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 2021

Today in Islamophobia: U.S. basketball player Kylie Irving’s public commitment to his Muslim faith provides a Muslim Americans with hope, meanwhile in Germany, a military officer goes on trial for posing as a refugee with the intent to stoke anti-Muslim racism, and a man in India is arrested in Uttar Pradesh for hoisting a Palestinian flag in a sign of solidarity. Our recommended read of the day is by Sahar Aziz on how social justice movements around race in the United States are shifting public opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict. This and more below:


20 May 2021

Racial reckoning is shifting US public opinion on Palestine

Not since the 1960s has the United States been as racially charged as it is today. The rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is forcing Americans to confront centuries of systemic state abuse of African Americans. As a result, younger Americans no longer believe the myth that their society is colour-blind. Like the Civil Rights Movement of five decades ago, BLM has brought to light the common causes of systemic oppression against Black people as well as Latinx, Native Americans, and Muslims. This moment of racial reckoning also encompasses a people consistently demonised in American media, politics, and textbooks: Palestinians. Youth and progressives, who now are exposed to the voices and experiences of Palestinians through social media, no longer uncritically accept politicians’ unconditional support of Israel. They realise the Israel-Palestine “conflict” is not just complicated, it is asymmetric and racist. Progressives see the parallels between their own critique of America’s settler-colonial past and Israel’s abuse of Palestinians. Through citizen journalism by Palestinians on the ground, Americans are forced to reckon with the reality that US military aid to Israel contributes to a systematic dehumanisation of Palestinians, just as militarisation and impunity contribute to the oppression of Black people in the US. Thus, the current response to Israel’s forced removal of Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem and bombings of civilians in Gaza brings into sharp relief the gradual shift in American public opinion. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
20 May 2021

Israel, India and the Islamophobic Alliance

The Israeli and Indian nations share a great deal in their modern histories. Both were forged in the crucible of British colonialism. In ruling both, colonial officials employed “divide and conquer”: setting tribes or religious groups against one another to maintain inter-group conflict, which prevented them from uniting against a common colonial enemy. Millions of Hindus and Muslims were expelled from their homelands during Partition, and in many cases forced to relocate to a country they'd never known. While in Israel, a million indigenous Palestinian residents were ethnically cleansed from 400 villages, most of which remain abandoned to this day. They fled to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, becoming permanent refugees in countries they’d never known. To this day most have not been granted citizenship, nor successfully integrated. In 1977, the winds of change swept the secular, socialist Labor Party from its three-decade domination of political life. The right-wing Likud, largely on the strength of Mizrahi resentment at decades of racism and abuse by Labor, came to power for the first time since the state's founding. In India, the Congress Party never faced serious opposition until the 1980s. Then, a new Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), arose from an anti-Muslim paramilitary movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It maintained a mystical belief in the racial supremacy of the Hindu nation that was modeled on German and Italian fascism. Israel and India increasingly view themselves facing a common Muslim enemy. For Israel, the enemy is 'Islamist' groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and countries like Iran. In India, it is the Pakistani 'jihadi' threat and the rising Kashmiri protest movement. Both Israel and India have substantial Muslim minority communities which the religious majorities (Jews and Hindus) view as a threat to their dominance. These commonalities have thrown these two countries into each other's arms. Modi and Netanyahu have become brothers of sorts. In the past year, they exchanged visits to each other's countries, marking the first visit of an Indian premier to Israel and the first visit of the Israeli PM to India. It was a bromance founded on Islamophobia. read the complete article

20 May 2021

China's persecuted Muslims find haven in the US

In January, 7-year-old Bayan Auelkhan landed at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport with her parents. She found herself over 7,000 miles away from her home in Kazakhstan, and her family does not know if or when they'll return. But she doesn't mind the travel or even living in a strange, new place, now that Bayan is back with her mother after being separated for much of her life. Bayan called attention to her plight in a YouTube video posted in 2019 by a Kazkh activist, Serikzhan Bilash. Bayan is seen in the video, alongside her father, pleading to be reunited with her mother. "I miss my mommy," she says in the video. The video shows her and her father begging the Chinese government to release her mother, Gulzira Auelkhan, from what China calls a "vocational" camp, many of which are located throughout the country's Xinjiang province. Gulzira said she spent the next 15 months inside one of these "vocational" centers. "They made us [women] take pills," Gulzira Auelkhan told ABC News. "The guards would stick their fingers in your mouth to make sure you swallowed the pills." Gulzira Auelkhan believes these pills were part of a forced sterilization strategy, adding, "It was forbidden to be pregnant." ABC News cannot confirm what was in these apparent pills. She, however, is one of several alleged camp survivors who have reported taking unknown medications in these facilities. read the complete article

