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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24 May 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In India, the use of bulldozers to forcibly evict Muslims has become a common tactic by India’s ruling BJP, which has long targeted Muslims, their lives, livelihoods, homes and heritage, meanwhile dozens of Rohingya refugees are dead or missing after a boat with about 90 people aboard, including children, capsized and sank in bad weather off the coast of Myanmar over the weekend, and following the deadly Buffalo shooting, Robert P. Jones writes that at the “center of the ‘great replacement’ logic, there is—and has always been—a desperate desire to preserve some version of western European Christendom.” Our recommended read of the day is by John Sudworth for the BBC on the Xinjiang Police Files, a new trove of leaked personal data that reveals China’s use of “re-education” camps and formal prisons as two separate but related systems of mass detention for Uyghurs. This and more below:


24 May 2022

The faces from China’s Uyghur detention camps | Recommended Read

Thousands of photographs from the heart of China’s highly secretive system of mass incarceration in Xinjiang, as well as a shoot-to-kill policy for those who try to escape, are among a huge cache of data hacked from police computer servers in the region. The Xinjiang Police Files, as they’re being called, were passed to the BBC earlier this year. After a months-long effort to investigate and authenticate them, they can be shown to offer significant new insights into the internment of the region’s Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities. Their publication coincides with the recent arrival in China of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, for a controversial visit to Xinjiang, with critics concerned that her itinerary will be under the tight control of the government. The cache reveals, in unprecedented detail, China’s use of “re-education” camps and formal prisons as two separate but related systems of mass detention for Uyghurs - and seriously calls into question its well-honed public narrative about both. The government’s claim that the re-education camps built across Xinjiang since 2017 are nothing more than “schools” is contradicted by internal police instructions, guarding rosters and the never-before-seen images of detainees. And its widespread use of terrorism charges, under which many thousands more have been swept into formal prisons, is exposed as a pretext for a parallel method of internment, with police spreadsheets full of arbitrary, draconian sentences. The documents provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a policy targeting almost any expression of Uyghur identity, culture or Islamic faith - and of a chain of command running all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. read the complete article

24 May 2022

Uyghurs urge UN rights chief to ask hard questions in Xinjiang

Uyghurs have urged UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to avoid falling victim to a public relations stunt as her trip to China enters a delicate new phase on Tuesday with a visit to the remote Xinjiang region.The ruling Communist Party is accused of detaining over one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region as part of a years-long security crackdown the United States has labelled a "genocide". China vehemently denies the allegations, calling them the "lie of the century". Bachelet is expected to visit the Xinjiang cities Urumqi and Kashgar on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a six-day tour. "I hope she can also ask the Chinese government for the whereabouts of my mother," said Jevlan Shirememet, adding that he had not been able to contact her in four years. The Turkey-based 31-year-old -- from the province's northern reaches near the border with Kazakhstan -- also said he hoped Bachelet would venture further than her itinerary. "I don't know why she can't visit these places," he told AFP. Nursimangul Abdureshid -- another Uyghur living in Turkey -- was "not very hopeful that her trip can bring any change". "I request them to visit victims like my family members, not the pre-prepared scenes by the Chinese government," she told AFP. "If the UN team cannot have unlimited access in Xinjiang, I will not accept their so-called reports." read the complete article

24 May 2022

Hacked data and photos offer unprecedented evidence of China's secret Uyghur detention system

Human rights advocates and experts say Uyghurs are persecuted for supposed "crimes," such as practicing their faith, growing a beard or, in Nurmemet’s case, "provoking trouble." Nurmemet’s husband, Abdurahman Hasan, confirmed that the photo is of his wife and told BBC that her only crime was "coming into this world." Nurmemet is one of thousands believed to be held in arbitrary detention in hundreds of internment camps across Xinjiang where human rights groups say detainees are subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Looking at the photograph of Nurmemet, Hasan said: "You can see how her spirit is broken. It must have been taken around the time of her sentencing. She looks destroyed." Zenz gave the files to a media consortium that includes USA TODAY and the group verified some elements of the data. The BBC found three Uyghurs who have missing relatives in Xinjiang. Each was able to identify relatives whose names or photos, along with Chinese identification numbers, appear in the files, for a total of six verified entries. Zenz says he obtained the trove of internal files from a hacker who accessed Chinese police networks in Xinjiang. The data provides an unprecedented glimpse inside Beijing's internment of Uyghurs and other targeted ethnic groups. Zenz says the photos, essentially police mug shots, were taken in police stations or detention centers in 2018. The documents include 5,074 photos in all. According to Zenz, the files show the personal data of approximately 286,000 people, almost the entire population of Konasheher County in 2018. The hacked files are from police networks in that county and Tekes County. They indicate that approximately 12% of the county’s ethnic adults were in some form of internment in reeducation, detention or prison facilities. In addition to the mugshots of the detained, the files appear to contain photographic evidence of items taken from detainees, such as clothing, prayer rugs, beads and other personal items. Previous reporting by other outlets indicates that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally urged a hardline approach to unrest among Uyghurs in Xinjiang. In private remarks in 2014, Xi said China was engaged in a massive struggle against “terrorism, infiltration and separatism” and the party should show "absolutely no mercy," according to a 2019 New York Times story. read the complete article

