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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01 Jul 2021

Today in Islamophobia: The ‘forever war’ in Afghanistan is officially ending with an international withdrawl, though many Afghans are calling for investigations into abuses and crimes commited during the decades long occupation, and in the U.S., calls for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison continue to rise as new testimony from a former prosecutor further questions the legitimacy and moral ambiguity of the Cuban prison, and in India, the BJP’s propaganda consipracy campaign ‘love jihad’ has continued to terrify Muslim families and interfaith couples who face legal penalties in many BJP ruled states due to laws now on the books against ‘conversion by inducement’. Our recommended read of the day is by Wafaa Hasan on the startling history of anti-Muslim racism in Canada. This and more below:


29 Jun 2021

“How Did We Get Here?” Facing the Political Histories of Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Racism in Canada

The Canadian public has not been immune from globalized Islamophobic and anti-Arab discourse in popular media. However, we have a problematic local political history that we need to contend with. It was in 1975 that the Globe and Mail published a false story during Montreal’s hosting of the 1976 Olympics, claiming that the Mounties had uncovered a conspiracy by fourteen Canadian Arabs to commit terrorism at the Games. The justice minister and the RCMP commissioner denied the story, but it was picked up by every newspaper and TV and radio station across the country. During the first Gulf War, Canada joined forces with the United States and began targeting its own Iraqi-Canadian population with CSIS interrogations as it was receiving intelligence from Canadian posts in Iraq. Iraqi-Canadians were pulled out of workplaces, called at home and asked pointed questions about whether they supported Canadian “allies” in the gulf war. At this time, stories of “internal threats” in Canada were rampant in the media, filtered through often less than rigorous journalistic standards. On January 6 1991, ten days before the United States began bombing Baghdad, the Toronto Sun published a story identifying 12 “pro-Iraqi agents” in Toronto, planning a “disturbance” in case war began in Iraq. A few days later, the Sun ran a headline that read “Police Task Force Targets Agents of Terror.” A slew of “terrorism alerts” were published in various newspapers in Toronto, feeding off of each other, unverifiable by their purported sources. Discourse about anti-terrorism rang through media without much activity to qualify it, sensationalizing banal threats and connecting it to the language of the “war on terror,” which many Canadians often think began after 9/11. The stories ended up focusing more on security alerts than terrorist activities. The Canadian government did little to dispel this paranoia and CSIS continued to interrogate Iraqi Canadians. Decades later, when—in the same week—a Muslim family of 5 (the Afzaal family) is run over in London, Ontario (leaving a nine year old boy as the only survivor); three white people show up at a mosque in Toronto, threatening to detonate a bomb, and a black Muslim woman is attacked in Edmonton, the Canadian public is asking, “How did we get here?,” “How did this happen?” When the Quebec shootings during which six Muslims were killed and eight injured in prayer in 2017 happens in cold blood; when mosque caretaker Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was brutally slain by a white supremacist in Toronto last year, politicians state: “this is not our Canada” and other similar rhetorical repulsions of this violence. The truth is that Islamophobia has been a fundamental part of the Canadian political fabric and public discourse for decades, operating to help define Canadianness through the very abjection of Muslims, Arabs and other minorities who are read as Muslim or Arab. And this abjection is reproduced and protected by state systems and institutions. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
01 Jul 2021

Concrete Action Needed Against Islamophobia in Canada

While the outpouring of support from politicians across party lines, including the prime minister, was heartening to see, I wonder what specific steps the government will take to protect Muslim families like mine. The London attack is only one in a long and growing list of anti-Muslim hate crimes across Canada and words of condemnation without concrete action do little to quell fears. In a report this year to the UN Human Rights Council, a UN expert concluded that, globally, anti-Muslim hatred has reached “epidemic proportions” with Muslims often targeted based on visible characteristics such as “names, skin colour and clothing.” Urging states to act, he said it was “essential to identify and evaluate how State structures perpetuate and legitimize Islamophobia and actively discriminate against Muslim individuals and communities.” Heeding calls made by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be convening a National Action Summit on Islamophobia later this month. This summit will provide a critical opportunity to adopt concrete measures backed by resources at the federal and provincial levels to address anti-Muslim hate crimes. Importantly, the summit will also provide a platform for the Muslim community to air grievances and be part of the conversation on ending the discrimination and violence they face. Taking meaningful and concrete steps to prevent tragedies like the one in London from happening again would be something worth celebrating this Canada Day. read the complete article

