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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20 Jan 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, the New York Times obtained and released newly declassified drone video showing the moments before and after a US drone strike in Kabul last August that killed 10 civilians as American forces withdrew from Afghanistan, meanwhile in France, the Senate has voted in favor of banning the wearing of headscarves in sports competitions, and lastly rights organizations and whistleblowers are renewing calls for Facebook to release a long-awaited report on its impact in India. Our recommended read of the day is by Hafsa Lodi for Stylist on how the balaclava trend highlights the double-standards of the fashion industry, noting that “some segments of society are free to dip in and out of style trends that cover their hair, but those who chose to commit to hair-covering for religious or cultural reasons, remain ostracized.” This and more below:


20 Jan 2022

“Balaclavas don’t get banned, but hijabs do”: why some Muslim women are finding the balaclava trend problematic | Recommended Read

Hair-topping headwear has become increasingly en vogue. Yet hijabs, despite having gained more representation in fashion, are for the most part excluded from this narrative of normalised, mainstream headwear. So when balaclavas, which essentially cover the same area as a hijab, recently began trending on TikTok, many Muslim women were quick to point out the similarities between the two accessories, and the opposing connotations they held. One is being deemed fashionable, while the other is often a symbol of oppression or extremism in the mainstream Western media, and has provoked widespread bans in many European countries. “A balaclava is trendy but a hijab is a threat, sad society,” tweeted one user. Regardless of why Muslim women may choose to cover their hair – be it for religious beliefs, cultural customs or political statements, hijab, like overall modesty, is a personal decision and journey. But the spotlight on turbans, headscarves, bonnets and balaclavas in fashion has raised concern over how we endorse and celebrate body autonomy. Some segments of society are free to dip in and out of style trends that cover their hair, but those who chose to commit to hair-covering for religious or cultural reasons, remain ostracised. Diverse, scarfed faces on billboards and magazine covers are great, but what is the point of inclusion if it’s reserved solely for the realm of star-studded, high-fashion glamour? Why is it “mysterious” and “artistic” when Kim Kardashian dons an all-black, face-covering get-up to the Met Gala, but barbaric when a Muslim woman makes the decision to cover her body in a burqa? read the complete article

20 Jan 2022

Declassified footage shows disastrous US drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 civilians

Newly declassified drone video shows the tense moments before and after a controversial US military strike in Kabul last August that killed 10 civilians as American forces withdrew from Afghanistan. The clips, obtained by TheNew York Times as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against US Central Command, show two angles on the attack captured by MQ-9 Reaper drones. The footage shows grainy images of figures walking in and out of frame, before a missile incinerates a Toyota sedan parked in a dense residential neighbourhood. Intelligence officials believed that a Toyota was going to be used in the ISIS plot, and began surveilling the one ultimately struck in the drone attack, watching as it visited a purported ISIS safe house. Instead, the drones took out Zemari Ahmadi, an aid worker with Nutrition and Education International, an organisation that worked with refugees and other vulnerable people inside the country. Facing an outcry inside Afghanistan and beyond after the strike, the military later acknowledged it made intelligence errors as they planned the attack, and disclosed they weren’t aware of the identity of the driver of the car they blew up before pulling the trigger. The US has been roundly criticised for using so-called “signature strikes”, where individuals are targeted not because their identities and intentions are known based on concrete intelligence, but because they fit a pattern of likely threat to US forces. Such strikes, as well as the US war effort in the Middle East at large since 9/11, has killed more than 363,000 civilians since 2001, according to a recent Independent analysis of the last 20 years of the “war on terror”. “It’s a manifestation of the project of elite impunity that has always run through this entire enterprise and a manifestation of American exceptionalism, whereby the people that America kills are not somehow as real human beings as Americans are,” Pulitzer Prize-winning national security reporter Spencer Ackerman, author of Reign of Terror, a recent history of the war on terror, told The Independent after the strike. read the complete article

20 Jan 2022

Do Uyghur Lives Matter to Americans?

