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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10 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, two brothers were found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison for the beating of a Muslim man in public near the Mississauga Valley Community Centre in July of 2018, meanwhile, new research conducted by Adrian Zenz, a leading scholar on Beijing’s repressive labor policies, casts doubt on the applicability of rules set in place by the ILO arguing that these rules fail to tackle political exploitation of groups such as the Uyghur Muslims living in Xinjiang, and lastly, a U.S. government panel has recommended that India be placed on a blacklist of countries that violates religious freedom, amid concerns over the diminishing rights of minority religious groups such as Indian Christians and Muslims. Our recommended read of the day is an interview of Indian historian Irfan Habibby by Nehal Ahmed for Al Jazeera on how India’s right-wing Hindu nationalist government is systematically erasing Indian Muslim history from k-12 textbooks. This and more below:


Q&A: ‘The word Hindu is Arabic. Why don’t they throw it out?’ | Recommended Read

India’s Hindu nationalist government has removed chapters on centuries of Muslim rule in the subcontinent, including those of the Mughals, from some school textbooks. The government, led by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has also removed references to the contribution of Muslims in the country’s freedom struggle against the British colonial rulers. In the textbooks revised by a government-run educational body, ancient India has been glorified, often without the support of historical facts. Historians say the revision of school textbooks is a part of the BJP’s Islamophobic project to deny Muslims their place in India’s history. Al Jazeera spoke to historian Irfan Habib, a globally renowned authority on Mughal history, to understand the BJP’s project of rewriting history and the impact it will have on knowledge dissemination in the South Asian country – home to 200 million Muslims. Al Jazeera: Why is the BJP removing Mughal and other Muslim rulers from school textbooks? Irfan Habib: Well, it’s not only [about] removing the Mughal rulers. They are actually trying to communalise Indian history by either removing or denigrating Muslims. But this is only one part of the BJP project, the other part is not only omission but myth-building. Al Jazeera: Do you think the BJP is mirroring the 1930s’ Nazi Germany in terms of propaganda and revision of history? Habib: Well, actually MS Golwalkar [RSS leader] praised the Nazis. Certainly, the RSS founders were greatly influenced. In the 1970s, Golwalkar praised Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. read the complete article

Indian court finds two guilty of gang-raping woman during 2013 religious riots

A court in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday found two Hindu men guilty of gang-raping a Muslim woman during communal riots in 2013 and sentenced them to 20 years in prison. The woman alleged that three men who resided in her village had beaten her up and raped her while also holding her three-month-old son hostage. "Three men were accused of the crime, but one died during trial. The others have been convicted," a lawyer representing the victim said. "The court has sentenced them to 20 years' rigorous imprisonment and also imposed a fine of 10,000 rupees ($122.28) each," the lawyer said. The 2013 Hindu-Muslim riots in the district of Muzaffarnagar, situated about 130 km (81 miles) northeast of India's capital New Delhi, killed about 65 people and forced thousands to flee their homes. The violence erupted after the murder of two Hindu men in late August in 2013. Seven Muslim men were sentenced to life in prison for the crime in 2019. read the complete article

Bollywood film on Islamic State recruits sparks debate in India

A low-budget Bollywood film about young women recruited by the Islamic State has stirred up passionate debate, helping to make it an instant box-office hit in India. "The Kerala Story," set in the coastal southern state of the same name, follows three women who are indoctrinated, converted and sent to IS camps. The Hindi-language film, starring relative unknowns, has racked up more than 450 million rupees ($5.50 million) in ticket sales since its theatrical release on Friday, a rarity in Bollywood, according to figures compiled and posted by trade analyst Taran Adarsh on Twitter. Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the film by director Sudipto Sen, saying it showed the consequences of terrorism. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, two states ruled by his Bharatiya Janata Party, have exempted the film from state taxes, making tickets cheaper. Critics, however, say the film incites negative sentiments against the country's minority Muslim population. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee has banned it from the state "to avoid any incident of hatred and violence," she said, calling it a "distorted story." However, the Kerala High Court has refused to impose a ban in the state where the film is set, saying it was "inspired by true events." The Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal against the high court's order next week. read the complete article

