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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19 May 2021

Today in Islamophobia: The Biden administration may have rescinded the Muslim travel ban, but activists and rights group say that is not enough and that the White House must do more to undue a string of harmful anti-Muslim policies. Meanwhile, two British University students create a Muslim prayer App focused on privacy and security for users, and in China, Perhat Tursun, a prominent modernist writer in Xinjiang, is sentenced to 16 year prison sentence for authoring works the Chinese government considered dangerous. Our recommended read of the day is by Bilal Kuchay on why Hindu nationalists are voicing their support of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. This and more below: 


18 May 2021

Why Indian Hindutva supporters back Israel on Gaza bombing

Israel has faced global condemnation for its actions in occupied East Jerusalem and continued bombing of the Gaza Strip, but it has found support in India where pro-government activists have thrown their weight behind Israel, with some defending its policy against Palestinians. Hashtags such as #ISupportIsrael, #IndiaWithIsrael, #IndiaStandsWithIsrael and #IsrealUnderFire have trended on Indian social media over the past week, many calling Palestinians “terrorists” – a term used by Israel for Palestinian resistance groups. On Saturday night, #PalestineTerrorists was one of the top trends on Twitter in the South Asian nation. Support for Israel has been amplified on social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram, by top members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), lawyers and journalists among others. On May 12, BJP Member of Parliament Tejasvi Surya, known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, wrote on twitter: “We are with you. Stay strong, Israel.” His tweet, in response to a post by Israel’s foreign ministry, was liked nearly 50,000 times and retweeted nearly 13,000 times. Indian journalist and writer Rana Ayyub on Sunday wrote that while checking most of the #IndiaStandWithIsrael tweet handles, a common thread that runs through is a “visceral hatred for Muslims and a bloodlust to see Muslims massacred and shown their place”. Srinivas Kodali, a writer and researcher working on data, governance and internet, told Al Jazeera there is a section of polarized Hindutva (Hindu-ness) groups who support Israel’s actions against Palestine purely because Muslims are being persecuted. “It is their hate towards Muslims that is making them cheer Israel’s actions,” he said. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
18 May 2021

Muslim women are using Sharia to push for gender equality

Commonly translated as Islamic law, Sharia is a broad set of ethical principles found in the Quran, Islam’s holy book, and in the teachings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad. It is not a strict legal code, leaving it open to varying interpretations by governments and religious leaders. Public outcry over Sharia has led to more than 200 anti-Sharia bills being introduced across the United States. The European Court of Human Rights has twice ruled Sharia incompatible with human rights. Conservative analysts have called Sharia the world’s “other pandemic,” a comparison to COVID-19. However, many Muslim women do not regard Sharia as being incompatible with their rights. My research shows how women – typically small activist groups in many countries – are using Sharia to fight against oppressive practices. I interviewed nearly 150 women’s rights activists, religious leaders, officials and aid workers over the past decade in Somalia and Somaliland, where more than 99% of the population is Muslim. The region has suffered cycles of famine and drought, as well as a brutal dictatorship and civil war that led to the collapse of Somalia’s government 30 years ago and the split between Somalia and Somaliland. I wanted to learn why women were demanding Sharia and whether Sharia could help rebuild societies after war. My book, “Shari‘a, Inshallah: Finding God in Somali Legal Politics,” tells the story of peace builders and peacemakers oriented toward, rather than away from, Sharia. Because Sharia encourages a diversity of interpretations, there is no right or wrong way to interpret it. Women activists I met saw an inherent feminism in Sharia. Muslims “can find support for almost everything” in Sharia, a Somali activist reminded me. It’s just that women “have to know their rights in the Quran,” she added. read the complete article

19 May 2021

Nancy Pelosi calls for US diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

US House speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for a US diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, criticizing China for human rights abuses and saying global leaders who attend would lose their moral authority. US lawmakers have been increasingly vocal about an Olympic boycott or venue change, and have lashed out at American corporations, arguing their silence about what the State Department has deemed a genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China was abetting the Chinese government. Pelosi, a Democrat, told a bipartisan congressional hearing on the issue on Tuesday that heads of state around the world should shun the Games, which are to take place in February. “For heads of state to go to China in light of a genocide that is ongoing – while you’re sitting there in your seat – really begs the question, what moral authority do you have to speak again about human rights any place in the world?” she said. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu,said that US attempts to interfere in China’s domestic affairs over the Olympics were doomed to fail. “I wonder what makes some US politicians think they actually have the so-called ‘moral authority’? On human rights issues, they are in no position, either historically or currently, to make wanton groundless criticism against China,” Liu said. read the complete article

