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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21 May 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Sri Lanka uses the pandemic to further stigmatize Muslims; analysis from Jay Ramasubramanyam argues India’s response to COVID-19 is putting migrants and Muslim lives at risk. Our recommended read today is by Burhan Wazir on disinformation, and how hate continues to swamp social media during the pandemic. This, and more, below:


21 May 2020

Exclusive: Islamophobic disinformation and hate speech has swamped social media during the coronavirus pandemic | Recommended Read

A series of Twitter hashtags falsely accusing Muslims around the world of deliberately spreading the novel coronavirus has pushed Islamophobic disinformation and hate speech to 170 million users since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to new research. The report is published by Equality Labs, a New York-based South Asian community advocacy group. It shows that the hashtag #Coronajihad has run rampant on Twitter since late March. Posts featuring the hashtag and a range of anti-Muslim rhetoric have also been shared widely on platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. “What happens on social media matters,” said Equality Labs’ executive director Thenmozhi Soundararajan. “When platforms like Twitter fail in responding to addressing hate speech and disinformation in a timely manner, there are consequences. This was a preventable tragedy.” The organization calculates that more than 293,000 conversations pushing Islamophobic COVID-19 content have taken place on Twitter, where they have generated more than 700,000 points of engagement, including likes, clicks, shares and comments. It has also found that the majority of users creating and sharing such content are young men between the ages of 18 and 34, based in India or the United States. The report, which is due to be published tomorrow, notes that Islamophobic coronavirus-related hate speech and disinformation first appeared on Twitter as early as March 1, weeks before countries around the world began to enforce lockdown. In many cases, Islamophobic content blaming Muslims for the spread of the virus was first posted to Twitter by Indian Hindu nationalists, but was later amplified by global Islamophobic individuals and groups. Hate speech and disinformation tied to Covid-19 also emanated from Islamophobic social media accounts, pages and groups based in the West. read the complete article

Recommended Read
21 May 2020

Like India, Sri Lanka is using coronavirus to stigmatise Muslims

The novel coronavirus pandemic, and the threat posed by it to the socioeconomic fabric of nations, pushed many governments around the world into an existential crisis and forced them to switch to survival mode. Populist politicians in these countries, who failed to respond to this public health crisis swiftly and efficiently, resorted to scapegoating minority communities, especially Muslims, to justify their shortcomings. This has put millions of people, who were subjected to discrimination, abuse and oppression even before the start of the pandemic, in a bind. In many countries around the world underprivileged Muslims are now facing not only a pandemic that is threatening their lives and livelihoods, but also a spike in institutionalised Islamophobia. In India, since the emergence of COVID-19, members of the country's 200 million-strong Muslim community have repeatedly been accused of being "super spreaders" of coronavirus both by the media and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). read the complete article

21 May 2020

Saints, scholars and queens: The women who helped forge Islam

They called her “Uwar Gari”, or the “Mother of all”. Nana Asmau (1793-1864), the daughter of Shehu Usman dan Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate (1806-1903) in northern Nigeria, was a patron of women and children’s rights and an exponent of education in West Africa. She taught in four languages and promoted women’s liberation through reading, writing, singing and working. Women flocked to her home and sat at her feet. Asmau even built a team of women scholars who would travel across the caliphate and teach women in their own homes. She was held in such high esteem, she was known in Morocco, Mauritania and western Sudan. Asmau’s story is among those of 21 women profiled in a new book by Hossein Kamaly, A History of Islam in 21 Women, in which he details the biographies of some of the most illuminary Muslim women in Islamic history. “She pressed the point that the mistreatment and debasement of women contradicted the exemplary conduct of Prophet Muhammad,” Kamaly, an associate professor of Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, writes of Asmau. “To her, reviving the roots of pure Islam depended on raising the status of women.” The book, a breezy 260-page read, is a chronologically assembled biography of five religious figures, eight rulers, four leaders within the colonial era and four others in the contemporary moment. All women. And the stories encompass the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as India, Indonesia, Russia and the United Kingdom. Kamaly’s unusual selection might raise eyebrows, while historical scholars may frown at the simplification of complex histories into fast-paced narrations of these extraordinary women's lives, but as an introduction to some of the lesser-known exploits of Muslim women throughout Islamic history, it is instructive. read the complete article

21 May 2020

Long before face masks, Islamic healers tried to ward off disease with their version of PPE

Just as many now don face masks and do breathing exercises to protect against COVID-19 – despite debate around the science behind such practices – so too did the Islamic world turn to protective devices and rituals in premodern times of trouble. From the 11th century until around the 19th century, Muslim cultures witnessed the use of magic bowls, healing necklaces and other objects in hopes of warding off drought, famine, floods and even epidemic diseases. Many of these amulets and talismans are beautifully crafted objects, and so are of interest to art historians such as myself. And while they are now largely seen as relics of folk belief and superstition, in the premodern era these ritual objects emerged from elite spheres of Islamic knowledge, science and art. read the complete article

