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.

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20 Mar 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., the Washington Post uncovers first person testimony of GOP Presidential candidate and current Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s time as a JAG at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, meanwhile in France, Marion Lalisse, the EU Commission’s coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred, faced a backlash on social media after sharing a video ahead of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia in which she spoke in Arabic, and in the United Kingdom, marches took place over the weekend in London, Glasgow and Cardiff in response to the Government’s anti-migration bill. Our recommended read of the day is by Aakash Hassan and Hannah Ellis-Petersen for The Guardian on how more than 50,000 acres of land in Kashmir has been seized and homes and businesses demolished by the Indian government, as part of the authorities “|religious nationalist agenda to establish India as a Hindu, rather than secular, country.” This and more below:


‘Bulldozer politics’: Modi’s demolition drive fuels Muslims’ fears in Kashmir | Recommended Read

“No notice was served to us,” said Shah, 38. “The officials came suddenly and demolished our workshop. No one is listening to us. We’ve been paying rent. Isn’t this an atrocity? They have snatched our livelihood.” His workshop selling secondhand car parts in Srinagar, the summer capital of the beleaguered Indian state of Kashmir, was just one of dozens of structures across the region caught up in a widespread demolition drive in February. Many of these took place with little notice, even for those who had occupied the land for decades. The purpose, according to the government, was to “retrieve” state land that had been illegally encroached on. More than 50,000 acres of land were seized before the drive was paused. But in Kashmir, the drive has been condemned as having a more sinister purpose. Many have decried it as part of a wider agenda by the Hindu nationalist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by prime minister Narendra Modi, to displace and dispossess Kashmiris from their own land and shift the demographics of India’s only Muslim-majority state. Since the Modi government came to power in 2014, bulldozers have been a popular tool for BJP leaders to target the Muslim minority in their pursuit of a religious nationalist agenda to establish India as a Hindu, rather than secular, country. read the complete article

Three Delhi Police officers suspended for assaulting Muslim meat suppliers

Three Delhi Police personnel, have been suspended for assaulting two meat suppliers and robbing them earlier this month. The suspension comes after the cops and four others have been booked in connection with the incident, PTI reported on Friday. On 7 March, a car in which the meat vendors were travelling had an accident with a scooter in Delhi’s Anand Vihar area. Nawab, who works as a meat supplier at a slaughterhouse in Ghazipur, was in his car with his cousin Shoaib when the accident took place. “We got out and the rider said he wants Rs 4,000 for repairs. A PCR [Police Control Room] van then arrived and a policeman took Rs 2,500 and gave the rider the money,“ Nawab said to Indian Express. However the cops then demanded Rs 15,000 from two Muslim men and threatened to take them to the police station. They were taken to an isolated area where they were confined and beaten up by the three police officials along with four others. “They tried to cut our hands with a knife…They also urinated on our faces, threatened to kill us and said they would dump our bodies in a drain. They accused us of slaughtering cows and robbed us of Rs 25,000,“ the complainant said, reported The Indian Express. read the complete article

He’s the World’s Most Popular Leader. Beware.

All over the Indian capital these days loom posters of Narendra Modi, presenting him as the great modernizing prime minister pulling India forward. But those posters also hint at the opposite: an emerging personality cult and an authoritarian streak that is dragging India backward. In immediate political terms, the personality cult perhaps succeeds. With approval ratings at home of about 78 percent, Modi is far and away the most popular major leader in the world today, according to Morning Consult. With the opposition in disarray, Modi is expected to win a third term as prime minister in next year’s elections. While Modi polls extremely well, many worldly Indians are aghast that he has made India less secular and tolerant, creating what some argue is a Jim Crow Hindu nationalism that marginalizes religious minorities, particularly Muslims. And it’s not just marginalization: Muslims are periodically accused of slaughtering cows, which are sacred to Hindus, and lynched. In a typical case this month, a mob in Bihar state accused a Muslim of carrying beef and beat him to death. India used to be a correspondent’s dream, echoing with the sound and fury of strongly held opinions. But today people often clam up when I ask about Modi. Reporters Without Borders now ranks India a dismal 150th in press freedom among 180 countries worldwide. “We work under a cloud of fear,” Anuradha Bhasin, the editor of The Kashmir Times, wrote in a brave essay in The New York Times this month. read the complete article

