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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Germany, police in the city of Dresden arrested a man for potential arson of a mosque, with the suspect allegedly spilling petrol in front of the mosque in an attempt to set the building ablaze, meanwhile, a Muslim charity organization in Canada is filing a legal challenge against the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to halt the targeted auditing of Muslim businesses and charities, a practice that has led to a decades long decline in giving and participation, and lastly, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Muhammad Ahmed Rabbani is being dubbed a creator of unique artworks with works inspired by his time in captivity on display at the Indus Valley School gallery in Karachi. Our recommended read of the day is a video produced by Refinery29 on France’s systematic banning of Muslim women’s dress such as the hijab, niqab, and burkini with a number of laws dictating when and where women can wear these items. This and more below:


Forbidden Fashion in Paris | States of Undress | Recommended Read

Hailey travels to France to explore the recent rise in Islamophobia and how it's affecting the way Muslim women dress. Over the past decade, France has been systematically banning all forms of Muslim clothing for women. Whether it's the hijab, the niqab, the burqa, or the burkini, there are various laws dictating when and where women can wear these items. While there is no shortage of debate of how Muslims should dress, the media frenzy has drowned out the voices of the women who are actually being affected by these bans. I'm in France to talk to these women to get a better understanding about why clothing has sparked such controversy in a country that prides itself on freedom. On March 15, 2004, the French national assembly voted to ban the wearing of overt symbols of religion in all public schools and government buildings. This included the hijab. When the 2004 hijab ban passed, France had an estimated population of 5 million Muslims and was dealing with the rippling effects of Islamophobia post-9/11. Lawmakers were able to pass the ban by claiming that ostentatious signs of religion go against the secular rules of the government. This idea of secularism translated in French as laïcité is the belief that religion should be kept out of the government. It's a term that keeps coming up here. "We want to do things but we can't because they prohibit the headscarf, so do we have to take our headscarf off to become a doctor? A lot of girls stopped going to school, some stopped working, because they want to practice their religion. And that's why at 16, 17, a lot of us start thinking about leaving France to live in England, even in North Africa or other countries, where we will be able to practice our religion peacefully. But it breaks our heart. Like I said, I love France." read the complete article


German police arrest man for trying to set fire to mosque

Police in the southeastern German city of Dresden arrested a man late Tuesday for potential arson of a mosque. The suspect allegedly spilled petrol in front of a mosque and tried to set the building on fire, a police spokesman said. The man, 34, was arrested and is under police investigation for attempted aggravated arson. His motive was initially unclear. The same suspect is said to have set fire to a Quran in a mosque in April. read the complete article

Muslim and immigrant students targeted by racists in Berlin

In a school in Berlin, a class with students from mostly Muslim and immigrant backgrounds has become the target of a racist attack. German police announced that students were subjected to racist insults by a group of young people celebrating birthdays in the Frauensee holiday resort in Brandenburg state, where the students were camping. 28 people who were involved in the attack have been identified, and an investigation has been launched against them, police said. Students interrupted their camp due to the racist danger and returned to their homes earlier than planned. It is stated that the police were called because the attackers tried to enter the camp during the night and threatened students by banging on doors and windows. As a result, the students returned to their homes under police supervision. Berlin Education Senator Katharina Günther-Wunsch condemned the racist attack in a statement. "I will not and should not tolerate such attacks. The first thing to do now is to help students in the best way possible," she said. read the complete article


Volkswagen defends China record at turbulent shareholder meeting

Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) defended its record in China and its decision to jointly own a plant in the Xinjiang region after activists and investors lashed out at the carmaker at a volatile annual general shareholder meeting on Wednesday. About ten activists, including one topless woman with 'Dirty Money' painted on her back, interrupted executives' speeches, shouting that the carmaker's vehicles were built with forced labour and waving banners that read: 'End Uyghur Forced Labour'. The United Nations said last year that China's "arbitrary and discriminatory detention" of Uyghurs and other Muslims in its Xinjiang region may constitute crimes against humanity. Rights groups have documented abuses including mass forced labour in detention camps which China has denied. Investors called on Volkswagen to request its joint venture partner SAIC seeks an independent external audit of the Xinjiang plant. "Volkswagen must be certain that its supply chains are clean," said Ingo Speich, head of sustainability and corporate governance at Deka, a top-20 Volkswagen shareholder. read the complete article

Painting 20 years of pain and injustice

Muhammad Ahmed Rabbani, a frail Pakistani man in his fifties, is being dubbed as a creator of fascinating but harrowing art using masterful strokes. Lovingly referred to as Badr by his family and friends, he was categorised as prisoner no. 1461 to authorities at the United States of America’s Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Since September 2002, Ahmed, along with his elder brother Abdul Rahim Rabbani, was detained in different clandestine facilities operated by the US government including Guantanamo also known as Gitmo — one of the world’s most notorious prisons — in a case of mistaken identity with all his human rights stripped away. For 545 days, the two brothers also endured imprisonment and torture in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) black sites in Afghanistan — dark prison and Bagram jail. After years of waiting in internment and being cleared for release by six US government agencies in October 2021, the Rabbani brothers finally returned to their homeland on February 24, 2023. Their homecoming made headlines both across national and international media. But what made Ahmed’s return extraordinary was his journey from being wrongfully accused as a terrorist to being an artist who painted his pain and anguish on a canvas, as his artworks — made during the period of incarceration at Guantanamo — are on display at the Indus Valley School’s art gallery in Karachi. Ahmed is unlike anything he was labelled to be. His soft-spoken but calm demeanour leaves one wondering about the extent of resilience and patience he has exhibited throughout captivity. On the third day of the exhibition titled ‘The Unforgettable Moon’, Ahmed arrived at the gallery to share his story with the media. read the complete article


