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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04 Jun 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Neha Dixit analyzes how India’s long lockdown led to a breakdown of its criminal justice system; as Saad Hasan writes about the role of Black Muslims in the American civil rights movement. The Muslim Council of Britain expresses solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Our recommended read today is by Massimo Di Ricco on a kidnapped aid worker who converted to Islam, and how it led to an uptick in Islamophobia in the country. This, and more, below:


04 Jun 2020

How a kidnapped aid worker who converted to Islam shook Italy | Recommended Read

The news of Italian aid worker Silvia Romano's kidnapping caused not only sadness and worry, but also controversy in her home country. Right-wing politicians and public figures, and some members of the public, accused the aid worker of "looking for trouble" by going to Kenya, and claimed she should have "stayed in Milan and helped people there". On May 9, when Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Twitter that Romano had finally been freed, most Italians were overjoyed. Soon after, however, it was revealed that the aid worker had chosen to become a Muslim during her 18 months in al-Shabab captivity and that she had changed her name to "Aisha". This dampened the celebratory mood and led many on the Italian right to once again question Romano's motivations for going to Kenya in the first place. After Romano landed in Rome wearing a light green jilbab - a loose-fitting robe that covers the entire body and is often worn by Somali women - her conversion swiftly became the sole focus of right-wing Italian media outlets. They published "before and after" photos showing the aid worker's "transformation" and embarked on a quest to shed light on "the mystery surrounding the conversion": Was she forcibly converted? Was she brainwashed? Was she a victim of Stockholm syndrome? "Islamic and happy. Silvia the ungrateful," read the front-page headline of an article by Alessandro Sallusti, the editor of Il Giornale. In the same article, Sallusti accused Romano of wearing the "jihadist uniform of the enemy" and claimed her conversion is as absurd as a Jew coming back from a concentration camp dressed as a Nazi. Italian liberals and the left wing openly condemned the hate Romano received for converting to Islam and celebrated her return home. Their response to the hateful right-wing rhetoric surrounding the aid worker's liberation, however, was equally problematic, albeit for different reasons. In their response to the whole Romano saga, Italy's liberal media organisations and public figures tried to highlight the human side of the story, and celebrated her safe return home without any reservations. But in their undoubtedly well-intentioned celebration, they promoted deep-rooted and highly damaging stereotypes about Africa. They not only portrayed the continent as a savage and abandoned place, but they also implied Africans are in need of "white saviours". read the complete article

Recommended Read


04 Jun 2020

Islamophobia In India Amid COVID-19

In recent times, when COVID-19 has overwhelmed the whole world, anti-Muslim sentiments still dominate India. The COVID-19 outbreak has intensified Islamophobic attacks in India, with Muslims being accused of spreading the virus. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has waged a campaign to defile Muslims by blaming them for the spread of Coronavirus in India. Hate speeches by the Indian Nationals accusing the Tablighi Jamaat of exacerbating the Coronavirus pandemic in India have dispirited the Muslim community in India. The BJP categorically used the virus to target members of the Tablighi Jamaat. Lately, the social media is swamped by calls for social and economic boycotts of Muslims, and they turned the subjects of various physical attacks, amid falsehoods accusing them of spreading the virus deliberately. Hashtags such as #CoronaJihad trended for days on Twitter and panelists in TV debates called them “human bombs”. Following the Jamaat issue, a wave of Islamophobic posts unleashed on social media by right-wing Hindus, some of them employed in Gulf countries. These developments met with strong resentment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – the genuine Indian ally – and Kuwait; they condemned anti-Muslim sentiments in India. Princess Hend al-Qassimi, a member of the UAE royal family, warned “openly racist and discriminatory” Indians in the Gulf that they “will be fined and made to leave” the country. read the complete article

04 Jun 2020

Delhi riot chargesheets show Modi govt still sees ‘clothes’ of Muslims, not their corpses

Addressing an election rally in Jharkhand in the run-up to the assembly elections last year, PM Modi said that those setting fire to public property during anti-Citizenship Amendment Act/National Register of Citizens protests could be identified by their clothes. He did not elaborate further or explain further, but he did not have to. This was in the backdrop of the India-wide protests led by women and students against the CAA/NRC, while students from Universities such as Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia were bearing the brunt of police violence. Instead of assuaging the apprehensions of the protesters alarmed with the new law, Modi chose an electoral platform to further isolate and target them. The new chargesheets, that are on cases that involve Muslims or other anti CAA protestors, also seem to tilt in one direction. There is hardly any mention of cases where Muslims were killed, injured or their properties destroyed. For the Delhi Police, perhaps, the Muslim corpses, burnt houses, damaged religious structures, and all those displaced by the violence and now living in shelters do not exist. As Northeast Delhi got engulfed in violence, it was quickly dubbed a ‘riot instigated by anti-CAA protestors’. read the complete article

