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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01 Mar 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In Ukraine, the country’s National Guard shared a video on its Twitter account showing Azov fighters greasing bullets with pig fat, ostensibly to be used against against Muslim Chechens deployed to their country as Russia steps up its military assault on the eastern European nation, meanwhile in China, technological innovation regarding surveillance is being used to monitor and suppress Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, and at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Gambia has ended a week of legal proceedings by calling on the judges to move swiftly and ensure that justice for the Rohingya is delayed no longer. Our recommended read of the day is by the Associated Press on European leaders’ and the media’s starkly different response to Ukrainian refugees in comparison to refugees from Muslim-majority countries, and how reports have emerged of residents, including Nigerians, Indians and Lebanese, being stopped at the borders. This and more below:


01 Mar 2022

Europe's different approach to Ukrainian and Syrian refugees draws accusations of racism | Recommended Read

They file into neighbouring countries by the hundreds of thousands — refugees from Ukraine clutching children in one arm, belongings in the other. And they're being heartily welcomed, by leaders of countries such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania. But while the hospitality has been applauded, it has also highlighted stark differences in treatment given to migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa, particularly Syrians who came in 2015. Some among them say the language they are hearing from leaders now welcoming refugees has been disturbing and hurtful. "These are not the refugees we are used to; these people are Europeans," Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told journalists earlier this week. "These people are intelligent. They are educated people.... This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists. "In other words, there is not a single European country now which is afraid of the current wave of refugees." Syrian journalist Okba Mohammad says that statement "mixes racism and Islamophobia." Mohammad fled his hometown of Daraa in 2018. He now lives in Spain and with other Syrian refugees founded a bilingual magazine in Arabic and Spanish. He described a sense of déjà vu as he followed events in Ukraine. He also had sheltered underground to protect himself from Russian bombs. He also struggled to board an overcrowded bus to flee his town. He also was separated from his family at the border. "A refugee is a refugee, whether European, African or Asian," Mohammad said. The change in tone of some of Europe's leaders who in the past have expressed among the most extreme anti-migration views in the bloc has been striking. They have shifted from "We aren't going to let anyone in" to "We're letting everyone in." read the complete article

01 Mar 2022

Gambia Calls for Justice as Rohingya Face Dire Threats

A week of legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice in the Hague ended with Gambia making a plea for the judges to move swiftly and ensure that justice for the Rohingya is delayed no longer. On February 28, the hearings on Myanmar’s preliminary objections to Gambia’s case on the alleged genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar came to a close. Yet the court could take a year before it decides on whether the case can proceed. In the meantime, the court’s 2020 order to protect the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar is still in place, providing a measure of protection. If the case proceeds, it would take several years before the court reaches a judgment. While the representation of Myanmar at the court by junta officials has raised concerns, some Rohingya activists have welcomed hearing directly from those considered responsible for the atrocities in northern Rakhine State. Rohingya activist Yasmin Ullah says watching the perpetrators of mass violence face the court has even been cathartic. “We have not heard once from the military in a legal court as they have always acted by proxy,” she said in a recent discussion. The momentum to hold Myanmar’s military accountable is building, with a universal jurisdiction case underway in Argentina and an investigation at the International Criminal Court into crimes against humanity connected to the forced deportation of Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh. read the complete article

01 Mar 2022


The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is premised on two ideas: That terrorism is a distinct type of violence, and that war is the best way to stop it. My research, released last month by Costs of War, found that neither is true. Despite waging a nearly 20-year war against it, the US government remains unable to clearly define what constitutes “terrorism.” A rat’s nest of ever-shifting, sometimes contradictory definitions sits at the core of counterterrorism efforts. In 2008, the US defined terrorism in more than 20 different ways. Between 1982 and 2004, the US Department of State changed its definition of terrorism no fewer than seven times. A 2012 study found 260 separate definitions used by academics. In practice, terrorism exists in the eye of the beholder. It is whatever form of political violence we do not like. “Terrorist” is an often racialized epithet launched at political opponents, including domestic actors. In his declaration of war on Sept. 12, 2001, President George W. Bush called the prior day’s attacks “more than acts of terror. They were acts of war.” This was a paradigm shift — the moment at which terrorism became war. It was not inevitable. The attacks did not legally constitute war, and White House officials considered a criminal justice solution. The White House chose a war path, launching an invasion of Afghanistan, and later Iraq. Since 2001, the US has poured an astounding $8 trillion into a war effort spanning 85 countries. Yet, studies have shown that military force is one of the least effective tools against terrorist groups. In 2008, a RAND study was performed for the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff. After analyzing the primary cause of the demise of 648 terrorist groups across history, it found that only 7% of terror groups have been ended by war. Far more frequently, groups have laid down arms to become political parties (43%) or had their operations interrupted by local policing efforts (40%). The violence and destruction of the GWOT has destabilized the Middle East and legitimized the idea that the US is fighting a war on Islam. These actions have increased the recruiting capacity of militant groups, an effect that government officials have called “blowback.” When people see their homes, families, or communities destroyed by US military action, they have more reason to join opposition groups. read the complete article


