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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09 Mar 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, the government has released Ghassan Al Sharbi from the Guantanamo Bay military prison after 21 years of imprisonment without charge, meanwhile in South Korea, a clear liquid suspected to be animal fat has been found sprayed near a mosque construction site in the town of Daegu amid an escalating rift between an anti-mosque committee and the Muslim community, and in India, the popularity and prevalence of Hindutva Pop (music that actively disparages the Indian Muslim community) is making it hard for platforms such as YouTube to reign the hateful content online. Our recommended read of the day is by Joanna Psaros for The Diplomat on how discredited Imam Mohammad Tawhidi’s cancellation in Australia appears to have directly coincided with an explosion in his popularity and prestige in the United States, especially among the far-right. This and more below:


Australia’s Former ‘Favorite Muslim’ Courts Credibility With US Right | Recommended Read

In his capacity as leader of the Islamic Association of South Australia, Tawhidi became somewhat of a regular fixture in Australia’s center-right circuit, making multiple appearances on “The Bolt Report,” “Ben Fordham Live,” “Today Tonight,” and “A Current Affair,” and with nationwide publications from The Daily Mail to The Australian providing additional coverage of his controversial views on Muslim immigration and the dangers of Islamic schools. No mean feat, given his credentials were almost entirely fabricated. Tawhidi’s tenuous credibility as a spokesperson for Australia’s Muslim community began to crumble with a series of ABC investigations into his background. A June 2017 article, titled “Imam Mohammad Tawhidi: The problem with the media’s favourite Muslim,” revealed that the self-proclaimed imam had no mosque, was not recognized by the Australian National Imams Council, and never graduated from the Iranian university at which he claimed to have completed a master’s degree in Islamic theology. Australia’s love affair with the outspoken imam soon came to an end. But in a bizarre twist, Mohammad Tawhidi’s cancellation in Australia appears to have directly coincided with an explosion in his popularity and prestige abroad – particularly in the United States, Israel, and certain Arab Gulf states. On the subject of Tawhidi, The Intercept concluded that “even a cursory review of his Twitter feed undercuts the idea that he is focused on the reform of Islam or the pursuit of peace, since it is devoted mainly to reinforcing the prejudices of right-wing trolls and nativist politicians, echoing their racist, sexist, and xenophobic rhetoric.” read the complete article

The Link Between Religicide and Violence Against Women

Religicide is the systematic, highly targeted effort to eradicate an entire religion, including its practices, adherents, sacred spaces, habitats and cultural heritage. Religicide plays out largely by controlling the reproductive choices of women, who they marry and who has access to their bodies. Violence against women has emerged as one of the hallmarks of religicide. It has been practiced in China against Uyghur Muslims, in Iraq against Yazidis and in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims. This abuse of women is a form of genocide-in-slow-motion. In China, the Communist Party is taking control of Uyghur women’s bodies through forced birth control in the form of implants, involuntary sterilizations and pills, according to The New York Times and other outlets. Some women say they've been forced into giving up their faith and marrying Han Chinese men. They’re free to get pregnant in these marriages – with babies through whom their Muslim faith will not likely be passed on. In Myanmar, radical Buddhist monks have perpetuated a religicide against the Muslim population. A 2018 United Nations report found that these men believe the high birth rate of Rohingya women is a threat to Buddhism. To that end, the military systematically chose reproductive-age women and girls for rape, attacks, mutilation and branding. The apparent agenda of the radical Buddhists was to use gender violence against Muslim women to quash their ability to spread their culture and identity through reproduction, according to a 2021 journal article from Tufts University. Violence against women – whether in China, Iraq, Myanmar, Africa, Afghanistan or the Americas – is a tragically familiar tool of those seeking religious dominance. Through forced birth control they reduce birth rates. Through forced marriages they achieve mandatory conversions. Through rape, terror, shaming, communal rejection and intergenerational trauma, they use women to eradicate their own people, beliefs and cultural heritage. read the complete article

United States

Homeland Security: Two decades of terrorising people of colour

In a Twitter thread commemorating its 20th anniversary on 1 March, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said: "DHS was created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to safeguard the US against terrorism...Today, homeland security is national security - and our mission to ensure a safer, more secure, and more resilient America remains the same." While DHS has continued to maintain the facade that it exists to protect Americans - claiming in its bulletins to thwart threats against "racial and religious minorities" - it has spent the last two decades subjecting these very communities to its violent abuse. While the government justified the need for DHS as a matter of efficiency and collaboration, it was not only a political tactic but also a rhetorical one to position three agencies that address immigration and migration under an institution whose mandate is to "protect" the American people - read: white Americans. In 2011, DHS implemented the National Terrorism Advisory System as a replacement for the previous system of colour codes used to indicate threat levels. Despite highlighting a threat to racial and religious minorities, absent from these alerts and bulletins is an acknowledgement of the consistent and destructive threat that the agency itself poses to these very communities. Regardless of the system and their theoretical goals of preventing threats to the US, both are telling about who the government is actually seeking to protect and from whom. read the complete article

