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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12 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, the BJP-led government is systematically oppressing, marginalizing and inciting hatred toward its 220-million Muslim minority, meanwhile in Austria, Muslim associations have criticized research conducted among Muslim students by the University of Vienna over alleged racism, and in the United Kingdom, Tahirah Ali, a Muslim hijabi powerlifter contacted the Welsh Powerlifting Association (WPA) to have a conversation about the required dress code for competing, who listened to her concerns and made accommodations in order for her to compete. Our recommended read of the day is by Ed Pilkington for the Guardian in an exclusive that features detailed illustrations made by Abu Zubaydah, the “forever prisoner” who has been imprisoned by US authorities for 21 years without charge. The sketches provide a visual record of the US government’s use of torture in the wake of 9/11. This and more below:

United States

‘The forever prisoner’: Abu Zubaydah’s drawings expose the US’s depraved torture policy | Recommended Read

Abu Zubaydah has created a series of 40 drawings that chronicle the torture he endured in a number of CIA dark sites between 2002 and 2006 and at Guantánamo Bay. He is known as a “forever prisoner”, because he has neither been charged with a crime nor offered any prospect of release. The drawings, which Zubaydah has annotated with his own words, depict gruesome acts of violence, sexual and religious humiliation, and prolonged psychological terror committed against him and other detainees. They were sketched from memory in his Guantánamo cell and sent to one of his lawyers, Prof Mark Denbeaux. Together with his students at the Center for Policy and Research at Seton Hall University law school, Denbeaux compiled Zubaydah’s images and words into a new report. The Guardian is posting the report, American Torturers: FBI and CIA Abuses at Dark Sites and Guantánamo, for the first time along with a set of never-before-seen sketches. “Abu Zubaydah is the poster child for America’s torture program,” Denbeaux said. “He was the first person to be tortured, having been approved by the Department of Justice based on facts that the CIA knew to be false. His drawings are the ultimate repudiation of the failure and abuses of torture.” read the complete article


Modi is enflaming hatred of Muslims in India, as the world looks the other way

India is preparing to host the Group of 20 summit this year, and it is devoting substantial effort to make the occasion a celebration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the leading political force in India since 2014, and it has left its mark on the country. The government has been systematically oppressing, marginalizing and inciting hatred toward its 220-million Muslim minority. This campaign has been slowly gathering momentum over the years and has reached new levels of intensity today. India is not a healthy democracy. In just the past four months, Mumbai and adjoining cities in the state of Maharashtra witnessed 50 anti-Muslim hate rallies attended by thousands of Hindus, often led and participated in by leaders of the BJP. I have attended four such rallies all across western India. I saw vast crowds, from young children to 80-year-olds marching in the streets, expressing Hindu akrosh (Hindu rage), calling for “termites” and “bearded traitors” — all terms for Muslims in Modi’s India — to be wiped from the face of the country. I saw young women dressed in saffron performing traditional folk dances, holding placards asking Muslims to chose between “Pakistan or Qabristan” (Pakistan or the graveyard). read the complete article

12 May 2023

Trouble at the temple: ban on Muslims a sign of India’s new intolerance

For 800 years, Bappanadu Sri Durgaparameshwari temple had stood as a symbol of India’s cohesive religious past. It is said that the Hindu temple, which sits on the bank of the Shambhavi River in India’s southern state of Karnataka, was built by a Muslim merchant, Bappa Beary, after a goddess came to him in a dream. The land to build the temple was donated by a local Jain ruler. Days before the annual 23-day festival was due to begin last April, Sawantha was approached by Bajrang Dal, a rightwing Hindu vigilante group that is active across the state, often targeting Muslims. It issued him a warning: no Muslims were to be allowed to set up stalls at the festival or take part in celebrations. Bappanadu was not the only temple identified. Bajrang Dal members began to hang banners up in nearby towns and the city of Mangalore reading “no permission for those who are against the constitution and those who kill cattle”. Then, Karnataka’s chief minister, Basavaraj Bommai, from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), issued a statement supporting the ban. The ban then spread to other nearby temples, as BJP government officials began enforcing it. For the hundreds of Muslims who relied on selling their wares on the temple festival circuit, it was devastating. read the complete article

