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.

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12 Jan 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United Kingdom, two army instructors have been cleared of calling a trainee soldier “P*ki Rambo” and suggesting his father was a suicide bomber, meanwhile in the United States, lawyers and rights activist continue to call attention to the 20 year (and ongoing) legacy of Guantanamo as 39 Muslim men remain imprisoned, and Human Rights Watch has warned that two Uyghur Muslims who reportedly face deportation from Saudi Arabia to China “are at risk of arbitrary detention and torture.” Our recommended read of the day is by Omar Deghayes for the Independent on how he was captured by bounty hunters in Pakistan and sold to the US, ending up imprisoned at Guantanamo for five years without charge. Today, Deghayes like many other former detainees, deals with the trauma of having been tortured and brutalized by US authorities. This and more below:

United States

12 Jan 2022

I was held in Guantanamo for years after being picked up by bounty hunters. They had the wrong man | Recommended Read

I was released from Guantanamo in 2007 but mentally I still haven’t escaped. Years of violence and degradation there and in US custody in Bagram, Afghanistan, are etched into my memory, from the sexual assault and electric shocks to the beatings, one of which permanently blinded me when a guard struck my eye. Flashbacks come without warning, transporting me back to the sensation of starvation, of being kept in the freezing cold, of having excrement smeared on my face. Worst of all are the images that haunt my dreams of detainees being maimed, shot and beaten to death. These are crimes that the guards forced me to watch so that when they threatened to kill me, I knew they were capable of it. But I’m one of the lucky ones. As we mark 20 years since President Bush opened America’s own heart of darkness, 39 men still languish there. Some of them have been detained since the beginning: two decades of their lives stolen without justification. You may think “there’s no smoke without fire”, but for most of us there was no smoke, not even a whiff. Like many others, I was captured by bounty hunters in Pakistan and sold to the US. I now know that an anonymous informant wrongly picked me out as the man in a videotape later revealed to be an insurgent leader killed by Russians in 2004. In cases like mine, they’d got the wrong guy. In many others, bounty hunters simply rounded up Muslim men who fit the profile, with the US dishing out between $3,000 and $25,000 per person. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

Twenty Years Later, Guantánamo Is Everywhere

Two decades on, the architects of this regime and the perpetrators of torture have not been held accountable, and thirty-nine men are still detained on the island, with no end in sight. A central component of the Bush administration’s reckless prosecution of a “Global War on Terror,” Guantánamo crystallizes the transformation of the United States into a maximal security state. The prison’s insidious legacy should not be allowed to fade from public awareness. Guantánamo’s authoritarian essence—its flagrant disdain for fundamental human rights protections, along with the destruction and dehumanization it has wrought upon its victims—has been variously interpreted as more or less exceptional, more or less beyond the pale of American norms and ideals. Guantánamo is not the island we may like to think it is. It not only extends a shameful history of American brutalization of the Other; its creation and defense also foreshadowed the more recent and muscular embrace of anti-constitutionalism and lawlessness we know today. This early evidence makes plain that Guantánamo was never about adjudicating guilt or innocence or meting out just punishment for war crimes; it was constructed as a domain of absolute power unaccountable to U.S. judges or international human rights protections precisely in order to undertake endless brutal interrogations, to induce through totalizing disorientation and control what CIA interrogation manuals call “debility, dependency, and dread.” By denying detainees access to courts and to counsel, the Bush administration rejected any legal constraint on its actions, forsaking law for unfettered will, discretion, and power. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