United States

24 May 2022

It’s Time to Stop Giving Christianity a Pass on White Supremacy and Violence

The shooting has spurred a national discussion about the mainstreaming of these concerns, often summarized under the term “replacement theory.” Most of the attention has been given to the demographic component of this theory, while the cultural aspects have been overlooked. But the fear of cultural replacement has an unambiguous lineage that gives it specific content. At the center of the “great replacement” logic, there is—and has always been—a desperate desire to preserve some version of western European Christendom. Far too many contemporary analysts, and even the Department of Justice, have not seen clearly that the prize being protected is not just the racial composition of the country but the dominance of a racial and religious identity. If we fail to grasp the power of this ethno-religious appeal, we will misconstrue the nature of, and underestimate the power of, the threat before us. In a 180-page racist screed, the Buffalo shooter wrote that he was particularly inspired by the man behind the 2019 massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which claimed 51 lives. The Christchurch shooter also left a manifesto entitled “The Great Replacement,” which talked at length about “the Muslim invasion of Europe.” So, the incident that most inspired the Buffalo shooter was a man of European descent murdering Muslims praying in mosques located in a city pointedly named “Christchurch.” The Christchurch shooter in turn took particular inspiration from the ideology of a terrorist who killed nearly 100 people at a youth camp on Utøya island in Norway in 2011. The Utøya shooter also published a manifesto, which contains clear white Christian nationalist appeals throughout. He asked God to help him succeed in his mission to expel all Muslims from Europe, and he decried the way multiculturalism was deconstructing European culture and “European Christendom.” Toward the end of the document, he proclaimed, “Onward Christian soldiers! Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution, for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven.” In the U.S., this drive to preserve white Christian dominance undergirded the worldview of the Ku Klux Klan when it reemerged in the early part of the 20th century. We rightly remember the terrorism aimed at Black Americans, but the KKK was also explicitly anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic; it existed to protect the dominance of a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant America. read the complete article

24 May 2022

Progressives Need to Resist the Domestic “War on Terror”

The post-9/11 “war on terror” was a disaster for Muslims and immigrant communities in the United States. Patriotic, law-abiding Muslim Americans were treated as foreign enemies and hundreds of immigrants were rounded up, detained, and deported. Americans’ constitutional rights were trampled while a sprawling system of mass surveillance took shape. Those brave enough to shine a light on its abuses were, at best, spied on and treated as criminals or, at worst, hounded into the poorhouse and even imprisoned and tortured. The only minor saving grace was that, technically, this “war” was never waged officially within the United States, where it could’ve led to even more alarmingly authoritarian outcomes. That now seems to be changing under the Biden administration, which, ever since last year’s Capitol riot, has bit by bit ramped up a burgeoning domestic war on terror aimed at criminals and dissidents at home. The latest escalation in this budding campaign cleared the House on Thursday — and, horrifyingly, received the wholehearted backing of the congressional left. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2022 sailed through the House on a strict party-line vote, with not a single Democrat voting against and only one Republican, Illinois representative Adam Kinzinger, voting in its favor. Opposition to the bill was presumably considered politically toxic on the Left, as it was sold as a response to the racist mass murder committed in Buffalo last week, which is presumably why every single member of the “Squad” voted for it. The bill creates domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Justice Department, and the FBI. These offices are all set to sunset in a decade. The heads of all three agencies must regularly issue a joint report on domestic terrorism threats, incidents, and arrests and prosecutions. The offices will direct their resources toward the threat categories with the highest number of instances. The bill also requires that they review and investigate hate crime charges with an eye on redefining or connecting them to domestic terror incidents. For one, the leading progressive concerns about the license granted to the state by the original war on terror remain with this version of the bill. The powers authorized by this legislation can easily be turned on anyone — not simply the odious groups that are invoked for the bill’s passage. The Biden administration’s official domestic counterterrorism strategy explicitly “makes no distinction based on political views” and name-checks supposed domestic terrorists motivated by a “range of ideologies,” including animal rights, environmentalism, anarchists, and anti-capitalists. In practice, the FBI has already imprisoned one Florida anarchist over what amounted to a series of public social media posts. Domestic terrorism prosecutions have exploded since 2020, now far outnumbering cases defined as international terrorism, and many of those have been racial justice protesters that the Biden administration has continued to prosecute as terrorists. read the complete article