04 Jun 2020

When Rahul Shivshankar used Black Lives Matter to bash Muslims, as usual

Why did I find it important to define “dog-whistling” at the beginning of this piece? It’s because Rahul Shivshankar, or RSS, and friends on Times Now seem to have perfected this art to a T. One such glorious display of his skills occured on his primetime show on June 1, titled, “INDIA UPFRONT - #LobbyIncitesMuslims”. For some context: As we speak, cities across the United States are exploding with protests against the killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota. Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Floyd gasped, cried “I can’t breathe”, and choked to death. It’s worth looking into how RSS and his panellists twisted these events to allege that Indian Muslims are essentially the most empowered bunch of people in the world — and everyone saying otherwise is harming the integrity of the country. Because Times Now’s intentions, and Shivshankar’s too, are obvious. In the opening monologue on his show, RSS said, “This is a Times Now Super Exclusive. A big story. There’s no limit to opportunism. A group of Khan Market intellectuals and Congress-sympathising Modi bashers have begun an insidious campaign to use the imagery and narrative building in the United States on the back of the African-American anti-race protests to incite Indian Muslims here, at home...This group is inciting activists to mobilize Muslims under the banner ‘Muslim Lives Matter’ just like the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign in the United States.” Only two out of these five tweets used the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter but no matter. According to RSS, this is still a conspiracy to use the banner “Muslim Lives Matter” to “mobilise” people. read the complete article

04 Jun 2020

India's long lockdown led to breakdown of criminal justice system

Khalid, in a New Delhi jail since February, is among thousands of prisoners awaiting trial as India's criminal justice system came to a complete halt during the pandemic. Under the lockdown, legal services were not classified as essential by the government, which allowed only a small number of "virtual" courts to operate. With virtual courts only taking up "urgent" cases that were not clearly defined, access to legal representation, bail or a fair investigation became virtually impossible. Due to the pandemic, visits to prisons by lawyers and families were also banned. The only way prisoners can contact family members is through landline phones, but they have a long waiting list. Last week, the Bar Council of India wrote to the chief justice of India's Supreme Court, asking that the court issue directions to resume physical court hearings across the country from June 1. "Ninety-five percent of advocates and lawyers are unaware of technology, and virtual courts are only accessible to a few lawyers, which leaves the fraternity briefless or without work," wrote the council. One of the hallmarks of the two-month lockdown in India has been a sustained targeting of political dissenters and Muslims by the Hindu nationalist government, which appeared to be using the limited access to legal resources as a handy tool for political vendetta. On March 31, one week into the lockdown, India's Ministry of Home Affairs told the Delhi Police to "continue making arrests under any circumstances" of people allegedly involved in the February riots in the capital that left 53 dead, most of them Muslims. So far, more than 1,300 arrests have been made, including some victims and complainants, with activists accusing the police of harassing Muslim survivors. read the complete article

United States

04 Jun 2020

Muslim student sues Scottsdale Community college and professor over Islam quiz questions

A student and the Arizona chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed the lawsuit, asking that SCC and professor Nicholas Damask stop teaching the materials in question until they "do not have the primary effect of disapproving of Islam." The lawsuit comes after the student, Mohamed Sabra, posted three quiz questions from a world politics class to social media last month, igniting a firestorm of online criticism that caused the college's interim President Christina Haines to apologize for the "inaccurate" and "inappropriate" questions. Haines also said Damask would apologize to the student and remove the questions from his curriculum. Damask pushed back, saying he had no intention of apologizing and that his academic freedom was being threatened. The chancellor of Maricopa Community College District, of which SCC is a part, stepped in and said the questions posted on social media were taken out of context and fell within the scope of the course. Chancellor Steven Gonzales said he would launch a Committee on Academic Freedom and pursue an investigation into how the controversy was handled. read the complete article

04 Jun 2020

Steve King: Five Islamophobic moments from outgoing congressman

"White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization - how did that language become offensive?" King said to the New York Times in January of last year. "Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?" Still, long before that comment, King made numerous anti-Muslim statements that went largely unnoticed by the mainstream Republican Party. In fact, he was often defended by party leaders. In 2016, Senator Ted Cruz appointed King as his presidential campaign's national co-chair. In perhaps his most infamous racist outburst, King retweeted a news report about "Islamists" shouting "Allahu Akbar" in the city of Rotterdam, going on to praise anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders. "Wilders understands that culture and Demographics are our destiny," King wrote in March 2017. "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." The post was immediately rebuked by civil rights groups and some Democrats. "This racist tweet crosses the line from dog-whistle politics to straight-up White supremacist advocacy," the Countil on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement at the time. The congressman stood by his statement, telling CNN: "You've got to keep your birth rate up, and that you need to teach your children your values." Beyond the anti-Muslim bigotry, the incident highlighted King's white nationalism, which emphaises demographics and immigrants' birth rates. read the complete article

