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 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Boris Johnson switches from vilifying burqas as ‘sinister’ to mandating face coverings. In New York, legal complaint against Venmo challenges anti-Muslim discrimination. Our recommended read today is by Darren Byler and Carolina Sanchez Boe on “tech capitalism” and it is being used to extract profit from marginalized people. This, and more, below:


27 Jul 2020

Tech-enabled 'terror capitalism' is spreading worldwide. The surveillance regimes must be stopped | Recommended Read

Like an estimated 1.5 million other Turkic Muslims, Gulzira had been interned in a “re-education camp” in north-west China. After discovering that she had watched a Turkish TV show in which some of the actors wore hijabs, Chinese police had accused her of “extremism” and said she was “infected by the virus” of Islamism. They predicted it would lead her to commit acts of terrorism, so they locked her away. Gulzira’s detention lasted for more than a year. She was released in October 2018, only to be told that she had been assigned to work in a glove factory near the camp. After long hours behind a sewing machine, Gulzira was kept in a dormitory surrounded by security checkpoints that used facial-recognition technology to track her movements and scraped data from her smartphone, which she was required to carry at all times. She was paid $50 a month, roughly one-sixth of the legal minimum wage in the region. Gulzira was one of the millions of targets of a global phenomenon we call “terror capitalism”. Terror capitalism justifies the exploitation of subjugated populations by defining them as potential terrorists or security threats. It primarily generates profits in three interconnected ways. First, lucrative state contracts are given to private corporations to build and deploy policing technologies that surveil and manage target groups. Then, using the vast amounts of biometric and social media data extracted from those groups, the private companies improve their technologies and sell retail versions of them to other states and institutions, such as schools. Finally, all this turns the target groups into a ready source of cheap labor – either through direct coercion or indirectly through stigma. The people being targeted by terror capitalism include entire stateless groups, such as ethnic Bengalis in north-east India and Palestinian Arabs. They are almost always from minority or refugee populations, especially Muslim ones. While the Chinese system is unique in terms of its scale and the depth of its cruelty, terror capitalism is an American invention, and it has taken root around the world. In China, the terror capitalism system targets many of the more than 15 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in the region. Coercing these people into low-wage work means fewer Chinese jobs move to Vietnam and Bangladesh. The companies that have developed China’s policing technologies are now selling them to police units and regional governments in Zimbabwe, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, the Philippines and many other locations. Meanwhile, across Europe and North America, terror-capital surveillance tools have placed hundreds of thousands of Muslims on watchlists as part of Countering Violent Extremism programs. In the United States, immigration control measures taken in the aftermath of 9/11 have paved the way for a system that monitors and controls asylum seekers who enter the country at the southern border. read the complete article

Recommended Read
27 Jul 2020

A Human Rights Body Calls Upon States To Take Legal Actions Against China For Its Atrocities Against Uighur Muslims

On July 22, 2020, the Bar Human Rights Committee, international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales, published a briefing paper “Responsibility of States under International Law to Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, China” mapping the avenues for legal recourse for states to undertake to bring those responsible to justice. The alleged atrocities again the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, China, include “the mass surveillance and arbitrary detention of over 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims, torture and inhuman treatment of detainees, the forced separation of children from their parents, the denial of the right to practice their religion or speak their language, forced sterilization, forced labor, forced organ harvesting, enforced disappearances and killings in detention” and new more and egregious news continues to surface on a regular basis. Despite concerning reports of atrocities that may be classified as crimes against humanity or even genocide, states continue to shy away from enforcing accountability, putting their economic interest first. However, as the new report makes it clear, “it is the responsibility of all States to take all available measures to prevent any violations of international law from occurring, to seek to bring any ongoing violations to an end, and to call upon China to immediately cease any and all alleged practices and policies - violating its obligations and responsibilities - towards Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.” Economic interests must be put on the side to ensure that China does not get away with such genocide. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

