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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17 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, Ammar al-Baluchi, a 20-year Guantanamo Bay detainee who was subjected to years of brutal torture and never convicted of a crime, is now under consideration by prosecutors for a plea bargain, meanwhile in Canada, according to a new survey, one-in-three non-Muslim Canadians (31%) say they have no interest in being an ally to Muslims, and in India, the Congress Party has gained momentum in the southern Indian state of Karnataka after winning a crucial state election against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Our recommended read of the day is by Raphael Rashid for Al Jazeera on the Islamophobia targeting congregants of the Dar-ul-Emaan Kyungpook Islamic Centre, a mosque in South Korea, where opponents of the mosque have held pork barbecue parties in front of the building and left pigs heads outside. This and more below:

South Korea

Pig heads, BBQs: Mosque backlash tests S Korea religious freedom | Recommended Read

When Muaz Razaq left Pakistan for the first time in 2019 to study for his computer science master’s degree in South Korea, he never expected to become the lightning rod of a bitter battle putting the country’s religious tolerance to the test. “Some locals were curious about my traditional attire and beard, which reminded them of Korea’s past aristocrats, but I never felt animosity or direct discrimination.” All that changed when the university’s approximately 150 Muslims decided to renovate the mosque they established in 2014 near the school’s west gate. The dispute over the plan has turned the construction site into a target of virulent Islamophobia. Officially known as Dar-ul-Emaan Kyungpook and Islamic Centre, the mosque is located in the Buk district of Daegu, South Korea’s third-largest city and a conservative stronghold about 240km (149 miles) from the capital Seoul. Soon after the new beams were erected in early 2021, the Buk district office abruptly issued an administrative order halting construction, citing complaints from local residents. Soon, pamphlets were being distributed in the surrounding streets, claiming the area would become a “slum” and property values would plummet. Students were labelled as “terrorists” and the streets plastered with offensive banners. Rallies were held and loud music played outside the temporary prayer room.The country’s human rights watchdog recommended that construction be resumed. The Supreme Court, in 2022, ruled that the administrative order to stop construction was illegal. But still, the hate continued to grow. Pork barbecue parties have been held in front of the construction site and pig heads left outside. read the complete article


The U.S. Just Released a Scathing Report on Religious Freedom in India

In India, police dressed in plainclothes in the Western state of Gujarat flogged four Muslim men accused of injuring Hindu worshippers during a festival last October. In the state of Madhya Pradesh, the government bulldozed Muslim-owned homes and shops last April. And throughout 2022, police arrested Christians accused of forcefully converting others and even aided crowds as they disrupted worship services. These are just a few of the many damning instances highlighted in the U.S. Department’s newly released Religious Freedom Report for 2022. The report annually surveys religious freedoms around the world and aims to provide a “fact-based, comprehensive view of the state of religious freedom” in nearly 200 countries and territories. The report expresses a number of concerns over India’s religious freedom. It highlights how religious conversion is legally prohibited in multiple states, how religious minorities are attacked on a regular basis, and how Muslims have alleged systemic discrimination—including “cow vigilantism,” which often results in attacks for alleged cow slaughter or beef trade. At Monday’s press briefing, a senior State Department official told reporters how the report outlines “continued, targeted attacks against religious communities” that promote “dehumanizing rhetoric” and “hate-fueled violence.” The official mentioned the international community’s response to the situation in India, including from the U.S. Holocaust museum and several human rights organizations. read the complete article

Ex-Guantanamo detainee Mansoor Adayfi has Yemeni passport restored

Mansoor Adayfi, a Yemeni citizen who spent 14 years in US captivity in Guantanamo Bay and was never charged with a crime, has had his Yemeni passport restored. Adayfi took to Twitter to announce the news. He thanked his lawyer and said, “After six years of hard work my passport was issued and arrived safely.” “In sha Allah (God willing), I will be able to travel. Wow! finally. Around the world.” He was 18 when he was arrested in Afghanistan, a few months before he was set to begin university, and was held without charge until he was 32. Once he was released from Guantanamo, he was barred from returning to Yemen where his family lives because it was a “security risk to return detainees to what it deemed unstable countries”, the US Congress decided. Yemen refused to grant Adayfi a passport. He was sent to Serbia and was effectively stateless - until now. Thirty prisoners are being held in the US-owned enclave in Cuba. Most have been held without formal charges. More than half of Guantanamo detainees are eligible for transfer. Nearly 86 percent of the detainees at Guantanamo were captured after the US distributed flyers in Pakistan and Afghanistan offering huge bounties for "suspicious people". From those detained, 55 percent were determined not to have committed any hostile acts against the US or its coalition allies and only eight percent were characterised as al-Qaeda fighters. read the complete article