18 May 2021

Israel use of Quran verses to justify Gaza bombardment sparks anger

Muslims are reacting angrily to a post by Israel's official Arabic language account on Twitter, after it shared verses from the Quran seemingly justifying its bombing of the besieged Gaza Strip. The tweet shared on Tuesday morning included verses from the chapter (or surah) known as 'the elephant', alongside a photo of a plume of smoke rising out of a building after an Israeli air strike. In Islamic tradition, Surah al-Fil (the elephant) describes a pre-Islamic episode in Arabian history where an army made up of war elephants marches on the holy city of Mecca, only to be defeated by flocks of birds, which drop stones on the advancing army. In a follow-up post in the same Twitter thread, the account says: "This is a reminder of God’s ability to support those who are righteous over falsehood, especially since Hamas is the arm of Iran that seeks to ignite the region. The IDF targets Hamas terrorist targets in Gaza." A reasonable inference would therefore be that the Israeli military is comparing itself to the birds, which rescued Mecca in the Quranic account, from the war elephants, which in this case refers to Hamas. Given that context, the Arabic language tweet drew angry reactions from users on Twitter, who saw it as a taunt and not in keeping with the facts on the ground: namely that, in their eyes, the Israeli military is considered the aggressor. Many Twitter users saw the post as a deliberate taunt given Gaza's overwhelmingly Muslim population, especially given ties between Israel and far-right anti-Muslim groups in the US. Many Twitter users saw the post as a deliberate taunt given Gaza's overwhelmingly Muslim population, especially given ties between Israel and far-right anti-Muslim groups in the US. read the complete article

United States

19 May 2021

Rescinding the Muslim Ban Is Not Enough

Undoubtedly, rescinding the Muslim ban is an important move from the Biden Administration. Even a top counterterrorism official under former President Trump agrees. But this single action is not enough to repair the ban’s damage. According to a 2019 report conducted by the U.S. Department of State, the Muslim ban separated thousands of families, including couples, parents, and young children. It impeded educational and career opportunities. It prevented families from saying goodbye to dying loved ones. And it trapped refugees in life-threatening conditions. The ban, however, did more than impact immigrants and travelers. It endangered Muslim Americans already lawfully residing within the United States—an impact that law professor and activist Khaled Beydoun argued has been too often ignored. For Beydoun, the ban signaled a judicially sanctioned tool to fight a “War on Terror,” and it further enabled the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to direct that war specifically against Muslim communities. Activists and members of the Muslim community rightly demand more. Although the ban caused direct and indirect harm to thousands, a suite of other federal programs—many in place prior to the Trump Administration—has fostered the Islamophobic conditions that birthed the Muslim ban. To address those conditions, President Biden must take steps to reverse decades of discrimination practiced under the guise of national security. For example, discriminatory policing of Muslims, both nationally and globally, began with the military actions of the George W. Bush Administration. After the attacks on 9/11, the United States marshalled forces against Iraq and Afghanistan, sparking the global expansion of the War on Terror. Despite assertions from the U.S. intelligence community, Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction, and tragically, the conflict resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Casualties continue to grow as the war in Afghanistan approaches a third decade, and whether the Biden Administration keeps its promise to withdraw U.S. forces by this fall remains to be seen. The decades of harm caused by these government programs has sparked calls by Muslim Americans and human rights advocates for President Biden and the U.S. Congress to enact sweeping change—change much greater than merely rescinding the Muslim travel ban. read the complete article

18 May 2021

Tennessee man admits hate crime in attack on Muslim girls

A Tennessee man who harassed two teenage Muslim girls and then swung a knife and attacked their father has pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime. Christopher Beckham, 35, of Nashville, appeared in court last week to enter the plea, the Justice Department said Monday in a statement. Beckham pleaded guilty to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the statement said. Beckham admitted that he confronted two sisters in hijabs after they got off a school bus in 2017, saying “Allahu Akbar!” and “Go back to your country!" the statement said. When their father arrived to pick them up, Beckham injured him by swinging a knife and punching at him, and when their mother arrived with another child in a car, Beckham, his knife still drawn, chased after them as well, the Justice Department said. After police took Beckham into custody, he called the family “terrorists” and vowed to kill them when he got out of jail, the agency added. Beckham agreed to plead guilty after his federal trial in September 2019 ended with a hung jury. He remains free pending his sentencing, now scheduled for Oct. 7. As part of the plea agreement, the Justice Department dropped a charge of providing false information to the FBI and is recommending a 12-month sentence that would be served under home incarceration, according to court documents. read the complete article

