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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29 Mar 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In France, French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who’s known for his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, has appealed to Muslims to back him in France’s upcoming elections, amid a slump in his popularity in the polls, meanwhile in India, an Indian professor warns that “if the state continues to exercise prejudice against the hijab-wearing girls, depriving them of their fundamental rights, it will be the beginning of a new chapter in the political history of modern India,” and following the U.S.’s determination that the Myanmar military committed a genocide against the Rohingya, human rights experts and Rohingya individuals say they now expect the U.S. to take action based on that decision. Our recommended read of the day is by Nura Sediqe for the Washington Post on gendered Islamophobia and how Muslim women who wear the hijab experience discrimination while also feeling a “diminished sense of political belonging and power.” This and more below:

United States

29 Mar 2022

Muslim women in hijab get the brunt of discrimination. I asked them what that’s like. | Recommended Read

How do Muslim women handle having their appearance politicized and sanctioned? To understand how marginalized citizens internalize a shifting racial climate like Islamophobia, it helps to explore individual perceptions of discrimination. Toward that end, I examined how Muslim women across the country have grappled with Islamophobia. Specifically, I fielded a survey of 1,000 Muslims nationwide from April to June 2019 in an online panel poll implemented by Qualtrics, utilizing demographics of race, gender, age and socioeconomic status from a 2017 Pew study to find a group nationally representative of the profile of Muslims in the United States. The Pew Study of Muslims offers the most comprehensive profile of Muslims and is often used as the benchmark of what a national profile of Muslims looks like. I coupled that with 40 in-depth interviews with Muslims in four different regions of the country. On average, Muslim women felt that discrimination is a larger problem than did Muslim men. When asked whether discrimination against Muslims is a major problem, 62.4 percent of Muslim women answered yes, while 37.6 percent of Muslim men did. That’s nearly a 25 percent gap, a difference that remains statistically significant even when controlling for additional factors such as age, income, ideology and other socio-demographic factors. In my qualitative interviews, Muslim women cited several discriminatory experiences. Within the Midwest, women cited Abukaram’s experience. In North Carolina, women mentioned the three young people — a student and two graduates at UNC-Chapel Hill — killed by their neighbor. One respondent commented, “You know, the killer did not know they were Muslim and did not bother them until they met Deah’s wife. She wore hijab … and I feel like that’s what made them vulnerable.” Another said that after the killings, she was afraid to wear the hijab outdoors. She avoided being out in public alone, for fear of being targeted. Political scientists Nazita Lajevardi and Marisa Abrajano found that Americans’ animus toward Muslims can be linked to negative depictions of Muslims in the media. My research with Khaled Beydoun, forthcoming in California Law Review, reveals that Islamophobia is gendered by nature, with significant legal implications. We find that both government and American culture assign Muslim women cultural stereotypes — with legal consequences — that are the opposite of those assigned to Muslim men. Muslim womanhood is linked with ideas of submissiveness and subordination; as a result, many observers want to liberate Muslim women from Muslim men, who are caricatured as violent and oppressive. read the complete article

29 Mar 2022

Why aren't Muslims' religious freedoms equally protected? Rutgers professor explains | Opinion

Why does a country that prides itself on religious freedom allow discrimination against its Muslim minority? The contradiction is the focus of a new book, “The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom,” by Rutgers University law professor Sahar Aziz. Aziz argues that Muslims are treated as a suspect race, rather than as a religious minority to be protected from persecution. She compares their plight to past discrimination against Jews, Catholics and Black Muslims, groups that were also ascribed negative traits and portrayed as threats to America. Aziz was inspired to write the book after witnessing how Muslim Americans faced suspicion, surveillance and discrimination after 9/11 because of their faith. She felt personally harassed when, as a law student, she organized a 2004 conference about women in Islam that was surveilled by Army Intelligence officers who tried to obtain video and a roster of attendees. “Those are the type of experiences that cause you to feel you are second-class citizens, that cause you to feel that you don’t have the right to speak and to challenge dominant narratives without being harassed,” said Aziz, director of the Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights. Aziz spoke about her book, published Nov. 30 by the University of California Press, and the future of the “racial Muslim” in an interview with The Record and the USA TODAY Network. read the complete article