United States

Hate crime investigation urged by US civil rights groups in vandalism of Oregon mosque

Civil rights advocates in the United States are urging for a hate crime probe following the vandalism of a mosque in Oregon. The incident took place on Thursday at Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center. The words "Jesus Loves U" were found spray painted on the mosque's outside wall and on the sidewalk in front of the mosque, according to photos in a local news report. Though the words were not explicitly violent, the act of writing them on a mosque is provocative. "This hypocritical call to 'love' is really an expression of hatred when it targets a house of worship with vandalism and should be investigated as a possible hate crime," said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a public statement. "If the perpetrators really sought to engage Muslims, they could have walked through the mosque's door to respectfully discuss their religious beliefs and those of the Muslim community," he said. The mosque, which has been in the neighbourhood for three decades, has reportedly had a good relationship with neighbours, who have expressed dismay at the incident. "It's a house of worship. You just don't do that to a house of worship," Sandra Landish, a nearby resident, told a local news outlet KEZI. read the complete article

It takes a whole community to combat hate

Jury selection recently began in the long-awaited trial of the shooter accused of killing 11 people inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018. As the Jewish community revisits the wounds of the deadliest attack of antisemitism in this country, Minnesota's Muslim community is grappling with a series of horrific attacks on mosques and Islamic centers in the metropolitan area. They should not be alone in responding to this epidemic of anti-Muslim hate — and they are not. Just last week, the Masjid (Mosque) As Sunnah in St. Paul was vandalized by a masked individual. Last month, the Masjid Omar Islamic Center and Masjid Al Rahma mosques were targeted by arsonists and the Umatul Islam Mosque was vandalized just days apart from one another. These attacks were the latest in a dangerous trend of hate crimes committed against Minnesota's Muslim community in recent years, including an attack on the Tawfiq Islamic Center in 2022, the vandalization of the Islamic Center of St. Cloud in 2022, and the high-profile bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Center in 2017. Hate targeting minority communities is not a new phenomenon. But these incidents are occurring at a time when the FBI recently reported a stark increase in hate crimes, from 194 in 2020 to 241 in 2021, marking a two-decade high in reported hate crimes in Minnesota. The intensity and frequency of the attacks reveal a deeply troubling and dangerous undercurrent of anti-Muslim hate in our region. read the complete article

This 9/11 suspect and ‘torture prop’ has spent 20 years in Guantánamo. Is he nearing a deal with the US?

On 29 April 2003, 25-year-old Ammar al-Baluchi was snatched off the streets of Karachi by Pakistani authorities and handed over to the CIA. While in CIA custody, he endured extreme forms of cruelty. He was denied sleep for days and became a human experiment for interrogators who practiced brutal methods on him to gain “official” certification in using “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Over the next three years, he was secretly shuttled between six different black sites around the world. Then, in September 2006, he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay, where he still sits in a cell. Though never convicted of a crime, he hasn’t seen a day of freedom since he was first disappeared. According to the US government, Baluchi is one of five co-conspirators responsible for the 9/11 attacks, which killed close to 3,000 people, and he is facing charges that carry the death penalty. Though his name and horrific experiences of torture provided the basis for a character in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty, no journalist has been able to talk directly to Baluchi for the last 20 years. But by talking to his defense team and legal experts, digging deep into the trial record, examining legions of declassified documents and partially redacted transcripts, and comparing his own written accounts of his ordeal with recently declassified CIA documents of his treatment, it is possible to assemble what might be the fullest picture yet of who Ammar al-Baluchi is, how his captors saw him, and what he has endured. Baluchi, who also goes by the name Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, is facing capital charges but, after 20 years of detention, the United States has yet to bring him to trial. Charges against him and his four co-defendants were filed for the second time in 2012, but since then the case has been stuck in endless pre-trial hearings. “Administration after administration has assumed the 9/11 case is open and shut, that a jury will convict these guys, give them death sentences, and we’ll be good,” explained Lisa Hajjar, author of The War in Court: Inside the Long Fight Against Torture, a book about torture and the American judicial system in the “war on terror”. “But you cannot have anything that passes the sniff test for justice when people were tortured and disappeared for years.” read the complete article



