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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28 Jun 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In France, Muslims find acceptance in the ranks of the military in a stark contrast to the way in which French Muslims are treated in society at large, as Mayors of London, Ontario, and Quebec City push PM Justin Trudeau to call for a summit on Islamophobia in Canada, just as another Muslim man is stabbed, taunted and has his beard forcibly cut off in Saskatoon.  Meanwhile, Rohingya activist Wai Wai Nu writes that citizens of Myanmar and the international community should pressure the NUG to fully guarantee that Rohingya, as well as all other ethnic nationalities, will be entitled to rights as both individual citizens and as a group. Our recommended read of the day is by Brenna Artinger and Michael Rowand on how the famous Buddhist teacher Sitagu Sayadaw’s narrative of a Buddhism justified in suppressing the Muslim community is the dominant narrative within Myanmar. This and more below:



27 Jun 2021

A Famous Buddhist Teacher Is Under Fire for Backing Myanmar’s Junta

Sitagu Sayadaw’s participation and endorsement in the democratic movement of the late 1980s against the authoritarian Tatmadaw, the Myanmar name for the armed forces, now stands in sharp contrast to his acceptance of military rule during the recent coup. Pictures of Sitagu Sayadaw, who once championed democracy, repeatedly receiving dana from generals in recent years—including Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the current de facto leader of the military government—demonstrate his shift from protester to power broker. And, more broadly, it demonstrates the movement of many of Myanmar’s elite Buddhist monks from dissent to support of armed nationalism over the past 30 years. Since his involvement in the protests of 1988, Sitagu Sayadaw has wavered in his allegiance to both democratic and military governments in Myanmar’s decadeslong struggle for democracy. Buddhist nationalism and a desire to maintain Buddhism’s national preeminence has become a dominant ideology for many monks in the country. As we have written previously, Buddhist nationalist monks have often supported military rule due to the military’s hard-line and Islamophobic stance on Buddhist practice and propaganda, in which all non-Buddhists are presented as a threat to Myanmar’s religious identity. Those fears have played a role in Sitagu Sayadaw’s passage from democratic icon to an uneasy supporter of the junta. In 2015, Myanmar passed its strictest anti-Muslim laws yet, unprecedented in their intrusion into traditionally private life. They dictate that women must space their pregnancies by three years or more in areas in which the Muslim population is the largest. They require people to gain approval from a local government board to change religions. They ban marital infidelity and polygamy. And they stipulate that marriages may be prevented if a member of the community objects to the marriage. Sitagu Sayadaw did not just cheer the laws—he harkened back to what he saw as a historical precedent to justify religious intervention in politics. Just as the pope had helped form Christian Democratic parties to blunt the spread of communism a century earlier, so now could Buddhist leaders stop the spread of Islamism through the country’s laws, he argued. Since then, despite Buddhist monastic law forbidding it, Sitagu Sayadaw has offered to influence monks to serve in the military and enforce the state’s dictates toward the Muslim community. While such arguments have been used before by Buddhist rulers and monks to justify bloodshed, such sermons are also part of the broader dehumanizing efforts by both state and religious figures that actively depict Muslims as an imminent danger to the majority race and religion in Myanmar. This burgeoning religious nationalism occasionally draws criticism. One notable monk called Sitagu Sayadaw’s words “dangerous.” But these are lonely voices. His narrative of a Buddhism justified in suppressing the Muslim community is the dominant narrative within Myanmar. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
25 Jun 2021

Myanmar’s Democratic Vision Depends on Including Rohingya, Other Ethnic Minorities

