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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02 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the UK, five Conservative councillors standing for the party in this week’s local elections in England, have been suspended for alleged racism and Islamophobia in recent years – including one who suggested banning mosques, meanwhile in the United States, New Jersey will celebrate its first ever Muslim Heritage month in January of 2024, aiming to “promote awareness and appreciation of the many contributions of the state’s Muslim community,” and in India, the case of Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped during the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots is now back before the Supreme Court. Our recommended read of the day is by Farid Hafez for Middle East Eye on how Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, despite losing an election and  withdrawing from the government, continues to support anti-Muslim policies that seek to criminalize Muslim civil society. This and more below:


How German conservatives are waging a crusade against Muslim civil society | Recommended Read

It was one of the latest initiatives of the German conservatives in the midst of the election campaign in 2021: a crusade against organised Muslims in the name of fighting the spectre of "political Islamism". After losing the election and withdrawing from the government following a 16-year tenure, the Christian Democratic Union not only continues to support anti-Muslim policies but has doubled down on this stance. In a position paper published in April 2021 and dedicated to fighting what has been dubbed "political Islam", the party proposed to harden its stance towards surveilling, limiting, and potentially cracking down on Muslim civil society. Members on the party's European, national, and regional levels are promoting anti-Muslim stances. After a coalition between the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Liberals formed a new government in December 2021, a pilot project of the Christian Democratic parties, the Christian Democratic Union for Germany (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) - the establishment of the "Expert Group on Political Islamism" - was not renewed. The group, launched by the Ministry of Interior, included proponents of anti-Muslim policies such as Mouhanad Khorchide, who is simultaneously serving the Austrian Documentation Centre Political Islam and has embraced the authoritarian discourse of Egypt. The group's focus was initially to conduct research and analyse so-called "political Islam", a notion that is not only very vague but has also served to legitimise the targeting and repression of Muslim civil society. read the complete article

United States

Muslim mayor blocked from White House Eid celebration

The U.S. Secret Service said Monday it blocked a Muslim mayor from Prospect Park, New Jersey, from attending a White House celebration with President Joe Biden to belatedly mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Shortly before Mayor Mohamed Khairullah was set to arrive at the White House for the Eid-al-Fitr celebration, he received a call from the White House stating that he had not been cleared for entry by the Secret Service and could not attend the celebration where Biden delivered remarks to hundreds of guests, according to the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Selaedin Maksut, CAIR-NJ executive director, called the move “wholly unacceptable and insulting.” "If these such incidents are happening to high-profile and well-respected American-Muslim figures like Mayor Khairullah, this then begs the question: what is happening to Muslims who do not have the access and visibility that the mayor has?” Maksut said. Khairullah, who has previously done humanitarian work in Syria and Bangladesh, was previously stopped by authorities and interrogated at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York for three hours and questioned about whether he knew any terrorists, according to Dina Sayedahmed, a spokesman for CAIR-NJ. read the complete article

Rep. Ilhan Omar Statement on Vandalism of Her Office, Arson Charges Following Fires at Two Minneapolis Mosques

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) released the following statement on the arrest and charging of Jackie Rahm Little, aka Joel Arthur Tueting, for arson at two Minneapolis mosques, along with the revelation that he was caught on surveillance video vandalizing her District Office. “I want to thank the Department of Justice, the FBI, local law enforcement, and all the agencies who helped bring this suspect to justice. “Mr. Little is not only responsible for multiple arson attacks against mosques in my district and the vandalism of a Somali officer’s police vehicle, but also targeted my own office with vandalism on at least one occasion. “We are witnessing an epidemic of hate against the Muslim community and other religious minorities in Minnesota and globally right now. This campaign of terror is designed to keep us fearful and divided. As Muslim-Americans and as Minnesotans, we will not be terrorized. We will continue to stand united against bigotry because love is stronger than hate.” Rep. Omar, along with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Combating International Islamophobia Act, legislation to address the rise in incidents of Islamophobia worldwide. read the complete article

