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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07 Jan 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In Myanmar, the military coup brings prolonged misery for Rohingya Muslims, as there have been mass arrests of Rohingya trying to leave Rakhine, new draconian restrictions on their freedom of movement, and intimidation from military officials, meanwhile despite coming under increasing scrutiny by the US government for its alleged role in the surveillance of Uyghurs, SenseTime (China’s largest facial recognition startup) has still managed to secure $512m from non-US investors, including Chinese government-backed funds, and in the United States, the GOP continues to engage in Islamophobia. Our recommended read of the day is by Tara John for CNN on the “anti-woke” movement in Europe that seeks to silence individuals who question the status quo; in France authorities are targeting academics and researchers who highlight issues of “discrimination, racial profiling, and the history of French colonization,” calling them a threat to “Republican values.” This and more below:


07 Jan 2022

The 'anti-woke' crusade has come to Europe. Its effects could be chilling | Recommended Read

Stripped of its original meaning of a person being awake to progressive issues, "woke" has been appropriated from the Black vernacular and turned into a political lightning rod in the West's culture wars. It is now used pejoratively by lawmakers and pundits from both left and right, criticizing the perceived excesses of social and racial justice movements. The politicization of the word, which has seen degrees of success in the United States, has bolstered political resistance to calls for more equality in Europe. The amorphous term has also been interpreted differently, depending on where it is deployed. Many in the French establishment view "woke" as a heinous US import of theories on race, post-colonialism and gender, which they say pose a risk to French values and identity, Samuel Hayat, a politics research fellow at French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), told CNN. According to Rim-Sarah Alouane, a French legal scholar from Toulouse Capitole University, woke's arrival in France's culture wars is part of a wider reaction among members of Macron's party, La République en Marche (LREM), against left-wing and progressive views, rearing its head after the brutal murder of teacher Samuel Paty in October 2020. Paty's death followed multiple Islamic terrorist attacks on French soil. But the French government's response to his beheading opened up a full-scale culture war over secularism, freedom of speech and Islamophobia as the country's interior minister closed a Muslim group that tracked anti-Muslim hate crime. That period also saw "Islamo-leftism" -- a controversial yet ill-defined far-right term accusing left-wing academics and activists of enabling Islamic extremism or terrorism -- enter the mainstream political discourse as Education Minister Blanquer blamed it for "wreaking havoc" in universities. He was backed by 100 academics who, in an open letter to Le Monde, blamed imported "indigenist [sic], racialist, and 'decolonial' ideologies," in French universities for "nourishing hatred of the 'Whites' and of France." The French research organization Vidal tasked with launching the inquiry agreed to carry out the research. It however noted that Islamo-leftism was not a scientific term and condemned "attempts to delegitimize different fields of research, such as postcolonial studies, intersectional studies," Centre national de la recherche scientifique [CRNS] wrote in a press release. Conflating academics and researchers with Islamic extremism amounts to McCarthyism, said Alouane, referring to the anti-Communist crusade in the early 1950s by US Sen. Joe McCarthy. Weaponizing woke is another attempt at bringing academics, researchers and human rights activists to heel, say critics. read the complete article

07 Jan 2022

US sanctioned China’s top facial recognition firm over Uyghur concerns. It still raised millions

SenseTime, China’s largest facial recognition startup, has come under increasing scrutiny by the US government for its alleged role in the surveillance of Uyghurs. Over the past two years, the US has used sanctions to escalate pressure on the company, first by adding it to the government’s entity list, which restricts US exports to the company, and this December, by banning US investment in the firm. But those sanctions have thus far had little effect on the company’s bottom line. SenseTime recently made its debut on the Hong Kong stock market, months after writing in its initial IPO prospectus that the entity-list designation did not affect its business. And while the December investment ban initially appeared to have the impact the entity list designation could not, it was short-lived. The company postponed its IPO in response to the ban, but for just a few days, before going on to secure $512m from non-US investors, including Chinese government-backed funds. And last Thursday, the company’s co-founder, Tang Xiao’ou, became one of the world’s richest people after a surge in SenseTime’s stock price. The situation highlights a larger dilemma of how the US can hold companies accountable for their role in human rights violations perpetrated by the Chinese government. After declaring China’s campaign against Uyghurs – a Turkic minority group who are mostly located in the Xinjiang region – a genocide in 2021, the US has made an effort to crack down on potentially complicit US and international companies and individuals through a variety of sanctions and regulatory moves. In December, for instance, Joe Biden signed a bill that bans imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless it can be proven that no forced labor was involved in the production. However, the US is limited in its power over non-US companies like SenseTime, making it difficult to have an effect on the companies that goes beyond “naming and shaming”, as some experts put it. Even US companies like Tesla, which announced it was opening a showroom in Xinjiang on Monday, have withstood the country’s efforts to limit business in the region. read the complete article

