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.

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22 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In France, teaching unions and anti-racism charities have demanded an inquiry after police sent a request to schools for information on the number of pupils absent on Eid, meanwhile, the UNHCR says it’s awaiting permission from Myanmar’s government to distribute health supplies in Sittwe, where an estimated 90% of Rohingya homes have been destroyed by Cyclone Mocha, and in India, Yashpal Rawat, a BJP leader in Uttarakhand, cancelled his daughter’s wedding with a Muslim man due to protests from religious leaders and right wing groups. Our recommended read of the day is by Ali Al Ashoor for Capital Current on how hate crimes against Muslims in Canada arose by a staggering 71 percent between 2020 and 2021, with a majority of those impacted most being Muslim women. This and more below:


In the crosshairs of racism: Why Muslim women bear the brunt of Islamophobia | Recommended Read

Her heart racing, Wati Rahmat hurries down a side street, heading to the closest bus stop from her office in Montreal. A car is slowly trailing her. She knows what’s coming. Sure enough, as she turns around, a man rolls down the side window of the car and yells, “You terrorist! Go back to your home!” That is just one of the frightening episodes Rahmat, an Asian Muslim who wears a hijab, faced during the nine years she spent in Montreal. It finally got so bad that she moved to Edmonton in 2014, hoping things would be different there. They were not. Time after time, she said, strangers would approach her on the street, demanding, “Muslim, why do you wear hijab? Why do not you become a Canadian?” “The undercurrent of Islamophobia is always there in Canadian society,” said Rahmat, adding that Muslim women are easy pickings for racists because “Muslim women are visible.” Hate crimes against Muslims have soared in recent years, from the slaying of a Muslim man outside a Toronto mosque in 2020, to a June 2021 truck attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., that killed four people the next year, to hate-related incidents targeting two Markham mosques in April of this year. In 2021, the National Council of Canadian Muslims reported that more Muslims have been killed in targeted hate attacks in Canada than in any other G-7 country in the previous five years. The incidence of police-reported hate crimes against Muslims rose by a staggering 71 per cent from 84 to 144 between 2020 and 2021, according to Statistics Canada. The actual number of incidents is certainly much higher, as nearly 80 per cent of hate incidents are not reported to the police, according to The Canadian Anti-Hate Network. And Muslim women have borne the brunt of these incidents. In the last two years, the majority of victims of Islamophobia were women, said Rahmat, referring to incidents covered by the media as well as information from community organizations. read the complete article

Gathering for Canadian newcomers held in Victoria Park

Members of Waterloo region's Muslim community held a gathering for Canadian newcomers in Victoria Park. The Coalition of Muslim Women (CMW) K-W invited women in the Afghan and South Asian community to share a meal at the Kitchener park Friday evening. "For women, language is the biggest barrier," said Tuba Sangar of the coalition. "They feel isolated." Many of the community say they are still processing what police are calling a hate-motivated attack on one of the organization's staff members at a Kitchener Drive Centre. Staff with CMW say Muslim women face similar kind of discrimination routinely. "Women like this go through hundreds of incidents like this and often times they don't even know that it is worth reporting or that its wrong and they shouldn't be facing that," said Munazza Abbasi of the coalition. read the complete article


UN denied access to Rohingya refugee camps after Cyclone Mocha

UN staff say they have been denied access to help thousands of Rohingya living in displacement camps in Myanmar who are in urgent need of food, medicine and shelter in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha. People living in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, said they estimated that about 90% of homes of Rohingya people had been destroyed and more than 100 people killed when winds of more than 150 miles an hour hit the region. However, the refugee agency UNHCR said the Myanmar government has refused access to the camps in Sittwe, home to about 100,000 people. “As yet, UNHCR has not been granted access to carry out needs assessments.” Bright Islam, a 28-year-old Rohingya activist, said: “The cyclone destroyed everything we had. We have nothing to eat, and people have to sleep on the road. Injured people don’t have access to medical treatment.” read the complete article