29 Mar 2022

Oscars 2022: Riz Ahmed's win another 'first' for Hollywood's Muslims

The British-Muslim actor and musician Riz Ahmed has won his first Oscar for best live action short film The Long Goodbye, which he starred in and co-wrote. Ahmed made history last year after becoming the first Muslim to be nominated for the best actor Oscar for his role in The Sound of Metal, playing a hearing-impaired drummer. In his acceptance speech, Ahmed spoke about the film, which touches on his identity as a British-Pakistani. “In such divided times, we believe that the role of the story is to remind us there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There’s just ‘us’," he said. “This is for everyone who feels like they don’t belong. Anyone who feels like they’re stuck in no man’s land. You’re not alone. We’ll meet you there. That’s where the future is. Peace.” The Long Goodbye features music from Ahmed's 2021 album of the same name. The movie is about a South Asian family in a dystopian London, who deal with the appearance of an aggressive far-right militia. read the complete article


29 Mar 2022

The Kashmir Files: Bollywood blockbuster is a new low in anti-Muslim propaganda

While sensationalism in films based on historic events is par for the course, The Kashmir Files comes with a lot of extra baggage, having been supported and promoted by India’s ruling BJP. The exaggerated plot includes Hindu women being shot at point-blank range by bloodthirsty Muslims. Pakistan, the eternal enemy, lurks in the background, plotting and orchestrating events - a nod to the Hindutva fallback of placing blame for any of India’s misfortunes on its neighbour. In the two decades following the start of the 1989 uprising by Kashmiri Pandits, an organisation representing them maintains that around 650 Pandits were killed. Police and government estimates are even lower, but as researcher Ashok Swain points out, The Kashmir Files suggests that thousands were killed. At the same time, thousands of Kashmiri Muslims have been killed by Indian forces, with unmarked graves being discovered in villages across Kashmir. Many are portrayed as “militants” by the Indian state, which takes full advantage of the “war on terror” con to sell their brutality as defence against the “bad guys”. The Indian film industry is a behemoth, exceeding Hollywood ticket sales by more than a billion. At the same time, government and security agencies have a history of teaming up with or financing the fictionalisation of their most sinister ambitions. The level of dehumanisation that the silver screen can deliver is enormous. Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his personal stamp of approval to The Kashmir Files. The BJP has also sponsored screenings in India and abroad, keen no doubt to capitalise on anti-Muslim bias in the country. Meanwhile, social-media campaigns have urged Indians to watch the film “if they are interested in the future”. According to a 2011 study that analysed the content of 50 Bollywood movies, around two-thirds gave an “unfavourable” representation of Muslims. The findings referenced a number of films in the late 1980s and 1990s in which Muslims were inevitably the baddies; in some cases, a love interest would have to choose between the man or the nation - the Indian version of “you’re either with us or with the terrorists”. read the complete article

