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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16 May 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In France, rule changes in Grenoble’s swimming pools suggest that opposition to the burkini could be receding, meanwhile in China, an AP investigation of leaked data finds that “nearly one in 25 people in a county in the Uyghur heartland has been sentenced to prison on terrorism-related charges, in what is the highest known imprisonment rate in the world,” and in the United States, Republican Senate hopeful, Dr. Mehmet Oz called out fellow Republican Senate contender Kathy Barnette for her anti-Muslim comments, describing them as “disqualifying.” Our recommended read of the day is by Jason Stanley for the Guardian on how the far-right Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which inspired the gunman who killed 10 people in Buffalo, NY over the weekend, has “gained mainstream traction thanks in part to the likes of Tucker Carlson on Fox News.” This and more below:

United States

16 May 2022

Buffalo shooting: how white replacement theory keeps inspiring mass murder | Recommended Read

On Saturday, 18-year-old Payton Gendron parked his car in front of the entrance to a Tops Supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. Exiting the car wearing metal armor and holding an assault rifle, he shot and killed a female employee in front of the store, and a man packing groceries into the trunk of his car. After entering the store, he murdered the store’s guard, and by the end of his killing spree, he had shot 13 people, killing 10 of them. Eleven of the people he shot were Black, and two were white. As the manifesto he left behind makes clear, this was fully intentional. The first listed goal in his manifesto was to “kill as many blacks as possible”. He live-streamed his massacre, and the video begins with him following to the letter the beginning of the plan he lays out in the manifesto. But the manifesto – which is meant to inspire and instruct subsequent attacks – also outlines the ideology that inspired the murders. Gendron was motivated by a classic version of White Replacement Theory, the view that a cabal of global elites is trying to destroy white nations, via the systematic replacement of white populations. According to White Replacement Theory, the strategies employed by these “global elites” include the mass immigration of supposedly “high fertility” non-whites, and encouraging intermingling between members of non-white races and whites. Gendron was deeply influenced by a series of recent mass killers who were animated by white replacement theory including Brenton Tarrant, whom Gendron openly acknowledges as his model. In Christchurch, New Zealand, Tarrant massacred 51 people at a Mosque in the name of White Replacement Theory, also live-streaming his actions. Gendron’s manifesto begins in a similar fashion to Tarrant’s, by decrying the “white genocide” that will result from the supposedly low fertility rates of white populations and the high fertility rates of non-white immigrants brought in to “replace” them. It is more openly anti-Black than Tarrant’s manifesto – it is a deeply American version, with roots in Jim Crow and lynching. It is also vastly more explicitly antisemitic. The ideology that motivated Gendron’s mass murder in Buffalo, White Replacement Theory, has a lengthy and blood-soaked 20th century history. Since 2011, it has been the explicit motivation for over 160 murders, including Norway’s Anders Breivik’s slaughter of 77 people, mostly immigrants, in 2011, Dylann Roof’s mass murder of Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, the Tree of Life Synagogue killings in 2018, and the murder of 23 people, mostly immigrants, in El Paso, Texas, in 2019. read the complete article

16 May 2022

Kathy Barnette Says She ‘Can’t Provide a Lot of Context’ for Her Anti-Islamic Tweets

Kathy Barnette, a Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania who has climbed in the polls against two big-spending rivals, on Sunday sought to downplay her past Islamophobic messages on social media, telling a Fox News host that some of them were “not even full thoughts,” nor “even full sentences” but rather, prompts intended to facilitate a conversation. The “Fox News Sunday” host, Shannon Bream, asked Ms. Barnette about specific messages she had written on Twitter. In 2014, Ms. Barnette wrote, “If you love freedom, Islam must NOT be allowed to thrive under any condition.” In 2016, Ms. Barnette wrote, “Obama is aMuslim. Doing Muslim like THINGS!” At first, Ms. Barnette blamed former President Barack Obama and the people who had fled the civil war in Syria, telling Ms. Bream, “In almost all of those tweets, when you look at the time frame we were living in at that particular time, we had the Obama administration bringing in a lot of Syrian refugees at that time.” Ms. Barnette was spreading the toxic brew of misinformation that Donald J. Trump helped popularize among Republicans before his successful presidential run in 2016, including the false claim that Mr. Obama is Muslim. He is a Christian. And despite Mr. Obama’s pledge to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees, only a fraction of them had entered the United States when Ms. Barnette posted her message. Ms. Barnette has spread falsehoods on social media and in public speeches aimed at Muslims for years. In an NBC interview on Friday she falsely denied writing a statement that is still on her Twitter timeline from 2015: “Pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam.” read the complete article