Two opposing bodies have been formed in the coup’s wake. The military junta’s State Administration Council (SAC), ruling with savagery and corruption, and the National Unity Government (NUG), established by the duly elected lawmakers whose parliament was overthrown. It includes representatives from a diverse array of pro-democracy movements, organizations, and parties, and has impressively challenged the military junta with a vision for a democratic, federal union. Given years of systematic disenfranchisement by the military and the civilian-led government, the Rohingya Muslim community has eagerly awaited the NUG’s position on the rights of the Rohingya. The signs so far are promising: Earlier in June, it acknowledged past abuses, pledging to replace discriminatory laws and work to bring the million-plus Rohingya refugees home. As a member of the Rohingya community and an advocate for human rights for all, I am encouraged by these steps, but they should be considered a floor, not a ceiling. Citizens of Myanmar and members of the international community should press the NUG to capitalize on this landmark juncture — in which members of the country’s ethnic and religious communities are rising up together against the military’s violence and repression — to fully guarantee that Rohingya, as well as all other ethnic nationalities, will be entitled to rights as both individual citizens and as a group. This is critical for building a truly democratic Myanmar, where all peoples can live free from violence, discrimination, and abuse. read the complete article


25 Jun 2021

Mayors of London, Ont. and Quebec City push PM for summit on Islamophobia

The mayors of two cities where deadly attacks on the Muslim community have occurred, have sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushing for a summit on Islamophobia. The letter, from London Mayor Ed Holder and Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume, praises Parliament's unanimous vote in favour of an Emergency National Action Summit on Islamophobia, but says urgent action is needed. The letter explains, "As a result of these and countless other vile Islamophobic incidents, both subtle and overt, the need for urgent action is undeniable. First and foremost, the voices of people representing Muslim communities from across Canada must be heard." It also calls for municipalities to have an active role in the summit, saying, "we stand shoulder to shoulder with members of our local communities, and all Canadians who seek a safer, more equitable and compassionate Canada." read the complete article

25 Jun 2021

'I hate Muslims': Attackers stab, taunt, cut beard of Saskatoon man

A Saskatoon man says he’s scared after he was stabbed, taunted and part of his beard was cut off while he was wearing traditional Muslim dress on Friday morning. Muhammad Kashif said two men attacked him in the alley behind his house in the Eastview neighbourhood. He knows one of the men, who has sworn at him before, he said in an interview. Kashif, who uses a cane, said he was returning from a walk around 5:30 a.m. when he was attacked from behind and stabbed in the back. He fought with the two men, who began to taunt him, saying “Why are you wearing this dress?” and “Why are you here?” and “Go back to your country. I hate Muslims. And why do you have this beard?” before cutting his beard. read the complete article

26 Jun 2021

‘We want action’: Edmonton rally calls for governments to address anti-Muslim hate

More than three hundred Edmontonians gathered outside city hall Friday evening demanding an end to violence against Muslims after two sisters were attacked in St. Albert this week, the latest in a series of apparently hate-motivated attacks in recent months. The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), leading the rally, is calling for all levels of government to immediately hold a bipartisan committee by the end of July. The group is calling for an action plan to combat Islamophobia and protect racialized communities. Amira Shousha, Alberta lead for NCCM, said Edmontonians can’t allow this violence to continue. There’s a lot of fear and anxiety in the Muslim community, given an escalation in violence in the last six months, she said. ”We want to be able to go out on a walk with our family and not be hurt,” she said before the rally. “These attacks are getting worse, they’re getting more bold. And now, most recently, there was a weapon involved in the last attack.” At least eight apparently hate-motivated attacks have been reported on Muslim women in the Edmonton area since the end of last year. Several were Black women. Edmonton police have laid charges in seven incidents. read the complete article

25 Jun 2021

Quebec father blames anti-Muslim prejudice, language barriers after baby taken away

