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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25 May 2021

Today in Islamophobia: An add in the New York Times sparks anger and outrage as three prominent celebrities, who’ve been outspoken against Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, are accused of supporting “terrorism”, as Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs hosts multiple scholars to address the danger of Islamophobia worldwide, and in the United Kingdom, the much awaited report on Islamophobia in the Conservative party is released, and its findings conclude that “anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the party.” Our recommended read of the day is by Todd Green on the history of Islamophobia within the Christian community. This and more below:

United States

24 May 2021

Confronting Christian Islamophobia

Theologically, medieval European Christians viewed Muslims as rivals and ultimately heretics, particularly after the First Crusade. Christians in this era became familiar enough with the basics of Islam to recognize it as a monotheistic religion that shared common figures and overlapping vocabulary with Christianity. This theological overlap led Christian theologians to categorize Islam as a perversion of the true Gospel. While few of these theologians engaged in any in-depth study of Islamic texts and traditions, they were nonetheless quick to view the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a false prophet, one who deliberately corrupted the witness of the Old and New Testaments to spread false messages and usurp power. These same theologians also developed a cadre of shallow stereotypes of Islam that persist to this day, including the notions that Islam is violent and harmful toward women. American Christians not only inherited many of the negative theological stereotypes circulating among European Christians for centuries, in time, they also inherited Europe’s imperial impulses. American Christians translated this inheritance into support for U.S. imperialism in Muslim-majority regions after the end of World War II in the context of the Cold War. While many American Christians viewed “godless communism” as the primary obstacle to U.S. global dominance during the Cold War, by the end of the twentieth century, violent Islamist movements became public enemy #1. As a result, Muslim populations within the United States became symbolic stand-ins for the perceived Muslim enemy abroad. This resulted in a wide array of exclusionary and discriminatory policies aimed at Muslims in the post-9/11 era, from registration systems to government surveillance and profiling to the Muslim ban. What should not be lost in these political and imperial dimensions of Islamophobia is the pivotal role played by white Christians in general and white evangelicals in particular. The church has long served as an arm of empire, as was clear during the European civilizing missions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. White evangelicals in America adopted this enabling role for U.S. imperialism. With the war on terror, white evangelicals formed much of the political base for a government bent on invading and occupying countries under the banners of “freedom” and “democracy.” read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
24 May 2021

Dua Lipa, Bella and Gigi Hadid linked with Hamas in 'appalling' NYT advert

Grammy-winning singer Dua Lipa has hit back at a full-page advert in the New York Times which attacked her, along with models Gigi and Bella Hadid, and appeared to link them with Hamas, after the stars recently made social media posts in solidarity with Palestinians. "Bella, Gigi and Dua," the ad states. "Hamas calls for a second Holocaust. CONDEMN THEM NOW." It superimposed the three A-listers' faces over a picture of a rocket strike from Hamas, and was accompanied by lengthy inflammatory text which attempted to link the three stars with antisemitism, genocide and terrorism. The Times ad was paid for by The World Values Network, an organization set up and run by Shmuley Boteach, a controversial right-wing American rabbi with a history of taking out attack ads against figures critical of Israel. The Hadid family have been among the most vocal high-profile celebrities to speak out, with both Gigi and Bella sharing statements and information about the imminent evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem and of ongoing violence and abuses committed by Israel. Dua Lipa, British singer strongly condemned the New York Times ad in a statement posted to social media. "I utterly reject the false and appalling allegations that were published today," she said on Saturday. "This is the price you pay for defending Palestinian human rights against an Israeli government whose actions in Palestine both Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem accuse of persecution and discrimination. Boteach's World Values Network had previously been funded by the late-controversial pro-Israel casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, and has regularly run full-page attack ads in national newspapers singling out celebrities and politicians critical of Israel. read the complete article

24 May 2021

Catholic Social Teaching and Islamophobia

In our own time, one of the realities that Catholics are called to address is the scourge of anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination, or Islamophobia. In recent years in the United States, Muslims have faced surging hate crimes, political scapegoating, demonization in the media, and more subtle and institutionalized forms of discrimination. As a Catholic Christian, my faith tradition calls me to break down Islamophobia and build up a better world. I find this impetus particularly in the principles of Catholic social teaching (CST). The dignity of each human person is the cornerstone of Catholic social teaching. This inherent and universal human dignity stems from the fact that all people are created in “God’s image” (Gen 1:27), and it means we are entitled to “certain basic goods: life, knowledge, sociability, reason, religion, and such like.” Mere toleration of each other does not do justice to God’s love and plan for each person; rather, we are called to honor each person to the fullest, doing as much as we can to enable all people to flourish. When the Catholic Church, in Nostra aetate, declares that it “holds Muslims in high regard,” it is not just because Catholics have similarities with them on the level of religion. More fundamentally, it is because they are human beings, each of whom is created in God’s image and likeness. God loves each and every Muslim—all 1.8 billion of them—beyond measure. Protecting human life is a core part of acknowledging human dignity. Tragically, Islamophobia can kill, whether in the form of individual hate crimes or as the result of unjust wars abroad. Even when there is not loss of life, anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination directly harm the well-being of Muslims. Physical hurt, psychological trauma, and persistent dehumanization of Muslims are affronts to their human dignity, whether they are carried out by individual actors, communal bodies, or governments. read the complete article

