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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04 Mar 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In Sri Lanka, the country’s top health official said the bodies of virus victims could now be handed over to relatives for burial at any cemetery of their choosing, formally ending the country’s widely condemned forced cremation policy, meanwhile in Spain, congressman and President of VOX, Santiago Abascal, said that Europe must “defend” its borders against “invasions” from Muslim refugees, and in the United States, a consortium of filmmakers have written an open letter in response to the Sundance Film Festival’s decision to program the film “Jihad Rehab” at this year’s festival, stating that Sundance engaged in “reckless programming” that “reproduced bias against Muslims.” Our recommended read of the day is by Areeb Ullah for Middle East Eye on a new report by British advocacy group, CAGE, which finds that France is “systematically targeting its Muslim population with a raft of policies brought in by the office of President Emmanuel Macron to address so-called ‘separatism and Islamism.'”  This and more below:


04 Mar 2022

France: Macron accused of using powers to 'systematically' persecute Muslims | Recommended Read

France has been accused of systematically targeting its Muslim population with a raft of policies brought in by the office of President Emmanuel Macron to address so-called "separatism and Islamism". A new report by British advocacy group Cage highlights Macron's use of executive powers to create what it calls a "Systematic Obstruction" policy to target Muslim groups and institutions in France over the last four years. Drafted in 2017, the policies initially aimed to address why foreign fighters had fled to Syria and Iraq from particular regions in France. They then morphed into a nationwide project aimed at addressing "Islamism" and "community withdrawal" across the country. Since then, France has introduced a series of controversial laws that several human rights groups have deemed Islamophobic - including the anti-separatism law and imam charter. The "Systematic Obstruction" policy is implemented by the executive branch of the state, whose task is to enforce the law and establish public policies. French policy operates, according to Cage, by putting maximum pressure on Muslim groups via the establishment of "department cells" in each of France's 101 government departments. French government documents state that the department cells aim to "coordinate the action of all actors likely to contribute to the fight against Islamism and community withdrawal." Cage says the systematic obstruction policy has been used to single out Muslim organisations and gives the state "vast powers to monitor and close institutions, unilaterally dissolve organisations and seize money under the pretence of preserving Republican values and combatting Islamism and/or separatism". The group said the policy was used to justify the closure of at least a dozen mosques, hundreds of Muslim-owned businesses and charities, and the seizure of millions of euros worth of assets because of the alleged promotion of Islamism. read the complete article

United States

04 Mar 2022

US Supreme Court blocks testimony over Guantanamo detainee

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that two former CIA contractors cannot be questioned in a criminal investigation in Poland over their role in interrogating Abu Zubaydah, a suspected high-ranking al-Qaeda figure who was repeatedly subjected to waterboarding. The justices on Thursday ruled 6-3 that Central Intelligence Agency contractors James Elmer Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen cannot be subpoenaed under a US law that lets federal courts enforce a request for testimony or other evidence for a foreign legal proceeding. The court found that the government could assert what is called the “state-secrets privilege” to prevent the contractors from being questioned because it would jeopardise national security. Poland is believed to be the location of a “black site” where the CIA used harsh interrogation techniques against Zubaydah. Zubaydah, now 50, has spent more than 15 years at the US jail at Guantanamo Bay. He lost an eye and underwent waterboarding 83 times in a single month while held by the CIA, US government documents showed. Al Jazeera reported in 2014 that Zubaydah “was the only captive subjected to all 10 torture techniques identified in an August 2002 Justice Department memo”. The contractors’ testimony “would be tantamount to a disclosure from the CIA itself”, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the ruling. “For these reasons, we conclude that in this case the state secrets privilege applies to the existence (or nonexistence) of a CIA facility in Poland,” Breyer added. read the complete article

04 Mar 2022

After ‘Jihad Rehab’: Muslim American Filmmakers Tell Sundance How to Do Better in Open Letter

The following open letter was submitted to IndieWire by the consortium of filmmakers outlined below. The letter has been written in response to the Sundance Film Festival’s decision to program the film “Jihad Rehab” at this year’s festival. The film, which is focused on former Guantanamo Bay prisoners detained by a Saudi Arabian rehab facility, instigated a divisive response in the weeks leading up to its premiere and in the aftermath. The festival addressed those concerns in a statement released last month. "The documentary feature film “Jihad Rehab” follows several former Guantánamo detainees who are released after over a decade under the condition that they partake in a mandatory terrorist rehabilitation program funded by the Saudi government. Yet the film never makes it explicit that they were illegally detained and held without charge, nor does it address questions around free consent in a carceral environment. Numerous articles and reviews have elaborated on the many other ethical failures of this film (see Additional Resources below). By platforming “Jihad Rehab,” the Sundance Film Festival engaged in reckless programming that: (a) may have jeopardized the safety and security of the people in the film; (b) provided a platform for subpar journalistic ethics and standards; and c) reproduced bias against Muslims (and those perceived to be Muslim)." read the complete article

