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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09 Feb 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, former counter-terror chief Neil Basu claims that the government-backed review of ‘Prevent’ appears to be driven by a rightwing ideology and is “insulting” to professionals fighting to stop attacks on Britain’s streets, meanwhile the country’s Foreign Office has shocked cross-party opponents of the Chinese treatment of Uyghur groups by revealing that it has asked the Xinjiang governor for talks, and in New Zealand, the government has come under fire for withdrawing on proposed hate speech laws, many of which were introduced after the terror attacks targeting two mosques in Christchurch, to favor a “refocus on the economy”. Our recommended read of the day is by Simone Hooper for the Middle East Eye on the reaction in Britain to the release of the government’s Prevent review, which has immediately been denounced by many human and civil rights organizations as “deeply prejudiced.” This and more below:

United Kingdom

08 Feb 2023

Prevent review lambasted by critics as Shawcross calls for focus on Islamism | Recommended Read

The UK government said on Wednesday it would refocus Prevent on tackling "Islamist extremism" as a highly contentious and serially leaked review of the counter-extremism strategy was finally published almost 30 months late. The review has already been rejected by many critics of Prevent because of concerns about its independence and the government’s controversial choice of William Shawcross as reviewer. But in a government response, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she welcomed the review and would deliver on all 34 recommendations made by Shawcross. They include his call for Prevent to prioritise the threat from Islamist extremism rather than far-right extremism, and for the programme to focus on identifying people who pose a security threat to the public, rather than on “safeguarding” and providing support through social services to people deemed to be “vulnerable”. "Prevent is not doing enough to counter non-violent Islamist extremism," Shawcross writes. He adds that he shares "the view of several respected experts, that the Islamist threat is severely underrepresented in Prevent referrals". Shawcross said that confronting Islamist narratives should be a "principal component of Prevent activity". The appointment of Shawcross, a journalist and author and former chair of the Charity Commission, was widely condemned by Muslim advocacy organisations because of comments he made in a speech in the US in 2012 in which he said: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.” At the time of the speech, Shawcross was director of the Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative think tank. read the complete article

08 Feb 2023

UK: Shawcross review of Prevent is 'deeply prejudiced and has no legitimacy'

Amnesty International strongly criticises the review of the UK’s counter-terrorism Prevent duty published today (8 February). Ilyas Nagdee, Amnesty International UK’s Racial Justice Director, said: “This review is riddled with biased thinking, errors, and plain anti-Muslim prejudice - frankly, the review has no legitimacy. William Shawcross’ history of bigoted comments on Muslims and Islam should have precluded his involvement in this ill-starred review in the first place. There’s mounting evidence that Prevent has specifically targeted Muslim communities and activists fighting for social justice and a host of crucial international issues – including topics like the climate crisis and the oppression of Palestinians. There is growing evidence that Prevent is having disastrous consequences for many people; eroding freedom of expression, clamping down on activism, creating a compliant generation and impacting on individual rights enshrined in law. A proper independent review of Prevent should have looked at the host of human rights violations that the programme has led to - but these have largely been passed over in silence." Last year, Amnesty joined a coalition of 17 human rights and hundreds of community groups in a boycott of the Shawcross-led review, citing serious concerns about bias and a pattern of behaviour which demonstrated the Government’s unwillingness to seriously interrogate the Prevent Duty. read the complete article

08 Feb 2023

The Prevent review is a Tory stitch-up designed to stoke culture wars and ostracise Muslims

Apparently, one key recommendation is that Prevent should focus on Islamicist radicalisation and antisemitism, even though, currently, there are more referrals of those indoctrinated into far-right ideologies than impressionable Muslims drawn to extremism. Appalling too, are suggestions about considering mental and emotional factors, including: “Prevent too often bestows a status of victimhood on all who come into contact with it, confusing practitioners and officials as to Prevent’s fundamental purpose." Shawcross has long been openly hostile to Muslims. Here, in his own words: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.” This was in 2012, when he was director of The Henry Jackson Society, an Anglo-American thinktank. Its co-founder Matthew Jamison wrote in 2017 that he was ashamed of his involvement and never imagined the HJS would relentlessly demonise Muslims and Islam and become “a far-right, deeply anti-Muslim, racist… propaganda outfit”. Shawcross later said his views about Islam had been misrepresented. Between October 2012 and January 2018, Shawcross was chair of the Charities Commission, which then secretly proceeded to label 55 Muslim charities “extremist” and “radical”. British Muslims For Secular Democracy (BMSD), a charity I co-founded in 2006, was much scrutinised in those years. Being Muslim, even a liberal Muslim, made you feel guilty of treason until proven innocent. I once sat next to Shawcross at a dinner organised by the then conservative Canadian government. When I brought up the discrimination faced by Muslims, he came across as a coiled cobra, dangerous and volatile. It was intimidating. I left. read the complete article

