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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01 May 2019

Today in Islamophobia: Following recent far-right extremist attacks, perpetrators’ manifestos are “memeified” online, while in New Zealand police arrest a man over a suspicious explosive device is found in Chrsitchurch. In Australia, the Victorian Liberal Party dumps a candidate who suggested Muslims were trying to overthrow the Australian government to impose Sharia law; in the UK, Labour is accused of mishandling Islamophobic remarks made by a councillor. Today’ recommended read interviews Asma Uddin, the author of a new book titled “When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.” This, and more, below:

United States

01 May 2019

Asma Uddin: If we deprive Islam of its status as a religion, all religion is threatened | Recommended read

Some on the far right in the United States deny that Islam is a real religion. Theologians of different stripes have made this claim in the battle for religious supremacy, but recently it has become a legal argument made to deny Muslim Americans their right to religious freedom. The issue is now the subject of a book, “When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom,” by Asma Uddin. Can you explain first of all how Islam could be seen as anything other than a religion? Honestly, when I first heard the argument “Islam is not a religion,” I had the same question: How is it even possible to think of Islam as something other than a religion? But when I heard the context — a legal case challenging the right to build a mosque — I knew the argument had nothing to do with a philosophical interrogation of “religion” generally. It had everything to do with depriving Muslims of rights. And when that’s the agenda, all kinds of absurdities become possible. One of those absurdities is the ability and willingness to do to other religions what you would never stand someone doing to your own: taking a warped, out-of-context, ignorant analysis of it and deciding which parts should be afforded legitimacy and which should not. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
01 May 2019

White House considers move to designate Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group

The White House has confirmed it is considering the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, after Donald Trump was personally lobbied by Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. The official designation of the Islamist movement as terrorist would have far-reaching effects, sanctioning companies and individuals who had any interactions with the group. The White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday: “The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process.” Daniel Benjamin, a former counter-terrorism coordinator at the state department said: “State looked at this in 2017-18 and concluded there was no legal basis for designation. That continues to be true.” Benjamin, now director of the centre for international understanding at Dartmouth College, went on: “If it ever went to court the administration would be risking serious embarrassment. The administration would have a hard time showing the Brotherhood would meet any of the historic standards associated with designation of a foreign terrorist organisation.” read the complete article

01 May 2019

Is the Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group?

The Muslim Brotherhood is a missionary movement founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a schoolteacher working in the town of Ismailia, near the Suez Canal. He argued that an Islamic religious revival would enable the Muslim world to catch up to the West and shake off colonial rule. His teachings spread far beyond Egypt, and today widely varying Islamist political movements — including missionary, charitable and advocacy organizations as well as political parties in many countries — trace their roots to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Some of these groups use the name Muslim Brotherhood and others do not. Political parties explicitly linked to or descended from the Muslim Brotherhood are recognized in many countries allied with the United States, including Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia. read the complete article

01 May 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar calls anti-Semitism and Islamophobia 'two sides of the same coin of bigotry'

“The occupant of the White House, as my sister [Rep.] Ayanna [Pressley] likes to call him, and his allies are doing everything that they can to distance themselves and misinform the public from the monsters that they created that is terrorizing the Jewish community and the Muslim community,” Omar said to a crowd of more than 100 supporters Tuesday at an event at the Capitol organized by founders of Black Lives Matter. “Because when we are talking about anti-Semitism, we must also talk about Islamophobia; it's two sides of the same coin of bigotry,” she added. “Just this week, when we've had the attack in California on a synagogue, it's the same person who's accused of attempting to bomb a mosque. So I can't ever speak of Islamophobia and fight for Muslims if I am not willing to fight against anti-Semitism.” read the complete article

01 May 2019

White supremacy movements spark rise in religion-based hate

Vandals spray-painted 19 swastikas on the walls of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia last October. A young woman leaving a mosque with her friends in Sterling, Virginia, after nightly prayers in the summer of 2017 was raped and killed. Someone scrawled “F*** God & Allah” across a Farmville mosque in October 2017. Later that year, a Fairfax teacher pulled off a Muslim student’s hijab in front of her class. “These events aren’t isolated,” said Samuel J. West, a doctoral student of social psychology and neuroscience at Virginia Commonwealth University. “They’re happening in conjunction with a well-documented rise of activity of the white power movement and white supremacist organizations.” In Virginia, hate crimes include illegal, criminal or violent acts committed against a person or property on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity. But often, such offenses are not classified as hate crimes. Because it’s hard to assess intent, it’s rare to be charged with a hate crime. read the complete article

New Zealand

01 May 2019

Christchurch man arrested over suspicious device

New Zealand police say a man has been arrested after bomb disposal officers found a suspicious explosive device at a vacant property in Christchurch, where 50 people were killed in attacks by a lone gunman on two mosques in March. The New Zealand Herald said police were called due to “threats about an explosive device”. Police have not said whether they think the latest incident has any link with the March attack. read the complete article


01 May 2019

Liberals dump Jeremy Hearn despite apologies for anti-Muslim rant

The Victorian Liberal Party has dumped one of its candidates after his anti Muslim rant made headlines across Australia. Jeremy Hearn suggested that Muslims were trying to overthrow the Australian government and introduce Sharia law. He's apologised for the comments, which he made online last year, but it wasn't enough to save his place in the running for Isaacs. read the complete article