A Quebec man says he believes child protection authorities apprehended his three-day-old baby because his wife wears a hijab and doesn't speak French. The father, whom The Canadian Press is not naming to protect the identity of the child, said that on Wednesday, youth protection agents at the Ste-Croix hospital in Drummondville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal, told him and his wife to leave without their baby. He said when they refused, officials called police. "They said that the nurses reported that we were not co-operating with them and that sometimes we refused treatment for the baby," he said in an interview Thursday. The father admits he and his wife refused some blood tests that medical staff wanted to conduct on the baby. He said several blood tests had already been done on his child and he refused tests for genetic and hereditary diseases. "When they took the baby's blood, he started to cry and he was really uncomfortable," he said. "They told us we had the right to refuse." The father said child protection authorities said they had received a report that the mother had shaken the baby and was not waking up at night to feed the child -- accusations he denies. "It's false, there's nothing accurate in the reasons they gave for apprehending the child," he said. "She never hurt her baby." He said he believes staff at the hospital were prejudiced against his wife because she wears a hijab and found her unco-operative because she doesn't speak French. "She speaks English but the nurses here in Drummondville, they just speak French," he said. The father said his wife had received poor service from the hospital since she became pregnant. He added that a gynecologist who initially treated his wife told her multiple times the baby would be taken from her once it was born. read the complete article

24 Jun 2021

KUTTY: Islamophobia an ever-present danger in Canada

Reading Tarek Fatah’s recent diatribe, There is no Islamophobia in Canada, was a surreal experience. The thrust of the piece was that Muslims are to blame for a peaceful multigenerational Muslim family mowed down with a truck and killed while out for a Sunday stroll. The rationale behind this “blame the victim” argument is that hatred of, or violence against, Muslims is pervasive because of Muslims. If Muslims are encountering challenges “everywhere,” the argument goes, then it must be the Muslim faith or behaviour that is provoking this hatred. To appreciate the mendacity of this argument, substitute any other targeted group or community. Islamophobia exists and is on the increase because demonizing, dehumanizing, and otherizing Muslims is acceptable and can be disseminated with impunity, as in the article in question. But none of this matters to Fatah, who has rarely penned a positive word about the Canadian Muslim community since his opportunist flip. His subsequent track record is one of misrepresentation, selective quoting, and over-generalizations and only justifies and incites hate against Muslims. It is bigotry. For the Sun to publish it is, at best callous and at worst reckless. read the complete article

25 Jun 2021

Words Alone will not End Anti-Muslim Terror in Canada

Sadly, anti-Muslim terrorism in Canada is likely to increase in the future, not only because hate crime statistics show an upward trajectory, but because anti-Muslim sentiments often take center stage in government and media as well. Negative depictions of Islam and Muslims in Canadian media must not be grouped under the designation of ‘mainstream Western media bias’, as media fear-mongering is penetrating the very psyche of large sections of Canadian society. Many Canadian politicians, even in Trudeau’s own party, often exploit this alarming phenomenon to feed their political ambitions. Various Canadian provinces have either passed or drafted laws that specifically target Canada’s Muslim minorities, for example, Quebec’s Bill 62, which restricts the wearing of the niqab in public buildings. Outrageously, the Bill, which was passed by Quebec’s Liberal government in October 2017, followed the bloody attack on the Grand Mosque in Quebec City. Instead of fighting Islamophobia, Quebec’s officials provided it with a legal and moral justification. While feeding Islamophobia at home, Trudeau persistently rages against human rights violators in China, the Middle East and around the world. As Chinese columnist Mu Lu rightly argued in Global Times, Canada uses “human rights as a stick to beat others.” While the same claim can also be made regarding the misuse of human rights as a foreign policy tool by other Western leaders, Trudeau is often successful in presenting his human rights concerns as genuine. If Trudeau is, indeed, genuine in his desire to root out anti-Muslim terrorism from Canada, he should start by cleansing his own party of hate speech, end all attempts at criminalizing Islam and Muslims and ban hate speech against Muslims in the media. read the complete article


