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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08 Mar 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, the High Court in London has ruled that a tweet sent by author Ed Husain had defamed Muslim Council of Britain Senior Leader Miqdaad Versi, meanwhile in Norway, a survey commissioned by the Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDI) finds that four in ten Muslims in Norway feel as though they do not belong in the society, and lastly, High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk says that the UN has opened up channels of communication with China in an effort to address numerous human rights abuses in the country. Our recommended read of the day is by Sidra Mughal for The Link on the increasing toll of anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada and it’s impact on Muslim students in K-12 schools across the country. This and more below:


How Quebec’s Culture of Islamophobia is Seeping Into Public Schools | Recommended Read

Ayeza Hussain is a 16-year-old Pakistani student from Antoine-Brossard High School in Brossard, Que. Though she finds her student body diverse, it has not stopped her from facing Islamophobic violence in school. During a lunch period, a white Québecois student approached her and began harassing her. “He threw his lunchbox at me and screamed ‘Allahu Akbar,’” Hussain recalled. She could not believe the assault was committed against her. “I was so shocked, my school is very ethnically diverse, there are a lot of different religions and cultures,” Hussain said. “There is even a prayer room. A lot of Muslims go there and we have Muslim teachers at our school.” Diversity and community were not enough for her to avoid experiencing direct Islamophobia for the first time in her life. For years, there has been an increase in Islamophobia in schools across Quebec. Research finds the province is growing increasingly hostile towards Muslims, making it harder for people of faith to freely express themselves without the fear of harassment. Combined with the Coalition Avenir Québec’s anti-religion policies in schools implemented in the name of secularism, Muslim students are scared of being harassed. Students and teachers alike are calling for action to be taken. In Quebec, Muslims are regarded as one of the most stigmatized religious groups. read the complete article

This 22-year-old Calgarian went from HomeSense cashier to hijab entrepreneur Social Sharing

Gone are the days of Muslim women in Canada going out of their way to buy new hijabs. Or at least, that's Dina Ibrahim's hope. The 22-year-old Calgarian's company, HYAT CO., is the first hijab brand sold at Winners and Marshalls stores across the country. Ibrahim says her goal is to make hijabs more accessible to Muslim women in Canada. Many hijabis have to wait for a trip back home, seek out ethnic clothing stores or pay steep shipping fees from large American companies to buy new hijabs, she says. Now, they can run to the nearest Winners or Marshalls store instead. "Seeing the product that we worked so hard on — we spent hours packaging them — I felt so accomplished," said Ibrahim about the first time she saw her branded hijab in stores. "It just made me motivated to do more." It's a big deal to Mim Fatmi, president of the Western Muslim Initiative — an organization that aims to bridge Muslim and western identities for Canadian university students. read the complete article


What the opposition to the hijab says about Indian secularism and the sidelining of Muslim identity

The hijab has offended secularist projects for a long time. De-hijabing was a key feature of Turkish statesman Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s imagination of a secular nation a century ago. The secular project of the French government, too, has run into conflict with the hijab several times. But the dominance of the ideas of multiculturalism and liberalism around the world now runs contrary to attempts at both coercive religiosity and secularisation. The decision of the American Congress to lift the ban on headwear on the House floor in January 2019 to accommodate the first-ever hijab-wearing Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and the popularity of the anti-hijab protests in Iran also subscribe to this trend. In India, the reverse is happening. The hijab did not face a legal ban, except for the case that originated in Karnataka. In February last year, the Karnataka education department passed an order barring students from wearing the hijab to class. The order was issued after students affiliated with Hindutva organisations began wearing saffron scarves to protest against what they claimed was an exemption beyond the prescribed dress code by allowing Muslim students to wear hijabs. The students claimed that permission to wear the hijab demeaned the idea of uniform dressing. This episode, yet again, brought to the fore the debate on religion, state and secularism. In October, the Supreme Court delivered a split verdict on the appeal filed by students against the Karnataka High Court order upholding the ban on the hijab. The apex court suggested that a larger bench could hear the matter. The debate on the hijab ban cannot be limited to the merits and demerits of secularisation, but must be placed within the context of the formation of India’s post-colonial national identity. It is not only about the relationship of the state with religion or its place in the public sphere. This is because religion and religious identity and symbols are very visible in the state practices and the public sphere. read the complete article

