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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal will hear a case brought by a Saudi-born victim of CIA torture in which allegations claim that UK intelligence agents played a key role, meanwhile in Canada, the London region’s largest school board will unveil a new anti-racism strategy targeting Islamophobia on the second anniversary of a hate-motivated attack that killed four members of a Muslim family and injured their young son, and in India, Delhi-based journalist Asim Ali writes about how The Kerala Story is just one of the many forms of state-sanctioned hate speech that is thriving in the country. Our recommended read of the day is by Karen Greenberg for The Nation on how despite several attempts to declassify and investigate, very little is still known about the CIA’s torture program as part of the US-led “War on Terror.” This and more below:

United States

Two Decades Later, We Still Know Too Little About the Government’s Torture Program | Recommended Read

Think of us, the American public, as that blindfolded child when it comes to our government’s torture program that followed the 9/11 disaster and the launching of the ill-fated war on terror. We’ve been left to search in the dark for what so many of us sensed was there. We’ve been groping for the facts surrounding the torture program created and implemented by the administration of President George W. Bush. For 20 years now, the hunt for its perpetrators, the places where they brutalized detainees, and the techniques they used has been underway. And for 20 years, attempts to keep that blindfold in place in the name of “national security” have helped sustain darkness over light. From the beginning, the torture program was enveloped in a language of darkness with its secret “black sites” where savage interrogations took place and the endless blacked-out pages of documents that might have revealed more about the horrors being committed in our name. In addition, the destruction of evidence and the squelching of internal reports only expanded that seemingly bottomless abyss that still, in part, confronts us. Meanwhile, the courts and the justice system consistently supported those who insisted on keeping that blindfold in place, claiming, for example, that were defense attorneys to be given details about the interrogations of their clients, national security would somehow be compromised. Finally, however, more than two decades after it all began, the tide may truly be turning. read the complete article

Broken Promises: Trump-era Travel Bans Keep Thousands Trapped in Limbo

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for immigrants seeking to build a future in the United States. Established in 1990, the program aims to “diversify” immigration to the U.S. by providing opportunities for people from countries with low immigration rates who meet certain criteria, such as education and work experience. Each year, about 11 million people apply, and only 55 thousand people are lucky enough to be randomly selected. Applicants have a 1 percent chance of winning. While in office, Trump implemented a number of policies that upended the lives of tens of thousands of people who had beaten the odds and won the Diversity Visa lottery. The widely-criticized Muslim Ban is one of those policies, and its effects have been well documented. But Trump also implemented and extended lesser-known policies, known as Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052, under the guise of protecting the U.S. labor market after Covid-19 broke out, that dealt a devastating blow to winners of the 2020 and 2021 lottery. Although President Biden has since revoked Trump’s bans, he has not restarted visa processing for those who were shut out because of it. As a result, tens of thousands of people still remain in limbo. These are the stories of four people who are still waiting for justice. read the complete article

United Kingdom

UK Charity Commission slammed for 'politically motivated' moves against Shia mosque in London

Some 35 civil society organisations and individuals have protested to the Charity Commission after it imposed a non-Muslim interim manager to oversee the affairs of Islamic Centre of England in Maida Vale, London. The move comes after a statutory inquiry was launched by the Commission in November over "serious governance concerns". In a letter denouncing the Commission's actions, 35 civil society organisations and individuals said the decision was taken following a politically motivated campaign against the Shia centre by mainly secularist opponents of the Iranian government and hostile MPs. "It is wholly unfair that a Muslim charity is treated in this way due to the perception of it not conforming to Western foreign policy interests," they said. In a strongly worded letter to the Commission this week, the signatories accuse the charities watchdog of continuing a vendetta against Muslim charities that has seen dozens of them harassed in recent years. Their objections centre on activities and statements made by a trustee and attendees of the centre supporting the Islamic Republic of Iran and its policies. This, say the signatories, is an unwarranted intrusion into the Centre's affairs. They say that it is not the business of the Charity Commission or any other state body to tell religious communities what they can say or believe in their places of worship. read the complete article

