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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21 Jun 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., as the Biden Administration welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rights groups are reminding the government about growing human rights violations in India under Modi’s watch, meanwhile, a court in Massachusetts has overturned convictions against a black Muslim man after finding that the man’s public defender expressed “an array of extreme prejudices” on his social media, and in Canada, NPR’s Ayesha Roscoe interviews Canada’s Special Representative for Combating Islamophobia, Amira Elghawaby, on her work addressing Islamophobia in the country. Our recommended read of the day is by Salil Tripathi for TIME on how the Biden administration’s welcoming of PM Narendra Modi gives the Indian leader cover for his discriminatory and harsh rule that has resulted in growing violence, polarization, and curtailing of freedoms. This and more below:


India’s Worsening Democracy Makes It an Unreliable Ally | Recommended Read

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in the United States on 21 June, which is World Yoga Day. Asserting India’s soft power, he will participate in a yoga demonstration at the United Nations headquarters in New York, while the Biden administration will be laying out the red carpet in Washington. Realpolitik apart, the U.S. does speak of building ties based on values, such as democracy and human rights. First, India has always been a flawed democracy, but its human rights record has worsened significantly during Modi’s tenure. Researchers Suchitra Vijayan and Francesca Recchia have identified about 250 non-violent political prisoners who were put in jail without being formally charged or tried between May 2014, when Modi came to power, until July 2022, in their forthcoming book, How Long Can The Moon Be Caged?. The detained prisoners include lawyers, writers, human rights activists, and other socially-conscious dissidents. According to watchdog Access Now, India leads the world in network shutdowns, and as western tech companies have learned, India browbeats telecom and social media companies to take down content and threatens them with police action if they don’t comply. The treatment of Muslims, who form 14% of India’s population, has worsened. A 2019 report by Human Rights Watch documented 44 murders (36 of them being Muslim) by lynch mobs who killed people they suspected of possessing beef, consuming it, or trading cows. Muslims find it hard to buy or rent property, are denied permission to build mosques in some cases, and prevented from praying in public. Vigilantes prevent Muslims from praying at home. Female Muslim students in one state were banned from wearing head-scarves. A senior politician from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party had welcomed convicted cow protectors with garlands. BJP-ruled states have passed laws to make it harder for inter-faith marriages from taking place. Right wing Hindus celebrated the early release of 11 men who were convicted of having raped a Muslim woman and murdered some of her family members during the massacres of 2002. Those incidents occurred when Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister and had failed to stop Hindu violence against Muslims. Modi was then barred from entry into the U.S. or the E.U. until India’s Supreme Court said Modi did not have a case to answer. A recent BBC film which blamed Modi for complicity, is banned in India. read the complete article

Why India is attacking the rights of Rohingya refugees

There has been intense interest in the movement of people and the nature of security techniques that seek to contain or steer them. As a result, migration has been increasingly articulated in terms of general insecurity, and human mobility has been increasingly constructed as a threat. This threat construction gained fresh momentum after the launch of the “war on terror”, which ushered in a new age of global Islamophobia. Muslim migrants became the new threat around which the security discourse revolved, constituted as “culpable” or “threatening” subjects. Over the past decade in India, especially after the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, an (in)security discourse has effectively led to the othering of the minority Muslim community. This othering did not start with the BJP, but rather has its roots in British colonialism. However, this historical process has overtly intensified during the past decade under BJP rule. This prejudicial othering of Muslims has been institutionalised through active entanglements with the discourse and practice of “national security”. The BJP has consistently used propaganda to project Muslims as an internal enemy of Hindus, thus effectively turning them into a dangerous other. Expanding on this discourse, the BJP also advocates for a defence of the ethno-national identity, Hindu, against the threat of “foreign invasion” by Muslim migrants. Within this background, the Rohingya have been at the receiving end of state violence in myriad ways. The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group indigenous to Rakhine State on the western coast of Myanmar. According to researcher Naved Bakali, “the co-dependent relationship between private and structural Islamophobia facilitated a pathological trajectory” that resulted in the 2017 Rohingya genocide. read the complete article