30 Jun 2021

Regina Dollarama customer says management response to anti-Muslim harassment was dismissive

Aysha Yaqoob says she was shopping for rulers at Dollarama when a stranger in the store started harassing her. "She went off about how she thinks I'm possessed by demons and Satan and a bunch of other stuff," Yaqoob said. Yaqoob is a teacher who runs a non-profit that connects students with school supplies. She is also Muslim and wears a hijab. "I tried to remove myself and tried to be polite about it and tried to kind of de-escalate the situation, but also get myself out of it." She said she faces anti-Muslim harassment weekly, so her instinct was to walk away from the customer who wouldn't leave her alone. "I don't think people can see beyond just my faith, my physical representation of my faith," she said. "It's exhausting because I am the same person I am [whether] I wear the hijab or not." "I asked her specifically, could you address these two individuals, because this is not OK," she said. "The manager flat out said that she wasn't going to do that, that she didn't see an issue with what had happened, that this never happens in [her] store." Yaqoob said it felt like the manager was repeatedly dismissing her concerns, questioning her account and refusing to bring the situation to the attention of higher management. read the complete article


30 Jun 2021

Ending the Forever War, But Leaving a Legacy of Impunity in Afghanistan

The international military forces withdrawing from Afghanistan leave behind not only a raging conflict and an uncertain future for my country, but they are also leaving behind a legacy of impunity that threatens to undermine hopes for peace and justice in Afghanistan for years to come. In the many long years of “forever war” for Afghans, the rights of civilian victims of the conflict have never been a priority for the international community or the Afghan State. The efforts for justice and accountability have been actively silenced by Afghan leaders, with at least silent endorsement from the international community, or in the case of International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into Afghanistan, actively blocked by the United States. Now, as international forces withdraw, the least the United States and other countries involved in the conflict can do is address credible allegations of abuse of their own troops, attend to the needs of victims of the harm caused by violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and provide political support to the national initiatives for victim-centered justice. read the complete article

30 Jun 2021

Science journal editor says he quit over China boycott article

The editor of a long-established academic journal has said he resigned after his publisher vetoed a call to boycott Chinese science in protest at Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Prof David Curtis, from University College London’s Genetics Institute, says his resignation as editor-in-chief of the Annals of Human Genetics is an issue of freedom of speech in the face of the science community’s increasing dependence on China. The Annals was one of five prestigious academic journals, including the Lancet, the BMJ and the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), that refused to publish an article [pdf] suggesting that academic journals should take a stance against China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang. The journals involved have defended rejecting the piece and claimed that a boycott against China would be unfair and counterproductive. They have also denied being unduly deferential to China. But both the Annals publisher, Wiley, and the Lancet did suggest that publication of the letter could pose difficulties for their respective offices in China, the authors claim. Curtis said: “I resigned because publication of the article was blocked by senior managers at Wiley who should have no say in the content of a scientific journal. I was told that Wiley has got an office in Beijing, the implication being that publication would make it difficult.” He added: “The publisher has no business telling the editor what they can and can’t publish because of strong interests in China.” read the complete article

30 Jun 2021

China applauds Canadian senators who voted against genocide motion as 'people of vision'

China's foreign ministry is praising Canadian senators who voted down a motion to label the Chinese government's treatment of Uyghurs as genocide — calling them "people of vision" who see through "the despicable schemes of a few anti-China forces." A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said Wednesday that the defeat of Motion 79 — which called on the Senate to recognize that China's government is perpetrating a genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims — shows that the "the hype of 'genocide' in Xinjiang is unpopular and doomed to fail." Twenty-nine senators voted in favour of the motion, 33 senators voted against and 13 abstained. The vote in the Senate follows on a similar vote in the House in February which saw a substantial majority of MPs — including most of the Liberals who participated — vote in favour of labelling China's treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and almost all of his cabinet colleagues were absent for that vote. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau was the only cabinet minister present. He abstained when it was his turn to vote. read the complete article

30 Jun 2021

What is behind Pakistan's global crusade against Islamophobia?

