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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03 Feb 2023

Today in Islamophobia: The EU has appointed a new anti-Islamophobia coordinator after a gap of 18 months of vacancy which many Muslim advocacy groups have criticized, meanwhile in the U.S., House Republicans voted to eject Representative Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs committee, a move many are calling Islamophobic, and in India, the BJP government is using the bulldozer to target Muslims, and nowhere is this more evident than in the state of Assam. Our recommended read of the day is by Asmaa Malik for the Toronto Star who argues that PM Justin Trudeau placed Amira Elghawaby, the newly appointed representative on combating Islamophobia, “directly into the line of fire” and fails to understand “how Muslim women are portrayed and positioned in Canadian politics and media.” This and more below:


01 Feb 2023

Justin Trudeau has unfairly set up Amira Elghawaby as a lone target | Recommended Read

Roberge, along with Quebec Premier François Legault, is calling for Elghawaby’s resignation as Canada’s newly appointed representative on combating Islamophobia. What really is odious, however, is gaslighting Canadians into believing Bill 21 is not anti-Muslim and has nothing to do with the public outrage targeting a visibly Muslim woman. In the lead-up to the 2021 federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who named Elghawaby to the strategic role, tossed word salads in response to questions about Bill 21, pandering to valuable (non-Muslim) Quebec voters. Elghawaby was appointed three days before the National Day of Remembrance in recognition of the Quebec City mosque massacre. Trudeau called Elghawaby’s new role as a federal policy and legislative adviser “an important step in our fight against Islamophobia and hatred in all its forms,” adding that he hoped “to continue building a country where everyone feels safe and respected.” However, the following day, in the wake of attacks from Quebec media and politicians, the PM placed Elghawaby directly in the line of fire, asking her to “clarify” the comments critical of Bill 21 in that 2019 op-ed, betraying a staggering lack of care and understanding of how Muslim women are portrayed and positioned in Canadian politics and media. It is almost impossible to imagine Trudeau and his staff had not anticipated a swift backlash from proponents of Quebec’s discriminatory law. The patterns of right-wing trolling of racialized women in Canada are well-documented. Several journalists, many of whom identify as Muslim women, have spoken publicly about orchestrated campaigns of online threats and violence. So, why would Trudeau single out a visibly Muslim woman to take on a mandate that would no doubt include a critique of Bill 21, which he himself has been skirting at every opportunity? Why set Elghawaby up as a lone target for gaslighting politicians, online trolls and right-wing media voices? read the complete article

02 Feb 2023

Trudeau anti-Islamophobia tsar Amira Elghawaby faces calls to resign

Canada's first-ever anti-Islamophobia tsar is facing calls to resign after an op-ed resurfaced in which she called Quebecers Islamophobic. Amira Elghawaby was appointed last week to the new position by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In 2019, she co-wrote an opinion piece attacking a Quebec law that banned public servants from wearing religious symbols, including hijabs. Last week, after her words resurfaced, she walked back her comments. She said her article was meant to be a criticism of the law, not Quebecers themselves. On Wednesday, amid mounting criticism, Ms Elghawaby apologised to Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, who is the head of Quebec's federal separatist party. But her apology did not immediately quell calls for her resignation. On Thursday, Mr Blanchet said Ms Elghawaby was "hostile to the values of Quebec" and urged Mr Trudeau to abolish the position entirely. Mr Trudeau said he supports Ms Elghawaby "100%", while adding that he did not agree with her op-ed. "Quebecers are not racist," he said. The prime minister has been a vocal critic of the bill, arguing it restricts people's freedom of expression and religion, but he has said the federal government will not intervene right now in the court process. read the complete article

02 Feb 2023

For Amira Elghawaby, surviving this witchhunt won’t be through civility — she needs to stick to the ugly truth

Take a look at these two quotes. “Anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be the main motivation for those who support a ban on religious symbols, a new poll has found.” — a Montreal Gazette report in 2019. “Unfortunately, the majority of Quebecers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment.” — an Ottawa Citizen opinion piece a couple of months later. Can you find the difference between this news report and this commentary? There isn’t much, in substance at least, if you analyze the Leger Marketing poll the quotes reference. But only one of them is at the centre of newly manufactured national outrage. That second quote appeared in an opinion piece that Amira Elghawaby, then a journalist, co-wrote with Bernie Farber, then CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress. The first quote is received as information. The second, we’re given to understand, is prejudice. Elghawaby, whom the Trudeau government appointed only last week as its special representative on combating Islamophobia, is the target of a bizarre witchhunt for the apparent sin of offending an entire province for having repeated the outcome of a poll — three years ago. She apologized for it this week. Gather around, folks, to hear the story of the most inane politicization of an innocuous political posting, to understand what the cowardice of power looks like and to learn why one must never apologize for speaking truth to that power. read the complete article

02 Feb 2023

Trudeau must drop Amira Elghawaby, get rid of anti-Islamophobia position, Bloc Leader Blanchet says