25 Jun 2021

To save Muslim lives, let Muslims tell their own stories

Muslims often do not have agency over even their most traumatic stories. Earlier this month, a film called “They Are Us” was announced, starring Rose Byrne as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The film focuses not on the murdered Muslims and their bereaved families, but on Ardern’s experience of the terror attacks. Even when portraying the worst instance of Western Islamophobia in years, Muslims are reduced (at best) supporting roles. The film was denounced by Ardern herself, who said her story is “not the one to be told.” The chronic underrepresentation of Muslims in Hollywood and other Western media cannot be separated from the widespread bigotry faced by many members of our faith. This year, Islamophobia — which is not just the fear and hatred of Islam but also includes anti-Muslim discrimination and violence — reached “epidemic proportions.” The United Nations reported that nearly 1 in 3 Americans, and an even higher percentage of Europeans, view Muslims negatively. Islamophobia is grounded in misunderstanding and the failure to comprehend our diverse beliefs and respect our rich faith. The potential for intolerance, discrimination and even violence is significant. To convey Islam as part of the rich tapestry of human culture and civilization, Muslims should have the opportunity to define and explain Islam — on our own terms. Instead, we are faced with pernicious narratives that reduce us to caricature: either violent oppressors or the violently oppressed. In the case of “They are Us,” we are the latter. read the complete article

25 Jun 2021

Nike boss defends firm’s business in China

he boss of Nike has made a robust defence of the firm's business in China after facing a consumer boycott there. Chief executive John Donahoe said "Nike is a brand that is of China and for China" in response to a question about competition from Chinese brands. Mr Donahoe was speaking during a call with Wall Street analysts about Nike's latest earnings report. The comments come after the sportswear giant was recently hit by a backlash over statements about Xinjiang. read the complete article

27 Jun 2021

China is exporting propaganda while the rest of the world stands idly by

The New York Times and ProPublica uncovered this government influence operation in an investigation published this week that catalogues more than 3,000 unique videos creeping across U.S. sites such as YouTube and Twitter. These videos don’t bear any designation to show they’re official propaganda, but the eerie echoes in language are obvious: For example, “You’re speaking total nonsense,” and close variations of that expression figure in more than 600 clips — a rebuttal to foreign corporations such as H&M and officials such as former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, whose condemnations appear to have set off this disinformation salvo. It’s easy from a faraway vantage point to view the campaign as fumbling and likely fruitless. Yet in China, officials have swayed civilian opinion through a digital version of brute force: vast and rapid content production, followed by vast and rapid promotion on domestic channels. Now, the regime has pushed beyond its borders to post the clips on YouTube, amplify them on Twitter through a network of connected accounts, and spread them further with the help of Chinese officials, state-run media and other nationalist figures with hefty followings. The lack of labeling, feigned spontaneity and sheer volume of one-of-a-kind pieces of content also challenge platforms rooting out manipulation — YouTube has said the clips don’t violate its community guidelines. The recently unearthed operation reveals China’s continued intention to exploit the openness of the United States, its allies and the technology companies their citizens rely on to spread false and regime-friendly political narratives — even as the Great Firewall shuts the rest of the world out for fear that true and critical narratives could make their way in. read the complete article

27 Jun 2021

YouTube reportedly took down videos by group documenting human rights abuses in China

YouTube took down several videos from a human rights organization’s channel, which was attempting to document human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province, for violating its anti-harassment policy, Reuters reported. On June 15th, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights said the Google-owned video platform disabled its channel entirely, telling the group it had received too many strikes against its channel for videos where people displayed identification cards showing they were related to missing Xinjiang residents. That apparently broke YouTube’s rule against displaying personal information, which led to the videos’ removal. The channel was restored three days later, according to Reuters. YouTube reportedly asked Atajurt to cut out or conceal the IDs in the videos, but the channel’s administrator said they didn’t want to do so out of concern that such action would damage its credibility. Atajurt has been praised by organizations including Human Rights Watch for helping to expose human rights violations. According to MIT Technology Review, Atajurt posts testimonies from the family members of people detained in Chinese internment camps in Xinjiang. read the complete article