Do Uyghur lives matter to Americans? Uyghurs are an ethnic minority group that China’s Communist regime subjugates in internment camps. Their plight is top of mind this week because a figure with ties to the NBA is enmeshed in a controversy about whether we should care. In a recent podcast interview (condensed in the transcript below to eliminate cross talk from other participants), Chamath Palihapitiya––a part owner of the Golden State Warriors, the CEO of Social Capital, and a member of Virgin Galactic’s board––reacted in the following way to the claim that Joe Biden did a good thing by criticizing China’s mass internment of Uyghur Muslims: "Let’s be honest: Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? You bring it up because you really care, and I think that’s nice, that you care. The rest of us don’t care." After another participant in the podcast asserted that it’s a sad state of global affairs when guarantees in the Declaration of Human Rights take a back seat to “tactical and strategic issues,” Palihapitiya responded, “That’s a luxury belief,” a perspective that he then expounded on: "The reason I think it is a luxury belief is that we don’t do enough domestically to actually express that view in real tangible ways. So until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside of our borders, with us sort of like morally virtue-signaling about somebody else’s human-rights track record, is deplorable....So if you want to talk about the human rights of people, I think we have a responsibility to take care of our own backyard first. First. And then we can go and basically morally tell other people how they should be running their own countries." Still, I think this controversy illustrates the utility of freewheeling podcasts: Palihapitiya expressed a politically incorrect view that, his own beliefs aside, many people obviously share, given their revealed preferences. I’m glad that he didn’t conform to prevailing sensitivities and suppress his controversial view. By uttering it, he gave people who disagree a chance to respond with the reasons they find his thinking to be wrongheaded––and many have responded. Indeed, the plight of the Uyghurs made a lot more headlines this week as a result of his honesty. read the complete article

United States

20 Jan 2022

Biden nominates Muslim woman to the federal bench, a first in US history as he diversifies the judiciary

President Joe Biden nominated a Muslim woman for a federal judgeship for the first time in U.S. history Wednesday as part of his administration's push to reshape the federal judiciary with diversity. Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, is Biden's nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. If confirmed by the Senate, Choudhury would become the first Muslim woman to serve as a federal judge and the first Bangladeshi American. The latest round of eight nominations – the 13th since Biden took office one year ago – brings Biden's total judicial nominees to 83 and continues his administration's efforts to put more women and judges of color on the federal bench. read the complete article

20 Jan 2022

NJ Prosecutor Won't Seek Criminal Charges in 2nd-Grader's Hijab Pull Case

The Essex County prosecutor's office said Wednesday it will not seek criminal charges in the case of an elementary school teacher who a parent accused of forcibly removing her daughter's hijab during class last fall. The second-grade teacher at Maplewood's Seth Boyden Elementary School had denied the incident occurred amid mounting calls for her firing a few months ago. Tamar Herman had said she thought her student was wearing a hooded sweatshirt; she said she didn't realize it was the traditional veil worn by many Muslim women. The county prosecutor's office, which is responsible for investigating local bias crimes, launched a probe shortly after the allegations surfaced in early October and continued its assessment for a few months. It ultimately concluded there was insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution in the case, prosecutors said in their Wednesday statement. They said they conducted a "full investigation and a thorough review of all the available evidence" before reaching that decision. read the complete article

20 Jan 2022

Despite criticisms, CAIR controversial only to vocal few, its leaders say

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) — recently a subject of national and local news after one of its Ohio leaders was fired for spying on it for an anti-Muslim organization — is no stranger to criticism. After one of its own, Romin Iqbal, the executive director of the organization's Ohio chapter, was outed in December as a suspected spy for the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), the rumors and accusations flew once again. Leaders of CAIR say its critics are few, but outspoken, and that those who know it are supportive of its work. After one of its own, Romin Iqbal, the executive director of the organization's Ohio chapter, was outed in December as a suspected spy for the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), the rumors and accusations flew once again. Leaders of CAIR say its critics are few, but outspoken, and that those who know it are supportive of its work. Zareena Grewal, an associate professor at Yale University and historical anthropologist who studies American Muslim communities, said that whatever people think of CAIR’s political vision or efficacy, the group has a recognizability and credibility in mosques and Muslim communities that no other national Muslim organization has. “When people are in trouble, CAIR, they are kind of the first responders,” she said. Defending individuals in civil rights cases — such as if someone is fired for wearing a hijab — is the sort of thing CAIR has done from the beginning, Mitchell said. Mogahed, of ISPU, said she doesn’t know any Muslim leaders who think the group is polarizing or that its leaders are involved in Hamas. “This view is considered an unfounded Islamophobic smear meant to weaken Muslim civil rights in our country,” she said. “Moreover, with legislation like the Patriot Act which gives government sweeping and even unconstitutional powers to close down organizations for the most minor infraction, the very fact that the organization continues to exist is proof of the falsehood of this accusation.” read the complete article