Despite efforts by Justin Trudeau and Amira Elghawaby to quiet the uproar in Quebec over her appointment as special representative on combatting Islamophobia, Premier François Legault and federal Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet would still like her removed and, in Mr. Blanchet’s case, the position abolished entirely. Mr. Blanchet initially called for her removal, saying that someone else, with a neutral position on the province’s controversial secularism law, would be a “very serious improvement.” However, he also cast aspersions on the position itself – saying it has been contaminated by a partisan process and cannot be rehabilitated in the eyes of Quebeckers. Ms. Elghawaby told The Globe and Mail last week that the line that has raised ire – that a majority of Quebeckers appear to be swayed, in regards to Bill 21, by “anti-Muslim sentiment” – was not her opinion, but rather a description of the findings of a Léger poll. (Ms. Elghawaby declined a request for comment on Thursday). On Wednesday, ahead of a closed-door meeting with Mr. Blanchet, Ms. Elghawaby apologized to Quebeckers for how her words hurt them. She did not, however, change her position on Bill 21, which she called discriminatory – a position echoed by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and others. read the complete article


02 Feb 2023

India’s bulldozer regime is evicting Muslims, killing justice

In the northern Indian city of Haldwani, about 4,000 families faced homelessness in December after the High Court of the state, Uttarakhand, ordered their eviction from land claimed by the Indian Railways. Most of the families are Muslim, and everything — homes, schools and mosques — was to be demolished. The story rightly made international headlines, and eventually, the country’s Supreme Court put a hold on the eviction for now, arguing that authorities needed to come up with a resettlement and rehabilitation plan first. Yet the incident in Haldwani, 296km (184 miles) from national capital New Delhi, captures a broader pattern of injustice masquerading as law and order that’s playing out across India under the majoritarian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules federally and in most states. The bulldozer is central to this strategy. Muslims are the target. And unlike in Haldwani, affected people and communities only rarely get even a temporary reprieve. Nowhere is this more evident than in the northeastern state of Assam, some 2,000km (1,242 miles) away from New Delhi, where the BJP has ruled since 2016. Thousands of Muslim families have been forcibly evicted since 2021 from land they had been residing on for decades. Since 2016, police have shot at and killed protesters in at least two instances. read the complete article

03 Feb 2023

Bollywood is obsessed with Pakistan. We’d be flattered if it weren’t so nasty

Bollywood has always reflected Indian political trends; the films of the 1950s mirrored the optimism and romance of the newly independent country, the 1970s hero was a proud but disenfranchised man fighting against the powerful and corrupt. In the 1990s, there were endless films about neo-liberal yuppies who worked in Dubai, danced in London discos and drove shiny Mercedes. Since Narendra Modi and his rightwing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, came to power nearly nine years ago, Bollywood has readily embraced his menacing politics. It is well-known that Bollywood’s three biggest stars, the three Khans – Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman – all happen to be Muslim, as were many of Bollywood’s earliest stars, incluidng Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari. Raj Kapoor, the original heartthrob of Indian cinema, was born in Peshawar and at its founding, Bollywood enthusiastically celebrated India’s many religions, histories and fables. Muslims not only acted and made music for the industry but their legends were beautifully translated on screen. One of Bollywood’s most beloved and lavish epics, Mughal-e-Azam, was set in the Mughal court of Emperor Jahangir. But those days are far behind us now. Today, it is clear that India’s fascination and anxiety over its neighbour points to darker political imaginings. As India embraces the Hindu majoritarian politics of its ruling BJP party, high-profile Muslim figures like Khan are increasingly seen as fifth columnists. Trolls and angry protesters often beseech Muslim stars to “go back to Pakistan”, though they have no roots there. Today in India, anyone who questions the government or dissents from popular discourse is slandered as “anti-national” and told to go live in Pakistan. read the complete article

United States

02 Feb 2023

House Ousts Ilhan Omar From Foreign Affairs Panel as G.O.P. Exacts Revenge

A bitterly divided House on Thursday ousted Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the Foreign Affairs Committee over past comments about Israel that were widely condemned as antisemitic, as Republicans moved to cater to the demands of right-wing members and mete out punishment to a Democrat their party has demonized for years. Mr. McCarthy’s decision to force the removal of Ms. Omar, a step that some of his rank-and-file members resisted, in the earliest days of his new majority demonstrated his determination to ingratiate himself with the hard-right Republican base, which has made the Somali-born Ms. Omar a target for some of its most vicious attacks. Former President Donald J. Trump famously said in 2019 that Ms. Omar and three other progressive women of color should “go back” to their countries, though she was the only one not born in the United States. During an unusually raw debate on the House floor on Thursday, prominent Democrats, including many Jewish members, stood alongside Ms. Omar’s closest friends in Congress to defend her in passionate and at times emotional speeches. They accused Republicans of hypocrisy, xenophobia and racism for targeting her while saying nothing about antisemitic remarks by members of their own party, some of whom have associated with Holocaust deniers. read the complete article