24 May 2022

Rohingya refugee boat sinks off Myanmar, dozens dead or missing - media

Dozens of ethnic Rohingya refugees were dead or missing after a boat with about 90 people aboard, including children, capsized and sank in bad weather off the coast of Myanmar over the weekend, according to media reports. More than 20 survivors were detained by authorities in Myanmar's Ayeyarwady region, the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia reported, citing residents in the coastal district of Shwe Taung Yan. According to survivors, the boat, which was bound for Malaysia, ran into trouble within a couple of days after setting out from Sittwe in Myanmar's Rakhine State on May 19, the Ayeyarwaddy Times reported. So far, at least 14 bodies had been recovered, but more than 50 people were still missing, Radio Free Asia said. There are only around 600,000 Rohingya Muslims left in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country with a long history of military rule. Rohingya have been rendered as stateless by Myanmar, and as a result of past ethnic violence and persecution the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 148,000 of them are displaced, with many living in camps. read the complete article

24 May 2022

The Iranian opposition has been peddling Islamophobia to undermine the regime

The ultimate goal of the opposition is regime change at any cost, whether its through foreign governments slapping further economic sanctions on Iran to the point that the civilian population will be squeezed to starvation, or encouraging military intervention to disintegrate a country of 85 million. However, the idea that they genuinely aspire to bringing democracy to Iran should always be taken with a pinch of salt because of how self-serving their posturing sounds. There’s little evidence they have sparked any meaningful democratic change in the recent four decades. But the opposition has now pushed the boundaries in its campaign of defacing Iran and what the Iranians stand for, by running into the propagation of Islamophobia. That the Islamic Republic has hyped a rendition of political Islam that many Iranians hold accountable over their day-to-day challenges and regressions is a given. But the opposition now seems to be unleashing an all-out assault on Islam, labelling the faith of 1.5 billion people as a backward, medieval ideology that suppresses women, is superstitious and is alien to civilised, modern life. This is no longer about challenging a diehard government that builds on religion to consolidate power. It’s now an unrepentant declaration of war against the beliefs of a large group of people from different walks of life. The Islamophobic penchants of the Iranian opposition in exile are now taking on global dimensions, and the targets are no longer only the hidebound clerics in Qom and Mashhad, but celebrities such as the US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. This goes some way to explain why these ideologues considered Donald Trump a hero, whose tenure was a pageantry of racial intolerance, religious bigotry and disdain for international norms. Ilhan Omar, epitomising the representation of Muslims in top-tier US politics, has adversaries, and Iranian opposition members have joined the ranks. Debating Islam and its contemporary characterisation in governance is an inalienable intellectual right. But being a standard-bearer of anti-Muslim fear-mongering is simply tantamount to apologising for violence and codifying the trauma inflicted on the people targeted. read the complete article


24 May 2022

Bulldozers Emerge as an Important Weapon in BJP’s Anti-Muslim Arsenal

Over the last few weeks, the streets in several parts of India’s capital, New Delhi, have been overrun by bulldozers, compelling Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to lash out against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for carrying out the “biggest destruction in independent India.” This could have been dismissed as yet another tussle between Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP, which controls New Delhi, over civic issues, if not for the fact that the BJP declared that the demolition drives were aimed at throwing out illegal immigrants (Muslim) Bangladeshis and Rohingyas from Delhi. India’s ruling BJP, which is a Hindu nationalist party, has long targeted Muslims, their lives, livelihoods, homes and heritage. The BJP’s Delhi unit chief Adesh Gupta said that there is “no place for Rohingyas and Bangladeshis” in Delhi, alleging that they foment riots. AAP retorted that if bulldozers were rolled over Home Minister Amit Shah’s house then violence and riots would stop across India on that very day. The targeted demolitions in Muslim-dominated area like Jahangirpuri and Shaheen Bagh indicate that in the name of civic governance, the BJP is evicting Muslims from the capital. Opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted a picture of a yellow bulldozer alongside a picture of the Indian constitution saying, “This is a demolition of India’s constitutional values. This is state-sponsored targeting of poor & minorities. BJP must bulldoze the hatred in their hearts instead.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 24 May 2022 Edition


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