Saudi engineer released from Guantanamo prison camp after 21 yrs

The United States has released a Saudi Arabian engineer who was imprisoned for more than 20 years at Guantanamo Bay military prison despite never being charged with suspected crimes following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. The US Department of Defense said on Wednesday that Ghassan Al Sharbi, 48, was returned to Saudi Arabia after a review board determined in February 2022 that his detention “was no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States”. The Pentagon’s Periodic Review Board ruled in 2022 that Al Sharbi had no leadership or facilitator position in al-Qaeda and was compliant in detention. It also said he had unspecified “physical and mental health issues”. The US military had weighed charges against Al Sharbi and several others but dropped them in 2008. Though never charged with a crime, he was also not approved for release and the US continued to hold Al Sharbi as an enemy fighter. read the complete article

Rehabilitation for Torture at Guantanamo is a Moral and Legal Imperative

The White House is committed to leading global efforts to hold accountable those responsible for these atrocities, including, if the evidence warrants, Russian President Vladimir Putin, consistent with the dictates of international law. But to be an effective leader in these efforts, the United States must honor its own international legal obligations, including under the Convention against Torture, to which it is a State Party. There is an urgent need to meet the United States’ obligation to provide “as full rehabilitation as possible” to those now detained on Guantánamo who are suffering the results of torture inflicted on them by the United States government and who have no real prospect of being set free. The fact that these men were tortured was established in the 2014 report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as was the fact that they are suffering serious physical and mental health consequences of brutal and harsh treatment. The men exhibit the cumulative impacts of repeated head injuries caused by walling, sleep deprivation, beating and shackling, waterboarding, hooding, isolation, and white noise. Some suffer ongoing effects from rape. And many suffer with an array of symptoms and impairments indicative of posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and comorbidities with sleep disorders, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment. The United States’ legal as well as moral obligation is to provide appropriate medical treatment now, and not make these men continue to wait until they are free. read the complete article


YouTube allows Hindutva pop videos that violate its hate policies, auto-generates more

In April 2022, a rally in the Indian town of Karauli, Rajasthan, turned violent when anti-Muslim songs were played during Hindu New Year celebrations. The town witnessed the worst communal violence since independence, reported Indian news publication Scroll. One of the songs played had lyrics in Hindi: “The day Hindus wake up, those who wear skull caps will bow down and say victory to lord Ram. The day our blood boils, we will show you your place. We will not speak, only our swords will.” The song is an example of a musical genre that comes under the banner “Hindutva Pop.” These songs often contain violent lyrics with Auto-Tuned vocals set to catchy upbeat rhythms. As minority communities in India witness a wave of religious hate crimes under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure, Hindutva pop can be used to inflame the tension. YouTube is rife with videos of men and women dressed in saffron — a color appropriated by the Hindu right-wing — singing songs that target minority communities, primarily Muslims. The songs advocate the establishment of India as a Hindu nation, the genocide of Muslims, religious war, and construction of temples after demolishing mosques. Their lyrics state those without these beliefs are “traitors,” “anti-nationals,” or “jihadis.” Hindutva channels like these remain on YouTube despite the platform’s policies against hateful content that disallow “promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups” based on attributes including religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality. read the complete article


'A Stone Is Most Precious Where It Belongs' is a memoir of the Uyghur experience

Describing home for journalist Gulchehra Hoja is complicated. She's from western China, in the Xinjiang province. But as she tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, she considers the Uyghur region –which was formerly free – her native country. Her new memoir, A Stone Is Most Precious Where It Belongs, navigates the difficult and often painful reality of growing up proud of her heritage but under a Chinese nationalist mindset – and doing work that she says eventually led to her family's arrest. read the complete article

South Korea

Suspected animal fat sprayed in front of mosque construction site in Daegu

White liquid suspected to be animal fat has been found sprayed near a mosque construction site in Daegu amid continued discord between an anti-mosque committee and the Muslim community. CCTV footage revealed by Muaz Razaq, a representative of Muslim community members who support the mosque, shows two people throwing unknown white waste on the street several times at around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The footage also shows one person holding an umbrella, apparently to hide his or her face from being captured on film. After spraying the liquid for about 20 seconds, the two moved to the end of the alleyway. Members of the Muslim community have filed a petition to a portal site run by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission and plans to report the matter to the police, claiming that the liquid was animal fat based on the smell. Muslim community members see the incident as another attack against them, as it took place where those opposing the mosque's construction have staged protests in the past. The anti-mosque committee had placed a pig's head and held pork barbecue parties in front of the mosque site to protest its construction. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 09 Mar 2023 Edition


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