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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18 Jan 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., Hamline University has released a statement saying that their use of the term “Islamophobic” was “flawed” and that respect for Muslim students should not have superseded academic freedom, meanwhile in China, an interview with researchers Nyrola Elimä and Darren Byler for Truthout highlights the plight of Uyghur Muslims in China as many international businesses continue to turn a blind eye to the atrocities in order to maintain a lucrative relationship with the Chinese government, and in South Korea, a severed pig’s head is left outside a mosque in the city of Daegu in an attempt by city residents to intimidate the relatively small group of Muslim students and worshipers from daily prayer and gatherings. Our recommended read of the day is by the Bridge Initiative’s own Farid Hafez for Middle East Eye on how the Austrian government targeted him due to his academic study of Islamophobia. This and more below:


17 Jan 2023

How Austria made the study of Islamophobia a crime | Recommended Read

Operation Luxor was the largest police operation Austria had witnessed since 1945. Targeting alleged terrorists, more than 100 defendants were included in the preliminary investigation against leaders of Muslim civil society and critics of discriminatory policies implemented during the chancellorship of Sebastian Kurz (2017-2021), which were mostly rescinded by the courts. I became the image of this operation. As the founding editor of the academic journal Islamophobia Studies Yearbook and the founding co-editor of the European Islamophobia Report, I have also been a vocal opponent of these policies, criticising them as authoritarian moves that undermine legal equality, religious freedom, freedom of association and, more generally, human rights. When, on 9 November 2020, special forces of the Austrian police stormed my house in Vienna at 5am, they handed me a search warrant that claimed that I could be a terrorist wanting to topple the Egyptian government and create a worldwide caliphate. I was astounded, to say the least. The implications were dramatic and wide-ranging. The raid left my whole family, especially my young children, traumatised. I felt constantly insecure due to the tapping of my phone and other surveillance measures. My bank account and assets were frozen for two years. The suspicions listed in the warrant were astonishing and one aspect, in particular, was most interesting: my academic work on Islamophobia was cited as a reason for the terrorism allegations. The intelligence agency’s regular reports outlining why I was seen as a security threat delved deep into my academic work on Islamophobia, relating it to conspiracy theories and claiming that my Catholic director at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, was a staunch Islamist. read the complete article


17 Jan 2023

UN reports ‘alarming’ rise in Rohingya deaths at sea in 2022

The UN says there was an “alarming” rise in the number of Rohingya refugees lost at sea fleeing their Myanmar homeland or Bangladesh last year, warning more would die without concerted action. More than 3,500 Rohingya attempted sea crossings in 2022, representing a huge increase on the year before, when some 700 people made similar journeys, UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, said on Tuesday. “UNHCR has recorded an alarming rise in the death toll. At least 348 individuals died or went missing at sea in 2022, making it one of the deadliest years since 2014,” spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva. She said that 3,040 Rohingya who attempted to flee by sea disembarked last year, mostly in Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Nearly 45 percent of those who did so were women and children. read the complete article

17 Jan 2023

US Corporations Are Complicit in the Repression of Uyghurs

At the end of last year, China was rocked by a wave of protest against the government’s stringent “zero-COVID” policy. The uprising was triggered in part by a horrific fire in an apartment block in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang, that killed and injured many Uyghurs trapped under lockdown in their apartments. The protests, combined with the failure of zero-COVID to stop the spread of the omicron variant, led the government to abandon its policy of mass testing and lockdowns and open up the country, leading now to mass infection and death. All these developments focused attention on the broader plight of China’s population of 12 million Uyghurs — a mostly Muslim and Turkic-speaking ethnic group that has been subjected within China to settler colonialism, impoverishment, surveillance, mass internment, family separation and forced labor. Predictably, the U.S. and other Western governments, which have been complicit in these horrors, have weaponized the issue of Uyghur oppression to add fuel to their growing inter-imperial rivalry with China. Many on the left have rightly criticized Washington for its blatant hypocrisy, exemplified by its unrelenting support for Israel’s brutal oppression of Palestinians. In doing so, however, some have erred in excusing China’s oppression of Uyghurs and accepted its various justifications of modernization, development, Islamophobia and counterterrorism. But the words of Martin Luther King Jr. remain as true as ever: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” read the complete article

