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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12 Jan 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Austria, “terrorism” charges against Austrian academic Farid Hafez, have been dropped after an Al Jazeera documentary revealed the case was based on false evidence and fabricated accusations, meanwhile in the U.S., a letter coordinated by the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) and the Center for Constitutional Rights and signed by over 150 international NGOs, calls on the U.S. government to finally close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, and in India, right-wing Hindu groups are working to prevent marriages between Indian Hindus and Muslims across the country as a number of states have adopted “anti-conversion” laws. Our recommended read of the day is by Daphne Eviatar for Just Security on the legacy and lasting impact of the prison at Guantanamo Bay as January 11th marked the 21st anniversary of the opening of the facility. This and more below:

United States

11 Jan 2023

Twenty-One Years On, US Detention at Guantánamo Bay Remains Unconscionable | Recommended Read

Jan. 11 marks the 21st anniversary of the opening of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. Created by the administration of President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks to evade the requirements of U.S. law, the prison has held nearly 800 Muslim men and boys who were captured overseas or turned over to U.S. authorities, often in exchange for bounties. The vast majority of those men were never charged with any crimes. Although hundreds were released over the years, 35 men remain at Guantánamo today, at the astronomical cost of $540 million per year. That makes Guantánamo the most expensive detention facility in the world. Contrary to the claim by former Vice President Dick Cheney that the men remaining at Guantánamo were the “worst of the worst,” most are just the unluckiest: they came from countries whose governments were unable or unwilling to lobby for their return. That was the case with al-Bihani, a Yemeni national raised in Saudi Arabia. And because the ongoing indefinite detention of Muslim men at Guantánamo has fallen off the U.S. political radar, he and his fellow detainees have spent decades imprisoned without charge or trial, with little to no apparent effort being made to end this glaring injustice. As we write in our letter to the president, although the Guantánamo prison is now 21 years old, it is not a problem of the past. The prison continues to cause profound and escalating damage to the aging and increasingly ill men still detained indefinitely there, most without charge and none having received a fair trial. It has also devastated their families and communities. The continued existence of a prison created only to hold Muslim men and boys indefinitely and without due process also continues to fuel and justify bigotry, stereotyping, and stigma. Guantánamo entrenches racial divisions and racism and encourages other governments to commit similar rights violations. read the complete article

11 Jan 2023

I survived Guantánamo. Why is it still open 21 years later?

The US prison at Guantánamo Bay opened 21 years ago this Wednesday. For 21 years, the extrajudicial detention facility has held a total of 779 men between eight known camps. In two decades, Guantánamo grew from a small, makeshift camp of chainlink cages into a maximum-security facility of cement bunker-like structures that costs close to $540m a year to operate. Twenty-one years is a long time – a generation was born and came of age in that time. Four American presidents have served. The World Trade Center was rebuilt. During that time, the US military, the CIA and other intelligence agencies experimented with torture and other human rights violations. Soldiers and even leaders committed war crimes. The US Congress researched, wrote and released a report documenting torture, abuse and inhumane treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo and at black sites around the world, while also making it impossible to close Guantánamo. I was 19 when I was sent to Guantánamo, I arrived on 9 February 2002, blindfolded, hooded, shackled, beaten. When soldiers removed my hood, all I saw were cages filled with orange figures. I had been tortured. I was lost and afraid and confused. I didn’t know where I was or why I had been taken there. I didn’t know how long I would be imprisoned or what would happen to me. No one knew where I was. I was given a number and became suspended between life and death. read the complete article

11 Jan 2023

Closing Guantanamo: Its victims deserve human dignity, not demonisation

The 11 January marks more than two decades since the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison, where unlawful imprisonment, physical and psychological trauma - and US evasion of accountability - have become the norm. In recent years, slow progress has been made to release and repatriate detainees. Yet despite the intention of three presidents to close the prison, 35 detainees continue to languish under horrific conditions. Throughout the war on terror, Islamophobic narratives have been weaponised to initiate, sustain, and perpetuate violence against Muslims. These narratives set the terms on which wars are fought, who gets profiled and who doesn’t, who gets tortured and who doesn’t, and who gets to live and who doesn't. Guantanamo Bay is one of the most notorious examples of how the public narrative has justified the detention, torture, and murder of Muslim men by constructing them as inherently terroristic and irredeemable. Calls to close and abolish the prison must therefore be made with the recognition of Guantanamo not just as a legal and political problem, but also as a narrative problem. read the complete article

