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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12 May 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In India, the case against the hijab in Karnataka has reached the country’s Supreme Court, and the verdict (which is expected soon) “may redefine what secularism means in the world’s largest democracy,” meanwhile in the United Kingdom, the “charities regulator is being urged to investigate the Policy Exchange think tank for alleged racism and Islamophobia, over a report in which it accused Muslim critics of the government’s Prevent strategy of ‘enabling terrorism,'” and in Canada, five days of events starting June 3 have been organized to honour the four members of the Afzaal family who were killed last year after a man rammed his truck into them at an intersection. Our recommended read of the day is by Brooke Anderson for The New Arab on how American Muslim groups are expressing concern over Elon Musk’s statement expressing his desire to reverse Trump’s twitter ban, with rights activists noting that there’s a correlation between Trump’s statements and anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. This and more below:

United States

12 May 2022

Rights groups warn of 'real danger' to Muslims, marginalised if Trump returns to Twitter | Recommended Read

As many have expected since billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk was approved to buy Twitter last month, he has finally indicated that he will approve of the return of banned former president Donald Trump. This could leave Muslims and other marginalised groups vulnerable to the effects of Trump's tweets. What is clear is that marginalised groups, including Muslims, have been adversely affected by biased posts on Twitter from Trump and indirectly from his followers and similar users. Shortly after Musk began discussing his potential deal, Muslim Advocates issued a press release expressing their concern about what it would mean for vulnerable groups. In a statement, Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy counsel at Muslim Advocates, said, "Elon Musk has publicly paraded his desire for less accountability on the platform under the guise of free speech. Twitter already has a serious problem of failing to enforce its policies, which creates real danger for Muslims and other marginalized groups." An example of the former president's overtly anti-Muslim tweets reads: "Radical Islamic Terrorism must be stopped by whatever means necessary," Trump had tweeted on 18 August, 2017. Aside from his tweets, one of his best known statements was his repeated false claim, both spoken and on Twitter, that he watched Muslims cheer the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001. Throughout his presidency, Trump's anti-Muslim tweets have been widely reported and questioned. Numerous studies have shown a clear correlation between Trump's time in the political spotlight, including his presidential campaign, and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. read the complete article

12 May 2022

What happened in Guantánamo: a former prisoner and interrogator speak 17 years on

When he was a torturer in Guantánamo Bay, the man who called himself “Mr X” wore a balaclava and mirrored sunglasses; the person he was torturing was not supposed to see his face. Now, 17 years later, in October 2020, Mr X is standing at a potter’s wheel in his garage in Somewhere, United States. He is bald with a greying beard and tattoos on the back of his neck. We told Mr X that the man he maltreated would like to talk to him. He replied that on the one hand he has been longing for such a conversation for 17 years—on the other hand he has been dreading it for 17 years. The man who would like to talk to him is Mohamedou Ould Slahi. In the summer of 2003, he was considered the most important prisoner in Guantánamo. . Back then, Mr X was in his mid-thirties and an -interrogator in the US army. He was part of the so-called Special Projects Team, whose task was to break Slahi. The detainee had so far remained stubbornly silent, but the intelligence services were convinced that he possessed important information that could possibly prevent the next major attack or lead to Osama bin Laden. Mr X always tortured at night. Each night Slahi’s silence lasted, he tried out a new cruelty. He says torture is ultimately a creative process. Then he shakes his head. Pauses. Runs his hand through his beard. Fights back tears. He says, “man, I can’t believe this myself.” There was a moment that Mr X says poisoned his soul. One night, he went into the interrogation room where Slahi, small and emaciated, was sitting in his orange jumpsuit on a chair, chained to an eyelet in the floor. Mr X, tall and muscular, had thought of something new again: he pretended to go berserk. He screamed wildly, hurled chairs across the room, slammed his fist against the wall and threw papers in Slahi’s face. Slahi was shaking all over. Mr X says the reason he never forgot that moment was not that he saw fear in Slahi’s eyes, but that he, Mr X, enjoyed seeing that fear. Seeing the trembling Slahi, he says, felt like an orgasm. Slahi has been free for nearly six years. But, like Mr X, he cannot shake off his time in Guantánamo. Today he lives in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, on the edge of the desert where the US had him kidnapped a few weeks after September 11th, 2001. Nowadays, he is a celebrity. He is approached on the street; he speaks at universities and on podiums around the world to denounce US human rights abuses. When he closes his eyes at night, sometimes the masked man comes again, too. When one of us first visited him in 2017, Slahi expressed a wish to find his torturers. At the time, he had already written a book about his time in Cuba called Guantánamo Diary. In the last sentence, he had invited the people who had tortured him to have tea: “my house is open.” At that first meeting and again now, he says that during his torture he felt one thing above all: hate. Again and again, he imagined the cruel way in which he would kill Mr X, his family and everyone who meant something to him. But then, in the solitude of his cell, while thinking, praying and writing, he realised that revenge was not the answer. So he decided to try something else: -forgiveness. read the complete article