Indian state to ban polygamy amid bid for uniform civil code

Authorities in an Indian state want to ban polygamy as part of a bid by the Hindu-nationalist central government to standardise the civil code across the country. Polygamy, the practice of having more than one spouse, is illegal under the Indian Penal Code but Muslim men are allowed to have up to four wives under sharia Islamic law, and polygamy also exists in many tribal communities. "I plan to ban polygamy in Assam," Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister Assam state in the northeast, told reporters on Thursday. The central government wants to impose a uniform civil code to replace a patchwork of religious and cultural codes governing matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption. Supporters of the code see it as a way to ensure gender equality but opponents, including some Muslim leaders, see it as a government strategy to dilute rights sanctioned under Islam. read the complete article

Hindutva, A Tampered Research Paper & PM’s Endorsement Drive Effort To ‘Revive’ Kumbh Mela In Trinamool-Ruled West Bengal

In February 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the revival of a kumbh mela, a sprawling Hindu pilgrimage, in the town of Tribeni in West Bengal, after 700 years. The mela was promoted by the union ministry of culture and the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, the latest example of Hindu revivalism nationwide. We found the real organisers, Bengalis abroad and local Hindu right-wing organisations, using a tampered research paper that pushes claims of a mela at the site of a 13th-century mosque, the state’s oldest surviving Islamic structure. read the complete article

Why violence towards India's minorities is increasing

Mr Ahmed, where does the Hindu tradition of Ram Navmi come from and how has it developed in recent years? S. M. Faizan Ahmed: Ram Navmi is an age-old tradition marking the birth anniversary of Lord Ram, who is cited in the Hindu religious epic Ramayana, despite there being arguably no trace of special worship of him before the 11th century. Indeed, the earliest shobha yatra (glory procession) appears to have taken place in Hazaribaagh in 1929. The first major riot on the occasion of Ram Navami was reported in 1979 when 116 people died in Jamshedpur due to a polarising speech delivered by the third chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Balasaheb Deoras. The 'RSS family' – various Hindutva organisations ­united under the ideology of the RSS – was also responsible for the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992, which triggered communal violence all over India. In an attempt to consolidate Hindu votes in its favour, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), part of this RSS family, has over the years transformed Rama's image of Maryada Purushottam (the epitome of ethical perfection) into an aggressive and assertive symbol of Hindu power. Today, Ram Navmi processions are often mindless displays of crude arms and deliberate provocations, marching through densely populated Muslim localities and chanting provocative slogans in front of mosques, sacred places, and educational establishments run by the Muslim community, naturally creating law and order problems, as well as communal clashes. What is the RSS and how involved is it in the ruling BJP? Faizan Ahmed: RSS is an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim and anti-communist Hindu paramilitary volunteer organisation. Both the RSS and the BJP are inseparable: they share the same ideology and vision. It is often overlooked that three out of four ministers in the current BJP government hail from the RSS. read the complete article

Why The Myth Of Muslim Population Overtaking Hindus Is Unfounded

In February this year, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) mouthpiece Observer published an article titled “Why growing population of Muslims in India should be a matter of concern?” The article highlighted several data points about growth in the number of Muslims in India since partition and portended how it could be dangerous for “Bharat” if sections of this population took up arms or “jihad”. On April 10, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman declared at an international forum that “India has the second-largest Muslim population in the world, and that population is only growing in numbers”. But experts feel that the minister’s statement only revived debunked yet familiar myths about so-called “Muslim population explosion” in India. In the current context of religious stratification in India, former Election Commissioner of India, S Y Quraishi, author of ‘The Population Myth—Islam, Family Planning and Politics in India’, feels that the Finance Minister’s statement was “ill-informed”. “In the initial years after independence, it is true that the rate of growth of the Muslim population was higher than other communities. But it is also true that Muslims today have the sharpest decline in fertility rates. That point is often ignored,” says Quraishi. Despite myths that Hindus are a “dying race”, recent mathematical models prove there is no way in a thousand years that Muslims can overtake Hindus. read the complete article


