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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11 May 2020

Today in Islamophobia: A bakery in Chennai, India, comes under fire for Islamophobic ad, as Modi’s soft diplomacy abroad continues to be undone by hardliner politics at home. According to the UN, xenophobia and hate speech has surged globally during the pandemic. Our recommended read today is by James McAuley titled “France mandates masks to control the coronavirus. Burqas remain banned.” This, and more, below:


11 May 2020

France mandates masks to control the coronavirus. Burqas remain banned | Recommended Read

France, the originator of the burqa ban, has done more than any other Western nation over the past decade to resist face coverings in public. But as the country begins to emerge from its coronavirus lockdown Monday, masks are mandatory. People are required to wear masks in high schools and on public transportation — or risk being fined. Shopkeepers also have the right to ask customers to wear masks or to leave. Artificial-intelligence-integrated video cameras will be monitoring overall compliance on the Paris Metro. All this has been accepted with little commentary or controversy. A recent BFMTV poll found that 94 percent of people in France supported wearing masks. That France has reported more than 26,000 coronavirus deaths no doubt contributes to that acceptance. But many Muslims, religious freedom advocates and scholars see a great deal of irony in a society that has made such a virtue of uncovered faces suddenly requiring faces to be covered. “If you are Muslim and you hide your face for religious reasons, you are liable to a fine and a citizenship course where you will be taught what it is to be ‘a good citizen,’ ” said Fatima Khemilat, a fellow at the Political Science Institute of Aix-en-Provence. “But if you are a non-Muslim citizen in the pandemic, you are encouraged and forced as a ‘good citizen’ to adopt ‘barrier gestures’ to protect the national community.” “We see this asymmetrical reading of the same behavior — covering the face, depending on the context and the person who performs it — as arbitrary at best, discriminatory at worst,” she said. read the complete article

Recommended Read


11 May 2020

'Made by Jains, No Muslim Staff': Chennai Bakery Draws Flak for Islamophobic Ad

A popular bakery in Chennai has courted controversy after posting an advertisement that said that they hire only Jain workers and that no Muslim staff had been hired. The Times of India reports that the message came through WhatsApp and the poster used by the bakery, named Jain Bakeries and Confectioneries, had "No Muslim Staff" written on it in bold. Ever since this went viral on social media, the bakery has drawn a lot of flak for stigmatizing a particular community. Later, it was reported that the owner of the bakery located in T Nagar in Chennai was arrested and had been booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including "provocation to cause a riot." read the complete article

11 May 2020

Narendra Modi’s soft-power diplomatic efforts abroad are being undone by hardline politics at home

Even as India tries to work out how to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown, it needs to shore up its international ties. This is necessary both to rebuild the country’s shattered economy and to participate in global health initiatives. In doing so, however, India must also deal with widespread international criticism of its domestic politics, including condemnation from its allies in the Gulf region and a scathing report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom about the country’s treatment of minorities These negative reactions matter because they directly affect India’s soft power. Modi has also gone to great lengths to court foreign governments through soft power. For example, he has built up India’s Look East Policy by emphasising India’s historical links with Buddhism. Another platform for projecting India’s soft power has been the adoption of an International Yoga Day by the United Nations. In addition, India has attempted to leverage Mohandas Gandhi’s worldwide image as an apostle of peace through carefully curated public relations gestures, such as op-eds, speeches, and foreign dignitary photo-ops. The Indian government’s brutal response to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act has been met by shock in the international community. Several entities, including the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Countries, European countries, and prominent news outlets, have expressed concern about rising intolerance in India. While US President Trump has not criticised the BJP government; many others in the United States government have, including prominent members of Congress and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. The government’s fierce attacks on largely peaceful protestors and the virulence of anti-Muslim rhetoric from party leaders have cast a harsh light on the country’s teetering democratic culture and institutions. This isn’t just a public relations problem: it also has a significant economic impact. A global economic platform was the mainstay of Narendra Modi’s initial campaign promises, and his government has been aggressively courting foreign partners to bring direct investment into India. read the complete article

11 May 2020

Hindutva’s extremist Twitterati now target Modi for Muslim appeasement

The disdain within its own ecosystem for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to reject sectarianism in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that the Hindutva project appears to have outgrown control by individuals or institutions within its fold. Among the instant responses to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Ramzan Mubarak!” on April 24 evening on Twitter was from a handle he follows. “Modiji, we pay the taxes, donate to PM Cares (Fund), follow the lockdown rules, but your government pampers those who don’t follow rules, get treated at government expense, beat up doctors and then take compensation... How long will this continue?” the tweet read. In 30 minutes, the PM’s post was retweeted 5,000 times, and the critical response 1,000 times. The same trend has roughly continued for days — for every five retweets of Mr. Modi’s post, the rebuff got one, though the PM outranks the latter in following by 1:2,000. The PM’s message that outraged so many people had said: “I pray for everyone’s safety, well-being and prosperity. May this Holy Month bring with it abundance of kindness, harmony and compassion. May we achieve a decisive victory in the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and create a healthier planet.” read the complete article