24 May 2021

Suit seeks to limit anti-Muslim speech on Facebook but roots of Islamophobia run far deeper

A civil rights group is suing Facebook and its top executives in federal court over the company’s failure to crack down on hate speech against Muslims. Muslim Advocates, a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on discrimination against American Muslims, alleges in the suit that Facebook has violated a series of local and federal consumer protection laws. I am a scholar who tracks anti-Muslim activity such as violence, harassment, public speeches, property crimes and policies that target Muslims. This suit is right that many Muslims in the United States feel under siege – and have for quite some time. But I am cautious about assigning too much blame to Facebook for the staggering magnitude and breadth of anti-Muslim activity in the U.S. As the author of “Fear in Our Hearts: What Islamophobia Tells Us about America,” I argue that this could be a convenient distraction – with limited overall effect – from the deeper histories and realities of white supremacy that require sustained attention. Elon University computer scientist Megan Squire, whose work contributed to the new lawsuit against Facebook, has drawn on publicly available Facebook data to analyze the enormous volume of hateful content against Muslims circulating on the platform. Importantly, Squire’s research also shows that anti-Muslim activity was deeply connected to fear and suspicion of nonwhite communities. Over the past hundred-plus years, nonwhite and immigrant communities have often been portrayed as being threats to white America. For example, legislation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries excluded Asian immigrants. The post-Civil War era of Jim Crow segregation, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, also reflected and contributed to this suspicion. Not all Muslims in the U.S. identify as people of color. But the idea that Muslims constitute a “race” has become more common in recent years. Under the Trump administration, one way this played out was in the government’s ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries. But what these phenomena all have in common is that they are rooted in the history and contemporary reality of white supremacy. This makes calling for Facebook to police anti-Muslim speech more complicated than it may seem at first glance. Facebook has on many occasions pledged to strengthen its efforts to root out hate speech on the platform, most recently in December of 2020. However, systemic racism often ends up inadvertently written into the complicated math formulas at the foundation of all internet search and content curation, including Facebook’s. This is called algorithm bias. Given that billions of people use Facebook – and for many millions it’s the only way they access the internet – the connections between algorithms and racism on Facebook are especially significant. read the complete article

24 May 2021

Some Yemenis Struggle For U.S. Visas Even After The End Of The Travel Ban

One of President Biden's first actions in office was to end the Trump administration's ban on immigration from some Muslim-majority countries. We spoke to a man in Yemen after that happened, and he had hoped that maybe after years of trying to get to the U.S., he had a chance. But the Biden change has not helped him and many others trapped in the war in Yemen. NPR's Ruth Sherlock followed up. ANWAR AS SAEEDI: (Speaking Arabic). SHERLOCK: I have faith in the American justice system, he told me by phone from his home in Yemen for a story then. Saeedi and others were far along in the visa process when the ban was imposed. When President Biden lifted it, they tweeted every day their thanks and hope that their visas would be reinstated. But now, four months later, their wishes have been rejected. The administration says people in Saeedi's position will not be allowed to come to the U.S. AS SAEEDI: (Through interpreter) I can't believe that the United States, which stands for freedom and human rights, would do such a thing - to tell us we won the visa lottery only to be denied in the end. MANAR WAHEED: Instead of restoring the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is the diversity visa, President Biden dusted off Trump's closed sign and locked the door behind him. SHERLOCK: Diversity visas come with a time limit, and a written response from the State Department told NPR that visas like Saeedi's, which expired during the Trump ban, cannot be reinstated under current law. But Waheed says there are things the administration could do. WAHEED: There's other provisions in law - right? - like humanitarian parole. read the complete article