G20: India hosts tourism meet in Kashmir amid tight security

The working group meeting is being held in Srinagar, the summer capital of the federally administrated territory, from Monday to Wednesday. This is the biggest international event organised in the region since India scrapped its special status in 2019. Over 60 delegates from G20 member countries are expected to attend the event. China, however, has said it will not attend, citing its firm opposition "to holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory". The BBC has emailed India's foreign ministry for its response to China's statement. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it. The nuclear-armed neighbours have already fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region. In April, Pakistan, which is not a G20 member, had criticised India's decision to hold the meetings in Kashmir, calling it an "irresponsible" move. India, however said, that it was "natural" to hold G20 events and meetings in "Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, which are an integral and inalienable part" of the country. In 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led federal government had divided the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir to create two federally administrated territories - Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Ladakh is a disputed frontier region along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China, and both countries claim parts of it. read the complete article

In search of Saeed: From Guantanamo to an Algerian prison

Saeed Bakhouche – who I know as my brother 'Saeed', or prisoner 685 – was the last of 26 Algerians in Guantanamo. Those of us freed before him were very pleased when we heard that he was finally repatriated on 20 April to his home country, as an innocent man. But instead of enjoying the joy and peace that returning home should bring to a man from whom 21 years of family life have been taken, Saeed has unbelievably found himself in another prison. This time he is in a prison outside the Algerian capital, facing new interrogators, with no legal representation and no family visits – a situation worse than Guantanamo. It has been a month now. Saeed was interrogated and investigated for 21 years supposedly by the world's most powerful and effective law enforcement and intelligence agencies – and yet he left Guantanamo without charge or trial. What possibly could the Algerians uncover after all this time that the Americans couldn't? Legal overreach combined with lack of accountability to even basic principles of due process have become a familiar pattern in the 'war on terror'. This fact has been recognised by the UN even if it is unable to do anything about it. read the complete article


In Protecting 'Kerala Story,' the Law Has Protected Hate Speech

The Supreme Court asked the West Bengal government to lift the ban on the film. It also ordered the Tamil Nadu government to provide adequate security to anyone who wants to screen and watch the film. The simple and clinching argument is that when the Central Board of Film Certification has given permission to it, then the question of banning it does not arise. The court wants it to be treated like any other film, to be watched as a fiction. But this is not an ordinary film. The governments of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand led by the Bharatiya Janata Party have given tax exemption to the film. Obviously with an aim to encourage people to watch it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has recently promoted this film. The chief ministers have taken out time from their busy schedules to watch the film and have appealed to the public to watch it. Obviously, no other film gets this push from the governments. It was claimed that Kerala is the centre of this conspiracy and from there 32,000 women have been converted to Islam and sent to the Islamic State as sex slaves. The film claims to tell the story of this huge and terrifying conspiracy and tragedy. 32,000 is a huge and dramatic number. Conversion of so many women under organised conspiracy should really be a matter of concern. But as soon as Alt News pointed out that this was an outright lie, the producer and director of the film changed their story. They said that the number was only three, not 32,000. The numbers change the magnitude of the ‘conspiracy’ but the argument changed as soon as the lie was busted. It was said that the number was not important, even if it happens to only one person, it is equally terrible. The filmmakers had no moral qualms about lying in the first place. There was no shame in getting caught either. read the complete article

Under duress, BJP leader in Uttarakhand calls off daughter’s wedding with Muslim man

Yashpal Rawat alias Yashpal Benam, a BJP leader in Uttarakhand who is the Nagar Palika chairperson of Pauri Garhwal district, cancelled his daughter’s wedding with a Muslim man due to protests from religious leaders and right wing groups. The wedding, scheduled on May 28, became the talk of the town after the invitation card went viral. It mentioned the names of the bride and groom who met during their engineering course in a college in Roorkee. As the news spread, Mr. Rawat started receiving ‘warnings’ to call off the wedding. During a public event organised in State capital Dehradun by a religious leader, Swami Darshan Bharti, the public was asked to boycott Mr. Rawat because by marrying his daughter to a Muslim, he was supporting “love jihad”. “He should be the first one to oppose ‘love Jihad’ and ‘land jihad’. But look, how shamelessly he is calling Muslims to come to ‘Devbhoomi’ (land of gods) and marry our daughters,” said Mr. Bharti and asked the attendees if Mr. Rawat should be taught a lesson. The audience raised hands in affirmation followed by more ‘hate speeches’. After facing a weeklong protests, Mr. Rawat called off the wedding on Saturday. Speaking to The Hindu, he maintained that he could name many big leaders of his own party and Opposition who married off children into other communities and expressed shock at the kind of protest that he faced when he did the same. read the complete article