Concerns over Leicester unrest reviewer’s Henry Jackson Society links

A former Labour MP leading a review into last year’s unrest in the British city of Leicester has ties to a controversial think tank that downplayed the role of right-wing Hindutva activists in stoking community tensions. Ian Austin, who now sits in the House of Lords as an independent peer, was appointed last week by communities secretary Michael Gove to conduct an independent review into last September’s violence in which Hindu and Muslim youths confronted each other on the streets of the city in the English Midlands. But Muslim groups and activists in the city have raised concerns about Austin’s appointment over his connections to the Henry Jackson Society, which said in a report into the unrest last year that it had found no evidence of a role played by Hindu ultra-nationalist groups. The report accused some members of the Muslim community of spreading a “false narrative” about the involvement of supporters of the Hindu nationalist movement. Austin has hosted and spoken at a number of Henry Jackson Society events in parliament and has praised the neoconservative think tank’s “important and valuable work”. But the think tank has been criticised by Muslim organisations including the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused it in 2017 of having “served to demonise British Muslim communities”. Groups who have condemned Austin include councillors from Leicester’s Hindu and Muslim communities, who sent a letter to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying that his appointment “raises serious concerns about the review’s integrity and objectivity”. read the complete article

Reports of woman having her hijab ‘pulled off and stamped on’ in Watford

Police are appealing for witnesses, information and video footage following an incident in Watford where a woman was allegedly racially assaulted. A statement on the Herts Police website said, “On Friday 5 May, at around 12.25pm, two vehicles were involved in a minor collision in Wellstones car park. “It was reported that an altercation then followed between those involved, and a woman in her 30s was physically assaulted. It was alleged that the suspect pulled off her hijab and stamped on it, before making threats and using racial slurs. “Several bystanders intervened, and all involved parties left the scene. “The woman went to her home address where she called the police. Attending officers called the ambulance service, and she was taken to hospital for treatment.” read the complete article

Armed Islamophobic thugs attack and injure Muslim family enjoying picnic in Walsall park

A shocking hate crime took place during the Bank Holiday weekend against a Muslim family who were peacefully enjoying a picnic in a Walsall park. A gang of racist thugs armed with weapons hurled racial abuse and then savagely attacked the Muslim family in Doebank Park on Sunday (28 May) just before 7pm. Police have launched an investigation into the horrific Islamophobic incident which saw two members of the Muslim family sustaining nasty head and facial injuries. Officers acted on information and overnight arrested four men – aged 38, 39, 55 and 58 – on suspicion of assault. Police have confirmed the men remain in custody for questioning as the investigation continues into the hate crime. read the complete article


‘Fight not over’: India rape survivor in fear as attackers jailed

It has been three weeks since two men accused of gang-raping a woman in 2013 were jailed for 20 years – a rare sentencing for sexual assault during a communal riot in India. Congratulatory calls to celebrate the courage and requests to interview the rape survivor, 35-year-old Aafreen*, have ebbed since. Worse, her decade-long fight for justice – that should have brought her a sense of closure – is not over yet. “Someone let my name slip out while talking about me here in Muzaffarnagar. So people who had no idea this was my case got to know,” Aafreen told Al Jazeera, adding that she feels more vulnerable than before. “People from the village and other parts of Muzaffarnagar kept calling my husband and asking him why he did not tell them it was his wife’s case,” she said. Aafreen was among at least seven women who alleged they were raped during the riots in Muzaffarnagar, a district in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, in 2013. The violence began on August 27, 2013 after a 29-year-old Muslim man was stabbed to death over allegations of harassing a Hindu girl. Minutes later, the two men who stabbed the Muslim man were caught by a mob and beaten to death. The incident triggered large-scale rioting between Hindus and Muslims for two weeks and even spread to the neighbouring Shamli district. More than 60 people – most of them Muslims – were killed and nearly 60,000 displaced from their ancestral homes. Rights groups say the number of dead was higher. The Muzaffarnagar riots deepened the fissures between the two communities and helped the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) polarise voters in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. read the complete article

Ignore any lofty claims about the Bollywood hit The Kerala Story: this film will only incite hatred against Muslims

