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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13 May 2019

Today in Islamophobia: A retired foreign service officer is convicted of hate crimes, while Imam Omar Suleiman is targeted in a smear campaign after his opening prayer at the House of Representatives. In India, millions face an uncertain future after being left the citizenship list, while a Sri Lankan town imposes a curfew after anti-Muslim attacks. Australia’s Fraser Anning uses an image of a grieving Muslim family in an Islamophobic Facebook post, while an op-ed examines the inclusivity of New Zealand’s parliament under the leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Today’s recommended read, by Sahar Aziz, is titled “Calls to ban the Muslim Brotherhood aim to criminalise US Muslim dissent, not counter terrorism.” This, and more, below:

United States

13 May 2019

Calls to ban the Muslim Brotherhood aim to criminalise US Muslim dissent, not counter-terrorism | Recommended Read

For nearly two decades, the US' Middle East authoritarian allies and domestic Islamophobes (many of whom now serve as advisors in the Trump administration) have been advocating to criminalise "political Islam". This vague and pejorative label is frequently used to delegitimise Muslim activists, scholars and religious leaders who hold dissenting political views. Although the dictators and Islamophobes have different targets in mind, their goal is the same - to criminalise dissent and quash political opposition. American Islamophobes want to criminalise Islam. The designation could unleash material support to terrorism prosecutions of non-violent, religious American Muslim activists who challenge unconditional US support for Israel, oppose Islamophobe's anti-Sharia campaigns, and defend religious freedom rights of Muslims. If Trump goes through with designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, the grounds of criminality will not be engaging in or directly supporting terrorism. Rather, it will be political beliefs. The government, therefore, would be unfettered in criminalising a wide range of views it disfavours. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
13 May 2019

Trump Considers Them Terrorists, but Some Are Allies

President Trump’s proposal to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization raises the difficult question of just whom he intends to target. The original Islamist organization, founded in Egypt in 1928, has spun off or inspired thousands of independent social or political groups around the world, and they are far from monolithic. They include mainstream associations and advocacy groups in Europe and North America, as well as recognized political parties in United States allies from Morocco to Indonesia. Although most of the Brotherhood-linked parties are sharply critical of United States foreign policy, at least a few — like those in Kuwait, Iraq and Yemen — have sometimes also supported American goals. Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization would block its members from entering the United States and bar anyone in the country from supporting or even consulting with them. But the far-flung international movement can hardly be described as a single organization. read the complete article

13 May 2019

Retired U.S. Foreign Service officer convicted of hate crimes, threats to Arab American Institute

W. Patrick Syring, 61, of Arlington, was found guilty by a federal jury in Washington, D.C., of threatening staffers based on their race and national origin, threatening protected political activity and transmitting threats via interstate commerce. Jurors deliberated a day after a four-day trial before convicting Syring of all 14 counts. He faces a maximum of 42 years at sentencing Aug. 9, although federal guidelines will likely recommend less time. Syring, who served two tours in Beirut during his 25-year State Department career, pleaded guilty in 2008 to violating civil rights laws related to messages he left with Arab American Institute during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. “The only good Arab is a dead Arab,” Syring said in a profanity-laden voice-mail message in July 2006, which he followed up with emails accusing Arab American Institute president James Zogby of “promoting the interest of Hezbollah, Hamas and Arab terror” and stating, “Arabs are dogs” and “death to Lebanon and death to Arabs.” Syring retired from the State Department in 2007. read the complete article

13 May 2019

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019 at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas. Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies. News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets. read the complete article

13 May 2019

Illinois College Chairman Defends Anti-Muslim Facebook Posts

David Heyen was elected to oversee the Board of Trustees at Lewis and Clark Community College in the village of Godfrey on April 30. But only days prior, based on his own Facebook updates, he had been circulating a number of conspiratorial posts on his account. One post read, “Wondering why mumps, measles and smallpox are back? Perhaps millions of unvaccinated illegal alien kids in the public schools?” Another said, “Anyone notice that there is no terrorism in Iceland or Japan? Weird coincidence, there are no Muslims there either.” Images of the posts were published online this week after being sent to the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has called for Heyen to resign. read the complete article

13 May 2019

Omar Suleiman: Hateful attacks cannot silence voices of unity and love

I have never attacked the Jewish community or peddled conspiracies about it. So imagine my surprise to be accused of anti-Semitism on Fox Business by Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, of all people, and Fox host Lou Dobbs, and online by Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York who doesn’t know me. I have spent my life fighting bigotry whether targeted at my Jewish brethren or at my own community, or at anyone else. Not once have I been involved in a controversy in my home town of New Orleans or Dallas involving the Jewish community or any other community that felt targeted by anything I’ve said or done. I’ve built relationships with Jewish communities since I started ministering to Muslims, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I have said many times that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are the two most linked forms of bigotry. Hence our communities need to be closer linked together than ever. read the complete article


