Today in Islamophobia

A daily list of headlines about Islamophobia
compiled by the Bridge Initiative

Each day, the Bridge Initiative aims to bring you the news you need to know about Islamophobia. This resource will be updated every weekday at approximately 11:00 AM EST.

Today in Islamophobia Newsletter

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06 Jul 2021

Today in Islamophobia: New Zealand MP Louisa Wall, co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) breaks ranks to denounce human rights abuses by China, while in the UK, Trevor Phillips is readmitted to the Labor party after a brief suspension for Islamophobic comments, while in Canada, the importance of public education in the fight against systemic Islamophobia continues to be called for amidst escalating instances of anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. Our recommended read of the day is by Corinne Torrekens on new research showing that a startling number of Belgians perceive Muslims as a threat and Islam as an ‘intolerant religious belief’. This and more below:


05 Jul 2021

How it became normal to be Islamophobic in Belgium

Extreme Right discourses are on the rise in Belgium, especially in the Flemish-speaking part of the country, where the region’s extreme Right political party, Vlaams Belang, represents about 20% of votes. In 2017, Theo Francken, the then state secretary for asylum and migration and a member of the nationalist party, New Flemish Alliance, published a poll about the Mediterranean sea rescue operations towards migrants on his Twitter account, before deleting it a couple of hours later. A vast majority of those who voted (approximatively 900 out of 1,000) chose to exclude Muslim castaways from rescue efforts. Polls showed his hardline stance on migration made him popular with voters but also caused the government coalition to split. Indeed, a few weeks earlier, a poll indicated that 74% of Belgians viewed Islam as an intolerant religion, 60% saw it as a threat, 43% thought that being both Belgian and Muslim was incompatible and 40% thought Muslims had something to do with terrorism. Belgium has already experienced more than three decades of public debates around the integration of Islam itself and Muslims. Even though it may be difficult to assess the impact of such debates, what can be noticed, however, is that they have broken the barriers of what can be said in the public arena about Islam itself, and Muslims. Most of these comments focus on the public visibility of Islam and religious practices and have led to government restrictions on Muslims. The veil is certainly the most common topic and the first to have emerged in the public debates. The arguments about it range from perceiving it as a symbol of Islamism and female submission, or on the contrary, as a symbol of agency and a public expression of faith. The arguments around it arise frequently, especially in the context of higher education and employment in public administration. In 2012, the Constitutional Court confirmed the ban on the full-face veil after two rounds of parliamentary discussions where – quite ironically – deputies went so far as to quote Quranic verses to demonstrate the fact that it was not a religious obligation. What is clear from these debates is how the religion of Islam and Muslims themselves are regularly assigned negative cultural values (oppressive, barbarian, violent, illiberal etc.) and opposed to a naturally tolerant ‘Belgian’ identity. In this context, over more than two decades, Islamist terrorist attacks have come to personify the threat of a new Trojan horse and the division between “us” (autochthonous non-Muslim Belgians), and “them” (those from a foreign and Muslim background). read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day


05 Jul 2021

Muslim women ‘on sale’ — website targets journalists, activists, taken down after outrage

A now-defunct website called ‘Sulli Deals’ put ‘on sale’ 90 Muslim women, mostly Indians, seemingly in a bid to target and harass them. ‘Sulli’ is a derogatory slang for Muslim women. The website — self described as a “community driven open source project” — profiled Muslim women journalists, activists, analysts, artists and researchers and put them up “for auction”. While a majority of the women were Indian, women of other nationalities including Pakistan were also named. The information revealed included photographs and Twitter handles. The owners of the website were not immediately known. However, software development platform GitHub, which hosted the website, took it down Monday. read the complete article

05 Jul 2021

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat outreach to Muslims evokes mixed response

Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s outreach to Muslims during a book launch function in Ghaziabad on Sunday evoked mixed response from Muslim academics and activists. While some found it unprecedented, others termed it an old book in a new cover. However, most of them saw it as an attempt to reshape the RSS’s image according to changing global politics. “The fact that he accepted that lynching is an Indian reality and that Muslims are at its receiving end is something new,” said Mirza Asmer Baig, professor of political science at Aligarh Muslim University. “Some time back, he said lynching was a foreign concept, alien to India,” he added. Prof. Baig also pointed to Mr. Bhagwat’s acknowledgement of the need to appreciate the differences in worship and lifestyle of different communities. “Acknowledging the differences is the first step towards accepting the multiculturalism that has defined Indian society for centuries. However, it is like stating the obvious. It is the RSS and its allies that were not accepting this idea of India,” he said. He said more than Muslims, Mr Bhagat seemed to be addressing the moderate/liberal Hindu voter who was shifting away from the BJP because of its relentless pursuit of hate politics. “Also, the global realpolitik has changed after the Democrats came to power in the U.S. and the Taliban got into ascendency in Afghanistan,” he said. read the complete article


