” she said. UAPA, termed by critics and rights groups as a draconian legislation, was amended in 2019 by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to allow authorities to declare an individual a “terrorist” and detain them without trial for months, sometimes years. Previously, the “terrorist” tag was reserved only for groups or organisations. The government last year informed the parliament that nearly 4,700 people were arrested under the law between 2018 and 2020, but only 149 were found guilty – a conviction rate of nearly 3 percent. read the complete article

United States

27 Feb 2023

It’s time to stop erasing Black Muslim Americans from the story of Islam in the US

Ninety-seven years ago, Carter G. Woodson began his campaign to initiate Negro History Week, which would later become Black History Month, to celebrate the rich history of African Americans’ contribution to this country. But even then, the legacy of Black Muslim Americans was at times intentionally left out. Islam was largely introduced to the United States during the trans-Atlantic slave trade as West African captives were brought to the shores of the Carolinas and Virginia to be sold as chattel for free labor. As their feet, shackled, settled in the dirt of an unknown land, they struggled not only to keep their human dignity intact in a slavery system that was developed to destroy it, they struggled to hold onto their layered identities. Their tribal identity, their language, their traditions — and, for many, their worship and their practice of Islam — was taken away in order to make them docile and obedient to inhumane treatment. African American Muslims make up close to 20% of the Muslim American population, often leading the way for all Muslims in the area of civil activism and the pursuit of justice for all. Following 9/11, African American Muslim communities calmed the fears of their immigrant brothers and sisters who had never experienced such discrimination and hatred, teaching them how to survive what African Americans, both Muslim and of other faith traditions, have lived with since the end of the Civil War. If non-Black Muslim Americans could get over their anti-Blackness and sincerely understand that Islam has existed in America since the nation’s inception vis-a-vis enslaved West African Muslims, we would have much stronger arguments against policies like the Muslim Ban — which fallaciously perpetuate the idea that Muslims and Islam are new and foreign to America. Rather, Muslim Americans are an essential component of America; the contributions of enslaved Black Muslim Americans can be gleaned even through Blues music, which modern musicologists are now postulating may derive from the tune of the Islamic call to prayer, the adhan. read the complete article

27 Feb 2023

Guantanamo: Freed after 20 years without charge. A beautiful moment, a new start

My last-minute trip to Karachi was painful, an 18-hour flight through four countries. But that was before I met with my client, Ahmed Rabbani, and learned how he and his brother, Abdul, had fared on their way back from Guantanamo Bay. Half a lifetime ago they had both endured their rendition trip to Cuba. Last Friday, after 20 years of detention without charge, now cleared for release as "no threat to the US or their coalition partners", they flew back home. Ahmed, 53, later described how little had changed in his treatment despite the passing years. Theirs was a 21-hour flight, only three hours longer, but infinitely worse than mine. There were 30 American soldiers on hand to handle two shackled prisoners. Once more (still presumed innocent of any crime), Ahmed and Abdul, 55, were forced to wear ear-muffs and eye covers lest they might somehow divine their route back to Pakistan. If they wanted to use the toilet they still had to endure the humiliation of having soldiers watch. One final torment behind them, they landed in Islamabad at noon on 24 February. In that instant, their world changed. The Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency official who greeted them showed respect. And then came the moment that had eluded Ahmed for so long: there, in front of him, was his 20-year-old son Jawad. Ahmed’s wife had been pregnant when he was abducted on 10 September 2002. Father and son had never before met, never touched. “Waa-llaah!” said Ahmed, the age-old exclamation. “We’ve got a lot to catch up on,” said Jawad, hugging his dad for the first time. read the complete article


28 Feb 2023

Volkswagen China chief visits Xinjiang plant, sees no sign of forced labour

Volkswagen is contractually committed to its plant in Xinjiang until 2030, it said on Tuesday, after its China chief made the first visit by senior management to the plant in mid-February and said he saw no signs of forced labour. Ralf Brandstaetter, who has headed the carmaker's China operations since the middle of last year, spent 1-1/2 days on Feb. 16-17 touring the facility with Volkswagen's compliance and external relations chief in China. He spoke at length to seven workers individually - including Han Chinese, Uyghurs and Kazakhs - some through a translator of Volkswagen's choice and some in English, and held shorter discussions with other workers on his tour, which he said occurred without government supervision. Volkswagen has come under fire from human rights groups, politicians and German union IG Metall among others for co-owning a plant in the region, where rights groups have documented human rights abuses including mass forced labour in detention camps which the U.N. said could constitute crimes against humanity. China has strenuously denied any abuses in Xinjiang. But the German carmaker is bound by contract with its joint venture partner SAIC (600104.SS) to keep the plant until 2030 and has no intention of pulling out, Volkswagen chief lobbyist Thomas Steg said on a call following Brandstaetter's visit. read the complete article