India's ruling Hindu nationalists challenged in state vote

People in the southern Indian state of Karnataka were voting Wednesday in an election where pre-poll surveys showed the opposition Congress party favored over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Hindu nationalist party. The votes for 224 state legislature seats will be counted May 13 and the outcome is likely to be an indicator of voter sentiment ahead of national elections expected by May next year. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is battling to retain the only southern state where it has ever won power. BJP strongholds are in northern, central and western India, while opposition parties rule the other southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. A BJP win would put top Congress figure Rahul Gandhi’s popularity in question. If Congress prevails, the credit will go to Gandhi’s crucial campaigning for his party in Karnataka. In the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP emerged as the single-largest party with 104 seats, followed by the Congress with 78 seats and the Janata Dal (Secular) with 37. The BJP formed the government 15 months after defecting lawmakers from other parties joined. The BJP is banking on its ties with powerful religious institutions followed by different castes and communities like Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Kurubas, Valmikis, Nayakas and Madiga. It also is trying to maximize gains in a coastal region where communal polarization between majority Hindus and minority Muslims has deepened due to a row over wearing the hijabs. read the complete article


Why the return of the Rohingya to Myanmar is crucial

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are presently about one million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh. Over 1,100 Rohingya refugees are currently the subject of a trial initiative that is being discussed. With China’s assistance, Bangladesh and Myanmar hope to begin returning the Rohingya before the monsoon season. For this reason, a delegation of 27 Rohingya and government representatives traveled to Myanmar on Friday to keep an eye on the situation in Rakhine. On Friday afternoon, the party traveled to 15 villages in the Rakhine area of Myanmar. The delegation’s goal was to determine whether Myanmar offers a welcoming climate conducive to repatriation. On March 15, 480 Rohingya belonging to 177 families were confirmed in Teknaf by a 22-member Myanmar delegation from Maungdaw, Rakhine State, Myanmar. From that list, a delegation of 20 Rohingya individuals was created. The Rohingya, however, reportedly did not perceive a welcoming environment for repatriation there. Authorities in Myanmar have informed the Rohingya community that those arriving from Bangladesh will only be held at the Maungdaw transit facility for three days, then make a direct transfer to Model Village. Following that, the Rohingya will receive National Verification Certificates proving their citizenship in Myanmar. If you can prove that you are a resident of Myanmar and present the required paperwork, the National Identity Card will be granted in stages. read the complete article

UN rules useless against China’s forced labor, research shows

The EU's trade gurus, confronted with concerns over whether Chinese cotton or solar panels are being produced with Uyghur Muslim forced labor, have long turned to the International Labour Organization (ILO) guidelines for reference, adopting its rules while urging Beijing to ratify and observe them. Except they might not be that effective in this case. In a new research paper previewed by POLITICO, Adrian Zenz, a leading scholar on Beijing's repressive policies, casts doubt on the applicability of these rules by the ILO, a U.N. agency, arguing they were mainly drawn up to tackle commercially — not politically — driven exploitation. In other words, Beijing is not primarily looking for cheap labor when its local officials in Xinjiang arrange for Uyghurs to go to work. Instead, it is a top-down political campaign to make these Uyghurs, collectively presumed by the state to be potential secessionists and terrorists, submit to Communist Party rule. That, according to Zenz, a scholar at the U.S.-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, makes the ILO definition insufficient in tackling the issue. His research shows that the use of ILO indicators "largely fails" in evaluating the coercive elements in China's system against the Uyghurs. "Conventional means such as the ILO's forced labor indicator framework," Zenz says in a journal article previewed by POLITICO, "was not designed to evaluate state-sponsored forced labor." read the complete article