Guantanamo: Why Biden, just like Trump, cannot close this brutal prison

By glossing over the brutality Muslim prisoners have been subjected to as a fundamental reason for closing Guantanamo, even staunch critics of the prison legitimise the dehumanisation of Muslims that justified building it in the first place. And the oft-repeated narrative that Guantanamo serves as a “terrorist recruitment tool”, especially, deflects away from the US’s violent legacy of torture and indefinite detention that has made the prison infamous. Although Biden criticised the NDAA’s Guantanamo provisions in a concurrent statement, his fundamental inaction is symptomatic of how real progress toward closing Guantanamo and reckoning with its brutal legacy is stymied by deep undercurrents of American Islamophobia. These undercurrents influence the debate on both sides in the form of anti-Muslim narratives as well as the erasure of the victims and survivors. Tellingly, during the two-hour-plus long Senate hearing on the closure of Guantanamo, the prisoners’ Muslim identity was only mentioned once. The logic of collective responsibility and punishment - applied uniquely to Muslims in the context of the war on terror - however, formed the backdrop throughout. One way in which the Islamophobic fallacy of collective responsibility is perpetuated is the insistence that the remaining detainees can not be safely released because of the supposed risk of recidivism. Finally, recidivism is an incorrect term to describe future violence perpetrated by a detainee who was never actually charged with a crime. The most troubling aspect of this argument, however, is how it asserts that Guantanamo prisoners can be held essentially as proxies for others who have resorted to violence. That prisoners can be held for the crimes, real or imagined, of others rather than their own epitomises the rationale of collective responsibility for Muslims that permeates discourse in the war on terror. For the collective psyche of the United States, closing Guantanamo is ultimately about finally facing the ways Guantanamo gives the lie to the values and principles at the heart of American identity. For a start, Americans must face that they endorsed forcing hundreds of Muslim men and boys into a dehumanising prison, where torture was de rigueur, to provide themselves with a fleeting sense of safety - and then chose to look away as the abuses and innocence of many prisoners were exposed. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

Meet the Muslim Army Chaplain Who Condemned Torture of Guantánamo Prisoners & Then Jailed Himself

Twenty years ago today, the U.S. military began imprisoning Muslim men at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. We speak with the prison's former Muslim chaplain, James Yee, who was jailed and held in solitary confinement for 76 days after being falsely accused of espionage. All charges were eventually dropped, and he received an honorable discharge. Yee describes how boys as young as 12 to 15 years old were treated as enemy combatants on the prison complex and the widespread Islamophobia that put even Muslim Americans under heavy surveillance. "During my time I was there, it was clear that these individuals were not in any way associated with terrorism whatsoever," says Yee. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

Guantánamo Bay Prison Must Close After 20 Years of Abuse, Ilhan Omar Says

Twenty years ago today, the United States brought to the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the first of the nearly 800 Muslim men and boys it would eventually hold captive there. In that sense, January 11 is an anniversary. I prefer not to characterize it that way, though, because any word that can sometimes be synonymous with celebration should never be used to describe these last two decades of lawlessness and cruelty at Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Today is a day to reflect, and to act. I reflect on what scores of men lost when the United States tortured them, systematically dismantling their identity and humanity. I reflect on what the families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks lost — any possibility of fair and impartial justice — when the United States decided to trade away decency and the rule of law for torture and indefinite detention. And I reflect on our refusal to hold anyone meaningfully accountable for these acts. Thirty-nine men remain at Guantánamo. One of them, Saifuallah Paracha, is in his mid-70s, has had multiple heart attacks, and suffers from a host of other serious medical conditions. Another, Nashwan al-Tamir, has had four spinal surgeries and uses a wheelchair. Mohammed Al-Qahtani has post-traumatic stress disorder and related mental health conditions as a result of his torture, layered on top of a pre-existing traumatic brain injury. Al-Qahtani’s condition is so severe that a federal court agreed that the government should have him evaluated by independent doctors because, under the law, his poor health might require the United States to release him. The court issued its order in March 2020; the evaluation still hasn’t happened. In fact, of the 39 prisoners remaining at Guantánamo, the overwhelming majority of them — 27 — have not even been charged with a crime. Many have already been cleared for release by our own military and national security agencies. Their ongoing detention goes against the most basic standards of justice, and continues to damage lives and our reputation around the world. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

