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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27 Mar 2020

Today in Islamophobia: World media uses coronavirus to fuel Islamophobic tropes, as Muslim and Jewish paramedics in Israel pause in their fight against the pandemic to pray together. Our recommended read today is by Richard Willson titled “What the ‘war on terror’ can teach us about the fight against COVID-19.” This, and more, below:


27 Mar 2020

What the ‘war on terror’ can teach us about the fight against COVID-19 | Recommended Read

It may be tempting to draw comparison between COVID-19 and discussions over terrorism. However, it is not only inadequate to do so, it is dangerous to civil rights and human wellbeing. The medicalisation of ‘extremism’ has become a weapon in the arsenal of governments who seek to hold up the most problematic elements of the ‘war on terror’ from colonial and racist practice. The blurring of medicalised terms into discussions on ‘extremism’ must be resisted, but the failures of counterterrorism show means of creating positive societal responses to insecurity and international emergencies. On 23 March, the Economist wrote, “The arrival of COVID-19 was expected. The spread of radical Islam has been more of a surprise”. Describing jihad as something “as contagious as COVID-19”, it used the case study of the Maldives to directly frame “Muslim extremism” as “a no less dangerous contagion” than the coronavirus, an “affliction” and a “plague”. The Economist is by no means alone in using such language, with other articles describing extremism as “another disease” that “needs sanitising”. Much of current counterterror law and practice treats ‘extremism’ as something that can be spread by sight or interaction. ‘Extremist’ thoughts and ideas have become something that ‘induces’ terrorism through exposure, a ‘gateway drug’ or ‘symptom’ of political violence. Dangerous media is ‘spread’ online, and recent legislation – such as the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (2019) – has criminalised the viewing of ‘extremist’ content on this basis. But ‘extremism’ is not something that can be caught nor isolated – it is impossible to even ascribe an agreed-on definition. It must not be forgotten that both ‘extremism’ and counter-extremism are highly political and politicised terms, subject entirely to the government in charge at the time. As McNeil-Willson, Gerrand, Scrinzi and Triandafyllidou state: “Terms such as radicalism and extremism have a normative, relational and context-specific value: one is judged radical or extremist against culturally specific benchmarks, and this label is dependent on who is doing the labelling”. read the complete article

Recommended Read
27 Mar 2020

From Xinjiang to Germany: how did Islamophobia become a global phenomenon?

The mass incarceration of Uighurs in China. Rohingya terrorised and driven out of Burma. Indians hacked to pieces and burnt alive in Delhi. Germans of Turkish origin shot dead by a far-right activist in Hanau. All recent events that tell us how disconnected populations have been brought together as global targets for anti-Muslim activism. In fact, anti-Muslim feeling was sporadic and lacked a global dimension until recently. Despite having been classified by colonial governments in religious terms, the immigrants who came to European countries after independence neither asserted their religious identities nor experienced discrimination based on it. In the United Kingdom, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh migrants from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh rarely defined themselves by religion in public life, and were seen by government as well as anti-immigrant movements in racial or national terms. When and why did religious identities come to define public debate and social conflict in so many parts of the world? The answer has to do with the larger processes of globalisation – economic, cultural and political – within which such identities have been transformed since the 1990s. That decade saw a worldwide surge of religious “fundamentalism”, of which Islam has emerged as the most prominent example. And the story of how this happened begins with the cold war. read the complete article

27 Mar 2020

Scooping low: World media uses the coronavirus to fuel Islamophobic tropes

From prominent London-based publications like The Economist to the cartoonist of India's left-leaning newspaper The Hindu, the editorial judgements reek of anti-Muslim hatred. Muslim bashing hasn't come to a halt even at a time when the whole world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the contagion is being used to fuel anti-Islam sentiments. From the US to the UK to India, far-right figures, journalists with dubious distinctions and some major publications like The Economist have had no qualms about equating the novel coronavirus with terms like 'jihad' or with stereotypical caricatures of Muslims — as portrayed in a cartoon published by one of India's leading newspapers The Hindu. The Economist compared so-called ‘radical Islam’ in the Maldives with Covid-19, saying both are equally contagious in the country. The poorly thought out argument drew ire with people taking to social media and lambasting the London-based weekly newspaper. The Economist later removed the story from its Twitter feed. read the complete article

United Kingdom

27 Mar 2020

No, the Muslims praying in this video aren’t ignoring the coronavirus lockdown. It’s far-right fake news

A viral and misleading tweet which attempted to portray a group of Muslims in Wembley, north-west London, ignoring government advice on social distancing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has drawn wide condemnation and reports concerning its breach of Twitter’s hateful conduct policies. The tweet, which appeared on the platform at 9:43 am on March 25 from a far-right account (which also promotes antisemitic and Islamophobic conspiracies, including the far-right obsessive interest in the obscure concept of taqiyya) has gained over sixteen-hundred retweets as of writing. The tweet tried to claim that the Muslims were ‘arrogantly’ ignoring medical advice. But after researching the origins of the video, after several members of the public reported the tweet to our service, Tell MAMA can confirm, with a high degree of confidence, that the video is several weeks old, a version of which appeared on Facebook on March 3. Photographs, however, uploaded to the platform on February 28, shared in a negative review of Wembley Central Masjid, from a Muslim man, had lamented how the mosque had been closed for six weeks (over an internal dispute), adding that Friday (Jummah) prayers had to take place on a pavement in the rain. Six days before the viral anti-Muslim and Islamophobic tweet from the @FormerWorshiper account, the mosque had announced on Facebook that it had suspended all congregational services and activities, reflecting the updated governmental advice regarding the coronavirus pandemic. read the complete article

