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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09 Jun 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, one of the country’s largest faith-based charities, Islamic Relief Canada, has won a settlement over publications claiming it to be a “front” for funding extremism, meanwhile in the U.S., the Senate confirmed Dilawar Sayed as deputy administrator for the Small Business Administration, ending an over two year delay in the confirmation, making Sayed the highest ranking Muslim official in the country, and in China, a Uyghur Muslim student has been convicted of “advocating extremism” for posting a video last year on WeChat of a protest event. Our recommended read of the day is by Sanya Mansoor for TIME on a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals that focuses on “whether government secrecy trumps claims of religious discrimination in domestic national security cases.” This and more below:

United States

FBI Claims Secret Evidence Trumps Religious Discrimination Charges in Domestic Spying Case | Recommended Read

Before Irvine, Calif. had its own mosque, Muslims would gather at Ali Malik’s home for nightly prayers during Ramadan. But after an FBI informant pretended to be a convert and spied on Malik’s lay congregation—and more than half a dozen Southern California mosques, as well, in the mid-2000s—trust within the community eroded. Malik’s family pulled back. The communal prayers came to an end. “We became closed off and afraid of reaching out,” he says. Shocked by the experience, Malik and two other plaintiffs sued the FBI, accusing the agency of religious discrimination and unlawful government surveillance. But more than a decade later, the U.S. justice system is still wrestling with whether government secrecy trumps such claims of religious discrimination in domestic national security cases. Malik’s case, FBI v. Fazaga, came before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Thursday. The government argues that all the plaintiffs’ claims alleging religious discrimination need to be dismissed because it has secret evidence that would exonerate the FBI if made public. “Since the court cannot hear evidence as to who the FBI investigated or why, it cannot adjudicate whether the government targeted Plaintiffs based on their religion,” the FBI has said, in legal filings. The plaintiffs argue that they don’t need secret evidence to win their argument and that the case should proceed without this information; the religious discrimination claims should not be entirely dismissed, they say. read the complete article

Booker, Omar, Schakowsky Reintroduce Combating Global Islamophobia Bill

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) reintroduced the Combating International Islamophobia Act, legislation to address the staggering rise in incidents of Islamophobia worldwide. The bill requires the State Department to create a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Islamophobia. It will also establish a comprehensive strategy for establishing U.S. leadership in combatting Islamophobia worldwide. There has been a rise in incidents of violent Islamophobia incidents worldwide. Whether it is the atrocities being committed against the Uyghurs in China and the Rohingya in Burma, the crackdowns on Muslim populations in India and Sri Lanka, the scapegoating of Muslim refugees and other Muslims in Hungary and Poland, the acts of white supremacist violence targeting Muslims in New Zealand and Canada, or the targeting of minority Muslim communities in Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, Bahrain, and Iran—the problem of Islamophobia is global in scope. “Disturbing incidents of Islamophobic rhetoric and attacks continue to threaten the safety and well-being of the Muslim community at home and around the world,” said Senator Booker. “By establishing a Special Envoy at the State Department, we can develop a comprehensive plan to counter Islamophobia and help combat hate wherever and whenever it occurs. Ensuring that people can practice their faith without fear of discrimination or violence is one of our nation’s core values, and we must continue our urgent work to safeguard religious freedoms at home and abroad.” read the complete article

Senate confirms highest-ranking Muslim in government after earlier GOP blockade

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Dilawar Syed as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, ending more than two years of delays after a blockade by Republicans in the last Congress. Syed will be the highest-ranking Muslim official in the U.S. government. Republicans on the Small Business Committee had blocked his nomination, citing the agency’s payouts to abortion providers and other reasons. President Joe Biden had first nominated the Pakistani-born businessman to the position in March 2021, and he renominated him this year in the new Congress. Syed was confirmed 54-42. Syed’s nomination stalled in committee last Congress after Republicans repeatedly failed to appear for votes. Republicans, led by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — then the panel’s top Republican — gave several different explanations, including Syed’s affiliation with a Muslim advocacy group, small-business loans he received and, finally, the agency’s loans to branches of Planned Parenthood. The stalemate led to Democratic charges of anti-Muslim bias and galvanized some Muslim and Jewish organizations to condemn the delay. With an increased majority this year that gave Democrats an extra vote on the committee, the panel approved Syed’s nomination in March, two years after he was first nominated. Five Republicans voted to confirm him in Thursday’s final vote. read the complete article