U.S. Commission Dings India for Embrace of Hindu Fascism

A United States government panel has recommended that India be placed on a blacklist of countries that violates religious freedom, amid growing concerns over the rights of minorities in the world’s largest democracy. The panel, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, is a bipartisan advisory body that reports to the U.S. Congress and the State Department. The panel said India should join 13 other countries, including China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, on a list of “Countries of Particular Concern” that are subject to sanctions or other diplomatic actions for infringing on religious freedom. The panel said India had committed “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” in 2020, by enacting a citizenship law that discriminates against Muslims seeking fast-track naturalization, by failing to prevent or prosecute communal violence in New Delhi that killed more than 50 people, mostly Muslims, and by cracking down on peaceful protests against the law. The panel also cited anti-conversion laws in some states that restrict the right to change one’s religion, especially for Hindus who convert to Christianity or Islam, and the harassment and intimidation of religious minorities and human rights activists by state and non-state actors, such as vigilante groups and mobs. read the complete article

United States

How many times do hijab-wearing Muslim judges in America need to break the glass ceiling?

In March, Nadia Kahf, a family law attorney from Passaic County, New Jersey, made headlines as “the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman” to serve as a state Superior Court judge in the United States. A day later, Dalya Youssef, a family law attorney who also wears the Islamic headscarf, was sworn in to the Superior Court bench in Somerset County, New Jersey. These local news stories are no doubt intended as celebrations of growing diversity on the bench, and the headlines make sense insofar as women who wear the hijab are much more likely to experience labor market and workplace discrimination in the U.S. than women who don’t. But the news media’s coverage of Muslim women’s “firsts,” whether as jurists or in other public roles, feeds the sense that their contributions arise chiefly from their sartorial religious practice. The headline on a recent story about Kahf in the North Jersey Journal captured the problem well: “She’s the first judge to wear a hijab on the bench in NJ. It’s not her only accomplishment.” Beyond distracting from Muslim women’s achievements, the focus on the hijab invites those who object to their faith and their gender to share their bigoted reactions. Contrary to some headlines, Kahf will not even be the United States’ first hijabi judge. That distinction likely goes to Carolyn Walker-Diallo, an African American Muslim woman who was sworn in as a New York civil judge in 2015 and subsequently elected a New York Supreme Court 2nd Judicial District judge in 2021. In June of last year, Laila Ikram, who wears hijab, was sworn in as a judge pro tempore in Arizona. It’s true that xenophobia has made Kahf’s and all the others’ rise all the more remarkable, even as it exposes the fissures in our body politic over who ought to have power. But journalists need to consider how to have this discussion without fueling a vicious cycle. read the complete article


Facebook blocks Rockhampton mob leader as Queensland MP prepares to meet with him

First Nations people in central Queensland say the state government is inflaming local tensions by pushing ahead with plans to meet with the former leader of a far-right “patriots” group, who was booted off Facebook after leading a mob to surround the Rockhampton home of an Indigenous teenager. Guardian Australia on Tuesday revealed that the ringleader of the group, Torin O’Brien, is the former president of a group that regularly posted offensive anti-Islam content online. O’Brien referred to himself online as part of the “Infidel Legion” and made comments calling Muslim people “knuckle draggers”. On Tuesday, Facebook deleted O’Brien’s profile for breaching the platform’s community standards, while Labor MPs defended the decision to meet with him. The former One Nation candidate, who was portrayed as an “anti-crime crusader” in some media reports, was invited to sit down “with police and other stakeholders”, as community tensions related to youth crime escalate. read the complete article


Brothers sentenced to 6 years in prison for 'anti-Arab' attack against Mississauga father

Two men found guilty of aggravated assault for a brutal attack against a Mississauga man were both sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday in a Brampton courthouse. Brothers Janis Corhamzic and Adem Corhamzic were also sentenced to two years in prison for assaulting a friend of the victim who tried to intervene in the beating. That time is to be severed concurrently with the six year sentences, which means each man will serve six years total for both convictions. The siblings were remanded into custody following the sentencing. Mohammed Abu Marzouk was severely beaten after leaving a summer picnic with his family near the Mississauga Valley Community Centre on July 15, 2018. Diana Attar, Abu Marzouk's wife, previously told CBC Toronto that two men walking behind the family's car started shouting at them, "f--king Arab people! Terrorists." Justice Fletcher Dawson said in his decision that the attack was "anti-Arab, but not anti-Muslim," though he acknowledged the hateful nature of the incident. Dawson said he was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that there was intent to kill. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 10 May 2023 Edition


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