01 Mar 2022

In Xinjiang’s Tech Incubators, Innovation Is Inseparable from Repression

In 2017, the Urumqi High-Tech Industrial Development Zone, in the capital of Xinjiang, published a catalogue of the “entrepreneurial and innovative” projects underway in its jurisdiction. The Xinjiang University Information Technology Innovation Park Co., Ltd. aimed to improve capacity for “grassroots makerspaces.” Another company was using blockchain “to establish an Asia-Europe big data trading platform.” But the catalogue also heralded innovation of a very different kind. Also listed on the site was an “integrated grid management platform” that would “discover abnormalities, control the enemy’s social conditions, and maintain social stability.” Grid management, a state-imposed surveillance infrastructure that employs civilians to monitor their neighbors, exists across China. It divides cities and towns up into smaller units, with local neighborhoods serving as a mainstay of social control. In Xinjiang, however, where authorities have detained millions of Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens, razed religious and cultural spaces, and otherwise criminalized indigenous identity, surveillance conducted through the grid management system has higher stakes. The Xinjiang government assumes the local populace contains “enemies” in need of extensive, and intrusive, monitoring. The “integrated grid management platform” featured in the catalogue would help grid management officers keep track of an intensive surveillance regimen of “visiting low-threat households once every two months, visiting basic households once a month, visiting key work households once every three days, and visiting key control households once a day” and “realizing precise positioning, precise personnel selection, and precise assignment of responsibilities.” The High-Tech Zone’s grid management platform suggests the degree to which invasive surveillance and control systems have become embedded in Xinjiang’s efforts to promote technological innovation. Regional authorities praise projects sporting blockchain and O2O (online to offline) almost in the same breath as they commend technologies specifically designed to enhance control over ethnic minority populations. read the complete article

01 Mar 2022

Chinese Foreign Minister says UN rights boss welcome to visit Xinjiang in 'near future'

Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, said on Monday that the UN rights chief would be welcome to visit the Xinjiang region in the near future. "We welcome people from all over the world who harbour no bias to come to Xinjiang for exchanges," he said at a speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. "China also welcomes the visit by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to China, including a trip to Xinjiang in the near future." He did not give details. Bachelet has long sought access to investigate alleged abuses against ethnic Uyghurs and her office said last month that conversations for a possible trip were underway. UN experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, mainly from the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in forced labour camps in Xinjiang since 2016. China initially denied such camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres and are designed to combat extremism. It denies all accusations of abuse. read the complete article


01 Mar 2022

Fasseas ’23: French hijab ban in sports should be seen for what it is — gendered Islamophobia

