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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15 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India, the BJP lost in the elections in Karnataka due to what analysts identify as misgovernance, infighting, and hate politics, meanwhile in the United Kingdom, security sources say that “ethnic community tensions on Britain’s streets have been stoked by Indian political activists linked to Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist party,” and in Doha, Qatar, three young Rohingya refugees are showcasing their award-winning photography, which captures “daily life at the world’s largest refugee camp at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, painting a picture of hope and resilience.” Our recommended read of the day is by Shree Paradkar for the Toronto Star on a new memoir by Huda Mukbil, Canada’s first Black Arab-Canadian Muslim spy, and her experiences of discrimination and Islamophobia while working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This and more below:


She was a Muslim spy at the forefront of CSIS’s fight against terrorism. Then, she turned whistleblower | Recommended Read

Months after two passenger planes flew into the World Trade Center and another crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, Huda Mukbil joined Canada’s spy agency as an intelligence officer. Months after a white supremacist gunned down six Quebecers praying in a Quebec City mosque in 2017, Mukbil turned whistleblower. Those 15 intervening years are captured in a recently released book that tells the story of how Canada’s first Black Arab-Canadian Muslim spy was treated at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. It depicts an agency dragging its heels on recognizing the relevance of diverse staff and describes how biases including misogyny, racism and homophobia obstruct the agency from doing the job with which it’s tasked: national security. It details the red flags that signalled institutional discrimination, from culturally incompetent hiring practices to women being passed over for advancement for men with fewer qualifications, as well as shocking levels of Islamophobia Mukbil says she experienced. Mukbil’s decision to start wearing a hijab in 2004 challenged CSIS’s fragile tolerance. She expected to have to handle some stereotyping, she writes, but “Most managers were former RCMP officers. The culture was deeply conformist and intolerant, and I was an unprepared fool.” After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, intelligence officers went into Muslim communities in what the head of a Muslim organization in 2004 described to the CBC as “fishing expeditions,” “a witchhunt type of interrogating … that left people very, very confused and very traumatized.” read the complete article

United States

Political Rewind: In conversation with Soumaya Khalifa, founder of Islamic Speakers Bureau, Atlanta

Soumaya Khalifa, founder and Executive Director, Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. After receiving an MBA in Human Resources at Georgia State University, she created the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta in August of 2001, which would work to promote understanding and fight bigotry after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Her organization fielded calls from Georgians curious as to what Muslims in their community were really like. She spoke out against extremism, saying Islamic terrorists weren't acting out of a religious interest, but from some other place. Conversely, she spoke to experiences of Islamophobia, which she claimed peaks around election season, such as during former President Donald Trump's "Muslim ban". The Islamic Speakers Bureau fields requests to speak at organizations, including churches, synagogues, businesses, political bodies, and more. Among other topics, they answer questions on what it's like to be a Muslim in America, or to be a Muslim woman. Khalifa says the latter question comes up often, as Americans have a perception that all Muslim women are oppressed. read the complete article

5 Moments That Defined Trump’s Record on Immigration

When Donald J. Trump became president, he immediately set out to change the country’s immigration system, including with a travel ban that mostly affected countries with large Muslim populations and by making stark changes at the southern border. Since leaving office, Mr. Trump has attacked his successor’s record on immigration. President Biden has not countered Mr. Trump’s approach the way some immigration advocates had hoped and has relied on deterrence as other presidents have. Yet in comparison with Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden has not used cruelty and fear as a cudgel. That was a mainstay of the Trump immigration approach: deterrence through cruelty. Here are five highlights of Mr. Trump’s immigration and border policies. The Travel Ban: Mr. Trump began his presidency by signing an executive order that sought to limit travelers from seven largely Muslim countries for 90 days. The order, with some exceptions, affected travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. It also suspended the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. The travel ban caused instant chaos. Airports were clogged with travelers who had been on airplanes when the order was signed and had no way of entering the country. Advocates sued, and the case went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the policy in a 2018 ruling. The administration issued additional travel bans as time went on, removing or adding countries, including several African nations, often using terrorist activities as justification. read the complete article

15 May 2023

After lying about offer to convert Muslim woman, Kansas senator opines on ‘lost souls’