United States

17 Jan 2023

Showing the Prophet Muhammad’s Paintings in a Classroom is Not Islamophobic

Hamline University in Minnesota has fired adjunct art professor Erika Lopez Prater for showing 14th-century paintings of the Prophet Muhammad in class. The University asserts that the professor’s act is Islamophobic and that bringing the artwork to the classroom with Muslim students breached the limits of academic freedom. The facts do not suggest that Professor Prater is hostile to Islam or that she blatantly ignored the religious sensitivities of Muslim students in the class. Several writers have rightfully come to defend Professor Prater. This commentary furnishes a framework of background concepts for understanding the Hamline-Prater controversy, an understanding needed in the present and future cases so that Islamophobia is not inflated to punish instructors for using teaching materials they, in good faith, deem appropriate. read the complete article

17 Jan 2023

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad busts 'the biggest myth' about female Muslim athletes

Olympic bronze medalist fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad knows that an act of kindness can change the world. And she is hoping to impart that message to as many children as possible. That’s why she wrote the book, “The Kindest Red: A Story of Hijab and Friendship,” which came out earlier this month. It’s the sequel to her New York Times children’s bestseller, “The Proudest Blue.” The book tells the story of a young girl, Faizah, who can’t wait for picture day at school. She plans on wearing a special red dress that was passed down from her mother and sister. But when it’s time for sibling pictures, Faizah realizes that she and her older sister, Asiya, don’t match like her classmates do with their siblings. With the help of her classmates, and inspired by Asiya’s hijab, Faizah learns how kindness can make a big difference. Know Your Value recently chatted with Muhammad, 37, about her new book, her upbringing in a predominantly-white New Jersey suburb, the biggest myth facing female Muslim athletes, what’s next for the Olympic medalist and more. read the complete article

17 Jan 2023

After Lecturer Sues, Hamline University Walks Back Its ‘Islamophobic’ Comments

Hamline University officials made an about-face on Tuesday in its treatment of a lecturer who showed an image of the Prophet Muhammad in an art history class, walking back one of their most controversial statements — that showing the image was Islamophobic. They also said that respect for Muslim students should not have superseded academic freedom. University officials changed their stance after the lecturer, who lost her teaching job, sued the small Minnesota school for religious discrimination and defamation. “Like all organizations, sometimes we misstep,” said a statement from Ellen Watters, the chair of the university’s board of trustees, and Fayneese S. Miller, the president. “In the interest of hearing from and supporting our Muslim students, language was used that does not reflect our sentiments on academic freedom. Based on all that we have learned, we have determined that our usage of the term ‘Islamophobic’ was therefore flawed.” read the complete article

17 Jan 2023

I opened the detention facility at Guantánamo. It’s time to close it

This month marks 20 years since I, as a newly minted marine brigadier general, watched from the bridge of an Air Force C-17 as we began our approach toward the Guantánamo Naval Station Airfield. Our mission was to set up a detention facility for prisoners captured in Afghanistan; we were tasked with preparing to secure at least 100 prisoners within 96 hours. The mission’s duration was to be 60 days, at which time we would be relieved by an Army-led Joint Task Force. No one expected the detention facility to be around more than a year. Twenty years and four administrations later, it is time to finally shut down the facility. Though Guantánamo has long been used by U.S. administrations to house Caribbean migrants until their situations could be sorted out, the decision to use it as a detention facility for Islamic terrorists was hurried and ignored longstanding U.S and international norms for handling prisoners. Still, 35 prisoners remain at Gitmo. They have been largely forgotten by the American people, though not by the rest of the world, which sees their incarceration as a renunciation of the values for which we profess to stand. Twenty of these prisoners have been recommended for release. But remain locked away at a cost of $540 million a year. The cost we incur to our reputation and credibility is harder to quantify — but much more damaging. Future elected leaders, diplomats and service members will all have to deal with the legacy of Guantánamo. read the complete article

