Today in Islamophobia

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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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23 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, Muslims in Minnesota are living in fear following a disturbing surge in anti-Islamic attacks, meanwhile in India, a court has issued a summons to the BBC in a defamation case over its documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and in Australia, the government is welcoming PM Modi on his first visit to the country since 2014, while rights groups warn that “the world’s largest democracy” has become less free and more dangerous for Modi’s critics. Our recommended read of the day is by Kavita Chowdhury for The Diplomat on how the BJP is using “The Kerala Story” to “stoke Islamophobia and Hindu hegemony in India.” This and more below:


How the BJP Uses Cinema and False Communal Narratives to Further Its Divisive Agenda | Recommended Read

Last week, the state government of Kerala put out a full-page advertisement in leading national newspapers with the caption “The Real Kerala Story.” The advertisement underscored the “social harmony, progressive values” and “inclusive development” in the southern Indian state. While the advertisement was released to mark the second anniversary of its communist Left Democratic Front government, it was clearly aimed at countering the false narrative being portrayed by a recent film, “The Kerala Story.” The movie portrays a conspiracy to convert Hindu women from the state to Islam and recruit them into the Islamic State terrorist regime. The sensational promos of the film claimed that “32,000 women” from Kerala had been seduced and radicalized by Muslim men and had joined the Islamic State. Not surprisingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government as well as BJP-ruled state governments have actively promoted the film. The release of the film on May 5 was timed to coincide with the crucial Karnataka elections. Faced with strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the state’s BJP government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attempted to polarize the electorate. To stoke Islamophobia and establish Hindu hegemony in the country, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar (allied Hindu supremacist organizations) have normalized hate politics over the past nine years of Modi’s rule in India. “The Kerala Story” is a handy vehicle for the BJP to further its agenda. read the complete article

BBC gets India court summons in defamation case over Modi film

An Indian court has issued a summons to the BBC in a defamation case over its documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to reports in the Indian media. The Delhi High Court on Monday issued the summons to the British broadcaster for its documentary film that questioned Modi’s leadership during the 2002 Gujarat riots in which at least 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims. Activists put the death toll at more than twice that number. Modi was the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014, the year he won the national elections and became the prime minister. The defamation suit, filed by a non-profit based in Gujarat, states the documentary – India: The Modi Question – that aired earlier this year cast a slur on India’s reputation and that of its judiciary and the prime minister. The summons came months after Indian tax officials inspected the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai in February and the financial crime agency opened an investigation into the broadcaster in April for alleged violations of foreign exchange rules. The tax authority said it found evidence of undisclosed income in records of an “international media company” without naming the BBC. A government adviser said the inspection was not “vindictive”. Modi has denied accusations that he did not do enough to stop the riots and a Supreme Court-ordered investigation found no evidence to prosecute him. The government called the documentary, which was banned in India, a biased “propaganda piece” and blocked sharing of any clips from it on social media. read the complete article

United States

New report assails Hamline University's handling of Islamic art controversy

A national organization promoting academic freedom released a new report Monday assailing Hamline University's response after an art history instructor showed images of the Prophet Muhammad in class. The American Association of University Professors accused the private university in St. Paul of engaging in "what amounted to a de facto campaign of vilification against Professor [Erika] López Prater that also represented an assault on fundamental principles of academic freedom." The association is one of many groups that have commented on the episode last fall that placed Hamline University at the center of a high-profile debate over academic freedom, religious tolerance and Islamophobia. López Prater's contract was not renewed for the spring semester. Scholars and religious leaders have sometimes disagreed about whether Islam permits images of the Prophet Muhammad. Some Muslims argue the images are strictly prohibited to avoid idolization, while others have images of the prophet in their homes. López Prater said she provided a disclaimer in the syllabus for the course and spent "at least a couple minutes" preparing students for the images. In a campus email, an administrator called her actions "undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic," a word choice that the university's president and board chair have since described as "flawed." The American Association of University Professors' 19-page report was based on information gathered during a two-day visit to campus, interviews with five administrators and others on campus, and written statements issued through López Prater's attorney. The association wrote that López Prater's decision to show the artworks was justifiable, appropriate and "protected by academic freedom." read the complete article

CAIR-NJ 2023 Annual Civil Rights Report Shows 46 Percent Increase in Cases

The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today published its annual civil rights report, Beyond the Courts, showing a 46 percent increase in the number of discrimination cases. The number of cases reported to CAIR jumped from 104 in 2021 to 152 in 2022. The largest category of complaints is employment and workplace discrimination, which includes hostile work environments, explicit bias, and employer retaliation. School-related complaints are a top second and include curricula with anti-Muslim undertones, teacher biases, student bullying, and lack of religious accommodations for Muslim students. Unlike previous years, the report’s findings also note an increase in Hindutva-related incidents. read the complete article