Muslim NGOs criticize 'racist' study on Muslim students in Austria

Muslim associations in Austria criticized research conducted among Muslim students by the University of Vienna over alleged racism. The study, entitled "Effects of Islamic Religious Education in Austria" surveyed 2,000 Muslim students, but Muslim Youth Austria (MJO) is highly critical of its "racist nature," claiming that the study has a tendentious structure that seems to have pre-fabricated results. The young people involved would report a "feeling of unease and incomprehension" about the fact that only Muslim students had to take part in the survey, a statement from the MJO told the Austrian news agency APA. The MJO said that the young people were removed from regular classes and subjected to external supervision, including having to answer questions such as "It's disgusting when homosexuals kiss," and to decide who would go to hell. "The sight of disabled people bothers me" is another statement to be evaluated. Another one is "When women wear miniskirts or revealing clothing in public, they signal sexual will." The study is led by Austrian-Turkish professor of Islamic religious education Ednan Aslan. The professor had already been sharply criticized for the so-called "Islam map" and a controversial kindergarten study in Austria. read the complete article


12 May 2023

Muslim academics in Spain face discrimination

Spanish academics who convert to Islam conceal that they are Muslims so that their careers will not be harmed, one such academic who works in the field of international relations said Thursday. Speaking to Anadolu, Luci Hurtado highlighted the discrimination against Muslim academics at universities in Spain. Hurtado said she was a Catholic before becoming a Muslim in 2010. She stressed that her decision to become a Muslim was a big step because she knew she would be ostracized by her social circle after she converted. Hurtado said she earned a doctorate in international relations at one of the prestigious universities in Spain in 2011 and that she was not discriminated against because she was not wearing a headscarf at the time, but Muslim Spaniards around her were excluded from the academy. She noted that Spanish academics who are Muslims are more pressured than Muslim academics coming from foreign countries. She said she began facing discrimination even before academic life. "The pressure starts before you enter academic life. They research you for a long time during the application. This is not a procedural thing. The professors of the department call your professors at the university you come from and investigate whether you are a Muslim or a 'radical' person. If it turns out that you are a Muslim, you are not accepted into the academy. If you ask the people who do this, they deny it because what they're doing is illegal," she said. Hurtado noted that Spanish academics who were discovered to be Muslims were branded as "traitors who betrayed their country." read the complete article

United Kingdom

Muslim powerlifter's passion changes sport's dress code

"Your hijab really does empower you to do more than you ever thought possible." Tahirah Ali makes powerlifting over 135kg (21st 3lbs) look easy, but her journey was challenging. Her determination to participate in the field even led to a change in the dress code rules in powerlifting competitions across the UK. The 22-year-old from Swansea now wants to encourage other Muslim women to participate in sport. Tahirah said she didn't find powerlifting, but it found her when she learned about it during an open day at the YMCA gym in the city. "It felt so natural, it's the only way I can explain it," the Cardiff University student said. Up to that point, Tahirah hadn't participated much in sport, but with powerlifting, she found a passion. Being a female Muslim powerlifter was previously "unheard of" in her community, she recalled. She "hadn't seen anybody in that space", and said Muslim women in sport can be an area that is "stigmatised" and where a hijab "can be perceived as a barrier". "But it is honestly more of an empowerment than anything else," she said. read the complete article


Mainstream media encourages hostility towards Islam and Muslims in pursuit of profit: Expert

Yasser Louati, a French political analyst and human rights advocate who is currently head of the Committee for Justice & Liberties (CJL), a transnational human rights and civil liberties organization, told Anadolu that the media plays a central role when it comes to Islamophobia or any other form of racism because it shapes the public discourse concerning specific minorities. Media outlets give a platform to “racists ideologies and neo-fascists and even new Nazis,” who then have a capacity to reach a broader public way beyond their immediate base, he argued. “In the case of France, the UK or the US, we see that every single time when governments start targeting minorities, the media are there to act as an amplifier of this discourse.” This he said leads to harassment of these communities, “in the media, on television or the radio, in the written press or even in blockbusters.” But this also paves the way “for legislation of exception” that targets these minorities and further empowers people “who want to take up arms against them,” said Louati, adding the media is playing an active role in especially normalizing Islamophobia. Peter Oborne, a prominent British political journalist and the author of the book The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam, told Anadolu that during his time at The Spectator magazine 20 years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, he started to get very concerned after reading reports in British newspapers about Muslims and the way in which Islam was discussed. “It was clearly very false. A large number of stories were being published which placed Muslims in a terrible light,” said Oborne. He made it his business to research those stories and would go and talk to people who were being demonized in the mainstream British press. “Always, I found that those stories about Muslims were completely false and the opposite of the truth,” he added. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 12 May 2023 Edition


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