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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01 Jun 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Trump says the U.S will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization. Harini Amarasuriya argues Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response is proof that demonization of minorities in the country has been normalized. Our recommended read today is by Umar Farooq titled “Black Pain is Ours: Minneapolis Somali community rallies over Floyd killing.” This, and more, below:

United States

01 Jun 2020

Black pain is ours: Minneapolis Somali community rallies over Floyd killing| Recommended Read

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by a police officer who kneeled onto his neck while arresting him for a nonviolent crime, outrage in the community of south Minneapolis has boiled over into the angry demonstrations seen this past week. The killing has also caused some friction between the Black and Muslim communities, because Cup Foods, where a store employee called the police on Floyd to report a $20 counterfeit bill, is owned by a Muslim-Arab man. "Out of all the police brutality situations that I have been involved in or was aware of, or have been alive to witness, I think this one hits very close to home because it did come from my community," said Khadija Ali, a Somali-American photographer and demonstrator. "It came from a Muslim business who couldn't give this guy the benefit of the doubt. It's heartbreaking," Ali told Middle East Eye. The store owner unequivocally condemned the killing and showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that his employee was simply following protocol as dictated by federal guidelines. Still, many activists and community members have said the killing opened the door for a conversation about racism and anti-Blackness within the larger Muslim community. Within this dialogue, and the accompanying outrage and frustration, lies the Somali American community, which plays the unique role of being visibly Black and also Muslim. read the complete article

Recommended Read
01 Jun 2020

Antifa: Trump says group will be designated 'terrorist organisation'

The president accused Antifa of starting riots at street protests over George Floyd's death. Mr Floyd, a black man, died in police custody earlier this week, reigniting anger at police treatment of African-Americans. Protests over his death have turned violent, prompting major cities to impose curfews. The National Guard - the US reserve military force for domestic emergencies - had been deployed in 15 states to help police forces deal with the unrest. On Saturday, Minnesota's Democratic Governor Tim Walz suggested that foreign influences, white supremacists and drug cartels were behind the violence, giving few other details. On Twitter Mr Trump blamed "Antifa-led anarchists" and "Radical Left Anarchists" for the unrest, again without providing more specifics. Mary McCord, a former senior Justice Department official, said "no current legal authority exists for designating domestic organisations as terrorist organisations". "Any attempt at such a designation would raise significant First Amendment concerns," Ms McCord added, referring to the constitutional right to freedom of speech, religion and assembly. Antifa - short for anti-fascist action - is a protest movement that strongly opposes neo-Nazis, fascism, white supremacists and racism. It is considered to be a loosely organised group of activists with no leaders. Most members oppose all forms of racism and sexism, and strongly oppose what they see as the nationalist, anti-immigration and anti-Muslim policies that Mr Trump has enacted. read the complete article

01 Jun 2020

USAID Faces Mounting Pressure to Remove Latest Trump Appointee with History of Islamophobic Remarks

This week, the Trump administration made an ironic choice to fill the post of religious freedom adviser at the U.S. Agency for International Development: a man who has stated publicly that he considers Muslims to be followers of a “barbaric cult” and posted articles on social media endorsing the Chinese government’s crackdown on their Uighur Muslim minority. The appointee to the USAID position is Mark Kevin Lloyd, a little-known former tea party activist, the Washington Post reported earlier this week. As a private citizen, Lloyd had not exactly been shy about sharing his views. Some of the highlights from his social media and past public commentary include allegations that former President Barack Obama was a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and that Muslims in general were dangerous extremists who needed to be suppressed. It’s not clear, however, what in Lloyd’s background qualifies him as an authority on religious freedom. American Muslim civil rights activists say that these policy appointments are part of a deliberate strategy of handing people with extreme anti-Muslim beliefs the levers of government power. Rather than an oversight, judging by the Trump administration’s hiring record to date, Lloyd’s flagrant anti-Muslim commentary may have helped recommend him for his new role. “This isn’t simply about failures of vetting or about the administration not doing a good job researching candidates,” said Wa’el Alzayat, a former State Department official and head of Emgage, an American-Muslim advocacy organization. “They are picking people who fit a certain profile and who hold certain beliefs and views.” read the complete article

