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 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana breaks his fast during a live football match with the Premier League allowing Muslim players for the first time to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, while in China, new research shows how over 630 Uyghur Imams were routinely targeted by the Chinese state and sent to “re-education camps”, as French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling centrist party bars a Muslim candidate from running in a local election. Our recommended read of the day is by Ryan Mac on Instagram labeling posts tagged with Al-Aqsa as ‘terrorism’. This and more below: 

United States

12 May 2021

Instagram Labeled One Of Islam’s Holiest Mosques A Terrorist Organization

Instagram removed posts and blocked hashtags about one of Islam’s holiest mosques because its content moderation system mistakenly associated the site with a designation the company reserves for terrorist organizations, according to internal employee communications seen by BuzzFeed News. The mistake is just the latest content moderation failure by Instagram and its parent company Facebook, which has faced accusations from users around the world that it’s censored content about Israeli aggression toward Palestinians. The error, which was flagged internally by upset employees on Tuesday, caused Instagram to remove or block posts with hashtags for the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in the Islamic faith. Since Friday, the mosque has been the location of clashes between Israeli police forces and Palestinians, many of whom had visited the site to pray during the last days of Ramadan. In an attempt to draw attention to the violence, Instagram users posted videos tagged with the hashtag #AlAqsa or its Arabic counterparts #الاقصى or #الأقصى, only to find that their posts had been taken down or hidden from search results. Some notifications showed that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, removed the posts because they were associated with “violence or dangerous organizations.” When employees learned of the removals and the justification behind them, some filed internal complaints. In one case, an employee saw that Instagram had removed an infographic describing the situation at Al-Aqsa, because of its association with “violence or a terrorist organization.” After the employee filed a grievance, they wrote in an internal post, they were informed that the image was taken down “based on a reference to ‘alaqsa’ which is a designated organization,” a Facebook term that refers to “dangerous individuals and organizations.” (The content was eventually restored following the complaint.) read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
12 May 2021

Joe Biden, Tear Down Stephen Miller’s Administrative Wall

For all the talk of constructing a wall on America’s southern border over the past five years, one of the Trump-era notions less discussed outside the immigration policy world was that of a wall of paper—a near-insurmountable obstacle largely designed by nativist zealot Stephen Miller, built not out of steel and concrete but federal regulations and policy guides, all intermeshing to trip up would-be immigrants of every category. It may be one of the former president’s most enduring legacies, due not only to the procedural difficulty in bringing it down but to President Joe Biden’s apparent discomfort with aggressively moving to begin its deconstruction. From the immigration courts to the border, the specter of Trump’s regulatory monster still looms large. Even as President Biden struggles to receive and safely accommodate thousands of unaccompanied minors—who are arriving in part due to Biden’s refusal to terminate a Trump order that is currently being used to quickly expel almost everyone except children entering alone—his administration is considering a raft of regulatory changes in response that, rather than undo the mistakes of his predecessor, may only further gum up the release of minors, have them unnecessarily placed in more restrictive settings, and brand them with gang and criminality designations that could be used against them in immigration court. Most of these new regulations were published in the Federal Register after Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Thus far, Biden has taken a number of largely symbolic stances and steps on immigration policy while leaving a lot of the Trump-era framework in place. On his first day in office, he got rid of Trump’s Muslim ban but left in place a much broader executive immigration restriction that effectively rendered the point moot, keeping it and another work visa ban in place until they expired at the end of March. Most notably, the administration has refused to budge on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 order, an unprecedentedly restrictive border policy very loosely tied to the coronavirus pandemic, which enables border officials to quickly expel migrants either to their countries of origin or back across the border to Mexico, where many face kidnapping and extortion. Advocates do see forward momentum on certain challenges: The USCIS blank spaces policy was recently rescinded, as was a policy that forced staff to stop deferring to prior approvals when renewing visas. The administration has taken steps to block enforcement actions in courthouses and narrowed the priorities for arrest. Nevertheless, there are other areas where the decision-making seems to be in limbo, such as the immigration courts. Relatively few new asylum cases are being filed as a result of the expulsion policy, but those that are adjudicated are being hampered by a host of Trump anti-asylum policies that remain in place, including those imposed by the openly politicized Board of Immigration Appeals, as well as Trump administration attorneys general. read the complete article