Pat Robertson, who brought religion into US politics, dies at 93

Pat Robertson, a religious broadcaster who turned a tiny Virginia station into the global Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and helped make religion central to Republican Party politics in the United States through his Christian Coalition, has died. He was 93. Robertson regularly made anti-Muslim statements, especially after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, helping make Islamophobia mainstream in the Republican Party. The late pastor attacked Muslims, Islam and the Prophet Muhammad throughout the years. He called the religion a “monumental scam” in 2002. He often warned that the goal of Islam is “world domination”, fuelling conspiracy theories that Muslim immigrants aim to take over Western societies. In 2013, he compared Islam to Nazism, urging policymakers to “identify our enemy” as the US did during World War II. His American Center for Law and Justice helped lead legal opposition in 2010 to a planned Muslim community centre in New York City over its proximity to the World Trade Center buildings that collapsed in the 9/11 attacks. The developers eventually abandoned the plan for the centre after nationwide pressure from right-wing groups. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group, previously denounced what it called Robertson’s “bigoted, hate-filled views”. read the complete article

The GOP tried to use Jews to sabotage the highest-ranking Muslim in the Biden administration

Dilawar Syed, the highest-ranking Muslim person in the Biden administration, and one of its longest-stalled nominees, was just confirmed as deputy administrator of the United States Small Business Association. And while this shouldn’t really be news — Syed is professional, respected and extraordinarily qualified for the job — the battle toward his confirmation is a cautionary tale of MAGA Republican lawmakers’ cynical attempts to use Jewish people as a smokescreen for their racist, antisemitic and anti-democratic political project. Syed, a business executive, entrepreneur and civic leader, was first nominated as head of the SBA in 2021, early in the Biden administration’s tenure. Senate Republicans acted to block his confirmation, first by raising objections to his affiliation with Emgage Action, a well-respected Muslim community organization. The smear was so thin and so blatantly false that it couldn’t even produce concrete accusations, but it was enough for Republican members of the Small Business Committee to begin a blockade of his nomination that would last more than two years. Jewish organizations, from progressive stalwarts like Bend the Arc, where I am Washington director, to more centrist and conservative organizations like the Jewish Democratic Council of America and the American Jewish Committee, were quick to step to Syed’s defense. We were offended and outraged that our community was being weaponized for character assassination, and we raised our own voices to set the record straight: We wouldn’t be used as a smokescreen for MAGA Republicans’ Islamophobia and racism. read the complete article


Uyghur student convicted after posting protests video on WeChat

A Uyghur student who was detained in Xinjiang in December after posting a video on WeChat of the “white paper” protests has been convicted of “advocating extremism”. Kamile Wayit, 19, was detained in Atush on 12 December the day after returning home from university in Henan, a province in central China. She has not been heard from since, but last week a spokesperson from China’s ministry for foreign affairs confirmed to the Economist magazine that Wayit had been sentenced on 25 March “for the crime of advocating extremism”. The spokesperson did not confirm the length of the sentence but it can be up to five years. Maya Wang, the associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Kamile Wayit’s case is unique in that she has been arrested for a particularly severe crime, simply because she is a Uyghur, and simply for sharing a video about the protests.” Wayit’s case showed how in Xinjiang “the state can construe everything a Uyghur does – including many peaceful, lawful behaviours – as extremism and terrorism and arbitrarily detain and imprison them,” Wang said. read the complete article

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Chinese Companies’ Vanishing Acts in Xinjiang

That explains Beijing’s amazing turnaround regarding the Xinjiang camps. At first, Chinese officials denied their existence outright. In late 2018, overwhelmed by the evidence, the Chinese government admitted having built “vocational training schools” (why these schools were surrounded by barbed wire was never answered). Chinese authorities even built a few fake camps to host gullible media. One lesser-known and rather curious example of this new doublespeak is playing out, once again centered on Xinjiang, the Uyghur region in westernmost China. The Chinese government requires pop artists and others to stand up and praise its policies in Xinjiang. Artists were even made to denounce H&M and other clothing firms for boycotting Xinjiang cotton. Which they are, thankfully, because forced labor is huge in Xinjiang and there is no way to make sure products made there would not be tainted by it. Meanwhile, Chinese companies in multiple industries are flocking to profit from government-provided free labor – and boost their nationalistic bona fides to boot. Yet Chinese companies producing things in Xinjiang want to keep their role there secret from foreign partners and especially foreign media. Otherwise, there could be bothersome inquiries about forced labor and human rights, because the world has heard about what’s going on in Xinjiang. read the complete article

United Kingdom

The promotion of an anti-Muslim figure by a Labour MP exposes the 'hierarchy of racism' in the party

