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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14 May 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Amid COVID-19, Bangladesh turns its back on the Rohingya. Misinformation in India accuses Muslims of deliberately spreading the virus. The United Kingdom’s equalities watchdog abandons plans to investigate claims of Islamophobia in the ruling Conservative Party. Our recommended read today is from RSIS analyzing the spread of Islamophobia through disinformation during a pandemic. This, and more, below:


14 May 2020

Disinformation: The Spreading Of Islamophobia – Analysis | Recommended Read

COVID-19-related disinformation campaigns designed to stoke Islamophobic sentiment are fuelling an uptick in hate attacks targeting Muslims in some countries. The unprecedented conditions created by the ongoing pandemic offer fresh opportunities for extremists to exploit, and require timely interventions. Hard-line right-wing groups in parts of Asia and the West are preying on people’s fears and vulnerabilities amidst the ongoing global pandemic to push a slew of conspiracy theories and disinformation aimed at vilifying Muslims. In countries such as India, the United Kingdom and the United States, various far-right movements, are turning to a familiar playbook ̶ by peddling Islamophobic hate speech through unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, memes and fake videos online. For example, perpetrators of anti-Muslim propaganda (some of whom enjoy state patronage), have made up statistics about virus infections and falsely accuse some Muslims of deliberately spreading the virus as well as flouting lockdown rules. While not a new issue, studies show that levels of Islamophobia increase around certain events. Researchers in the UK, for example, have observed that the ongoing Ramadan month seems to have instigated a fresh wave of conspiracy theories online around Muslims, with false claims that the virus is likely to spread around this time. Several experts have also recently cautioned that given many people are currently cooped up at home with social distancing rules, some could be vulnerable to the influx of fake news and conspiracy theories online, which mostly go unchallenged. The problem with such disinformation is it can lead to wider retribution against Muslims and, possibly by extension, other minority communities, when lockdowns are eventually lifted. read the complete article

Recommended Read

United States

14 May 2020

How CDCs are Fighting Back Against Anti-Asian Harassment

A woman riding on a train in Los Angeles recorded a man spewing a profanity-laced tirade about Chinese people. The owners of a Chinese restaurant in Connecticut reported receiving racist death threats from two different phone numbers. A Florida man posted a video on Instagram of him holding a bottle of sanitizer and harassing an Asian woman. These are just three of the reportedly thousands of incidents of anti-Asian-American harassment, abuse, and assaults that have dramatically increased this year as COVID-19 cases mount in the United States and globally. Asian Americans of different ethnicities, largely not Chinese, have reported being barred from businesses and transportation, coughed and spat upon, targeted for attacks online, and more. Community leaders are confident they can battle what Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, calls “the twin viruses of racism and COVID-19.” The 9/11 terror attacks created a crisis for the nation’s Muslims, and for Asian-American people perceived as Muslim. They became a frequent target for discrimination, harassment, and violence starting in the hours after the attacks destroyed the World Trade Center. The first deadly assault came on Sept. 15, 2001, when Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh-American gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered by a man who had been heard spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric. Overall the FBI reported 481 instances of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2001. The year before, the total was 28. It’s no surprise to Asian-American leaders that the COVID-19 outbreak has led to renewed attacks aimed at their community. They compare the current crisis not only to the aftermath of 9/11, but to the internment of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor and to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. read the complete article

14 May 2020

Harford County settles suit over anti-Muslim bias in Joppatowne development

Harford County government announced a settlement in a lawsuit over a proposed development in Joppatowne by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The settlement means "the development may now move forward if the requirements of the Harford County Code are met," according to a statement. The development sparked protests and controversy, and the county was ultimately sued for anti-Muslim bias. read the complete article

14 May 2020

Biden's plan for Muslim Americans: A 'good start' but missing policy details

The plan, titled "Joe Biden's agenda for Muslim-American communities", vows to undo Trump's Muslim ban on "day one" and confront "discriminatory policies" that affect the growing community. While it lacks specifics and falls short on foreign policy, advocates say the former vice president's pitch is a "good start" and a positive change from the White House's bigoted rhetoric. Abed Ayoub, legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), welcomed the statement, but criticised it as "too vague". "What really matters are the details and the nuances," Ayoub told MEE. "He needs to have conversations with community members about how to implement some of these talking points and what they would look like." Since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-American civil rights advocates have decried the federal government's suspicious approach to their communities, which often centres around national security. Covert surveillance programmes and the use of informants at mosques have sown seeds of mistrust between Muslim Americans and their government. Civil rights advocates have also rejected the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programme, whose stated aim is to push back against radicalisation, but in reality targets Muslims. The initiative, which thrived under the Obama-Biden administration, has been described as "state-sanctioned Islamophobia". In his plan, Biden seemed to acknowledge the problematic issues in the relationship between government and Muslim Americans. read the complete article