A fortnight ago, I watched the new Bollywood hit The Kerala Story, in a rundown cinema in Delhi. A group of (largely) young Hindu men packed out the theatre. Occasionally, they broke out into passionate chants of “Jai Shri Ram”, the cry that often accompanies videos of “vigilante violence” committed against Muslims. Yet when they streamed out of the theatre, they looked more horrified than enraged, like sports fans numbed after their side has taken one beating after another. The rolling spectacle of an all-round “Hindu humiliation” – including graphic scenes depicting Hindu women being violently raped by Muslims – had lasted for more than two hours. The Kerala Story claims to dramatically reconstruct the saga of a few young women who converted to Islam and subsequently fled with their husbands to the Islamic State’s enclaves of Afghanistan and Syria. Among the creative liberties taken by the producers is the deliberate misrepresentation of a handful of such cases (estimates range from four to 15) and the absurd claim that they represent the “gut-wrenching stories of 32,000 females”. That “big lie”, having no evidentiary basis and since excised from the official trailer, forms the heart of this Islamophobic fantasy that is playing out in theatres across the country. Though the film has been attacked as dangerous “hate propaganda” by opposition politicians such as the chief minister of Kerala, and panned by critics, it has been championed by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP). The Kerala Story enjoys informal status as a kind of semi-official production of the ruling establishment, documenting the conspiratorial themes of “love jihad” and “rampant religious conversion”. Surveys suggest many Indians (53% respondents, according to a recent poll) now believe in the Islamophobic idea of “love jihad”: a sprawling conspiracy to convert innocent Hindu women to Islam by luring them into romantic entanglements with Muslim men. Multiple investigative agencies, including one under the central Modi government, have returned with no concrete evidence that the phenomenon exists. read the complete article


Developing Transitional Solutions for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

For around 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar living in Bangladesh, sustainable solutions such as safe and voluntary return to their homeland, large-scale resettlement in third countries, or local integration in Bangladesh will remain elusive for the foreseeable future. It is essential that national policymakers, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and donors promptly work to strengthen the resilience of displaced Rohingya and host communities through investments in education and livelihoods – and in doing so, lay the foundation for long-term solutions to displacement. Rohingya refugees have been forced to flee from Myanmar to neighboring countries for decades. The last mass exodus in August 2017 sent over 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh to join the roughly 300,000 already seeking refuge there. While the government of Bangladesh and host communities were initially sympathetic to the plight of Rohingya refugees, this goodwill has since waned as the refugee population has grown, outnumbering the host population. Many in the host community feel that the lives of local Bangladeshis have been adversely affected by increased living expenses, reduced wages and employment opportunities, environmental degradation, and increased pressure on public resources and services. read the complete article


Without citizenship, Rohingya remain vulnerable to disasters in Myanmar: Rights activist

Rohingya in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state could not reach humanitarian aid and safe places after the deadliest Cyclone Mocha as their citizenship rights were revoked in 1982, said a human rights activist. Nay San Lwin, a rights activist and co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, told Anadolu that over 130,000 refugees were affected by the disaster in Myanmar, and countless Rohingya are still missing. The UN described Rohingya as the "most persecuted minority in the world” after the cyclone left over 400 people dead and huge destruction. “Without citizenship in Myanmar, people are akin to paralyzed patients. The Rohingya in Myanmar will never have the same opportunities as other ethnic groups in Myanmar due to their lack of citizenship. The military has been attempting to eradicate Myanmar's Rohingya population, resulting in over a million Rohingya refugees seeking shelter in Bangladesh,” Lwin said. “The junta does not intend to restore Rohingya's citizenship or provide basic human rights," he added. Stressing that they still cannot reach the areas where they can find their basic needs, he said they are waiting for humanitarian aid, unsure of when it will arrive. Claiming that the military administration deliberately caused casualties during the disaster, he said had they allowed the evacuation of Rohingya days before the hurricane, fewer people would have died. The Myanmar military administration ordered the Rohingya to evacuate the camps just a few hours before the hurricane without providing any means of transportation or a safer place, he added. “All refugee camps are 90% destroyed. Hundreds of Rohingya have been killed, and many are missing. The challenges are enormous. They require urgent humanitarian assistance, but the Myanmar military junta is not allowing international organizations to access the affected areas,” Lwin said. read the complete article