Is Narendra Modi turning Bollywood against Muslims?

Bollywood has for the most part kept free of India’s scourge of Hindu-Muslim conflict. With its liberal values, Muslim stars and celebrity Hindu-Muslim marriages, the Hindi film industry has in some ways been a powerful antidote to it. A heavily politicised row over a low-budget and allegedly Islamophobic film called “The Kerala Story”, which was released this month, suggests that record of tolerance is in jeopardy. The controversy has sparked communal clashes, at least one death and over 100 arrests in the western state of Maharashtra. It began even before the recent release of the film, which is about a fictitious Hindu woman who converted to Islam and was then radicalised. A marketing trailer for the film claimed that 32,000 girls from the southern state of Kerala had been forcibly converted to Islam then joined jihadist groups in Syria and Yemen. This was a gross exaggeration. But that did not deter Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) from enthusiastically championing the film. While campaigning for Karnataka’s recent election, India’s prime minister claimed it had exposed “a new form of terrorism”. “The Kerala Story” exploits the real-life radicalisation of a handful of Keralite Muslims to propagate a right-wing Hindu conspiracy theory known as “love jihad”, in which virile Muslim men prey upon innocent young non-Muslim women. Such Hindu conspiracies, whipped up by bjp politicians, have led to an uptick in attacks on non-Hindus, as reported this month in America’s State Department’s latest annual report on religious freedom. “Attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred throughout the year.” read the complete article

United States

‘Living in Fear’: Arson Is the Latest in a String of Attacks on Minnesota Mosques

A suspect was arrested on suspicion of arson after a fire last week at a mosque in St. Paul, Minn., at least the fifth such act of vandalism in the state so far this year that has left members of the Muslim community “living in fear,” a state senator said. Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at a news conference that the mosque, the Oromo American Tawhid Islamic Center, was left “completely burned” after being set on fire on Wednesday. The suspect, Said Murekezi, 42, was arrested on Thursday and booked on suspicion of arson, the St. Paul Police Department said. Mr. Murekezi, who told the police he is Muslim, said he was protesting homelessness, according to charging documents. Mr. Murekezi told the police that if he hadn’t been caught, he would “torch another one” or attack a church, the documents said. The attack comes after a spate of other acts of vandalism against Islamic houses of worship in Minnesota. In April, Jackie Rahm Little was charged with arson after setting fire to two different mosques in Minneapolis. In one case, he was interrupted in the act, according to court documents. In the other, a mosque representative told investigators that the fire caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage. The state senator, Zaynab Mohamed, said on Sunday that the Muslim community in Minneapolis was feeling “shaken by these attacks.” “Especially the people who go to these mosques on a regular basis, they’re living in fear right now,” she said. “These attacks aren’t new. They’ve been happening for a long time. But this year they’re happening more often, and they’re more destructive.” read the complete article

New conversations defining ‘terrorism’ need to include White supremacist violence

