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 Jan 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, Muslim groups are raising concerns after an incident involving a man pursuing two men and attempting to forcibly enter a mosque in Montreal was captured on surveillance footage, meanwhile in France, writer Michel Houellebecq has admitted to condoning and promoting an anti-Islam discourse, sarcastically pleading guilty to being “a part-time Islamophobe”, and in India, the country’s Supreme Court has stayed an order which called for the mass demolition of over 4,000 homes in the hill state of Uttarakhand, a demolition which would have rendered over 50,000 people, the majority of which Muslim, homeless. Our recommended read of the day is by Karen J. Greenberg for Lawfare on the discrepancy between the incarceration experiences of a Muslim father and a son, one in a U.S. Federal prison, and the other within Guantanamo Bay’s detention center. This and more below:


05 Jan 2023

“No Ordinary Pakistani”: The Intertwined Stories of Saifullah and Uzair Paracha | Recommended Read

Bald, bespectacled, and bearded—the image of a beaming Saifullah Paracha sitting at a table at McDonald’s in Karachi, Pakistan, appeared on New York Times reporter Carol Rosenberg’s Twitter on the morning of Oct. 29, 2022. At 75 years of age, Guantanamo’s oldest prisoner had just been released from the island prison camp where he had spent 17 years in detention without ever being charged. Guantanamo’s Periodic Review Board, created to make determinations about further detention or release of prisoners, had ruled a year and a half prior that detainee #1094’s “continued law of war detention is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.” It was the final piece of a story that involved both Saifullah and his son Uzair (for the sake of clarity, this article will refer to the Parachas by their first names), a story of parallel systems for assessing guilt and innocence: one in the federal courts, honoring tradition and the law, and one in Guantanamo, creating its own framework anew, outside accepted norms and laws. This story of father and son shared an ending. Both men ended up heading home, released from U.S. captivity and prison, neither ultimately convicted. read the complete article

05 Jan 2023

Pope Benedict's 2006 Islamophobia Controversy Wasn't an Isolated Incident

Since Benedict XVI’s death on December 31, 2022, a flurry of reflections have emerged about the former Pope as a renowned professor, influential theologian, and “one of the most conservative pontiffs in recent memory.” Many of these recollections mention—sometimes apologetically—his infamous 2006 lecture in which he quoted a 15th century Byzantine emperor who described the words of Muhammad as “evil and inhuman.” Going back decades before the fated 2006 lecture, Benedict’s fundamental convictions about faith and reason came to undergird his later views about Islam as irrational, uncivilized, and inherently violent. Well beyond the conservativism that many have used to describe Benedict’s legacy, his views about Europe’s identity and its unique confluence of Christian faith, reason, and democracy are highly amenable to white Christian nationalism. Beyond demonstrating his poor judgment in citing medieval Christian-Muslim polemics, Benedict’s 2006 lecture echoed themes of faith and reason from his earlier work and developed them in anti-Muslim directions. For example, he insisted that Christianity’s “rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry” can stave off religious violence, an idea he contrasted to Muslim teachings about divine transcendence that only offer “the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness.” Benedict’s description of Christian faith as rational and democratic is based on his projection of violence and totalitarianism onto Islam as the Christian West’s irrational other. Benedict’s oppositional framing of Christian faith to Islam’s unreasonable deity and violent followers sets the stage for his claims about Europe’s Christian identity. read the complete article

06 Jan 2023

Behind the ‘Dramatic Increase’ in Deadly Rohingya Sea Voyages

Rohingya refugees embarking on perilous sea voyages is nothing new. At this time of year, when the weather becomes calmer, thousands of Rohingya civilians typically set off from the coasts of Myanmar and Bangladesh on treacherous boat journeys across the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, in the hope of making a better life in other countries, mostly in Malaysia or Indonesia. However, the past year is said to have been the “deadliest” so far for Rohingya at sea. According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, there was a “dramatic increase” in the number of people attempting to cross the Andaman Sea in 2022 – six times more than the number reported to have made the journey in 2021. Human trafficking is a significant issue in many contexts. When it comes to Rohingya refugees, the challenge has been particularly daunting. Most Rohingya people are village people, unaware of human trafficking traps. Back in Myanmar, they have been deprived of basic human rights, including citizenship and freedom of movement, for decades, which has prevented many from accessing education past the primary level. The deprivation that Rohingya experienced in Myanmar led thousands to take sea voyages even before the Myanmar military’s genocidal campaign in 2017. In Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees increasingly feel unwelcome, as they are more often blamed for creating economic and social problems. read the complete article