07 Jan 2022

IOC under scrutiny over possible use of Uyghur slave labour

The International Olympic Committee is facing increased scrutiny over where it sources Olympic apparel. Several nations are highlighting human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in the northern region of China. A leading human rights group has called on the IOC to explain what steps it is taking to make sure ­official apparel is being made without forced labour. Luke Grant speaks to Independent Senator Rex Patrick about his advocacy in making sure countries and organisations do not support slave labour. read the complete article

United States

07 Jan 2022

The Republican Party's Islamophobia shows no signs of abating

It’s unclear why Boebert had a change of heart, or if she had from the start meant for the call to not go well as a publicity stunt. What is clear is that her Islamophobic attacks on Omar were followed by death threats to Omar and a fundraising boon for Boebert. “In any normal workplace, engaging in anti-Muslim bigotry against your co-worker would be a dangerous offense,” Edward Mitchell, deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, tells The New Arab. “Islamophobia is one of the last acceptable forms of bigotry in the US.” These ongoing public provocations from Boebert show no sign of stopping anytime soon. Indeed, others have joined the attacks on Omar with similar rhetoric. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has recently used the term “jihad squad” to refer to the group of progressive lawmakers, repeating what Boebert had said back in October. More recently, in late December, following Omar's criticism of Senator Joe Manchin’s absence of support for the Build Back Better Bill, conservative radio host Ben Shapiro repeatedly stated sarcastically that Omar was “wildly popular” in West Virginia, what appeared to be a thinly veiled reference to her background compared with residents of the majority-white rural state. Why have some of the Republican party’s most extreme – though increasingly mainstream – members chosen Omar as a target? “Unfortunately, it’s not new to American Muslims to see Islamophobic statements. What’s new is the escalation of anti-Muslim attacks that have been coming from influential people in society, such as sitting members of congress. These are supposed to be role models in society. They’ve been trafficking in anti-Muslim hate,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the CAIR, tells The New Arab. “The new thing is that Islamophobia is being normalised and weaponised and now it’s really inciting hate and violence against member of our community,” said Awad, noting a nationwide spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes, which he sees as inextricably linked to public statements of hate. These days, it appears that not only are the Islamophobic attacks getting more frequent, but they are also largely going unchecked by the Republican Party leadership. read the complete article

07 Jan 2022

Review: Trump’s travel ban tears apart a family and an American dream in a new novel

Sama arrives at Boston’s Logan Airport expecting to meet her husband, Hadi, at the international arrivals gate. But it’s Jan. 28, 2017, and enormous protests are taking place across the nation in response to Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry from seven majority-Muslim nations. Hadi, born in Syria, had flown to Jordan to attend his exiled father’s funeral. Immigration officials deny him entry just as Sama goes into premature labor. So begins Yara Zgheib’s new novel, “No Land to Light On,” with glittering language that brings emotional resonance to the effects of monstrous policies. The reasons for immigration often involve safety. Or food, water, shelter. Basic requirements among the first two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Migration is not just a human behavior: it is endemic to many species, animals that move in order to survive. And yet we place enormous moral weight on people who make such choices, which aren’t really choices at all, and which contravene borders that are arbitrary and abstract. Disrupting the bond between parent and baby feels particularly cruel, but here it serves a pointed narrative and (dare I say it) political purpose. Zgheib’s novel triggers the visceral reactions many of us felt not only over the travel ban but Trump’s family separation policies at the Mexican border. There is Hadi’s pain but especially Sama’s postpartum saudade. The author makes no attempt to soften the pain, which the reader shares. read the complete article

07 Jan 2022

US judge orders Mississippi city to approve mosque construction

A US federal judge has ordered a Mississippi city to approve plans for a mosque to be built in the area, months after a lawsuit was filed claiming the plans were denied due to anti-Muslim prejudice. The judge issued an order on Monday, which would pave the way for the mosque's construction, ban the delays of any permits, and force the government of Horn Lake, Mississippi to pay the mosque builders $25,000 for incurred expenses, as well as attorney fees for the plaintiffs. In November, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Horn Lake on behalf of Riyadh Elkhayyat and Maher Abuirshaid, co-founders of the Abraham House of God, who had submitted a site plan for the mosque that "met or exceeded" all requirements, according to staff for the city's planning commission, cited by the ACLU. The two co-founders have been seeking to build what would be the first mosque in DeSoto County, where they say Muslim families currently have to cross state lines into neighbouring Tennessee in order to attend their nearest house of worship. Despite there being 13 churches in the city of Horn Lake, there are no mosques in the area where the two plaintiffs said there is a "thriving" Muslim community of 15 to 20 families. However, their plans were initially rejected by the commission and its Board of Aldermen, the city's governing body. read the complete article

