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.

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06 Jul 2023

Today in Islamophobia: A court in India has sentenced 10 men to 10 years each in prison for the lynching of a Muslim man who died after being tortured for 12 hours and forced to chant Hindu religious slogans by a mob in Jharkhand in 2019, meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council will hold an urgent meeting on the burning of a Quran outside a mosque in Sweden, following a request from Pakistan, and lastly, the British army has admitted that a Muslim soldier was a victim of “anti-Islamic bias”, after settling a landmark religious discrimination case. Our recommended read of the day is by Catherine Porter for The New York Times on how the killing of Nahel Merzouk by Parisian police and the hijab and religious symbol ban in soccer both touch upon long-simmering issues of identity and inclusion in the country. This and more below:


A Fatal Shooting and a Hijab Ban: Two Faces of France’s Racial Divisions | Recommended Read

One involved a fatal traffic stop that French officials have condemned; the other involved a charged debate on the visibility of Islam in French society. But both touch upon long-simmering issues of identity and inclusion in France. In recent years, studies have made clear just how prevalent racial discrimination is in France, particularly among the police. In 2017, an investigation by France’s civil liberties ombudsman, the Défenseur des Droits, found that “young men perceived to be Black or Arab” were 20 times as likely to be subjected to police identity checks compared with the rest of the population. Last week, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights called on France to “seriously address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement.” “We are discriminated against because of our race,” said Mr. Talpin, recounting what he hears from the subjects of his studies. “And then, on top of it, the problem is denied, it couldn’t exist.” Mr. Truong has studied the trajectories and experiences of about 20 of his former secondary students in Seine-Saint-Denis, the sprawling Parisian suburb where riots were ignited in 2005 after two teenage boys were electrocuted as they were pursued by the police. What some tell him, he said, is: “We do feel French. We were born here. But we’re not French-French.” He sees parallels between last week’s riots and the court ruling: Both have to do with controlling young, marginalized people in the public space who are deemed a threat. read the complete article

France riots: Fuelled by everyday discrimination

The riots which spread countrywide after the killing by police of Nahel M, a 17-year-old boy of Algerian origin, have shaken French society to its very core. The unrest has been described as unprecedented in terms of scale and intensity. While there was almost unanimous condemnation of the police killing of Nahel, after the riots many were quick to raise the same-old question regarding immigration into France. There was the ever-present: "How have third- and fourth-generation French citizens of immigrant descent failed to integrate into French society?" As a young, Algerian, Muslim man who grew up in Canada, my observation of day-to-day life in France over the past few months is that the water reeks of latent, banalised racism and Islamophobia. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, there were several examples of major media outlets and political elites making highly provocative statements about Muslims and Algerians in France. At the start of June, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe gave a wide-ranging interview in which he called for immigration reform. He said that some French people don't consider second- or third-generation immigrants French for purposes of "integration, education, civic-mindedness" - and that these views should be heard. Mr Philippe went on to say that another problem many French people have with immigration is Islam. "It is a central subject, a disturbing subject, a haunting subject," he said. read the complete article


Critics question the backstory of one of Germany’s leading counter-extremists

Throughout his career in the public eye, Ahmad Mansour has used the multiple public platforms afforded to him to refer to Arabs as “savages” and cite antisemitism as the main cause of the Middle East conflict. He has also urged German politicians to do more to crack down on political Islam, which he views as an existential threat to western civilisation, and called for a ban on minors and state employees wearing the hijab, which he has described as a form of “abuse”. “Islam has never integrated into another culture and won’t in Europe either,” he said on a podcast for the conservative broadsheet newspaper FAZ in 2021. Mansour’s criticism of Muslim culture has won him huge popularity among German conservatives and an important place on the national stage. He is a mainstay of public debates about Islam and integration, whether on social media or television. With more than 70,000 followers on Twitter and four published books, he regularly appears as a talking head in German media, notably for Tagesschau, the main TV news show on the public service network ARD. Mansour has built his reputation and career on a narrative of growing up in an environment where radicalisation was almost inevitable, being groomed into it and coming out on the other side. However, when I visited Tira, the place where he was born in 1976 and spent the first two decades of his life, some of his acquaintances and contemporaries told a different story. Mansour’s self-portrait of himself as a young Muslim man saved from extremism by western psychology, coupled with some shrewd political positioning, has brought him the success he wrote of longing for as a child in Generation Allah. But if key parts of his origin story are exaggerations, as many who know him have alleged, what caused this very public Palestinian figure to dedicate his career to vilifying sections of the Arab Muslim community? At SOAS, Sultany believes his motivation may have been largely strategic, playing on foreign ignorance of Islam to advance himself in a society looking to validate its existing prejudices. read the complete article