Fashion industry warned of complicity in Chinese abuse of Uighur Muslim minority labour

More than 180 organisations have called for brands to end involvement with “suppliers implicated in forced labour” and to stop sourcing cotton and garments from Xinjiang province. Nike, Gap, Patagonia and PVH - owner of brands from Calvin Klein to Tommy Hilfiger - were among those named which have been linked to forced labour, according to the groups. “Virtually the entire apparel industry is tainted by forced Uighur and Turkic Muslim labour,” the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uighur Region said. Most of the companies named in the allegations either denied sourcing products from factories in Xinjiang, or said they were working to remove the region from their supply chains. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

India and China play political football with Muslims

Strangely and perversely, however, the persecuted Muslim minorities of both countries are being used as a political football in this diplomatic back-and-forth, with both Beijing and New Delhi seeking to damage the international reputation of the other by pointing to their respective mistreatment of Muslims. On July 7, India TV news anchor Ajay Kumar asked whether China is involved in the illegal practice of forcibly removing organs from Uighur Muslim detainees to satisfy demand for organ transplants. During the segment he also claimed, "China's Muslims do not enjoy religious freedoms." While there is no disputing that fact, Kumar did not, however, make mention of the fact that human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have publicly condemned India for its own mistreatment of Muslims in India and Kashmir. On July 9, India Today ran a seven-minute segment on China's Uighur camps in Xinjiang, or what was once East Turkestan. The piece, however, did not present anything that hadn't already been reported in the international media during the past two years, but only a recycling of previously reported clips. India Today did not, however, make any mention of the fact that the Indian government has established its own network of detention camps in the state of Assam, some of which are designed to hold up to 3,000 detainees - people who have suddenly been stripped of their residency under a pair of laws designed to marginalize millions of Muslims as "foreigners" and "invaders". In calling out China for persecuting its Muslim minority while enacting its own domestic Hindu nationalist agenda -one which makes no secret of its intent to ethnically cleanse the country's Muslim minority - the Indian government and news media's hypocrisy couldn't be made clearer. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

The Guardian view on China and the Uighurs: everyone’s business

What once, perhaps, seemed remote and opaque to those in other countries has become much more immediate. The crackdown in Hong Kong, taking place in the public eye, has highlighted the ruthlessness of the Communist party’s response to perceived challenges. Reports of the forced use of IUDs, sterilisation and abortion suggests a campaign to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities, which some experts have described as “demographic genocide”. Last week a coalition of rights groups warned that virtually the entire fashion industry is complicit in abuses, due to the use of forced labour in Xinjiang’s mammoth cotton industry. It is harder to turn your back on people who made the shirt upon it. An estimated million or more Uighurs, and other Turkic Muslims, have been held in the camps for the most moderate expressions of religious belief, having relatives abroad, or even failing to pay bills. Former inmates describe political indoctrination and abuses ranging from being forced to eat pork to rape and torture. Though some have been released, others have been sentenced to long prison terms or transferred to factories as forced labour. Those outside dwell in a digital gulag, under relentless hi-tech and human surveillance. China, which initially denied the camps’ existence, now says they are vocational centres to re-educate those “infected” by extremism and terrorism – a necessary deradicalisation campaign following violent attacks. Yet its approach in the region amounts to treating Uighurs and their way of life as fundamentally suspect. Almost any expression of Uighur culture, bar singing and dancing, is regarded as threatening – and thus in need of eradication. The US has already blacklisted companies and institutions it believes are involved in human rights violations in the region. But though Donald Trump has now signed a law calling for sanctions against officials responsible for violation, he reportedly told Xi Jinping that the detention camps were “exactly the right thing to do”. Meanwhile, hawkish Republicans voice a hitherto undetected interest in Muslim religious rights. The administration’s cynicism is not an excuse for others to dodge the issue. On the contrary: it is all the more reason to demonstrate the depth and breadth of opposition to outrageous violations of human rights. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in Congress