28 Jun 2021

How Pakistan Is Helping China Crack Down on Uyghur Muslims

“My brother’s wife hadn’t heard from him for quite a few days. She was informed by a few close friends of my brother that he had been kidnapped by local authorities,” Wali told The Diplomat. Abdul Wali belongs to a Uyghur Muslim family originally hailing from Dabancheng district of Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. His father moved to Pakistan in the 1960s amidst China’s initiation of curbs on Uyghur culture and the locals’ practice of Islam. After doing a few small-time jobs he established an export business and married a Pakistani woman, Wali’s mother, a few years after moving to the country, eventually inviting some members of the extended family to move to Pakistan as well. Wali says his brother, an Islamic cleric who travels across the region as part of missionary exercises, has been accused of being a member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an Islamist militant group outlawed as a terror outfit in both China and Pakistan. “My brother hasn’t touched a gun in his life. He is a preacher of Islam and has been targeted because he speaks up for his fellow [Uyghur] Imams and Muslims, who are being persecuted in our home country, as the Muslim ummah [community] watches in silence,” Wali said. “I travel the length and breadth of Pakistan for work. The Chinese have taken over the country. In Gilgit, many are asking their family members, especially men, to leave for other parts of Pakistan and even other countries. China is erasing Uyghur presence from Gilgit, where many of us have been living for decades,” Ahmed told The Diplomat. read the complete article


26 Jun 2021

In France’s Military, Muslims Find a Tolerance That Is Elusive Elsewhere

After praying together on a recent Friday, the French soldiers — five men and one woman — returned to their duties on the base, where they had recently celebrated Ramadan, sometimes breaking their fast with Christians. Back home in France, where Islam and its place in society form the fault lines of an increasingly fractured nation, practicing their religion was never this easy, they said. “The tolerance that we find in the armed forces, we don’t find it outside,” said Second Master Anouar, 31, who enlisted 10 years ago and who, in keeping with French military rules, could be identified only by his first name. For the past two decades, as France’s Muslim population has sought a greater role in the nation, officials have often tried to restrict Islam’s public presence under an increasingly strict interpretation of French secularism, known as laïcité. A law aimed at the Muslim veil in 2004 banned the wearing of religious symbols in public schools, and prompted years of anguished debates over France’s treatment of its Muslim population, Europe’s largest. A new law against Islamism by President Emmanuel Macron is expected to strengthen government control over existing mosques and make it harder to build new ones. But one major institution has gone in the opposite direction: the military. The armed forces have carved out a place for Islam equal to France’s more established faiths — by hewing to a more liberal interpretation of laïcité. Imams became chaplains in 2005. Mosques have been built on bases in France and across the world, including in Deir Kifa, where some 700 French soldiers help a United Nations force keep peace in southern Lebanon. Halal rations are on offer. Muslim holidays are recognized. Work schedules are adjusted to allow Muslim soldiers to attend Friday Prayer. The military is one of the institutions that has most successfully integrated Muslims, military officials and outside experts said, adding that it can serve as a model for the rest of France. read the complete article

27 Jun 2021

France: Marine Le Pen's far-right party set for election loss

France's far-right National Rally failed to win a single region in elections, according to partial results published Monday by the French Interior Ministry. The second-round vote, which was hit by poor turnout of an estimated 35%, represented a blow to Marine Le Pen's hopes of securing the presidency next year. The National Rally party, formerly known as the National Front, received 19.4% of the second-round vote nationally, BFMTV cited partial results. Le Pen, who quit the party leadership last year to focus on the race for the Elysee, has been trying to reshape its image amid accusations of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the past. The 52-year-old lost four years ago to current French president, Emmanuel Macron. The pair are predicted to go head-to-head again next year. President Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) has not won a single region across France. French government spokesman Gabriel Attal called the results "a "disappointment" in an interview with France 2.  read the complete article


27 Jun 2021

The 'Hindutva Ecosystem' Has a New Anti-Muslim Narrative. This Time Street Vendors Are the Target.