Meta shareholders vote against proposal to assess political entanglement in India

Meta Platforms shareholders Thursday voted overwhelmingly against a proposal to assess the company's political entanglements and content management biases in India, its biggest market. The proposal argued Meta was a catalyst of religious violence in India. This proposal addresses allegations against Facebook regarding hate speech dissemination, failure to address risks and political bias, and concerns about content moderation and transparency. "Facebook is apparently a critical catalyst of religious violence in India from disseminating anti-Muslim hate speech and failing to flag posts and speakers who pose risks in this regard," the proposal said. The proposal pointed out that in the months preceding the 2020 Delhi riots, incendiary comments against religion were made by "the head of a powerful North Indian temple" in a video on Facebook which has been viewed well over 40 million times. read the complete article

UK spies to be investigated over claims they were complicit in torture of CIA prisoner

The UK’s intelligence agencies are facing a rare judicial investigation after a tribunal said it would look into allegations that British spies were complicit in the torture of a prisoner held by the CIA. The investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) said late last week it would examine a complaint brought by Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a Saudi citizen who was tortured between 2003 and 2006 while detained in a network of secret CIA prisons. Al-Hawsawi, 54, who is accused by the US of aiding the hijackers behind the September 11 terrorist attacks, has been detained in the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba since 2006. Al-Hawsawi’s lawyers claim there is credible evidence in the public domain that British intelligence personnel unlawfully “aided, abetted, encouraged, facilitated, procured and/or conspired” with the US in his torture and mistreatment. First captured in 2003, Al-Hawsawi was forcibly rendered between secret CIA prisons around the world known as “black sites”, where his lawyers said he was subjected “to a wide array of ill-treatment and torture”. A US Senate investigation into the torture programme found records indicating Al-Hawsawi was tortured and suffered serious health issues as a result of what the CIA called “rectal feeding”, which medical experts have consistently said was a form of rape or sexual assault. read the complete article


Thames Valley unveils anti-racism strategy on Our London Family anniversary

The London-area’s largest school board will unveil a new anti-racism strategy targeting Islamophobia on the second anniversary of an alleged hate-motivated collision that killed four members of a London Muslim family and injured their young son. The new strategy, which also is meant to counter anti-Black racism, was included in a preliminary budget presented to Thames Valley District school board trustees this week. Education director Mark Fisher said the new strategy is linked to directly “the tragic event that happened two years ago” in London. Four members of the Afzaal family died after they were struck on June 6, 2021 by a vehicle while out for an evening walk at Hyde Park and South Carriage roads. Police allege the collision was deliberate, the family run down because of their Islamic faith. Earlier this year, the Peel District school board, where about one in four students is Muslim, adopted an anti-Islamophobia strategy it said was a first in Canada. Fisher said about 10 to 12 per cent of Thames Valley students identify as Muslim, and five or six per cent identify as Black. “They are groups that have faced significant barriers and racism,” he said. read the complete article


Qatari official says ‘global threat’ Islamophobia being fuelled instead of stopped

The consequences of ongoing Islamophobia “threaten the whole world”, Qatar’s Minister of State for International Cooperation Lolwah Al Khater told a roundtable on Monday. “The consequences of this phenomenon [Islamophobia] are not limited to Muslim countries and societies only. They also threaten the whole world, as a result of its long-term and cross-border repercussions,” Al Khater said in a video shared by the Gulf state’s foreign ministry on Tuesday. The roundtable on Islamophobia was held in Qatar with the attendance of more than 30 experts and policy makers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the United States, Europe, and Asia. According to Qatar’s foreign ministry, the panel focused on “policy challenges and the initiation of new approaches for collective action and unity of purpose to address structural and institutional Islamophobia”. During her speech, Al Khater warned that the “malign Islamophobic discourse has reached dangerous levels” “The deliberate targeting of Islam and Muslims is on the rise around the world. Instead of stopping it, prejudice and deliberate discrimination against Muslims are being encouraged and fueled,” the top Qatari official said. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Jun 2023 Edition


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