NJ Will Celebrate Its First 'Muslim Heritage Month' In 2024

There is now a “Muslim Heritage Month” in the Garden State. Last weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a joint resolution, SJR105/AJR194, which names the month of January as “Muslim Heritage Month” in New Jersey. The designation aims to “promote awareness and appreciation of the many contributions of the state’s Muslim community.” New Jersey has the highest percentage of Muslim residents in the nation. The bipartisan legislation passed a vote in the New Jersey Assembly in April after clearing the Senate in February. Democratic and Republican lawmakers on both sides of the aisle unanimously supported the bill in both chambers. Murphy signed the legislation at an Eid celebration at the governor’s mansion on Saturday, marking the end of Ramadan, one of Islam’s most important holidays. “New Jersey takes great pride in its diversity and we will continue to recognize and celebrate the positive impact Muslims have made, and continue to make, to the advancement of this state,” Murphy said. read the complete article

DHS ‘Violence Prevention’ Grants Continue to Harm Marginalized Communities

The Department of Homeland Security’s grant program to prevent terrorism and “targeted violence” has long been criticized for funding projects that put innocent Americans and minority communities at risk while failing to benefit national security. Rather than fulfill a campaign pledge to end the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention program, the Biden administration instead gave it a new name — the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships — and a new directive: countering violent white supremacy. A new Brennan Center analysis finds the grant program doesn’t live up to this promise and remains plagued by fundamental flaws, bias, and a reliance on ineffective methods. DHS should abandon the program altogether. read the complete article

Man sought in Minneapolis mosque arson incidents arrested in Mankato

A man sought in connection with two arsons at Minneapolis mosques has been arrested and is set to appear Monday in federal court. Jackie Rahm Little, 36, was arrested in Mankato late Saturday and faces state and federal arson charges after the fires, including one in which 40 children were in a basement day care. Prosecutors say the fires at the mosques occurred after vandalism that targeted the office of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and a Minneapolis police car. "Based on our investigation, there is no other known, active threat to our Muslim neighbors," Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara said early Sunday in a statement. A warrant had been issued for Little after the fires last week, and Little was arrested Saturday in Mankato, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The fires rattled Minnesota's Muslim community. At a news conference Tuesday, a dozen community leaders decried what many fear were attacks motivated by Islamophobia. O'Hara called the fires "an attempt to inflict terror onto our Muslim community." read the complete article


Muslim Population Misinformation Fuels Islamophobia In India

Amit Upadhyay repeats online misinformation as he claims to know why India's population is growing: he says his Muslim neighbours are having too many babies, so Hindu women have a responsibility to bear more of their own. A pharmacist by trade, Upadhyay is one of many social media influencers from India's majority faith to have cultivated large audiences by spreading false demographic data to claim the country is being refashioned into an Islamic state. For them, last month's announcement that India had overtaken China to become the world's most populous nation was not a cause for celebration, but a call to action. "I tell all my Hindu customers to produce more children, to counter Muslims," Upadhyay, who in his spare time curates a popular Facebook page from his home in Uttar Pradesh state, told AFP. "Or else they will become a threat and eventually wipe out the Hindu religion from India." Upadhyay regularly publishes widely shared Islamophobic posts to his nearly 40,000 followers. One post in April warned of an alleged plot by Muslims to "multiply their population to take control of India". India is home to 1.4 billion people, including around 210 million Muslims, but birthrates have declined across the board over recent decades in tandem with global trends. The country's last National Family Health Survey in 2021 showed an overall fertility rate of 2.0 children per woman, rising marginally to 2.3 for Muslim women. A forecast issued the same year from the Pew Research Center said that India's Muslim community would grow to 311 million by 2050. But despite their growing share of the national population, Muslims would remain a small minority in a country of 1.7 billion people by mid-century, according to the US-based think tank's projections. read the complete article

