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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21 Jul 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, the state of Maryland just passed a law allowing student athletes to modify athletic, or team uniforms, to conform to their religious or cultural requirements, or preferences for modesty, meanwhile in India, the Supreme Court ordered the release on bail of Mohammed Zubair, a prominent Indian Muslim journalist, who earlier this year drew attention to an incendiary remark about Prophet Mohammad made on TV by a spokesperson for Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP, and lastly, Chinese diplomats in Geneva are trying to stop the publication of a United Nations report on the human rights situation in Xinjiang. Our recommended read of the day is by Basit Mahmood for Byline Times on how the Conservative Party in the UK “knows it can get away with not tackling Islamophobia in its ranks, which is widespread and deep rooted, because it knows that the bulk of the media is willing to look the other way. It also knows that many of its members share Islamophobic views.” This and more below:

United Kingdom

21 Jul 2022

Why Haven’t the Tory Leadership Candidates Been Held to Account Over Islamophobia? | Recommended Read

The Conservative leadership race has once again turned a blind eye to the Conservative Party’s Islamophobia problem. Tackling prejudice against minorities shouldn’t be seen as something that’s in competition with all the ‘other priorities’. You would think that rooting out bigotry and prejudice towards minority communities would be a priority for any party that claims to lead a tolerant, liberal democracy – but this is apparently not an opinion shared by the Conservative Party. When was the last time that any of the leadership candidates were asked, either as part of the live debates or anywhere else, about what they intend to do about Islamophobia? The problem hasn’t exactly gone away. Indeed, the party has quietly reinstated candidates and has let them run for election even though they have been suspended for Islamopohobic remarks in the past. And therein lies much of the problem. The Conservative Party knows that it can get away with not tackling Islamophobia in its ranks, which is widespread and deep rooted, because it knows that the bulk of the media is willing to look the other way. It also knows that many of its members share Islamophobic views. The problem exists not only among the grassroots membership but also among the upper echelons of the party. MPs like Nadine Dorries have retweeted Tommy Robinson, while Bob Blackman has invited speakers who praised the Rohingya genocide to Parliament. According to a Hope Not Hate report, 57% of party members have a negative attitude towards Muslims, with almost half of party members (47%) believing that Islam is “a threat to the British way of life”. In addition, 58% believe “there are no go areas in Britain where Sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter”. read the complete article

21 Jul 2022

The Monstrous and the Vulnerable: Framing British Jihadi Brides

The tragic case of Shamima Begum has troubled the UK media since she travelled to the Islamic State (IS/ISIS)-controlled regions of Syria in 2015. Perhaps the most well-known of the 150 British Muslim women who migrated to the ‘ISIS caliphate’, she claimed that her motivation was to “get married, have children and live a pure Islamic life.” Other women went for a variety of reasons – a combination of push and pull factors that included providing aid to the victims of war, desire for belonging, or adventure. Begum’s case and that of other British Muslim women who travelled to join ISIS are masterfully analysed in this recent book by Leonie B. Jackson. The author demonstrates how gendered and racialised narratives shaped the idea of “jihadi brides,” sensationally presenting them as either irredeemably evil, monstrous women or vulnerable, naïve girls. The book considers the consequences of these representations and deconstructs how sympathetic initial representation of individuals such as Begum transitioned from commentary highlighting their naivety at the time of their departure to coverage that reconsidered if they were victims after all. After analysing hundreds of newspaper articles from 2013-2019, Jackson shows how media representations contributed to the creation of moral panics and a political climate that created new norms that led to the revocation of citizenship for some and death for others. The author notes that while the figure of the vulnerable girl is potentially redeemable, those designated as monstrous women are expendable. The discourse of ‘jihadi brides’ gained popular circulation after ISIS declared its Islamic state in the summer of 2014. However, the fact that British women choose to migrate to an active conflict zone, ruled by a harsh interpretation of sharia, became inexplicable in the media. Newspapers attempted to explain the foreign fighter phenomena to the public by connecting them with pre-existing ideas and frames that made their actions comprehensible. These frames offered a way of presenting complex new phenomena in familiar ways by importing meaning from other domains by the use of metaphors. This occurred during a sustained creation of discourses that relied on well-worn stereotypes and assumptions which are often negative and alarming. The dehumanising of Muslim women as ‘jihadi brides' enabled a social climate in which policymakers abandoned and rationalised the elimination of its own citizens. read the complete article