New Strategic Realities: A Rising India & Declining Britain

A recent two-part documentary by the BBC – for which I was the series consultant – revealed a British government report that deemed India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to be “directly” responsible for the violence perpetrated during deadly sectarian riots in 2002. It also argued that such anti-Muslim proclivities have accelerated since he came to power in 2014. In response, the Indian Government banned the documentary under emergency powers, declaring it “a propaganda piece, designed to push a particular discredited narrative… and a continuing colonial mindset”. Despite this controversy, the personal popularity of Modi has remained undiminished. Indeed, this month, Modi was ranked as the most popular global leader, with a net approval rating of 60% for his decisive, assertive and frequently bombastic ruling style. A tech-savvy Modi is supported by big business and big tech, which is keen to access India’s huge markets. With the world’s third-largest GDP of $10.19 trillion, and an annual GDP growth rate that is now outstripping China, the country is attracting record levels of foreign direct investment. Modi is also fulfilling key promises of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that are crucial to his Hindu nationalist voter base. These include advancing the building of a Hindu temple at the disputed religious site of Ayodhya and abrogating the special status of Kashmir in 2019 to bring it more firmly under the control of the Indian Government. As the self-proclaimed protector of Hindus from Muslim aggression, Modi’s National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 both deny Muslims the same rights as the Hindu majority. Such legislation, among many others, has been described as “Modi’s anti-Muslim jihad” that appears to be changing India from an inclusive democracy into a majoritarian theocracy. read the complete article


Will the UN’s plea to help Rohingya refugees be answered?

The UN is appealing to global powers to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The United Nations is appealing for nearly $900m to help Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh from their native Myanmar. So, how will the international community respond? And can the Rohingya ever hope for an end to the stateless limbo they’re trapped in? read the complete article

Fire in Bangladesh Camp Adds to Rohingya Refugees’ Misery

The Rohingya Muslims living in Camp 11 at Balukhali, just outside Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, were already some of the most dispossessed people on earth. Burned out of their villages by Myanmar’s army, in what the United States has called a campaign of genocide, they and many other Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. There, more than a million live in overcrowded refugee camps so miserable that many have taken to the sea in makeshift boats, with hundreds lost, and presumed drowned, in the treacherous Bay of Bengal. This week, for thousands of Camp 11 residents, the misery deepened. About 2,000 makeshift settlements — mostly assembled from bamboo and blue plastic tarpaulins — were destroyed in a fire that tore through the camp on Sunday night, leaving 12,000 refugees scrambling for shelter. read the complete article

UN rights chief cites 'communication' about issues in China

The new U.N. human rights chief said Tuesday that his office has opened “channels of communication” to help follow up on concerns about the rights of minorities in China, including Uyghur Muslims and Tibetans. But this fell short of activists' hopes for a stronger message to Beijing. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, in an address highly anticipated by rights advocates, didn't detail how his office plans to follow up on a critical report on China's western Xinjiang region published in August by his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet. That report cited possible “crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang. Türk noted that the U.N. rights office “documented grave concerns" like arbitrary detentions and family separations in China, and called for "concrete follow-up.” read the complete article


Every right defended is the rights discourse extended; every right not defended is allowing tyranny to spread

In 2011, the veil in general, and the face covering niqab and burqa in particular, were banned in France under a law known as the ‘Loi interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l’espace public’ (Law prohibiting the concealment of the face in public space). The ban came hot on the heels of a report of a parliamentary commission in January 2010 stating that the issue of the veil was an ‘emergency’ for France, though it has been reported that less than 2,000 women in the country wear the niqab. Subsequently, a resolution was passed in the French Parliament underlining the need to restore ‘republican values’ and the respect for them, which were purportedly threatened by certain ‘radical practices’ such as face-covering veils. François Fillon, who was the Prime Minister at that time, requested the Conseil d’État (‘The Council of State’, the highest French court for administrative disputes, or disputes involving the government) to release a report in which it expressed its opposition to a total ban on full-face coverings. The council opined that even if all the possible legal grounds for creating a law banning veils were considered together, it would still not be enough to legitimise a blanket ban. Such a ban would not hold against France’s commitments under international law and indeed its own anti-discrimination legislation, the council feared. Eventually, the bill banning the veil came before a Constitutional Council, where it was upheld. read the complete article


Four out of ten Norwegian Muslims 'made to feel they do not belong'

