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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17 May 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In India, a court in Varanasi banned large Muslim prayer gatherings at the historic Gyanvapi mosque, one of north India’s highest-profile mosques, after a survey team found relics of the Hindu god Shiva and other Hindu symbols there, meanwhile in China, the CCP’s “transnational repression is on the rise, with Beijing employing a range of tactics to pursue its Uyghurs abroad,” including physical threats, cyberattacks and the denial of consular services, and in the United Kingdom, leaked draft extracts from the government’s Prevent review state that there has been a “double standard” approach to tackling different forms of extremism, claiming that the definition of neo-nazism has expanded too widely, while the focus on Islamist extremism has been too narrow. Our recommended read of the day is by Imran Ahmed for the Guardian on how social media companies have done little to tackle racism and Islamophobia on their platforms, noting that failure to tackle “online hate and misinformation has real-world impacts.” This and more below:


17 May 2022

Buffalo might never have happened if online hate had been tackled after Christchurch | Recommended Read

Americans are facing another tragedy – this time in Buffalo – as 11 Black and two white victims were shot in a “racially motivated hate crime” suspected to have been perpetrated by a young man who spent much of his life online, where he appears to have been radicalised. He used the same digital playbook as the Christchurch terrorist: livestream footage of his attack and a “manifesto” that quoted the same “great replacement” and other white supremacist theories. He mentions the Christchurch terrorist by name in his manifesto. In our most recent research report looking at anti-Muslim hate, we found that the big social media companies were collectively failing to act on 89% of posts that advocated the great replacement theory – despite pledges made in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack and subsequent, ideologically driven violent extremism attacks at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; in Halle, Germany; and in El Paso. These are not “lone wolf” attacks. The individuals are connected through online communities on social media, where they share ideas, tactics and content. The failure of social media companies to act sufficiently on known racist content connected with terrorism is a violation of their own terms and conditions, the pledges made to an international community when the cameras were rolling, and the dignity that the victims of Buffalo were entitled to have – the right to life. Perhaps the only thing that explains why – despite so many pledges, so many platitudes and commitments to voluntary frameworks – the social media platforms have failed to act is because of the memo that Andrew Bosworth, now chief technical officer of Meta, wrote to his fellow employees on their internal messaging board, called the Ugly Truth. In it he said: “So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack co-ordinated on our tools. And still we connect people.” It is, quite simply, a bald statement of personal indifference to the grief of people, families and our nations. read the complete article

17 May 2022

India redrawing Kashmir assembly seats to ‘disempower Muslims’?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has released a list of redrawn electoral constituencies in Indian-administered Kashmir, giving greater representation to the Muslim-majority region’s Hindu areas and drawing condemnation from political parties in the valley. On May 5, a government-appointed delimitation commission announced 90 assembly constituencies for the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, excluding Ladakh, with 43 seats for Jammu and 47 for Kashmir. Earlier, Jammu had 37 seats and the Kashmir valley 46.The alteration of the region’s electoral map has angered opposition politicians – many of them former allies of Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – who accuse the delimitation commission of “gerrymandering” the region and “disempowering Muslims”. Gerrymandering is the political manipulation of electoral seats with the intent of creating an undue advantage for a party or group within the constituency. read the complete article

17 May 2022

China’s repression of Uyghurs extends far beyond its own borders

In March, the US Department of Justice charged five individuals with “stalking, harassing, and spying on US residents” on behalf of China’s secret police. The suspects were alleged to have worked with China’s intelligence services to report on Uyghurs and other US-based activists critical of the Chinese government. This was not an isolated incident. The following month, Chinese officials secured provisional agreement to deport a Uyghur woman named Buheliqiemu Abula and her 13-year-old daughter from Saudi Arabia to China, where they are at risk of detention in Xinjiang’s vast web of internment camps. China’s transnational repression is on the rise, with Beijing employing a range of tactics to pursue its critics abroad. These include physical threats, cyberattacks and the denial of consular services, which has left thousands of Uyghurs stranded without passports. China has co-opted international groups, including Interpol – the worldwide police cooperation organisation – in the service of this global dragnet. In July 2021, the Uyghur translator and activist Idris Hasan was detained in Morocco, where he had fled after Turkish authorities intimidated him for his activism among Istanbul’s Uyghur diaspora. China issued an Interpol red notice for his capture on the grounds that he was a member of Uyghur terrorist organisations – a common and often unfounded accusation that is made against Uyghur political activists. Interpol later suspended the red notice after finding the claim to be without evidence, noting bylaws forbidding persecution on political, religious or economic grounds. The global scale of this transnational repression is staggering. In a new study for the Wilson Center that draws on a groundbreaking data set, I analysed 1,574 publicly reported cases of detentions and forcible returns of Uyghurs to China from around the world over the past 25 years. Averaged out between 1997 and 2022, this amounts to 62 cases every year, or at least one case every week. While these figures themselves might seem high, they are only the cases that we know about. The true tally is likely far greater, as is the chilling effect of this repression on international activism. Every disappearance and each rendition frightens countless other activists into silence. read the complete article

