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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20 May 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In France, the country’s interior minister said he would seek to overturn a rule change in the city of Grenoble that would allow women to wear burkinis in state-run swimming pools, meanwhile in China, the UN human rights chief is finally set to visit the country this month, making her the first human-rights chief to do so since 2005, and in the United States, reporting from Media Matters for America finds that Doug Mastriano, the man who won the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor, is a QAnon conspiracy theorist and has a history of making anti-Muslim statements. Our recommended read of the day is by Haziq Qadri and Qadri Inzamam for Foreign Policy on how the BJP-led government is using bulldozer’s to carry out violence against Indian Muslims, as the demolition of property is meant to disempower Muslims by destroying their livelihoods and depriving them of their dwellings. This and more below:


20 May 2022

‘We Begged Them to Spare Our Shops’ | Recommended Read

New Delhi’s civic body, run by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said it was bulldozing shops and constructions that had been illegally constructed. But the owners of the stalls, kiosks, and carts that were torn down maintained that the anti-encroachment drive by the government was politically motivated and targeted their community: Muslims. Four days before the demolition, Jahangirpuri had been the site of communal tensions. A religious procession by Hindus passed through the area and came under attack from stone-throwers, allegedly Muslims. Muslim residents, meanwhile, claimed that the clash began after some men from the Hindu procession tried to enter the local mosque. Around the same time, other parts of India were witnessing similar episodes of anti-Muslim violence. Post-violence, a pattern emerged in several states governed by the BJP, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh: Bulldozers were sent by civic authorities to the violence-hit areas to demolish properties owned by Muslims. Because of this selective demolition, affected Muslims said they were being punished for the communal clashes. In New Delhi’s Jahangirpuri neighborhood, it was Muslim women—running small shops, stalls, or kiosks or selling rags—who were most affected. Their bulldozed stalls had sold fruits, vegetables, and other essentials to the community. Apoorvanand, a political commentator and professor of the Hindi language at Delhi University, told Foreign Policy that the demolition of Muslim properties is “definitely to disempower Muslims in different ways—first, to destroy their source of livelihood and then deprive them of their dwellings.” He cited an example of a BJP politician who had said that those who don’t vote for the BJP would “face bulldozers.” “That was taken as a joke, but it wasn’t one,” Apoorvanand said. “Bulldozers are now a symbol of violence directed at Muslims.” “The idea of breaking the economic spine of Muslims is seductive,” Apoorvanand said. “Along with the bulldozers, which are justified as an administrative exercise, open calls to boycott Muslim shops and businesses must be heard” and not ignored, he added. read the complete article

20 May 2022

Hindu extremists target Muslim sites in India, even Taj Mahal

Thirty years after mobs demolished a historic mosque in Ayodhya, triggering a wave of sectarian bloodshed that saw thousands killed, fundamentalist Indian Hindu groups are eyeing other Muslim sites -- even the world-famous Taj Mahal. Emboldened under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aided by courts and fuelled by social media, the fringe groups believe the sites were built on top of Hindu temples, which they consider representations of India's "true" religion. Currently most in danger is the centuries-old Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities, where Hindus are cremated by the Ganges. Muslims have already been banned from performing ablutions in the water tank where the alleged relic -- mosque authorities say it is a fountain -- was found. The fear now is that the Islamic place of worship will go the way of the Ayodhya mosque, which Hindu groups believe was built on the birthplace of Ram, another deity. The frenzied destruction of the 450-year-old building in 1992 sparked religious riots in which more than 2,000 people died, most of them Muslims, who number 200 million in India. The demolition was also a seminal moment for Hindutva -- Hindu supremacy -- paving the way for Modi's rise to power in 2014. The movement's core tenet has long been that Hinduism is India's original religion, and that everything else -- from the Mughals, originally from Central Asia, to the British -- is alien. Some groups have even set their sights on UNESCO world heritage site the Taj Mahal, India's best-known monument attracting millions of visitors every year. read the complete article

United States

20 May 2022

GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano shared piece claiming US should be “fearful” of “Muslims being elected to Congress”

Doug Mastriano is a QAnon conspiracy theorist and January 6 insurrectionist who recently won the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor. Mastriano is also anti-Muslim: He previously shared an image with the words, “Stop Islam” and a post claiming that “the American People have a right to be fearful of the prospect of a large number of muslims being elected to congress, specifically if they practice Sharia law.” In addition to running for governor, Mastriano is a Pennsylvania state senator, a right-wing commentator, and a frequent guest in right-wing media. He regularly pushes lies about the 2020 election being stolen from former President Donald Trump. Mastriano has shared toxic conspiracy theories on social media. Media Matters previously documented that Mastriano sent more than 50 tweets with the QAnon hashtag in 2018 and used Facebook to share false claims that vaccines are deadly and cause autism. Mastriano also shared an image on December 8, 2018, which stated: “In the name of tolerance we have imported intolerance. People who respect neither the culture nor the rights of the original population.” That text was imposed on a graphic stating, “Stop Islam.” Mastriano has made similar anti-Muslim posts. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported on May 6, 2019, that Mastriano “shared a stream of conspiracy theories and Islamophobic memes and articles” on Facebook. In one instance, the publication noted that Mastriano shared a piece from August 4, 2018, with the headline, “A Dangerous Trend: Muslims Running for Office.” read the complete article

