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 2020

Today in Islamophobia:  Hundreds of Rohingya refugees find themselves stuck in no-man’s land in what the UN is calling a “dangerous game of ping pong.”  In the U.S, as a new digital publication spotlights the experiences of Muslim youth, far right groups continue to “zoombomb” Muslim meetings. Our recommended read today is by Niranjan Sahoo on the pandemic, and how it has aggravated intensifying polarization in India. This, and more, below:


01 May 2020

Infections, Islamophobia, and intensifying societal polarization | Recommended Read

The coronavirus pandemic struck India at a moment when the country was more polarized than it has been in decades. Particularly since 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a landslide reelection victory, he and his government have exacerbated the country’s polarization by advancing a majoritarian, Hindu nationalist agenda. On the surface, the coronavirus has put political animosities on hold, as Modi has toned down his populist and confrontational rhetoric. Yet at the same time, fears surrounding the pandemic have rapidly amplified societal polarization and intolerance, in particular against India’s Muslims. The Markaz incident fanned the flames of societal polarization in a country where violence against Muslims has erupted as recently as February 2020. The event became a 24/7 subject of conversation on social media and television stations, while bigots exploited the outbreak to paint the entire Muslim community as a vector of disease. “Coronajihad” became the top trending hashtag on Twitter for days; between March 28 and April 3, the incendiary hashtag appeared 300,000 times and was viewed by possibly 300 million people on Twitter. Meanwhile, prominent television channels openly spouted anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and even many respected print outlets fell into the trap of playing to Islamophobia. The relentless media attention to the event found its way into the health ministry’s daily press briefing, in which the spokesperson regularly cited the number of coronavirus cases linked to the Markaz incident. This outpouring of hateful rhetoric has translated into an increase in anti-Muslim discrimination and violence across India. Painted as “corona villains” or virus spreaders, Muslims have been beaten and attacked by vigilante groups. After many days of silence, Modi appealed for unity, emphasizing that the virus “doesn’t see religion, language, or borders.” Yet his words have proven largely unable to stem growing intercommunal discord, and in this context, Muslim communities’ deep distrust of the Hindu nationalist government—evident in a series of violent attacks on frontline health workers—has emerged as a potential barrier to providing them with healthcare and containing the spread of the virus to others. read the complete article

Recommended Read
01 May 2020

COVID-19: Rohingya Refugees in India Are Battling Islamophobia and Starvation

Nearly all Rohingya refugees living in various refugee camps across the country have been left to fight the coronavirus pandemic on their own. The strict lockdown for India’s 1.3 billon people to prevent the spread of the virus has turned into a human tragedy for many, particularly the migrant workers, daily wage earners, street vendors and several others whose survival depends on their daily earnings. Most of the social protection packages announced by governments to feed and pay the working class daily wagers have no provisions for non-citizens. Even the Delhi government’s alternative livelihood assistance of Rs 5,000 for migrant workers does not include the Rohingya who are seen as ‘illegal migrants’. As a result, 18,000 Rohingya refugees living in India are facing a very uncertain future and situation of starvation. In recent times, Rohingya refugees have become highly visible due to the vicious campaign launched by the BJP and its Hindu right wing partners calling the Muslims “Corona Bomb”. This started after TV9 Bharatvarsh, a free to air TV news channel, began broadcasting a so-called investigative report linking the Rohingya refugees with the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at the Markaz mosque in Nizamuddin during the month of March. The report claims that several Rohingya refugees were deliberately infected with COVID-19 at the Markaz and then sent out to different parts of India to spread the infection on a large scale. Since its broadcast, video clips of this so-called investigative report have gone viral on social media, particularly on tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad and #biojihad. According to Time magazine, Equality Labs, a digital human rights group has said that these tweets have appeared nearly 300,000 times and have been seen by approximately 165 million people on Twitter. read the complete article


01 May 2020

Modern slavery and retail: UK cotton imports from China under scrutiny over forced Uighur labour