13 May 2019

China's persecuted Uyghurs live 'freely' in Turkey

Uyghurs, who call their homeland "East Turkestan," speak a dialect of Turkish and, like the Turks, are considered ethnically Turkic. Dozens of Uyghur shops and restaurants line the streets of Zeytinburnu, a small neighborhood near Istanbul's international airport. Most shop signs are in the group's native script and language which they say was banned in Xinjiang province. "We are more comfortable than we were in our home country," says Abudureyimu, who has lived in Turkey since 2014. "I can practice my religion freely, speak my language freely," he adds. "In Turkey I saw that a man can live freely, in peace. We are free here." However, Abudureyimu is all too aware that back at home, oppression against Uyghurs continues. Seated in an Istanbul Uyghur restaurant, he lays out more than two dozen photographs of loved ones who he says have disappeared in China. He arranges the images along a straight line, then holds them up and introduces each of his family members. "My father ... my mother ... my sister," he tells CNN, his voice fraught with emotion as he identifies them. read the complete article

13 May 2019

Uyghurs are being persecuted in China — US must protect them

Despite deteriorating trade talks with China, it’s essential that Congress continues to exercise their power to protect religious minorities, such as the Uyghurs, from religious persecution. In China’s western region of Xinjiang, millions of Uyghurs (a Muslim ethnic minority group) have been sent to internment camps where they are prevented from engaging in religious practices and are forced to devote themselves to the communist party. Extreme forms of police surveillance, including cameras and mobile apps used to spy on families in their homes and houses of worship, are becoming common practice. It is estimated that China has now detained over 1 million Uyghurs and subjected an additional 2 million to re-education and indoctrination programs. However, according to the Department of State data, there has not been a refugee that speaks the Uyghur language admitted into the United States since 2013, and only 28 since the year 2008. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

13 May 2019

Sri Lanka sets up hotline to report increasing anti-Muslim harassment in the wake of Easter Sunday attacks

The Sri Lankan government has set up a police hotline to report for Muslims to report harassment, as the community comes under increasing attack in the wake of the Isil-linked Easter Sunday bombings. An Islamic Affairs ministry spokesman told The Telegraph that there have been “hundreds of calls every day” reporting incidents of hate and violence against Muslims since the attacks, especially against women wearing headscarves, or the abaya robe. There are some 2 million Muslims in Sri Lanka, around 10 per cent of the mostly Buddhist population. “We are gripped with fear,” Fathima Rahma, an accountant wearing a headscarf told The Telegraph. “I’m afraid to step into supermarkets or banks because I’ve had bad experiences with security guards and staff shouting at me. Uber drivers cancel on me, trishaws don’t stop for me anymore.” read the complete article

13 May 2019

Sri Lanka town under curfew after anti-Muslim attacks

Sri Lankan troops in a northern town fired shots into the air and police imposed a curfew Sunday after mobs attacked a mosque, in renewed religion tensions in the wake of the Easter terror attacks. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said that the mobs in Chilaw, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of the capital Colombo, also attacked Muslim-owned businesses. The violence erupted in Chilaw, a Catholic-majority town, after a resident misunderstood a Facebook post as a threat against Christians. read the complete article

13 May 2019

Sri Lanka blocks social media again after attacks on Muslims

Sri Lanka has temporarily blocked some social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, after a posting sparked anti-Muslim riots across several towns in the latest fallout from the Easter Sunday suicide attacks last month. Christian groups threw stones at mosques and Muslim-owned shops in the northwestern Christian-majority town of Chilaw on Sunday in anger at a Facebook post by a shopkeeper, police said. Security forces fired shots in the air to disperse mobs, but the violence spread to nearby towns where businesses owned by Muslims were also attacked. "Social media blocked again as a temporary measure to maintain peace in the country," Nalaka Kaluwewa, director general of the government information department, told Reuters news agency on Monday. read the complete article


13 May 2019

Outrage as Fraser Anning uses image of grieving Muslim family on Facebook post

Queensland Senator Fraser Anning has faced fierce criticism for using a grieving Muslim family in an anti-Muslim Facebook post. On Sunday, Senator Anning posted an image saying "If you want a Muslim for a neighbour, just vote Labor", featuring a photo of a Muslim family. But the family featured was the El-Dennaouis, who were in the news in 2005 when their 19-month-old daughter Rahma went missing from their Sydney Home. The image appeared to be from a 2010 News Corp article when the family was appealing for new information about Rahma, who was never found. read the complete article

