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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27 Jan 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, PM Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and allied Hindu supremacist organizations are waging a culture war against Bollywood, meanwhile in Sweden, a public desecration of a copy of the Quran in the Hague earlier this week has impacted not only Muslims within the country, but the entire society at large, and in Canada, advocacy groups across the country have welcomed the appointment of Amira Elghawaby as the first representative of the country to officially combat the spread of Islamophobia. Our recommended read of the day is by The Bridge Initiative’s Mobashra Tazamal for Middle East Eye on how Rasmus Paludan’s Quran burning in Sweden wasn’t an act of free expression, but a conscious attack on Muslims within the country and beyond. This and more below:


26 Jan 2023

The Quran burning incident in Sweden is hate speech, not free speech | Recommended Read

For at least the past two decades, a recurring episode of Islamophobia has taken place in Europe. This is how it generally follows: some far-right figure looking to garner attention and cause controversy carries out a spectacle (i.e. burning the Quran) aimed at generating controversy and antagonising billions of Muslims around the globe. When Muslims call attention to the act, rightly describing it as hate speech, the said far-right individual, with backing from authorities, immediately pulls out the freedom of expression card. That’s exactly what happened this past weekend when Danish-Swedish far-right politician, Rasmus Paludan, carried out the vile act of burning the Quran, the holy book for Muslims who believe it to be the word of God. It’s no coincidence that Paludan, who has previously been found guilty of racism, and other far-right figures choose the Quran as a target of their hate. They are very well aware of the weight the holy book carries in the lives and identities of billions of Muslims, so the decision to burn the Quran is a calculated one. Paludan has a documented history of racist and Islamophobic rhetoric, as well as engaging in sexually explicit conversations with minors. The repeat offender has called for the banning and expulsion of Muslims and has described Islam as an "evil and primitive religion". The Extremist Monitoring Analysis Network reports that the far-right politician has previously called the Quran "the great whore book" and "urged followers to urinate on it". Given these very clear anti-Muslim views, Paludan’s decision (time and time again) to burn the Quran is driven by Islamophobic hate. The far-right figure didn’t carry out this act to express his right to free expression, he initiated the Quran burning because he sought to attack Muslims. read the complete article

United States

26 Jan 2023

Trump to return to Meta platform Facebook after two-year ban

The social media giant Meta has announced that it is ending a two-year suspension of former United States President Donald Trump from its Facebook and Instagram platforms. Calling the suspension an “extraordinary decision taken in extraordinary circumstances”, Meta issued a press release on its website on Wednesday saying it would allow Trump to return to its platforms “in the coming weeks”. “Social media is rooted in the belief that open debate and the free flow of ideas are important values, especially at a time when they are under threat in many places around the world,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, wrote in the release. The suspension was initially enacted on January 7, 2021, the day after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential elections, which the Republican had lost to Democrat Joe Biden. The company has faced criticism for not doing more to censor hate speech, misinformation and other violations of its content rules. In 2021, for instance, Rohingya refugees filed a lawsuit against the Facebook owner for its alleged role in promoting violence against the ethnic group in Myanmar. read the complete article

25 Jan 2023

A stranger planned to bomb my mosque. He became a member instead.