A 60-page document submitted to the British government last week set out the legal case for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to ban all cotton originating in the Xinjiang region of China. The submission made by Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), together with activist group the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), comes amid growing concerns that Uighur Muslims are being transferred to factories across China to replace workers during the coronavirus lockdown. Large brands such as H&M, Uniqlo, Muji and Ikea were all named in the documents as sourcing cotton from Xinjiang. During the Covid-19 pandemic pictures and videos purporting to show uniformed Uighur workers being transferred to factories across the country have been circulated. Reports of members of the Uighur Muslim minority being detained in "re-education" camps first emerged in 2016. read the complete article

01 May 2020

Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims Stuck at Sea in Refugee Crisis With ‘Zero Hope’

Somewhere in turquoise waters, perhaps where the Bay of Bengal meets the Andaman Sea, wooden boats filled with Rohingya refugees are listing, adrift now for more than 10 weeks. They were prevented from docking in Malaysia, their preferred destination, and Bangladesh, their port of origin. As of this week, rights groups that had been trying to track the boats by satellite lost sight of them. Each boat — there were at least three — carried hundreds of Rohingya Muslims desperate for sanctuary and at the mercy of human traffickers. “I feel like crying, realizing the situation of my brothers and sisters who are still floating in the deep sea,” said Mohammad Yusuf, a chief imam in one of the refugee camps in Bangladesh, where about 1 million Rohingya have taken refuge after fleeing waves of persecution and violence in neighboring Myanmar. The boats had been caught in what the United Nations has called a dangerous “game of human Ping-Pong.” The Bangladeshi government balked at accepting them, arguing that it has already taken in many Rohingya and borne a far greater share of the burden in the refugee crisis than any other nation. But with Malaysia refusing to allow the boats to dock amid a national coronavirus lockdown, and a xenophobic mood sweeping the region, the boats had nowhere else to go. read the complete article


01 May 2020

Malaysia should not let a virus kill its humanity

In the darkness that is the Rohingya crisis, Malaysia has stood as a ray of light and hope — a true example of Muslim solidarity when there is so little in the world today. But now it seems that this is changing, and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is being cynically used by disgraced politicians to play a sinister, nationalist tune, banking on people’s fears. On April 18, the Royal Malaysian Navy turned away a boat carrying about 200 Rohingya, men, women and children, citing the lockdown in place in the country in response to the pandemic. This came only two days after the navy provided these very people with food. This prompted Anwar Ibrahim, president of the People’s Justice Party, to plead with Malaysians to not lose their humanity. In a widely viewed social media address, Ibrahim compared the Rohingya refugees to the Palestinians, noting: “We should not lose our humanity in times of hardship. We should help them with their basic needs. Why do we support Palestine? Because its people were murdered, tortured and plundered. So it is for the same reasons we support the Rohingya.” It is right and proper for Malaysia to be in lockdown to manage the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, in the same way that lockdown does not mean putting everyone back on planes when they land at an airport, it should not mean that any nation suspends international law and the norms of asylum on its shores. read the complete article

United States

01 May 2020

Missouri man charged with hate crime after alleged attempted arson at Islamic center during Ramadan

Nicholas Proffitt of Cape Girardeau, Mo., was charged with felony burglary in the first degree, felony arson in the first degree and a hate crime of “property damage in the first degree which is enhanced as the defendant was knowingly motivated to do so by reason of a motive related to the religion of the people who worship at the Islamic Center,” the city’s police department confirmed Monday. Authorities said in a Wednesday statement from the Department of Justice that security cameras at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau allegedly captured Proffitt throwing “multiple objects through a glass window, causing it to break.” He then appeared to throw two containers into the center and enter it, before picking up the containers and splashing liquid inside the center. The New York Times reported that in 2009, Proffitt threw rocks at the center and later pleaded guilty to two charges of property damage motivated by discrimination. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Shafiq Malik, the president of the Islamic center, told the Times that “I was very surprised it was him because last time he said he was drunk and was very sorry and that he didn’t mean to do it." “Now he definitely has anti-Muslim sentiment,” he continued. read the complete article