05 Jul 2021

Canada still pays only lip service to fight Islamophobia

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s token gesture last week granting a mere CAD 300,000 ($243,000) to provincial schools to “combat Islamophobia,” is but one of many examples of hypocrisy on the issue in Canada’s political class. Not only is the sum far too little considering the population of Canada’s largest province, but the offer comes from the same premier who blocked a motion condemning Islamophobia just three weeks earlier, in the wake of the killing of a Muslim family in London, Ontario by an Islamophobe. But Ford, who was likely just playing to his base – white suburban voters with small, conservative and often racist views at odds with Toronto’s urban cosmopolitanism – is not alone in such blatant hypocrisy. Sadly, it runs across party lines. Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal government is also guilty. First, it took him six years and two of the worst examples of Islamophobic violence in the world – the 2017 massacre of Muslims at worship at a Quebec City mosque and the public execution by pickup truck of the Afzal family in London, Ontario last month – to make any effort at reviving the anti-hate laws axed by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013. Then there's Quebec’s notorious Bill 62, which Trudeau, dependent on the populous province’s traditional Liberal vote, still refuses to address. While the bill, in effect since 2018, ostensibly aims to enforce state neutrality in religious affairs, it effectively targets Muslims and fuels Islamophobia. It particularly targets Muslim women – the most frequent victims of Islamophobic hate crimes – who wear the face veil. Under Bill 62, such women are forbidden from giving or receiving public services, including riding public buses and subways. The law also prohibits public servants like doctors and teachers from working while veiled. Shortly after, Bill 21 was introduced by the province’s current ruling party, the Coalition Avenir Quebec in June 2019, in which people working in public service are barred from wearing religious symbols, including crosses, the Jewish kippah, hijabs, niqabs and turbans. Both bills have increased Islamophobic and other hate crimes against visible minorities. The fight against Islamophobia should really be a civil liberties issue, looking to the example, oddly enough, of our neighbour to the south where the ACLU vigorously combats Islamophobia, citing it as an affront to freedom of religion. Ultimately, Canadian politicians need to stop paying lip service to fighting Islamophobia. After hosting two of the worst Islamophobic massacres in the world, and with ongoing attacks against Muslims on Canadian soil, it’s time to get rid of any smug complacency that Canada is a multicultural haven. read the complete article

05 Jul 2021

The role and responsibility of public education in taking on Islamophobia

In 2016, as a Peel District School Board trustee I got a call from a community member who asked me to meet with a group of Muslim students because they had serious concerns about changes the school board was making to Friday prayers. I met with them on the same day. They wanted to directly express their concerns to the board. I helped them with the delegation process, and assured them of my support as an elected trustee. It took some time, but luckily we were able to get the decision reversed. The students were able to continue participating in prayers without board involvement, as is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The decision of the board sparked the biggest Islamophobic reaction Peel Region has ever seen. And there I was, receiving phone calls filled with hate. There were protests at every board meeting, including the ripping of the Qur’an at a public board meeting. Multiple hate-filled delegations were allowed to proceed, and I had a front-row seat to all of it. Over the next few years, my work at the school board focused primarily on equity and inclusion. I was heavily involved in advocating for the review of the Peel District School Board, and the supervision by the Ministry of Education that followed that allowed us to push forward with significant changes on anti-Black racism and equity initiatives. But work on Islamophobia is still lacking in any substantial way. Our public education system is still trying to keep a neutral bird’s-eye view of our diverse communities, when no such view exists. Often times, the secularism mentioned in the Education Act has been cited as the reason why schools have no role in this work. This argument is easily countered, since Catholic education remains vibrant in Ontario — and because this work isn’t about preaching religion, it’s about fostering understanding among a diverse community. The system still does not accept its role and responsibility in countering hateful narratives, including Islamophobia, and more importantly it does not recognize its capacity to make a significant and long-lasting difference. The work that has been done to date on Islamophobia in even the most progressive school boards has been minimal and not all-encompassing. read the complete article

United Kingdom

06 Jul 2021

Labour lifts Trevor Phillips’ suspension for alleged Islamophobia

Trevor Phillips has been readmitted to the Labour party after his suspension for alleged Islamophobia was lifted, the Guardian has learned. The anti-racism campaigner, who previously chaired the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), was temporarily banned from the party in March last year. The suspension letter, a copy of which was released by Phillips, cited prior statements including his reference to UK Muslims being “a nation within a nation” and comments observing how few wore Remembrance Day poppies. At the time he condemned the suspension as a form of political gangsterism from the party under Jeremy Corbyn, having been a severe critic of the then Labour leader, particularly over his handling of antisemitism in the party. The Guardian understands Phillips was reinstated at least three weeks ago, without the matter having gone to a National Executive Committee disciplinary panel. A Labour source told the Guardian the investigation into Phillips is ongoing and its procedures allow for this to happen even after a member’s suspension has been lifted. Nevertheless, his readmission to the party comes amid suggestions that the party is facing significant discontent among Muslim voters. Last week Labour held Batley and Spen with a razor-thin majority after the divisive candidate and pro-Palestine campaigner George Galloway won more than 8,000 votes. read the complete article


05 Jul 2021

What is the Myanmar military’s ‘four cuts’ strategy?

The Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, appears to have returned to its “four cuts” strategy in a bid to stamp out resistance to its rule, after seizing power from the elected government in a coup on February 1. But what is the “four cuts”? Kim Jolliffe, an independent researcher focused on security and conflict in Myanmar, says the ‘four cuts’ strategy was first developed in the 1960s when the Tatmadaw was struggling to fight the Communist Party of Burma and the Karen National Union, Myanmar’s oldest ethnic armed group. According to Naw Htoo Htoo of the Karen Human Rights Group, the Tatmadaw’s use of ‘four cuts’ in areas under KNU control “targeted every person and village which they thought would have ties with the KNU.” “They fired indiscriminately at Karen villages, destroyed every food and aid item they thought was meant to support the KNU… restricted medical aid in conflict-affected areas, arrested people they suspected of providing aid and food, and arrested their family members…” she said. “They also used widespread sexual violence and forcibly relocated entire communities.” The Tatmadaw has also used four cuts in Kachin State, where a ceasefire between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Organization collapsed in 2011 and more than 100,000 people fled their homes amid renewed fighting, as well as in Rakhine State, where fighting between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army displaced 230,000 people between 2018 and 2020. Mass arson, rape and killing sent hundreds of thousands fleeing over the border to Bangladesh, and Myanmar is now the subject of genocide charges at the International Court of Justice. read the complete article

United States

04 Jul 2021

Trump Ally Allen West, Who Once Posted About ‘Exterminating’ Muslims, Is Running For Texas Governor

Trump-loving Republican politician Allen West, the former chair of the Texas Republican Party, will challenge Governor Greg Abbott in the 2022 race for governor, Politico reports. West—who only lasted a year as GOP chairman, during which time he tried to float a QAnon-style motto for his party—has waged ideological war on trans kids, gun control, and reproductive rights, and once had to apologize for a Facebook post about “exterminating” Muslims. West declared his candidacy Sunday afternoon at a Texas church. “I can no longer sit on the sidelines and see what has happened in these United States of America,” said West. West has criticized Abbott’s pandemic response and urged the governor to shift more towards the right politically. In May, Don Huffies, a former Texas state senator, also announced a bid to challenge Abbott, the Texas Tribune reported. read the complete article


06 Jul 2021

President Xi praises Xinjiang armed police for ‘counter terrorism’ efforts in Uyghur territory

President Xi Jinping has conferred an honorary counterterrorism title on Xinjiang’s armed police as China celebrates the elimination of terrorism through the introduction of Uyghur Muslim re-education camps. Monday July 5 marked the 12th anniversary of the Urumqi riots where tensions between Uyghur Muslims and the Han Chinese population erupted in Xinjiang in 2009. China’s propaganda mouthpiece the Global Times rejected the Western account of the unrest as merely conflict between people groups rather than terrorist action, saying the label was a “smear” against China’s policing measures. “The US and some Western countries out of political purposes had attributed the July 5 riots to ‘conflicts’ between Han people and ethnic minority people to sow discord and exonerate separatists,” it reported. “They also smeared China's anti-terrorist measures as 'oppression' of ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region.” The article went on to praise the use of “vocational education and training centres” as crucial in reducing poverty in the region and achieving peace and stability. It comes after a report published by Amnesty International detailed the “dystopian” persecution of Uyghur Muslims exposed through first-hand testimonies. The charity accused CCP authorities of committing “crimes against humanity” against Uyghur Muslims via a program of mass imprisonment, torture and surveillance. read the complete article


06 Jul 2021

New Zealand MP breaks ranks with Ardern government to criticize China over human rights

A member of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour party has denounced alleged human rights abuses by China, including illegal organ harvesting, saying Beijing has no regard for human rights. The comments by MP Louisa Wall mark a relatively rare departure from the government’s typically cautious statements on alleged human rights violations in China. Wall, who is co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and is a member of the Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee, told the Guardian that Beijing’s actions were those of “a country and a political party that doesn’t have regard for any rights, whether they be indigenous or human rights.” “It’s incumbent on me to speak up, to ensure that those atrocities are highlighted, so that we all fully understand what’s happening,” Wall said. Wall said she had not “broken ranks” with the party. But her comments are some of the most outspoken to emerge from within the Labour government. The party under Ardern is known for running a tight ship, and leaks or outspoken comments from MPs are relatively rare. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 Jul 2021 Edition


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