16 May 2022

Barnette slams GOP rivals at closed event as spotlight on late-surging Pennsylvania Senate hopeful intensifies

Pennsylvania Senate candidate Kathy Barnette slammed her Republican primary rivals on Saturday as being overly fixated on her surging candidacy, according to audio of a speech obtained by CNN, while calling her leading opponents "two globalists" who were only pandering to conservatives to get elected. The comments came during an event in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with Barnette and Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. Members of the media were barred from attending the event, but an event attendee offered a recording to CNN. In her speech Saturday, Barnette cast her two top opponents -- celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick -- as fake conservatives. Barnette also took issue Saturday with the focus on her past tweets. A CNN report found that her tweets and past appearances included anti-Muslim and anti-gay statements and pushing the false conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama is a Muslim. He is a Christian. "No one is talking about my old tweets," she said. "They have got to go 10 years almost into the past to find ... not a complete thought or a sentence and say this is who she is." Barnette also attacked Fox host Sean Hannity, who has had Oz on his show and asked him about some of her past tweets. She told the audience that Hannity is "doing exactly what he and others have said about the left, he is sowing disinformation in order to suppress our vote, in order to steal an election. That is exactly what they are doing." read the complete article

16 May 2022

‘Reprehensible’: Oz condemns GOP opponent’s tweet on Islam

After spending much of the campaign steering clear of fellow Republican Senate contender Kathy Barnette, Oz on Saturday said she was out of step with the GOP and would be unable to win the general election in November. In an interview, he took issue with a 2015 tweet from Barnette in which she wrote that “Pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam.” Oz, who would be the nation’s first Muslim senator, described the comments as “disqualifying.” “It’s reprehensible that she would tweet out something that is defamatory to an entire religion,” Oz told The Associated Press. “This state was based on religious freedom. I’m proud as a Pennsylvanian to uphold those founding beliefs that every faith has its merits.” “We know so little,” Oz said. “Every time she answers a question, she raises more questions. But I think it’s disqualifying to make Islamophobic and homophobic comments, not just for the general election, but the Republican primary as well.” read the complete article

16 May 2022

Henrico Islamic center grapples with discrimination

Islamophobia is a growing problem across the country and the world, and experts say recent events in Virginia show the commonwealth still struggles to address this form of discrimination. During Ramadan last month, vandals desecrated the West End Islamic Center in Short Pump. It’s the second time in six months the same center was the target of Islamophobic attacks. Members like Kashif Perwez, who serves as the center’s treasurer, said they’re increasingly worried about the safety of their community. “I don’t think [the attacks are] decreasing,” Perwez said. “This is a place of worship, so everybody should feel safe. You know, the last thing you want to worry about is safety in a place like this. You come to reflect and pray.” Experts agree with Perwez that rates of Islamophobic hate crimes have increased during the past year. Huzaifa Shahbaz is a senior researcher and advocate for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights organization nationwide. He’s also the author of “Still Suspect: The Impact of Structural Islamophobia,” which tracks complaints of Islamophobic treatment every year. According to this year’s report, there were 6,720 complaints of Islamophobic events last year in the States, 9% more than in 2020. In the DMV area — which includes Northern Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and Maryland — there were 1,408 complaints last year, down slightly from the previous year. “We are increasingly seeing complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination and civil rights complaints,” Shahbaz said. “Of those [DMV-area] complaints, we found that 116 comprised harassment and hate crime complaints.” read the complete article

