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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, a Portland, Oregon man is facing multiple federal hate crime charges, after authorities said he set fire to a Muslim center, and vandalized two synagogues and a Black-owned business., meanwhile in the UK, anti-racism groups and England’s Football Association (FA) are denouncing an independent panel’s finding that a British soccer manager who used “offensive, racist and Islamophobic” language is “not a conscious racist,” and in India, the Foreign Ministry has dismissed a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that investigates his role in the deadly 2002 Gujarat riots. Our recommended read of the day is by Dean Obeidallah for NBC News on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the Foreign Affairs Committee and his purported reasons that don’t seem to match Rep. Omar’s record. This and more below:

United States

19 Jan 2023

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s rationale for targeting Ilhan Omar isn’t believable | Recommended Read

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy recently confirmed his campaign pledge to remove Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar, Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from their respective committees. In all three cases, the ousters of these Democrats from Minnesota, California and California, respectively, aims to score political points with the GOP base. Schiff and Swalwell were both vocal critics of Donald Trump and House managers in the Senate’s impeachment trials of the former president. But Omar isn’t being targeted for trying to remove Trump. Rather, this Black, Muslim immigrant woman embodies much of what the GOP base hates rolled into one. Omar responded to McCarthy’s renewed pledge to strip her of her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee by telling HuffPost: “I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim.” As a fellow Muslim, Omar’s words ring true. For years I’ve covered how the GOP has weaponized anti-Muslim hate for political gain. The 2016 GOP presidential campaign, though, took attacks on Muslims to new levels, as candidates saw how the GOP base loved it. read the complete article

19 Jan 2023

Two years after US recognized Uyghur genocide, rights groups warn time is running out

Two years since then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s repression of the Uyghurs a genocide, rights groups and political leaders continue to demand an end to China’s human rights abuses. “Time is running out,” said Salih Hudayar, prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile and leader of the East Turkistan National Movement, at a news conference Thursday (Jan. 19). “If China’s genocidal policies and colonialism continue, Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples … will cease to exist as a people within 50 years.” China has long targeted Uyghurs in the East Turkistan/Xinjiang region, where there is a history of tensions between the group and the Chinese majority Han people. In response to the Uyghur independence movement and an uptick in Uyghur attacks against civilians in 2014 — which East Turkistan groups claim were actually carried out by Chinese intelligence operatives — President Xi Jinping began detaining reportedly more than 1 million Uyghers in prison-like camps for alleged infractions, ranging from having more than two children to wearing a headscarf. read the complete article

18 Jan 2023

How art of the prophet Muhammad threw a college into the national spotlight

Hamline University in Minnesota has been embroiled in controversy after an adjunct art history professor said she was dismissed following complaints over her use of images depicting the prophet Muhammad during a lecture last fall. In recent weeks, the incident at the small liberal arts college has spilled into broader view and raised questions about campus inclusion, religious discrimination and academic freedom. On Tuesday, attorneys for the professor, Erika López Prater, served Hamline with a lawsuit that, among other claims, alleges religious discrimination and defamation by the school. López Prater, through her lawyer, and Hamline University declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday. The situation has thrust Hamline, a private university in St. Paul that enrolls about 1,800 undergrads, into the national spotlight — for “all the wrong reasons,” the student newspaper lamented. Scholars in art history and other disciplines have been outraged by what they see as an affront to academic liberty and confused how sharing the medieval paintings of Muhammad made by Muslims could be construed as Islamophobic, as Hamline suggested before backtracking. Some of Hamline’s Muslim students, who are a minority at the school, and their allies have said that showing images of the prophet in any form is an attack on their core beliefs and that academic institutions have a right to restrict speech that creates a hateful or hostile environment. read the complete article