19 May 2021

Why Muslim governments are giving China a free pass on its abuses against Uyghurs

Governments of Muslim-majority countries have so far largely refrained from criticizing China over its actions in Xinjiang. Why? There are justifiable fears that their relations with Beijing would suffer if they condemned the repression of the Uyghurs. Virtually all Muslim-majority countries have strong relations with China, which have significantly deepened in the past few decades. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's tour of the Middle East in late March underscored these growing ties. China has so much economic and geopolitical clout that most governments want to avoid risking any clash with Beijing, especially on issues that China's government views as internal matters. Indeed, some governments of Muslim-majority states have even defended Beijing's heavy-handed approach as necessary to combat "terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism" in Xinjiang. This wasn't always the case. More than a decade before former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of genocide in Xinjiang, Turkey's then-prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did the same in 2009. Yet due to growing Chinese investment in Turkey — as well as the geopolitical fallout of the failed Turkish coup of 2016, which prompted Ankara to pivot away from its Western allies and build closer ties with China and Russia — Turkey's leadership has muted its stance on Xinjiang in recent years. read the complete article

21 May 2021

Lithuanian parliament latest to call China's treatment of Uyghurs 'genocide'

Lithuania's parliament on Thursday became the latest to describe China's treatment of its Uyghur minority as "genocide", voting to call for a U.N. investigation of internment camps and to ask the European Commission to review relations with Beijing read the complete article

21 May 2021

India’s Intifada: Why Modi Is Arresting pro-Palestinian Protesters in Kashmir

Gul was among 20 Kashmiris arrested for demonstrating public solidarity with the people of Gaza, part of an ongoing campaign by Indian security forces fearing a Palestinian-type intifada in Kashmir, a shaking off of Indian rule in India’s only Muslim-majority state, whose semi-autonomous status was repealed by New Delhi in August 2019. Gul had drawn a mural on the gates of a spillover channel of the Jhelum river in the state capital Srinagar, showing the weeping face of a woman, her head draped in a Palestinian flag, with the slogan, "We are Palestine" written in bold white letters. The mural was later erased by the Indian police. The arrests took place to block the organization of anti-Israel protests, lest they spiral into demonstrations against India’s rule in Kashmir. The police used pre-emptive arrests even though Kashmir is already under a double ban on protests: Political assemblies are banned due to the raging COVID pandemic, but even before then, all types of protests were prohibited for fear they would become rallies against the new regime of Indian rule. That was also the line taken by a majority of Indians until the revocation of Kashmir's limited autonomy in 2019. That change of status signified how far the Modi government had strayed from long-standing consensus: Its right-wing, Hindutva discourse now reframes Kashmir as a Hindu holy land, seeks to alter its demography to ‘dilute’ or replace its Muslim population, and lobbies for the adoption of Israel's settler model for Kashmir. However, over the past three decades, India has faced political and militant resistance to its rule in Kashmir, from separatists and Islamists, some backed by Pakistan, leading to the loss of over 70,000 lives. New Delhi has sought to crush the movement with a highhanded approach and an abrogation of the state’s political autonomy. Kashmiris themselves have adopted the term "intifada," a loan word from Arabic, to give Kashmir a new cultural context distinct from its Indic moorings. They see a clear analogy between their struggle against the Indian state, and the Palestinians against the Israeli state, and seek to highlight that comparison, accusing both governments of stifling dissent by violence and suppressing the right to self-determination. Kashmiris are thus trying to internationalize the Kashmir issue, and to draw support from the Muslim world, Western democracies and international public opinion, all of whom have historically been far more vocally engaged with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than with Kashmir. read the complete article

United States

27 Apr 2021

Kyrie Irving’s conversion to Islam shows his commitment to life beyond basketball