Being discriminated against by public institutions, feeling as if they had to hide their religious identity and harassment were some of the experiences Muslims in Norway told a report they had been through in the past year. A full 43 percent of those questioned for the survey, commissioned by the Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDI) and carried out for the Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies, said that they had "often" or "sometimes" been given the feeling of not belonging. One in five respondents said they had experienced discrimination from public institutions in Norway on the basis of their religious identity, one in four said they had experienced harassment over the past 12 months, and one in three respondents said they hid their religious identity out of fear of negative attitudes. Men were more likely than women to hide their religious identity, with 37 per cent of men reporting doing so, compared to 29 percent for women. "The experiences described to us clearly show that there is a nationalist dimension to anti-Muslim attitudes," said Cora Alexa Døving, one of the researchers behind the study, said in a press release. "Many of the experiences are about being defined by a Norwegian community: 'go back to where you come from', 'you Muslims are not like us', and so on." read the complete article

United Kingdom

High Court rules Ed Husain defamed MCB official Miqdaad Versi in tweet

The High Court in London has ruled that a tweet sent by the author and commentator Ed Husain had defamed a senior leader of the Muslim Council of Britain. Husain, also known as Mohammed Mahbub Husain, founded the defunct Quilliam foundation and advised former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for several years. In November 2020, Husain posted a tweet that claimed Miqdaad Versi, a Muslim Council of Britain spokesperson who leads the council's media monitoring unit, was "pro-Hamas and pro-Iran". The tweet Husain sent appeared as a "quote tweet" in November 2020, which included a screenshot of a tweet posted by Versi, who criticised Conservative journalist Fraser Nelson over the way his magazine, the Spectator, covered Muslims and Islam. Husain later deleted his tweet but contested Versi's claims in court and told the judge to read 15 tweets beyond the immediate thread as context. But last Friday, His Honour Judge Lewis ruled in a preliminary trial that he was "satisfied that the natural and ordinary meaning conveyed by the tweet was defamatory by the standards of the common law". Commenting on the judgement, Versi welcomed the verdict and said: "For too long, there are some who have smeared with impunity ordinary Muslims. This judgement puts an important stake in the ground. "Such lines of attack against ordinary Muslims should not be deployed. I hope Ed Husain learns his lesson and that media outlets who treat him as an expert and reasonable interlocutor on issues related to Muslims, acknowledge what this shows about Ed Husain's judgement." read the complete article

United States

A growing number of New Jersey public schools close for Eid as the state’s Muslim population doubles

For too long, Muslim students have had to choose between meeting the academic rigor of school and upholding their religious obligations, namely, observing Eid. In New Jersey, where the Muslim population has doubled in the last decade, the tide is turning. More and more New Jersey public schools are closing for Eid, meeting a necessary and long-overlooked accommodation for Muslim students. In Jersey City, public schools have closed in observance of Eid ul-Fitr for the last seven years. “I think the most important thing is the recognition for the community,” said Mussab Ali, a student at Harvard Law School and former Jersey City Board of Education president. “We sort of have this responsibility to open students’ eyes to different things that are happening within the schools.” Ali noted that marking Eid on school calendars and closing schools in observance sparks conversations among students, parents, educators and staff. “It starts to move the consciousness of the community towards understanding,” Ali said. “I remember when I used to have to take off for Eid as a student, my friends wouldn’t necessarily know what it meant. They were just like, oh, like, he’s out, there’s a holiday.“ read the complete article


‘There’s no reason to believe things will get better’

Early in the morning of 9 November 2020, Austrian special forces raided the houses of 70 Muslim community leaders and academics across the country on suspicion of establishing terrorist organisations, organising terrorism and money laundering. Involving more than 900 police officers, special agents and officials across four states, Operation Luxor, named after an ancient city in Egypt, was the largest coordinated police raid in Austria since the Second World War. Among those detained was the political scientist Farid Hafez. Born in the northern state of Upper Austria to an Egyptian father and a white Austrian mother, Hafez is best known for his annual report on European Islamophobia and is a founder of the Austrian Muslim Youth Association. “Around 20 to 30 people stormed into my house at five in the morning, heavily armed, and pointed their guns at me and my children,” said Hafez, speaking via a Zoom call from Williamstown in Massachusetts, where he is a visiting professor at Williams College. “The raids were so violent that the police destroyed the entrance door and broke one of the windows. My assets and bank accounts were frozen, leaving me unable to pay for lawyers. It was an economic and a political death, a way to tell me to get out of the country or we will mess you up.” A few months after Operation Luxor, Hafez appealed against the raid at the Regional Court of Graz. This appeal was overturned. The court argued that his work for Georgetown University’s The Bridge Institute and as co-editor of the European Islamophobia Report was justification for investigation as a security threat. The political scientist told Al Jazeera in a documentary about Operation Luxor that the accusations raised against him were “insane”, and that his study of Islamophobia had been “reframed” as a “form of terrorism”. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 08 Mar 2023 Edition


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