How a cow vigilante rose to become BJP’s candidate in Udupi

The incident that propelled Yashpal Suvarna, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Udupi MLA candidate, to cult status among Hindutva supporters in coastal Karnataka is etched in the mind of photojournalist Umesh Marpally. It happened on the evening of March 13, 2005, recalls Umesh, who was working for the Kannada daily Jaya Kirana at the time. He received a call tipping him off about Hindu-Muslim violence near the national highway in an area called Adi Udupi. He immediately rushed to the spot with his camera to discover a scene that went on to make national headlines and is considered one of the darkest chapters in the region’s history. Umesh saw two naked Muslim men cowering in fear in the middle of a mob of sloganeering Hindutva extremists. The two Muslim men, father and son, Hajabba and Hasanabba, were cattle traders by profession. They had been stripped naked, badly assaulted, and then paraded through the streets by a mob led by activists of the Hindu Yuva Sene, a Hindutva group active in the twin coastal districts. Witnesses say the attackers could be heard saying, “Ninage danada vyapara bekaa? (Do you want to do cattle business?),” even as they beat them with clubs and iron rods. To complete the humiliation, the attackers wanted Umesh to click a photograph of the scene with the victims facing the camera. “I was disturbed by the sight, but I did as I was told,” recalls Umesh. The incident, however, became a turning point for one of the accused – Yashpal Suvarna – who was hand-picked by the BJP to contest in the municipal elections in Udupi soon after his acquittal in 2008. Fourteen years later, Yashpal, 43, who describes himself as a ‘gaurakshak’, was among the headlines once again as the face of the anti-hijab agitation. It propelled him as the lead contender for the Udupi BJP ticket ahead of veterans such as three-time MLA Raghupathi Bhat. The hijab agitations, in fact, helped the BJP return to its original formula of communal polarisation in Udupi. read the complete article

Gujarat Riot Survivor Bilkis Bano's 20-Year Wait For Justice Is Reopened—Again—In The Supreme Court

In her 20-year-long hard-fought battle for justice, Bilkis, now 41, tried to stay away from media attention. All she would say is, “I have faith in India’s courts, they will do justice.” On 4 May 2017, when the Bombay High Court upheld the life sentences for 11 men convicted by a lower court, among those rapists and murderers who had shattered her life forever, she profusely thanked the legal system for giving her the justice she had fought so hard and long for. On 15 August 2022, India’s 76th Independence Day 2022, those convicted were set free by a remission order of the Gujarat government. Given her long battle, she could have done what many suggested, let things be, the jail terms the convicts served were rare example of justice delivered in the cases of anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002 and the only convictions for rape. For Bilkis and her family the determination to fight on has meant shifting homes more than 20 times in 20 years, often living anonymously in neighbourhoods with no extended family or friends. It meant long drives from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, in the cover of the night, to come and testify in court where the cross-examinations would stretch for a month and then be repeated shortly after. It meant recounting every detail of being raped, then reliving the rape and murder of her loved ones. It called for determination to keep going when other Gujarat riot cases were falling apart, as the latest one did on 21 April 2023, when a special court in Ahmedabad acquitted all 69 accused. It involved forcing those who offered inducements to back-off and coping with the threats and intimidation, which continue. Her case, after being seemingly put to rest five years ago, is now back before the Supreme Court, which has scheduled the hearing on the Gujarat government’s remission order for a final disposal on 2 May 2023. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Nida Manzoor’s Complicated Muslim Women

When “Lady Parts” débuted in Britain, on Channel 4, it was immediately hailed as something new: a series that represented the experience of young British Muslim women by acknowledging the should-be-obvious fact that there is no single experience shared by young British Muslim women. Instead, there is a multiplicity of experiences, which, in “Lady Parts,” is refracted through its ensemble cast. “We Are Lady Parts” presents a counternarrative to the ways in which young British Muslim women are typically presented on television: either as patriarchy’s victims, or as potential extremists. The show’s characters are joyful, liberated, confused, glamorous, assertive, and buoyed by a powerful sisterhood. “We simply seek to speak our truth before we are mangled by other people’s bullshit ideas of us,” Saira says, of the band’s ethos, which also appears to be Nida Manzoor’s ruling ethos in creating the show in the first place. read the complete article