10 May 2020

What a Friday Iftar looks like at a Delhi Rohingya refugee camp during lockdown

At the Rohingya refugee camp near Okhla in the national capital, the situation feels even more bleak as people say the lockdown has limited access to essentials required during Ramzan. Since they can’t always go to shops to buy fruits, dates and Rooh Afza — the typical Iftar meal eaten to break the day’s fast — people depend on carts that come to the camp. However, these are usually more expensive than local markets, making them unaffordable for the refugees. The small mosque built within the camp has been shut to prevent transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. Instead, people now offer namaz at home. ThePrint, which was at the camp during an Iftar, brings you snapshots from the lives of the refugees. read the complete article

11 May 2020

Compulsory phone app raises fears of India's flight towards 'super surveillance state'

The coronavirus pandemic will change many aspects to the way in which India is run, with analysts predicting both an increase in state power and the isolation of Muslims. In early April, the Indian government launched a contact tracing app that processes users’ travel history, symptoms and location data to calculate their risk of contracting the coronavirus. Called Aarogya Setu, which means "bridge to health", the app has been downloaded by more than 90 million Indians who have uploaded their personal health information and granted authorities access to their locations. Not having the app is a punishable offence and people have already been fined 1,000 Indian rupees (12 euros). But lawyers and free speech activists argue the app does not have adequate data protections and is open to exploitation by the government, which could use it to trace people's movements. In a tweet, the French “ethical hacker” Robert Baptiste, who goes by the pseudonym Elliot Alderson, warned the app is unsafe – revealing he was able to break through its security to learn that several people in the prime minister’s office and the army headquarters had fallen ill. “The biggest casualty of this concentration of power is human rights," said SY Quraishi, a former chief election commissioner. "Overnight citizens are converted into 'subjects' and are compelled to surrender their rights in the name of larger public good.” Under normal circumstances, such policy measures would have been subjected to scrutiny by the legislature and judiciary, but the coronavirus outbreak has overridden the usual checks and balances. read the complete article

11 May 2020

At 'Government Request', Twitter Blocks Tweet by BJP MP Tejasvi Surya

Tejasvi Surya may be a rising star in the ruling BJP – a party not known to have a problem with anti-Muslim dog whistling – but his pre-parliamentary bigotry appears to have caused the establishment so much diplomatic grief that the Indian government last month asked Twitter to effectively take down one of his tweets from 2015 that linked Islam with terrorists. “In short: true, terror has no religion,” Surya’s tweet said. “But the terrorist definitely has a religion, and in most cases it’s Islam”. Twitter’s recent filings with a third-party database that publishes content removal requests shows that Surya’s message was one of over a hundred tweets recently ‘withheld’ from viewing in India after the social media company received what it recorded as a legal takedown request from the Indian government. Most, but not all, of the now-withheld content has communal overtones or the potential to cause friction between religious groups. Some of the content withheld by Twitter was put out by ‘right-wing’ accounts that have a large number of followers. Surya, BJP MP for South Bengaluru, is followed by over half-a-million people. A favourite of Narendra Modi, he was “handpicked by the national BJP leadership” for the prestigious Bangalore seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election after publicly championing the need for the BJP to “really become a Hindu party”. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

11 May 2020

Sri Lanka: Muslims face extra threat as coronavirus stirs hate

The grief-stricken family of Zubair Fathima Rinosa in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo is demanding justice and explanation after the 44-year-old deceased Muslim woman turned out to have been COVID-19 negative two days after her body was cremated. Mohammed Sajid, one of Rinosa's four sons, said his mother was cremated on May 5 as part of Sri Lanka's controversial policy of mandatory cremation of all coronavirus victims in violation of traditional Islamic funeral practice. He says his brother signed a consent form for cremation under duress from authorities. Three of the nine who have died from the disease are Muslims. All of them were cremated, which goes against the Islamic tradition of burying the dead. read the complete article