As its title suggests, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act aims to prohibit the importation of goods that were produced by the forced labor from the Uyghur minority in China. The act criticizes and seeks to punish China’s gross human rights abuses, including the imprisonment and oppression of more than one million Uyghurs, through economic sanctions on companies and individuals involved with the forced labor of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China. The goal of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is to stop the U.S. from importing goods made from forced labor in the region of Xinjiang, China. In doing this, the U.S. government would put pressure on China to end the forced labor of the minority Uighur Muslims in the region. read the complete article

United States

27 Jul 2020

Muslim Activists Say It's Time to Join Black Lives Matter Calls to Reform Law Enforcement

The decision of the East Plano Islamic Center (EPIC) to partner with law enforcement was not unusual: Muslim communities face frequent Islamophobic threats and are hesitant to jeopardize their relationships with law enforcement. As well, cooperation with authorities often reinforces ideas of Muslims as ideal citizens. But with Black Lives Matter protestors and supporters calling for reforms, including the outright abolition of police departments nationwide, EPIC suddenly found itself on the same stage as other cultural and corporate establishments, publicly grappling with questions of systemic racism and equity. Black Muslims make up a majority of Muslims in America, yet mosques are deeply segregated by race and class, reflecting a decades-long trend of upwardly mobile immigrant families flocking to affluent, white suburbs. Today, predominantly African American mosques exist in silos, far from largely Arab American and South Asian American congregations like EPIC. “There are two versions of American Islam. There are wealthy, suburban mega-mosques, and there are inner city masjids. Those two have yet to converge,” says Dr. Khalil Abdur-Rashid, an instructor and chaplain at Harvard University. Until a few years ago, he served as the resident scholar at the Islamic Association of Collin County in Plano, and was one of a few Black scholars in positions of leadership. Abdur-Rashid says in his experience, many non-Black imams have no idea how Black people encounter police, or the racist history of policing in the United States—a knowledge gap that has deepened divisions among the faithful. As backlash to EPIC’s event grew online, the mosque contacted Imam Khalid Shahid, of Masjid al-Islam, a mostly-Black mosque in South Dallas, and asked him to respond to the petition’s demands. Shahid agreed by giving an additional online talk. “The enemy is bigger than the police,” he said in his video, pointing to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging when we was shot and killed by white neighbors, not cops, in Georgia earlier this year. “I’m not saying the police are perfect,” he added. “White supremacy is the enemy. It’s everywhere. It’s within all institutions in America.” read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

Trump says Democrats are like 'Venezuela on steroids' for trying to overturn his travel ban

Donald Trump attacked Democrats on Capitol Hill after they passed the No Ban Act, which would repeal his travel ban towards several Muslim-majority countries, claiming the party has gone "Stone Cold Left - Venezuela on steroids!" "The Democrats in the House are trying to undo my big win Travel Ban Bill," the president wrote in a tweet on Saturday morning, "which successfully keeps very bad and dangerous people out of our great Country." The No Ban Act, which was not expected to receive a vote in the Republican-led Senate, mainly served as a repudiation of the president’s efforts to impose travel restrictions on Muslim majority countries — a campaign promise he made in 2016, long before the coronavirus pandemic. Still, lawmakers said the measure, which passed mainly along party lines, would put the Democratic-led House of Representatives on the “right side of history” after they said the White House created the ban out of religious discrimination. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

Is It Time to Defund the Department of Homeland Security?