20 May 2022

Will Republicans drop the ‘great replacement’ theory? Politics Weekly America

In a week when a teenager shot dead 10 Black people in Buffalo New York, apparently motivated by the ‘great replacement’ theory, Jonathan Freedland speaks to Michael Harriot and Anne Applebaum about why this racist ideology has become mainstream in rightwing circles in the US, and why we shouldn’t be surprised. read the complete article

United Kingdom

20 May 2022

Prevent is Islamophobic by design, not accident

Muslims in Britain are almost used to being criminalised. Our subjugation is entrenched in law, our marginalisation woven into policy. We are surveilled and policed by every institution: in the nation’s hospitals, airports and schools. The Prevent strategy turns public sector workers — who should be keeping us safe, treating us when we are ill and getting us through exams — into counter-terror spies. Our very Muslimness makes us a threat. Prevent, which was created in 2007 to safeguard those vulnerable to radicalisation, has long been criticised by Muslims and their allies. In February this year a People’s Review of Prevent — an alternative to the upcoming Shawcross review, a government-commissioned inquiry — was published, concluding that the programme is “discriminatory in its impact on Muslim communities” and potentially “breaches children’s rights and human rights”. Meanwhile, the Shawcross review, although not yet published, has already come under fire, not least due to the opinion of the man in charge of it. William Shawcross, a former chairman of the Charity Commission, has in the past made statements such as “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future”. With part of the review being leaked this week, these concerns are already proving valid. Ludicrous though unsurprising, the leak revealed that Shawcross is set to advise the government that it should focus even more on Muslim threats and less on the far-right. This is despite the far-right being a growing danger, accounting for almost half of counter-terror arrests last year. Barely masking the hypocrisy, the review claims that Prevent referrals on the far-right have been too broad, targeting people who are simply expressing conservative views whereas referrals of Muslims have been too narrow and failed to include those who “create an environment conducive to terrorism” while not actually supporting violent extremism. In other words, right-wing extremists need to become card-holding Nazis before they are referred to Prevent but Muslims need only emit a mere whiff of Muslimness. Prevent makes Muslim children unsafe. It renders schools sites of criminalisation and teachers informants in our classrooms. The proposed review shows that the intrinsic Islamophobia is no accidental byproduct: it is by design. And the problem is only getting worse. read the complete article

20 May 2022

Amir Khan's comments about Asian athletes eating curry 'triggered' former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq

The former welterweight champion said on Monday that Asian athletes use racism as an excuse when they do not perform well and that eating curry was "not the right diet to be a champion". Azeem Rafiq, who was found to have been a victim of "racial harassment and bullying" at Yorkshire Country Cricket Club, told Sky News: "Khan's comments reinforce lazy stereotypes about Asian athletes when there's clear data out there to disprove that." The cricketer's allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire led to government intervention, several resignations on the county's board and a ban on the club hosting Tests. "It is particularly sad because it comes from someone who inspired entire communities to take up sport," Rafiq, 31, said. "And to be honest, it triggered me. I suffer daily, and I find life incredibly difficult as someone who has endured abuse. And according to Amir Khan I'm just making an excuse." read the complete article


20 May 2022

Everything to Know About the Chinese Crackdown on Uyghurs

The Uyghurs are a minority ethnic group who speak their own language and comprise almost half of Xinjiang, which has officially been dubbed the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) since 1955. Here, nearly 12 million Uyghurs live alongside other ethnic groups such as the Han Chinese – the largest ethnic group in China – the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Mongols, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Tatars. While Uyghurs represent an ethnic group rather than a religion, they are predominantly Muslim and have been practicing Islam since the ninth century, during which the Karakhanid – a Turkic fiefdom – ruled over Central Asia. Since its annexation in 1955, Han Chinese migration has ramped up in the region – bringing the 2020 population to about 42% Han and 45% Uyghur, at least according to Chinese census data, which may or may not be reliable. Because of growing tensions between the Uyghurs and Han Chinese, the Uyghur separatist movement still exists in the Xinjiang region – which China dubs as a “vain wish” that denies history. Multiple reports from human rights and civil society organizations have found that Uyghurs have been detained in prisons and internment camps since at least 2017, with other abuses starting even earlier. While the Chinese government argues that these re-education camps are meant to provide Uyghurs with vocational training to combat poverty, separatism and Islamic extremism, Jewher Ilham – a Uyghur rights advocate with the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region whose father, prominent Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, has been detained in Chinese prison since 2014 – says that the Chinese government’s definition of extremism is intentionally broad to allow for mass detentions. One of the main ways that Uyghur rights advocates say Uyghurs are exploited after detainment is through forced labor. The region of Xinjiang produces about a fifth of the world’s cotton supply, causing concern among human rights groups who contend that cotton exports from this area are picked through forced labor from Uyghurs. In the cotton industry and beyond, many companies have been accused of using Uyghur forced labor, including Nike and Apple. Countries around the world have condemned these abuses, including the U.S., which chose not to send any official representatives to the 2022 Beijing Olympics. In the words of now former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, U.S. diplomats were skipping the contests due to China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.” read the complete article