11 Jan 2023

Amid abortion bans, Muslim Americans turn back to their faith's ruling on abortion

MOHAMMAD: Polls show opinions on abortion, like in other faith groups, are deeply divided. According to a survey conducted last March by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, 56% of Muslim Americans think abortion should actually be legal in all or most cases. You might find that number surprising if you look at some non-Muslim perceptions of abortion in Islam. A simple Twitter search unveils hundreds of comments spinning the Supreme Court's moves to overturn Roe v. Wade as the Christian version of Shariah law. Here's former "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah. (SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH") TREVOR NOAH: After all these years of the right screaming about the threats of Shariah law, it turns out they were just jealous. Now, to be clear... MOHAMMAD: Critiques range from attempts at humor to downright Islamophobic takes. One meme that made the rounds on social media was a photoshopped image of Supreme Court justices in beards, turbans and burqas. Experts on Shariah law say those assumptions come from a place of ignorance because Islam can actually be very permissive of abortion. ZAHRA AYUBI: Some of the most conservative - so-called most conservative countries in the world - like, if you say, like Iran or Saudi Arabia - are more permissive of abortion than many American states are. MOHAMMAD: That's Zahra Ayubi, a professor of Islamic ethics at Dartmouth College. She says key Islamic texts don't mention abortion outright, so rulings in the faith lean on verses that mention fetal development. read the complete article

11 Jan 2023

GOP May Kick Rep. Ilhan Omar Off Committees After Years Of Islamophobic Attacks

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has vowed to bar Democrats Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Ilhan Omar from serving on House committees. The threat, which McCarthy repeated this week, is retaliation for Democrats having removed Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia from their committee assignments in 2021 for highly inflammatory statements, including about Omar. The putative reasons for Omar’s prospective committee ban are a little more hazy. A refugee from Somalia and the first African-born member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Omar is a frequent target for members of the GOP. Republicans have often claimed Omar, who has represented Minnesota’s 5th District since 2019, is an antisemite. But Omar said she believes McCarthy wants her off committees because she’s Muslim. “I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim and thinking I should not be,” Omar told HuffPost. “If you look at the comments from Republicans, it’s precisely for only that reason.” For years, Republicans have targeted Omar and espoused conspiracy theories about her, while shrugging off egregious behaviors and comments from members of their own party, such as when Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) repeatedly described Omar as a terrorist who might blow up the Capitol. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Tuesday that Republicans would consider removing people from committees because Democrats had done it. read the complete article

11 Jan 2023


On the 21st anniversary of the first orange-jumpsuit clad “unlawful enemy combatants” arriving blindfolded and shackled to the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, more than 150 international human rights organizations are urging President Joe Biden to finally shutter the prison. The letter, coordinated by the Center for Victims of Torture, or CVT, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, calls for a closure to the current prison, an end to the indefinite military detention of the men living there, and a pledge to never again use the naval base for “unlawful mass detention.” “It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused,” the letter says. Following a slow trickle of transfers out of the facility under the Biden administration, 35 men remain imprisoned today. Over the last two decades, 779 men and boys passed through the catastrophic prison. Of those who remain there today, 20 are eligible for transfer out of indefinite detention; three are awaiting judgment from six different government agencies, known as the Periodic Review Board; three more have been convicted; and nine are involved in pre-trial hearings in the flawed military commission system. The case against accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators is ongoing and has not yet reached trial. read the complete article

12 Jan 2023

Called 'terrorists,' mocked at school, Muslim teens hope book raises awareness of bias

A child is disinvited from a birthday party because a parent doesn’t want "terrorists" there. A student athlete fears he will get kicked off the track team for missing practice during Ramadan. A boy hears classmates yell an Arabic expression praising God in a mocking way. Students recount these and other unsettling experiences in a new book that aims to raise awareness about anti-Muslim bias in schools. In the book, called “Equal Opportunity: A Collection of Injustices faced by Muslims in the American Education System,” the New Jersey authors — teens and students themselves — write about the harm that bullying and exclusionary school policies can do. They recommend ways to remedy these problems with inclusive policies and education about anti-Muslim bullying. read the complete article


11 Jan 2023

Hijab ban forced many Muslim women in Karnataka to drop out of colleges: new report