11 May 2020

Rohingya refugees arrive at 'de facto detention island' in Bangladesh

Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims, including children, have arrived at “a de facto detention island” in Bangladesh after being stranded at sea for weeks. Rights groups had warned that the refugees, who had been turned away from other countries in the region, were at risk of starvation and abuse by people traffickers. It is believed that other boats remain adrift. Bangladesh confirmed on Thursday that a boat carrying 280 people was being towed to Bhasan Char, an uninhabited silt island off the southern coast. The country’s foreign minister, Abdul Momen, had earlier said that refugees rescued at sea would be sent to the island to prevent any risk of spreading the coronavirus to the sprawling camps in Cox’s Bazar, where a million Rohingya live in cramped conditions. Human rights groups say the island, which can be reached only by a three-hour boat journey, has no access to basic services and is vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surges. Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said there was no need to send refugees to the island to be quarantined because the UN’s refugee agency and other bodies had facilities set up for this purpose in Cox’s Bazar. Instead, families should be reunited with missing relatives as quickly as possible. read the complete article

United States

11 May 2020

Scottsdale Community College apologizes after 'inappropriate' questions about Islam surface on quiz

Questions implying that terrorism is encouraged under the Islamic faith elicited a public apology from Scottsdale Community College after they appeared on a class quiz. The college issued a statement last week after a student raised concerns and a social media post drew widespread attention. Imraan Siddiqi, the executive director for the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the quiz was given in a political science class and the student who raised concerns is Muslim. Haines said the school's administration had addressed the incident with the instructor and that the instructor would apologize to the student. The questions would be removed from future tests and the student would receive full credit for the questions, Haines wrote. Siddiqi said the questions had been shared through a viral Instagram post by several influencers and members of the Muslim community. Among the questions: "Where is terrorism encouraged in Islamic doctrine and law?" and "Who do Islamic terrorists strive to emulate?" The quiz specified the correct answer for the latter question as the Prophet Muhammed, chief prophet and central figure of the Islamic religion. Siddiqi said the incident was concerning because it was unclear how many students had taken the same quiz and been taught the material. read the complete article

11 May 2020

For Flynn, Dropped Charges Are the Latest in a Life Full of Reversals

Mr. Flynn was a lifelong Democrat who served President Barack Obama as a top intelligence officer. He also called Mr. Obama a “liar” after being forced out of the job and reinvented himself as a Republican foreign policy adviser. Mr. Flynn criticized retired generals who used their stars “for themselves, for their businesses.” He appeared to do the same thing as a consultant. But the two sides of Mr. Flynn were perhaps never so stark as in the criminal case against him that ended abruptly on Thursday to the astonishment of much of official Washington. the Justice Department abandoned his prosecution, saying he never should have been charged. Current and former federal law enforcement officials expressed disbelief and dismay, calling the move an unprecedented blow to the Justice Department’s integrity and independence. As a civilian, he founded a consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, that attracted high-paying clients. In a decision that appalled some friends, he agreed to give a speech in 2015 to RT, Russia’s state-controlled television network, for about $45,000. He was seated at the head table next to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The next year, he pulled in at least $1.8 million from private intelligence and security services, consulting and speeches. About $530,000 came for work to discredit an enemy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Mr. Flynn did not register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, as required under lobbying disclosure laws, until the following spring when he was under federal scrutiny. His pragmatic approach of old gave way in private conversations with reporters and students to almost hostile views to Islam. In his book, he called for the destruction of the Iranian government. Publicly, he sneered at Mr. Obama for avoiding the term “radical Islam”and implied that Mr. Obama was a secret Muslim. “I’m not going to sit here and say he’s Islamic,” he told one of the country’s largest anti-Muslim groups, ACT for America, in 2016. But, he said, the president “didn’t grow up as an American kid,” and held values “totally different than mine.” Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, called Mr. Flynn “right-wing nutty.” But his views resonated with Mr. Trump. Their initial mid-2015 meeting, scheduled for a half-hour, lasted 90 minutes and prompted Mr. Flynn to begin advising the campaign. He enthralled conservatives at the Republican National Convention in July 2016 when he led a chorus of “Lock her up!” chants against Hillary Clinton. read the complete article


11 May 2020

Sister Fights to Free Uighur Businessman Held in China After U.S. Trip

When Ekpar Asat saw his older sister for the last time one winter night in Manhattan, he promised her he would return to the United States in a few months with their parents to watch her graduate with a master’s degree from Harvard Law School — the first ethnic Uighur to do so. But three weeks after returning to China from that trip in 2016, when he was attending a prestigious State Department leadership training program, he disappeared into the shadows of a vast detention system in the country’s northwest. This winter, his sister, Rayhan Asat, heard that he had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred. “It’s so upsetting,” she said. “After he came to the U.S., he had an elevated profile, and then he was labeled an enemy of the state.” Ms. Asat, a lawyer and permanent American resident in Washington, described her 34-year-old brother as a model citizen — an entrepreneur who founded a social media app for Uighurs and took part in state-organized events. Their parents are members of the Communist Party. The mother retired as a chemistry professor and the father as a civil servant in water resources administration. But Ms. Asat said the State Department project, the International Visitor Leadership Program, which for 80 years has trained many prominent foreign citizens, appears to have tainted her brother in the eyes of Chinese security officers. read the complete article

11 May 2020

On Mother’s Day, young Uighurs ask: Where are our moms?