18 May 2021

POLITICO Playbook: The curious case of Stephen Miller and Andrew Yang

WHY IS STEPHEN MILLER TWEETING IN FAVOR OF ANDREW YANG? — In the past week, STEPHEN MILLER has posted 10 messages in support of New York City mayoral hopeful ANDREW YANG. Yang’s campaign is not happy about it. Since the tweeting started May 11, the campaign has been inundated with questions from volunteers who want to know why Miller — a figure reviled by the left for creating DONALD TRUMP’S Muslim ban and his child separation policy — would be talking up their candidate. Progressives have attacked Yang on Twitter over it. And the New York press corps has asked Yang about his support from Republicans. “I certainly would never ask for or want their support,” Yang responded. Miller’s not the only prominent Republican to weigh in on the mayoral race. On his May 7 show, TUCKER CARLSON spoke favorably of Adams, a former police officer, asking, “Could New York City have a gun-wielding mayor?” As for Miller, he claims he’s just an observer: What happens in New York politics affects the rest of the country. “As much as I disagree on issues with Yang, I’ve admired that he’s taken on positions antithetical to the progressive left in a very progressive primary,” Miller said. He also noticed that Yang, who is the son of immigrants and pro-sanctuary cities, has barely waved off his support. “He hasn’t made any real significant attempt to distance himself from Republican praise … which suggests to me that he, as an individual, understands that there are a lot of independent voters in the primary,” Miller said. read the complete article

United Kingdom

18 May 2021

These Students Created A Privacy-Focused Muslim Prayer App With The Help Of Twitter Users

Two university students from the UK have created a Muslim prayer app that they say will address one of their community's key concerns: privacy. The students, Abdul-Rahman Abbas and Tariq Imaad Jamal, decided to build the app in public on Twitter, informing their potential user base how their data would be used and allowing them to suggest features. Abbas told BuzzFeed News that the idea came about following a huge social media uproar in 2020, when a Motherboard report claimed that a popular Muslim prayer app was sharing people’s private data, including their location. The publication reported in November that the prayer app, Muslim Pro, was one of many (including a storm chaser app and a home improvement tool) that the US military had employed to get users' location data. The report horrified the app's many Muslim users, who vowed on social media to delete it. Abbas said the report from Motherboard shocked him. “The Muslim community felt a huge betrayal of trust, and the apps who did this faced a strong backlash,” he said. Despite the app’s denial, many Muslim users began looking for alternatives. The backlash led Abbas and Jamal to think about what they could do about it, especially since many people online were complaining about the lackluster alternatives. Many said there were few apps without advertisements, and many didn’t have all the features in one app that Muslim Pro did. So, Abbas and Jamal attempted to develop a new app themselves. They had planned to work on a small, simple app and put it on the App Store — but, after posting on social media about it, they began to get a positive response from the Muslim community. That's when they realized their creation, which they named Pillars, had the potential to be more than a prayer app. read the complete article


18 May 2021

The novelist now locked away in Xinjiang's security state

Perhat Tursun is a prominent modernist writer in Xinjiang whose work is inspired by Kafka and Rumi — and who is now serving a 16-year sentence in a Chinese prison. Why it matters: Perhat is one of the hundreds of Uyghur intellectuals jailed by the Chinese Communist Party as it seeks to erase an independent Uyghur culture. Joshua Freeman, a lecturer in East Asian studies at Princeton University who has translated some of Perhat's poems and short stories, described him as one of the "foremost living writers in the Uyghur language." Perhat has drawn comparisons to Salman Rushdie, after Uyghur conservatives in Xinjiang denounced his 1999 novel "The Art of Suicide" as heretical, leading to book burnings and death threats. Driving the news: A growing number of legal scholars and governments have come to the conclusion that the CCP's actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide — most recently the UK parliament, which passed a resolution on April 23 making that declaration. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 19 May 2021 Edition


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