Minnesota’s Muslim community faces rising threats

Minnesota has recently witnessed a disturbing surge in anti-Islamic attacks, leaving the Muslim community living in fear and vulnerability. Acts of vandalism and arson against mosques have become all too frequent, causing significant distress and raising concerns about the safety and security of Muslims in the state. The Muslim community in Minnesota, particularly those who regularly attend these targeted mosques, is grappling with fear and anxiety. State Senator Zaynab Mohamed rightly points out that these attacks, while not new, have become more frequent and destructive, leaving individuals living in constant apprehension. The emotional toll inflicted by these hate crimes cannot be overstated, and it is imperative to address the root causes and protect vulnerable communities. read the complete article


Moment Muslim activists storm Birmingham screening of controversial Bollywood film about Islamic State

Protesters led by Shakeel Afsar, who also campaigned to block a school in Birmingham from teaching about LGBT equality, can be seen at the showing of Kerala Story at the Cineworld in Birmingham on Friday evening. The scenes were captured by Muslim group 5Pillars, who posted the footage onto their YouTube channel. Cineworld confirmed that the screening had been paused while staff dealt with the protesters, but said that the film began playing again soon afterwards. Indian film Kerala Story tells the story of Hindu and Christian people in the Indian state of Kerala who are recruited by terrorist group the Islamic State. Some Muslims consider the film Islamophobic and have claimed it is propaganda for the country's ruling BJP party, who have been criticised for their treatment of the sizeable Indian Muslim minority. Some politicians in Kerala have called for the film to be banned. In the ten-minute clip, Mr Afsar can be heard saying: "This film is lies. This film is made to divide us. We have lived together for many years... Narendra Modi [the prime minister of India] has endorsed this film. "An extremist has endorsed this film. We will not allow it." read the complete article

Australia fetes India's Modi with focus on trade, not rights

Lured by the world's most populous market and a counterweight to China's growing military, diplomatic and economic clout, Australia's government is layering on the charm. On Tuesday, Modi will hold a campaign-style rally at a 21,000-capacity Sydney arena -- with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese making a guest appearance. It is an unusually personal show of support for Modi, a nationalist leader who faces re-election next year and has been criticised for democratic backsliding and discrimination against India's non-Hindus. Australia and India have a great "strategic alignment", Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said, hailing the visit. Modi on Monday started his first visit to Australia since 2014, his first year in office. In the last decade, India's economic performance has been mixed, with missteps curbing growth, but hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty. It is now the second-fastest growing economy in the G20 and a multi-trillion-dollar market. But on the political front, "the world's largest democracy" has become less free and more dangerous for Modi's critics, according to Human Rights Watch's Elaine Pearson. "Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has been tightening its grip on civil society, using draconian laws to arrest and intimidate activists, journalists, opposition leaders, academics, peaceful protesters, and critics of government policies," she said. Rights groups say India's 200 million Muslims have also faced increased discrimination and violence since Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP swept to power in 2014. read the complete article


France: Outrage after schools asked to provide numbers on Eid absences

Anti-racism groups, Muslim leaders and a teachers' union have called for an inquiry after the French government asked schools to provide information on the number of students absent during the recent Muslim festival of Eid. French media reported over the weekend that nursery, primary, middle and high schools in Toulouse received a request from police in late April asking them to supply student absences on Friday 21 April during the occasion of Eid. Secretary of State for Citizenship Sonia Backes said on Sunday the Interior Ministry requested the information as part of an "evaluation of the rate of absenteeism observed on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr". While France is a secular country, six out of 12 national holidays are Catholic calendar events, while the other six have no religious connotation. Human rights group SOS Racisme criticised the government's request, saying it amounted to a census on faith which would be illegal under France's secularism laws. "For which other religious holidays does the Ministry of the Interior request an assessment of the absenteeism rate?” it wrote on Twitter. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Boston Councillor denied mayoral role after Islamophobic accusations

A Boston councillor was denied the role of Mayor of Boston after accusations of hate speech against Islam on Facebook. Blue Revolution Councillor Mike Gilbert lost the vote on Monday night’s AGM after posts that he made during the Qatar World Cup were brought up. He denied he was racist, but said he was raising questions about Islam’s record of women’s rights and gay rights. When confronted, Councillor Mike Gilbert admitted making the posts during the Qatar World Cup “at a time when there was a lot of speculation in the media that the choice of venue wasn’t appropriate for a number of different reasons.” “My intention was not to target any individual personally but to highlight that Islam, as a culture and ideology, intersects with certain issues in the West,” he explained, citing women’s rights and gay rights as examples. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 23 May 2023 Edition


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