14 May 2020

NJ court tosses landlord’s jury victory after lawyer put Islam on trial

The state has convinced an appellate court to toss a jury decision that sided with a city landlord accused of discriminating against a Muslim woman who tried to rent an apartment. A three-judge panel on Wednesday ordered a new trial in the discrimination case against William Greda, finding that the judge and defense attorney unfairly put the religion of Islam on trial. Court rules prohibit using religious beliefs or opinions to be used as evidence against the credibility of a witness. The appellate decision on Wednesday said that Greda's attorney engaged in a "clear and direct attack" on the Muslim woman's credibility by suggesting that the Islamic faith allows Muslims to lie. The Attorney's General's Office under then-Gov. Chris Christie sued Greda after Fatma Farghaly and her friend attempted to see an apartment that Greda had advertised for rent in 2016. Farghaly said Greda, who is a Polish immigrant, asked her if she was Muslim and then told her "I don't rent to Muslims." When she tried to record Greda telling her the reason why he wouldn't rent to her, the owner of the 17-unit Maple Garden building told her male friend to "go ahead, hit me" and angrily told both to leave. Greda and his wife told state investigators that the reason he did not want to rent to Farghaly was because she wanted her husband, mother-in-law and two children to move in with her. But state prosecutors pointed out in court that Farghaly is single with no children. Before the trial in 2018, Greda told a news reporter that Farghaly and her friend were "Muslim extremists" who were trying to extort him on behalf of ISIS. He also admitted the same thing in court, adding that when the state sent two undercover investigators pretending to be Muslims interested in renting an apartment, he was afraid the "two Muslims" were "coming to finish [him] off." read the complete article

14 May 2020

How National Black Muslim COVID Coalition serves communities during the pandemic

The experts on the Zoom call were there to discuss the five before five. That’s a belief that goes back to Muhammad, who said: “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death.” Margari Hill, co-director of National Black Muslim COVID Coalition, which hosted this talk Saturday afternoon, explained that at a time like this, it can be hard to plan for one’s wellness. “Yet at the same time we know that preparing for the unknown helps put ourselves and our families at ease,” she said. They’d cover physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual wellness during the 90-minute talk, spiritual wellness the first topic, as panelist Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, of Washington, D.C., spoke on the significance of spending this month of Ramadan in isolation. The National Black Muslim COVID Coalition hosts conversations like this at least weekly. Through digital organizing, the coalition steers and supports myriad initiatives looking for the concerns and experiences of black Muslim experiences during the pandemic. The coalition, which has multiple key organizers in Philadelphia, is leading a survey, a cultural preservation project that collects the oral histories of their elders, and producing a series of digital panels raising issues regarding medical racism, communal grief, and the need to provide culturally sensitive, faith-sensitive care as the community faces distressing racial disparities in the pandemic’s death toll. Through its national scope, the coalition serves black Muslim communities that not only have regional differences, but roots around the diaspora. read the complete article

United Kingdom

14 May 2020

UK watchdog drops plan to probe Conservative Party Islamophobia

The United Kingdom's equalities watchdog has abandoned plans to investigate claims of Islamophobia in the ruling Conservative Party, prompting a backlash from critics, Muslim groups and individuals. An Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) spokesperson said on Tuesday that because the party itself has said it would probe complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination, "it would not be proportionate to initiate our own investigation at this stage". Following the EHRC's announcement on Tuesday, Harun Khan, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said: "We have previously described the Conservative Party's attitude to Islamophobia as one of denial, dismissal and deceit. The publication of the terms of reference for its inquiry reflects that regrettable attitude. "They are a facade to hide the hundreds of incidences of Islamophobic bigotry we have identified in its ranks. In sum, it seems even today, the Conservative Party refuses to acknowledge that there can be bigotry and prejudice directed at Muslims." read the complete article

14 May 2020

Anti-Muslim rhetoric from far right slammed during Covid-19 crisis

FAR-RIGHT groups are attempting to “increase tensions” by spreading “dangerous” conspiracy theories about Muslims during the Covid-19 crisis, experts have warned. Some prominent far-right figures such as Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson have been accused of spreading conspiracy theories online, claiming that Muslims are not adhering to lockdown measures during Ramadan. In March, Robinson shared a video on social media of worshippers allegedly leaving a mosque in Birmingham during lockdown. The clip, which got more than 14,000 views online, was later dismissed by West Midlands police. Former UKIP leader Gerard Batten, in a viral social media post in March, also suggested that mosques would remain open as the government would be “too afraid” to close them. A recent report by the independent members of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group (AMHWG) also warned that Islamophobic attacks could spike in light of the claims by extremists. The analysis found that a number of Islamophobic fake news theories gained traction online. These included theories of mosques being responsible for the spread of the virus; Muslims not observing social distancing rules; and followers being super-spreaders of the infection. read the complete article