Several years ago, an unfamiliar man showed up at my little mosque, a squat brick building on the side of a four-lane highway in Muncie, Ind. He had a large U.S. Marine Corps logo and a sketch of a small skull with a lightning bolt tattooed on his right arm. His face was flush, he barely made eye contact, and his fists were clenched. He seemed angry. Naturally, we saw potential danger. In these days of intense cultural division, hatred against Muslims is palpable, and our places of worship have been the targets of terrible crimes. But we also sensed vulnerability in this stranger. My husband, an Afghan refugee and a gentle physician, welcomed the man with a heartfelt hug. Later, I sat alone with him in our mosque library — to share a smile and ask his name, to offer comfort and show him respect. As the stranger and I sat on a green vinyl couch, surrounded by leather-bound books, he finally started to make eye contact. I learned that his name was Richard “Mac” McKinney, that he had served 25 years in the military, and that he had a wife and daughter. Over the next few weeks, Mac began making regular visits to the mosque, joining us for meals and sharing stories about his family and his time in the military. I continually looked for ways to help him feel valued by entrusting him with responsibilities around the mosque: leading meetings, participating in prayers, even standing by the door as our resident security guard. I could tell this gave him a sense of purpose. Not long after that, he joined our community of about 200 by becoming a member of the mosque. “Is it true, Richard?” I asked. “Were you planning to kill us?” He looked down. He was ashamed but answered honestly. He confessed that when he had first arrived at the mosque, he had planned to murder us by blowing up the building with an IED he had built himself. “What were you thinking, Brother Richard?” He explained that in the military, he had been at war with Muslims for years, and that he had developed a deep hatred in his heart. But he went on to say that the way we had treated him, with compassion and kindness, had changed his mind. He said we had given him a place to belong. We had shown him what true humanity is about. read the complete article

26 Jan 2023

Covid Cases Spread to 9/11 Defendants at Guantánamo Bay

Four of the five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have contracted Covid, according to legal staff members, as the coronavirus continued to move through a maximum-security prison for former C.I.A. detainees at Guantánamo Bay. The prisoner accused of masterminding the attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, has not tested positive for the virus. But the other four defendants in the capital case have flulike symptoms and are in quarantine, the staff members said. Another detainee accused of being a terrorist leader, an Indonesian man known as Hambali, who lives on the same tier as Mr. Mohammed, tested positive on Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of meetings between prisoners and defense lawyers scheduled for the rest of the week. The outbreak apparently began in the adjacent Camp 6 prison, which holds 20 general population prisoners who have been approved for transfer with security assurances. read the complete article


26 Jan 2023

Modi's government blocks a documentary critical of the prime minister

NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute Sadanand Dhume about India's Modi government censoring a new BBC documentary that critiques the prime minister. SHAPIRO: Student activists have kept screening the documentary across the country in protest of the censorship. How is the rest of India responding? DHUME: It's very much a polarized country at this moment. And as you would imagine in a polarized country, the responses really break down largely on political lines. Many of Mr. Modi's supporters view this as India standing up for itself and speaking back to the former colonial master. And many other people, particularly people who are affiliated with the opposition, think it's absolutely appalling that the government has blocked the documentary and is making efforts to prevent Indians from viewing it. SHAPIRO: You know, people often call India the world's largest democracy. What does this episode tell us about the country under Modi? DHUME: Well, I think India is the world's largest democracy if you look at democracy in narrow terms - in terms of voting. More than 600 million people voted in the last Indian general election in 2019. But if you look at democracy in terms of the protection of individual rights and if you look at things like freedom of speech and freedom of the press, then the situation in India does not look that great. I mean, what kind of democracy stops people from watching a documentary? I think there's no way around that. read the complete article

26 Jan 2023

India Banned a BBC Documentary Critical of Modi. Here's How People Are Watching Anyway

A local branch of the opposition Congress Party in the southern state of Kerala screened the banned BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, NDTV reported. The outlet said that Thursday’s screening was one of many organized by Congress, other opposition parties, and free speech activists across India. Thursday’s screening comes a day after New Delhi police, clad in riot gear and equipped with tear gas, arrested nearly a dozen students at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university ahead of a planned screening. Police have not confirmed the number of detainees and they are being prevented from meeting lawyers, an activist wrote on Twitter. Authorities at the University of Hyderabad are also investigating a screening of the documentary on Saturday. On Tuesday evening, students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi said that power and internet had been cut at the campus in a bid to prevent them from screening the documentary. According to the BBC, there was a heavy police presence at the JNU campus and a group of 20-30 people threw stones at students. Below, what to know about the documentary, and how people are circumnavigating the ban. read the complete article