27 Feb 2023

Lock the doors. Get straight home. I live in fear because of hate crimes committed against others

"You know, you should sit in the driver's seat. In case someone comes." We were 15 at the time and hadn't got our learner's permits yet. Correction. We were nowhere near ready to get our learners. But to my relief, she dutifully sat behind the wheel ready to drive us away as I eyed the outside world, suspicious that every person passing by was someone who would harm us. Someone who thought we were lesser because of our skin colour and hijab. After all, it had happened before. Just not to me. On Dec. 8, 2020, two Black hijabis, a mother and her daughter, were sitting in their parked car outside an Edmonton shopping centre when they were assaulted in an unprovoked, racist attack. The man punched the passenger side window and shattered it, tore off the mother's hijab and chased the daughter. It was the start of a string of attacks on Black and Muslim women in the city. I was not there. I wasn't a witness, but I was still affected. Before those attacks in 2020, one of my favourite hobbies used to be walking in the neighbourhood with my sisters and brother. Idle chit-chat would fill the air as we strolled. Stray cats would cross our path, an occasional dog would scare us out of our wits, but they were all things to laugh about as we enjoyed the escape from schoolwork. Then in June 2021, almost exactly six months after the first attack in Edmonton, a man in London, Ont., rammed his truck into a family of five who were out for a walk. The violent act, described as a premeditated crime motivated by anti-Muslim hate, killed everyone except a nine-year-old child. After that, I was no longer allowed to stay after school to hang out with my friends. My mother wanted me straight home, putting an end to basketball, soccer and trips to the Circle K, because what if some other racist took inspiration from what happened in London. read the complete article

27 Feb 2023

Hate is alive in Canada — and is growing

When the sickening attack was over, Mohammed Abu Marzouk’s skull had been fractured more than 10 times. Moments earlier, Abu Marzouk, his wife and two young daughters had settled in their car and were about to head home after enjoying a summer’s day picnic with family and friends in Mississauga, Ontario, west of Toronto. Just then, two men walked by. “F**king Arab people! Terrorists,” the pair shouted. “You didn’t see us?” They kicked the car. Abu Marzouk got out. He tried talking to the angry strangers. That’s when the onslaught began. First, they punched Abu Marzouk. He fell. They kicked his head – again and again. A friend attempted, in vain, to stop the beating. He was beaten, too. Abu Marzouk’s wife, Diane Attar, pleaded with the assailants. “Please don’t touch him, please don’t hurt my husband. I have two little girls, please don’t hurt my husband,” she said. Attar told the CBC that the sudden, unprovoked horror her family had suffered in July 2018 was proof that “hate is alive” in Canada. Indeed, it is. Last year, a federal study found that hate crimes targeting Muslims in Canada had jumped by 71 percent in 2021. The number of recorded attacks grew from 84 incidents in 2020 to 144 in 2021. The figures, however appalling, only tell part of the unsettling story. The study failed to address two stubborn questions. What accounts for the disturbing spike in the hate-motivated crimes Muslim Canadians have had to endure? And why do the Canadian police, prosecutors and courts appear to deal with Muslim victims of hate less seriously than attacks on other religious groups? read the complete article

27 Feb 2023

The unsettling truth at the heart of the Elghawaby controversy

After 9/11 the insidious language of the Muslim as a “brown body” did much to hive off how anti-Blackness structures Islamophobia. It is not only Orientalism that is a foundation of Islamophobia. Indeed, Islamophobia relies on anti-Blackness for both its violent form and practice (for example the term ‘sand n-word’) on the one hand, and on the other, for its ability to bind some “brown” Muslims into formations that tacitly support anti-Blackness both in Muslim communities and beyond them. Any challenge to Islamophobia that will achieve a powerful reorientation of social relations will also have to take anti-Black racism seriously as the foundation of its intervention. In fact, a failure to do so would simply amount to rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. I get the importance of the idea of a special representative. I can see its function. It could be an important role in a society that is seriously ready to tackle not just Islamophobia but all kinds of racial, religious, gendered and other forms of hatred meant to produce insiders and outsiders—who is valued in the nation and who is not. This is especially relevant at a time when a crisis of meaning around racism and bigotry has ensued, and as conservative and far-right forces seek to interrupt and reorient what justice might be. I also understand the push to appoint a special representative because in Canada Islamophobia has led to spectacularly deadly events. These should produce an urgency to transform how we live together. But there is an unsettling truth to Trudeau’s appointment of Elghawaby and it is that it cannot be taken seriously. In my view, the attack that leading figures in Québec launched at Elghawaby had less to do with her and more to do with a Liberal government that frankly refuses to tackle Islamophobia in Québec in the first instance. Trudeau’s spectacular failure to challenge Québec’s anti-Muslim Bill 21 should give us all pause. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 Feb 2023 Edition


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