United States

17 May 2022

As Muslim children return to schools, so does bullying

A recently released report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Massachusetts (CAIR-MA) has found that bullying and harassment of Muslim schoolchildren was rife before the pandemic. Now that classes are once again in person, cases are back up, following patterns reflective of the pandemic. “There was a year where there were almost no bullying calls starting in 2020. They weren’t in school. Those were very low. But we saw the numbers jump back up to a typical level in September 2021. Well, it’s the regular level, but the regular level is terrible.” She said one of the most common examples of school bullying against Muslim schoolchildren is yanking the hijab off a girl’s head. Another common taunt is calling a Muslim child a terrorist. The report, which surveyed students between 2019 and 2020 (before the peak months of the pandemic), documents what has largely been until recently anecdotal. The key findings were that more than 60 percent of Muslim students have at some point been bullied at school for being Muslim; around 40 percent have heard of someone who wears a hijab being physically harassed; and around 17 percent have had their hijab tugged at or pulled on, or experienced other offensive touching of their hijab. Another troubling finding from the report was the lack of oversight by parents and teachers, leaving many Muslim schoolchildren feeling isolated. Meanwhile, for the older generations, the reported incidents of neighbourhood harassment increased considerably, based on other cases during the same period. With the increased time at home, many neighbours began interacting more than they had previously had, leading to more opportunities for harassment. read the complete article

17 May 2022

Dr. Oz and the battle over the future of Islam in the GOP

The fastest-rising Muslim star in American politics may come from an unlikely place: the Republican Party’s right wing. Mehmet Cengiz Oz, the TV physician better-known as “Dr. Oz,” is running to become Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate candidate. The son of Turkish immigrants has fully embraced the politics of former President Donald Trump, including the claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and Trump has returned the favor by endorsing Oz. It was a remarkable endorsement from a former president who campaigned on “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” And it’s not without its detractors. The Pennsylvania primary has become a proxy battle over the future of the Republican relationship to Islam. In private, rival Republican candidate David McCormick reportedly attacked Oz’s religion. And in public, Trump’s former secretary of state Mike Pompeo has gone after Oz for his connections to Turkey, warning of a potential “national security” issue. Meanwhile, conservative activist Kathy Barnette has emerged as a dark horse candidate. And after she was revealed to have a history of homophobic and Islamophobic comments, Trump called Barnette an unviable candidate whose past has “not been properly explained or vetted.” A lot has changed in Republican politics for Trump to endorse a Muslim candidate and denounce his Islamophobic rivals. The “War on Terror” seems to finally be fading from public consciousness, and hawkish Middle East policy — which was joined at the hip with anti-Islam sentiment — no longer dominates Republican politics. At the same time, many see an opening with conservatives among ethnic minorities, especially Latino- and Asian-Americans. The shifting Republican coalition has also created openings to revive anti-Muslim politics. The growing national conservative movement — which largely lined up behind Trump’s priorities — tends to be skeptical about “globalist” military adventures and the old-style neoconservative movement. At the same time, War on Terror hawks like Daniel Pipes have gotten a reception at national conservative events by playing to nativist fears about mass Muslim immigration. read the complete article

17 May 2022

Stefanik echoed racist theory allegedly espoused by Buffalo suspect

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the No. 3 House Republican, and other GOP lawmakers came under scrutiny Sunday for previously echoing the racist “great replacement” theory that apparently inspired an 18-year-old who allegedly killed 10 people while targeting Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo. The baseless conspiracy theory claims that politicians are attempting to wipe out White Americans and their influence by replacing them with non-White immigrants. The theory was cited repeatedly by 18-year-old shooting suspect Payton Gendron in an online document that appeared to have outlined his intention to carry out his planned attack in Buffalo because of its significant population of Black people. Eleven of the 13 people shot at a Tops Friendly Markets store on Saturday were Black, according to police. While Stefanik has not pushed the theory by name, she and other conservatives have echoed the tenets of the far-right ideology as part of anti-immigrant rhetoric that has fired up the Republican base ahead of the midterm elections. read the complete article


17 May 2022

Indian court limits Muslim gatherings at mosque after Hindu idols found, lawyer says

A Court on Monday banned large Muslim prayer gatherings in one of north India's highest-profile mosques, after a survey team found relics of the Hindu god Shiva and other Hindu symbols there, a lawyer involved in the case said. The judge at the court in Varanasi - Hinduism's holiest city and the site of the historic Gyanvapi mosque - ruled that Islamic gatherings there should be limited to 20 people, lawyer H. S. Jain said. The court ordered the survey of the mosque after five women - represented by Jain - sought permission to perform Hindu rituals in one part of it, saying a Hindu temple once stood on the site. The Gyanvapi mosque, located in the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is one of several mosques in northern Uttar Pradesh that Hindu hardliners believe - in common with some other religious sites - was built on top of demolished Hindu temples. read the complete article