12 May 2022

Republicans Slam New White House Press Secretary as 'anti-Israel' Over Support for AIPAC Boycott

Republican and pro-Israel figures have sharply criticized incoming White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, describing her as “anti-Israel” over her previous criticisms of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Jean-Pierre, who will become the first Black woman and LGBTQ person to hold the post when she replaces Jen Psaki at the end of the week, has spent her career in Democratic politics, working for various campaigns and organizations. While working as national spokesperson and senior adviser for the progressive MoveOn public advocacy group, she encouraged Democratic Party presidential candidates to boycott AIPAC's annual policy conference in 2019. In a Newsweek op-ed, Jean-Pierre slammed the pro-Israel group, saying that it has “often been the antithesis of what it means to be progressive.” She criticized AIPAC for spending tens of millions of dollars trying to defeat the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, adding that the Trump administration had “found in AIPAC a strong partner.” “AIPAC supported the group that's credited with inspiring President Trump to enact the Muslim Ban and has been known to spread anti-Muslim racism,” she wrote. She also accused AIPAC of “racist, Islamophobic rhetoric” while “trafficking in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while lifting up Islamophobic voices and attitudes.” read the complete article


12 May 2022

In Afghanistan, the War on Terror Continues

Saleem, like many, is no Taliban supporter. Since the insurgents’ return to power and the U.S. withdrawal, however, he tries to see the glass as half full. According to him, at least some positive aspects about the change in government are undeniable. “This area was one of the most dangerous places during the last 20 years. Skirmishes were taking place every day, but now we can pass safely,” he said about Baghlan’s notorious Cheshm-e Sher area, where clashes between Taliban fighters and the Afghan National Army (ANA) took place regularly before the military apparatus fell apart. Yet Baghlan is still far from being secure. Most streets are littered with Taliban checkpoints, and it’s undeniable that the country’s new leaders rule through fear and intimidation. Violence has definitely decreased, but has not disappeared. Much of the world has already forgotten Afghanistan since last summer; interest in the country dwindled with the departure of the final American troops, while other hot spots, like Ukraine, assumed the global limelight. Here, though, life grinds on. To the Taliban and its supporters, the country is finally at peace. To others, it seems that the country is merely reaching yet another phase of a four-decade-long conflict, which, as some observers predicted years ago, would entail the Taliban fighting groups even more extreme than themselves. Aside from Islamic State killers, in mid-April Pakistani aircraft attacked civilians in the bordering provinces of Kunar and Khost, killing at least 45 people. As if that weren’t enough, a steadily increasing number of witnesses claim the continuing presence of American drones hovering in the Afghan sky. So far, no strikes have been reported. But things in Afghanistan, as the past four decades have demonstrated, can change quickly. Who knows what the future will bring. Meanwhile, ordinary Afghans are starving, thanks mainly to sanctions and a currency crisis. The country’s foreign currency reserves, worth billions of dollars, are still frozen. These sanctions exacerbate the suffering of millions of citizens—apparently for the sole purpose of undermining Taliban rule. It seems that for the Biden administration, the war against the Afghan people is far from being over. While bombs and rockets were used in the past, economic warfare is the present. read the complete article