The UK Labour Party's claim that it has a "zero tolerance" policy towards racism has to be questioned after pro-Israel Christian Wakeford MP used social media to promote an Islamophobic figure. The Bury South Labour MP, who defected from the Conservatives last year, has sparked a debate about whether or not Labour is as serious about combatting Islamophobia and anti-black racism as it is about combatting anti-Semitism. Under the leadership of Kier Starmer, Labour apparently has a hierarchy of racism, whereby anti-Jewish racism is taken more seriously than Islamophobia or other forms of racism. Moreover, Labour's adoption of the controversial definition of anti-Semitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has made the party extremely intolerant of any criticism of Israel whatsoever. Allegations that Labour has a hierarchy of racism surfaced again this week after Wakeford promoted Israel-born US musician Gene Simmons. The bass player with the band Kiss was accused of Islamophobia after he described Islam as a "vile culture" that treated women worse than dogs. Muslim women had to walk behind their men and were not allowed to be educated or own houses, Simmons is reported to have said. "Your dog, however, can walk side by side, your dog is allowed to have its own dog house… you can send your dog to school to learn tricks, sit, beg, do all that stuff – none of the [Muslim] women have that advantage." In a fawning tweet, a star-struck Wakeford shared a photo of himself standing next to Simmons. read the complete article


Canadian Muslim charity wins 'milestone' settlement after being falsely accused of funding terrorism

One of Canada's largest faith-based charities has won a settlement over a set of publications that falsely claimed it was a "front" to fund terror groups abroad. Islamic Relief Canada reached the out-of-court settlement earlier this month in a lawsuit against Thomas Quiggin — a former military officer turned self-described researcher who last year emerged as one of the more recognizable names in the truck convoy protests — and six others who it argued made "false, malicious and defamatory" statements aimed at harming the charity. Along with Quiggin, the $2.5-million lawsuit from December 2018 took aim at Benjamin Dichter, who later emerged as a convoy spokesperson; writer Tahir Aslam Gora and an online television channel of which Gora is CEO; writer Raheel Raza and her husband Syed Sohail Raza; as well as a Yarmouth-based man named Joseph Hazelton who interviewed Quiggin about the charity in a YouTube video that garnered over 10,000 views. "This case illustrates the kind of misinformation that legitimate aid organizations too often face in carrying out their vital humanitarian missions," said Usama Khan, Islamic Relief Canada's CEO. Despite the settlement, CBC News easily located the 132-page so-called "Quiggin Report" online and available for download. The long, winding document packages in a pseudo-academic format conspiratorial references to an "Islamist cancer" and "globalist beliefs" within the federal government. Using hundreds of footnotes and numerous graphics and charts, the report attempts to draw a line from the charity to militant groups like Hamas through the charity's parent organization Islamic Relief Worldwide. read the complete article


Educational inequities worsen for Muslim students in India

In the pursuit of a just and inclusive society, access to education plays a crucial role in empowering marginalised communities. However, in India, the educational landscape remains stratified with the Muslim minority grappling with numerous hurdles that impede their educational progress and perpetuate social disparities. Recent academic revelations on the declining enrolment of Muslim students in education and higher education are concerning. The contentious “ban” on hijab (a matter still before the Supreme Court), an all pervasive intimidatory socio-political environment coupled with a push back from sections of the religious clergy are contributory factors. A recent report in the Indian Express analysed the All India Survey on Higher Education 2020–21 data and revealed an 8% drop in Muslim enrolment compared to the previous year. This decline translates to a reduction of 179,147 students, an unprecedented figure for any specific group. read the complete article


Rohingya in Bangladesh protest to be sent home after UN aid cut

Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are demanding to be repatriated to Myanmar so that they can leave the squalid camps they have lived in since fleeing a brutal military crackdown in their homeland in 2017. More than a million Rohingya have been crammed into the camps in southeastern Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee settlement. Most fled the crackdown by Myanmar’s military almost six years ago, although some have been there for longer. On June 1, the World Food Programme cut the monthly food allocation to $8 per person from $10 earlier. In March, the ration cut had been reduced from $12 to $10 due to a reduction in global aid for the refugees. During Thursday’s demonstrations across the sprawling camps, the mainly Muslim refugees, young and old, waved placards and chanted slogans. “No more refugee life. No verification. No scrutiny. No interview. We want quick repatriation through UNHCR data card. We want to go back to our motherland,” the placards read. “Let’s go back to Myanmar. Don’t try to stop repatriation,” said the others. Muhammad Ayaz, 35, who lives at the Teknaf refugee camp, told Anadolu: “We are citizens of Myanmar. We urge the global community to hear our appeal of returning home with proper citizenship rights and protection in Myanmar after repatriation.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 09 Jun 2023 Edition


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