“You know it shouldn’t exist”: Guantánamo at 20

Five hundred miles off the coast of Florida, the Guantánamo Bay detention facility today (11 January) marks its 20th anniversary. Because the facility lies outside the jurisdiction of US courts, the government has used it as a base for torture and the indefinite detention of suspects without charge or trial. Today, 39 men remain in the camp, all of whom have spent at least 14 years within its walls. More than two-thirds (27) have never been charged with any crime, and only two have been convicted. Both of these convictions were secured in military courts; Amnesty International said they “did not meet fair trial standards”. Events would soon overtake Adayfi’s dreams. The US invaded four months after his arrival, and soon began distributing leaflets promising that anyone who handed in an “Arab terrorist” would receive “enough to feed your family for life”. Days before Adayfi was due to return to Yemen, his car was ambushed on a highway in northern Afghanistan. “I was kidnapped by one of the warlords, sold from one warlord to another, and eventually sold to the CIA as an al-Qaeda general,” he said. “The CIA took me to a black site, kicked my ass and kept me there for almost three months. The Americans at that time were angry and didn’t know what they were looking for. They said I was an Egyptian general, a 9/11 insider, an al-Qaeda commander – it was chaotic.” Adayfi said: “People ask me how I spent my twenties. I tell them I don’t know what that means – it doesn’t exist in my mind. I know what the number 20 is, but I don’t know how it is to live your twenties.” He was relocated to Serbia upon his release, a country with which he had no prior connection. Other Yemeni detainees have been relocated to Georgia, Ghana, Montenegro and Kazakhstan. Today, Adayfi campaigns for the closure of Guantánamo with the British advocacy group Cage, where he works as the coordinator of its Guantánamo project. His memoir, Don’t Forget Us Here, was published last September by Hachette Books. Adayfi told the New Statesman: “Even the worst terrorists should have basic human rights. It’s not about them, it’s about us – about who we are. When we start crossing those boundaries, we cannot blame others for doing the same. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

Guantanamo Bay: ‘The scar on our collective conscience’

I am on my 40th visit to the United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay. My clients have been locked up without charges or a trial for almost two decades now, somehow proof to the American people that the government is combating “Islamic extremism” – when in truth we are provoking it. There is a fair amount left of Camp X-Ray, as it is only 20 years on. The wire fence, topped with a DNA helix of razor wire, still runs around an area perhaps 200 square metres (2,153 square feet) in size, sitting in a hollow that must have trapped the tropical heat. There are no longer any hooded prisoners in their iconic orange uniforms, cowed by soldiers and their attack dogs. But I could make out seven or eight open cages, each with a tin roof like a lean-to parking space. At the corners were the wooden guard towers, redolent of a German Prisoner of War camp in World War II, with plywood walls turned to a dirty brown. The Guantanamo detention camp was born a sorry lie and it remains one. The US military first announced the prison to the world in carefully censored choreography on January 11, 2002. Along with two colleagues, I sued to open it up to proper public inspection just about a month later. It took more than two years to reach the US Supreme Court, but we won Rasul v Bush before conservative justices who were shocked that the Bush administration would claim the right to hold prisoners entirely beyond the rule of law. I was allowed here to meet a client for the first time in November 2004. I found Mohammed el-Gharani, a 14-year-old who had been snatched from Karachi where he was studying English: the closest he had ever been to Kabul was a little more than 1,400 kilometres (872 miles) by the fastest road. I came across Ahmed Errachidi, a Moroccan chef from London who had a long and documented history of bipolar disorder and, during one of his psychotic episodes, had announced that a large snowball was about to destroy the Earth. It took a while to figure out what was going on, but in the end, it turned out to be a familiar story: just as American prosecutors buy their informants with lavish promises of rewards, so we were littering bounty leaflets around Afghanistan and Pakistan. My clients had been sold, like slaves in an auction. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

Joe Biden’s silence on Guantanamo Bay frustrates closure advocates as prison turns 20

