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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, a mosque in the Twin Cities was targeted in an act of vandalism, making it the fifth mosque attack in Minnesota this year, meanwhile in India, there was another anti-Muslim event organized by the Sakal Hindu Samaj in Maharashtra, where one of the speakers delivered an Islamophobic rant falsely accusing the “Muslim community of spreading COVID,” and the authorities for not “punishing the Muslim community,” and in the United States, the State Department released its latest survey of religious freedom around the world, noting high levels of discrimination and persecution in China, Iran, and India. Our recommended read of the day is by Miriam Berger for the Washington Post on a new study by Boston University’s Cost of War Project, which finds that the post-9/11 wars have resulted in an estimated 4.5 million deaths in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. This and more below:


Post-9/11 wars have contributed to some 4.5 million deaths, report suggests | Recommended Read

Brown University researchers, in a report released Monday, draw on U.N. data and expert analyses to attempt to calculate the minimum number of excess deaths attributable to the war on terrorism, across conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — impacts “so vast and complex that” ultimately, “they are unquantifiable,” the researchers acknowledge. The accounting, so far as it can be measured, puts the toll at 4.5 million to 4.6 million — a figure that continues to mount as the effects of conflict reverberate. Of those fatalities, the report estimates, some 3.6 million to 3.7 million were “‘indirect deaths” caused by the deterioration of economic, environmental, psychological and health conditions. “There are reverberating costs, the human cost of war, that people for the most part in the United States don’t really know enough about or think about,” said Stephanie Savell, the paper’s author and co-director of the Costs of War project. “We talk about it being over now that the U.S. has left Afghanistan, but one significant way that these wars are continuing,” she said, is that “the people in the war zones are continuing to suffer the consequences.” Since 2010, a team of 50 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners and physicians participating in the Costs of War project have kept their own calculations. According to their latest assessment, more than 906,000 people, including 387,000 civilians, died directly from post-9/11 wars. Another 38 million people have been displaced or made refugees. The U.S. federal government, meanwhile, has spent over $8 trillion on these wars, the research suggests. read the complete article

Myanmar Rohingya: What future for the refugee baby lucky to survive?

Five years on, the life of the little boy who entered the world in the most precarious of circumstances remains fragile. He's one of half a million children growing up here amid hunger, disease and trauma with little prospect of things getting better - in the camp there is no formal education and few chances of getting a job. Anwar was born into a life of chaos and danger. His young parents were part of a mass exodus of Rohingya people, who fled their villages in Myanmar in fear, carrying nothing. "I used to think I would bring him up in a beautiful and peaceful world," Mohsena told us at the time, "but I am in a refugee camp and this is not a beautiful place at all." Now close to a million people live here, surrounded by barbed wire fences and cut off from the outside world. They fled Myanmar forces who are accused of systematically murdering, raping and torturing the minority Rohingya population - last year the US government said they had committed genocide. With the very same military now running their homeland, since a coup in 2021, Rohingya refugees have very little chance of going back. read the complete article

New US report alleges religious freedom violations in China, Iran, India

The State Department's latest survey of religious freedom around the world shows that conditions in some of the most oppressive nations around the world are growing even more dire as well as new, troubling trends, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday. "Governments in many parts of the world continue to target religious minorities using a host of methods, including torture, beatings, unlawful surveillance, and so-called re-education camps," he said. Blinken underscored abuses against the predominately Muslim Uyghur minority group in the Xinjiang province of China, a country one senior State Department official described as "one of the worst abusers of human rights and religious freedom in the world." The U.S. has previously determined that Beijing's treatment of the Uyghurs amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity, and the report, which covers the year 2022, said that persecution has continued steadily. The survey, which is required by law to be compiled and submitted to Congress annually, also expressed a number of concerns about conditions in India—a country not currently designated by the State Department as a "Country of Particular Concern" for severe violations of religious freedom. Among the issues listed are legal prohibitions against conversions in multiple states, accusations of systemic discrimination against Muslims, and attacks on religious minorities--including "cow vigilantism" against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or trade in beef. read the complete article