During Ramadan, Islam’s holy month when nearly 2 billion adherents observe the daily fast from sunup to sundown, Irving has embraced a new cause that encompasses the pillars of social justice, anti-racism and humanitarianism that have come to define the 29-year-old superstar’s walk, on and off the court. On April 12, rumors began to spread that Irving had recently converted to Islam and was taking part in Ramadan fasting. Images of Irving kneeling before tipoff, in line with the Islamic prayer custom, began to circulate on Twitter, Instagram and beyond. In previous weeks, Irving had posted tweets crediting Allah for matters personal and political. On April 23, after Irving’s Brooklyn Nets topped the Boston Celtics, the rumor was elevated to reality. At a postgame news conference with a “Black Fathers Matter” hat atop his head, Irving opened up about his faith: “All praise is due to God, Allah, for this. … For me, in terms of my faith and what I believe in, being part of the Muslim community, being committed to Islam and also just being committed to all races and cultures, religions, just having an understanding and respect. I just want to put that as a foundation.” Irving’s words reverberated deeply through the Muslim community, particularly in the United States, home to a population still trying to recover from four years of “Muslim bans” and a relentless “war on terror” that marks Muslim identity as suspicious. Muslim leaders and laypeople embraced the news of Irving’s faith as warmly as he did Islam, posting his image on their social media timelines and anointing the dribbling marvel “Ramadan Irving.” For a community in constant search of heroes, particularly in the field of sport, Irving filled a void and joined the ranks of outspoken Muslim athletes who used their platform for justice. read the complete article

20 May 2021

'Put a noose on her': Violent, misogynistic comments about Rep. Omar follow Cawthorn post

A social media post by Rep. Madison Cawthorn featuring a picture of fellow member of Congress Ilhan Omar drew violent and misogynistic comments suggesting the leftist Democrat be deported and to "put a noose on her." Cawthorn, a Henderson County Republican representing North Carolina's mountainous 11th District, made the May 15 post on the social media app Telegram criticizing Democrats' stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict. "Far-left Democrats have chosen terrorism over tolerant freedom," he wrote. "The Muslim Brotherhood is a purveyor of terror. Democrats are on the wrong side of history and it’s not even an argument." The post had drawn around 200 comments by noon May 20, including several that called Omar a terrorist and suggested violence against her. One from Debbie Kessler Ross called Omar a "BYATCH" and said she "NEEDS TO GET THE HELL OUT OF THE GOVT AND THE USA SHE IS THE TERRORIST." "Ray Ray" said the congresswoman needed "to be taken out, stat!!!" While another going by "G Enoch" said "Pull that bag over her hear (sic) and put a noose on her." Another named Stephanie said "Say NO to MUSLIMS, period." read the complete article

20 May 2021

Facebook won’t take down an ad that Rep. Ilhan Omar’s office says could lead to harassment and death threats

Facebook has refused to remove a widely viewed attack ad that links Rep. Ilhan Omar to Hamas, even after her aides told the tech giant the message is inaccurate, hateful and threatened to subject her to death threats. The controversy could further inflame tensions between Facebook and Democratic lawmakers, who say the social media company has failed to police its platform against known, viral falsehoods and refused to heed their cries about the real-world consequences of online speech. The Minnesota Democrat’s office first reached out to Facebook on Tuesday after viewing ads from the pro-Israeli lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Omar’s office warned the company that similar images of her face with Hamas attacks have directly inspired death threats against her. Her aides told Facebook in emails later viewed by The Washington Post that it “peddles both hate speech and misinformation.” A day of back-and-forth followed, after Facebook initially could not find the ad — then spent hours reviewing it — only to determine it did not violate company policies. read the complete article

20 May 2021

Loudoun County cops investigating attack on Muslim women

The Loudoun County sheriff’s office is investigating attack on two Muslim women, who were waiting for their children outside of a school. read the complete article

20 May 2021

Candace Owens’ husband becomes CEO of Parler as it returns to Apple App Store

Social media app Parler has named George Farmer, husband of Trump loyalist Candace Owens, as its new chief executive. The announcement of the appointment of the British conservative comes as the network returns to Apple’s App Store having being removed following the deadly US Capitol riot. Having joined Parler in March as operating chief and previously having worked in financial services for a decade, Mr Farmer was also an active financial supporter and candidate for the UK’s Brexit Party. Both Apple and Google removed Parlier in January saying that the platform did not take adequate steps to remove harmful content. Amazon also pulled the plug on Parler’s use of its cloud-computing services, briefly causing the company’s website to go offline. It was eventually restored in February through other tech providers. In order to return to the App Store, Parler says that its rebuilt platform includes new community guidelines. read the complete article