24 May 2021

EEOC, JBS ink $5.5 mln settlement over firing of Muslim workers

JBS USA LLC will pay $5.5 million to settle a long-running lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the meatpacking company of firing scores of Somali Muslims who had sought longer prayer breaks during the holy month of Ramadan. JBS, the EEOC, and several individual workers who intervened in the case filed a joint proposed consent decree in Colorado federal court on Friday which, if approved, would bring the heavily litigated 2010 lawsuit to an end. JBS denied wrongdoing. The EEOC claimed JBS unlawfully fired approximately 200 Muslim employees at a Colorado plant. About 150 of them had staged a walkout after JBS barred them from taking unscheduled breaks to pray during Ramadan in 2008, and others were fired for taking unauthorized breaks, according to court filings. Colorado-based JBS, the U.S. arm of Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS SA, and its lawyers at Sherman & Howard did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did the EEOC. read the complete article


24 May 2021

Factory boss defiant as sanctions bite in China's Xinjiang

A backlash against reports of forced labor and other abuses of the largely Muslim Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang is taking a toll on China's cotton industry, but it's unclear if the pressure will compel the government or companies to change their ways. Li Qiang, general manager of the Huafu Fashion yarn factory in Xinjiang, told reporters that even though the company lost money in 2020 for the first time in its 27-year history, it bounced back by shifting to domestic orders. Li blamed a sharp fall in foreign orders, as customers including Adidas and H&M cut ties, on “fake news" in a 2019 Wall Street Journal story that said brand name apparel makers and food companies were entangled in China’s campaign to forcibly assimilate its Muslim population. Huafu also cited U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. Apart from cotton, much of the world’s polysilicon for photovoltaic cells comes from Xinjiang. The U.S. is now weighing sanctions over the alleged use of forced labor in the production of solar panels. read the complete article

24 May 2021

Evil Eye Gazes Beyond China’s Borders: Troubling Trends in Chinese Cyber Campaigns

On March 24, 2021, Facebook announced they had taken actions against an advanced persistent threat (APT) group located in China, previously monikered as Evil Eye. Facebook accused the APT of abusing its platform, creating malicious websites, hacking legitimate websites and Facebook accounts, and distributing malware to affected individuals. The main targets of the campaign were Uyghur activists and journalists living abroad. Facebook subsequently used different tactics to identify and surveil suspected members of Evil Eye. To mitigate damage, Facebook blocked malicious domains used by the campaign, removed fake users, and notified Facebook users believed to have been targeted. Evil Eye’s campaign was clearly motivated by a political goal that China frequently uses a blend of information operations (IO) and cyber means to accomplish: the disruption of dissidents, especially those who raise awareness of China’s human rights violations against its ethnic minorities. Previous attributions of Evil Eye show them targeting Tibetan, Uyghur, and Hong Kong dissidents starting in 2019 and possibility as early as 2013. Evil Eye’s campaign combined a multitude of operations and attack vectors. Information, psychological, and influence operations were executed using information and social media manipulation and social engineering that included identity theft. Watering hole attacks, phishing, trojaned third party app stores, and mobile malware were deployed. A concurrent goal in the recent campaign was to silence ethnic minority dissidents and deter further use of social media by instilling fear that they were under surveillance. Members of the Uyghur diaspora in Canada, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Australia, United States and Syria were likely disturbed and frightened to learn that some of their Uyghur language keyboard, dictionary, and prayer apps were in fact fake and trojaned. read the complete article

United Kingdom

25 May 2021

Tory Islamophobia: Anti-Muslim sentiment 'remains a problem' within Conservative Party, report finds

Professor Swaran Singh, a former equality and human rights commissioner, analyzed 1,418 complaints relating to 727 separate incidents as recorded in the Tories' complaints database between 2015 and 2020. In a 44,000-word report on his findings, he said: "Judging by the extent of complaints and findings of misconduct by the party itself that relate to anti-Muslim words and conduct, anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the party. "This is damaging to the party, and alienates a significant section of society." read the complete article


24 May 2021

Myanmar junta leader casts doubt on return of Rohingya

Myanmar's junta leader Min Aung Hlaing cast doubt on the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled to Bangladesh in comments made in his first interview since taking power in a Feb. 1 coup. Min Aung Hlaing was asked by Chinese-language Phoenix television whether the Muslims could be allowed back to Rakhine State - from where most fled an army crackdown in 2017 that U.N. investigators said had "genocidal intent". "If it doesn't comply with Myanmar's laws, what else is there to consider? I don't believe there is any country in the world that would go beyond their own country's refugee laws to accept refugees," Min Aung Hlaing responded, according to a transcript of the interview. When asked whether that meant vocal international appeals on behalf of the Rohingya were to no avail, he nodded. Min Aung Hlaing, who headed the army in 2017 when some 700,000 Rohingya fled from advancing troops, reiterated the view of nationalists in Buddhist-majority Myanmar that the Rohingya are not one of its ethnic groups. He said the term Rohingya had only emerged since independence from Britain in 1948. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 25 May 2021 Edition


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