Despite a rise in incidents of anti-Muslim hate, one-in-three non-Muslim Canadians (31%) say they have no interest in being an ally to Muslims, according to a new survey by Zabiha Halal, Canada's #1 halal food brand. This is one of the findings Zabiha Halal uncovered in a national survey conducted by Leger, as part of its annual 'Sharing Halal' campaign that aims to challenge and dismantle Islamophobia in Canada. With this year's survey, the brand was looking to uncover the current state of allyship with Muslims in Canada. The survey revealed less than half (46%) of non-Muslim Canadians consider themselves an ally to the Muslim community in Canada. Despite a number of anti-Muslim hate attacks that took place this past Ramadan in cities including Markham and Edmonton, and Statistics Canada data showing that hate crimes against Muslims in Canada jumped 71% in 2021 alone1, only about half of Canadians overall (55%) believe that Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate is a problem in this country. Encouragingly, the survey findings also indicate that almost half of non-Muslim Canadians (46%) feel they would benefit from resources/tips on how to be a better ally to the Muslim community. That's why Zabiha Halal has partnered with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) to share resources on the topic, available at read the complete article


How Beijing Forces Uyghurs to Pick Cotton

Beijing has repeatedly claimed that there is “no forced labor” in Xinjiang. But now, as the European Union debates a ban on products made with forced labor, the evidence has just gotten stronger. My new research on Xinjiang’s cotton production—the first such research published in a peer-reviewed academic journal—shows that coercive labor transfers for seasonal agricultural work such as cotton picking have continued through at least 2022 and remain part of Xinjiang’s official Five-Year Plan for 2021-25. Economic incentives for this practice persist despite partial mechanization: State media reports from 2022 confirm that the premium-grade long staple cotton grown in southern Xinjiang still cannot be harvested by machines. Labor transfers subject Uyghurs to state-assigned work placements. They often separate them from their families and communities, subjecting them to intensive surveillance, long work hours, and mandatory political indoctrination and Chinese language classes in the evenings. While the campaign of mass internment in Xinjiang has somewhat abated, forced labor programs have intensified. In their own words, top Chinese officials have confirmed that “full employment” in Xinjiang is not just about economic development but constitutes a political mandate that the state sees as key to China’s national security. read the complete article


A Crucial State Election Loss Underscores Modi’s Waning Grasp in South India

The Congress Party has gained momentum in the southern Indian state of Karnataka after winning a crucial state election against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A vote count by the Election Commission revealed that Congress won 135 assembly seats out of 224—well past the majority mark of 113—to form the state government. The BJP had less than 70 seats. Karnataka is home to 65 million people, including many young professionals who work in its capital city and tech hub of Bangalore. Until now, it was the only state in southern India that was controlled by the BJP. It is the first of five big states to head to the polls this year, and the second state where the BJP has lost to Congress in the last six months after a state election in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh in December. In Karnataka, the BJP had been in power since 2018 after campaigning on its dominant platform of Hindu-nationalist values that pandered to majority Hindu voters. Analysts say this election result has demonstrated the “limits of Hindutva.” Wrote one columnist in the Hindustan Times, “the BJP made a big pitch for Hindutva to contain the Congress in these elections. The results show that the strategy might have backfired instead of working.” The BJP had previously maximized its gains by pandering to religious tensions between the majority Hindus and Muslims in the state. (According to the latest census figures from 2011, Karnataka is home to 84% Hindus, 13% Muslims, and less than 2% Christians.) Last year, the government banned Muslim girls from wearing the headscarf as part of their school uniform. In April, it scrapped reserved quotas for Muslims in employment and education and redistributed them to two Hindu caste groups, despite facing opposition in courts. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 17 May 2023 Edition


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