On Jan. 19, the French Senate voted 160 to 143 in favor of banning the hijab in sports competitions, the latest in a long line of gendered Islamophobic policies that expose the state’s willingness to police and target Muslim women in the name of secular liberation. Mama Diakité, who has played club soccer for a decade with a hijab, regards the ban as “the end of soccer” for her. Another hijabi soccer player, Founé Diawara, recalls sitting out of local tournaments that prohibited headscarves: “I was trapped between my passion (for soccer) and something that is a huge part of my identity. It’s like they tried to tell me that I had to choose between the two.” Beyond the dubious claim of athlete safety, this bill is grounded in the French Parliament’s distortion of secular and feminist values that can be traced through more than 200 years of French history. The large group of Maghrebi immigrants who came to France in the ’60s and ’70s — which has grown into a large portion of today’s French-Muslim population — encountered laïcité in the form of state-sanctioned assimilation policies. By the turn of the century, these policies extended to certain restrictions on Islamic dress, including a 2004 ban on conspicuous religious symbols in public schools, such as niqābs, yarmulkes, large crosses and burqas. The attack on Muslim women’s dress culminated in 2010 with the passage of a parliamentary act providing that “No one shall, in any public space, wear clothing designed to conceal the face.” The act was justified on the grounds of protecting women’s rights and upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in the name of vivre ensemble (“living together”) in a democratic society. In this sense, laïcité reaches far beyond the American model of freedom of religion; it represents a kind of civil religion which seeks to shape the identity of the citizenry, as well as certain physical aspects of the public sphere. Is the exclusion of Muslim women from sports competitions really the antidote to the French government’s concerns for sexism and secularism? The answer is a resounding no. The weakness of the arguments in favor of an ever-expanding hijab ban and the clear harms posed to Muslim women have caused critics to question the underlying motives behind such legislation. read the complete article


01 Mar 2022

Ukrainian fighters grease bullets against Chechens with pig fat

The National Guard of Ukraine has shared a video on its Twitter account that appears to show Azov fighters greasing bullets with pig fat, ostensibly to be used against against Muslim Chechens deployed to their country as Russia steps up its military assault on Ukraine. Azov, a far-right all-volunteer infantry military unit, are ultra-nationalists who are accused of harbouring neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology. They first fought alongside the Ukrainian army in the east of the country in 2014 against pro-Russia separatists and have since been incorporated into the regular armed forces. In the video, which could not be independently verified by Al Jazeera, a man who is purportedly a member of the Azov fighters is seen dipping bullets into what appears to be pig fat as he addresses the Chechen fighters. He says: “Dear Muslim brothers. In our country, you will not go to heaven. You will not be allowed into heaven. Go home, please. Here, you will encounter trouble. Thank you for your attention, goodbye.” Despite being integrated into the official military, Azov fighters have reportedly continued to wear the Wolfsangel insignia used by a number of Nazi divisions during WWII. read the complete article

United States

01 Mar 2022

Another No-Fly List for Airline Passengers? Has America Lost Its Mind (Again)?

According to Federal Aviation Administration data, 2021 was a watershed year in significant behavioral incidents sparked by unruly passengers; Delta Airlines has claimed that such events have skyrocketed by over 100 percent since 2019. Wherever passengers behave badly, flight crews have been forced to mollify or subdue fliers mid-tantrum, often enduring verbal or physical abuse in the process. Now Delta has come up with a god-awful idea to restore peace to the skies: The company wants a federally enforced “no-fly list” for unruly passengers, and it’s pleading its case far and wide. After floating the idea with the FAA last fall, CEO Ed Bastian requested earlier this month that the Justice Department take concrete steps to implement the plan and further detailed his argument in an op-ed for The Washington Post. They’re wrong. A centralized, federal no-fly list—even for egregious and criminal misbehavior in flight—is a terrible idea. There’s no persuasive evidence it would do anything to help, and it poses the same serious due process concerns that have dogged the anti-terrorism measure Bastian and his allies are implicitly validating by retrofitting it to commercial aviation. From the very bottom of my heart, I am begging people: Stop trying to reappropriate “war on terror” ideas in the quixotic hope that they might serve some just end or create a good outcome. You can’t, they don’t, and they never will. The existing federal no-fly list has wrecked people’s lives, with no democratic accountability or explanation, and those who have had their names affixed to it have been given little recourse to argue for their removal. At least one woman wound up on it through a paperwork error, and it took seven years of litigation for the Obama administration to finally admit its error. It’s prevented people from visiting ailing loved ones, cost them their livelihoods, separated families, and dragged people through pointless years of litigation. And if the “no-fly” list is hardly the most gruesome injustice committed in the context of the war on terror, it’s clear that the expansion of these frameworks well beyond their intended purpose has had a devastating impact on American life. As Spencer Ackerman chronicled in his book Reign of Terror, the war on terror led not only to decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the torture of suspected terrorists but the erosion of civil liberties in an entirely domestic context—including the militarization of police forces, mass surveillance, and deportation squads. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Mar 2022 Edition


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