16 May 2022

Making Sense of the Racist Mass Shooting in Buffalo

The suspect, who is eighteen, used a weapon painted with a white-supremacist slogan and live-streamed his attack. Prior to the shooting, he also allegedly posted a manifesto, which relies heavily on the so-called great replacement theory, a racist conspiracy that has become increasingly mainstream in a number of Western countries, from France to the United States. To help understand that theory, and the dangers of white-supremacist violence more broadly, I spoke by phone with Kathleen Belew, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago and the author of “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.” During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed the alleged shooter’s influences, why the notion of a “great replacement” has gained a foothold in the United States and elsewhere, and how the media and political actors have used the theory to their benefit. read the complete article

16 May 2022

What is the 'Great Replacement' and how is it tied to the Buffalo shooting suspect?

In short, the "Great Replacement" is a conspiracy theory that states that non-white individuals are being brought into the United States and other Western countries to "replace" white voters to achieve a political agenda. It is often touted by anti-immigration groups, white supremacists and others, according to the National Immigration Forum. White supremacists argue that the influx of immigrants, people of color more specifically, will lead to the extinction of the white race. Similar to mass extremists, Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old white male accused of killing 10 people and wounding another three in Buffalo, allegedly said in his screed that the decrease in white birth rates equates to a genocide. The alleged supermarket shooter and other extremists claim the U.S. has to close its borders to immigrants. The "Great Replacement" theory is sometimes seen in other ways such as claims of voter replacement and immigrants invading America, the National Immigration Forum said. The first claim assumes that immigrants and non-white people will vote a certain way, ultimately drowning out the votes of white Americans. read the complete article

16 May 2022

Scrutiny of Republicans who embrace ‘great replacement theory’ after Buffalo massacre

The massacre by a white supremacist gunman of Black shoppers at a Buffalo grocery store has drawn renewed scrutiny of Republican figures in the US who have embraced the racist “great replacement theory” he is alleged to have used as justification for the murders. Born from far-right nationalism, the extremist ideology expounding the view that immigration will ultimately destroy white values and western civilization has found favor not only with media figures, such as conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson, but a host of elected politicians and others seeking office. Those who have convinced themselves Democrats are operating an open-door immigration policy to “replace” Republican voters with people of color and keep themselves in power permanently include congresswoman Elise Stefanik, chair of her party’s House conference, and JD Vance, the Donald Trump-approved Republican nominee to represent Ohio in the US Senate. After the Buffalo shooting, the pair are among those receiving blowback for encompassing the conspiracy theory that the killer referred to repeatedly in an online manifesto authorities believe he posted to justify the attack. In a study of the history of great replacement theory in Republican circles, Vice notes that it “isn’t new to American politicians”. In 2017, the Iowa congressman Steve King, a fierce Trump loyalist, said in a tweet: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies”. Arguably the biggest rightwing apologist for great replacement theory, however, is Carlson, the Fox News host. On his show last year, he stated: “Demographic change is the key to the Democratic Party’s political ambitions. In order to win and maintain power, Democrats plan to change the population of the country.” His “nefarious” stance, the Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent wrote: “exposes the ideological underbelly of the broader right-wing populist nationalist movement that he and his defenders champion.” read the complete article


16 May 2022

US mass shooting: Livestream is now banned in New Zealand, local Muslim community 'shaken'

A recording made during a lethal mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, has been banned in New Zealand. And Cabinet minister Megan Woods says the US shooter's apparent idolisation of the 2019 Christchurch terrorist has retraumatised some in the local Muslim community. The livestream video of yesterday's mass shooting in the United States has now been banned, Acting Chief Censor Rupert Ablett-Hampson said this morning. The shooting in a mostly black neighbourhood was live-streamed on the Twitch platform, accompanied with a manifesto, and motivated by anti-black racial hatred. The footage ban followed Ablett-Hampson's decision yesterday to ban the US terrorist's manifesto. read the complete article