19 Jan 2023

Freedom, Tradition, and Precarity at Hamline University

Shortly before the end of 2022, a dramatic story of conflict in higher education hit the news. Initial headlines claimed, “An Academic Is Fired Over a Medieval Painting of the Prophet Muhammad,” and “PEN America Cites ‘Egregious Violation’ of Academic Freedom by Hamline University.” The story was that a Muslim student at Hamline University complained after having been shown a medieval painting by a Muslim artist in an art history class, and that the instructor of the course was subsequently fired. Numerous responses started appearing. A petition was circulated. Weeks later, the name of the instructor in question was revealed, and eventually she spoke up in an online conversation about the incident posted to YouTube. Following this story made me feel anxious, to say the least. When I read about how Professor López Prater had framed the issue of showing the image, I thought, that could have been me. I would have done the same thing. I would have done so with the privilege of tenure, which is an incredibly important distinction in this case. But, as I watched the coverage of the incident, I was also frustrated at what seemed to be a conversation that just wasn’t adding up. The various perspectives involved were not connecting with one another. In the responses to previous controversies involving images of the Prophet Muhammad, proponents of free speech on one side made claims that “Islam must open itself to critique”; diverse voices from within the Islamic tradition claimed alternately that 1.) images of the Prophet were in fact forbidden and 2.) images of the Prophet were not in fact forbidden. And many of those same points have been repeated in this most recent incident. How do we put these pieces together in order to form a more constructive dialogue? What else do we need to consider in order to think most fully about what happened at Hamline? What does this incident tell us about the intersection of religion with other identities, dynamics of power in higher education, and the study of religion in American higher education today? The study of religion can help us understand the intersecting issues and identities involved in this situation, and allow us to move forward while holding the complexity. read the complete article

19 Jan 2023

Man charged with hate crimes after Muslim center, Black-owned business, synagogues attacked

A Portland, Oregon, man is facing multiple federal hate crime charges, after authorities said he set fire to a Muslim center, and vandalized two synagogues and a Black-owned business. Michael Edgar Bivins, 34, is also facing 11 state charges, including one count of Arson in the First Degree, five counts of Criminal Mischief in the First Degree and five counts of Bias Crime in the Second Degree. Federal documents claim Bivins "defaced, damaged and destroyed" religious property at the Muslim Community Center of Portland on May 3. He allegedly used an accelerant to light the center on fire, causing damage to the building's exterior, authorities said. "Video surveillance captured a male, later identified as Bivins, pouring fluid on the northeast wall of the Center and subsequently throwing a matchbook on the liquid causing it to erupt in flames," according to the charges describing the incident. "Bivins can be seen briefly walking away from the fire and returning with a lit piece of cloth and throwing it in the area where he had poured the fluid." read the complete article

19 Jan 2023

Should religious, modest clothing be allowed with sports uniforms?

Water Canyon High School wrestler John West chooses to wear shorts over his wrestling uniform for his own modesty standards. “Exposing yourself should be a personal choice, like how much you do reveal and don’t reveal,” said Tadi West, the boy’s mother. A Utah lawmaker has a bill that would prevent schools from prohibiting student-athletes from wearing clothing for religious or modesty purposes while participating in sports. HB163, sponsored by Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, is designed to give students a voice in modesty standards and religious attire when competing in athletics. “I had more and more students reaching out to me of different faiths, who had had barriers and challenges in trying to participate in athletics,” Pierucci said. Utah isn’t the only state considering or passing laws creating such protections for people of faith. Illinois and Ohio adjusted school sports rules to ensure that young athletes can wear faith-related garb as they compete. “We decided one of the major issues we want to address is making sure every child has an opportunity to participate in athletics,” said Maaria Mozaffar, director of advocacy and policy for the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, to Religion News Service. Currently, rules regarding athletic uniforms vary among schools and school districts. The decision to allow modest or religious garments is left to a variety of people, including referees or umpires, coaches, principals or a school board. read the complete article