Scholars and experts who study these groups and their ideologies have been tracking a rise in their activity in recent years. Last year, the Anti-Defamation League released a report looking at 150 right-wing attacks, plots, conspiracies, and attempted attacks from 1993 to 2017 and found “an overwhelming majority” of those incidents were committed by White supremacist or anti-government groups. Earlier this year, the FBI reported an 11 percent increase in reported hate crimes for 2021, with more than 64 percent of victims targeted because of their race or ethnicity. In 2020, the Center for Strategic & International Studies warned about a growing terrorism problem with its data showing that “the most significant threat likely comes from White supremacists.” Khaled Beydoun is a professor at the Arizona State University School of Law and author of numerous books and articles on national security, civil rights, and constitutional law, including his most recent book, “The New Crusades: Islamophobia and the Global War on Muslims.” He took some time to talk about President Biden’s remarks and this more recent wave of White supremacist movement. Q: Can you talk about when we begin to see this renewed rise in White supremacist rhetoric and action, and what seems to be driving it? A: I think people like me—critical scholars who study terrorism, counterterrorism, and White supremacy—have known that for many, many, many years. We’ve been saying so in our work, but it’s been refreshing for the government, specifically the Biden administration, to finally identify it. When you strip down the very technical definition of terrorism, it’s generally comprised of two components: mass violence driven by some form of political ideology. We’re talking about a wide range of incidents that precede the Jan. 6 insurrection. Why wasn’t Dylann Roof [who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2015 racist mass killing of nine members of a Black church in Charleston, S.C.] classified as a terrorist? He committed an act of mass violence driven by an anti-Black, racist ideology. That’s terrorism, according to this definition. Why aren’t these strings of mass shootings, that are oftentimes driven by some sort of political motive, being defined as terrorism? read the complete article

Coalition of N.J. mayors demand apology after Muslim politician uninvited to White House

A coalition of more than 20 mayors from across New Jersey have signed a letter demanding the White House apologize for denying the state’s longest-serving Muslin mayor entry to a White House celebration and disband the discriminatory watch list that allegedly caused his exclusion. The letter was presented during a press conference held Friday night in Teaneck with over 70 community members, including mayors and council people from throughout the state, who voiced support for Mayor Mohamed Khairullah of Prospect Park. “As mayors who value transparency and the U.S. legal system of due process, we urge you to provide Mayor Khairullah with substantive reasons as to why he was denied admission. We also ask you to issue a formal apology to Mayor Khairullah, initiate a review of his status on the watchlist, and to extend another invitation to him to meet with President (Joseph) Biden to proudly represent his constituents,” the letter reads. “Finally, we urge the Biden Administration to disband the unjust watchlist once and for all as it unfairly profiles, mistreats, and discriminates against 1.5 million people,” the demands conclude. read the complete article


Demands for inquiry after French police ask schools for information on pupils absent on Muslim festival of Eid

Teaching unions and anti-racism charities have demanded an inquiry after French police sent a request to schools for information on the number of pupils absent on the Muslim festival of Eid. The French government has confirmed that it asked for “an evaluation” of the number of pupils absent from schools in one south-western city on the day of Eid al-Fitr last month, but has rejected claims the controversial request amounted to a census on faith. Such a study would be illegal under France's secularism laws. The request was made directly to schools, without the involvement of local education authorities, the Toulouse rectorate said. “As soon as the heads of establishments and school principals informed us of this request, instructions were obviously given not to respond to it,” the rectorate told AFP. “We see this as a serious drift, a stigmatisation of Muslim students and an attack on their freedom of conscience.” Human rights group SOS Racisme led widespread criticism of the request, which officials have tried to brush off as merely clumsily addressed: “For which other religious holidays does the Ministry of the Interior request an assessment of the absenteeism rate?” it demanded. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Oxford swears in first Muslim woman lord mayor

Oxford's new lord mayor is the first in the city's history to be a woman of colour and a Muslim. Labour councillor Lubna Arshad was sworn in at a ceremony in Oxford Town Hall, during which the retiring lord mayor James Fry stepped down. Ms Arshad said it was the "honour of a lifetime" to serve in the city where she was born and raised. The term of office for the role is one year and the position can only be awarded to an elected councillor. In a statement, Oxford City Council said: "Lubna has made history as the first woman of colour, first Muslim woman of intersectional background, and the youngest Lord Mayor representing the city. "Her achievement is ground-breaking and represents significant progress towards diversity, inclusivity, and representation in leadership roles." read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 May 2023 Edition


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