20 May 2021

German officer who posed as Syrian refugee in terror trial

A German military officer has gone on trial, accused of posing as a Syrian refugee and planning far-right terrorism attacks on politicians. Named only as Lt Franco A, the officer - who was based in France - led an extraordinary double life, registered as a refugee called David Benjamin. He was eventually caught in 2017 trying to retrieve a handgun found by a cleaner in a toilet at Vienna airport. The soldier insists he was not an extremist and had not plotted attacks. His double life was exposed when authorities discovered the fingerprints of the soldier based in Strasbourg matched those he had used to register as a Syrian Christian asylum seeker, living three hours' drive north near Frankfurt. Prosecutors believe he had made a list of potential targets, including German Foreign Minster Heiko Maas, the deputy speaker of parliament and a Jewish activist, and was intending to use his fake Syrian identity to stage attacks and have them blamed on a refugee to provoke anti-Muslim sentiment. They cited a stockpile of ammunition and explosives he had hoarded in his parents' basement which was later found in a friend's house. Notes and recordings are cited in which the officer is said to praise Hitler. read the complete article

20 May 2021

German far right targets TRT Deutsch over Palestine coverage

TRT Deutsch, the German-language media outlet of Turkey's public broadcaster, has received "racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish" communication from a far-right group. The letter, allegedly signed by the racist Prinz Eugen Group, is laced with profanities and caricatures appearing to depict Prophet Muhammed with a turban as a bomb. Prinz Eugen Group is the name of a notorious military group among SS soldiers during the Nazi era. TRT Deutsch Editor-in-chief Kaan Elbir says the media outlet, based in Berlin, has extensively covered Israel's oppression against Palestinians in the past two weeks. "For this reason, many German media institutions, as well as political scientists, have made us a target by name. But this will in no way hinder us in covering the truth. We will continue to cover the topics that German media is turning a blind eye to, such as racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and the rising far-right. Such threats will not intimidate us." read the complete article


21 May 2021

Man arrested in India for Facebook appeal to hoist Palestine flag

Police in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh have arrested a Muslim man who had appealed on social media to hoist the Palestinian flag on homes and vehicles in a show of solidarity against the Israeli offensive on Gaza. Azamgarh district’s senior superintendent of police Sudhir Kumar Singh told Al Jazeera that they have arrested the man, identified as Yasir Akhtar, after he posted a message on his Facebook page, calling residents in his Saraimeer village to display the flag after the congregational prayers on Friday. “This is a congested area and multiple Muslim sects live here. Making a mass appeal post prayers could have resulted in violence. If he wanted to hoist a flag, he could have but calling others is not right. Many people opposed it, so we had to take action.” read the complete article


20 May 2021

China has imprisoned or detained at least 630 Imams

Justice For All in partnership with the Uyghur Human Rights Project has released a new report detailing the mass detention of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim imams in East Turkistan. The report chronicles attempts by the Chinese government to cut off the transmission of religious knowledge across Uyghur generations. Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, CEO of Justice For All, said “It is critical for Imams around the world and the interfaith movement to take a serious note of China’s utter disregard to freedom of religion, educate their congregations, and join Save Uighur Campaign to end the persecution of Uighur people.” The report, Islam Dispossed: China’s Persecution of Uyghur Imams and Religious Figures, presents a dataset of 1,046 Turkic imams and other religious figures from East Turkistan, detained for their association with religious teaching and community leadership since 2014. The data set reveals that 428 individuals have been formally sentenced to prison terms, of which 96 percent were sentenced to prison terms of five years or more, and 25 percent were sentenced to 20 years or more. The Turkic population of East Turkistan is facing its darkest era in decades, as 1-3 million people are detained in the largest concentration camps since the Nazis. The data set confirms that religious figures have been sentenced, without due process, to prison terms for quotidian religious practice and expression protected under Chinese law and internationally recognized human rights treaties. Imams have been sentenced for “illegal” religious teaching (often to children), prayer outside a state-approved mosque, the possession of “illegal” religious materials, and communication or for travel abroad. read the complete article


20 May 2021

Beyond the Coup in Myanmar: The Need for an Inclusive Accountability

If the current crisis in Myanmar is one “born of impunity”, any response that is rooted in accountability needs to acknowledge that the Myanmar military’s crimes span decades and across its ethnic regions. Some in the international community may have first learned about “clearance operations” in the context of the devastating attacks in recent years that have destroyed Rohingya villages and forced an exodus into neighboring Bangladesh. For almost sixty years, however, Myanmar’s military has engaged in forced displacement, sexual violence, torture, and extrajudicial killings against civilian populations as part of its ongoing conflict against armed groups in the country’s ethnic regions. A proper accounting in Myanmar must be inclusive of crimes committed against all its people, and inclusive of all the communities who have suffered at the hands of its military. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 May 2021 Edition


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