04 Mar 2022


Milwaukee Assistant City Attorney Jennifer DeMaster was dismissed from her position on February 28 following an appearance on Russia Today TV during which she argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin was justified in invading Ukraine. The termination notice to the city’s Department of Employee Relations cited only “job performance” and being a “poor fit” as reasons for DeMaster’s dismissal. “The City of Milwaukee’s decision to fire Ms. DeMaster is welcome, but long overdue. Given Ms. DeMaster’s past support for efforts to enshrine anti-Muslim bigotry into law, the city should have investigated whether she could fairly uphold the law for all Milwaukee residents. The city’s failure to do so sent a message that the constitutional rights of American Muslims were not important to city officials,” said the Council on American-Islamic Relations in a statement. DeMaster has a history of working with anti-Muslim hate groups that sought to restrict the rights of American Muslims. From 2015-2017, DeMaster worked as a legal analyst for the Clarion Project – formerly known as the Clarion Fund, a major proponent of Islamophobia in the United States. Prior to her work at the Clarion Project, DeMaster worked as a law clerk at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), where she worked on “Sharia law (and) radical Islamic ideology,” according to a resume she filed with a federal court. In 2010, the ACLJ supported Oklahoma’s “Save our State” amendment, which was designed to prohibit state courts from considering foreign law or Sharia when constructing procedures. read the complete article

04 Mar 2022

First Muslim elected to Connecticut House of Representatives

Connecticut voters have made Maryam Khan of Windsor the first Muslim elected to the state’s House of Representatives, as she easily won a three-way race Tuesday to represent parts of Windsor and Hartford. Khan, recently a special education teacher at A.I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford, will be sworn into office Monday, said House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said Wednesday. Khan, 33, is also the first Muslim woman in Connecticut history to be endorsed by a major party. She has served more than four years on the Windsor Board of Education, most recently as the board’s vice president, the Journal Inquirer of Manchester reported. She called her win a “huge honor” and said she hoped to be an influence for young girls. The mother of two will be the second Muslim elected to the General Assembly. The first was Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, a medical doctor specializing in pulmonology and critical care medicine. read the complete article

04 Mar 2022

Rep. Rashida Tlaib says she was 'naive' for not understanding 'how bipartisan Islamophobia is in Congress'

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan says that Islamophobia in Congress is a bipartisan affair, suggesting that in addition to Republicans, some of her Democratic colleagues hold bigoted views about Muslims. In a profile in The New York Times, Tlaib reflected on her time in Congress so far and particularly on how her identity as both a Muslim woman and a Palestinian has shaped her experiences in ways she hadn't anticipated. She described encountering both subtle and blatant bigotry when she and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar first arrived in Congress in 2019. "I guess I was naive," Tlaib told the Times, "in not understanding how bipartisan Islamophobia is in Congress." Tlaib said that some colleagues were shocked to learn that most American Muslims are Black, while one colleague touched Omar's hijab. read the complete article


04 Mar 2022

China's hunters and their merciless campaign to find and bring back Uyghur dissidents around the world

Uyghur and Turkic exiles are increasingly in the crosshairs of Beijing's sordid underworld of espionage, assassination and kidnap, which energetically rounds them up for a return to the fold. A new probe investigating CCP methods in hounding its most "wanted" citizens across 120 nations, makes chilling reading with accounts of the lengths the superpower will go to trawl "fugitives" homes and the efforts made to engage "friendly" nations in the endeavour. Among them are growing numbers of Uyghurs whose activism and outspoken criticism of the genocide are now being meted out against their people, Beijing is determined to quell. Safeguard Defenders' (SD) latest analysis Involuntary Returns scrutinises the murky web of spies, informers and sleeping agents scattered or dispatched around the world, ready to cooperate with Beijing in the forcible return of thousands, wanted on charges of corruption, but latterly, increasingly for their activism. Safeguard Defenders' own report confirms Freedom House's conclusion last year that, “China conducts the most sophisticated, global, and comprehensive campaign of transnational repression in the world," but goes further. Where previous reports on China’s forced rendition have focused on individual cases the SD probe has attempted to plumb the depths of PRC state machinery involving countless dedicated agencies within China established to rein in "miscreants" and activists. read the complete article

04 Mar 2022

Gulbahar Haitiwaji and Desmond Shum get personal about the reach of China's power