21 May 2020

Partly false claim: Map predicts Muslim population in Europe in 2050

Social media users have been sharing an image online of a map which claims to show the predicted population of Muslims in Europe in 2050. The map shows a high density of Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia. Examples can be found here and here . The map does not give a source. It includes an image of the Islamic crescent moon and star. A Google search reveals a report by the Pew Research Center from November 2017, titled “Europe’s Growing Muslim Population”. The report presents growth projections for Muslims in Europe based on zero migration, medium migration and high migration. The report displays the three scenarios using a map of Europe, with the projected percent of Muslims among the total population in each country. ( here ) It is true that the Pew Research Center projects the Muslim population in Europe to rise. But some of the figures listed in the social media claim are unsubstantiated and the claims pick Pew’s highest migration prediction model. read the complete article

United Kingdom

21 May 2020

Tesco ‘boycott’ backlash highlights underlying racial bias against halal advertising

After Tesco unveiled its Ramadan film, hoards of disgruntled shoppers took to Twitter to proclaim they would ‘boycott’ the supermarket for daring to advertise halal meat. While the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has put a stop to further action, the backlash highlights an underlying racial bias against halal advertising. The ad in question was created as part of Tesco’s Food Love Stories series. ‘Not Quite’ Aunty’s Sumac Chicken sees three men stuck in lockdown, trying their best to recreate their aunt's Ramadan iftar dish. "It's quite common for Twitter to revolt when they see Muslims being catered to by mainstream brands,” explains Asad Dhunna, founder of the consultancy The Unmistakables. Dhunna claims it is a common reaction, pointing to the criticism Warburton’s faced when a man noticed its bread was halal-certified and when Nando's was found to be using halal chicken. “Part of the problem is that people don't always understand what halal is, but more often than not its underlying bias or racism that plays out in social media,” he explains. read the complete article

21 May 2020

Coronavirus: British Muslims call out 'double standard' over government Eid warnings

Adverts posted by the UK government online urging British Muslims to stay home and observe the religious festival of Eid at home have been criticised as a display of “double standards” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. British Muslims have felt particularly targeted during the lockdown and have denounced their singling out by the government as “hypocritical”, given that the same type of messaging was not used to dissuade street parties organised for Victory in Europe (VE) Day earlier this month marking the end of World War II in Europe. A news item from the BBC was blasted after social media users highlighted how the same news channel had provided live coverage of the street celebrations despite them occurring before the government began easing the lockdown. A number of Muslim doctors and health care staff working for the UK's National Health Service (NHS) have died on the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic. Meanwhile, Muslim organisations have organised distributions of protective gear for health workers and have gathered donations for vulnerable communities - particularly during Ramadan, a time when Muslims are encouraged to perform acts of charity. Yet the government messaging surrounding Eid encouraged a number of social media users to express Islamophobic sentiments. read the complete article


21 May 2020

India’s treatment of Muslims and migrants puts lives at risk during COVID-19

In India, the second most populous country in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed pre-existing fault lines of inequality and communalism, exposing current problems with the country’s political and social structures. The ultra-nationalist Indian government under Narendra Modi passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in December that guaranteed fast-track citizenship to some minority groups from neighbouring countries but explicitly barred Muslims from it. In August 2019, Article 370 of the Indian constitution that extended special status to the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped, and a communications blackout was imposed that has continued to this date. With the help of these two policy and legislative moves, the current Indian government has been successful in creating an entire underclass of citizenry, mostly Muslims. I would argue that the current administration has bestowed upon itself what Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe called necropolitical power: the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die. In India, this power is particularly reinforced amid the COVID-19 crisis. read the complete article

21 May 2020

How is BJP’s government weaponizing COVID-19 against Muslims in India?

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India is skillfully using the COVID-19 outbreak as a tool to crackdown against democratic dissent. The main target of the majoritarian Indian regime has been the country’s largest religious minority, Muslims. According to several media reports since February this year until the middle of April, at least 800 Muslims have been arrested in the country. Out of these, 60 were detained after the lockdown began on March 24. Experts believe that the BJP’s government is weaponizing COVID-19 against Muslims. Analysts believe that the government is persistently weaponizing COVID-19 against Muslims. Social activist Harsh Mander says the government is “cynically using the crisis of the pandemic to kill all dissent and create an alternative mythology — that the movement against amending India’s citizenship laws was violent and seditious. If it is not halted in its tracks, both democracy and the fight against the pandemic, would be critically weakened”. read the complete article

21 May 2020

India: Concerns over Modi’s coronavirus crackdown

India’s lockdown, covering 1.6 billion people, has been extended until the end of May. But for the country’s Muslim minority there’s perhaps been an even greater impact. Since taking power, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought in a citizenship law that favours non-Muslims – and has been accused of turning a blind eye to violence against India’s nearly 200 million Muslims. After coronavirus broke out, threats and attacks against Muslims exploded again. read the complete article