Modi’s political party has weaponized Bollywood

For weeks now, criticism has been building around Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington. The prime minister and his Bharatiya Janata Party have been rightly accused of stoking sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims. Missing in this discussion have been the surprising and quiet ways the BJP has managed to co-opt popular culture, and especially cinema, for its political ends. “The Kerala Story,” a feature film released last month, is emblematic of this broader trend. The BJP campaigned very hard on the back of the film in the southern state of Karnataka, with close to 20 mass rallies and eight road shows. At one of the rallies, Modi himself emphatically endorsed viewing the film. He said it portrayed the true face of terrorism and accused the opposition of trying to block the film’s release. “The Kerala Story” playbook is a refinement of what has come before. Last year, I wrote about “The Kashmir Files,” a film so vicious toward Muslims that I left the theater fearing for my safety. “The Kashmir Files” was a box office success, too, pulling in audiences despite covid. An interesting film industry report found that more than 60 percent of the “Kashmir Files” audience were not regular cinemagoers, and that many were drawn to it by a word-of-mouth marketing campaign with its roots in BJP messaging. Anurag Kashyap, one of India’s most celebrated filmmakers, told me that producers are being asked to make films to government spec. “Powerful Hindu nationalist groups like the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] are meeting producers and telling them what films are to be made so it can empower the government’s own agenda,” Kashyap said. read the complete article

Why Is Narendra Modi So Popular? Tune In to Find Out.

Once a month, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, walks into a studio set up at his government bungalow and takes his seat behind a microphone. The air-conditioning is switched off to quiet its hum. Thick curtains maintain the room’s silence even from Mr. Modi’s favorite peacocks in the garden outside. Then the prime minister begins his radio show, for which he has recorded over 100 episodes, with a usual greeting in Hindi: “My dear countrymen, hello!” What follows — about 30 minutes of Mr. Modi playing on-air host to the world’s most populous nation — is one way he has made himself intimately omnipresent across India’s vastness, exerting a hold on the national imagination that seems impervious to criticism of his government’s erosion of India’s democratic norms. Mr. Modi sets the agenda not just by choosing what to elevate — but equally by deciding what to keep a distance from, and what to let his lieutenants and digital army do for him. He has stayed mostly mum, on the radio and elsewhere, as his right-wing supporters have increasingly turned to vigilante violence in enforcing their idea of Hindu supremacy, human rights organizations say. Mosques and churches have been attacked, interfaith couples have been dragged out of trains, and mobs have lynched Muslim men accused of transporting the meat of cows, which many Hindus see as holy. The result is an environment of persistent combustibility in a nation with more than 200 million people who belong to religious minorities — many feeling alienated, humiliated or directionless. read the complete article


Abaya controversy tests French schools' secular limits

France's identity has long been wedded to its conception of secularism in public life. A 2004 law bans wearing clothes or symbols revealing someone's religion in educational settings, including large crosses, Jewish kippas and Islamic headscarves. Unlike headscarves, abayas -- a long, baggy garment worn to comply with Islamic beliefs on modest dress -- occupy a grey area and face no outright ban. But some believe they flout the secular principles, intensifying a recurring debate about the influence of Islam in schools. France was rocked when a radicalised Chechen refugee beheaded a teacher, who had shown students caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, near his school in a Paris suburb in 2020. "They talk about 'modest dress', but it looks a lot like a Trojan horse of Islamist entryism," Le Parisien newspaper wrote in an editorial. Eric Ciotti, leader of the right-wing Republicans party, said abayas "have no place" in French schools and denounced legal "ambiguities" that "benefit Islamists". Abayas "should never be tolerated. We have to be uncompromising", parliament speaker Yael Braun-Pivet, a member of President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party, told BFM TV. Incidents of violations of secularism dropped between April and May, according to education ministry figures. But the proportion of reported cases in May involving the wearing of religious clothing or signs increased to more than half. read the complete article