US asks India to check ‘continued targeted attacks’ on minorities

The United States wants India to condemn persistent religious violence, says a senior government official, a month before a state visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The US State Department on Monday released its annual report on religious freedom which listed attacks against religious minorities including Muslims and Christians in the world’s most populous nation. Among the concerns the official noted was “open calls for genocide against Muslims, lynching and other hate-fuelled violence, attacks on places of worship and home demolitions, and in some cases impunity and even clemency for those who have engaged in attacks on religious minorities”. The official promised to speak “directly” with Indian officials and said: “We will continue to work very closely with our civil society colleagues on the ground [and] with courageous journalists that are working every day to document some of these abuses.” The USCIRF, in its annual report, said the Indian government “at the national, state and local levels promoted and enforced religiously discriminatory policies” in 2022. Those included “laws targeting religious conversion, interfaith relationships, the wearing of hijabs [headscarves] and cow slaughter”. The USCIRF said the US State Department should designate India as a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom because of “systematic, ongoing [and] egregious violations” of religious freedom in the Hindu-majority nation. read the complete article


The Kerala Story: Dozens held in Maharashtra after Islamic State film row

Over 100 people have been arrested in the western Indian state of Maharashtra after one person died and eight others were injured in communal clashes. Reports say the violence, which took place in Akola city, was triggered by a social media post on a controversial film, The Kerala Story. Authorities cut internet services and imposed a curfew to bring the situation under control. A female constable was among those who were injured in the clashes. Police said that violence first began on Saturday when members of a community gathered outside a police station in Akola to protest against a social media post about the film. Reports say it was a screenshot of a conversation between two residents which was shared on Instagram by one of them. A police official told The Indian Express newspaper that some messages in the chat "hurt the religious sentiments" of the other person, but did not give any details. The Kerala Story, which released in theatres on last week, had sparked controversy months before its release. The film depicts a fictional story of three Indian women from the southern state who join the Islamic State group. Opposition politicians have criticised the film, calling it propaganda. But the makers say the film is based on years of research and true events. The film has also found support from leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including at least two federal ministers, and was praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an election rally this month. read the complete article

The Kerala Story: India’s divide over low-budget Bollywood film turns deadly

The Kerala Story is a fictional drama about Hindu and Christian women in the southern Indian state who are lured to join Isis. Originally touted as being based on the true stories of more than 30,000 such women, the film’s creators were ordered to row back these claims after a court said they had no basis in fact. Critics from opposition parties across India have described the film as Hindu nationalist “propaganda” and accused it of perpetuating Islamophobia, while it has been heavily promoted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including in tweets by prime minister Narendra Modi. The low-budget Bollywood film from director Sudipto Sen has been at the centre of controversy since the day its teaser was released in India. After its cinema release on 5 May, the state of West Bengal banned showings while Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh – the country’s two most populous BJP-ruled states – cut the price of tickets by waiving government taxes. The chief minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, did not ban the film in the state but said that the movie seemed to be made “with the aim of communal polarisation and spreading hate propaganda”. On social media a number of alternative hashtags about the film like #MyKeralaStory and #RealKeralaStory started trending, with people sharing their own stories of religious harmony and camaraderie. read the complete article

Another hate event organised by Sakal Hindu Samaj in Maharashtra, where Bharatanand Saraswati delivers anti-Muslim hate speech

On May 14, another hate event had been organised by the notorious Sakal Hindu Samaj at Amravati, Maharashtra, where Bharatanand Saraswati delivered a hate speech targeting the Muslim community. Addressing a crowd of “supporters”, he first started by saying that he had been advised by people to not give a hate speech, but he is not afraid of jail. Instigating his audience, in his speech, he implied that “because he is a Hindu,” that is the reason why he is being targeted by the police and authorities. He went to the extent of falsely accusing the “Muslim community of spreading COVID”, and the authorities for not “punishing the Muslim community.” He also called for bringing a population control bill to stop Muslim population in the country. read the complete article

Massive rally by Indian Muslims in Kerala to protest Islamophobia

Muslims in Kerala, India, gathered on Saturday to protest against rising sentiments of Islamophobia and violence toward Muslims which have been fueled by Hindu nationalism. Hindutva fascism has for many years spearheaded a campaign aimed at demonizing Indian Muslims in the country. The goal of the ideology is to establish a state that is purely Hindu instead of a secular state. Protesters were seen chanting slogans and holding banners against the fascist Hindu political ideology, according to the reports of multiple media outlets in the country. As per the reports, the rallies on Saturday were organized by the Kerala Muslim Jama-ath Federation (KMJF) on the occasion of the 40th anniversary in the city of Kollam. The rallies are intended to address the concerns of Muslim Indians, particularly with regard to growing violence against them. Demonstrators were heard voicing their rejection of some controversial proposed legislation - such as the National Registration of Citizens (NRC) and Uniform Civil Code, while demanding that Muslims and their rights be protected. read the complete article