12 May 2021

'I Don’t Think You’re Going to Be Eating Tonight.' Muslims Describe Ramadan in U.S. Prisons

Hubert Jason—a Black Muslim incarcerated at a Virginia state prison—says he was praying this April when a correctional officer came by his cell with a dinner tray. Jason had spent the whole day fasting as part of the holy month of Ramadan, refraining from both food and drink for more than 14 hours. Wanting to complete the fourth of his five daily prayers uninterrupted, Jason continued for the next few minutes without responding to the officer. As soon as he finished, he says he buzzed prison staff over the intercom, explaining that he was done with his prayer and could now eat. The officer who passed by Jason’s cell insisted that he refused his food, Jason says. “I don’t think you’re going to be eating tonight,” said the voice over the intercom, Jason says. So he didn’t. Not until his pre-dawn meal came around 3 a.m. the next morning. Jason’s experience appears similar to other Muslims incarcerated at Wallens Ridge, a super-maximum security prison that houses about 1,000 prisoners in Big Stone Gap, Va., which is now the subject of a lawsuit against Virginia’s Department of Corrections alleging that the agency will not turn over Muslim prisoners’ official grievances about challenges they may have faced in practicing their faith. The lawsuit states that complaints communicated by Muslim prisoners suggest that staff “blocked Muslim inmates from participating in Ramadan” and allege “physical violence, retaliation, placing inmates in unhygienic conditions (including a Muslim inmate being deprived of access to a functioning toilet and shower), theft of religious books and articles, and the rampant use of derogatory and bigoted language by VADOC staff targeted at Muslim inmates.” For many Muslim prisoners in Virginia and nationwide, Ramadan has for years entailed not getting enough food, being lucky if food even arrives during a time when you can eat, jumping through hoops to possess religious items as well as fundamental misunderstandings about key components of the faith by prison staff. In some cases, courts have found that such barriers violate federal law. A 2019 report from national advocacy group Muslim Advocates on the accommodations for Muslim prisoners in state prisons found that “despite Muslims constituting a significant and growing share of prisoners, many state departments of correction still have policies that are outdated and don’t accommodate Muslim prisoners who have in turn “faced multiple hurdles in obtaining basic accommodations for their devotional practices, holidays, burial practices, and religious diet requirements.” National advocates want greater transparency around the hurdles incarcerated Muslims face in practicing their faith as well as for prisons to rectify them; some progressive Muslims are going as far as calling for prison abolition. read the complete article

12 May 2021


A PENTAGON WORKING GROUP established in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot to root out domestic extremists has circulated a list of prospective partners that includes representatives of a conservative Christian group and an anti-Muslim extremism group, according to an internal Defense Department document obtained exclusively by The Intercept. In several cases, these potential partners were themselves involved in the misidentification of Muslims as terrorists. On April 9, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the establishment of the Countering Extremism Working Group, which would “receive information from both internal and external Subject Matter Experts,” who would serve as consultants. The document shows that those experts could include representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, anti-hate groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as the conservative First Liberty Institute and the anti-Muslim Middle East Media Research Institute. The Middle East Media Research Institute has been described as “the Islamophobia network’s go-to place for selective translations of Islamist rhetoric abroad,” according to a report by the Center for American Progress. (One of the report’s authors, Lee Fang, is now a reporter at The Intercept.) MEMRI was founded in 1997 by Yigal Carmon, formerly a high-ranking intelligence officer for the Israeli military, who served as a counter-terrorism adviser to Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir. MEMRI came to prominence after the September 11 attacks by publishing English language translations from Arab media and disseminating them among major Western media outlets. But according to critics, MEMRI cherry-picked quotes to exaggerate the threat posed by Islamic radicalism. As the Center for American Progress report notes, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik cited MEMRI over a dozen times in his manifesto. read the complete article