50% of Germans are OK with Islamophobia, study finds

Last week, the Independent Expert Panel on Hostility against Muslims (UEM) presented a 400-page report that illustrates the state of Islamophobia in German society. The study itself was commissioned by the country’s interior ministry after a right-wing extremist attack on Muslims in the city of Hanau in 2020. The 12-member panel cited data showing that about half of Germans accept anti-Muslim statements, and that fact itself “provides a dangerous breeding ground” for extremist groups. The 12-member panel cited data showing that about half of Germans accept anti-Muslim statements, and that fact itself “provides a dangerous breeding ground” for extremist groups. German Interior Minister Nancy Weser said at the presentation of the report: Muslims have been part of our society for many decades. Nevertheless, they are often attacked, marginalised and excluded because of their faith. This is also the experience of people who are mistaken for Muslims.” The report also analyzed the political landscape and found that nearly all parties in Germany, with the exception of The Left (Die Linke), were not consistent in their efforts to promote anti-Islamophobia, even if they opposed it. The far-right Alternative for Germany actually pushes Islamophobia as one of its main policy pillars. read the complete article


Not George Soros agent, I am a practising Hindu woman against Hindu nationalism: Sunita Viswanath

On 28 June, I woke up to the news that my name was plastered across the Indian press. Many media outlets including Hindustan Times, Zee News, News18 and Bharat Times ran the headline, “Who is Sunita Viswanath?” I received concerned calls and messages from friends and family all around the world. I am a New York-based human rights activist, the co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights, an organisation that mobilises the Hindu community in the US to reclaim our religion from the Hindu nationalist ideology of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). I co-led protests in New York and Washington, DC, during Modi’s recent United States visit. I am used to hateful remarks by right-wing Hindus. But this was a new low. At a televised press conference on 28 June at the new BJP headquarters, minority affairs minister Smriti Irani held up a picture of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi giving a talk at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, with me sitting a few chairs away, my face circled in ink, and asked, “Why is Mr Rahul Gandhi hobnobbing with those who are funded by George Soros?” and “Is it true that Shri Gandhi met with Sunita Viswanath during his trip to the United States of America?” She then alluded to nebulous claims that philanthropist George Soros plans to destroy the Republic of India. All these wild accusations emerged because of a picture of me attending a DC town hall with Rahul Gandhi for about 50 India policy experts. read the complete article

UN to meet on Sweden Quran-burning stunt decried by Muslim world

The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold an urgent meeting on the burning of a Quran outside a mosque in Sweden, following a request from Pakistan. The debate on the rise of religious hatred will likely take place later this week, a spokesperson for the Geneva-based UN council told a press briefing on Tuesday. The desecration of the Quran took place outside the Swedish capital Stockholm’s main mosque last week and was carried out by a man during a protest authorised by the police. The Swedish government condemned the “Islamophobic” act, after an international Islamic body called for measures to avoid future desecration of the Muslim holy book. Officials from numerous countries, including many in the Middle East, have also reacted to the incident, calling on Stockholm to step up measures against religious hate. read the complete article

United States

A new short story collection showcases the diversity of the Black Muslim experience

NPR's Scott Detrow talks with author Aaliyah Bilal about her new book Temple Folk, which tells the stories of dozens of Black Muslims over the course of several decades. AALIYAH BILAL: The community is a collection of African Americans who were once upon a time members of the Nation of Islam, though they have moved on to Sunni Orthodoxy. And the majority of the stories depict these individuals reflecting back on their times in the Nation of Islam, from the perch of, again, Sunni Orthodoxy. DETROW: "Temple Folk" tells the stories of dozens of Black Muslims over the course of several decades. It tackles issues like freedom, love and family in a way that Bilal says cuts through the biases many people have about her community. read the complete article

State Rep. Maryam Khan speaks out after apparent attack following Eid service

"I experienced an attempted sexual assault and violent physical assault. I have sustained multiple physical injuries and it has taken an emotional toll on me and my family and children – who witnessed the attack and were in harm's way." State Representative Maryam Khan is responding after being assaulted following a service marking Eid al-Adha in downtown Hartford a week ago. The Islamic prayer ceremony happened at the XL Center on the morning of June 28. While leaving the service, Kahn was assaulted. "I am immensely grateful to the courageous men who came to my aid and helped apprehend the attacker until the police arrived. Their courage and tenacity in those moments helped to save my life, the lives of my children and many other Muslim women and children that were still inside the XL Center. I am on a long journey of physical and emotional healing and I ask for your grace during this time," Kahn said in a statement. The state representative went on to say that she is concerned about the lack of security at one of the largest Muslim gatherings on the day of Eid in the capital city. read the complete article