France: Veiled Muslim women and the politics of the new secularism

The exclusion of Muslim women who wear the headscarf in France reveals the hegemonic order enforced in the country, as well as the sexism and racism that characterise it. In my book, Are Muslim Women Not Women?, I borrow from bell hooks, an African-American intellectual, and apply to Muslim women who wear the Islamic headscarf in France the question she asked about the exclusion of Black women from the feminist struggle. In the end, they, too, are excluded from the cause of women. This is what struck me in 2017 during a public debate on the question "Does secularism guarantee equality between men and women?", an event organised by the Senate delegation for women's rights. In the heart of the Luxembourg Palace, I was publicly booed because I had dared to respond to feminists who were advocating for an even wider ban on the veil. "If I understand correctly, you want to exclude women under the guise of gender equality," I said. "Isn't that paradoxical? Need I remind you that under the veil, there are women." These women oppose women who choose to wear the headscarf in France, comparing them to those who suffer in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, where they are forced to wear it. This dilemma guided the writing of this book, the chapters of which come from sections of my doctoral thesis, Assignment to Radical Alterity and Paths to Emancipation: A Study of the Agency of French Muslim Women. I wanted to focus my remarks on the origin of the discrimination and exclusion that target Muslim women who wear the headscarf. To do so, I traced the fabrication of "the radical otherness" of French people of African and North African descent, which finds its origins in the exclusion and stigmatisation of post-colonial immigrants in the 19th century and, before that, in the way French imperialism viewed Islam as "the imperial enemy", as the French philosopher Mohamed Amer Meziane has explored. read the complete article

United States

Creeping Shariah Has Nothing on the Woke Mob

In his speech at the Republican convention in 2016, Donald Trump spoke of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, where a man with jihadi sympathies murdered 49 people. “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” he said. At the time, this sort of rhetoric was common among Trump and his allies, who fashioned themselves in the mold of European right-wing populists, demonizing Muslims as a threat to hard-won Western sexual freedoms. Perhaps the hottest ticket at that year’s Republican National Convention was an LGBTQ party called Wake Up! where the Dutch politician Geert Wilders warned about Shariah law in front of a photo exhibition featuring skinny, shirtless boys in MAGA hats, called “Twinks for Trump.” Seven years later, as the battle against wokeness has supplanted the war on terrorism in the right-wing imagination, conservative sympathies are reversing. “Republicans are wooing Muslim voters by promising to protect them from L.G.B.T.Q. rights advocates whose demands conflict with their faith,” David Weigel reported in Semafor this week. The Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who once called for banning Muslim immigration from the Middle East, recently ran a sympathetic segment about Muslim parents in Maryland who want their kids to be exempt from reading books with L.G.B.T.Q. characters or themes. “Us Catholics and other Christians, other people of faith, have been waiting for the Muslims to step up on this issue,” Ingraham told her guest, a Muslim father and activist named Kareem Monib. read the complete article

A lawyer's racism can impede duty to client, Massachusetts high court says

When a bigoted lawyer represents a client who belongs to a group that the attorney is prejudiced against, an inherent conflict of interest can arise, a state supreme court held last week in what is considered the first ruling of its kind. The June 15 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court includes some important limitations, but it nonetheless represents groundbreaking judicial recognition that racism and other discrimination can frustrate a lawyer’s duty to zealously represent their clients’ interests. A number of the country’s most prominent legal and civil rights organizations had filed briefs urging the Massachusetts high court to draw a hard line protecting defendants against lawyers who discriminate, including the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, the state chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Innocence Project, and the Hispanic National Bar Association. The court on June 15 unanimously reversed convictions against Anthony Dew, a Black, Muslim man convicted of drug and sex trafficking charges. Dew’s court-appointed public defender expressed an array of extreme prejudices in numerous social media posts, including violent anti-Black racism and anti-Muslim sentiments, according to the court's ruling. read the complete article


India’s Modi on way to US for first state visit since becoming PM

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to the United States to meet with President Joe Biden and address the Congress, with military and technological ties on the agenda as his hosts seek a regional counter to China. Hailed by New Delhi as an “historic” chance to “expand and consolidate” ties, the visit comes at a time of rising concerns over the treatment of its Muslim minority, human rights, and democratic backsliding under the Hindu nationalist leader. Modi’s three-day visit to the US comes amid human rights groups and political opponents accusing the Indian leader of stifling dissent and pursuing divisive policies that discriminate against Muslims and other minorities. Elaine Pearson, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, urged Biden in a letter not to shy away from confronting Modi on India’s “worsening human rights situation”. More recently, Modi has faced criticism over legislation amending the country’s citizenship law that fast-tracks naturalisation for some migrants but excludes Muslims, a rise in violence against Muslims and other religious minorities by Hindu nationalists, and the recent conviction of India’s main opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, for mocking Modi’s surname. read the complete article