D.H.S. is a relatively young federal department, founded in 2003 to unify a broad array of agencies tasked with handling immigration and border enforcement in the name of national security, following the attacks of 9/11. Before the Trump era, the department’s secretaries had been conscious of its newfound standing in the federal bureaucracy. As a former senior official once told me, “you can’t let the place become a political football,” because its resources are vast, its power is broad, and its responsibilities involve protecting the country from imminent threats. In the past four years, however, career officials have been forced out en masse, as the department’s enforcement agenda has fallen into the direct service of President Trump’s reëlection efforts. Wolf is only in charge now because his immediate predecessors were fired or driven to resign, and his top deputies are all political appointees. “There’s no longer any check on bad ideas,” the former official told me. There were signs that the Administration would stage dramatic action involving the department in the months before the election, the former official added, saying, “We just thought it would be about immigration and sanctuary cities. It’s the political use of law enforcement in an election year.” The incursion in Portland is far from an isolated incident. Last month, in response to the vandalizing of symbols of the old Confederacy, the White House issued an executive order “protecting American monuments, memorials, and statues.” D.H.S. was tasked with enforcing it. Earlier this week, the department announced that it would send a hundred and fifty ice agents to Chicago for policing purposes, and it threatened to deploy more to other cities, including New York and Philadelphia, all of which happen to be run by Democratic officials. John Amaya, a lawyer who served as the deputy chief of staff at ice under President Obama, told me, “The goons at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave are happy to dictate that D.H.S. officers use their authorities in an unprecedented manner.” In a strict legal sense, Amaya said, D.H.S. does have the authority to send agents to American cities, but their de facto policing “stands counter to the spirit of the law and the mission of the department.” Throughout the spring and summer, Black Lives Matter protesters further exposed the need for the structural reform of American police forces; even as people protested police abuse, officers attacked them. Policymakers across the country are now discussing concrete proposals to defund and demilitarize the police. Yet D.H.S. has largely escaped scrutiny, despite the fact that it comprises the largest law-enforcement body in the country, with the biggest budget and the fewest mechanisms of public oversight and accountability. For years, immigrants’-rights advocates have campaigned to defund, restructure, or abolish functions of the department. But the strongest argument for reining it in now comes from the department’s own acting secretary and agency heads, who, in the face of newly documented acts of abuse and overreach, are refusing to back down. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

Protests For Racial Justice Bring Light To Anti-Blackness Within Communities Of Color

The killing of George Floyd while in police custody sparked a global movement against racial injustice and police brutality. It also prompted some difficult conversations among other communities of color and minority faiths about their complicity and contributions to systemic racism, including non-Black American Muslims. My next story is about what happened to one prominent family in Minneapolis when a series of old, bigoted social media posts came to light. It happened just three days after Floyd's killing. Posts from years ago - anti-Black, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ. They were written by the daughter of Majdi Wadi, a well-known local Palestinian American Muslim businessman. He's the CEO of the family-run grocery store, restaurant, bakery and a hummus factory called Holy Land. His daughter Lianne Wadi was 15 when she wrote those posts. Public reaction was swift. Wadi's business was evicted from one location. He had to close two others. He laid off dozens of employees, mostly people of color, and closed the factory. An immigrant success story - today, the business is blackballed. The family received death threats. Wadi immediately fired his daughter Lianne, the director of catering at the company. She issued public apologies. So did her father as CEO. And as Wadi dealt with the fallout of what he called her disgusting tweets, he called Imam Makram El-Amin. In this moment, El-Amin saw an opportunity for Wadi and him to begin to tackle anti-Blackness among non-Black American Muslims. El-Amin says his faith teaches redemption. But it also demands accountability. And a racial reckoning, he says, among American Muslims has yet to happen. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