20 Jan 2022

Facebook stalling report on human rights impact in India, allege whistleblowers

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen and other prominent whistleblowers have renewed calls for Facebook to release a long-awaited report on its impact in India, alleging the company is purposely obscuring human rights concerns. More than 20 organizations on Wednesday joined whistleblowers Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang, as well as former Facebook vice-president Brian Boland, to demand the company, now called Meta, release its findings. “As a result of the consistent and continuous barrage of hate on social media, particularly on Facebook, Indian Muslims have been practically dehumanized and rendered helpless and voiceless,” said Zafarul-Islam Khan, a former chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, speaking at a press briefing organized by Facebook critics known as the Real Facebook Oversight Board. Meta had commissioned law firm Foley Hoag in 2020 to carry out an independent review of its impact in India – the company’s largest market at 340m users – but its release has repeatedly been delayed, activists allege. Calls for more information on how hate speech plays out on Meta platforms in India intensified when Haugen leaked internal documents in 2021 showing how the the company struggles to monitor problematic content in countries with large user bases. The papers revealed in particular how users in India were inundated with fake news, hate speech including anti-Muslim posts and bots interfering with elections. These papers underscored an ongoing critique that the company does not allocate proportional resources to its larger, non-English markets. Haugen revealed in her papers and testimony to Congress that Facebook has earmarked only 13% of its global misinformation budget to non-US countries, though Americans make up just 10% of its active daily user base. read the complete article


20 Jan 2022

Olympics tempt businesses to ignore China Uyghur abuses in Xinjiang

China has been accused of slavery and genocide in the Xinjiang region but that’s a far cry from the way it’s being painted ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics. The country is predicted to be the biggest snow sports market in the world by 2025 and with Xinjiang home to some of the best snow in China, it’s trying to attract new business. But consumers and western governments have put pressure on brands to cut ties with the region over China’s suppression of its Uyghur and mostly-Muslim populations. read the complete article


20 Jan 2022

27% of religious hate crimes in Sweden target its tiny Jewish community

Antisemitic incidents accounted for 27% of all religious hate crimes in 2020 in Sweden, where Jews make up 0.1% of the population. Hate crimes against Muslims, who make up at least 8% of the population, accounted for 51% of the hate crimes against religious groups documented by police in 2020, according to a Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention report published last month. Anti-Christian hate crimes accounted for 11% of hate crimes targeting religious groups. In absolute numbers, 170 antisemitic hate crimes and 328 anti-Muslim crimes were documented in 2020. read the complete article


20 Jan 2022

France moves closer to banning veils in sports competitions

The French Senate has voted in favor of banning the wearing of headscarves in sports competitions, arguing that neutrality is a requirement on the field of play. The French upper legislative house voted late Tuesday in favor of amending a proposed law stipulating that the wearing “of conspicuous religious symbols is prohibited" to take part in events and competitions organized by sports federations. In their text, senators clearly said that the amendment aims at banning “the wearing of the veil in sports competitions." They added that headscarves can put at risk the safety of athletes wearing it when they practice their discipline. The amendment proposed by right-wing group Les Republicains and opposed by the French government was adopted with 160 votes in favor, and 143 against. A commission composed of members from the Senate and the lower house should now gather to find a compromise on the text before it is published, meaning the amendment can still be erased. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 20 Jan 2022 Edition


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