08 Feb 2023

Former counter-terror chief hits out at ‘insulting’ findings of Prevent review

Britain’s former top counter-terrorism officer has said parts of the government-backed review of Prevent appear to be driven by a rightwing ideology and are “insulting” to professionals fighting to stop attacks on Britain’s streets. Neil Basu, the head of counter-terrorism policing until 2021, revealed his concerns after a review of the official scheme to divert people from terrorism said it had concentrated too much on the far right and not enough on Islamist extremism. Other groups including experts in countering far-right terrorism criticised the findings, and Amnesty International said the report was “deeply prejudiced” and had “no legitimacy”. Basu, a former Metropolitan police assistant commissioner and senior national coordinator for terrorism, said claims of overly focusing on rightwing terrorism, allegedly at the expense of Islamist terrorism, were wrong. “That is in my view driven by a rightwing viewpoint that XRWT [extreme rightwing terrorism] is either unimportant or doesn’t really exist. The head of MI5 says it’s 20% of the work they do, so I would listen to him,” he said. He added that the threat from the far right, while less than from Islamist violence, was very real and the system had been too slow in the past to realise the danger it poses. “It’s insulting to any counter-terrorism professional to suggest they’d put any particular ideology over another,” he said. “It’s about how they risk-assess the initial intelligence of the potential for violence and how it is then dealt with afterwards.” read the complete article


07 Feb 2023

The push for Elghawaby’s removal comes from deep-rooted prejudice

Amira Elghawaby is a journalist and human rights activist, who was recently appointed by the Trudeau government as a special representative on combating Islamophobia. However, based on a column she co-wrote with the former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber in 2019, there have been calls for her resignation. The whole situation reminds me of the fact that many victims of Islamophobic incidents are women who are easily recognizable from their headscarf. Across Canada, these include women of various backgrounds including Arab, South Asian, and African, who have to be extra careful around middle-aged men who have yelled at them to “go home,” spat on them, threatened and physically assaulted them. Some things are universal. Just as in places like Afghanistan where men dictate what women can wear and whether they can hold public office, the same seems to hold true of men like MP Blanchet in Canada. Returning to the Elghawaby case, her column for which she should not be apologizing, highlights the prejudiced system that drove Bill 21. After all, do we not make similar claims for places like Afghanistan where the system marginalizes women? Or should we expect Afghan women to apologize for their use of harsh words against the Taliban? The same fundamentalism is at play in Quebec where individual liberties are suppressed to uphold a time frozen understanding of laicite. Similarly, there is purity politics at play where Quebec is pummeling those who think and believe differently into submission. Is it not inconsistent to talk of liberty and freedom but then expect people to conform to a very rigid and narrow world view? read the complete article

07 Feb 2023

Elghawaby not the right person for Islamophobia job: Québec solidaire

Québec solidaire has added its voice to that of the other political parties in the National Assembly in saying Amira Elghawaby is not the right person to be the federal government’s representative in the fight against Islamophobia. After saying last week that they wanted to meet with Elghawaby to ask her about controversial opinions she has expressed in the past about Quebec and its state secularism law, Bill 21, QS co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said his party was rebuffed. Nadeau-Dubois said QS was told no meeting was possible before Feb. 20, the day Elghawaby assumes the post, a decision QS interpreted to be a no. Nadeau-Dubois said as a result, the QS caucus decided to drop the meeting idea and focus more on pushing the Coalition Avenir Québec government into acting on its own to fight Islamophobia in Quebec. read the complete article

08 Feb 2023

Six years after the mosque shooting in Quebec, the Muslim community is still fighting for change

