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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06 Feb 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, thirty of the province’s civil-society leaders signed a statement on Friday supporting Amira Elghawaby’s appointment as Canada’s special representative on combating Islamophobia, meanwhile in the United States, the GOP’s removal of Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affair committee has nothing to do with antisemitism, writes Professor Moustafa Bayoumi, given a number of Republicans including Speaker McCarthy have made antisemitic statements, and Rohingya Muslims continue to suffer due to the genocide launched by the Myanmar military and over a million now reside in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Our recommended read of the day is Naved Bakali for the Toronto Star who states that “Quebec politicians have regularly employed Islamophobia as a useful tool to gain political ascendancy, feeding into biased views toward Muslim in Quebec society, which tend to be more pronounced than the rest of Canada. This and more below:


03 Feb 2023

Not surprisingly, it’s Amira Elghawaby’s critics who have had a hand in oppressing Muslim women | Recommended Read

As a Muslim man who has grown up in Quebec and has devoted most of his adult life to the study and research of Islamophobia in Canada and Quebec, I’m hardly surprised that several Quebec politicians are taking issue with the recent hiring of Amira Elghawaby as the government’s Special Representative to combat Islamophobia. For the past two decades, Islamophobia has occupied a special and endearing place in the heart of Quebec politics. In the early 2000s, Mario Dumont and his now defunct political party Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), whipped up mass hysteria over the issue of reasonable accommodation, framing requests of religious observances by minority groups in Quebec, particularly Muslims, as a form unreasonable accommodation for the white Quebecois majority. Fast forward to 2013, the Parti Quebecois (PQ), under the leadership of Pauline Marois, proposed Bill 60, more commonly referred to as the Quebec Charter of Values. The guidelines of this charter of secularism and religious neutrality proposed that no state employee or employee of a state-funded institutions be permitted to wear conspicuous religious symbols. This would prevent teachers, daycare workers, hospital staff, and government employees from wearing a hijab, Sikh turban, Jewish skull cap, or a large cross. read the complete article

03 Feb 2023

Quebec lawyers, activists throw support behind Amira Elghawaby as pressure for resignation mounts

A large group that includes lawyers and community leaders in Quebec have signed a letter to support Canada's first special representative on combating Islamophobia and push back against calls to have her step down over past comments she has made about Quebecers. Amira Elghawaby has been mired in controversy since being appointed to the role last week due to a 2019 opinion column about Quebec's religious symbols law — widely known as Bill 21 — that she co-authored. In that column, Elghawaby and the former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber, wrote: "Unfortunately, the majority of Quebecers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment." In the column, Elghawaby and Farber said that they came to that conclusion after a Léger poll found that the 88 per cent of Quebecers who held negative views of Islam overwhelmingly supported the law. Critics, including elected officials in Quebec, have accused of Elghawaby of harbouring anti-Quebec views that make her unfit for her new role. The letter supporting Elghawaby states that she deserves a chance to do her job. read the complete article

03 Feb 2023

Prominent Quebeckers voice support for Trudeau’s anti-Islamophobia representative

After an uproar in Quebec, thirty of the province’s civil-society leaders signed a statement on Friday supporting Amira Elghawaby’s appointment as Canada’s special representative on combatting Islamophobia. The signatories, including celebrated philosopher Charles Taylor and civil-rights lawyer Julius Grey, were responding to calls from across Quebec’s political spectrum for Ms. Elghawaby’s resignation after it emerged that she had once written that a “majority” of Quebeckers appear to be swayed by prejudice against Muslims in their support of the provincial secularism law, known as Bill 21. She later said that the controversial line was not her opinion, but rather a description of the findings of a Léger poll. The controversy has raised difficult questions about religion’s place in public life, the province’s openness to diversity, and perceptions of “Quebec bashing” by the rest of Canada. read the complete article

02 Feb 2023

Treatment of Amira Elghawaby exposes Islamophobia she was hired to address

Quebecers simply want everyone to be completely free, he was quoted as saying in La Presse. There are a few problems here, but I’ll start with the most obvious one: Quebec cannot be lauded as an advocate for individual rights when it passes laws that deliberately curtail individual rights. It cannot be commended as a progressive champion of personal freedoms with laws that openly and defiantly contravene Charter rights to freedom of religion and thought. This isn’t complicated: Bill 21 is inherently discriminatory and Muslim women are its primary target. Any law that asks an individual to suspend an aspect of their faith in order to be considered for employment is fundamentally prejudicial and is in flagrant violation of federal rights that are sacrosanct to all Canadians. Point final. It has been said before but there is truly no nice way to talk about Islamophobia or any other kind of racism, particularly when it is of the deeply engrained and systemic variety. Not all Quebecers are racist, true, but Quebec has a demonstrable problem with welcoming and integrating newcomers, particularly if they happen to be visible, linguistic or religious minorities. Quebec is the province where shock jocks and populist columnists routinely dehumanize and vilify minorities — the latter is pretty much all that keeps the Journal de Montréal in circulation. Quebec is the place where half of Muslim men, and two-thirds of Muslim women have experienced a hate incident and feel less safe than they did three years ago. This is the province where the immigration minister calls too much immigration ‘suicide’ and who can keep his political career after saying “80% of immigrants don’t work, don’t speak French and refuse to integrate.” read the complete article