21 Jul 2022

Maternity Disparities Taskforce discusses faith and human rights recommendations

Patient Safety and Primary Care Minister James Morris and Chief Midwifery Officer Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent co-chaired the third meeting of the Maternity Disparities Taskforce on Monday 18 July 2022. At the meeting, the Muslim Women’s Network and human rights organisation Birthrights presented findings from their latest reports on Muslim women’s maternity experiences and human rights in UK maternity care. The Muslim Women’s Network’s report brought together the maternity experiences of over 1,000 Muslim women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, which included examples of women describing being pressured into decisions, feeling as if they were being treated like a child and being denied pain relief during birth. Birthrights then presented their report on racial injustice and human rights in UK maternity care. The taskforce discussed their findings and considered key interventions that could be undertaken by the system to help support women from ethnic minorities to access maternity services. All agreed the importance of listening to the experiences of women, understanding them and seeking actions that benefit everyone – from the women, to their families, the health and care system and staff. Using the expertise of its members, the taskforce is developing actions which address disparities for mothers and babies. read the complete article

United States

21 Jul 2022

Guantanamo detainee cleared for release after 20 years of detention without trial

Guantanamo detainee Khalid Ahmed Qasim has been cleared for release from the US detention facility in Cuba after being held for 20 years without a trial, according to documents from the Department of Defense. Qasim, a Yemeni national, was taken into custody in December 2001 and transferred to the Guantanamo prison in May 2002, according to Reprieve, a human rights organization that represents Qasim. The periodic review board, a governing body made up of representatives from six federal agencies that decides whether detainees at the Guantanamo prison still need to be held, determined it is "no longer necessary" to hold Qasim in order to "protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States," according to Department of Defense documents. "We're thrilled that after two decades imprisoned without charge or trial, Khalid has finally been cleared for release and can start to focus on his life after release," Mark Maher, Qasim's attorney, said in the press release. After detainees are cleared for release, the US government must make arrangements with another country before they are transferred out of the prison. Qasim will remain at Guantanamo until the US government makes an arrangement to transfer him. According to a press release from Reprieve, Qasim was "severely tortured," during his time in US custody, including "being forced to sleep standing up causing extreme sleep deprivation, subjected to freezing temperatures and being kept in a fenced area with his hands and feet shackled, leaving him unable to walk." Qasim is one of 20 detainees who have been cleared for release but remain at the prison. Four detainees have not been cleared for release and are being held in law-of-war detention, and 10 detainee still have ongoing cases in the US military commissions system. A total of 34 detainees remain at the prison. read the complete article

21 Jul 2022

'Silence will only hurt us': After Roe, American Muslims know what comes next

When the US Supreme Court repealed Roe vs Wade at the end of June, people took to Twitter to warn: delete your period tracking apps. With abortion rights no longer protected at the federal level, the decision is up to the states – more than half of which are likely to ban the procedure. Now, states can tap their partnerships with federal security agencies to monitor their citizens, just as apps can share user data with third parties. It’s more than likely that the state and private actors will utilise the country’s current surveillance technology and infrastructure to target people seeking abortions, warns a May report from the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP). The “healthcare surveillance” that already exists — the kind that could share data from period-tracking apps to third parties— is going to expand. This includes monitoring search engine histories, electronic payment records, and GPS tracking systems. For many Americans, this level of targeted surveillance may feel unprecedented, but the country’s Muslim community is already prepared for what’s ahead. Muslim women especially are likely to feel the brunt of increased securitization. For America’s Muslims, the war against women isn’t bound solely to the country’s zealous evangelical base: the SCOTUS decision, and everything that will come after it, belongs also to the security state that emerged in the wake of 9/11. “In this country, we’re up against a War on Terror complex, which literally criminalises us for having the wrong opinion,” says Aliza Kazmi, Co-Executive Director of HEART Women and Girls, one of many female and Muslim-oriented organisations responding to the landmark SCOTUS decision. In conversation, she cites the work of journalist Vanessa Taylor, who has reported on the policing of Muslim communities and the psychological tolls of surveillance. read the complete article

21 Jul 2022

'This is an issue of equality': Maryland law to allow religious garments in college sports

"We had to make this really tough decision between our love for our faith or our love for sports." Simran Jeet Singh -- Executive Director for the Aspen Institute's Religion & Society Program, who studies religion, racism and justice -- recalls his own experience of fighting for inclusion as a turbaned Sikh athlete. His is one of the voices welcoming the US state of Maryland's Inclusive Athletic Attire Act, also known as House Bill 515, which came into legal effect on July 1. The law requires the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, governing bodies of public institutions of higher education, county education boards and community college trustee boards to allow student athletes to modify athletic, or team uniforms, to conform to their religious or cultural requirements, or preferences for modesty. Under the law, modifications to athletic or team uniforms can include head coverings, undershirts or leggings worn for religious reasons. In a press release issued by the Maryland office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), director Zainab Chaudry said: "Our lawmakers have fundamentally leveled the playing field and improved the lives of thousands of children in our state." Seeking permission to play in religious garments was the very obstacle faced by student athletes like Je'Nan Hayes. In 2017, the Maryland student was excluded from her basketball team's first regional final appearance because of her hijab, for which, she said, no one had previously invoked a rule saying she needed a state-signed waiver. Noor Alexandria Abukaram had a similar experience. The Ohio high school athlete was disqualified from a 2019 district cross-country meet for wearing a hijab, which she later found out violated uniform regulations since she had not obtained a prior waiver to wear the head covering. Abukaram's experience fueled her campaign for legislative change. Earlier this year, the state of Ohio signed into law Senate Bill 181, under which student athletes will no longer be required to present a waiver to play sports in religious attire, following similar legislation passed in Illinois in 2021. read the complete article