Five Tory councillors suspended for alleged racism standing in local elections

Five Conservative councillors standing for the party in this week’s local elections in England, have been suspended for alleged racism and Islamophobia in recent years – including one who suggested banning mosques and another who accused Muslims of being on a “quest to turn the world Muslim”. They are among 13 councillors identified by the Observer, drawing on research by the anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate, who have been suspended over racist comments and social media posts in the past four years before being reinstated. Among the five standing again is Danny Scott in Blackpool. He was one of 25 former and sitting Conservative councillors accused of making offensive comments online named in a 2019 dossier released by an anonymous Twitter account. Scott posted on Facebook at least two years earlier that “Muslims have been terrorising anyone who isn’t Muslim for 1,000 [years],” and that “it is their quest to turn the world Muslim”. Scott was subsequently suspended from the party, but he has since been reinstated and is listed as the Tory candidate for his council ward at this week’s election. read the complete article

Calling out Braverman’s views on race and abuse is a vital part of my Conservative values

In a recent Spectator column, the home secretary, Suella Braverman, claimed that by highlighting the Pakistani ethnicity of grooming gang members in a “string of cases”, she was merely pointing out “unfashionable facts”. Yet why zero in on a string of cases that received extensive media coverage, rather than acknowledging the full scale of the problem based on the data we have about all such cases? To learn that half a million British children are sexually abused each year should drive us to anger and action. We are right to want to know how to tackle a problem taking place on such a vast national scale. But we cannot tackle a problem if we fail to truly see what that problem is. And that means seeing it through the lens of fact. The problem of grooming gangs and child sexual exploitation in Britain is not linked to any one ethnicity. What Braverman’s column dismisses as “fashionable fiction” has been confirmed by the government itself. A Home Office report in 2020 found it extremely difficult to find a causal link between ethnicity, race and the sexual exploitation of children. The report concluded, contrary to Braverman’s statements, that most child-grooming gang members are white men under the age of 30. The way we use language and characterise problems is crucial. Let’s not forget that just a few years ago grooming gangs were often described by rightwing actors as a “Muslim problem” – as though such actions were somehow mandated within Islamic doctrine. As a British Pakistani man, a Muslim and the son of an imam, I know nothing could be further from the truth. It’s imperative that such misconceptions are not reinforced – deliberately or unintentionally – because they can radicalise those most vulnerable to the messaging of far-right extremists. read the complete article


Shein: China fashion giant faces US calls for probe over Uyghur claims Published

A group of US lawmakers has called for Chinese fast fashion brand Shein to be investigated over claims that Uyghur forced labour is used to make some of the clothes it sells. The letter to the Wall Street watchdog comes amid expectations the firm may sell its shares in the US. "We have zero tolerance for forced labour," Shein told the BBC. The company also said that it currently has no plans for a listing on Wall Street. The letter, which was signed by two dozen Republican and Democrat lawmakers, cited "credible allegations of utilising underpaid and forced labour". It also called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to force Shein to independently audit and verify "that the company does not use Uyghur forced labour", before it was allowed to sell shares in the US. Human rights groups and Western governments, including the US and UK, have accused China of forced labour and internment of Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority. read the complete article


France criticised at UN over police violence, racism

France has been criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Council for increased police violence, including against protesters, as widespread Labour Day demonstrations take over the country. Paris was also called out for religious intolerance, attacks against migrants and racial profiling by several countries at the UN Council as members carried out France’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – a process all 193 UN countries must undergo every four years. The US representative at the UN Council, Kelly Billingsley, said her country wanted Paris to “expand efforts to counter crimes and threats of violence motivated by religious hatred such as antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate, including cases of harassment, vandalism, and assault”. Meanwhile, China urged France to “stop measures that violate rights of migrants” and Brazil and Japan highlighted the importance of stopping “racial profiling by security forces”. read the complete article


The threat within the world's largest refugee camp

The Kutupalong encampment has become increasingly difficult for visitors to access. Armed guards man the entrance. Documentation to enter is hard to come by. But earlier this year, Rebecca Tan, The Post’s Southeast Asia bureau chief, spent two weeks inside. She discovered deteriorating conditions, frightened refugees with nowhere else to go and a desperation fueling the growth of violent Rohingya groups inside the camps. In today’s episode, Rebecca takes us into the lives of a Rohingya community that much of the world keeps forgetting. And she uncovers the story of one man, Mohammad Ismail, who, despite the dangers of coming forward, has been fighting for his family and his people’s survival. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 02 May 2023 Edition


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