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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27 Jul 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, a judge has denied a Muslim organization and a civil rights group leave to appeal a court decision that maintained Quebec’s ban on prayer spaces in public schools, meanwhile in Europe, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, condemned recent Quran burnings in Denmark and Sweden, stating that such acts are “offensive, disrespectful and a clear provocation,” and in India, rights activists are accusing the Hindu right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of arbitrarily arresting Muslim Rohingya refugees and detaining them without access to legal aid. Our recommended read of the day is by Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and Amra Sabic-El-Rayess for USA Today on how dismantling dangerous conspiracy theories like the ‘Great Replacement,’ cannot by done using reason and analysis alone, as this only addresses the symptom, and not the cause of the problem which lies in society’s biases and attitudes to race, religion and ethnicity. This and more below:


What a genocide survivor and a Muslim leader learn fighting 'great replacement theory' | Recommended Read

On July 22, 2011, far-right terrorist Anders Breivik carried out Norway's deadliest mass shooting since World War II, killing 77 people. He justified the massacre by propagating the "great replacement" conspiracy theory, claiming he was saving Europe from a left-supported Muslim takeover of Europe. Twelve years on, that once obscure theory is now broadly mainstream among right-wing voters, media personalities, politicians and 1 in 3 U.S. adults. And since the terrorist's manifesto was shared, it has inspired a wave of deadly far-right attacks in the United States, Europe and New Zealand. This replacement theory is nothing new, however. Similar anti-Muslim racism was used to justify the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) by Bosnian Serb and Serbian government forces during the 1990s aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina. The popularity of conspiracies like the replacement theory exposes a deeper, more troubling reality. Such ideas can only take hold when people already hold preexisting beliefs, biases and values – most notably a belief that society is composed of divided and competing ethnic, racial or religious groups. That’s why dismantling such theories in isolation, using reason and analysis alone, is simply not enough – because it addresses the symptom, not the cause of the problem. This points to a bigger challenge around biases and attitudes to race, religion and ethnicity. read the complete article


When Saeed Bakhouch was repatriated to Algeria in late April from the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay after 21 years of detention without charge, his lawyer was assured by the State Department that he would be treated humanely. Still, his longtime lawyer, H. Candace Gorman, worried about her client’s upcoming release. Bakhouch’s mental health had deteriorated in the last five years; he had stopped meeting with her and retreated into himself. She feared that her client might be arrested after being returned to Algeria unless given real help and resources. That’s exactly what happened. Almost immediately after Bakhouch landed in Algiers, he passed through the usual interrogation process for former Guantánamo detainees in Algeria. After a two-week period of detention and interrogation, he appeared before a judge in early May. “He was being stripped of all of his rights,” Gorman said. Bakhouch was sent into pretrial detention and, for nearly three months, he has been held under brutal conditions. His hair and beard were forcibly shaved; he has been physically assaulted; and he has been deprived of his Guantánamo-issued medications to treat his injured heel. Now, human rights groups are alleging that Bakhouch is facing severe abuses in detention. Re-imprisoned in Algeria, Bakhouch is only the latest in a string of former Guantánamo detainees facing rights abuses after repatriation or placement in third countries. The question of responsibility over his well-being has pitted the State Department against human rights advocates who contend that his condition meets no viable definition of freedom. read the complete article

EU condemns spate of Quran burnings

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday condemned recent Quran burnings in Denmark and Sweden. Burning the Islamic holy book “is offensive, disrespectful and a clear provocation,” Borrell said in a statement. Diversity and tolerance for religious communities are key values of the EU and “expressions of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance have no place” here, the top diplomat added. On Tuesday, a Quran was burned during far-right anti-Islam demonstrations in front of the Egyptian and Turkish embassies in Copenhagen. Sweden and Denmark have witnessed a number of recent Quran burnings, which inflamed tensions with Turkey. “Not everything that is legal is ethical,” Borrell said. Some Quran burnings by far-right protestors were authorized by police, however both the Danish and the Swedish governments have condemned the acts. read the complete article

World Cup: How the hijab became tournament-ready

The first appearance of a female footballer wearing a hijab at a World Cup has been a long time coming. Nouhaila Benzina was in Morocco's squad for the North Africans' opening match against Germany but did not feature in their 6-0 defeat. The 25-year-old defender has Canada's Asmahan Mansour to thank for her chance to play in the World Cup. In 2007, the then 11-year-old made headlines around the world. Mansour wanted to take part in a local football tournament in the city of Laval with her team from Ottawa. When she appeared wearing a hijab, the referee asked her to take off her headscarf, referring to the rules of world governing body FIFA. Mansour refused, and her team left the tournament in protest. Mansour and the Canadian Football Association appealed to FIFA which confirmed its ban on the hijab, citing two arguments. On the one hand, the headscarf could lead to injuries and was therefore dangerous. Secondly, FIFA argued, it violates the rule that "basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statement." Critics argued that there was no evidence of a security risk and that FIFA was applying double standards in matters of religion. They said that FIFA had nothing against religious gestures by players, such as making the sign of the cross before the start of a match, before a penalty kick or when celebrating a goal. But FIFA remained firm. The Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who had been appointed FIFA Vice-President at the beginning of 2011 to represent Asia, was responsible for this change. With him, hijab supporters got a foot in the door of FIFA decision-makers. In 2012, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) - the international body that overseas the game's rules - decided on a two-year trial period for matches with an "athletic hijab." After the trial period, the IFAB allowed the hijab for international matches in 2014. At the U17 World Cup in Jordan in October 2016, Tasneem Abu-Rob and Rand Albustanji from the host team were the first female footballers to wear headscarves at a FIFA tournament. read the complete article