Muslim women have dropped out of colleges and the classrooms have gotten polarized on the basis of religion, revealed a report released by human rights organization Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) on January 9, Monday, marking one year of Hijab ban in Karnataka. The PUCL’s Karnataka chapter undertook a study to investigate the impact of the imposed ban on the students and examine the role of authorities, administrative officials and police officials. The report explains that through conversations with students as well as authorities, and an analysis of events that transpired, it becomes visibly clear that Muslim women students were not only actively prevented from accessing their right to education, but also bore the brunt of a climate of hate, hostility and misinformation. “Students have faced humiliation and harassment in their own classrooms at the hands of their faculty, college administration and classmates.” read the complete article

12 Jan 2023

India: Suppression of Free Speech, Minorities

Indian authorities intensified and broadened their crackdown on activist groups and the media in 2022, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2023. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government used abusive and discriminatory policies to repress Muslims and other minorities. Authorities throughout India arrested activists, journalists, and other critics of the government on politically motivated criminal charges, including of terrorism. They harassed rights groups through tax raids, allegations of financial irregularities, and use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which regulates foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations. The authorities in several BJP-ruled states demolished Muslim homes and properties without legal authorization or due process as summary punishment for protests or alleged crimes. “The BJP government’s promotion of Hindu majoritarian ideology provokes authorities and supporters to engage in discriminatory and at times violent actions against religious minorities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should be reining in party members and supporters responsible for abuses instead of jailing critics and shutting down rights groups.” read the complete article

11 Jan 2023

Why interfaith marriage in India is getting dangerous

At least eight states, including six governed by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have passed anti-conversion laws that ban religious conversion solely for the purpose of marriage. Last month, in the western state of Maharashtra, the government formed a 13-member panel to investigate interfaith marriages in the state and maintain a record of couples and their families. Last month, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hardline Hindu group, launched a nationwide public "awareness campaign," claiming that Hindu women are being caught up in "love jihad" and illegal religious conversions. "Love jihad" is a derogatory term used by the Hindu right-wing to describe an alleged phenomenon where Muslim men lure Hindu women into marriage and conversion to Islam. Hindu groups claim, without evidence, it is an organized conspiracy. Asif Iqbal, co-founder of NGO "Dhanak of Humanity," a platform to extend help for interfaith couples, told DW that many couples live in fear of their relationships becoming a criminal offense under the current attempts at legal reforms. "Prevailing legal and social situations have effectively decreased the number of interfaith marriages," Iqbal said. "Interfaith marriage has always been challenging in India, but the discrimination and threats of violence now make the struggle to assist such couples more difficult than ever," he added. read the complete article


11 Jan 2023

Austria drops bogus ‘terrorism’ charges against Muslim academic

“Terrorism” charges against an Austrian academic, Farid Hafez, have been dropped after an Al Jazeera documentary revealed the case was based on false evidence and fabricated accusations. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hafez said he was relieved to be no longer living in “limbo” more than two years after officers barged into his two-storey home and pointed their guns at him, his wife and two children. Hafez is best known for an annual report on European Islamophobia and is one of the founders of the Austrian Muslim Youth Association. Looking back, the political scientist said the accusations raised against him were “insane” and came “out of the blue”. Hafez’s apartment was one among some 60 homes of Muslim activists and academics raided in November 2020 as part of what Austria’s interior minister called “Operation Luxor”. In addition to “supporting terrorism”, police accused him of crimes including “hostility to the state” and “money laundering”. Hafez’s bank account was frozen, leaving him unable to pay lawyers or repair the damage caused during the raid. Hafez said his study of Islamophobia was “reframed” and cast as a “form of terrorism”. The charges raised were therefore insubstantial, but he believes building a strong case was never the intention. “The idea was basically to intimidate and silence any kind of critique vis-a-vis the Austrian discrimination against Muslim people,” Hafez said. read the complete article


11 Jan 2023

German government report highlights anti-Muslim racism

A German government report on Wednesday highlighted the problem of anti-Muslim racism in the country. Presenting the report on the state of racism in Germany at a press briefing in Berlin, Reem Alabali-Radovan, the state minister for migration, refugees and integration, stressed it was “important to name and discuss anti-Muslim racism in this status report.” She added the issue of anti-Muslim racism had repeatedly come up during her talks with representatives of the German Muslim community. According to the report, Muslims are after the Sinti and Roma among those minorities to whom Germans have the most negative attitude. Based on a survey, slightly more than one-fifth of those questioned have negative opinions toward Muslims. A third of the interviewees share the view that the number of Muslim people in Germany should be limited, and 27% believe there are too many Muslims in Germany. The report also pointed to the fact that Muslims have been subjected to hate crimes and daily attacks. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 12 Jan 2023 Edition


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