Sen. Mark Steffen says he never felt so overwhelmed as when he was caught lying about his offer to convert a Muslim woman. In a secret audio recording obtained by Kansas Reflector from a meeting last week of Republicans at Riverside Baptist Church in Hutchinson, Steffen described a group of young adults who visited his office in March as “horrible” looking and “a mess.” The first-term senator from Hutchinson also expressed internal anguish over the possibility he had been less than 100% truthful when he claimed he never offered to convert the Muslim woman. His concerns were realized when his comment was verified by an audio recording of the encounter. “It was the most overwhelming thing I’ve basically ever done in my life, because I was so caught off guard,” Steffen said. “But what a gift the good Lord gave me. It is one thing throwing red meat to hungry carnivores. It’s a whole other thing witnessing to these lost souls. They’re so angry and so broken, and they don’t know why. That’s the highlight of my time in the Legislature.” Kansas Reflector first reported on Steffen’s offer to convert in an April 27 story about the March 16 meeting with Rija Nazir, who is Muslim, Jenna Dozier, who is Jewish, and others. Nazir asked Steffen how he planned to represent non-Christian constituents. “I would be happy to try and convert you,” Steffen said. When a Kansas Reflector reporter asked about the comment, Steffen said it was 100% false. He later offered to convert a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter who also wrote about the exchange. read the complete article


The forever war on Julian Assange

As per the US narrative, Assange’s WikiLeaks endeavours endangered the lives of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere – although it would seem like one surefire way to not endanger lives in such places would be to not blow them up in the first place. It is furthermore perplexing that a nation for which military slaughter is an institutionalised pastime should make such a selective stink about the exposure of certain gory details. Granted, footage of defenceless civilians being picked off at close range like videogame targets by a laughing helicopter crew does little to uphold Americans’ projected role as the “good guys” – a façade that is key in terms of justifying the country’s self-presumed right to wreak international havoc as it pleases. Had Assange wanted to save his own skin, he could have stuck to the sort of imperial propaganda that functions as mainstream journalism, a field that was itself instrumental in selling the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq to the US public. Then there’s the whole matter of the United States’ offshore penal colony in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the former CIA torture den and persistent judicial black hole into which the US has sought to disappear some of the human fallout of its forever wars. Indeed, the fact the US feels entitled to call out the Cuban government for its own “political prisoners” while operating an illegal prison on occupied Cuban territory can be safely filed under the category of mind-blowingly sinister hypocrisy. If only there were more journalists who wanted to talk about such things. But just like you can’t cover up the crimes of Guantánamo by classifying prisoners’ artwork, you can’t hide the horrors of US policy by effectively redacting Julian Assange out of existence. read the complete article

Violent ethnic clashes in Leicester last year 'were stoked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party', sources claim

Ethnic community tensions on Britain's streets have been stoked by Indian political activists linked to Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist party, UK security sources say. The Mail on Sunday can reveal that elements close to Indian prime minister Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are suspected of having incited British Hindus to confront Muslim youths in last summer's explosive riots in Leicester. A UK security source said there was evidence of BJP-linked activists using closed WhatsApp groups to encourage Hindu protesters to take to the streets. But the source warned that this was only the 'most egregious' example of Indian Hindu nationalists using private social media posts to interfere in the UK. He warned: 'So far, it's mainly local politics - Modi and his BJP doing that they would do in Gujarat [Mr Modi's home state] to get this or that local councillor elected. read the complete article

Doha photo exhibition sheds light on life of Rohingya refugees

A rainbow forming over thatched huts, children frolicking on dusty streets, women being busy with household chores – these are just some of the scenes on display inside a major art space in the heart of Qatar’s capital. Taken by three young Rohingya refugees – Omal Khair, Dil Kayas and Azimul Hasson – the award-winning images are exhibited at Tasweer, a biennial photo festival in Doha. They capture daily life at the world’s largest refugee camp at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, painting a picture of hope and resilience. More than a million Rohingya have been living in difficult conditions at the refugee camp after fleeing persecution and a brutal crackdown by the army in neighbouring Myanmar 2017. Nearly six years on, the largely Muslim ethnic minority are confined to the severely overcrowded and unsanitary living spaces with little hope of returning to their homeland in Myanmar. Authorities in the host nation, meanwhile, are increasingly imposing restrictions on their movements. “I want to tell the world the situation of my people in the refugee camp,” 20-year-old Hasson told Al Jazeera over the phone from Cox’s Bazaar. The three photographers have been documenting life at the camp since becoming media fellows with the Fortify Rights NGO and the Doha Debates platform in 2018. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Good and bad Muslims: New UK report reinforces a false narrative