United States

Ruwa Romman, Georgia Lawmaker, Is the First Muslim Woman and Palestinian American in the Statehouse

State Representative Ruwa Romman, the granddaughter of Palestinian refugees, was born in Jordan and moved to Georgia at age seven. She calls herself a “Southern Arab” and jokes about the similarities between Arab culture and Southern culture, saying both are focused on hospitality, family, and religion. She remembers distinct moments from her childhood in Georgia, some lovely, like inviting a friend over to her house, where they tasted hummus for the first time; some much darker, like a peer calling her a “terrorist” or a teacher pulling her out of class to ask if her family had ties to Hamas, a militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and has a presence on the West Bank. Romman, who has a teenage sister, sees the way Georgia has progressed in the years since she was growing up. The fact that her sister has other hijab-wearing friends at school, she says, feels like progress. And there are Muslim representatives in Congress, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. André Carson (D-IN), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–MN). But in Georgia, Romman is the first. Teen Vogue talks to Romman about growing up in Georgia and her hopes for the future of the state. read the complete article

St. Paul mosque vandalized Friday morning; 5th mosque attack in Minnesota this year

St. Paul police are investigating after the latest in a string of attacks on mosques in the Twin Cities. Around 7 a.m. a person wearing a hoodie and a mask is captured by a surveillance camera entering the Masjid Al Sunnah Mosque's parking lot on Pederson Street in St. Paul. The person then threw a large rock at the main doors of the mosque. It's the fifth time someone vandalized a Minnesota mosque so far this year. Last week, a Plymouth man was indicted on charges of arson and hate crimes after fires at two Minneapolis mosques in April. "These incidents are sometimes seen as a broken window or a broken door but they have significant impact on our community," CAIR Minnesota Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said. Minnesota houses of worship could also be getting security help from state lawmakers. The public safety bill that's now being debated in the house includes a provision to gather more data on hate crimes in the state. read the complete article

DOJ and DHS Racial Profiling Guidelines Must Close Loopholes Permitting Bias

As President Joe Biden welcomed hundreds of American Muslims to an Eid celebration at the White House earlier this month, the Secret Service denied entry to Mohammad Khairullah, the mayor of a New Jersey town. The agency runs guests’ information through vast federal databases, and the mayor suspects it rejected him because he has been wrongly placed on a federal watchlist due to racial and religious profiling. His exclusion seems to fit with a pattern of federal security agencies treating Americans differently based on their beliefs and skin color. For decades, communities of color and civil rights advocates have sought rules that fully ban biased profiling by federal agencies. These agencies wield the technology and power to surveil and investigate us, ban us from flying, detain and question us at the border, and deny us immigration benefits. Yet glaring loopholes in the Justice Department’s current racial profiling guidance, parts of which are followed by the Department of Homeland Security, still permit pervasive discrimination. The president has charged the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security with reviewing and updating these rules, and new guidelines are expected soon. To ensure that federal safety and security efforts are based on facts, not prejudice, the new guidelines must deliver in three key ways: they must cover all constitutionally-protected traits; they must apply to the full range of federal law enforcement and security activities; and they must set out serious steps to ensure and measure compliance. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Flagship conservative conference bars reporters from left-leaning media

The National Conservatism Conference – whose annual three-day event begins today in Westminster’s Emmanuel Centre – rejected applications for press tickets from openDemocracy, Byline Times, Novara Media and JOE “due to high demand and limited space” weeks in advance. Yet videos of the first day shot by journalists who did manage to gain entry show numerous empty seats, while openDemocracy has learnt that at least one other publication was granted press access despite applying just days before the event was due to start. The conference, run by US right-wing think tank the Edmund Burke Foundation and informally known as NatCon, seeks to promote concepts of tradition, religion and national identity. It is expected to address a post-Brexit Britain, with a focus on cultural identity and family values. It will feature speakers who have called for abortion to be banned and have said life should be made “harder” for Muslims. Speakers at the event include Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has frequently advocated for free speech; home secretary Suella Braverman; communities secretary Michael Gove; and controversial Tory Party deputy chair Lee Anderson. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 16 May 2023 Edition


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