20 May 2022

The UN’s human-rights chief is finally about to visit Xinjiang

On the surface, much has changed in the western region of Xinjiang since Michelle Bachelet, the un High Commissioner for Human Rights, first proposed a visit there in 2018. Many of the camps where some 1m Uyghurs and other minorities were “re-educated” in 2017-2019 have been dismantled. This does not mean the situation has improved. Some camps have been transformed into forced labour sites, with the barbed wire taken down and new signs declaring that they are factories. Satellite imagery shows that new detention camps have sprung up in remote mountains and deserts, out of sight and hard to reach. Meanwhile, Xinjiang’s formal prison population has grown dramatically. In cities, the soldiers and security checks that conveyed a sense of crisis in 2018 are largely gone. Visiting foreign reporters are still followed and harassed, especially if they try to see demolished religious sites or former camps. But in places like Kashgar the minders keep a light touch. They want foreigners to stroll through the restored old city, visit the night market and watch videos of young Uyghurs singing upbeat Mandarin songs. That controlled version of Xinjiang is what Ms Bachelet is likely to see when she finally visits China this month, as her office and the Chinese foreign ministry say she will, the first human-rights chief to do so since 2005. Chinese officials say that she is welcome, but only on a “friendly” visit aimed at “exchange and co-operation”, not an investigation. That is not the kind of fact-finding mission many had hoped for. Last June more than 40 countries in the UN Human Rights Council called for “unfettered access” to Xinjiang. Activists say that should include free access to detention centres and relevant government documents, freedom of movement, and unsupervised interviews. Since China will not grant any of these things, more than 200 activist groups are now calling for the trip to be postponed. That is unlikely. An advance team has already quarantined for several weeks in Guangzhou. read the complete article


20 May 2022

French debate on burkini rages on: Upholding 'Republican values' versus restricting civil liberties

France's interior minister said Tuesday that he would seek to overturn a rule change in the city of Grenoble that would allow women to wear burkinis in state-run swimming pools. The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while bathing, is a controversial issue in France where critics see it as a symbol of creeping Islamisation. For more analysis on one of France's most contentious debates on religious dress, FRANCE 24 is joined by Rim-Sarah Alouane, a French legal scholar and Researcher in comparative law, civil liberties, religious freedom and human rights at the University of Toulouse Capitole. First and foremost, Ms. Alouane takes issue with France's highly controversial “anti-separatism” law, passed in 2021. For her, the ultimate goal of the French government is "clearly" apparent: "to restrict more civil liberties, but in a very fuzzy way, because nobody's defining those Republican values." She warns that what the government deems Republican values "could really be anything, and that's the danger here." read the complete article


20 May 2022

The European country where “replacement theory” reigns supreme

On May 16, just days after the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, motivated by conspiratorial fears of white Westerners’ “Great Replacement” by minorities, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán endorsed the shooter’s ideology in a nationally televised speech. “Part of the picture of the decade of war facing us will be recurring waves of suicidal policy in the Western world. One such suicide attempt that I see is the great European population replacement program, which seeks to replace the missing European Christian children with migrants, with adults arriving from other civilizations,” Orbán said. Orbán is a close observer of American politics; the speech literally contains an exhortation to “make Hungary great again.” It is implausible, as the Guardian notes, that he was unaware of the concern in Washington over “Great Replacement” ideology — a conspiracy theory that posits a shadowy plan to “replace” the white Western population with immigrants and the children of nonwhites. But Orbán is not adopting this language in response to events in America: It has been a central element of his ideology for years. “I think there are many people who would like to see the end of Christian Europe,” he said in a representative 2018 radio interview. “They believe that if they replace its cultural subsoil, if they bring in millions of people from new ethnic groups which are not rooted in Christian culture, then they will transform Europe according to their conception.” In contemporary Hungary, we see a country where “Great Replacement” theory dominates not just official rhetoric but also policy. Migrants are treated cruelly at the border, while the government casts LGBTQ minorities as a threat to Hungarian birthrates and pushes a message to convince women to take up “traditional” roles as homemakers and mothers. Advocates for immigration and immigrant rights, like the Hungarian American Jewish philanthropist George Soros, are described as enemies of the state and attacked accordingly. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 20 May 2022 Edition


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