14 May 2020

UK Muslim charity calls for end to inquiry after police return seized funds

A UK-based Muslim charity has called on the Charity Commission to end its statutory inquiry into the organisation after police confirmed that funds confiscated from it last year were donations and perfectly legitimate. The money was seized by UK Border Police at Heathrow Airport on 9 July 2019 from Human Aid UK's workers while they were en route to the besieged Gaza Strip. Human Aid UK had repeatedly asserted that the donations were lawful and for charitable purposes and should never have been taken. Nur Choudhury, the organisations's chair, said: “Human Aid UK has worked hard to pursue the funds entrusted to it and we are pleased to have finally retrieved the donations after 10 months. Human Aid UK has previously warned of a larger pattern of harassment of Muslim charities at UK borders and prolonged scrutiny of them by the commission, which launched its inquiry into the organisation on 2 August. “Now that all public funds seized have finally been returned, we need to question the basis of the statutory inquiry launched at the time," said Choudhury. read the complete article


14 May 2020

'CoronaJihad': Fake news in India accuses Muslims of deliberately spreading Covid-19

In India, Hindu nationalists have been accusing the Muslim community of deliberately spreading Covid-19, which had caused at least 2,331 deaths across the country by May 12. A wave of fake news has been circulating online, accusing Muslims of disobeying lockdown orders and seeking to spread the virus. The roughly 200 million Muslims living in India are often used as scapegoats by the Hindu nationalists who make up Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP or the “Indian People’s Party”). One of the BJP’s core beliefs is Hindutva, an ideology seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life. This uninhibited Islamophobia engenders a large amount of fake information, which is often shared in nationalist media outlets, and sometimes sparks real violence and aggression towards the Muslim community. read the complete article

14 May 2020

The pandemic dispersed Delhi’s mass protests but their legacy lives on in art

Hundreds of thousands of people took to India’s streets in protest in December 2019 when the country’s parliament passed its divisive new citizenship law and introduced a new national citizenship register. Now, only non-Muslims from neighbouring countries who entered India before 2015 can seek citizenship. The more than 200 million Muslims living in India fear they could be stripped of citizenship – literally pulling the soil from beneath their feet. A beating heart of these protests was in a close-knit, Muslim-majority area of east Delhi called Shaheen Bagh, the ‘Falcon Garden’. Hundreds of women gathered here every day, community kitchens were set up and students organised volunteer groups to help sustain a historic sit-in of up to 100,000 people on some days. As stories from the neighbourhood spread, online and by word of mouth, it became clear to us that this was where we had to be. We are part of the Fearless Collective – a South Asian feminist art project that works with local communities to reclaim space and publicly represent themselves in affirmative, powerful ways. read the complete article

14 May 2020

Why Hindutva Outfits Are Calling for a Boycott of Halal Products

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the migrant labour crisis caused due to the lockdown, a curious hashtag was trending on social media - #BoycottHalalProducts. This is a campaign calling for the boycott of goods that have “Halal” certification. Halal certification is given to products/ingredients that are prohibited for Muslims. Most of the handles tweeting with this hashtag were pro-Hindutva, including some followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Hindu Jagruti’s National Spokesperson Ramesh Shinde linked the campaign to the recent arrest of the owner of Jain Bakrey in Tamil Nadu for advertising that it has “no Muslim staff”. Sudarshan News TV channel also ran a programme calling for the boycott of Halal products. According to Sanatan Prabhat, a pro-Hindutva group of periodicals, Halal certification amounts to “economic Jihad” and it is a means to wards “Islamisation of India”. read the complete article


14 May 2020

Amid COVID-19, Bangladesh turns its back on Rohingya

As COVID-19 dominates global policy discourse, the largest refugee camp in the world languishes in silence. In early April, the government of Bangladesh cut off Cox’s Bazar from the rest of the country, putting 1 million Rohingya under twenty-four-hour lockdown. The physical segregation followed a digital one: despite the country’s pledge to provide digital services to rural areas through Digital Bangladesh, the camps have been without internet for almost seven months. In early 2019, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) reported that over 168,000 refugees had no access to safe water, and more than 252,000 did not have access to functional latrines. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are almost 40,000 people per square kilometer in Cox’s Bazar, making it forty times more crowded than the average population density of Bangladesh. All latrines are communal; the huts, made of bamboo and tarpaulin, are barely ten square meters in size. Most are overcrowded, with many housing up to twelve members of a family. These realities mean the strict social distancing measures currently in place elsewhere simply do not make sense in the camps. For Cox’s Bazar, the pandemic could not have come at a worse time. If previous years are any indication, the impending monsoons will bring outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, and measles. Landslides and flooding will destroy huts and cut off refugees from lifesaving supplies. The future facing the Rohingya is grim: barring urgent action in the coming months, if COVID-19 doesn’t kill thousands, other preventable causes will. Confronted with the need for increased coordination between aid agencies and government entities, Bangladesh has instead chosen to alienate the Rohingya community even further. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 14 May 2020 Edition


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