Dutch Man To Appear In Court Over Koran Protest

A Dutch man will appear in court on insult charges after tearing up a Koran outside parliament and likening Islam's holy book to Hitler's "Mein Kampf", prosecutors said Tuesday. Edwin Wagensveld, 54, who heads the Netherlands's chapter of the German anti-Islam group Pegida, carried out the protest in The Hague in January, Dutch media said. Prosecutors had said in April that they opened a criminal investigation into a 54-year-old Dutch citizen living in Germany over the incident, which sparked anger in the Muslim world. Prosecutors noted that ripping up a Koran was not a criminal offence in the Netherlands, because of its codified tolerance of religious criticism. However, Wagensveld's words could "be qualified as group insult and is punishable under... the Dutch Penal Code which states that deliberately insulting a group of people because of their religion or belief is a crime", they said. read the complete article

United Kingdom

British army admits soldier was victim of ‘anti-Islamic bias’

The British army has admitted that a Muslim soldier was a victim of “anti-Islamic bias”, after settling a landmark religious discrimination case brought after fellow soldiers refused to let the claimant properly observe Ramadan while deployed in Cyprus. Ebrima Bayo, 39, from Huddersfield, said he was denied hot food given to fellow soldiers when he broke his fast, and forced to sign a waiver committing him to spend extra time in the gym, claiming it was necessary to ensure he was fit. “My understanding was they were trying to break my willpower. You said you were going to fast but we are going to make life difficult for you and eventually you will crack, buckle and stop,” Bayo said. The former private described being taunted and harassed by colleagues when he went out for Friday prayers during the holy month. “When we would put on our mosque attire, we would get people calling us names, trying to be funny, saying what have you got underneath that, why are your pockets full?” he said. The MoD resisted Bayo’s complaint and it took the former soldier five and a half years to win an apology and compensation. That came only in March after a ruling that Bayo could have his case heard in a public employment tribunal. The army said it “apologises for the anti-Islamic bias, both conscious and unconscious within the unit” and for a “culturally insensitive attitude on the part of the chain of command”. It said Bayo was an “excellent” soldier and he had received an undisclosed sum in compensation. read the complete article


Quran burnings has left Sweden torn between free speech and respecting minorities

A Quran burning and a string of requests to approve the destruction of more holy books have left Sweden torn between its commitment to free speech and its respect for religious minorities. The clash of fundamental principles has complicated Sweden’s desire to join NATO, an expansion that gained urgency after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but needs the approval of all current members. Turkey has blocked Swedish accession since last year, citing reasons including anti-Turkish and anti-Islamic protests in Stockholm. Then, last week, an Iraqi Christian immigrant burned Islam’s holy book outside a Stockholm mosque during the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, an act that the man said displayed his feelings about the Quran. The burning triggered widespread condemnation in the Islamic world. And along with similar recent protests by a far-right activist, it sparked a debate in Sweden about the limits of freedom of speech. Now, Swedish police say they have received new requests for demonstrations by individuals who want to burn the Quran, as well as the Torah and the Bible. Even some liberal commentators in Sweden argue that the protests should be regarded as hate speech, which is outlawed in the country when it targets ethnicity or race. read the complete article


Ten jailed in India over torture and lynching of Muslim man

An Indian court has sentenced 10 men to 10 years each in jail for the lynching of a Muslim man, who died after being tortured and forced to chant Hindu slogans. Tabrez Ansari was tied to a pole and tortured for 12 hours in 2019, as he cried and pleaded with a mob that accused him of burglary in the eastern state of Jharkhand. A video of the incident that spread on social media showed the 24-year-old being forced to chant “Jai Sri Ram” – meaning “hail Lord Ram” – a slogan widely used by Hindu hardliners. Police later detained Ansari for theft while he was in critical condition, and took him to hospital days later, where he died while in custody. Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has been accused of turning a blind eye to a rising number of vigilante attacks on minority Muslims. Rights groups say Hindu mobs have been emboldened under the rule of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party, which came to power in 2014. read the complete article


How to fight China’s memory-holing of the Uyghur genocide

After nearly a decade, the genocidal crackdown waged by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against the Uyghurs — a distinct, mostly Muslim ethnic minority of about 11 million people primarily living in China’s Xinjiang region — appears to be lessening in severity. “Now the final stage has begun: an official forgetting,” Post reporters Eva Dou and Cate Cadell wrote last fall, after a nine-day reporting trip through Xinjiang. “As with the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, Tiananmen in 1989 and other violent campaigns since, the party is moving to erase traces of its actions in Xinjiang from history.” At the height of the genocide, 1 million to 2 million Uyghurs were held in concentration camps. Former detainees reported “reeducation” that included mental and physical torture, with Uyghur women subjected to forced abortions and sterilization. In a form of cultural eradication, Uyghur women were also reportedly forced into “marriage” to men of the Han ethnic group, China’s largest. Last summer, the United Nations issued a report strongly suggesting that China had engaged in crimes against humanity. The reeducation sites seem to be emptying, according to Dou and Cadell, but they “stand as ominous warnings to residents to stay in line” and in any case, the “intense surveillance and intimidation of local residents” continues. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 Jul 2023 Edition


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