On Jan. 29, six years after the Quebec City mosque shooting, a vigil to commemorate the victims took place at Parc station in Montreal. During the speeches, a man passed behind the crowd and shouted, “Islamophobia doesn’t exist in Quebec!” But is that true? On the evening of Jan. 29, 2017, gunfire interrupted the prayers in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City. The shooter killed six people and injured 19, which prompted the public debate on Islamophobia. With the adoption of Bill 21 on June 16, 2019, the Canadian Muslim community has faced even more challenges. This secularism law prohibits public services and public sector workers from wearing religious symbols like hijabs. “We can’t neglect how many women are getting fired or not even allowed to get employed because of their hijab,” Dbouk said. “I don’t think any religion should be included in work or should be forbidden. We should raise awareness about Islamophobia and biases. Work with me because I am your co-worker, but not because I am wearing a hijab.” Ghadir Elsayed, who works as an administrator of Integrated Health and Social Services Centres (CISSS), was one of the volunteers in the Jan. 29 vigil. However, she was one of the only two hijabis in the CISSS healthcare system building. read the complete article


08 Feb 2023

Narendra Modi is struggling to be both anti-Muslim strongman and global leader

The clue to the Indian government’s thin-skinned response to the BBC’s two-part documentary, India: The Modi Question, is in the name. The documentary lays out the evidence for the argument that the anti-Muslim bigotry that characterises India today is rooted in Narendra Modi’s alleged decision to rein in the police in Gujarat in 2002, giving anti-Muslim rioters a free hand, leading to the killing of hundreds of people. It was the documentary’s unequivocal framing of India’s recent history as “Modi v India’s Muslims” that has infuriated Modi’s government. Paradoxically, this is a characterisation that Modi and his allies have often embraced for domestic political advantage. Modi’s image as a Hindu strongman who had the nerve to put a malcontented minority in its place has helped him win two terms in office and remake the republic in his majoritarian image. Why then did the central government issue directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the documentary? Why did it play whack-a-mole online and resort to desperate measures such as seizing laptops on university campuses where students were planning to screen the film? One reason for this reaction was that the film was produced by the BBC. Post-colonial states will grudgingly acknowledge the credibility of the BBC even as they accuse it of condescension or, in the words of the Indian government’s spokesperson, “a colonial mindset”. This credibility is based on the BBC’s institutional memory, its ability to reach into its archive and produce evidence for its narratives. read the complete article

07 Feb 2023

How "hate music" is fuelling anti-Muslim sentiment in India

The past decade in India has seen the rise of the Hindutva movement. The movement refers to political Hinduism, which seeks to place the Hindu religion at the centre of political and social life in India. For many it also means making India a Hindu nation. Providing the soundtrack to this movement is Hindutva pop - songs filled with hate and bigotry, primarily against Muslims. Songs which, thanks to social media, are very popular in India's hinterland, and which some experts blame for inflaming religious tensions in the country. read the complete article

08 Feb 2023

Demolishing Muslim Properties in India

Visibly shaken but undeterred, Amjad Khan, 40, a community leader from Khargone town in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state, narrated his painful tale. Khan lost his life savings when the Indian authorities demolished his small factory with backhoes twice last year. He was “paying the price” for his alleged role in the violence that erupted during the Hindu festival of Ramnavmi in April 2022, which led to communal tensions across India. Khan has never been proven to be a “rioter” nor is the demolition of properties a legal criminal punishment under Indian law, even if he had been convicted. He says that like many others in his community, he was punished merely because of their religious identity. “We are being punished simply for being Muslims,” Khan told Inkstick. Violence against Muslims has been on the rise in India under the far-right Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party has long been accused of targeting the marginalized Muslims in the country, with its leaders often resorting to hate speeches against the community of more than 200 million. Many investigations by the country’s independent committees have found that the BJP was complicit in riots that attacked the Muslim community. Last year, Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch warned that there are early “signs and processes” of genocide happening against Muslims in India. Genocide Watch earlier correctly predicted the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda several years before it occurred in the mid-1990s. The demolitions by the BJP government are framed as “retribution” and “punishment” for Muslims for participating in anti-government protests — a gross violation of human rights, and a clear example of extrajudicial punishment even if the accusations are true. Most observers, however, see the violence as purely ethnically motivated. Now the BJP party has turned to targeted demolitions, in a move some activists say comes from Israel’s history of targeting Palestinian communities with state-sponsored evictions using bulldozers and other dramatic means. read the complete article