07 Jan 2022

As Guantánamo Turns 20, Pentagon Is Building a New Secret Courtroom

The Pentagon is building what The New York Times has described as a new secret courtroom for the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo. While President Biden has promised to close the prison, the military is spending $4 million on the new courtroom, which is being built without a gallery for journalists and other members of the public to view proceedings. This month marks 20 years since the opening of Guantánamo, where the U.S. still holds 39 men — most of whom have never been charged with a crime. The group Witness Against Torture plans to hold a rally outside the White House on Tuesday, January 11, to mark the anniversary. read the complete article


07 Jan 2022

Explainer: ‘Bulli Bai’, ‘Sulli Deals’ And The Dehumanisation of Muslim Women

Sayema is one of many Muslim women targeted in the ‘Bulli Bai’ app. Quite like ‘Sulli deals’, here too, pictures of Muslim women from varied backgrounds- among them journalists, university students, a lawyer, a literary historian- were put up on Bulli bai, an app on open source platform Github, to be bid upon by men. ‘Bulli’ and ‘Sulli’ being derogatory words used by the Hindu right wing while referring to Muslim women. Sayema talks about the dehumanising experience she has had to undergo and her worst fears as a Muslim woman living in a communally charged atmosphere. read the complete article

07 Jan 2022

Indian police arrest alleged creator of app targeting Muslim women

Indian police said on Thursday they had arrested a 20-year-old man they suspect created an online app that shared pictures of Muslim women for a virtual "auction", as an investigation into the case of communal harassment widened. An open source app on the Github platform called 'Bulli Bai' - a derogatory term to describe Muslim women - had shared pictures of dozens of women without their consent before it was taken down. K.P.S Malhotra, a police official in the capital New Delhi, said his team had arrested a 20-year-old engineering student from Jorhat in the eastern state of Assam after a probe that involved the state-run Computer Emergency Response Team. "He is the person who had created the Bullibai app on Github. He had also created the Twitter handle @bullibai_ and other handles," Malhotra said. Police in the western city of Mumbai, who are also investigating the app, have separately arrested three people this week, including two 21-year-old engineering students and an 18-year-old woman. Mumbai police said they were investigating whether the app, which did not involve any actual auctioning of people, was part of a "larger conspiracy". Several Indian Muslim journalists were targeted by the app, including Ismat Ara who filed and then shared on social media a police complaint on Sunday that said the app was "designed to insult Muslim women." read the complete article

07 Jan 2022

Muslim women in India again targeted by online 'auction'

For the second time, an online app in India has listed well-known Muslim women as for "sale" in an "auction." DW spoke to journalist Zeba Warsi, who was among those targeted by the misogynistic harassment campaign. read the complete article


07 Jan 2022

Myanmar’s military coup prolongs misery for Rohingya in Rakhine

In early August, military officials assigned to Rakhine State by Myanmar’s generals summoned leaders from the mainly Muslim Rohingya community in Buthidaung township to a meeting on the banks of the Mayu River. The officials came with a warning: Rohingya villagers should cut off any ties with the Arakan Army (AA), an armed rebel group fighting for self-determination for ethnic minorities in the country’s northwest. “Currently we are participating all-together in the AA’s administration … Because the AA is acting with equality and law for all of us,” a Rohingya township administrator in Buthidaung told Al Jazeera, adding that the Rohingya have so far ignored the military’s request. Amid concern that the political crisis triggered by the February 1 military coup could descend into civil war, and as a ceasefire in the restive northwestern state begins to falter, the country’s oppressed Rohingya minority is looking vulnerable once again. In November last year, there were mass arrests of Rohingya trying to leave Rakhine, new draconian restrictions on their freedom of movement, and intimidation from military officials about the dangers of collaborating with the AA, which mainly represents ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. “Currently our township is stable, but we don’t know when fighting will start so we are always living together in fear,” said a 47-year-old Rohingya resident of Buthidaung, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of arrest. It has long been illegal for Rohingya to travel outside of the state, with those who breach the rules risking a two-year prison sentence. But the deteriorating situation means more are trying. read the complete article

United Kingdom

07 Jan 2022

Rise in Islamophobic hate crime recorded in Sheffield

There was a 43% increase in reports of Islamophobic hate crimes in Sheffield in 2021 compared to the previous year, South Yorkshire Police records obtained by Now Then through an information request show. The rise, from 71 to 103 reported offences, continues a trend reflected in police records in recent years, in spite of Covid-19 lockdowns restricting social contact in 2021. The largest proportion (41%) of these offences were categorised as aggravated public fear offences, the most common year on year since 2018. The records also show that the majority of hate crimes targeting Muslims in Sheffield do not reach a resolution, whether that’s a charge brought, a caution issued or a community-based resolution. Fewer than 15% of hate crimes in the year ending November 2021 were resolved in one of these ways. Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes make up the vast majority of religiously motivated hate crimes in the UK, with the latest data for the year ending March 2021 showing that hate crimes targeting Muslims made up 45% of these crimes. And when this is broken down to hate crimes around specific events, the numbers reveal an even more harrowing picture. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 07 Jan 2022 Edition


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