After floating “land jihad”, “love jihad”, “corona jihad” and “civil services jihad”, a new kind of ‘conspiracy’ called “redi jihad” (street vendor jihad) has been ‘unearthed’ by Hindutva activists intent on targeting Muslims in the national capital and elsewhere. The activists are from various radical Hindutva groups but local leaders from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party are involved in this communal campaign, as is at least one television news channel, the Noida-based Sudarshan TV. This, despite the information and broadcasting ministry having recently tightened its oversight mechanism for violations of the code of ethics for broadcast media. On June 18, 2021, a Muslim fruit vendor was brutally beaten in Uttam Nagar, New Delhi by unidentified men who were shouting ‘Jai Sri Ram’. Two days later, on June 20, Hindutva activists blocked a busy road in the area to protest against what they said was violence and encroachment by ‘jihadi’ fruit sellers. The activists raised anti-Muslim slogans and gathered with lathis to send a “strong message” to the mostly Muslim vendors that they were not welcome in the neighbourhood. Later, in the evening, activists and local shopkeepers recited the Hanuman Chalisa in the middle of the road in a display of ‘Hindu unity.’ Instead of demanding action by the authorities or going to court to compel the municipality and police to act, however, local Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and various Hindutva organisations have taken the route of vigilantism. But apart from threatening to evict Muslim fruit sellers from the area by force, but the activists who descended on June 20 also called upon Hindus to stop doing business with Muslims. Sudarshan News, a far-right TV channel often accused of broadcasting hatred against Muslims, reported the Uttam Nagar protest in an extremely inflammatory manner. Throughout the show, Sudarshan reporter Sagar Kumar and anchor Shubham Tripathi referred to Muslims as “jihadis” and used other derogatory terms. read the complete article

United Kingdom

27 Jun 2021

Boy, 11, referred to Prevent for wanting to give ‘alms to the oppressed’

An 11-year-old primary school pupil was referred to the government’s controversial counter-radicalisation Prevent programme after a teacher mistook the word “alms” for “arms” during a classroom discussion. The boy’s teacher asked what pupils would do if they found themselves in possession of a lot of money. According to a legal challenge against the school lodged by the boy’s parents, he said he would “give alms to the oppressed”. The teacher interpreted this as “give arms to the oppressed” and made the Prevent referral. When police received the referral they said there was no substance to it, no sign of radicalisation, extremist views or any threat to national security and closed the case. The boy’s parents are taking legal action against the school, accusing it of applying a stereotype about his racial and religious background. It calls for a written apology from the school, the payment of damages and the expunging of the Prevent referral from the boy’s record. Attiq Malik of Liberty Law Solicitors, representing the boy’s family, called for the Prevent programme to be scrapped and said it simply wasn’t working. read the complete article

United States

27 Jun 2021

With fashion shows and internships, Muslim women calm tensions with police and FBI

Downing was invited to the fashion show by the American Muslim & Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council, a nonprofit that seeks to empower Muslim women to be a bridge between their community and law-enforcement organizations. In 2016, at a time when surveillance programs and rising Islamophobia had severely complicated the relationship between Muslim Americans and law enforcement. “After 9/11, the tensions between Muslim communities and law-enforcement agencies arose over discriminatory observation and other issues,” said Anila Ali, the founder of AMMWEC. “I thought that we in the Muslim community should not be passive and should build bridges with law enforcement over our mutual concern over terrorism. ... At the same time, the Muslim community today increasingly faces the challenge of Anti-Muslim discrimination.” The AMMWEC program is notable among other bridge-building programs in its focus on putting Muslim women at the center of its efforts. With offices on both coasts, AMMWEC is most active in California, where it has connections with local law enforcement organizations as well as national organizations like the FBI. “These programs help demystify organizations like the FBI. They become volunteers for public service opportunities and find other recruits,” Ali said. It has also provided the women job opportunities, while providing law enforcement. So far, at least six women have completed formal law-enforcement internships. Others have taken courses with the FBI and attended FBI programs for civilians. One of the program’s interns went on to take a position with the FBI. Other efforts have involved partnerships with the CIA, according to Ali. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 Jun 2021 Edition


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