Countering Islamophobia is now at the forefront of Islamabad’s bilateral activities. A snapshot of the past year alone provides evidence of this, with recent high-level engagements in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey focusing on how to combat Islamophobia. Two recent incidents have further fuelled this drive. This past April, mass protests erupted across Pakistan over France’s defence of the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad under the “free speech” banner. The next month, Khan urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to work urgently to counter Islamophobia. The second occurrence was the deadly attack in Canada this month against a Muslim family. Khan has since been more vocal than ever, calling on world leaders to help curb the spread of hate speech and Islamophobia. He has highlighted the need for unity against a false narrative, as Pakistan pushes for a resolution against Islamophobia at the United Nations General Assembly. In June 2019, Pakistan put its support behind a UN plan of action to combat Islamophobia and religious bigotry, underscoring the need for legal tools to address this phenomenon. At the OIC session the same year, Khan called for an anti-Islamophobia strategy that would be enforceable by law. The Pakistani prime minister has lambasted the notion that any religion should be tied to terrorism. There has also been criticism directed against Khan who, while adamant in taking on Islamophobia in the West, has remained silent when it comes to accusations against the Chinese government’s persecution of Uighur Muslims. The answer mainly lies in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - the flagship project of the multi-billion-dollar Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Commenced in 2013, for Pakistan the project is nothing short of a life buoy that has helped keep the country afloat amidst times of severe economic hurdles. Moreover, China has supported Pakistan at all political, multilateral forums, most noticeably at the United Nations and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meetings. read the complete article

30 Jun 2021

Genocide Designation for Myanmar Tests Biden’s Human Rights Policy

Three years ago, American investigators produced a 15,000-page analysis of atrocities committed in 2017 against the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority group in Myanmar. The report documented survivors’ accounts of gang rapes, crucifixions, mutilations, of children being burned or drowned and of families locked inside their blazing homes as Myanmar’s military sought to exterminate them. That was not enough to convince the State Department during the Trump administration that the United States should officially proclaim the Rohingya to be victims of genocide and crimes against humanity. But now that the military, the Tatmadaw, has overthrown Myanmar’s civilian government, current and former American officials and human rights activists are demanding that President Biden do what the Trump administration would not: Formally hold the country’s military accountable for genocide and compel international protection of the Rohingya. “The same military leaders who orchestrated atrocities against the Rohingya have seized power in a violent coup against the elected government,” Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, told Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at a Senate hearing in early June. Mr. Markey asked when the State Department would decide whether the atrocities amounted to genocide, and though Mr. Blinken described a “very much actively ongoing” review, he would not predict when it might be resolved. He said the State Department was working with the United Nations “to try to collect and preserve evidence that will be very important” to conclude if genocide was committed. read the complete article

United States

30 Jun 2021

I was a prosecutor at Guantánamo. Close the prison now.

While it’s been 12 years since I served in Guantánamo, and the number of detainees has dropped dramatically, the realities that must be faced for trials to proceed haven’t changed. Military tribunals are sometimes a necessary consequence of war, but to drag the judicial process out for this long — up to nearly 20 years — is absurd and un-American. It’s an abandonment of our commitment to rule of law and what we consider to be fair jurisprudence. My entire experience at Guantánamo was a rude awakening. I believed in the system after the first failed effort at prosecuting alleged terrorists was repaired in the Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, where the court acknowledged the unconstitutionality of the process. I thought our pursuit of justice could be fair and impartial, and an example to the world. I was wrong. Everything I saw and experienced while serving in that assignment convinced me of that. Nothing I’ve observed since has changed my mind. For years, leaders across the political, legal and humanitarian spectrum have called for the prison at Guantánamo to be closed. Thus far, the Biden administration has paid only lip service to that idea, except for clearing the potential release of three detainees who are still in custody. Without a comprehensive plan for trying the others — or, the more politically difficult alternative, releasing many of them without trial — closing the facility is impossible. Practically, this would mean coming to terms with the crimes the United States has committed: torture, extraordinary rendition and indefinite, illegal confinement — all of which are antithetical to our concepts of justice and international norms. read the complete article