Don’t turn a blind eye to Indian Prime Minister Modi’s dark history

For over 25 years I lived in Chicago. Before that, I grew up in Hyderabad, India, where I have witnessed Muslims and Hindus living together in harmony, sharing meals, playing cricket and running businesses side by side. It’s been profoundly disheartening to witness the growing divide between our communities caused by the rise of Hindu nationalism, which promotes the notion that only Hindus are true citizens of India, while minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, are deemed unworthy of basic human rights. Increasingly, this kind of bigotry is practiced by a segment of Indian American Hindus. The celebratory nature of the preparation to receive Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an indication of the presence of far right Hindu ideology, promoted by Modi, in Chicago neighborhoods. U.S. leaders are turning a blind eye to Modi’s dark history and helping to legitimize an ideology whose adherents openly advocate the killing and deportation of Indian minority groups. To get into bed with them is not only an affront to minorities around the world but also strategically shortsighted. Modi’s policies and allies have sown profound instability within India and destroyed many of the country’s core democratic institutions. Almost every day, we see Hindu nationalist politicians, including members of Modi’s own political party, calling on their followers to kill Muslims. How many times does the U.S. need to make the same mistake to learn we cannot rely on authoritarian leaders as reliable foreign policy partners? read the complete article

Meet Marvel's female Muslim heroes: From Kamala Khan to Monet St Croix

Fans of the Marvel comic book franchise and cinematic universe will already be familiar with Ms Marvel, or Kamala Khan, the crime-fighting Pakistani-American teenager and the company's most famous Muslim superhero. The character, played by Pakistani-Canadian actress Iman Vellani, has her own eponymous series that airs on Disney+ and is set to feature alongside characters Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau in the upcoming feature film, The Marvels. Widely praised for being the first Marvel show with a Muslim and Pakistani lead, Ms Marvel currently has an 80 percent fresh audience rating on leading movie site, Rotten Tomatoes. But the character is far from being a token representative of the Muslim community within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Marvel Fandom site lists dozens of characters who are Muslim, from minor supporting characters to superheroes. These characters have a diverse range of backstories and include a niqab-wearing ethnic Pashtun, as well as a French-Algerian with telescopic vision. From the indestructible Monet St Croix to the independently minded Sooraya Qadir, we take a look at five Muslim Marvel heroines. read the complete article


How Canada is fighting Islamophobia

Two years ago this month, a driver ran over a Muslim family as they were out for an evening walk in the Canadian city of London, Ontario. Police said the attack, which killed two parents, a child and a grandmother, was motivated by hate. The incident helped to prompt Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this year to create a new road to address Islamophobia. Amira Elghawaby is a journalist and human rights advocate, and she's now known as Canada's special representative on combating Islamophobia. Her position is to advise the government on how to better fight discrimination against the Muslim community. Amira Elghawaby joins us now from Ottawa. Welcome to the show. RASCOE: So why did the Trudeau government feel it needed to create a role specific to Islamophobia? ELGHAWABY: Canada now has the very sad distinction of being the number one country in the G7 with the highest number of attacks against Muslim communities - deadly attacks. And overall, there is palpable anxiety amongst our communities. And there is a similar office, a special envoy on antisemitism and Holocaust remembrance. And so the federal government saw that it would be important to establish such a similar office to combat Islamophobia. RASCOE: I mean, can you talk a bit more about what it is like to be a Muslim in Canada today? ELGHAWABY: Yeah. So consistently what I'm hearing from community members, particularly visibly Muslim women who wear the headscarf like myself, is a sense that when they're walking in their neighborhoods or on public transit or in other public spaces, that there is that sense that they may be targeted, either harassed or assaulted, even. And we've had various incidents over the years, as I've mentioned. In fact, out west in Alberta, we had a spate of targeted attacks against visibly Muslim Black women. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 Jun 2023 Edition


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