02 Feb 2023

Tortured Guantánamo Detainee Is Freed in Belize

A small Central American nation, known for its barrier reef and ecotourism, has taken in a former terrorist turned U.S. government informant whose tale of torture by the C.I.A. moved a military jury at Guantánamo Bay to urge the Pentagon to grant him leniency. It was the first resettlement of a detainee since President Barack Obama’s administration and culminated months of secret diplomacy. All other prisoners released in the intervening years were repatriated. But Mr. Khan, who completed his prison sentence nearly a year ago, had nowhere to go. “I have been given a second chance in life, and I intend to make the most of it,” Mr. Khan said in a statement in which he pledged to become “a productive, law-abiding member of society.” “I continue to ask for forgiveness from God and those I have hurt,” he said. From 2003 to 2006, he was held incommunicado in secret C.I.A. prisons overseas and kept in dungeonlike conditions that included beatings, nudity, brutal forced feedings, waterboarding and other physical and sexual abuse. He was the first prisoner to be freed from Guantánamo Bay who had been held there as a “high-value detainee,” the intelligence community’s term for a former prisoner of a C.I.A. black site who was subjected to the Bush administration’s secret torture program of “enhanced interrogation.” read the complete article

02 Feb 2023

Bush-era solicitor general says Guantanamo legal system was a failure

The US solicitor general under former President George Bush said on Thursday that the legal system created for the detainees at Guantanamo was a failure, and the military commissions were "doomed from the start". In an opinion column published in the Wall Street Journal, Ted Olson said the US government should negotiate settlements in all of the ongoing cases at Guantanamo. While serving under Bush, Olson had defended the expansion of surveillance powers in the Patriot Act and also argued for extensive presidential control over detainees. "In retrospect, we made two mistakes in dealing with the detained individuals at Guantanamo. First, we created a new legal system out of whole cloth," he wrote. "I now understand that the commissions were doomed from the start. We used new rules of evidence and allowed evidence regardless of how it was obtained. We tried to pursue justice expeditiously in a new, untested legal system." The comments appear to be a major reversal for Olson, who in 2004 argued at the Supreme Court that the detainees at Guantanamo were not subject to American law and do not have the right to be defended in US courts. Many legal experts have said the military commissions process at Guantanamo Bay has been an "abject failure", and have called on the US government to put an end to the proceedings, which have for decades been stuck at the pre-trial stage. read the complete article


02 Feb 2023

French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

The EU has appointed a new anti-Islamophobia coordinator after an 18-month long gap which attracted criticism from Muslim rights groups. Marion Lalisse, an EU official of French origin, said on Twitter she was "honoured" to take up the post dealing with an "important topic that requires our joint efforts and commitment". Lalisse's job would be to "ensure that measures are taken to combat hatred, as well as structural and individual discrimination against Muslims," said EU equality commissioner Helena Dalli. "We must combat Islamophobia in all areas, including education, employment and social policy. We must also collect data on all cases of Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims and monitor and combat any such manifestations," Dalli added. read the complete article


02 Feb 2023

Anti-Muslim extremist Rasmus Paludan engaged in sex chats with minors

Audio recordings from the racist politician’s online conversations reveal he spoke to minors about disturbing and graphic sexual scenarios, such as a teacher sexually abusing a boy in front of his class. Swedish-Danish politician Rasmus Paludan had sexually explicit conversations with minors on the internet despite being aware that they were underage. The racist convict, notorious for anti-Muslim extremism and conducting "Quran burning tours", engaged in inappropriate and sexually explicit chats with underage boys on the social media platform Discord. Audio recordings taken from the bigoted and racist politician’s online conversations reveal he spoke to underage boys about disturbing and graphic sexual scenarios, such as a teacher sexually abusing a boy in front of his classmate. His criminal background also reveals he was sentenced to 2-3 months in prison and not allowed to drive for a period of time or work as a lawyer for three years. Recently, the anti-Muslim extremist burned a copy of the Quran outside the premises of the Turkish embassy in Sweden. read the complete article

United Kingdom

02 Feb 2023

Writing fiction about Islamophobia has helped me process my own experiences of it

As I was scrolling on social media in 2018, I came across a post titled ‘Punish a Muslim Day’. I’ll never forget the stomach-churning disbelief I felt reading the words of an anonymous writer encouraging hateful and sadistic attacks on Muslims for 24 hours. It awarded ‘10 points’ to anyone who verbally abused a Muslim and 25 points to someone who pulled the headscarf off a Muslim woman – all the way up to 1,000 points for the act of burning or bombing a mosque. It felt as though someone had simply taken the rulebook of a videogame and tried to apply it to real, human lives – Muslim lives – to see what came of a cruel social experiment. I was a second-year university student at the time, studying for summer exams. There were moments where I found myself distracted by what I was seeing, baffled by the lack of reasonable media coverage for what seemed a colossal and newsworthy event. But then my thoughts turned to the root of the problem: the sinister beast that is Islamophobia. Writing my debut book, You Think You Know Me, two years ago during lockdown, has been one of the biggest challenges in my life to date. The story is about a girl who tries to find her voice amid rising anti-Muslim tension, but it is also about hope, faith, and the strength of family and friendship. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 03 Feb 2023 Edition


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