01 Jun 2020

Sex, love, and mercy: Ramy Youssef wants to show you another side of Islam

Now, one year and a Golden Globe later, the 29-year-old comedian is ready to share the next chapter of his character’s journey, this time enlisting the help of two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali as co-star. “Stuck” is actually a perfect word to describe Youssef’s character on Ramy. The show explores his grappling with the juxtaposing ideals of a traditional Muslim lifestyle that puts morality at the forefront of every decision, and a more progressive “Western” culture based in the perceived freedom to act without fear of otherworldly consequences. Alcohol? Forbidden. Drugs? Not in this life. Pre-marital sex? Not if you want to stay on Allah’s good side. But none of the vices on conventional Muslims’ list of taboos are addressed as accutely on Ramy as sex. The protagonist's quest for spiritual fulfillment is constantly at odds with his compulsive and sometimes uncontrollable sexual desires — often to the point of self-sabotage. For Youssef, Ramy is a show about “the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.” read the complete article

01 Jun 2020

State violence exacerbates mental illness behind bars, especially in Guantánamo Bay

“Hardship is the only language that is used here. Anybody who is able to die will be able to achieve happiness for himself, he has no other hope except that.” These were the words of Adnan Latif, formerly incarcerated at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, to his attorney two years before he committed suicide in 2012. Like many other incarcerated people languishing behind Guantánamo’s walls, Latif had been pushed to the edge after being cleared for release three times. Last year, Sharqawi Al-Hajj, who is incarcerated at Guantánamo, told his attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Pardiss Kebriaei, that he was suicidal. Despite many clear attempts to kill himself, the judge not only denied a motion to get him an independent medical examiner, he argued that Al-Hajj, who had slit his wrists with pieces of glass, was not trying hard enough to kill himself. While both stories highlight the injustice at Guantánamo, they also reveal a disturbing truth about the role of state violence in creating and exacerbating mental illness behind bars. Both stories, as important as they are, will predictably receive no attention during Mental Health Awareness Month. Unfortunately, in both Mental Health Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Week (which takes place in December), mental health is treated as an individual problem—devoid of any context as to why some mental illness emerges. Even more absent is the role of the state. What happens when state violence is squarely responsible for the lack of mental health and/or the development of mental illness? This connection is typically minimized whether pertaining to Guantánamo or any other U.S. prison. The only form of culpability that the state might absorb is for treatment they can admit exacerbated an existing condition, not one that led to a particular condition in the first place. read the complete article


01 Jun 2020

The Politics of Pop: The Rise and Repression of Uyghur Music in China

On the evening of September 7, 2014, I sneaked into an auditorium on the campus of the Xinjiang Arts Institute in Ürümchi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. Over the course of several preceding days, I’d watched as crews from Xinjiang Television (XJTV) poured in and out of the auditorium, working to transform the space from its everyday function as a student performance venue into a much more exciting, if temporary, role as the set for the Voice of the Silk Road, a new reality singing competition. I wanted to see firsthand what had been going on. At that time, I’d been living and conducting doctoral dissertation research in Ürümchi for almost two years. I was there to study muqam, a form of “classical” Uyghur music with an older history in Sufi practice and a more recent history as a project of state symbol-making. I was in my second semester as a student of muqam performance and research at the Arts Institute and had grown increasingly interested in understanding how muqam fit into the Uyghur performing arts world as a whole. Language — specifically the way that the Uyghur language was used to frame television and other performance events — was a significant part of that. Today, the words “Uyghurs” and “Xinjiang” are most likely to conjure up images of internment camps. Since 2017, the XUAR government has pursued a comprehensive campaign of ethnic repression and cultural assimilation targeting Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Huis, and other Turkic and/or Muslim peoples. These policies include multiple forms of extrajudicial, extralegal detention, internment, and incarceration; family separation; forced labor; religious repression; daily political indoctrination; and on and on and on. This campaign, while horrifying and absurd, is a logical extension of the relationship patterns Beijing long forged between itself and the XUAR’s peoples. Through the 1990s, when Han settlers began pouring into the XUAR en masse as part of China’s plan to develop the region, Uyghurs and other local inhabitants bristled at the realization that China’s policies were poised to benefit ethnic Hans more than themselves. Han in-migration was making Uyghurs a minority in their own homeland. The authorities responded to protest and unrest by increasing pressure: “Strike Hard” campaigns and increased Han settlement; a move toward monolingual Chinese-language education in the early 2000s; the labeling of Uyghurs as terrorists beginning in 2001; the state’s violent response to the Ürümchi unrest of 2009; the declaration of a “People’s War on Terror” in 2014. These were all displays of force, used to show Uyghurs that the state could and would make them second-class citizens, reducing every bit of space for civil action that they might try to occupy. read the complete article