29 Mar 2022

Hijab verdict will only push Muslim women further to the margins

The ongoing hijab controversy — with the state and its institutions as equal participants – is another manufactured event that indicates the deepening of cultural tensions between the Hindu majority and the Muslim national minority. Stridently embracing a masculinist approach of “rescuing” Muslim women, the Karnataka High Court’s judgment pronounced that the hijab is not an “essential religious practice in Islam”. In doing so, the court seemed to ignore two interrelated ideas: Firstly, the primary human impulse of seeking freedom (guaranteed in and safeguarded by the Constitution), and secondly, that this freedom can be realised from the fluidity that lies in the practice of Islam, a point implicit in its own verdict. If the religion doesn’t sanction punishment for not wearing the veil, why is the state determined to deprive a whole generation of young hijab-wearing Muslim girls from pursuing education? If the state continues to exercise prejudice against the hijab-wearing girls, depriving them of their fundamental rights, it will be the beginning of a new chapter of “historical disadvantage” in the political history of modern India. What is ironic is the glaring dissonance between India’s global aspirations and pursuit of collaborations, internationally, and a steady slide into inequality, domestically. In this sweep of insidious currents of hostility towards the largest minority of the country, the state and its institutions seem to be on a path to systematically disempowering the community. This is, arguably, a fallout of the failure of liberal feminist politics and its longstanding view of the hijab as a sign of “increasing Arabisation” and an “instrument of oppression”. This biased and ill-informed view of liberal secular feminists led to the creation of a figure of an undesirable “other”, which rigidified the liberal and the conservative binaries within the mosaic of Islam and its followers. It is these mythical categories of the liberal and the conservative that has made the latter an easy target of Hindu authoritarianism in successive years of its ascendancy. read the complete article

29 Mar 2022

Delhi court grants bail to Bulli Bai, Sulli Deals creators

An Indian court has granted bail to two men accused of creating separate apps that put up photos of Muslim women in a fake online auction. A district court in national capital Delhi gave them both bail on humanitarian grounds, their lawyers told the BBC. The judge said one of the accused was a "first-time offender" and "prolonged" incarceration would harm him. The bail order for the second accused isn't public yet. Aumkareshwar Thakur, 25, and Neeraj Bishnoi, 20, were arrested in January for allegedly creating the apps Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai, respectively. In both cases, there was no actual sale - the purpose was to degrade and humiliate Muslim women, many of whom have been outspoken about the rising tide of Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. read the complete article

29 Mar 2022

Hijab Bans, Hindutva, and the Burden of Hindsight

In the nearly four months since the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide released its report ranking India as being at the second-highest risk of a new mass killing, the systematic targeting of Muslims in the country has only escalated to greater extremes. On Mar. 15, the Karnataka High Court upheld a hijab ban imposed by some educational institutions in the southern Indian state, a stronghold of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In finding that the order did not violate Muslim women’s constitutional rights, the High Court—arguably reaching far beyond its expertise and jurisdiction—undertook, in its opinion this past Tuesday, a reading and interpretation of the Quran and books on Islam to argue that hijab is not religiously mandated. The hijab controversy comes on the heels of what has been perhaps the most direct call yet for the genocide of Muslims, in order to transform India into a Hindu nation, at a religious convening in the northern city of Haridwar in December. Emboldened with a sense of impunity resulting from ongoing complicity by law enforcement officials and political leaders turning a blind eye to, or even participating in, attacks on Muslims, Hindutva (right-wing Hindu-nationalist) leaders called on Hindus to take decisive action towards the establishment of a Hindu nation. The hijab ban and the Hindutva convenings inciting violence are part of a broader and ongoing targeting of Muslims in India, which has manifested in numerous ways, including the creation of online apps to “auction” Muslim women; the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which offered a path to citizenship for individuals from persecuted religious minority groups, with the exception of Muslims; incitement of violence by BJP leaders against Muslims in the 2020 Delhi riots, which stemmed from protests against the CAA; vigilante attacks on Muslims in the name of protecting cows; “love jihad” laws that aim to prevent Muslim men from marrying Hindu women and ban “unlawful” religious conversions in the context of interfaith marriage (seen most recently in a bill tabled in the Haryana Assembly in early March); and the disenfranchisement and persecution of Muslims in Assam. Christians have not been spared either under the Hindutva agenda, having been subjected to increased violence and harassment—from direct attacks on churches and schools, to more insidious pursuit via anti-conversion laws and India’s controversial Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), through which even the Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Theresa, was targeted (though its FCRA registration status was subsequently restored). read the complete article


29 Mar 2022

French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour appeals to Muslims amid Putin-linked polls slump