In emphasising the dearth of religious literacy in the British government and the public sector, the recently released Bloom review seeks to raise the game when it comes to the state’s engagement with faith. The independent review, published last month, challenges the government to take religion seriously by recommending the institution of an Independent Faith Champion to take the lead on consulting fairly with faith groups and establishing oversight. The report by faith engagement adviser Colin Bloom expresses concern about poor levels of religious literacy, and this is not misplaced. But his recommendations fall short of scrutinising the government’s longstanding prejudices against Muslim civic activism, and as such, it could serve to entrench the draconian reach of the state in regulating minority faiths and containing dissenting perspectives. Setting the tone for the rest of the document, the review’s foreword presents a curiously simplistic typology of three different categories when it comes to faith or belief. Bloom’s “true believers” and “non-believers” are the good guys - “sincere, peaceful and decent”, and thus deserving to be taken seriously by government. In contrast, “make-believers” are portrayed as insincere trouble-makers, guided by some form of self-interest and employing subterfuge to unfairly exert their influence - a problem and a threat for government and communities alike. This is a judgment on which voices can be regarded as legitimate or representative. The problem with this framing is that it relies on subjective descriptors, which when handed over to government leave their interpretations reliant on specific implied notions of peacefulness, decency and sincerity - namely, ones that comply with the politically charged parameters laid down by the state. For a government whose ministers have long been proponents of a hawkish nativism, and indeed continue to champion such agendas, there is little doubt that in today’s highly securitised and xenophobic political climate, critical and dissenting Muslim civic voices will be classified as a threat to peace - as subversive and illegitimate disruptors. read the complete article

The King reads the Quran: The life of Charles III royal watchers don't talk about

Despite the trappings of his position, King Charles III has repeatedly spoken about Islam, as well as diversity and historic wrongs which have shaped the present. He has spoken of these issues in ways perhaps surprising from someone sitting at the apex of the British establishment - although representatives of 12 Commonwealth nations insist much more has to be done. Charles is patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, the centre founded for promoting understanding Islam in Britain, where, thirty years ago, he delivered a speech in which he expressed admiration for the principles of a faith which he described as 'all around us'. In recent years, Charles has only expounded on these ideas. In the 2018 book 'Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes and Dreams' refers to his studies of the Quran. Thirty years before he was crowned, Charles made a speech - Islam and the West - in which he laid out his hopes of greater mutual understanding. Much has happened in the world since then. "Muslims, Christians - and Jews - are all 'peoples of the Book'," he said. "Islam and Christianity share a common monotheistic vision: a belief in one divine God...We share many key values in common: respect for knowledge, for justice, compassion towards the poor and underprivileged, the importance of family life, respect for parents. He went on to talk about sharia law, saying: "People in this country frequently argue that the Sharia law of the Islamic world is cruel, barbaric and unjust. "Our newspapers, above all, love to peddle those unthinking prejudices. The truth is, of course, different and always more complex. My own understanding is that extremes, like the cutting off of hands, are rarely practised. "The guiding principle and spirit of Islamic law, taken straight from the Qur'an, should be those of equity and compassion. We need to study its actual application before we make judgements." read the complete article


How did Modi lose Karnataka — and could he lose India?

Exit polls after the May 10 voting in the southern Indian state of Karnataka had projected that the opposition Congress party stood a better chance of forming the next government than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was in power. On Saturday, the Congress managed to win 135 of the 224 seats in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly despite those odds, securing 43 percent votes, 5 percent more than in the previous 2018 election, and 7 percent more than the BJP this time. Conversely, with its exit from Karnataka, the BJP no longer holds power in any of India’s five southern states. Addressing journalists on the election outcome, the state Congress’s tallest leader and former chief minister, Siddaramaiah, who goes by one name, said: “It is a victory of a secular party. The people of Karnataka don’t tolerate communal politics.” Unlike many opposition leaders in the state and nationally who often hesitate to take on the BJP’s anti-Muslim political campaigns too directly, Siddaramaiah has been consistent in standing against the divisive politics of Modi’s party. The outgoing BJP government had introduced a series of laws and regulations that were widely seen as targeting the state’s Muslims, who constitute about 13 percent of Karnataka’s population of 60 million. These included a ban on wearing a hijab by Muslim students in educational institutions last year and the scrapping of a 4 percent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions that many subcommunities among Muslims were benefitting from. The BJP government also passed laws ostensibly against forced religious conversions (India’s Hindu right often accused Muslims and Christians of using allurements and coercion to make Hindus leave their faith) and a ban on cow slaughter, among others. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 15 May 2023 Edition


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