05 Jan 2023

French Writer Michel Houellebecq Says He is a ‘Part-Time Islamophobe’

French writer Michel Houellebecq has strikingly admitted to condoning and promoting an anti-Islam discourse, sarcastically pleading guilty to being “a part-time Islamophobe.” In that highly controversial conversation between two intellectuals who have been making a name for themselves by airing “reactionary” or “unorthodox” views and theses in their many books and television appearances, Houellebecq appeared to make the case that France has a problem with “Islamist separatism.” The comments did unsurprisingly not sit well with the Grand Mosque of Paris. In December 2022, the mosque announced its decision to file a complaint against Houellebecq, accusing him of “stirring discriminatory discourse” and “incitement to hatred.” In response to the accusations, Houellebecq published on Wednesday an opinion piece on the website of center-right French news outlet Le Point. Dismissively addressing the Grand Mosque’s complaint in his article, the writer recalled that he faced similar accusations 20 years ago on the ground that his discourse amounted to “inciting racial hatred.” He then went on to poke fun at the very idea of accusing a person of racism because of their views on Islam. The accusation he faced two decades ago “was silly,” he wrote, adding: “Everyone knows that Islam is not a race, but a religion with universal claims." Islam, he argued, “is not a religion that I consider that much. So to a certain extent I plead guilty, provided that I am [recognized as] a part-time Islamophobe.” read the complete article

05 Jan 2023

Charlie Hebdo: France's satirical magazine in new controversy

The irreverent and militantly atheist publication operates today with round-the-clock police protection and from a secret location, seven years after it was attacked by Islamist gunmen. Most controversially of all, it has repeatedly published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed -- acts seen as blasphemous by many Muslims and which were used as justification for the 2015 attack on its staff. "There is nothing to regret," Charlie Hebdo's director Laurent Sourisseau, known as "Riss", told a French court in 2020 during a trial of accomplices to the 2015 gunmen. The murders sparked a global outpouring of solidarity with France and freedom of speech under the "I am Charlie" slogan, but the publication also makes many people queasy, including in France. Critics see it as being needlessly provocative towards Muslims and even Islamophobic, even though it has frequently offended other religious groups, including Catholics with its crude depictions of the pope. "We will always defend freedom of expression," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of the magazine in 2020. "But freedom of expression is not without limits." read the complete article


05 Jan 2023

Haldwani: Demolition of 4,000 mostly Muslim homes blocked by India’s Supreme Court

India’s Supreme Court has stayed an order which called for the mass demolition of over 4,000 homes in the hill state of Uttarakhand. The demolition, which was due to be carried out on Sunday, would have rendered over 50,000 people – the large majority of whom are Muslims – homeless. The top court stayed an order by the local railway authorities, back by Uttarakhand state’s high court on 20 December, requiring the demolition of all “illegal encroachments” along the railway line in the Banbhulpura district of the town of Haldwani. Along with the 4,000-odd homes, the area also includes four government schools, 11 private schools, a bank, two overhead water tanks, 10 mosques and four temples, besides shops. Activists protesting against the demolition order described it as a “targeted attack” on a Muslim-majority area, which also has around 100 homes belonging to members of the formerly lower-caste Dalit community. While Uttarakhand’s chief minister – from the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP – had backed the demolitions on the basis that the homes sat on “railway land”, the court highlighted that the case has a “human angle” which needs to be resolved. read the complete article


05 Jan 2023

Canada: Muslim groups raise concerns following Montreal mosque incident

Canadian Muslim groups are raising concerns after an incident involving a man pursuing two men and attempting to forcibly enter a mosque in Montreal was captured on surveillance footage. The incident, which spread online, has been condemned by the country’s justice minister. Islamophobic and anti-Muslim attacks have surged in recent years, the most high-profile being the mass shooting at Quebec City mosque in 2017, when a white Canadian man shot and killed six people. A recent Statistics Canada report found that hate crimes against Muslim communities across the country increased by 71 percent in 2021. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 Jan 2023 Edition


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