United States

21 May 2020

“I am considering myself an essential worker”: An imam on carrying out Muslim funerals amid the pandemic

It seems like such a distant memory now, but there was a time when Imam Ahmed Ali Uzir of Brooklyn’s Iqra Masjid Community & Tradition would lead one or two Islamic funeral prayers, known as janazah prayers, a month. That was before Covid-19 ravaged the city; now, he might perform five in a row. On one particularly somber day a few weeks ago, he recited nine. Ali remembers the moment it all began: A funeral home he works with called and asked for his help. “I went there thinking that it might be a few bodies — one day, two days. And it’s over a month now.” He estimates that he’s overseen 150 burials in the past five weeks. Many were Covid-19 victims of varied backgrounds — Pakistani, Bangladeshi, African American. In one case, a woman didn’t go in for her necessary dialysis because of the crisis; fear of seeking care is a side effect of the pandemic that has become common around the world. “As an imam, I am considering myself an essential worker,” Ali says. “I’m just a community servant. This is the time that I have to stand next to my community. You can talk about God, how important it is to trust in almighty Allah — now is the time to prove it.” He recalls a father who was seeking help “because nobody was washing bodies,” Ali says. “He came and he said, ‘Can you please wash my son?’ And I looked at him and I said, ‘Okay, I will do it, don’t worry.’” As a believer, he says, he has an obligation to help his community maintain the rites and rituals of Muslim burial. “We should not have fear of death, because that’s a reality. That’s what I believe, and that’s why I am out there.” read the complete article

21 May 2020

GOP House candidate demeans Muslims and compares Dreamers to pedophiles

Republican congressional candidate Ted Howze said earlier this month he had nothing to do with social media posts from his personal accounts that demeaned Muslims, accused prominent Democrats of murder and mocked a survivor of the Parkland school shooting. The “negative and ugly ideas,” he asserted, were penned by others whom he’d given access to his accounts, but he declined to name them. At least a dozen additional posts from Howze’s account over a two-year period espouse conspiracy theories, suggest Hillary Clinton and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) are responsible for murder, or denigrate Dreamers, Islam and the Black Lives Matter movement. As of Tuesday afternoon, they were accessible on his personal Facebook account. He asserted that Muslims cannot be good American citizens, and in a Facebook post signed "Ted Howze American citizen," he said the 2016 mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub occurred because "the FBI was ordered by the Obama administration to lay off Muslims.” read the complete article

21 May 2020

Despite anti-immigrant stance, Trump taps Moroccan migrant for vaccine role

US President Donald Trump has made controversial statements on migrants a hallmark of his presidency and presidential campaign before that. The irony of his choice to appoint a Muslim, Moroccan, African, immigrant, to one of the most important roles in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic has not been lost on many observers. Former GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Vaccine Chairman Moncef Slaoui will lead US efforts to find a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus by the end of this year. Reflecting the strategic urgency of the project, the Trump administration has christened it ‘Operation Warp Speed’. A 2016 profile by Fortune magazine, which included him in its list of top 50 greatest leaders in the world, describes his journey from the Atlantic-coast city of Agadir in Morocco, to one of the world’s top immunologists. His journey to the top was spurred by the death of his sister from whooping cough. From there he went on to study Biology and Molecular Biology at the Free University of Brussels, then teaching Immunology at the University of Mons. Later Slaoui studied at the Harvard and Tuft Medical schools before being tapped up by GSK to help its vaccine development programmes. The Morrocan has already helped contribute to the fight against cervical cancer and malaria with his expertise in developing vaccines, as well as against ebola. read the complete article


21 May 2020

Will Mandatory Face Masks End the Burqa Bans?

Suddenly the niqab, or full-face veil, has a whole set of new, more communal, associations; and various legal establishments are gearing up to challenge the current status quo. “It’s a big contradiction,” said Alia Jafar, a British schoolteacher in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, of the many face covering laws, which differ by country — especially because, to avoid charges of discrimination, the legal wording of most burqa bans is often framed more neutrally to apply to both men and women hiding their faces. Recently, inspired by the global surge of face coverings, Ms. Jafar posted a picture on social media, which she shared with The New York Times, of two women in the street during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Both wore wide-brimmed hats, pulled low, with scarfs tied across their faces. Only their eyes peeked through. “It looks like the burqa,” Ms. Jafar said, by telephone. The implication being that things are not that different today. In the street, many wear baseball caps with bandannas across their faces. Yet this week France stood firm on its ban, which prohibits the wearing of clothing intended to hide the face in public spaces, despite the fact that masks are now being required on public transportation and in high schools. The French interior ministry confirmed to The Times that the face coverings rule of 2010 would stay in place. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 May 2020 Edition


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