On Mother’s Day, she and a group of Uighur diaspora youth living in the U.S., Turkey, Germany and Norway are asking China to answer one question: Where are our mothers? Her mother, Rahile Dawut, is a prominent professor and scholar of the Uighur minority, the ethnically Turkic and mostly Muslim population to which her family belongs. Concentrated in China’s northwest Xinjiang region, more than one million Uighurs have been detained in its vast network of camps that have evoked condemnation from U.S. and international officials. Pulat and other Uighurs suspect their parents have disappeared into this system. In a social media video they plan to publish on Sunday (May 10), she and over half a dozen young Uighurs around the world will demand the release of their mothers. “Today, we are remembering our mothers currently being held in China’s concentration camps, whom we aren’t able to say ‘Happy Mother’s Day,’” the video says. "Today is supposed to be a day of celebration but for us, it’s another day filled with pain and desperation.” For Ziba Murat, 34, this is the second Mother’s Day with no news of her mother’s whereabouts. “What happened to her?” Murat, who also appears in the video and helped coordinate it, asked during an interview with Religion News Service. “Where is she? What is her condition? It’s been 20 months, and we’ve heard nothing from her or about her. Honestly, I’m desperate and I need to know how she is, or if she’s even alive.” Her mother, Gulshan Abbas, is a retired doctor who has not been heard from since September 11, 2018. Abbas’ sister, prominent Uighur activist and Campaign for Uyghurs Executive Director Rushan Abbas, suspects the disappearance was a punishment for her speaking out against the camps; Gulshan Abbas disappeared six days after the activist denounced the camps at a major conference in Washington, D.C. read the complete article


11 May 2020

Xenophobia, hate speech surge globally amid COVID-19 pandemic

As the world struggles to cope with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of xenophobia threatens many vulnerable communities around the world, with the United Nations warning of “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering.” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Friday called for “an all-out effort to end hate speech globally." The U.N. chief said “anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.” Guterres said migrants and refugees “have been vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment.” “With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable,” he said. “And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.” Guterres called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people and on educational institutions to focus on “digital literacy” at a time when “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.” He called on the media, especially social media, to “remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content,” on civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people, and on religious figures to serve as “models of mutual respect.” “And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Guterres said. read the complete article

11 May 2020

UN chief: Coronavirus has unleashed a 'tsunami" of hate, "xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering"'

Last month, an annual report by the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University said the coronavirus pandemic is fueling anti-Semitic “manifestations relating to the spread of the disease.” “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” the Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide 2019 said. The report said those spreading such conspiracy theories range from far-right politicians and ultraconservative pastors in Europe and the United States, as well as far-right activists, artists and leaders in Iran. There’s also been a surge in reports of Asian Americans being attacked, harassed and blamed for the spread of the virus in the U.S. and around the world since the outbreak began, according to the Anti-Defamation League. And in India, Muslims have been violently attacked and scapegoated as well, according to The Washington Post. Guterres called on political leaders to show solidarity with all members of their societies and on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.” read the complete article


11 May 2020

Islamophobia heard loud and clear in Canada's adhan controversy

When the idea was initially floated during Ramadan that the Adhan, or Muslim call to prayer, would be publicly broadcast in non-Muslim majority areas, my Islamophobia radar went into high alert, thinking of the backlash - and it came swiftly. I had calculated that the negatives would far outweigh the positives, especially when there is so much anti-Muslim hate already. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw all the support from the general public in Western cities. So many non-Muslims signed petitions supporting the initiatives. One of the earliest mosques in Toronto, the Islamic Center of Toronto (commonly known as Jami Mosque), even held its first public adhan and offered break-fast food to the neighbours. What really got my attention, though, had nothing to do with wanting to hear the adhan over loudspeakers. It had everything to do with confronting hate and Islamophobia. Most people have been supportive of this accommodation, which will make it easier for their Muslim neighbours to get through Ramadan and lockdown. But a tiny few from three separate quarters have resorted to projecting their own hatred through social media loudspeakers as well. Hindutva supporters and a few Coptic Christian activists have imported old-world hatreds to attack this symbolic gesture of acceptance and diversity. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 11 May 2020 Edition


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