04 Jun 2020

The role of Black Muslims in the American civil rights movement

Young men and women have taken to the streets across the US in lively protests, clashing with police, bracing pepper spray, rubber bullets and baton-beatings. There is also a rich history of Black Muslim Americans who have been at the forefront of the fight against the injustice meted out to non-white citizens in the world’s largest economy. “We have a long history dealing with violence by extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan,” says Imam Mahdi Bray, the National Director of the American Muslim Alliance and a lifelong civil rights activists. “When a lot of people think of terrorism, they think of 9/11. But for me terrorism was on that day in 1956 when my grandfather’s home was firebombed by the Klan.” “What’s happening in the US is what has happened for many years. We are suffering from systemic racism and violence. What happened to George Floyd has happened to many African American Black men who have basically experienced death and lethal violence by law enforcement,” he told TRT World in an interview. Over the years, many prominent Black Muslims have emerged in the civil rights movement. People like Malcom X and Muhammad Ali are household names. read the complete article

04 Jun 2020

How Muslims Are Mourning Without Proper Death Care Rituals

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, loss and grief are two themes that transcend age, race, religion, and location. The U.S. alone has reported more than 100,000 deaths and counting. Because of shelter-in-place and social distancing mandates, many have lost loved ones without the opportunity to properly say goodbye. Public gatherings, including funerals, are limited to 10 people or less. These restrictions make it difficult to complete burial rituals and funeral practices, especially in the Muslim community. “Imagine not being able to pray on a loved one. It’s double the grief. The grief of losing somebody, and the grief of not being able to be there in their last moments,” Imam Mohamed says. Besides the shift in burial practices, the grieving process in the Muslim community is also changing. It’s customary for Muslims to convene at the family’s house and bring food and water. Many will stay for hours to provide comfort and support for the grieving family however they can. Now, we can’t do that. “The community is losing the opportunity to be there for one another,” Imam Mohamed says. “It’s still not registering in my mind that my friend is gone. I would’ve liked to be there in her last moments, go to her funeral, say goodbye. I can’t even be there for her kids and visit them and comfort them. This virus is unforgiving, and I hate it,” my mother shared with me in Somali. She grieved her own mother’s loss a couple of years ago. Knowing her mother received a proper goodbye, surrounded by loved ones, helped her cope. “Not being physically there hurts differently,” she told me. Beyond helping our communities grieve, our funerals serve as a reminder that death is part of worship. Muslims believe that death signifies the end of this life and the transition to the next one. read the complete article


04 Jun 2020

'Your pain is our pain': UK Muslim body expresses solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests

The Muslim Council of Britain said on Tuesday it was "shaken" by the news of Floyd's murder, an African-American man who died of strangulation after a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. "To his family, and the families of all whose names we don’t know, we convey our deepest condolences. Your pain is our pain," it added. The events have reignited long-running grievances over deep-seated racism within the US authorities, specifically police brutality against the black community. The largely peaceful rallies have been met with a violent police crackdown, with scores of protesters injured by rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. Anti-racism demonstrations in solidarity have sprung up across the globe, including a rallies across the UK on the weekend. "We stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in the United States, UK and beyond, wherever anti-Black racism manifests," the MCB statement added. "We recognise that anti-Black racism must be stamped out wherever it may manifest, for a failure to do so will continue to result in the taking and ruining of precious life." The Coucil also vowed to crush racism within the Muslim community in the UK. read the complete article

04 Jun 2020

Elizabeth May Wants Canada To Accept U.S. Asylum Seekers Now That Country ‘No Longer Safe’

Elizabeth May says Canada must welcome asylum seekers wanting to flee the United States because it isn’t a secure country for racialized communities under the president’s leadership. “We must not turn them away because Donald Trump has made the United States no longer safe,” the federal Green parliamentary leader told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday. May called the press conference to address the protests against anti-Black racism that have erupted after last week’s police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis. The situation has been made more dire by Trump’s incendiary words and actions, she said. read the complete article

04 Jun 2020

US lawmakers: Uyghur bill ‘a firm step’ to defend China's Muslims

US lawmakers yesterday said legislation targeting China over the brutal treatment of the country’s Uyghur Muslim minority sent a clear message of support from Washington and the White House to the Uyghurs, pushing Beijing on human rights, Reuters reported. “With this overwhelming bipartisan legislation, the United States Congress is taking a firm step to counter Beijing’s horrific human rights abuses against the Uyghurs,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Last week, the United States House of Representatives passed legislation calling for sanctions against officials in China responsible for human rights abuses in the country’s western region of Xinjiang. It now awaits President Donald Trump’s approval or veto. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 Jun 2020 Edition


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