Today we look at the power of the Chinese government. The first book, How I Survived A Chinese Reeducation Camp, is by Gulbahar Haitiwaji, a Uyghur woman who spent years in a detention camp. It's a stark account of human rights atrocities. Haitiwaji told NPR's Scott Simon she feels lucky because millions of people are still suffering. Next is an interview with Chinese businessman Desmond Shum about his book Red Roulette. It's the story of his wife's disappearance and then reappearance. Shum told NPR's Steve Inskeep that when she resurfaced he felt like he was "negotiating with her kidnapper." read the complete article

United Kingdom

04 Mar 2022

The divisive legacy of Birmingham’s Trojan horse scandal

I write as someone who was a long-time governor at Golden Hillock school, renamed after the Trojan horse scandal. We now live in a different world from when the Sunday Times brought a Birmingham schools matter to public notice in 2014 with all the hype that followed, but there remains a degree of negative perception among parts of our population concerning Muslims and Islam. The Dreyfus affair in France, like Trojan horse, was based on a bogus letter. It appealed to strong antipathy among sections of society towards Jewish people. The racism was insufficiently addressed, and many years later Pierre Laval’s Vichy regime handed over French Jews to the Nazis. Can Ukraine remind us that the dignity, freedom and security of all British people is precious to us all and needs defending? Lessons such as inclusion and the impartial application of the rule of law that defends difference can be part of the lessons learned for the common good. It must be our highest aim. read the complete article


04 Mar 2022

100+ Instances of Hate Speech, Religious Polarisation, Hindutva Supremacy in Adityanath’s Poll Speeches

Much has been made of Yogi Adityanath’s ‘communal agenda’ across his campaign in the run up to the Uttar Pradesh elections. Some highlights involved a state-sponsored advertisement in a national daily with an anti-Muslim dogwhistle, the use of the ‘80 vs 20’ division of the electorate into Hindus and minorities, and the use of ‘abba jaan’ in September to target the minority community for commandeering foodgrains meant for all. But while the particularly offensive use of anti-Muslim signals in the BJP’s messaging has been widely reported, the day-to-day anti-Muslim rhetoric of Adityanath’s electoral campaign has become so normalised as to be taken for granted. This shift in rhetoric is dangerous when seen in the context of the anti-Muslim violence perpetrated by fundamentalist groups like the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, signalling as it does the state’s implicit support for violence against Muslims. The Wire consolidated 34 publicly available speeches over three months (between the first week of November and the first week of February), and analysed the patterns of religiously polarised speech there. The transcriptions of the hate speeches will be included below for your reference. The scale of the anti-Muslim campaign is much greater if some of the interviews and tweets made in this period are also considered, and so this sample set is not a comprehensive depiction of the scale of hate deployed in this election. However, noting over 100 distinct instances across these publicly available speeches, we found patterns of straightforward hate speech, anti-Muslim dogwhistling, an emphasis on anti-Muslim policy and legislation, the targeting of the opposition as a proxy for Muslims, and a chilling focus on Hindu supremacist rhetoric. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

04 Mar 2022

Sri Lanka ends widely condemned Muslim burial policy

Only a year ago, Colombo reversed an initial policy of enforced cremations -- prohibited by Islam -- under intense international pressure, while still refusing to allow traditional burials at cemeteries. In Thursday's new directive, the country's top health official said the bodies of virus victims could now be handed over to relatives for burial at any cemetery of their choosing. "The method of disposal, burial or cremation, at any cemetery or burial ground is at the discretion of relatives," Health Director-General Asela Gunawardena said. The shift came as a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva was set to discuss Sri Lanka's treatment of religious minorities as well as Colombo's overall rights record. read the complete article


04 Mar 2022

Vox President: Europe Must ‘Defend’ Against Muslim Refugee ‘Invasion’

Spanish congressman and President of VOX, Santiago Abascal, said that Europe must “defend” its borders against “invasions” from Muslim refugees, in a session in Spain’s Congress today. The politician said Ukrainian refugees must be welcomed by other European countries, differentiating them from Muslim refugees fleeing conflict zones. “These women, children, and the elderly, should be welcomed in Europe,” Abascal said in reference to people fleeing Ukraine. “Anyone can now understand perfectly well what the difference is between these flows of refugees now and the invasions of young men of military age of Muslim origin that have launched against different borders of Europe in an attempt to destabilize and to colonize it,” he said during a session of Congress. Abascal’s statements aren’t the first such comments, following European countries’ welcoming of Ukrainian refugees. The racism, xenophobia and unapologetic Islamophobia imbued in European refugee policies has been a topic of contention in the midst of the Ukraine war. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 Mar 2022 Edition


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