Legal Complaint Against Venmo Challenges Anti-Muslim Discrimination

No one should have to justify what they ate for lunch and why after dining out with friends, just because they are Muslim, Arab or South Asian. But that’s the sad reality for many New Yorkers who are regularly singled out when they make payments, and the reason why our organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York (CAIR-NY), is representing Brooklyn native and community organizer Shahana Hanif in a discrimination complaint against payment processor Venmo before the New York City Commission on Human Rights, filed on July 21. The types of restrictions placed on certain transactions amount to profiling, lead to embarrassing social stigmas, and are an unacceptable and discriminatory barrier for whole groups of people to enjoy the same access to services as others. The case is the first in the nation to challenge Venmo’s policy of targeting transactions on the basis of religion (Islam) and ethnicity. We bring this case to force Venmo to change its policy and to be transparent about how it filters and reviews transactions. Venmo will also serve as a warning to others in the financial sector that we will not allow them to escape responsibility for their unlawful conduct. Our complaint against Venmo stemmed from a lunch that Hanif had with friends in late 2019 at the Al-Aqsa Restaurant in the Bronx. Hanif, of Bangladeshi descent, is also a candidate to become the first Muslim woman and South Asian on the New York City Council. As often happens at lunch, one person covered the bill and the others paid her back. But when Hanif tried to send $14 to her friend over Venmo, mentioning “Al-Aqsa” in her description of the payment, the transaction was flagged and restricted. She was contacted by Venmo, demanding she explain the purpose of the payment and provide a “complete and detailed explanation” of what she purchased and where. Hanif provided details but felt embarrassed, singled out and unwelcome, wondering why she had to justify getting lunch. Experiences like that of Hanif are not isolated incidents. When she shared her experience on Twitter, many people quickly reported similar experiences of having transactions blocked for payments, ranging from a ticket for a Syrian play to, ridiculously, a gelato flavor called “Syrian lemonade.” This trend facing Muslims and those of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent became so prevalent that Newsweek conducted an investigation into Venmo last year. Newsweek discovered that transactions mentioning Persian restaurants were regularly flagged, while transactions mentioning “Cuba sanctions” or “North Korea food” were not. The advocacy group MPower Change also conducted its own investigation, and found that terms surrounding Middle Eastern or Muslim terms were flagged but terms like “KKK” or “cocaine,” which both violate Venmo’s terms of service, were not. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

Sentenced to death without trial

I have known Saifullah for almost 15 years. He is a gentle and decent man. Neither the prosecutor nor the judge have ever laid eyes on him. I know him to be a brilliant businessman, rising up from poverty to run companies from Pakistan to New York. He is a sophisticate who travelled the world (until the Americans kidnapped him in Bangkok), avidly consumed western media, and displayed the American flag in the lobby of his office in Pakistan. The Guantánamo guards were astounded that this elderly Muslim detainee could be so familiar with the Big Apple. Saifullah once gave investment advice to one of his many interrogators, and helped the man gain tens of thousands of dollars. The judge also “decided” that if Saifullah met senior members of al Qaida in Afghanistan, long before 9/11, that must mean he sympathised with them. To date, I think I have provided free legal representation to perhaps 90 people alleged to be members of al Qaida, or some similar group: does that mean I am a jihadist? I have helped more than 400 alleged murderers avoid death row: does that mean I am dedicated to homicide? Of course not. I did it all pro bono – which means “for the good” – just as Saifullah sought to mediate between dissonant parties in the name of peace. Saifullah recently suffered his third heart attack. That we plan to have him die in Guantánamo Bay is a stain on my country. All we ask is that he be allowed to return home to his family in Pakistan. read the complete article