16 May 2022

ZARQA tells the story of a Muslim divorcee looking for revenge

Enter ZARQA, a new show about a middle-aged Muslim divorcee who is looking to one-up her ex after finding out he is marrying a white yoga instructor half his age. The CBC Gem original series, which streams on Friday, is named after and stars writer, producer and published author Zarqa Nawaz. In 2007, Nawaz created the acclaimed series Little Mosque on the Prairie. This time, Nawaz is stepping in front of the camera to bring audiences a character they haven't seen before: a precocious, slightly chaotic, Muslim woman experiencing a mid-life crisis. "All Muslim women (on screen) are always like these quiet, pious, good women who wear hijab and are nice wives or daughters or mothers or being oppressed by terrible Muslim men or …stuck in a cave captured by the Taliban," Nawaz told CBC News. She says the media often feeds on these tropes and stereotypes, leaving very little room for original storytelling. Nawaz, and other Muslim creators, say that in order to tell more authentic and complex stories about Muslim people, they need to have the space and access to explore universal themes. In 2021, actor Riz Ahmed led a report about the lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood. The study found in 100 U.S. films made between 2017 and 2019, only 1.1 per cent of the characters were Muslim and even when there was representation, it was mostly men in those roles. The report also highlighted that "Muslims, both on screen and off, have been constrained to a narrative that normalizes them as violent and positions their faith as related to extremism." Seeing the same ideas and tropes repeated on screen is what finally led Hirra Farooqi, along with Obaid Ullah, to co-found the Muslim International Film Festival. "Muslims are not monolithic. Muslims are not all the same. There's so many different types of Muslims, so many different types of lifestyles," said Farooqi, who is also CEO of the festival. read the complete article

16 May 2022

Elon Musk’s free-speech agenda poses safety risks on global stage

Elon Musk’s controversial vow to restore free speech to Twitter is likely to be complicated to implement in the United States. But it could create even bigger problems abroad in places such as India. Already, some critics warn that approach is overly simplistic, likely prompting increased misuse of the site. And following the government’s lead on free speech would open up Twitter to political manipulation, which it has struggled — sometimes unsuccessfully — to resist in countries including India. With an estimated 38.6 million users, India represents Twitter’s fourth-largest market, according to 2021 estimates from market research firm Insider Intelligence, making it a significant source of potential growth. Meanwhile, India’s right-leaning government has wielded its regulatory power to pressure Twitter to take down posts spreading messages from its critics while staying silent on bigotry rippling across the site. “Billionaires like Musk and [Facebook’s Mark] Zuckerberg, who live in an extremely privileged bubble, clearly do not understand how governments work in countries that are not First World,” said Pratik Sinha, the founder of Alt News, an Indian nonprofit fact-checking website. Silicon Valley executives do not fully grasp how authoritarian governments seek to squelch online dissent, or how unregulated social media discourse can stoke hate and mob violence, he added. Technology regulation experts have said any plan to lower the bar on Twitter’s rules to be more influenced by local governments rather than by a higher standard it applies globally could have unintended consequences, particularly in countries where the government and powerful people frequently push social media giants to eliminate content they doesn’t like. In India, tech platforms such as Twitter are already facing tough decisions about how to weigh supporting free expression against protecting minority communities in a nation rife with fierce — and sometimes violent — cultural divisions. read the complete article