01 Jun 2020

Modi 2.0: A Coming-of-Age Drama For Majoritarianism and Authoritarianism

In terms of political thrust, Narendra Modi’s second term as prime minister has unfolded like a coming-of-age drama. The aversion towards India’s minorities and the niceties of liberal democracy, already discernible in his first tenure, appear to be getting governmental approval in the first year of his second tenure. On Saturday, Modi completes one year in office since re-election and a six-year uninterrupted stint as India’s top most executive – a position from which he has wielded power with an iron fist. Through this period, his government has cemented itself as the most illiberal dispensation in the history of independent India. Two broad trends, which could potentially change the fundamental structure of Indian democracy, mark the beginning of his second prime ministerial tenure. Modi’s campaign was a political experiment which attained unprecedented success in 2014. He nosedived into a populist style of campaign that aimed to consolidate India’s Hindu majority at the cost of Indian Muslims. Things, however, changed dramatically last May when Modi secured an unprecedented majority in the Lok Sabha elections. India has, since then, seen the institutionalisation of that communal venom, so much so that it has significantly altered the Muslim citizen’s relationship with the Indian state. If the demonisation of Muslims had been the highlight of Modi’s first regime, Modi’s second term further formalised it with Amit Shah promoted to Union home minister now. read the complete article

01 Jun 2020

Opinion: Dissent is contagious – and arrests of Delhi activists will not stop the quest for justice

The largest non-violent civil disobedience movement that India has witnessed since 1947, “Shaheen Bagh” has come to describe a repertoire of resistance adopted largely by Muslims but not exclusively by them. It was both unapologetic about their identity as well as avowedly secular in their demands as equal citizens of this country. It did not just redefine the contours of politics in India: it also set in motion a process that unsettled well-settled paradigms of “managing” minority politics that had been used over the decades, even by the so-called secular forces. Most significantly, Shaheen Bagh undermined the concerted campaign of Hindutva groups to create a dehumanising stereotype about Muslims – their purported outlook, their ghettos and their beliefs. This strategy is waged from the highest level. Even as TV anchors conjure up imaginary plots by Muslims that they label “love jihad” and “corona jihad”, the Home Minister denounces “infiltrators” and “termites”. This rhetoric has laid the ground for India’s Muslims to be persecuted – and even “cleansed”. Shaheen Bagh upended that strategy. The iconic photo of the three women students shouting slogans at the gates of New Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia university; the viral footage of fearless women warning the police to stay away from their male comrade; the daadis of Shaheen Bagh, some even older than the republic, demanding their rightful place in the country – these images tore apart the straightjacketed narrative that goes into building the stereotype. The images of India’s hundreds of Shaheen Baghs showed a community, in all its vitality, responding to an existential challenge for the republic, with rage and yet with civility, with courage and with humility, as Muslims and yet as Indian citizens. They even refused to be provoked by repeated attempts at incitement by gunmen. The Shaheen Baghs and protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens may not have been as much of an electoral threat for the BJP. But a politics that allows Muslims to articulate themselves in a vocabulary that is not just unapologetic about their identity but is also based on a rights discourse is definitely a threat. read the complete article

01 Jun 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a year into his second term. He's still the only game in town for India

At 8 p.m. on March 24, Modi gave just four hours' notice of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, sending millions of people scrambling for groceries, medicines and other essentials. Perhaps worst affected were the millions of migrant workers who travel from rural areas to work in cities each year. In the lockdown, work suddenly dried up, leaving many of them stranded without pay. Many were forced to walk vast distances due to the public transport shutdown -- and not all of them made it. Modi's sudden decision -- accompanied by poor planning and execution -- left local administrations confused over what was and wasn't allowed, such as exemptions for online grocery deliveries amid the halt on all e-commerce operations. "This is a part of his governing style and it can work during normal times but it's not a good way to operate in a time of crisis where you throw surprises at 1.3 billion people," said Vivek Dehejia, a professor of economics at Carleton University in Ottawa. India's unemployment rate hit 8.75% in March, up from 7.03% in May last year -- and is even higher after the coronavirus shutdown. Furthermore, during his term, his government has committed funds to vanity projects, such as the world's tallest statue or bullet trains, when priorities such as healthcare, infrastructure and sanitation persist. And with the economic destruction wreaked by the pandemic things are unlikely to improve. The pandemic has provided more opportunity to marginalize Muslims, after a March gathering in New Delhi of the Tablighi Jamaat, a conservative Muslim missionary group, resulted in a large cluster of cases. Reports of Islamophobic attacks, both online and on the streets, began to surface, with Muslims being accused of spreading the virus. Some members of his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began comparing the incident to terrorism. On Twitter, the head of the BJP's information and technology unit, Amit Malviya, called the gathering part of an "Islamic insurrection" while Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the BJP's Minister for Minority Affairs accused the event organizers of a "Talibani crime." Like previous incidents, most recently seen in February when violent communal clashes broke out in the capital New Delhi, the government failed to take stringent action. "Modi did put out a tweet on harmony but it felt like an afterthought. There's a lack of communication and it's more obvious because otherwise he tweets about everything under the sun," said Meghnad, from Newslaundry. read the complete article