United States

DeSantis’s pivotal service at Guantánamo during a violent year

Ron DeSantis was a 27-year-old Navy lawyer fresh out of Harvard Law School when he arrived in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, amid an escalating crisis at the U.S. military base. Hundreds of “enemy combatants,” held without charges, had gone on hunger strikes. As pressure grew to end the protests, DeSantis later said, he was part of a team of military lawyers asked what could be done. “How do I combat this?” a commanding officer asked in 2006, as DeSantis recalled in an interview he gave years later to a local CBS television station. “Hey, you actually can force-feed,” DeSantis said he responded in his role as a legal adviser. “Here’s what you can do. Here’s kind of the rules for that.” Ultimately, it was the Pentagon’s decision to authorize force-feeding. Detainees were strapped into a chair and a lubricated tube was stuffed down their nose so a nurse could pour down two cans of a protein drink, according to military records. The detainees’ lawyers tried and failed to stop the painful practice, arguing that it violated international torture conventions. Seventeen years later, as the governor of Florida and a potential 2024 presidential contender, DeSantis has largely skimmed over his experience at the base, giving it a brief mention in his new book, “The Courage to Be Free,” and rarely speaking in depth about his actions in Guantánamo — where prisoners have alleged they suffered abuse and human rights violations. Independent groups have decried their treatment, with the U.N. Commission on Human Rights concluding that force-feeding amounted to torture, and the International Committee of the Red Cross reaching a similar conclusion about overall conditions at the prison — both claims that the U.S. military has denied. read the complete article

'I'm being hunted down’: This Tennessean turned to peacemaking after coping with anti-Muslim hate

"It was a pollyannish experience," Ali, 41, said. "I would not have wanted to grow up anywhere else. We felt safe; we felt very secure." That ended with a call from the White House in August 2010. Her phone rang as she was staring out at the Mediterranian Sea in Beirut, where she was planning her wedding to her Lebanese fiance. "Are you in a safe location?" the caller from a White House phone number asked. "We're getting death threats against you." Even before beginning her White House Fellowship during the Obama administration, Ali became a target of fringe media who feared a Muslim in the U.S. government would lead to infiltration of terrorists from the Middle East. That fear led to nearly 10 years of hate aimed at Ali as she served out her White House fellowship before joining Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's administration. Death threats, derision and suspicion often were part of her daily life, showing up frequently in posts on media, in her email and on her phone. During and after her days at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Ali received text messages threatening her. Law enforcement agencies regularly tell Ali terrorist organizations are trying to hack into her social media. Those same agencies suggest Ali hire a bodyguard. "I feel like I'm being hunted down like a wild animal," she said. "I'm wondering, is my professional pursuit going to cost me my life?" Ali used those episodes and her government service as fuel to launch a peacemaking nonprofit called Millions of Conversations. Ali, who holds undergraduate and law degrees from Vanderbilt University, also serves as co-chair of the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy. read the complete article


Revisiting Canada’s homegrown Islamophobia

It was the deadliest attack on a house of worship in Canada’s history. Six people lost their lives when a gunman opened fire on a mosque in Quebec City in 2017. And the hate incidents haven’t stopped in the years since. Some of them have been deadly. And it’s led to questions about how Canada treats its Muslim population. In January of 2023, the country announced its first special representative on Islamophobia. So what’s behind the need for the position in the first place? read the complete article

Is Quebec one of the most ‘open and welcoming’ places? Some critics strongly disagree

A motion unanimously adopted by Quebec’s National Assembly says the province is among the most “open and welcoming places in the world” – but some critics disagree. The motion, which was adopted without debate, specifies the province is no more racist than elsewhere. Community leaders though point to legislation like Bill 21 and the government’s past comments on systemic racism – saying it doesn’t exist in the province – as proof the motion is not based on Quebec’s reality. “What we have in this province is we have a government that is clearly racist, a government that refuses to accept that there is a problem with racism in Quebec,” said Fareed Khan, the founder of Canadians United Against Hate. “The fact that they felt the need to make such a resolution speaks volumes about the fact that Quebec is in many ways not an accepting and open society. “What it says is that rather than deal with the problem, admit the problem is there and deal with it, they would rather deny it.” read the complete article


UN Says Helped Myanmar Junta Officials Travel To Bangladesh For Rohingya Return Talks