30 Jun 2021

Republican task force overseeing freedom to worship accused of Islamophobia

Democratic Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar has expressed serious reservations about a Republican House task force that includes extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene. Trump-aligned Republican leadership in the US Congress recently unveiled seven policy task forces. But the composition of one of the task forces on freedom of worship angered some progressive Democrats like Ilhan Omar. On Tuesday, Omar tweeted that the task force, which is called Future of American Freedoms, includes members like Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right conspiracy theorist. The task force will be led by Jim Jordan, a passionate pro-Trump politician. The Republican task force will defend rights like “the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and the right to bear arms" according to its mission statement. But Omar questioned how a Republican like Greene, who does not believe in “freedom of worship”, can work in a task force, overseeing the conditions of a fundamental freedom. read the complete article

30 Jun 2021

I’m a Muslim woman covering the diversity of Brooklyn. Sometimes all people see is my hijab.

Old women at protests are usually sweet and warm. They ask me where I work, what I am covering, where I am from. Sometimes they tell me they like my hijab. And then they ramble on about how they went on their daily walk, saw the protest and just had to join. I always enjoy speaking with old women. So when she approached me, I smiled. “Did Arabs murder any people today?” she asked. “Did your people burn any pregnant women?” I was stunned. I couldn’t seem to comprehend what she asked. I stood there, and she stood there, too, staring at me, as if daring me to answer. I think I muttered a “no” until someone approached the woman and told her, “Let’s go walk over there.” She left, but I still stood there. Later, I would wonder why I hadn’t answered her. I would wonder why I didn’t tell her, “Ma’am, you are racist.” I would wonder why I didn’t educate her. I would wonder why — as a person who encourages others to share with me their truth, as a person who is obsessed with words for a living — no words came out of my own mouth at a time when they should have most. For the past three and a half years, I have covered everything Brooklyn. From crime, to the opening of a small business, to the pandemic, to lost dogs who later found each other, to politics, to death. Brooklyn is huge and it’s diverse. I live in a neighborhood surrounded by Muslims on one side, Orthodox Jews on the other. Right across from my building is a Roman Catholic church. Brooklyn is the only place I have ever truly known, which is why by default it’s a place that I write about. I try to write stories I never grew up reading, about communities not usually covered by the media. If we don’t share the stories of people in the communities that we belong to, how can we trust anybody else to? People often write to me online. Sometimes they send an email. They DM me. They comment under my article on Facebook. “Anti-Semite.” “Terrorist.” This is nothing new, and thousands of Muslims experience the same thing. Other Muslim women journalists experience this, too. It’s hard being in an industry where a lot of people don’t look like you. It’s hard knowing that in many parts of this country, people don’t look like me; that people despise anyone who looks like me. It’s hard when you are not protected by the industry you work in. read the complete article

30 Jun 2021

‘Abuse and torture’: US reacts to Donald Rumsfeld’s death

Former United States President George W Bush released a statement Wednesday, remembering his former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a “good-humored and big-hearted” Cabinet member concerned with the wellbeing of US military servicemen following news of Rumsfeld’s death at 88. While Bush remembers Rumsfeld well, it is likely history will not look kindly on their legacy, judging from initial reactions to Rumsfeld’s death. Bush and Rumsfeld saw preliminary success after the US went to war with Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. But these gave way to years of setbacks, a war with Iraq based on faulty intelligence, and international backlash over US use of torture and its military killing civilians, among other controversies. Rumsfeld infamously said the war with Iraq, which was predicated on claims of then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, would be a short war. The wars in Iraq killed hundreds of thousands, including tens of thousands of US military members. The total number of Iraqi civilian deaths is unknown. The Iraq Body Count project places the number of deaths since 2003 between 185,724 and 208,831, as of June 30. That war and the Afghan war, which continues today, saw the US use torture on detained enemy combatants, a source of controversy for the Bush administration. George Zornick, an editor at The Huffington Post, shared the memo Rumsfeld signed on December 2, 2002, which authorised 20-hour interrogations, use of phobias and stress positions. These and other techniques came to be known as “advanced interrogation” during the Bush administration. They were determined to be torture by scholars and experts. Jameel Jaffer, the head of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute and a former American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, said on Twitter: “Rumsfeld gave the orders that resulted in the abuse and torture of hundreds of prisoners in US custody in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. This should be at the top of every obituary.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