19 Jan 2023

Coronavirus Outbreak at Guantánamo Bay Halts Legal Meetings

Commanders at the prison at Guantánamo Bay abruptly canceled all legal meetings this week after at least two prisoners contracted the coronavirus, among them Abu Zubaydah, the first prisoner to be waterboarded by the C.I.A. in the war on terrorism, according to legal staff members. Military spokesmen did not respond to questions about the outbreak. But people with knowledge of operations said Abu Zubaydah, 51, whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Husayn, had become ill with the virus in the maximum-security prison called Camp 5. None of the legal staff members agreed to be identified because of the classified nature of Camp 5. Since 2021, it has housed 13 prisoners who were previously held by the C.I.A., including the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and detainees who have never been charged, including Abu Zubaydah. Several prisoners in Camp 5 have serious health issues, among them Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a former commander of insurgents in wartime Afghanistan who was scheduled to meet with his lawyers for the first time since he underwent emergency spine surgery in November. Mr. Hadi, who says his true name is Nashwan al Tamir, is in his 60s. He pleaded guilty in a war crimes case last year, and has a pre-sentencing hearing scheduled for Feb. 13. read the complete article


19 Jan 2023

India Slams BBC Documentary on 2002 Riots in Modi’s Home State

India dismissed as a “propaganda piece” a recently broadcast BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat riots and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the violence in his home state. More than 1,000 people — mostly Muslims — were killed in sectarian violence across the state after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was burned allegedly by a Muslim mob. Human rights groups blamed Modi for doing little to stop the violence, allegations that were denied by him and later dismissed by India’s Supreme Court. read the complete article

19 Jan 2023

India says BBC film on Modi’s role in Gujarat riots ‘propaganda’

India’s foreign ministry has dismissed as “propaganda” a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that questions his leadership during the deadly 2002 Gujarat riots. Modi was the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat when it was gripped by communal riots that left more than 1,000 people dead – most of them Muslims. The violence erupted after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, killing 59. The report of a United Kingdom inquiry showcased in the documentary refers to the events as a “systematic campaign of violence” which has “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing”, and places direct responsibility on Modi. The UK government report was never made public until it was revealed in the documentary. According to the documentary, released on Tuesday, the inquiry team claimed that Modi had prevented the police from acting to stop violence targeted at Muslims and cited sources as saying Modi had specifically ordered authorities not to intervene. Modi denied the accusations and was exonerated in 2012 following an inquiry by India’s top court. Another petition questioning his exoneration was dismissed last year. Terming the BBC documentary a “propaganda piece” meant to push a “discredited narrative”, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said “bias”, “lack of objectivity” and “continuing colonial mindset” is “blatantly visible” in it. read the complete article


19 Jan 2023

Muslim British national discriminated against at Paris restaurant

This British national was discriminated against and denied entry into a restaurant in Paris. Another French restaurant, CoCo Paris, was recently accused of racism for segregating its rooms for ‘white’ and ‘non-white’ customers. read the complete article

United Kingdom

19 Jan 2023

Backlash follows finding that soccer manager who used ‘offensive, racist and Islamophobic’ language is ‘not a conscious racist’

Anti-racism groups and England’s Football Association (FA) are denouncing an independent panel’s finding that a British soccer manager who used “offensive, racist and Islamophobic” language is “not a conscious racist.” Former Crawley Town FC manager John Yems was accused of making at least 16 offensive comments between 2019 and 2022, with each comment including “a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief and/or gender,” said the FA, English soccer’s governing body. The report, reviewed by CNN, outlines a number of clearly racist statements by Yems, including slurs and crude stereotypes of Black people, Muslims and people of Caribbean and South Asian origin. But despite the “offensive, racist and Islamophobic” comments, the panel – led by Robert Englehart KC and including Wolverhampton Wanderers FC general manager of football operations Matt Wild and Tony Agana, a former football player and specialist arbitrator on the FA Claims Panel – found Yems was not a “conscious racist” and did not merit a stronger punishment, such as a permanent suspension. Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out also criticized the panel’s findings, saying in a statement: “The discriminatory language outlined in The FA independent panel report is simply shocking. “Given the seriousness of the incidents detailed, it is very hard to understand how The FA independent panel have concluded that ‘Mr Yems is not a conscious racist.’ We do not share that viewpoint. The behaviour outlined in the report must be called out for exactly what it is, racism and Islamophobia. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 20 Jan 2023 Edition


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