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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07 Jun 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, a vigil hosted by the Youth Coalition Combating Islamophobia (YCCI) and the City of London was held Tuesday evening at the site of the attack on the Afzaal family two years ago, meanwhile in France, Audrey Pettit writes about her experience teaching in France, where she finds that laïcité has been “manipulated to drag its Muslim population down the long path of cultural assimilation,” and The Economist’s Alice Su, meets with two Uyghur Muslims who’ve left China and talks on the price they have to pay to stay connected with loved ones back home. Our recommended read of the day is by Ismail Patel for The New Arab on how despite a history of Islamophobic comments, Lord Austin has been appointed to review the Leicester unrest which broke out following Hindu nationalist attacks on the community. This and more below:

United Kingdom

Leicester review: Lord Austin’s appointment reinforces UK government's institutional Islamophobia | Recommended Read

The appointment of Lord Austin to review the unrest that took place in Leicester in 2022 highlights once again the UK government’s institutional Islamophobia, and that they have a disinterest in taking the rise of violent Hindu nationalism in the UK seriously. The racist unrest led Sir Peter Soulsby, the local mayor, to appoint Dr Chris Allen, a ‘Hate Crime’ specialist from Leicester University, for an independent review. However, within weeks, Allen withdrew after opposition was raised from Hindu groups. The Conservative government stepped in, with Communities Secretary Michael Gove taking charge. Recently, Gove commissioned an inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Ian Austin. However, over 100 Muslim organisations and individuals from Leicester and some local councillors have objected to the appointment of Lord Austin, stating they will not engage in the review process due to Lord Austin’s record in public office. For example, Lord Austin was found guilty of falsifying statements and was forced to apologise and pay an undisclosed amount to Friends of Al-Aqsa, a Leicester based Palestinian campaign group, for the unfounded allegations that they were holocaust deniers. Furthermore, a former Jeremy Corbyn aide, Laura Murray received £40,000 in damages from the Telegraph for ‘untrue comments’ made in an article by Ian Austin in which he claimed she was ‘anti-Jewish racist’. The Labour Muslim Network has also previously accused him of Islamophobia. In short, Lord Austin falls short of the Principles of Standards in Public Life which are ethical standards that those in public office are expected to uphold, and fails to meet the government’s own standard of a reviewer ‘to be impartial’. read the complete article


Coalition of Muslim Women host memorial vigil for family killed in London, Ont., 2 years ago

Today marks two years since an attack in London, Ont., killed four members of a Muslim family, and the Coalition of Muslim Women (CMW) will host a vigil at Kitchener city hall tonight to honour them. The Afzaal family was out walking the evening of June 6, 2021, when a truck was driven into them, killing four members in what police allege was an act of anti-Muslim hate. "We don't want those lives to be lost in vain," said Sarah Shafiq, CMW's director of advocacy, research and youth programming. "It's a day full of sorrow and grief and so this really helps. The vigil, coming together — it really helps in that processing that grief and hurt that we still feel." Members of the coalition will release their second annual Snapshot of Hate report during the vigil. It includes input from people in Waterloo region on their experience with discrimination and hate. "Discrimination is certainly the highest reported form of hate in our system," Shafiq said. "And we don't just collect anti-Muslim hate. It is anyone. Racism and xenophobia is also documented as well." "At the national level we had the summit, we had the special representative on combating Islamophobia. We had municipalities who also passed motions condemning Islamophobia and vowing action, including our local municipalities. Region of Waterloo took a really brave action and funded the anti-hate service that we have. So that was really amazing," she said. "But certainly there's a lot that still needs to be done. At the structural level, at the national level, we still have Bill 21 ... that bars women from working as school teachers, as judges because of what they wear." read the complete article

Q&A: Canada’s anti-Islamophobia representative vows to fight hate

It was a Sunday evening two years ago when an act “rooted in unspeakable hatred” changed one family forever and shook Muslim communities across Canada in the process. The Afzaals were taking a walk in the city of London, Ontario on June 6, 2021, when a man ran them over with his truck in what authorities said was an intentional attack. Four members of the family were killed, and a young boy was seriously injured. The deadly assault sent shock waves throughout the country, where Muslims were still reeling from a series of fatal attacks at mosques and a rise of Islamophobic rhetoric. It also fuelled calls for action and pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to first establish a summit on Islamophobia and then earlier this year to name a special representative to tackle the problem. The appointment of Amira Elghawaby in January as Canada’s first special representative on combatting Islamophobia was welcomed by Muslim community advocates. But it faced fierce criticism in the province of Quebec, where politicians called for her removal for past criticism of a law banning religious garb in the public sector that has drawn widespread accusations of racism. Here, Al Jazeera speaks to Elghawaby about the two-year anniversary of the London attack, the state of Islamophobia in Canada today, and what her job entails. read the complete article

2 years after Muslim family’s murder, Islamophobia still rising in Canada: Rights group