17 May 2022

Why Mewat Is a Growing Epicentre of Anti-Muslim Hate and Hindutva Vigilantism

In May 2021, a Hindutva mahapanchayat was held in Mewat’s Indri village. It witnessed several anti-Muslim hate speeches made by Hindutva leaders who had assembled in support of the accused in the case of the mob lynching of gym trainer Asif Khan. Among the speakers was BJP leader and Karni Sena chief Surajpal Amu. Referring to Muslims, Amu provoked the attendees at the mahapanchayat, “They make pornographic pictures of our sisters and daughters, and we shouldn’t even murder them?” A year later, in May 2022, there was yet another Hindutva Mahapanchayat in Haryana. Once again, it was held in Mewat - in the village of Sangel. The cause this time was different. It was being held in retaliation against the Haryana Police filing an FIR regarding videos of anti-Muslim violence which had gone viral. The mahapanchayat was held to threaten the police and the administration to revoke the FIR, even though the FIR itself was against unidentified persons. There were hate speeches and calls for violence aplenty here as well. And these mahapanchayats, attended by hundreds and thousands of vigilantes and members of Haryana’s Hindutva outfits aren’t the only events which are acting as communal flashpoints in Mewat. In recent months, there has been ample evidence to show that Mewat is witnessing a significant amount of vigilante violence, at the hands of self-professed ‘gau rakshaks’ or cow vigilantes. More on that in a bit. The region has also been a particular target area for online anti-Muslim narratives peddled by Hindutva groups and their foot soldiers. The district of Nuh (known as Mewat till 2016) has a majority Muslim population. According to the 2011 Census, around 79.2% of Nuh’s total population of 10.89 lakh people are Muslims, while Hindus comprise 20.4% of the population. Alishan Jafri, an independent journalist who focuses on tracking hate crimes and vigilante violence, remarks, “Such a large district, with more than 75% of the population being Muslim, is a thorn in the eyes of Hindutva groups and organisations. In the last one year, Mewat has been an object of special focus and attention for Hindutva groups. If you see the two mahapanchayats organised in 2021 (the one in Indri village in May and then the one in Pataudi in July), people specifically spoke about teaching the Muslims of Mewat a lesson.” Jafri continued, “Because, according to the narrative and rhetoric of the Hindutva groups there, Hindus are being oppressed in Mewat, and Hindus elsewhere in Haryana need to unite and teach Mewat a lesson.” read the complete article


17 May 2022

French town votes to allow ‘burkini’ in swimming pools, reigniting perennial debate

Local officials in the French city of Grenoble cleared the way for women to wear ‘burkinis’ in state-run swimming pools Monday, firing up a perpetual debate over the swimsuit perceived by some as an affront to France’s secularist traditions. Grenoble’s city council, where the Greens currently hold a majority, voted to scrap several bathing dress codes, local TV channel France 3 reported. The burkini — an all-in-one swimsuit mainly worn by Muslim women — has consistently raised controversy among many right wingers and some feminists who argue it is a symbol of Islam’s unequal treatment of women and is at odds with the French laïcité (state secularism). The swimsuit first whipped up a storm when several local French mayors tried to ban burkinis on beaches in 2016, before the proposals were struck down as discriminatory. Then, last summer, five women were fined in Grenoble for entering a state-run swimming pool in burkinis. French law constitutionally protects citizens’ right to freely practice their religion, but forbids schoolchildren and state employees from displaying religious symbols. Full-face coverings were also banned in 2010. The debate on burkinis has polarised the city in recent weeks. read the complete article

United Kingdom

17 May 2022

Leaked Prevent review attacks ‘double standards’ on far right and Islamists

The government’s counter-terrorism programme has been too focused on rightwing extremism and should now crack down on Islamist extremism, according to leaked draft extracts from a landmark review of the Prevent strategy. In one particularly provocative recommendation, seen by the Guardian, the review claims there has been a “double standard” approach to tackling different forms of extremism, with individuals targeted for expressing mainstream rightwing views because the definition of neo-nazism has expanded too widely, while the focus on Islamist extremism has been too narrow. The leaks, from the government-commissioned Prevent review being carried out by Sir William Shawcross, are likely to be deeply controversial. They come days after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where a self-confessed white supremacist shot 11 black and two white victims in what authorities described as a “racially motivated hate crime”. Sir Peter Fahy, the former police lead for Prevent, said the review extracts suggested Shawcross’s findings were an unwarranted attempt to “politicise counter-terrorism policing” and it was “quite dangerous to play off one ideology against another”. read the complete article


17 May 2022

Uyghur heartland in China has highest detention rate in the world: leaked data

Leaked data reviewed by the Associated Press revealed that almost one in 25 people in the Uyghur heartland in western China have been imprisoned on 'terrorism-related charges' - the highest known incarceration rate in the world. China has detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs on trumped-up charges of terrorism. A list accessed and partially verified by the AP revealed the names of more than 10,000 Uyghurs who have been detained by Chinese authorities in Konasheher alone, one of several regions in southern Xinjiang. China has embarked on a massive campaign of repression against the Muslim minority, which international governments and NGOs have said amounts to genocide. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 May 2022 Edition


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