16 May 2022

How Narendra Modi is remaking India into a Hindu state

The pattern is plain to see. On the occasion of a religious festival, youths affiliated to the sangh parivar, or the Hindu-nationalist “family of organisations”, march through a densely packed slum. When the rowdy young men, sporting saffron-coloured clothes or flags and brandishing swords, reach a mostly Muslim neighbourhood, their chants turn to taunts and insults. Muslim boys start throwing stones. In the ensuing fight shops get looted, houses burned and lives lost. Reporters tally the damage. This is typically lopsided, inverting the proportions of India’s 79% Hindu majority and 15% Muslim minority. No matter. The sangh gleefully choruses its mantra: “Hindus are in danger! Unite!” The Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) which rules both at the centre in Delhi, the capital, and in about half of India’s states, is itself a child of the sangh. Many of its top leaders started as foot soldiers in just the sort of gangs that so predictably spark trouble. Small wonder that as a bigger-than-usual spate of nasty communal clashes broke out across a swathe of central India during this spring’s festival season, bjp officials made scant effort to calm things. Instead they loudly invoked the right of Hindus to “practise their faith”, blamed Muslims for the violence and demanded exemplary punishment. Following a mini-riot in Delhi on April 16th, provoked once again by sword-waving youths menacing a mosque, Kapil Mishra, a local bjp leader, quickly spun the events as a Muslim conspiracy. “They should be identified and their homes should be bulldozed,” he declared. A few hours later bulldozers duly rolled in, smashing Muslim property for alleged building-code violations. The increasing use of summary collective punishment is disturbing enough—the demolitions in Delhi followed identical post-pogrom targeting of Muslims in three other bjp-ruled states. More telling still has been the response from higher up in the party, and in particular from Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister. The leader’s reaction to months of sporadic communal violence and rising social tension, and to loud calls from activists, politicians and even retired civil servants for him to do something has been absolute silence. To many Indians and in particular to the country’s 200m Muslims, the world’s biggest religious minority, the government’s shrug of indifference to growing distress is deeply ominous. It does more than offer tacit approval to mob violence and mob justice. It suggests that in the emerging Hindu rashtra (state) envisioned by the sangh, some will always be more equal than others, with religious identity becoming a measure of citizenship. It also suggests that what lies in India’s future may not merely be further sporadic, localised troubles, but something wider and more painful. read the complete article


16 May 2022

Uyghur county in China has highest prison rate in the world

Nearly one in 25 people in a county in the Uyghur heartland of China has been sentenced to prison on terrorism-related charges, in what is the highest known imprisonment rate in the world, an Associated Press review of leaked data shows. A list obtained and partially verified by the AP cites the names of more than 10,000 Uyghurs sent to prison in just Konasheher county alone, one of dozens in southern Xinjiang. In recent years, China has waged a brutal crackdown on the Uyghurs, a largely Muslim minority, which it has described as a war on terror. The list is by far the biggest to emerge to date with the names of imprisoned Uyghurs, reflecting the sheer size of a Chinese government campaign by which an estimated million or more people were swept into internment camps and prisons. It also confirms what families and rights groups have said for years: China is relying on a system of long-term incarceration to keep the Uyghurs in check, wielding the law as a weapon of repression. read the complete article


16 May 2022

Plan to allow burkinis in Grenoble swimming pools reignites French culture wars

Burkinis have been a long-standing catalyst for dispute in France, calling societal attitudes towards Islam and feminism into question. Rule changes in Grenoble’s swimming pools suggest that opposition to the garment could be receding. In Grenoble, Mayor Éric Piolle wants to make the rules more permissive, especially for female swimmers. “Our wish is to get rid of absurd restrictions,” he said. “This includes [allowing] bare breasts and swimming costumes that give extra coverage for sun protection or for beliefs. It is not about taking a position for or against the burkini specifically,” he said. The planned change in Grenoble comes after protests in the city that began in 2018. In 2020 and 2021 a group of activists from the community grassroots association Alliance Citoyenne protested by wearing burkinis in Grenoble's swimming pools. One of these was Taous, a Muslim who lives in Grenoble and wears a hijab. “I love the feeling of being in the water, but those protests were the first time I’ve been able to put my feet in a swimming pool in France,” she said. When her children go to the pool, Taous watches rather than swimming with them. She is adamant the rules should change not just to allow burkinis, but to allow more choice for all women. “The rules are not specifically about burkinis,” she said. “They are also planning to allow women to show their breasts if they want to. It’s really a question of feminism and letting women wear what they want to. I believe in each woman's right to choose.” In Grenoble, local politicians were quick to counter the mayor’s plans to allow burkinis in swimming pools. In May, the president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez, accused the mayor of “submitting to Islamism” and threatened to cut grants to the town if the measure was passed. Dozens of local officials have also signed appeals to cancel the town hall vote on the measure, which they say has been “imposed by minority groups with the sole objective of permanently testing the sensitivity of our institutions to religious symbols.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 16 May 2022 Edition


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