08 Feb 2023

Muslim employee sues Amnesty over sacking after Alexei Navalny objections

A Muslim former employee of Amnesty International has claimed she was sacked for challenging its decision to designate the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as a prisoner of conscience despite his history of anti-immigrant statements. Aisha Jung, 50, said she lost her job at the organisation’s London office after she objected to the award of the status, arguing that Navalny had also incited violence against Muslims. Jung, who worked for Amnesty International for 17 years, most recently as a senior campaigner on Belarus, is taking the organisation to an employment tribunal next month alleging whistleblowing, religious and disability discrimination. Jung said she found the May decision shocking and, as a Muslim, it left her feeling isolated in an organisation that an internal review in same year found had a culture of white privilege. “I feel really angry, I feel burned by the [human rights] sector,” said Jung. “We all know about institutional and systemic white privilege and racism and I saw it around me for a long time and now I’ve experienced it personally. “This is me and my family and my community. Islamophobia is rife enough, and my family and I navigate it enough without needing people like Amnesty getting on the bandwagon.” read the complete article

08 Feb 2023

Cross-party MPs shocked by Foreign Office talks with Xinjiang governor

The Foreign Office has shocked cross-party opponents of the Chinese treatment of Uyghur groups by revealing that it has asked the Xinjiang governor for talks. MPs belonging to the inter-parliamentary alliance on China (Ipac) called it “incomprehensible” that “anybody within government would think it appropriate to meet with someone who has played a central role in the persecution of Uyghurs – crimes our own parliament has declared to be genocide”. According to an email from the Foreign Office, Erkin Tuniyaz – who has been sanctioned by the US – is planning to visit the UK next week, followed by trips to other European countries to meet “stakeholders” to “discuss the situation in Xinjiang”. Parliament voted two years ago to declare the treatment of the Uyghur Muslims as a genocide, but the Foreign Office has always resisted this description, saying only an appropriate court could determine whether it amounted to genocide. Campaigners say Tuniyaz is well known for his vociferous defence of Beijing’s “deradicalisation” policies in the north-west of China, especially the use of detention facilities that some have likened to concentration camps. In 2021, when Tuniyaz was sanctioned, the US Treasury said that during his tenure “more than 1 million Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups have been detained in Xinjiang”. read the complete article

United States

09 Feb 2023

Freed Former C.I.A. Prisoner Has Big Dreams for a New Life in Belize

On his first day of freedom, the former Guantánamo Bay prisoner Majid Khan prayed without anyone watching him for the first time in two decades. He ate a lunch of fresh fish from the Caribbean with his new hosts, fumbled with his first smartphone, sipped a nonalcoholic piña colada with his lawyers and held a real-time video call with family in Pakistan and the United States from his adopted homeland, Belize. Mr. Khan, 42, is the first prisoner to be freed from Guantánamo Bay who had been held there as a “high-value detainee,” the intelligence community’s phrase for a former prisoner of the Bush administration’s secret torture program of “enhanced interrogation.” When he emerged last week from two decades of social isolation that began in years of solitary confinement, plans and ambitions and observations spilled from his mouth, at times in random bits of rapid-fire conversation. “I want to go back to work. Don’t tell me to chill out, man,” Mr. Khan said, excitedly. He thought he might want to run a restaurant. He definitely wants to run for public office. By the way, Mr. Khan added, he already had the numbers of two Belizean imams on speed dial, but he had yet to visit their mosques in this nation of 400,000 people, about 600 of them Muslims. read the complete article

New Zealand

09 Feb 2023

New Zealand government under fire after shelving Christchurch hate speech reforms

New Zealand’s government has come under fire for withdrawing proposed hate speech laws – introduced after the mosque terror attacks in Christchurch – in favour of “refocusing on the economy”. The prime minister, Chris Hipkins, announced on Wednesday that the government would halt efforts on the hate speech laws, as part of a wider effort to “refocus” the government on “bread and butter” economic issues in the wake of Jacinda Ardern’s resignation and with an election on the horizon. The laws, which toughened the response to hate speech against minority groups, were put forward as a result of recommendations from the royal commission of inquiry into the Christchurch attacks, in which a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques. Progressive and Islamic groups have criticised their delay, saying they leave minority groups at risk. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 09 Feb 2023 Edition


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