French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has appealed to Muslims to back him in France’s upcoming elections, amid a slump in his popularity in the polls. Zemmour's campaign has been characterised by his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, however, he recently appealed directly to France's Muslims at a recent campaign rally. "If you do not like our people, our culture, our way of life and you do not want to be French, well it's your right, but assume it. I am honest with you, be honest with France. It is not up to France to adapt to your culture," Zemmour said. After cheers from supporters, he went on to claim that his views had been misrepresented by rivals and the media. "They have often lied about my intentions, they have often played on fears with my words. Journalists and politicians lie to you... they make you believe that I want to prevent you from practising your religion, it is false." Recent polling has placed the pundit-turned-politician at fourth place, with observers speculating that he has struggled to shake off controversy from recently resurfaced comments he had made in praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. read the complete article


29 Mar 2022

Bahrain closes Indian restaurant for denying entry to woman in a hijab

Bahrain has reportedly closed an Indian restaurant in Manama after it allegedly refused entry to a woman wearing hijab. Lanterns Bahrain, a popular eatery in the Adliya neighbourhood of the Bahraini capital, closed after the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority launched an investigation into a viral video claiming staff had blocked a woman in a headscarf from entering, according to a report in The Daily Tribune. On Friday, a video of a woman explaining that her friend had been turned away was widely shared on social media. “The restaurant Lanterns is telling her you cannot enter because you are wearing a hijab. Can you imagine?” the woman said. “The restaurants should not be making these types of decisions, because we are in a Muslim country.” On Saturday, the restaurant posted a statement on Instagram addressing the incident. “Everyone is welcome to Lanterns, which is how it has been for more than 35 years that we have been serving all nationalities in the beautiful kingdom of Bahrain,” it said. “Lanterns is a place for everyone to come enjoy with their families and feel at home. In this instance, a mistake has been made by a manager who is now being suspended as this does not represent who we are.” However, a Twitter account which claims to belong to the woman who posted the initial viral video said that the staff member who sparked the incident was British, and not Indian. read the complete article


29 Mar 2022

Maximizing The Impact Of The Atrocity Determination For Rohingya

On March 21, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced what the world has long known: that the Burmese Rohingya faced genocide and crimes against humanity at the hands of the Burmese military. The determination was based on atrocities committed in 2016 and 2017. Sadly, there is no reason to believe that the crimes have stopped since the military coup in 2021. Indeed, there is every reason to believe the atrocities continue, with no end in sight. Earlier this month, a 193-page report released by Fortify Rights presented evidence that the Burmese military has continued to commit crimes against humanity since seizing power. Specifically, the report documented “how the Myanmar military junta murdered, imprisoned, tortured, disappeared, persecuted, and forcibly displaced or transferred peaceful protesters, activists, political leaders, and other civilians throughout the country in the six months following the military coup.” Burmese civilians, especially those opposing the military’s reign, as well as ethnic minorities involved in ethnic conflicts are the prime targets of the military’s latest round of atrocity crimes. That the military continues to perpetrate grave human rights violations makes it even more pressing that the atrocity determination serve as a catalyst for action. read the complete article


29 Mar 2022

The US declared violence against the Rohingya was genocide. What's next?

Last week, the United States announced that it had determined that the Myanmar military committed a genocide against the Rohingya. It was a decision that came more than four years after more than 730,000 Rohingya from Myanmar were forced to flee and about three years since a State Department-commissioned investigation by the Public International Law and Policy Group concluded that “there were reasonable grounds to believe” a genocide had been committed. The decision was welcomed by many Rohingya, Myanmar people, and human rights experts, but they say they now expect the U.S. to take action based on that decision. “Determining genocide is not enough if no action is followed by it,” said Kyaw Win, executive director of the Burma Human Rights Network, based in London. Maung Zarni, a Myanmar genocide scholar and human rights activist, said the determination came years too late and that he was disappointed it hadn’t been accompanied by significant action, such as sending Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.S. home. “What matters is if the U.S. has the political will to follow through its rhetoric of accountability,” Zarni said, adding that he doesn’t want “the determination to be another piece of false hope.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 29 Mar 2022 Edition


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