01 Jun 2020

Having Scripted a Drama About the Delhi Violence, the Police is Now Casting for Characters

A conspiracy is being hatched in Delhi: to create the story of a conspiracy. The fiction the Delhi Police would like us to believe is that there was a conspiracy behind the violence in the northeast part of Delhi in the last days of February – a conspiracy involving those who, in any manner, had participated in the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Some of those have already been locked up and we are told more arrests are in offing. Young students, mostly women, and Muslim activists have been put in jail. They are facing grave charges – from rioting and attempt to murder to murder itself. The draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, has been slapped on some. The theory of the investigative agencies is that it is they who had conspired to unleash violence in north-east Delhi. And that the anti-CAA protests were nothing but a cover for this conspiracy. The plot of the story was given to the police by its political masters. In parliament, a statement was made ruling party MPs that there were organisations like “United Against Hate” and persons like Umar Khalid who were responsible for provoking violence. A clip of a speech by Harsh Mander was used to allege that he had called for violence. The investigative agencies have developed this plot into a story, found characters to the scripted role and are trying to persuade the courts and public at large about its truthfulness. But even in these times, a sessions court retained the ability to see the plot and admonished the police that its probe was being done in a one-sided manner. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

01 Jun 2020

Sri Lanka's COVID-19 Response Is Proof That Demonisation of Minorities Has Been Normalised

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting inequalities, discrimination and marginalisation in societies everywhere as well as inadequacies of existing political and economic structures and cultures. We may all be equally susceptible to the virus, but our experience of it is most certainly not the same. In every society, groups that have borne the brunt of the virus are migrants, minorities, women, older people and those engaged in precarious jobs. In Sri Lanka too, the impact of the virus is being felt in all too familiar ways – reflecting the fault lines the country has been dealing with for the past several decades. It seems as if nurturing constant tension with an ethnic/religious ‘other’ is essential for doing politics in Sri Lanka. So, since 2009, there has been a rise in Islamophobia – one that is carefully nurtured, sustained and facilitated. It would not be an exaggeration to say that no event of ethnic or religious violence in Sri Lanka has taken place without the complicity of the political party in power – at the very least, by turning a blind eye or delaying taking action. Fanning anti-Muslim sentiments are wild rumours and ideas about ‘the Muslim community’. One supposed characteristic of the Muslim community is their apparent disdain for law. The Muslim community, as believed by the majority Sinhalese and even the minority Tamil community, only respect ‘Muslim’ law. Therefore, they apply their own laws to their community and openly flout laws that apply to the rest of the country. In the daily reporting on COVID-19 infections, rates of infection among Muslim communities, or locations known to be majority Muslim areas, were specifically mentioned. The tracing of contacts of infected persons was accompanied by not just security forces entrusted with the task but media, especially when it came to such incidents among Muslim communities. However, till a cluster of infections were discovered in a Navy camp, shifting attention away from the Muslim community, the notion that infections were rife among Muslims was the prevailing view. The already established idea that the Muslim community does not respect laws of the land, reinforced the view of ‘careless and undisciplined’ Muslims flouting social distancing and curfew laws. read the complete article

United Kingdom

01 Jun 2020

London Mosque: is the alt-right hijacking the issue to inflame tensions?

A proposed plan to convert a building at the heart of London’s famous Piccadilly Circus into a mosque, has resulted in objections - in particular from members of the far-right. News outlets such as Breitbart, known for their right-wing opinions, have attempted to frame the proposed plans to convert the well-known Trocadero, as an attempt to build a “mega-mosque.” “The word 'mega-mosque' is used to scare people,” said Heena Khaled, a co-founder of the UK-based organisation, Advancing Voices of Women Against Islamophobia. “What do people think there will be a loud call to prayer? Britain is already a divided society and setting up petitions against planning permission and using language like 'mega' and saying that central London will have a mosque is being used to show there is a 'takeover',” added Khaled speaking to TRT World. The proposals have also galvanised rightwing networks as far as the US who have used the issue to drum up images of a Muslim takeover. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Jun 2020 Edition


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