30 Jun 2021

Muslim women in Batley and Spen call out actions of ‘loud minority’ of men

A group of Muslim women from Batley and Spen have written an open letter condemning “shameful” behaviour that has brought the community “into the limelight for all the wrong reasons”. The women, who write anonymously citing safety fears, say that a “loud minority” of Muslim men have been “endlessly heard” during the tense byelection campaign, described as “the same faces that have plagued our area as ‘community leaders’ for many years” but do not represent them. The letter, circulated among local WhatsApp groups on Tuesday evening, comes two days before the culmination of a campaign marred by incidents of aggression and dirty tricks, which many describe as exacerbating divisions within the community. Writing that “misogynism and mob mentality have no place in any decent community”, the letter castigates those involved for “loud, aggressive and intimidating behaviour” that it says serves to reinforce stereotypes of Muslim men as oppressive. It also calls on community groups and religious centres to “step up”, accusing local organisations of failing to provide services for Muslim couples seeking marriage counseling, women suffering from domestic violence or those struggling with addiction. “The sad reality is our own community has failed itself by allowing an elite group of men to dictate the agenda,” they write. read the complete article


30 Jun 2021

Rohingya Refugees Facing Medical Crisis on Bhasan Char

More than a quarter of the approximately 18,000 Rohingya refugees being held on Bangladesh’s silt island of Bhasan Char are reportedly suffering from a sudden outbreak of diarrhea. At least three children have died, according to news reports. While diarrheal disease is preventable and certainly should not be fatal, it remains a challenge in many parts of the world where sufficient access to safe water, sanitation, hygiene, and health care is limited. But Bangladesh could have avoided such an outbreak if the government, as previously planned, had allowed technical and humanitarian experts to visit Bhasan Char to determine safety and protection needs. Instead, the authorities relocated thousands of refugees to the remote island without first ensuring that it had adequate health care and access to resources on the mainland. read the complete article


30 Jun 2021

'Pressured by Hindu Orgs': Woman Withdraws Plaint Against Muslim Brothers Under 'Love Jihad' Law

A 24-year-old Sikh woman from the district of Muzaffarnagar, who had alleged that a man in her neighbourhood had married her after forcing her to change her religion, on June 29 retracted her allegations against two Muslim brothers who had been booked under the anti-conversion law based on her complaint. Under chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh is among a host of BJP-ruled states which have passed so-called ‘love jihad’ – an imagined conspiracy propagated by the Sangh Parivar alleging that Muslim men convert Hindu women by marriage – laws that criminalise conversion by inducement. They have usually been used to target interfaith couples. According to a report in the Indian Express, while recording her statement before a magistrate, the woman denied the allegations. The woman also claimed that she had filed the complaint under pressure from some Hindu organisations. read the complete article


01 Jul 2021

Half of Aussies say they're 'feminist'. For Muslim women, it can be more complicated

Maab doesn't look like a typical 'feminist'. Or at least, that's how she's been made to feel. As a hijab-wearing Muslim, she often receives stares on the street or comments from concerned bystanders assuming she needs to be "saved from this ideology". Maab says these remarks put the onus on her to defend her faith, fashion choices and individual freedom. But they also create a chasm between Islam and feminism by insinuating these ideologies are at odds. Maab says women's equality has been part of Islam since its inception. She points to the faith's condemnation of female infanticide, a practice which was common in pre-Islamic Arabia, as one example. "I think it's not a coincidence that the Prophet Muhammad advocated for the end of female infanticide," she says. "It began the liberation of women in that Arab world, in the Muslim world, because the rights of a woman begin from the moment they exist." Mouna Elmir, a researcher in Qur'anic translation, says misunderstandings around feminism can lead some in the Muslim community to "fear" the term. "When you want to transfer concepts from one language to another, especially from English to Arabic, it's very difficult," she explains. "You can never get it across [completely] and this is the problem sometimes causing social anxiety with Western feminism, because people are not understanding the whole concept." Dr Elmir says some Muslims perceive it as a movement that "rejects all religion". Dr Elmir says misconceptions around equality in Islam often stem from conflating religion with culture. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Jul 2021 Edition


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