New Zealand

27 Mar 2020

Mosque gunman pleads guilty in New Zealand

The Associated Press and Reuters reported that 29-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism-related charge. His plea will spare the country a lengthy trial over the attack, which is now known as the deadliest shooting in New Zealand's modern history. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the guilty plea “a certain sense of relief that the whole nation, but particularly our Muslim community, are being spared from a trial that could have otherwise acted as a platform," according to the AP. read the complete article

United States

27 Mar 2020

Samantha Power: Idealism in service of empire

Power made her name as the 2003 Pulitzer prize-winning author who chronicled the failure of the US to stop some of the major crimes, including genocide, of the 20th century. She first worked with then senator Obama as an advisor before joining his administration in 2008. In becoming part of Obama’s government, Power switched from foreign policy critic to foreign policy advisor, to ultimately the defender of US foreign policy as ambassador during his second term. This is the story of activists and journalists, trade unionists, philosophers and preachers who make their way into government the world over, who “learn” that the system has the tendency to force the most ardent radicals to "mature" or "evolve". In other words, it swallows aspirations whole. Power, like many American foreign correspondents or liberal commentators, is seemingly unable or unwilling to address severe blindspots of her own privilege. And so the Power who speaks off the misogyny faced by herself and colleagues, fails to recognise the casual orientalism and liberal Islamophobia of her words. Consider how she describes Obama’s speech in Cairo in June 2009. She writes how he “bravely touched upon core tensions between the United States and Muslim societies - violent extremism, religious freedom, women’s rights, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” In so doing, she reduces the immense troubles in the Middle East into a clash of civilisations and not a consequence of imperial conquests in which the US was a key protagonist. read the complete article


27 Mar 2020

Muslim and Jewish paramedics pause to pray together. One of many inspiring moments in the coronavirus crisis

Avraham Mintz and Zoher Abu Jama just finished responding to a call regarding a 41-year-old woman having respiratory problems in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva. Before that, they were checking on a 77-year-old man. There would be more calls ahead. Of that, there was no doubt. As the clock neared six in the afternoon, Mintz and Abu Jama realized it may be their only break of the shift. The two members of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's emergency response service, paused to pray. Mintz, a religious Jew, stood facing Jerusalem, his white and black prayer shawl hanging off his shoulders. Abu Jama, an observant Muslim, knelt facing Mecca, his maroon and white prayer rug unfurled underneath him. For the two paramedics, who routinely work together two or three times a week, the joint prayer was nothing new. For so many others, it was an inspiring image in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. A picture of the two men snapped by a co-worker quickly went viral, garnering thousands of likes on social media and appearing in international media coverage. One user responded on Instagram: "I'm proud of all of the rescue services, it doesn't matter from what community or religion." On Twitter, another user said: "One fight! One victory! Let's unite." read the complete article


27 Mar 2020

A Ban on Religious Garb in Public

In “When Putting On a Head Scarf Is All It Takes to Get Fired” (news article, March 8), you featured the stories of four women — Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Catholic — persecuted for their faith by the ban on religious garb for government employees, and in other professional settings, in Quebec. Forcing these women to make an impossible choice between their faith and their livelihood is an affront to human dignity. Governments have no business forcing citizens to hide or abandon their faith in some ill-conceived effort to create a “neutral” state in which people are all the same. Thankfully, laws in the United States protect our diversity and allow women (and men!) to remain true both to their religious beliefs and their desire to serve their communities. Our laws protect religious exercise and expression, even for government workers. The Quebec article reminds us of what our world would look like without such protections. Women worried they’ll be blocked from promotions? Forced to put dreams of a career as a prosecutor aside? Moving across the country to flee discrimination? That sounds like a pre-suffrage existence, in which women’s inalienable political rights were denied. read the complete article


27 Mar 2020

White France? Yes, it is still supported

The ethnic stereotype factor complicates the integration and post-integration process for both parties in the adopter/adopted equation. The French essayist, political journalist and the darling boy of Marineland, Eric Zemmour’s comments often make headlines. Zemmour preaches intolerance toward immigrants, particularly Arabs and Muslims. He wants to keep France purely “white,” like former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet. Nadine Morano, a member of the European Parliament and a French politician, went as far as to say that France was a “white race.” “I do not want France to become Muslim,” she said. “For there to be a national cohesion, we must keep a balance in the country that is to say, its cultural majority; we are a Judeo-Christian country as General de Gaulle put it, Caucasian, home to strangers. I feel that France remains France...” She went on to defend the need for immigration quotas “based on the skills the country needs and the continent of origin.” This phrase attributed to General de Gaulle was mentioned in 1959 after his political comeback. Although he didn’t say it publicly, the remark was made in private to his young confidant, Information Minister Alain Peyrefitte who authored the general’s memoirs in 1994. France’s political context at that time was electric, the Algerian liberation war was at its shadow, and de Gaulle was trying to crash and “eradicate” the National Liberation Army (ALN) and the National Liberation Front (FLN) military branch to keep Algeria “white.” Zemmour who is known for his political buzz and small phrases, in 2018 published a book called, "Le Destin Français" (French destiny). read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 27 Mar 2020 Edition


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