12 May 2021

Omar says Cheney 'as right-wing as they come' but removal 'shameful'

During an interview with HuffPost released Wednesday, Omar, who has clashed with the Wyoming lawmaker in the past, criticized Cheney on a host of issues from climate change to Muslims in the United States. “She has spent her career agitating for war with Iran, is an open climate denier and has pressured the government to silence climate activism. She has supported giant tax breaks for billionaires, gutting health care in this country, and is one of the most prominent agitators for endless wars and impunity for human rights abusers,” Omar said of Cheney in remarks to HuffPost. “She has repeatedly singled out Muslims for scorn and directly contributed to the rise of anti-Muslim hate in this country. Progressives should not be celebrating anyone with her record." However, the Minnesota Democrat added that it is “also true that the reason Republicans are removing her leadership is shameful.” House Republicans voted behind closed doors Wednesday morning to remove Cheney as House Republican Conference chairwoman. The vote was scheduled after she called out former President Trump over election claims that the 2020 presidential race was "stolen" from him. read the complete article


12 May 2021

Xinjiang births plummeted after crackdown on Uyghurs, says report

Birthrates in Xinjiang fell by almost half in the two years after the Chinese government implemented policies to reduce the number of babies born to Uyghur and other Muslim minority families, new research has claimed. The figures show unprecedented declines which were more extreme than any global region at any time in the 71 years of UN fertility data collection, including during genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia, according to the authors of the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (Aspi). The data adds to mounting evidence of coercive fertility policies in Xinjiang, including first-person accounts of forced sterilisation or birth control, and leaked policing data on the internment of women for violating family planning regulations. read the complete article

13 May 2021

Five Fingers Crush The Land

Over one million Uyghur people have been detained in camps in China, according to estimates, subjected to torture, forced labor, religious restrictions, and even forced sterilization. The vast majority of this minority ethnic group is Muslim, living for centuries at a crossroads of culture and empire along what was once the Silk Road. This week, we explore who the Uyghur people are, their land, their customs, their music and why they've become the target of what many are calling a genocide. read the complete article

12 May 2021

Uyghur imams targeted in China's Xinjiang crackdown

China has imprisoned or detained at least 630 imams and other Muslim religious figures since 2014 in its crackdown in the Xinjiang region, according to new research by a Uyghur rights group. The research, compiled by the Uyghur Human Rights Project and shared with the BBC, also found evidence that 18 clerics had died in detention or shortly after. Many of the detained clerics faced broad charges like "propagating extremism", "gathering a crowd to disturb social order", and "inciting separatism". According to testimony from relatives, the real crimes behind these charges are often things like preaching, convening prayer groups, or simply acting as an imam. In total, the UHRP tracked the fates of 1,046 Muslim clerics — the vast majority of them Uyghurs — using court documents, family testimony and media reports from public and private databases. While all 1,046 clerics were reportedly detained at some point, in many cases corroborating evidence was not available because of China's tight control over information in the region. Among the 630 cases where it was, at least 304 of the clerics appeared to have been sent to prison, as opposed to the network of "re-education" camps most closely associated with China's mass detention of the Uyghurs. Where information was available from court documents or testimony about the length of the prison sentence, the punishments reflect the harsh nature of Xinjiang justice: 96% sentenced to at least five years and 26% to 20 years or more, including 14 life sentences. read the complete article

United Kingdom

12 May 2021

Eid: 'You can be Muslim and still enjoy playing football'

When Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana walked to the sidelines to break his fast against Crystal Palace, it was the first time Premier League players agreed a pause in the game for that reason. It's since happened in other Premier League matches during the Muslim month of Ramadan, which ends today with the celebration of Eid. For Rahma Moktar, that moment and the representation of Muslims in football is a big deal. "It shows the world you can be Muslim, fast and still do your job," the 23-year-old tells Radio 1 Newsbeat. Compared to the earlier days of the Premier League, there are now more notable Muslim footballers, including some of the biggest names in world football such as Mohamed Salah, Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante. Rahma plays for the women's side at London grassroots team Hilltop FC, and seeing top superstars practise their faith openly is encouraging to young Muslims like her. "It pushes people like me to continue doing what I'm doing and show if Pogba and Fofana can do it, so can I." read the complete article


12 May 2021

Macron’s party bans Muslim candidate for wearing hijab in poster

French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling centrist party has barred a Muslim candidate from running in a local election after she was photographed in a hijab for a campaign flyer, a move which has drawn criticism from experts and opened bitter divisions within the party. Macron’s La Republique en Marche (The Republic on the Move, LREM) said the party line was that in secular France, there should be no place for the overt display of religious symbols on electoral campaign documents. “This woman will not be an en Marche candidate,” Stanislas Guerini, the party’s general secretary, told RTL radio, referring to Sara Zemmahi. An LREM official close to Guerini said Zemmahi would be officially informed of the party’s decision in writing, according to Reuters news agency. In the poster, Zemmahi is pictured wearing a white hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion, standing alongside three other people. The words “Different, but united for you” on the flyer appear to be a reference to diversity. French law does not prohibit the wearing of the hijab or other religious symbols in images that appear on campaign fliers. read the complete article


12 May 2021

Myanmar’s coup is uniting a country riven by ethnic divisions. Will it last?

When the military claimed voter fraud in that election to justify its takeover of the civilian government, she knew it was a lie. When the military began massacring protesters, she knew her purpose — to be a small part of Myanmar’s future — would now require something different. Out on the streets, among the mass of protesters, she felt motivated. “Everyone is against the military,” Wathone, a 27-year-old protester in Yangon, said, using a pseudonym that he says means “rain”; it used to be his pen name when he wrote poetry as a teen. “If there was no coup,” Wathone added, “we wouldn’t have this kind of unity.” This unrelenting opposition to Myanmar’s military has brought together people of different classes, ages, and most importantly, ethnic and religious groups — many of whom have been marginalized and brutalized by Myanmar’s military, some for the entire life of the country. “We have our own common enemy,” said Moon Nay Lin, a spokesperson for the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, an advocacy and human rights organization to help those in Kachin state, where an insurgent movement has been at war with the state on and off for decades. “All of the people from Burma, including the ethnic people, are the same feeling on military,” Moon Nay Lin added, referring to Myanmar by its former name. The coalition that has formed against the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military is called, has also forced the country to reckon with what should, or could, replace it. At first, the protesters called for the release of political detainees and the restoration of democracy. Now they want something radically different. “The call is much bigger now,” said Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, an activist with Burma Campaign UK. They want to see the military dictatorship fall; they want to see the 2008 constitution — which ushered in Myanmar’s civilian government but kept ultimate authority in the military’s hands — abolished for good. They want to establish a federal democratic union with equal rights and equal treatment for all. “That’s why people are very determined to get rid of this military, once and for all, because we don’t want to go back to this situation in another 10 years' time,” Wai Hnin added. read the complete article


13 May 2021

Western powers clash with China over Xinjiang at UN virtual meet

The United States, Germany and Britain have clashed with China at the United Nations over its treatment of the Uighurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups in Xinjiang, as they pressed ahead with a virtual event that Beijing had lobbied UN member states to stay away from. “We will keep standing up and speaking out until China’s government stops its crimes against humanity and the genocide of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the event, which organizers said was attended by about 50 countries on Wednesday. “In Xinjiang, people are being tortured. Women are being forcibly sterilized,” Thomas-Greenfield said. Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard told the event there were an estimated one million Uighurs and predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities being arbitrarily detained. In a note to UN member states last week, China’s UN mission rejected the accusations as “lies and false allegations” and accused the organizing countries of being “obsessed with provoking confrontation with China”. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 13 May 2021 Edition


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