01 May 2019

Aussie man quits anti-Muslim party after video of him groping strippers surfaces

Steve Dickson had been Queensland state president of the One Nation Party and a Senate candidate in May 18 elections. The 56-year-old resigned from the party after Nine Network television on Monday night broadcast his antics in the Washington, D.C., club in September that were secretly videoed by Al Jazeera. An Al Jazeera documentary broadcast in March reported that Dickson and One Nation official James Ashby flew to the United States for meetings with pro-gun interests including the National Rifle Association and political donors Koch Industries seeking money to undermine Australian gun laws. Dickson visited the strip club during the same trip. One Nation’s leader, Pauline Hanson, who was criticized for once wearing a burqa in the Senate, said Dickson’s behaviour was unacceptable for a candidate for her party. Hanson also accused Al Jazeera of trying to hurt her party, which opposes Muslim immigration, three weeks before an election. Al Jazeera said it did not give consent for its video to be broadcast. read the complete article


01 May 2019

With each new attack, far-right extremists’ manifestos are being ‘memeticized’

Perhaps the most alarming factor in this latest incident of far-right violence can be found in the open letter that the gunman, a 19-year-old, posted just prior to the attack. The similarities it bears to the manifesto penned by the shooter in New Zealand who targeted mosques last month shows how the motivations and knowledge of previous far-right extremists are being “meme-ticized,” bouncing off of each other and helping to accelerate the rate of attacks. The use of previous extremists and their manifestos for inspiration by other would-be attackers has long been a persistent theme in the far-right. The Christchurch attacker’s manifesto, where 50 worshipers were killed at two separate mosques, seems to have only further accelerated this process. His 74-page manifesto was filled with smug in-jokes designed to troll those not familiar with the far-right online ecosystem which radicalized him. Less than two months after that incident, the influence of his manifesto is clear to see in the open letter written by the attacker in San Diego on Saturday. In their manifestos’ diatribes, for instance, both the New Zealand and San Diego shooters take great pains to tout their European heritage. Both manifestos say they want to further polarize the gun control debate, and both respond to anticipated questions about their attacks with in-joke language designed to titillate those in the know and further infect the discourse surrounding the attack. A good example here is the “Subscribe to PewDiePie” meme — which the New Zealand gunman mentions in his livestream of the shooting and the San Diego gunman in his open letter. In response, YouTuber PewDiePie published a video on Sunday — which was #1 on YouTube’s trending videos Monday with nearly 7.5 million views — condemning the use of the phrase. While there’s no reason to question PewDiePie’s renunciation of the meme is anything but heartfelt, the fact that he has been cornered into discussing it at all gives further oxygen to the fringe, far-right online ecosystems which radicalized both shooters. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

01 May 2019

Sri Lanka: Ban on face-veil risks stigmatizing Muslim women

Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director, Dinushika Dissanayake, said: “At a time when many Muslims in Sri Lanka fear a backlash, imposing a ban that effectively targets women wearing a face veil for religious reasons risks stigmatizing them. They will be forced out of public spaces to stay at home and will be unable to work, study or access basic services. The ban violates their rights to non-discrimination, freedom of expression and religion. “Where there are legitimate security concerns, the authorities can carry out identity checks when objectively necessary. It is important that the state provides measures that comply with human rights. Women have a right to choose how they dress, whatever their beliefs. Forcing women to take off the face-veil is coercive and humiliating.” read the complete article


01 May 2019

US museum condemns use of its art by German far-right party

The dispute over the painting, which shows a Middle Eastern slave trader displaying a naked young woman with much lighter skin to a group of men for examination, highlights the aggressive and fear-mongering portrayal of Muslim migrants by the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party as it attempts to capitalize on concerns about the huge influx of asylum-seekers in recent years. The director of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, condemned the use of Jean-Leon Gerome’s 1866 oil-on-canvas painting “Slave Market,” by the AfD. “We are strongly opposed to the use of this work to advance any political agenda,” Olivier Meslay told The Associated Press. “We did not supply the painting to the AfD.” The AfD’s Berlin branch said they put up 30 posters of the painting across the German capital with the slogan: “So that Europe won’t become ‘Eurabia!’ Europeans vote for AfD.” The party said it won’t take down any of the posters. read the complete article

United KIngdom

01 May 2019

Labour's disciplinary process under scrutiny amid Islamophobia row

Anas Sarwar, a former Scottish deputy leader, has accused Labour’s national constitutional committee (NCC) of refusing to allow him to give evidence in person about a Labour councillor’s alleged remark to him in 2017 that “Scotland wouldn’t vote for a brown Muslim P*ki”. Sarwar said the committee had acted in a deeply flawed way and had denied him a fair hearing, which risked sending out the message it had no real commitment to combating Islamophobia in the party. He said the NCC gave him only four days’ notice the hearing on Monday was taking place and then, when he turned up, refused to allow him to appear because he had not given it the necessary two weeks’ notice he would do so. read the complete article


01 May 2019

Sigal Samuel answers 8 key questions about the Chinese crackdown on Uighur Muslims

Stanislav1: Can you give us a quick history lesson on how this started in China? Sigal: China has been worried for a long time that the Uighurs will want to split off from China and make Xinjiang an independent homeland (a lot of Uighurs refer to Xinjiang as East Turkestan). The Chinese paint the Uighurs as a separatist threat as well as a terrorist threat. So they claim “de-extremification” in camps is necessary for national security. There’s more background in this link, which you might find useful. Capitalist_Model: Why are they targeting a fringe and such a specific religion? Sigal: For China, it’s not fringe. The Uighurs are concentrated in Xinjiang, a very important region, both because it’s oil- and resource-rich and because it’s geographically central to China’s huge new infrastructure project, the Belt and Road initiative. China feels it needs to have tight control over Xinjiang; otherwise, that project could be jeopardized. And China has long feared that separatist Uighurs will try to create an independent homeland in Xinjiang. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 May 2019 Edition


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