Advocates for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center were optimistic when President Joe Biden took office. And they were relieved this summer after the U.S. released a prisoner for the first time in years. Many are now increasingly impatient. In the months since that release, there have been few signs of progress in closing the notorious offshore prison on the U.S. base in Cuba. That has led to increased skepticism about Biden’s approach as the administration completes its first year and the detention center reaches a milestone Tuesday — the 20th anniversary of the first prisoners’ arrival. “President Biden has stated his intention to close Guantanamo as a matter of policy but has not taken substantial steps toward closure,” said Wells Dixon, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which has long taken a leading role in challenging the indefinite confinement without charge at the base. “There’s a lot of impatience and a lot of frustration among advocates and people who have been watching this,” said Daphne Eviatar, director of the security with the human rights program at Amnesty International USA. Without a more concerted effort, those who want the center to close fear a repeat of what happened under President Barack Obama. Obama made closing Guantanamo a signature issue from his first days in office, but managed only to shrink it in the face of political opposition in Congress. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

What I Learned When I Tried to Close Guantanamo

I had come to learn (as the president had already to his great dismay) that the legal and policy morass that had developed around Guantanamo meant it could not simply be “closed.” A task that many saw as a matter of decisively turning the page on a dark chapter in American history turned out to be much messier, more tedious and more legally and politically fraught than I anticipated. It was a hard enough diplomatic challenge to convince foreign partners to agree to take in former Guantanamo detainees. At home, the hyper-polarized political environment and myriad legal obstacles made the process even harder. The detention facility and surrounding legal infrastructure had been thrown together hastily in the shadow of a horrific national trauma, with little attention to future legal repercussions, including the likelihood of winning criminal convictions. In large part, the Guantanamo mess is self-inflicted — a result of our own decisions to engage in torture, hold detainees indefinitely without charge, set up dysfunctional military commissions and attempt to avoid oversight by the federal courts. Now we stand 20 years from the opening of Guantanamo on Jan. 11, 2002. The United States has left Afghanistan, and the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has come and gone. The alleged perpetrators still have not been tried, and numerous other men remain held in indefinite detention without charge. President Joe Biden is completing his first year in office. My State Department office remains empty. Our longest war has ended, yet Guantanamo endures. The challenges presented by closing Guantanamo have not changed — but nearly everything else has. The world has moved on from the 9/11 era; even more than during the Obama years, Guantanamo feels today like a relic of another time. Biden, who will be remembered as the president who ended a war that three of his predecessors could or would not, should recommit to closing the facility for good. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

US charities funnelled more than $105m to 'anti-Muslim' groups, new report claims

Nearly three dozen charities and foundations funnelled more than $105m to "anti-Muslim" organisations, according to a new report by a major US Muslim civil rights group. The report, published on Tuesday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), found that between 2017 and 2019, 35 of the largest charitable institutions and foundations it reviewed had poured $105.8m into a network of 26 groups that have been known to peddle anti-Muslim sentiment. The financial data was obtained through each charitable institution and foundation's publicly available tax documents for 2017, 2018 and 2019. "It is no secret that the Islamophobia Network remains hyper-active and well-funded," Huzaifa Shabaz, Cair's national research and advocacy coordinator, said in a statement. "Today, more than ever, the philanthropic community must establish clear policies to prevent funds from going to hate groups and implement educational initiatives for staff and board members to help them understand the extent of anti-Muslim bigotry." read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

US state senator faces backlash over anti-Muslim argument for ending mask mandates

A Virginia state senator is facing a wave of backlash from American Muslim and Jewish groups after she criticised the Muslim face veil when making an argument against mask mandates. Amanda Chase, who has been a member of the Virginia Senate since 2016, has faced several accusations by Democrats of downplaying the coronavirus pandemic since the Biden administration introduced mask mandates last year. In a Facebook post on her personal page, Chase attempted to draw parallels between masks and the niqab – a veil worn by some Muslim women which, in addition to an accompanying headscarf, covers the lower half of the face. In her post, Chase claimed that the Muslim face-covering was an attempt by men to strip women of independence and "break their will and individuality". She alleged that "2300 years ago, long before Islam, Arabs discovered that forcing people to cover their nose and mouths, broke their will and individuality, and depersonalized them. It made them submissive. That's why they imposed on every woman the mandatory use of a fabric over her face". Chase's remarks elicited condemnation from various faith and human rights groups, with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities saying her post was "not only factually incorrect, but it irresponsibly marginalizes our Muslim neighbors". "Whether criticism of a mask mandate is used to diminish the Holocaust or to insult and demean the Muslim faith and tradition - a line is crossed into hate and bigotry that must be called out and confronted," said the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. Ghazala Hashmi, Virginia's first Muslim state senator, told Middle East Eye that Chase's comments demonstrated "bigotry, fearmongering, and Islamophobia". "They also reflect an astounding lack of knowledge of history, culture, and Islam." read the complete article