United Kingdom

27 Jul 2020

Trojan Horse, Prevent, Islamophobia: How the EHRC failed British Muslims

Founded in 2007, the equalities watchdog has consistently let down the UK's Muslim population. Before the 2010 general election, the Labour government proposed a new Equality Act, extending protections against discrimination to other “protected characteristics” - age, gender re-assignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, sexual orientation, and religion and belief. These would also be part of the remit of the EHRC. Conservative politicians and press were suspicious of these developments. Human rights legislation was frequently blamed for failures to deport criminals or ban alleged extremists. It was surprising, then, that the new Conservative-dominated coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron committed itself to passing the Equality Act 2010. However, it did so with the EHRC beset by financial and governance difficulties and the government seeking to reduce expenditure as part of its austerity programme. The EHRC emerged with a considerably reduced budget and a requirement for onerous bi-monthly meetings with the responsible minister. Its annual budget was slashed by 68 percent and subject to Cabinet Office spending approval. This may help to explain why the EHRC at present does not have a single Black commissioner, nor apparently any from a Muslim background. At the same time, commissioners were recruited from those with expertise (e.g. from among former civil servants and businesspeople) rather than experience (e.g. from among civil society groups active on equalities). It also increased the number of commissioners with links to the Tory party. These measures laid the ground for greater political control. More shocking still has been its failure to act over the Trojan Horse affair, which burst into the news in early 2014 with claims about Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools. This involved deeply flawed government reports and, finally, in 2017, the collapse of professional misconduct cases brought against teachers at the school at the centre of an alleged plot. The cases collapsed because of “serious improprieties” on the behalf of lawyers acting for the agency of the Department for Education responsible for teacher standards. If ever there was a scandal which cried out for a full-scale investigation by the EHRC, it was Trojan Horse. Instead, in the wake of the affair, the government ratcheted up its Prevent counterterrorism strategy to address “non-violent extremism”. read the complete article

27 Jul 2020

Hypocrisy of face masks: Boris Johnson switches from vilifying burqas as ‘sinister’ to mandating face coverings

Since 9/11, Muslims in the west have endured constant scapegoating and vilification for their religious and lifestyle choices. This includes the wearing of the hijab, burqa, and niqab – different types of hair and face covering. These garments have been attacked by politicians, including the UK prime minister himself, often characterised as impeding communication, being non-British and representing an anti-western patriarchal culture. The fact that Boris Johnson is now calling for face coverings to be imposed is particularly ironic given his past comments on the subject. When he was foreign secretary in 2018, Johnson wrote in his column in the Telegraph newspaper that while he opposed a ban on Muslim face coverings, he nonetheless felt “entitled” to see the faces of his constituents, and likened women who wore the niqab to letterboxes and bank robbers. “Human beings must be able to see each other’s faces and read their expressions,” he wrote. “It’s how we work.” These beliefs are not restricted to the Conservative Party. In 2006, Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw wrote about his encounter with a Muslim couple, including a woman who covered her face, describing the “incongruity between the … entirely English accent, the couple’s education (wholly in the UK) – and the fact of the veil”. In doing so, he further cemented the notion that face coverings cannot be English. For at least a decade there have been calls to ban Muslim face coverings in the UK. In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum in 2016, more than half the British population said they supported a burqa ban. Many countries across Europe have done so despite negligible numbers of people who are affected by such a policy. read the complete article


27 Jul 2020

Search launched for 24 Rohingya refugees missing off Malaysian island

Malaysian authorities have launched a search for 24 Rohingya refugees who went missing while trying to swim to shore from a boat off the resort island of Langkawi. Muslim-majority Malaysia has long been a favoured destination for Rohingya Muslims seeking a better life after escaping the 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar and, more recently, refugee camps in Bangladesh. Malaysia’s coastguard said 25 people had tried to swim ashore late on Saturday when their boat was near the island’s west coast but only one reached land. Malaysia does not recognise refugee status. The prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, said last month the country could not accept any more Rohingya refugees, citing a struggling economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic. read the complete article


27 Jul 2020

India's PM to Attend Temple Groundbreaking at Disputed Site

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend a groundbreaking ceremony next week for a Hindu temple on a disputed site in northern India where a 16th century mosque was torn down by Hindu hard-liners in 1992, according to the trust overseeing the temple construction. The ceremony is set for Aug. 5, a date organizers said was astrologically auspicious for Hindus but that also marks a year since the Indian Parliament revoked the semi-autonomous status of its only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir. The symbolism was impossible to miss for both supporters and opponents of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, whose manifesto had for decades included pledges to strip restive Kashmir’s autonomy and to build a temple to the Hindu god Ram where the Mughal-era mosque once stood, a site in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state that devotees believe to be Ram's birthplace. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 27 Jul 2020 Edition


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