12 May 2022

Sanctions against a Chinese surveillance firm would answer a real threat

The Financial Times reported last week that the U.S. Treasury Department might place Hikvision on its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list for human rights abuses, prohibiting U.S. companies and citizens from transacting with the state-controlled, publicly traded video-surveillance firm. These days, sanctions against Chinese entities come fast, but none so far have come quite this furious: The punishment of being on the SDN list would be the strictest yet imposed against any Chinese company of Hikvision’s size and stature, including Huawei. Depending on how sanctions are implemented, they could ricochet around the world by creating penalties for anyone, anywhere, who deals with Hikvision and has some connection to the U.S. legal system. These consequences are fitting; after all, Hikvision has helped extend China’s reach around the world. Many recent sanctions against Chinese firms focus on their complicity in the cultural genocide of the Uyghur Muslim minority — and Hikvision is about as complicit as it gets, with its cameras lining the walls of mosques and detention camps all over the Xinjiang region. Hikvision even marketed for a time an artificially intelligent camera that automatically identified Uyghurs, for the convenience of security forces. Yet the company is also key to President Xi Jinping’s efforts to remake other countries in the image of his own. read the complete article

12 May 2022

Uyghurs Have No Faith in Michelle Bachelet’s UN Visit to China

It is past time for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to do her job, nearly five years into an ongoing genocide. In 2017, the world learned about the Chinese government’s concentration camps for Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples. Chinese officials labeled millions of people as a threat to the state, separated them from their families, and disappeared them behind barbed wire fences for the crime of being a Uyghur in their homeland. In the camps, they endured brutal torture, indoctrination, and sterilization. Civil society acted. Journalists, academics, and human rights researchers uncovered abuses ranging from the destruction of 16,000 mosques in East Turkestan, to mass imprisonment of intellectuals, imams, and ordinary people. Leaked government documents confirmed these deliberate state crimes. A Uyghur Tribunal comprised of independent experts found in December 2021 that the Chinese government is committing a genocide. Uyghurs overseas, searching for disappeared loved ones, organized and called on legislators to punish these crimes. Representatives responded with sanctions on entities benefiting from the forced labor of Uyghurs, visa bans and asset freezes on culpable Chinese officials, and laws to support and protect Uyghurs. Nine legislative bodies, including the U.S. Congress, have recognized the Chinese government’s crimes against Uyghurs as genocide. But the United Nations is missing in action. For three and a half years, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet used oral updates to the Human Rights Council to briefly raise concerns about abuses against Uyghurs, and persistently called on China to allow access for her office to investigate. The request was ignored, unsurprisingly. The net result has been essentially a free pass for China at the Human Rights Council. read the complete article


12 May 2022

Muslim family killed in London, Ont., attack to be honoured with 5 days of events for 1-year mark

Nearly a year since four members of the Afzaal family were killed in a vehicle attack in London, Ont., five days of events starting June 3 have been organized to honour them and bring attention to the issue of Islamophobia. The City of London and a number of organizations, including the London Muslim Mosque, Youth Coalition Combatting Islamophobia and the Muslim Wellness Network are hosting the events June 3-8. "Lives were lost as a result of Islamophobia" said Selma Tobah with the youth coalition. "It's really necessary for the city to commemorate what happened and to really have an understanding as to how it is that we got to that point." On June 6, 2021, the Afzaal family was struck by a truck on Hyde Park Road in what the police described as a crime motivated by anti-Muslim hate. Talat Afzaal, Salman Afzaal, Yumna Afzaal and Madiha Salman died, while a young boy survived. The event shocked the nation and shined a light on the effects of unchecked Islamophobia. "The events really, I think, have a number of goals," Tobah added. "I think not only remembering the Afzaal family, remembering what happened on June 6 of last year but also really having, I guess, a public conversation about the nature of Islamophobia in London." read the complete article

United Kingdom

12 May 2022

UK's charity regulator urged to investigate Policy Exchange over 'anti-Muslim agenda'