12 Jan 2022

Uyghurs at risk of deportation from Saudi Arabia to China likely to face 'arbitrary detention and torture', HRW warns

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that two Uyghur Muslims who reportedly face deportation from Saudi Arabia to China "are at risk of arbitrary detention and torture" in a statement Monday. The US-based watchdog said the two men, residents of Turkey, have been detained in Saudi Arabia since November 2020. Nurmemet Rozi, 46, was told by a Saudi official in early January that he "should be mentally prepared to be deported to China in a few days", according to HRW. Meanwhile, the daughter of Hemdullah Abduweli, 54, posted a video stating that her father and Rozi are at imminent risk of deportation. In the footage, she appealed to Saudi authorities to allow them to come to Turkey instead of China, where Uyghur communities have been systematically persecuted and incarcerated by authorities in the Xinjiang region. "If Saudi Arabia deports these two Uyghur men, it will be sending a clear message that it stands arm-in-arm with the Chinese government and its crimes against humanity targeting Turkic Muslims," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

Ensuring The Implementation Of The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act

On December 23, President Joe Biden signed into law the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), a bill meant to ensure that no goods produced with forced labor in Xinjiang make their way into U.S. markets. While the bill’s passage was a victory for human rights in Xinjiang, the next 180 days are critical to ensuring the success and comprehensive coverage of the act. The compromise bill establishes a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods produced in whole or in part in Xinjiang have been made with forced labor. U.S. companies will now be required to prove a negative: that goods they imported from Xinjiang are not produced with forced labor. That’s well and good. But not good enough. By focusing strictly on Xinjiang, the bill does little to ensure that goods produced through forced labor by Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, and Tibetans and others outside of Xinjiang are not imported into the U.S. Human rights advocates, civil society, and experts in the business and legal community should not rest on their laurels merely because the UFLPA was passed. Now is the time for action to meet several deadlines that will affect the U.S.’s long-term strategies to combat forced labor emanating from Xinjiang and China broadly. read the complete article

12 Jan 2022

Exclusive: Senior Tory calls for UK to mull HSBC sanctions over links to Uyghur oppression

HSBC should be hit with economic sanctions if it does not sever ties with a firm that is closely linked to the ethnic cleansing of Uyghur Muslims in China, according to senior Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith. City A.M. can reveal the former Conservative leader and a group of other MPs will write to the Treasury to ask them to take action against HSBC, after it was revealed the British bank is holding £2.2m of shares in a subsidiary of Xinjiang Tianye Group – a paramilitary organisation involved in Beijing’s campaign of oppression against the Muslim minority. read the complete article

United Kingdom

12 Jan 2022

Two army instructors cleared of racially abusing Muslim trainee soldier

Two army instructors have been cleared of calling a trainee soldier “P*ki Rambo” and suggesting his father was a suicide bomber. Cpl Robert Mehers and Sgt Christopher Tolley were accused of racially abusing Rifleman Kasem Salem, who is a Muslim and originally from Egypt, while he undertook basic training at the infantry training centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Mehers was said to have called Salem “P*ki Rambo” – a nickname used in the satirical film Four Lions, about a group of inept jihadists – and “carpet rider”, a court martial was told. The court also heard that Tolley allegedly learned the Arabic for: “Your mother’s a whore” so he could insult Salem in his first language. Tolley was alleged to have told Salem his father was not allowed to attend a parade because he might be a suicide bomber and “his car might have a bomb in it”. read the complete article


12 Jan 2022

France wants to prevent Muslim women from renting private pools

French authorities plan to prevent Muslim women from renting private pool villas through Airbnb, according to a report by French newspaper Le Monde. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 12 Jan 2022 Edition


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