26 Jan 2023

How Bollywood Rolled Over to Hindu Supremacists

In a meeting between the film industry’s bigwigs and Yogi Adityanath, a powerful far-right monk-turned-politician, Shetty highlighted how Bollywood was reeling from a campaign of hate. He begged Adityanath, who is seen as a possible successor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to make it go away. “It can stop if you say something about it.” The macho star’s meek entreaties may have felt out of character, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Bollywood has fallen on hard times. Trade analysts are calling 2022 Hindi cinema’s worst year. Most films tanked and the industry is estimated to have lost $250 million. A major, overlooked feature is Hindu supremacists turning up the heat on India’s greatest cultural export. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and allied Hindu supremacist organizations are waging a culture war against Bollywood. The Hindi movie industry’s pluralistic and liberal ethos—Bollywood’s three leading men are Muslims—is resented by India’s current rulers, who aim to remake the secular republic as a Hindu state by rallying the majority Hindus against its Muslim and Christian minorities, and usurp Bollywood’s outsized cultural influence for that purpose. Hindi filmmakers and producers are now forced to exercise caution in the themes they choose, the way they tell the story, and the religion of the cast, lest their films “hurt Hindu sentiments”—and unleash a mob on them for not keeping with Hindu supremacist tastes. Amazon has had to cut scenes from a television drama depicting a Muslim actor dressed as a Hindu deity. Netflix got hell for an inter-faith kissing scene in one of its shows. read the complete article

26 Jan 2023

India’s government wants to decide what is true. That’s dangerous.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology filed a draft amendment last week to a recent media law that could have sweeping consequences for free expression in the world’s largest democracy. According to the proposed language, any information marked as “fake” by the fact-checking division of India’s Press Information Bureau will need to be taken down by “online intermediaries,” a category that would include social media companies. This latest move potentially casts a pall over journalism in the country. Two industry associations — the Editors Guild of India and Digipub, a group of news sites in India — have published strong statements arguing that the amendment could give arbitrary and discretionary power to the Indian government. And they are right to be concerned. Within a few days of mooting the amendments, the Indian government contacted Twitter to take down posts linking to a BBC documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his role in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom. The government has reportedly invoked emergency powers under a related IT law. The new amendments can only strengthen the censors’ hand in these matters. read the complete article


27 Jan 2023

How International Legal Interventions Can Help Pressure Myanmar’s Military

August 2022 marked the fifth anniversary of the Rohingya genocide, during which Myanmar’s military and affiliated groups killed over 20,000 Rohingya civilians and forced over 740,000 more to flee Rakhine State over the border into Bangladesh. With that anniversary came pledges from the United Kingdom and Germany to formally intervene in The Gambia v. Myanmar Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a show of support. Civil society welcomed those announcements, but if recent history is any indicator, we shouldn’t hold our breath for either London or Berlin to make good on their promises. After all, Canada and the Netherlands pledged back in September 2020 to formally intervene in the case, but they still haven’t either. August 2022 marked the fifth anniversary of the Rohingya genocide, during which Myanmar’s military and affiliated groups killed over 20,000 Rohingya civilians and forced over 740,000 more to flee Rakhine State over the border into Bangladesh. With that anniversary came pledges from the United Kingdom and Germany to formally intervene in The Gambia v. Myanmar Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a show of support. Civil society welcomed those announcements, but if recent history is any indicator, we shouldn’t hold our breath for either London or Berlin to make good on their promises. After all, Canada and the Netherlands pledged back in September 2020 to formally intervene in the case, but they still haven’t either. read the complete article

26 Jan 2023

Rise of Islamophobia in Europe related to rise of nationalism, says anti-Islamophobia group

The rise of Islamophobia in Europe is intrinsically related to the rise of nationalism in European countries, according to a report by a Belgium-based anti-Islamophobia group. The Collective for Countering Islamophobia in Europe (CCIE) said in a report on Wednesday that there was a "remarkable rise of Islamophobia and the policies that it inspires, in 2022." Underlining that Islamophobia in Europe was often denied and minimized, the organization said that this did not help much to stop the rise of the far right. It urged the EU Commission to designate a coordinator on anti-Muslim hatred, to "fight effectively against far-right-spurred hatred and racism," and end to suspicions "stemming from the fight against radicalization and separatism." For the CCIE, more needs to be done to fight discrimination against Muslims in recruitment and education. The group said it received 787 alerts of Islamophobic cases throughout 2022, including of 527 Islamophobic acts, 467 acts of discrimination, 128 of provocation, 71 of insulting, 59 of moral harassment, 44 of defamation, 27 of physical violence, and 33 linked to the fight against radicalization and separatism. read the complete article