The United Nations refugee agency helped officials from Myanmar’s junta travel to Bangladesh this week for repatriation talks with Rohingya refugees, two UN officials told AFP, despite maintaining that conditions in the country remain unsafe for their return. Bangladesh is home to around a million Rohingya, most of whom fled neighbouring Myanmar following a 2017 military crackdown, now subject to a UN genocide investigation. On Wednesday a 17-member team led by a senior official in Myanmar's immigration ministry arrived in the border town of Teknaf to interview refugees for potential repatriation to Myanmar. A UNHCR spokesperson in Myanmar told AFP on Thursday that UNHCR had “facilitated the transport of some officials" from Myanmar to Bangladesh “in support of interaction between the de facto authorities in Myanmar and refugees.” read the complete article

A million lives later, I cannot forgive what American terrorism did to my country, Iraq

Like millions of people across the world’s major cities, I took part in the massive protests against the then imminent invasion of Iraq. Tahrir Square, the centre of the revolution that toppled the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, eight years later, swelled with tens of thousands of angry Cairenes. We headed to the nearby US embassy, but the riot police pushed us back with batons. The drums of war had been beating for months. While there was popular opposition throughout the world (there were coordinated protests in 600 cities in February 2003), the war’s architects, merchants and cheerleaders were vociferous and dismissive of those of us who warned against the catastrophic aftermath for Iraqis and the region, labelling anyone who questioned the war a supporter of dictatorship. We challenged the false narrative of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). After 700 inspections, Hans Blix, the head of the UN’s weapons inspectors, and his teams had found no weapons in Iraq. The “mushroom cloud over Manhattan” that Condoleezza Rice warned about was a propaganda cloud to intensify hysteria. George Bush, after all, had reportedly decided to strike Iraq the week after 9/11. The corporate mediascape in the US was an echo chamber for state propaganda. It wasn’t just the Manichaean worldview of post-9/11 national security hysteria, but a deep-seated colonial mentality – variations on the white man’s burden. read the complete article

The Guardian view on the forgotten Rohingya refugees: lives without futures

Their suffering made global headlines in 2017, when the Myanmar military, supported by militias, launched a murderous campaign that took thousands of lives, forced 700,000 to flee Rakhine state for Bangladesh and was described by a UN human rights expert as genocide. In the last two years, what little attention has been paid to Myanmar has focused on the military’s coup and attempts to crush civilian resistance. But the suffering of the Rohingya began decades ago and continues to this day, even outside Rakhine state. Many had fled before, returning (not always by choice) when they were assured it was safe. It was not. They experienced discrimination and repression, military operations, pogroms and the stripping of their citizenship. The 600,000 or so who remain in Myanmar are confined to camps, subject to government violence and denied essential services. “There was no peace … wherever they went,” the Guardian journalist Kaamil Ahmed writes in his new book, I Feel No Peace: Rohingya Fleeing Over Seas and Rivers. “The Rohingya have run from the Burmese troops who kill them to their Bangladeshi counterparts, who have policed their lives in a different way, looming over them in their exile then turning the screw when governments decide they need to return to Myanmar.” Conditions in Bangladesh have become so poor that the number attempting dangerous sea crossings to Malaysia or Indonesia increased fivefold last year, to more than 3,500, at the cost of around a tenth of those lives. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Protesters take to streets in anti-racism demonstration

Protesters have taken to the streets in cities across the UK in an anti-racism demonstration organised partly in response to the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill. The marches, organised by Stand Up To Racism and the STUC, were held in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on Saturday afternoon. Organisers said thousands of people took part in the action against racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, fascism and the far right. The controversial legislation introduced by Home Secretary Suella Braverman last week states that refugees who arrive in the UK through unauthorised means, such as crossing the English Channel in a boat, will have their asylum claims deemed inadmissible. read the complete article


Hundreds march in Netherlands against racism, discrimination

Hundreds of people in the Netherlands held a rally against racism and discrimination on Saturday.
 The protest, organized by March 21 Committee, took place at Dam Square in Amsterdam with the attendance of people from different ethnic backgrounds. They chanted slogans against racism, Islamophobia, and discrimination, while also criticizing Israel's “apartheid policy" against Palestinians, suspension of education for women in Afghanistan, and killing of Mahsa Amini in Iran. Later, the crowd marched to the Dockworker Statue, located outside of the Portuguese Synagogue in the Dutch capital. read the complete article


French EU politician faces backlash after speaking Arabic in anti-Islamophobia video

Marion Lalisse, the EU Commission’s coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred, faced a backlash on social media after sharing a video ahead of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia in which she spoke in Arabic about the EU’s efforts to fight Islamophobia. Lalisse was born in France and previously served as the EU’s deputy ambassador to Yemen. She has also been part of delegations to various African countries before being appointed to her new post earlier this year. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 20 Mar 2023 Edition


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