The UK’s charities regulator is being urged to investigate the Policy Exchange think tank for alleged racism and Islamophobia, over a report in which it accused Muslim critics of the government’s Prevent strategy of “enabling terrorism”. In a letter to the Charity Commission, the authors of a critical review of the UK government’s controversial counterterrorism strategy called on the government to review the think tank's charitable status, accusing it of “promoting vilification and even hatred” towards Muslim communities. “As a charity, Policy Exchange must remain non-partisan and be detached from government. Yet it would appear Policy Exchange is neither, acting primarily as a vehicle for political propaganda and anti-Muslim narratives,” said Layla Aitlhadj, a director at Prevent Watch, which supports people affected by Prevent. Aitlhadj is a co-author with John Holmwood, emeritus professor in sociology at the University of Nottingham, of the People’s Review of Prevent, a report published in February which concluded that the strategy was discriminatory against Muslims. In their letter to the Charity Commission, Aitlhadj and Holmwood complained that the Policy Exchange report had singled out Muslim critics of Prevent but not mentioned others who contributed to the People’s Review, such as Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism. “It’s bad enough that a charity promotes the view that some areas of government policy are above public scrutiny. But to single out and demonise Muslims by suggesting their legitimate criticisms of Prevent are not shared by others, and then accuse them of ‘enabling terrorism’, as David Cameron has, is a serious assault on our democracy, and could potentially also encourage hate crimes against such individuals,” said Holmwood. read the complete article


12 May 2022

India's Supreme Court will soon rule on Muslim headscarves in public schools

In recent years, voters have elected a Hindu nationalist government. It's been whittling away at the secularism written into India's constitution. From southern India, NPR's Lauren Frayer reports on what this means for India's biggest minority, Muslims, and the surprising role that some teenage girls are playing. FRAYER: Ayesha wants to be an accountant when she grows up. But her dreams are on hold because of something that happened at school this year. Back in February, all the parents of Muslim students were called into a meeting and told their daughters could no longer wear headscarves in class. MALLIKA: We shocked because they never said to us, do not wear the hijab. FRAYER: Ayesha's aunt Mallika, who goes by one name, says the principal told them it was part of a new dress code imposed after lots of Muslim girls returned to in-person classes after COVID in headscarves which they hadn't worn before. Ayesha has actually worn a hijab for years. She's from a religious family. FRAYER: "I want to wear my hijab and get an education," she says. "I don't want to have to choose." So she went to school the next day as usual, in her navy blue headscarf. Several other girls did the same, and someone recorded video of what happened next. FRAYER: The girls stood at the gate of their school, pleading to be let in. Their principal refused. Video of the commotion went viral, igniting protests across India. Authorities had to shut schools to prevent violence. And Ayesha's whole state, which is governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalists, decided to ban headscarves and any religious garb in all public school classrooms. So Ayesha hasn't been to school since February. read the complete article


12 May 2022

Bangladesh Police Beating Rohingya Refugees

On May 7, a 62-year-old Rohingya refugee was returning to her shelter in Kutupalong camp after collecting food rations when she was stopped at a checkpoint with other Rohingya by officers from Bangladesh’s Armed Police Battalion, or APBn, who refused to let them through. “The police officers suddenly became angry and started beating us with bamboo sticks.” She remembers falling. “Some people were hurt. I injured my waist. I was finally able to flee but lost my rations and ID.” Human Rights Watch spoke with five Rohingya refugees who described being beaten by APBn officers and other officials at camp checkpoints over the past few days. In two camps, Bangladesh authorities have introduced a draconian permission application for movement within the camp areas, which some refugees compared to the oppressive conditions they faced back in Myanmar. The authorities are reportedly planning to institute the policy across all camps. The crackdown follows the temporary detention of 656 Rohingya on May 4 and 5 for celebrating the Eid ul-Fitr holiday outside the camp confines, as well as months of worsening restrictions on Rohingya’s freedom to move, work, and study. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 12 May 2022 Edition


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