In the aftermath of the heinous attack, changes were promised as authorities pledged to take steps to combat Islamophobia and protect Muslim communities across Canada. But have they delivered? It depends, according to Taha Ghayyur, executive director of Justice for All Canada, a human rights group based in Mississauga, near Toronto. “All federal, municipal and provincial levels of government have taken concrete actions to improve Canadian discourse and awareness of Islamophobia,” he told Anadolu in an email interview. These include infrastructure funding to address hate-motivated crimes in places of worship and appointing a special representative on combating Islamophobia, he said. “It’s highly commendable that some municipalities have adopted Islamophobia as a strategic priority, even passing anti-street harassment laws related to the issue of Islamophobia,” said Ghayyur. “(But) … as a human rights group we remain critical of Islamophobia in Canada. Despite these multi-government efforts, Islamophobia is still rising, so we expect leaders to demonstrate concern.” He added that this past Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting observed this year in March and April, had “shown us the rate of anti-Muslim hate incidents are getting worse in the Greater Toronto Area.” “There has been a significant spike in attacks on mosques, including in Montreal,” said Ghayyur. read the complete article

2 years after deadly truck attack, Afzaal family honoured as community vows to fight Islamophobia

On the second anniversary of the truck attack that killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., hundreds of people came to commemorate their lives while carrying on the fight against Islamophobia. A vigil hosted by the Youth Coalition Combating Islamophobia (YCCI) and the City of London was held Tuesday evening at the site of the attack on the Afzaals — who are known as Our London Family. On June 6, 2021, the family was out for a walk when Salman Afzaal, his wife, Madiha Salman, grandmother, Talat, and the couple's daughter, Yumnah, were killed when a truck hit them at the intersection of South Carriage and Hyde Park Roads in what police are calling an alleged hate-motivated attack. "Ironically, the one who killed Yumnah and her family wanted to fuel the fire of Islamophobia and make Muslims afraid to be who they are," said 16-year-old Esa Islam, a cousin and one of the vigil organizers. "For me, this horrific attack only strengthened my faith and increased my passion for fighting Islamophobia so no family or community will every have to face this hate again!" The tragedy prompted the creation of YCCI, comprised of teenagers and young adults working to educate others about Islamophobia, what it looks like and its impact on society. Working with other groups, they've had the ear of city institutions, which are also looking for ways to better promote understanding. read the complete article


In France, Secularism Is a Justification for Discrimination Against Muslims

Outside the Lycée Robert Doisneau in Vaulx-en-Velin, a suburb of Lyon, France, there is a large circular window that doubles as a mirror. Every morning, I watch my students gather around it to remove their hijabs, pin back stray hairs, and tighten loose ponytails before crossing the border into their high school. Throughout the day, they wrap their veils around their necks like scarves, ready for the moment they will cross the border again, crowding around the same mirror to pin it back in place. This ritual is not unique to the Lycée Robert Doinseau or the city of Lyon; it is a tenet of the French education system, the consequence of a 2004 law that banned the presence of “conspicuous religious symbols” in schools on the basis of the French principle of laïcité (the oft-forgotten “ité” of the liberté, egalité, fraternité trinity), translated into English as “secularism,” or the separation of church and state. Like most legislation, laïcité began with good intentions: places of learning will transcend religious dogma! Students won’t be discriminated against for their beliefs! But it has expanded its reach to contract around the lives it aimed to liberate. Until 2004, religious clothing and symbols were not deemed incompatible with secularism. Yet laïcité gained renewed prominence with the increase of the country’s Muslim population. France’s decolonization of Northern African countries in the 1960s precipitated a wave of Muslim labor migrants throughout the late twentieth century. While the French government treated these populations as unassimilable and temporary, many migrants never left, giving rise to new generations of French-born Muslims. France now hosts the largest Muslim population in Europe, half of whom are born or naturalized French citizens. Most of these families live, work, and attend school on the outskirts of French cities. These banlieues — a pejorative term for immigrant neighborhoods — are marked by their looming brutalist structures, a sharp contrast from the cobblestone streets and Gothic Cathedrals of city centers. Originally conceived as a haven for workers in postwar France, these neighborhoods have only isolated and impoverished Muslims and other minority populations. read the complete article


Why does China want Uyghurs overseas to be silent?

UYGHURS INSIDE China have long been persecuted. From 2017 to 2019, more than a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities were locked up in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. Many of the camps have now been closed but Uyghurs are threatened if they speak out. And the Chinese Communist Party is also trying to silence and control Uyghurs outside China. In this first episode of a special two-part series, The Economist’s senior China correspondent, Alice Su, meets two Uyghurs, Nigara and Kewser, who have left China. What price do they each have to pay to stay in contact with their loved ones in China? read the complete article

UN alleges human rights violations against Guantanamo Bay Prison detainee

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a report alleging that Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the US all participated in human rights violations against Abd al-Rahim Hussein al-Nashiri, a man accused of assisting in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Al-Nashiri is currently held in Guantanamo Bay Prison, though he is alleged to have been detained in the the territories of each of these countries, with the US being the primary perpetrator of his extended detention. While the report was authored in 2022, the Working Group waited until 2023 to release it. The report contains graphic descriptions of “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including prolonged forced nudity, sleep deprivation, physical beatings, waterboarding, prolonged forced standing while chained, restrictive confinement in a small box, exposure to cold temperatures and forced rectal feeding after prolonged food deprivation. A source in the report alleges that al-Nashiri in particular was subjected to waterboarding multiple times. The US Department of Defense (DOD) allegedly appointed a medical expert in treating torture victims to assess al-Nashiri. That expert claimed al-Nashiri was one of the “most severely traumatized individuals” she had ever treated. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 07 Jun 2023 Edition


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