03 Feb 2023

Canadian Council of Muslim Women pen letter of support for Elghawaby amid calls for resignation

The Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) has written a public letter of support for Amira Elghawaby amid renewed calls for her to step down as Canada’s representative on combating Islamophobia. The CCMW says the continued calls for resignation are more evidence of discrimination against Muslim women. “The calls for her resignation since she has been appointed only further highlight how important this role is and how Islamophobia continues to target Muslim women across the country,” the organization wrote. “It is not lost on us that Ms. Elghawaby happens to be a Muslim woman in hijab because her reality is our reality.” “As a Muslim women’s organization, we are proud to stand with Ms. Elghawaby in her new role and are confident that she will fulfill her role competently and fairly.” read the complete article

03 Feb 2023

Elghawaby controversy has reignited debate over Islamophobia: mosque official

A group of 30 Quebecers including activists, lawyers and community leaders have signed an open letter in support of Amira Elghawaby, Canada’s new representative on combatting Islamophobia. In an interview Friday, Boufeldja Benabdallah, a spokesperson for the Quebec City mosque who signed the open letter, said he did so in hopes the province can move past the controversy. Benabdallah said the mosque was among those who asked Elghawaby to apologize for her comments, though he thinks she had already decided to do so. “She made an indefensible mistake but has apologized. Now we need to give her a chance and she can be evaluated on her results,” Benabdallah said, adding how important he considers the position to be. More frustrating to Benabdallah, he said, is how the conversation around Elghawaby’s appointment has reignited the debate over Islamophobia in Quebec. “It’s what we wanted to avoid and yet we’ve plunged back into it. It has swelled to the point that now intellectuals in different media are again speaking about needing to redefine Islamaphobia,” he said. Benabdallah recalled that the 2017 attack on the Quebec City mosque, which was fuelled by hatred toward Muslims, left six men dead, one man in a wheelchair and 17 children fatherless. “We’re diving back into definitions and semantics. No,” Benabdallah added. “Let’s work on living together and finding mutual recognition to make a just and equal society.” read the complete article

United States

03 Feb 2023

Republicans have a serious antisemitism problem. It isn’t Ilhan Omar

Who remembers how, in 2018 and just days before the deadliest attack on Jewish people in US history, a prominent US politician tweeted: “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election!”? The tweet was widely – and correctly – understood as dangerously antisemitic, particularly heinous in a period of rising anti-Jewish hatred. And whose tweet was this? If you thought the answer was Minnesota’s Democratic representative Ilhan Omar then, well, you’d be wrong. The author was none other than the House majority leader at the time, Republican Kevin McCarthy. And who can forget when Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has tweeted that “Joe Biden is Hitler”, speculated that the wildfires in California were caused by a beam from “space solar generators” linked to “Rothschild, Inc.”, a clear wink to bizarre antisemitic conspiracy theories. Incidentally, Greene, who has a long record of antisemitic and anti-Muslim statements, has been recently appointed, by the same Kevin McCarthy, now speaker of the House, to the homeland security committee. Today’s Republican party has a serious antisemitism problem. The easy acceptance and amplification of all sorts of anti-Jewish hate that party leaders engage in emboldens all the worst bigots, raving racists, and far-right extremists across the globe, all the while threatening Jewish people here and everywhere. The Trump-aligned wing of the Republican party has long had it in for Omar, and it’s not difficult to understand why. They’ll tell you that it’s a matter of what Omar says, but in reality it’s about what she does and who she is. So it is more than a little rich that House Republicans voted on Thursday to remove Ilhan Omar from the foreign affairs committee, where she’s served since 2019, because, they say, of her antisemitic views. What really gets under the skin of the Republican party (and some Democrats) is that Omar won’t merely fall into line and toe today’s gentle political orthodoxies. She has a point of view. She is often critical of the actions of both Israel and the United States (and Saudi Arabia, India, Russia, the Taliban and many more). read the complete article


02 Feb 2023

Does Anyone Want to Solve the Rohingya Crisis?

The Rohingya minority is facing a genocide launched by the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw. It is causing one of the world’s largest refugee crises. Millions of Rohingya are now sheltered in refugee camps outside of Myanmar, but the largest number – over a million – are in Bangladesh. The largest exodus took place in 2017 when over 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, but that marked the continuation of the influx that started in 1977, when the Tatmadaw launched Operation Dragon King (Naga Min) in Rakhine state. International organizations and a number of countries, especially the United States and Europe, have been providing robust humanitarian assistance to meet basic humanitarian needs. Even then, Bangladesh has to spend $8 billion per year to maintain law and order and fill the gaps of international assistance. The additional burden is something the country can ill-afford; Bangladesh is already among the world’s top 10 most densely populated countries, and 24 million Bangladeshis are living below the poverty line. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 Feb 2023 Edition


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