21 Jul 2022

Voices Behind the Veil: The Human Cost of Karnataka's Hijab Ban

When 18-year-old AH Almas was stopped from entering her classroom along with five other students in late December last year, she didn’t think that she would find herself running from pillar to post several months later to regain access to her classes. “We never thought this issue would drag so much. Giving us permission to wear the hijab was in our principal’s hands. If he had allowed us at the beginning itself, this issue wouldn’t have become so huge,” Almas told The Quint. In these seven months, not only have the number of hijabi girls barred from entering their classes swollen from six to many thousands, the victims of Karnataka government’s hijab ban in educational institutions have also faced several death threats and have found their closest friends turn against them. Teachers too haven’t been spared, with many having to choose between either removing their hijab before taking their classes or quitting their jobs. The Quint traveled through different districts of Karnataka to speak to the several Hijabi students and teachers who have been gravely affected by this ban. read the complete article

21 Jul 2022

India court orders release on bail of journalist over 'provocative' tweet

India's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release on bail of a prominent journalist arrested last month over what police said was a "highly provocative" 2018 tweet aimed at straining ties between majority Hindus and minority Muslims. Mohammed Zubair, a co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News and vocal critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was arrested after an anonymous Twitter user lodged a complaint over the four-year-old post. While granting Zubair bail, the judges stated that "power of arrests must be pursued sparingly". The court also stated that while investigations can continue, there was no justification for keeping Zubair in custody. Zubair's lawyer had earlier said the case bordered on the absurd, because Zubair, a Muslim, had used satire from a Hindi-language movie in his 2018 tweet and there was no evidence that he had hurt religious sentiments of Hindus. Zubair and his colleagues accused the federal government of using the police to silence the voice of journalists and other critics. Earlier this year, Zubair had drawn attention to an incendiary remark about Prophet Mohammad made on TV by a spokesperson for Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Zubair's lawyer said the government was using the 2018 case to punish him after this year's tweet went viral. read the complete article


21 Jul 2022

China Trying to Block U.N. Assessment of Human Rights in Xinjiang: Report

Chinese diplomats in Geneva are trying to stop the publication of a United Nations report on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, Reuters reported Wednesday. A "joint letter" written by the Chinese mission and circulated among other member states in a bid to collectively lobby the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed "grave concern" about the U.N.'s report, the content of which Beijing has already seen. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was panned by human rights groups in late May when she accepted the Chinese government's invitation to visit Xinjiang and returned with inconclusive results. China framed her trip as a success that vindicated its policies in the northwestern region. Human rights groups and governments, including the United States, believe gross human rights violations are taking place against Xinjiang's native population of Uyghur Muslims—more than a million of whom are thought to have been subjected to abuses, including mass detention, forced labor, and religious suppression. The Reuters report, verified by diplomats who received the letter, said Beijing had been gathering signatures since late June in order to convince Bachelet to bury her office's assessment. read the complete article


21 Jul 2022

Saskatoon community condemns hate 1 year after anti-Muslim attack on resident

A mass of community members from Saskatoon's Eastview community and beyond gathered Tuesday evening in James Anderson Park to condemn prejudice in their community. It's the second year people have come together after a man was badly injured in what was considered an anti-Muslim assault in June 2021. Muhammad Kashif told CBC that he was stabbed and beaten by his assailants while they swore at him and berated him with racial insults. Then they restrained him and cut off his beard. "Why you are here? We don't like you are Muslim, why are you wearing this dress?," he recalled the assailants saying to him during an interview with CBC later that day. Earlier that month, four people were killed in London, Ont., in what appeared to be a hate-motivated attack on a Muslim family. Shortly after that, two women wearing hijabs were attacked by a man in St. Albert, Alta., knocking one unconscious and assaulting the other at knife point. "We definitely want to be an example for other communities. This is an Eastview walk against hate — but it's a [city-wide] walk against hate," said Laurel Lindgren, a co-organizer of the event. While last year's event was a direct response to the assault against Kashif, this year organizers asked people to commit to broader actions to address racism and prejudice. "We're ensuring that people have an accountability piece to their walk so we're not looking at the walk as one singular action," she said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 Jul 2022 Edition


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