27 Jan 2023

Islamophobia makes democracies less safe for everyone

Earlier this week in the Hague, in an act that made America’s right-wing politicians look like paragons of religious tolerance, Edwin Wagensveid, the Dutch leader of the far-fight Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) group, publicly desecrated a copy of Islam’s holy book and published a video of the hateful act on social media. This followed an incident over the weekend in which Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), burned a Quran near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. Beyond this familiar pattern of Islamophobic provocation-Muslim rage-Western condescension, do such acts of provocation targeting vulnerable minorities have any effect on the societies in which they occur? Should non-Muslims living in Western societies care if a holy book they don’t believe in is used in a hateful publicity stunt. Yes, they should. Because the propagation of Islamophobia makes democracies less free and less safe – not only for Muslims, but for everyone. Our research also demonstrated that Islamophobia doesn’t just make democracies less free and more bigoted. It makes them less safe – and not just in the ways many assume. Yes, deviants claiming to act in the name of Islam do use Western anti-Muslim political rhetoric to recruit people to their violent cause. But that’s far from the greatest risk. We found that endorsing anti-Muslim ideas like “Muslims are more prone to violence than other people” or “Most Muslims are hostile toward the United States” ironically coincides with condoning the very acts those who hold these views pin on Muslims: deliberate attacks on and killing of civilians by a military, considered a war crime, and also by a small group or an individual, usually called “terrorism”. The rise in white supremacist violence in the United States as the number one terrorist threat to American lives in the Trump era should therefore be no surprise. read the complete article


26 Jan 2023

This school board just became the 1st in Canada to adopt a strategy to fight Islamophobia

Six years ago, a school board west of Toronto was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Security had to be stepped up after racist outbursts at board meetings, a man was filmed tearing pages out of a Qur'an during discussions about religious accommodations, and Muslim students were told they would have to choose from sermons approved by the board for their Friday prayers. Today, the Peel District School Board (PDSB) is the first in Canada to adopt a strategy aimed at dismantling Islamophobia and affirming the identity of Muslims students, who comprise the largest reported faith-based identity at the board — about a quarter of its student population. And the timing isn't without significance, said the National Council of Canadian Muslims. "The PDSB has set a tremendous example with this anti-Islamophobia strategy that other school boards across the country would be wise to study, examine and follow," the council's education director, Aasiyah Khan, said in a news release. "It's really fitting that this announcement is being made in the lead-up to the sixth anniversary of the Quebec City shooting, which really changed this country," she added. "This is a historic step forward." read the complete article

26 Jan 2023

Amira Elghawaby appointed as Canada’s first anti-Islamophobia advisor

Canada has appointed human rights activist Amira Elghawaby as the country’s first special representative on combating Islamophobia, a move hailed as a “turning point” in the fight against hate in the country. Prime minister Justin Trudeau announced her appointment on Thursday, calling it an “important step in our fight against Islamophobia and hatred in all its forms”. The award-winning journalist and human rights advocate will fill the post to “serve as a champion, advisor, expert and representative to support and enhance the federal government’s efforts in the fight against Islamophobia, systemic racism, racial discrimination and religious intolerance”, a statement by the prime minister’s office said. “Diversity truly is one of Canada’s greatest strengths, but for many Muslims, Islamophobia is all too familiar. We need to change that. No one in our country should experience hatred because of their faith,” Mr Trudeau said in a statement. Her appointment comes after the federal government announced in June that it was seeking to induct its first anti-Islamophobia representative. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 27 Jan 2023 Edition


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