South Korea

17 Jan 2023

Islamophobia: Pig heads left outside a mosque in South Korea

A group of Muslim students living in Daegu, South Korea have been meeting to pray at a home near their university since 2014. In late 2020, they got permission to renovate the house and turn it into a mosque to better accommodate Muslims in the area. But their plans have been hampered by resistance from locals which has, at times, turned into open Islamophobia. In 2021, protesters in front of the prayer site called students "terrorists" and signs calling Islam "an evil religion" were posted outside. Then, in December 2022, those opposed to the development organised a barbecue and pig roast right in front of the site. Three pig heads currently sit outside, facing the students' temporary prayer space. The South Korean Human Rights Commission called the demonstrations against the mosque discriminatory in October 2021. read the complete article

United Kingdom

17 Jan 2023

John Yems: Ex-Crawley Town boss used highly offensive racist language to players, says FA report

Ex-Crawley Town manager John Yems used "offensive, racist and Islamophobic" language and joked that a Muslim player was a terrorist, according to a Football Association report. Yems, 63, was banned from football for 18 months after admitting one charge and being found guilty of 11 others of racist abuse towards his players. Four further charges were found to be unproven by an FA tribunal. A further charge against Yems relating to racial segregation was dropped. In publishing the written reasons for his ban, the FA disciplinary commission "accepted that Mr Yems is not a conscious racist". "Nevertheless, Mr Yems' 'banter' undoubtedly came across to the victims and others as offensive, racist and Islamophobic," the report said. "Mr Yems simply paid no regard to the distress which his misplaced jocularity was causing." The FA said the case was "extremely serious" and "involved racist bullying over a significant period of time". read the complete article


17 Jan 2023

HRW accuses Bangladesh police unit of ‘rampant’ Rohingya abuse

An elite Bangladesh police unit is engaged in the “rampant” extortion, harassment and wrongful arrests of the Rohingya refugees it has been tasked with protecting, Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleges. The Armed Police Battalion (APBn) operates in camps housing nearly one million members of the stateless minority, most of whom fled neighbouring Myanmar after a military crackdown that is now the subject of a genocide investigation by the United Nations. Refugees and humanitarian workers told the New York-based human rights watchdog that safety had deteriorated after the unit took charge of camp security in 2020. In a report outlining police conduct and released by HRW on Tuesday, some Rohingya said abuses had become “a regular occurrence”. “Abuses by police in the Cox’s Bazar camps have left Rohingya refugees suffering at the hands of the very forces who are supposed to protect them,” HRW Asia researcher Shayna Bauchner said. The rights group said it had spoken to dozens of Rohingya refugees living in the sprawling and overcrowded camp network in southeastern Bangladesh and documented at least 16 cases of serious abuse by battalion officers. read the complete article


17 Jan 2023

Virgin Mary, Sufism and flamenco: Lost Muslim influences in Spain

The Virgin Mary has a uniquely exalted place within Islam - an overlooked and sometimes simplified commonality between Islam and Christianity, particularly Catholicism. Both Abrahamic faiths designate Mary or Maryam as the mother of Jesus and both revere her as one of the greatest women in their respective traditions. It is no surprise then that in lands historically shared by Christians and Muslims there is a tradition of devotional practices common to both faiths, particularly in the land of "la convivencia" (coexistence), or Al Andalus. The name "Al Andalus" refers to the collective of Muslim-ruled taifas, or mini-Islamic kingdoms, in the Iberian Peninsula between 711 and 1492 CE, whose boundaries constantly changed as the Christian conquest of the region, or Reconquista, progressed. Christian control over Spain was followed by the vicious and merciless Inquisition, which started in 1478 and only disbanded in 1834. Those in charge of the Inquisition sought to expunge Spain of anything that was deemed not Spanish or Christian. Many of the victims of these attacks and investigations were native Iberian Jews and Muslims. The persecution of these groups was formative in the creation of Spanish identity, as one rooted firmly in Christianity. Ultimately, it did not matter where you were born, if you did not abide by the Inquisition’s stringent brand of Catholicism, you were not Spanish. It was the Inquisition that forced many Muslims and Jews underground, as crypto-Muslims and Jews - people who outwardly practiced Catholicism but held to their original religions in secret. Notably, it was during this period of forced occultation that many of the customs, traditions and art styles associated with Spain manifested. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 18 Jan 2023 Edition


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