13 May 2019

Liberal party stands by candidate who shared anti-Muslim and anti-gay posts

The Liberal party is standing by a candidate in New South Wales who previously expressed support for repealing the right of gay couples to adopt, shared posts warning against Muslim immigration, and said same-sex marriage could cause the abolishment of Mother’s and Father’s Day. Allan Green, the Liberal candidate for Greenway in Sydney’s west, said the old posts – which were made when he was a candidate for the Christian Democratic party – did not reflect his personal views. The posts, made by Green’s Facebook account in 2010, 2012 and 2015, shared views that Australia should limit its Muslim population, that same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt, and that de-facto partnerships between gay couples should be repealed. In 2012, Green shared a letter written by a Christian pastor to the Sydney Morning Herald – in response to news that a Sydney mosque had issued “a fatwa over Christmas”. “The Islamic community has grown to 800,000 in Australia,” the letter said. “Our national leaders must exercise foresight and act now to keep Australia the way we know it; otherwise who is to say what the result will be in the years to come when the Islamic community has achieved a population growth into millions of residents. read the complete article


13 May 2019

Millions In India Face Uncertain Future After Being Left Off Citizenship List

The NRC is like a census, but it has only ever been conducted in one Indian state, Assam, which borders Bangladesh and has long received immigrants from there. The NRC process began back in 1951, when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan. For migrants in Assam, the key date for Indian citizenship is March 24, 1971 — days before Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan, leading to a war. People who migrated to India from there before that date are considered Indian citizens. But those who migrated to India after the cutoff date are considered undocumented — and they are whom the NRC aims to exclude. Families in Assam are required to submit paperwork to prove their Indian citizenship under the NRC. They've done so for decades, but authorities never informed people of whose paperwork passed muster and whose didn't. That is, until the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power — nationally in 2014 and in Assam's state government in 2016. read the complete article

13 May 2019

Bollywood and the politics of hate

Of course, it was expected that Kumar would be asking only the questions Modi wanted to answer. After all, he is not only an ardent supporter of his but in recent years has also made a number of films focusing on "patriotic" themes very much in line with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) hyper-nationalistic ideology. That he gave up his Indian citizenship in favour of a Canadian one a few years back appeared not to bother his interviewee. That was perhaps because Kumar's latest nationalistic film, released just a month before the elections began in April, reflected so well the BJP's main electoral strategy: the demonisation of Muslims. In the two-hour feature called Kesari, meaning saffron - a colour associated with the ruling party and the right wing in India - Kumar plays Havildar Ishar Singh, the commander of a Sikh regiment within the British imperial army which fought to death against rebelling Pashtun tribesmen from Afghanistan. Based on the historical battle of Saragarhi in 1897, the film portrays the Sikh soldiers as brave patriots and the Muslim Pashtun as fanatic jihadis, all as the context of colonial oppression is almost completely erased. read the complete article

New Zealand

13 May 2019

Is Jacinda Ardern really the inclusive leader she's been made out to be?

The most striking example of the tolerance of racism in Ardern’s government lies with Winston Peters. The far-right New Zealand First party, which Peters leads, formed a coalition government with Ardern’s Labour party following the 2017 national elections. At the time Ardern and her party agreed on the power-sharing agreement, New Zealand First’s platform carried restrictive immigration policies, and Peters’ long history of racist and Islamophobic rhetoric was well-documented. During the 1996 national elections, Peters led New Zealand First’s campaign by stirring fears of an “Asian invasion.” In 2005, Peters stated that immigration contributed to New Zealand being the “the last Asian colony.” In 2014, on the subject of Chinese investment in the farming sector, he joked that “two Wongs don’t make a white.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

13 May 2019

Ukip candidates urge followers to switch to far-right social network Gab

Leading figures on the far right, including Ukip candidates in the upcoming European elections, are encouraging their followers to join a new hate-filled social media platform. The network, called Gab, has no restrictions on antisemitic, misogynist or racist content, and has been used to promote terrorism. The site gained notoriety following the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in October 2018 that left 11 Jewish worshippers dead. The perpetrator of the massacre, Robert Bowers, had made frequent antisemitic postings on the site, including one saying he was about to carry out the attack. After a backlash from hosting service providers, Gab went offline briefly, but it is now accessible again. Carl Benjamin, the prospective Ukip candidate for south-west England in the European parliamentary elections on 23 May – who refused to apologise for tweeting “I wouldn’t even rape you” to Labour MP Jess Phillips – joined Gab after being banned from Twitter. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 13 May 2019 Edition


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