Montreal police seek man who allegedly assaulted three Muslim women

The Montreal police hate-crimes squad is asking for the public’s help in identifying a man who allegedly assaulted three Muslim women near the Berri-UQAM métro in March. Three women from Montreal’s Muslim community were leaving a business when they were accosted by a man. He allegedly insulted them and assaulted them, including slapping them in the face. Passersby intervened and the man left the scene on foot and was seen entering the Berri-UQAM metro station, two blocks away, police said. Police described the man as being Black, aged between 30 and 40. He is about 1.85 metres tall (6 feet 1 inch) and weighs about 90 kilograms (200 pounds). read the complete article

How one Muslim charity is fighting back against Canada’s targeted audits

After Muslim charities faced two decades of systemic targeting at the hands of the Canadian Revenue Agency (Cra), including audits and being shut down, one charity has launched a legal defence that has caught the attention of the entire country. The Muslim Association of Canada (Mac), one of the largest Muslim organisations in the country that boasts more than a dozen chapters, filed a legal challenge against Cra in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in April 2022. The legal fight, in which Mac is calling for a Cra audit to be halted, is the culmination of years of the Muslim community being subject to unwarranted targeting and discrimination without Mac having the ability or know-how to defend themselves, said Nabil Sultan, Mac's director of communications and community engagement. What had led to a chilling effect in the community has now become a story of resilience for Canada's Muslim community. For years, Cra's targeting of Muslim charities led to fear amongst Canada's Muslims, prompting a drop in support and donations to these Muslim organisations, experts and practitioners in the charity sector previously told MEE. However, Mac's recently launched legal challenge has now received the support of the Muslim community as well as other civil society groups from outside the faith group. read the complete article


The Kerala Story: Why an Indian film on Islamic State is so controversial

The Kerala Story - set in the southern state of Kerala - has been criticised by many opposition politicians, with some calling it propaganda and an attempt to destroy religious harmony. But it has received support from leaders of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who praised it at a recent political rally. Some party members have also hosted screenings and distributed free tickets. The film has got poor reviews from many mainstream critics who have lambasted its performances and "lack of nuance" - one wrote that the film's "thoughts about Islam and [religious] conversion seem to have been sourced from hate-filled WhatsApp groups". But its performance at the box office has been "extraordinary" for a film with a small budget and no big stars, analyst Taran Adarsh told the BBC. According to his estimates, it has earned more than 560m rupees ($6.8m, £5.4m) in five days, which he calls "a feat for any new release". The Kerala Story has drawn comparisons with The Kashmir Files, another sharply polarising movie that became one of last year's biggest hits from Bollywood. That film - on the exodus of Hindus from Kashmir in the 1990s - was again made on a small budget, had no big stars, and received praise from Mr Modi and other BJP leaders though it got middling reviews. The Kerala Story began sparking controversy months before its release. In November, some politicians from Kerala called for the film to be banned after its teaser claimed it told the "heart-breaking and gut-wrenching stories of 32,000 females" from the state who had joined the IS. This was debunked by fact-checking website Alt News in a detailed report that concluded that there was "no evidence" to back the number. read the complete article


Where Is the Global Outrage, and Action, Over China's Uyghur Genocide?

Ramadan was not a time of celebration for Uyghurs, but of unspeakable suffering. In our homeland of East Turkestan, they could not observe the holy month. They couldn't fast. They couldn't read the Quran. They couldn't even pray at home. Otherwise, they risked being sent to a Chinese concentration camp. Inside the concentration camps, I can tell you the words of a Uyghur woman who managed to survive. Gulbahar spent two years in the camps. Her family, which was already in France, campaigned for her release. Eventually, the French government put enough pressure on the Chinese government, which decided that they had to let her go. At that time, she weighed less than 110 pounds, and she had scars all over her ankles, because of the chains on her legs. So first, before they returned her passport, Chinese authorities put her in a special apartment. They kept her there for several weeks, so that she could recover from her injuries and the malnutrition she had endured. "We were beaten if we prayed," she told me. "We had to be careful not to put both hands to our mouths when we were eating, because the guards said: You are secretly praying. We could not close our eyes for even a few moments, when we were in the 'political indoctrination classes' for 11 hours every day. If we closed our eyes, the guards said we were praying, and punished us." Outside the camps, Uyghur mosques and pilgrimage sites have been bulldozed. According to research by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, at least 16,000 mosques in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in far western China are estimated to have been destroyed or desecrated by Chinese authorities since 2017—part of a campaign of cultural erasure. "An estimated 8,500 have been demolished outright, and, for the most part, the land on which those razed mosques once sat remains vacant," the report's authors wrote. The only mosques that have been spared have been turned into tourist sites, like in the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 11 May 2023 Edition


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