01 May 2020

For my first Ramadan as a Muslim, I am filling my home with new life

Here in Queens, N.Y., the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, I, too, am experiencing a Ramadan first. This year, I am fasting, praying and celebrating Ramadan with my Muslim family as a new convert to Islam. For 20 years, I have stood on the periphery of my husband and our children’s faith, supporting them while maintaining a tenuous hold on my Catholicism. All these years, Ramadan has been the loneliest time of year for me, because it has meant distance from the people I love most. This Ramadan, when so many Muslims are grieving the loss of community in a time of being #alonetogether, I feel guilty that I am finding closeness and inclusion as my own faith takes root. In March, almost overnight, my neighborhood transformed from a raucous, vibrant area to one of darkened storefronts and silence. The number of cases in Queens has since risen past 51,000. Empty streets, isolation and fear have replaced life here. Inside our cramped apartment, my family has tried to keep the rhythm of our normal life. But with my husband out of work, our two teens wrestling with remote learning and me perpetually seeking a quiet corner to write, normalcy is an impossibility. Still, now that I’ve converted to Islam, my day has a new structure of prayer. Five times a day I join my husband and our two boys in the living room. With each prayer, as I bend and rest my head on the prayer rug, anxiety drains from me and peace replaces it. read the complete article

01 May 2020

US: Activists decry threat against Muslim congressional candidate

Dozens of women activists, leaders and lawmakers have joined a petition denouncing a death threat against congressional candidate Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the first Muslim woman to run for federal office from New Jersey. The 27-year-old is the founder of, an online magazine with a global audience. After hosting a virtual town hall on Instagram, she said someone called her phone, and using racial slurs against Muslims, threatened to kill her and her family. Al-Khatahtbeh published a recording of the April 21 death threat on her Twitter account on Wednesday. An open letter condemning the threat was signed by many supporters, including Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza, US Representative Rashida Tlaib and fellow Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar. read the complete article

01 May 2020

As Muslims go digital amid pandemic, far-right groups are 'Zoombombing' faith-based meetings

In recent weeks, as schools, businesses, and places of worship have been forced to close as the nation endures its worst public-health crisis in a century, millions have turned to Zoom as a meeting platform. However, several reports have emerged of online trolls "Zoombombing" meetings with obscene or hateful messages, or disrupting services with graphic videos, pornography and other content from across the internet. While some of incidents may have been regarded as pranks or even trolling, they have since risen to the level of hate speech and harassment, and have even been investigated by the FBI. With Muslims in America observing the holy month of Ramadan digitally - spending much of their day on various online gatherings, webinars, and virtual lectures - many fear a surge in online hate attacks from far-right trolls. "We know an increase in online gatherings also comes with concerns about digital safety," said Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates. Groups such as Muslim Advocates, a Washington-based rights organisation, have created guidelines for Muslims to follow to help prevent such attacks. Still, the rapid adoption of Zoom as a platform for nearly all digital meetings has highlighted the glaring security holes in virtual gathering places. The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy has noted that Zoombombing is becoming an organised effort conducted through a multitude of online message boards, including 4chan and Discord. read the complete article

01 May 2020

Meet Muslim, a new online publication for the Gen Z ummah

Al-Khatahtbeh is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a new digital publication for Muslim youth. He says the publication is meant for all teens and young adults within the ummah, or community of Muslims, regardless of their race, gender, sect or how they do or don’t practice their faith. “I want Muslim to be the community for all Muslims,” he told Religion News Service. “A lot of people are talking about how we’re all one ummah, we’re all together, we’re all brothers and sisters. But I feel like no one’s really acting upon it. I think we’re growing so fast because we’re trying to actualize that by building the community.” Within a week of launching the publication on April 20, with Youssef featured as its first cover star, the site received about 56,000 visits and featured articles on young environmental activists, the loneliness Muslim converts can face during Ramadan, tips for hosting the perfect digital iftar — and, of course, rapid coverage of memes that have made their way through Muslim communities on Twitter and TikTok. The idea for Muslim began, as many origin stories for young Muslims’ projects do these days, with President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. At the time, Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh, who will graduate from Rutgers University in May, had just begun studying journalism in the hopes of becoming an entertainment writer. The son of a Jordanian immigrant and a Palestinian refugee, he was “flabbergasted” watching the election results creeping in. His Iranian roommate began to cry and ask whether his family would be safe. Al-Khatahtbeh said the anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies he saw during the campaign caused an immediate change in the direction of his writing. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 May 2020 Edition


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