Quebec judge denies request to appeal decision maintaining school prayer space ban

A Muslim organization and a civil rights group seeking to suspend Quebec's ban on prayer spaces in public schools have been denied leave to appeal a court decision that maintained the ban. Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Robert Mainville ruled Wednesday that he's not convinced the appeal — which sought to allow the prayer spaces while the courts hear a constitutional challenge — had a reasonable chance of success. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims are challenging the constitutionality of the prayer space ban. A lawyer for the two groups had argued before Mainville on Monday that a Quebec Superior Court judge erred in June when he refused to suspend the ban. Olga Redko said the rule, which forbids schools from making any space available on school grounds for students to pray overtly, will cause irreparable harm to Muslim students. The Superior Court judge failed to properly consider the significance of the harm and the urgency of the situation, with classes scheduled to resume in late August and no trial date set, she said. But Mainville disagreed and said he's not convinced the harm caused by the ban is serious enough to justify a suspension. He said constitutional issues raised by the decree would have to be decided at trial. read the complete article

Muslim group, imam say sentencing of man who attacked worshippers not enough

Members of Canada's Muslim community expressed disappointment this week at the eight-year sentence handed to a man who attacked worshippers at a Toronto-area mosque, arguing it wasn't strong enough to discourage similar violence in the future. Imam Ibrahim Hindy said the attack last year at the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre in Mississauga, Ont. – which involved bear spray, a hatchet and was found to have been intended as a mass casually event – has left the community with long-lasting psychological pain. He said the sentence handed to Mohammad Moiz Omar, who pleaded guilty in the case, does little to deter future violence against Muslims. "So many of our community members have struggled over the past year and a half ... and there's no sentence that's going to bring us back to the time before these feelings of fear, hurt and loss existed," Hindy said in a phone interview Tuesday evening. "This person was planning to kill people for no reason other than their faith. Someone planning a mass casualty event against innocent Canadians, who are peaceful, who are vulnerable, their backs are turned to him, they're in prayer ... deserves more than eight years." An agreed statement of facts filed with court said an investigation found that Omar planned to carry out a mass casualty event and had planned the attack for about a year. The attack was also aimed at "intimidating" Muslims, the document said. read the complete article


Handcuffed and grieving: Rohingya in India face arbitrary detentions

Nomina Khatoon’s heartrending cries pierced the night air as the Rohingya woman walked behind the janaza – funeral procession – of her five-month-old boy. She was in handcuffs, a team of policemen half-dragging her through the streets of Jammu. Like Khatoon, in her thirties, her baby was also under detention at a jail, designated as a “holding centre” for an estimated 270 Rohingya who had sought refuge in India after being forced to flee persecution in neighbouring Myanmar. Forced to live in inhumane conditions and allegedly facing a severe food shortage and other essentials, the refugees tried to break out of the camp on January 18. Security forces allegedly fired live bullets and tear gas shells to subdue the angry refugees, injuring several people, according to the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (ROHRIngya), an independent rights group. Khatoon’s baby allegedly suffocated after inhaling tear gas fumes. A video tweeted by the group shows a chained Khatoon among a group of mourners. The Hindu right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is accused of arbitrarily arresting Muslim Rohingya refugees and detaining them without access to legal aid. Activists say that growing rhetoric against Rohingya from right-wing groups aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of PM Modi is fuelling anti-Rohingya sentiments in many places. read the complete article

United States

Aisha Abdel Gawad debut novel called “Between Two Moons” reflecting post 9/11 America

In her debut novel, “Between Two Moons,” Aisha Abdel Gawad masterfully captures the challenges faced by young Muslims in America, particularly in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Drawing from her own experiences as an Arab-American growing up in Brooklyn, Gawad weaves a poignant coming-of-age story set over the course of Ramadan, exploring themes of faith, family, and the impact of Islamophobia on a close-knit community. Gawad’s own background as the child of Egyptian and Scottish parents shaped her unique perspective on the post-9/11 world. She vividly recalls the palpable shift in how Arabs and Muslims were perceived after the tragic events of 9/11. Suddenly, they were burdened with the pressure of proving their “moderation” or “goodness” to others, leading to a constant sense of suspicion and surveillance. Through a gripping narrative, Gawad brilliantly portrays the spectre of Islamophobia that haunts the novel’s characters and the wider Muslim community. The plot unfolds with events like the police raid on an Arab business, the assault on an elderly imam, and the vandalism of a mosque, all driven by prejudiced views and anti-Arab sentiments. These incidents reflect the deep-rooted fears and biases that continue to affect Muslim Americans to this day. read the complete article


Security risks in Sweden rise due to Quran desecrations and protests, security agency says

Sweden’s security situation has deteriorated after recent Quran burnings in the country and protests in the Muslim world, both of which have negatively impacted the Nordic nation's image, its domestic security service said Wednesday. The Swedish Security Service said the burning and desecration of religious books in Sweden, and ongoing disinformation campaigns on social media and elsewhere, have negatively affected Sweden’s profile. The image of Sweden has changed “from a tolerant country to a country hostile to Islam and Muslims, where attacks on Muslims are sanctioned by the state and where Muslim children can be kidnapped by social services,” the agency, which is known by the Swedish acronym SAPO, said in a statement. The country's current reputation risks fueling threats against Sweden “from individuals within the violent Islamist milieu,” the agency said, adding that the risk of terrorism in Sweden remains at an elevated level, at three on a five-point scale. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 27 Jul 2023 Edition


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