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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Canada, for the past five years, Zabiha Halal has led the Sharing Halal campaign to shine a light on Canadian Muslims using storytelling as a means of bridging people together, meanwhile in the UK, two prominent cinema chains have stepped up to oppose the screening of “The Kerala Story,” which is described as anti-Muslim by critics and advocacy groups, and in France, Macron’s “new Right” is using racism and Islamophobia to undermine class unity, with government rhetoric and action suggesting “that the big problem of the day is the presence of Muslims in our society.”  Our recommended read of the day is by John Bowden for The Independent on the social and political footprint of GOP presidential candidate and acting Florida governor Ron DeSantis and what a DeSantis White House could mean for Americans. This and more below:

United States

The War on Terror turned Ron DeSantis into Florida’s anti-woke warrior. Will that win him the White House? | Recommended Read

The Yale-educated DeSantis, 44, now finds himself the face of a surging faction in the Republican Party that seems as eager to move on from its party’s past as it is to pick fights with America’s new cultural norms — a direct evolution of the previous iteration of the GOP which saw its credibility hemorrhage due to the failure of the Bush administration to prove any of the claims that led the US into war with Iraq. A graduate of Yale and later Harvard’s law school, Mr DeSantis was commissioned into the Navy three years after the attack on 9/11 at a time when America was beginning to reckon with the fact that its investment of military force in the Middle East was not to be a short-lived excursion. The young DeSantis was immediately thrust right into the middle of that reality: two short years after his commissioning, he would find himself assigned to legal observational duties at America’s infamous Guantanamo Bay military prison, where both battle-hardened al-Qaeda fighters as well as those with no proven connections to terror groups endured some of the US’s most extreme methods of interrogation and incarceration. His duties at the prison remain shrouded in the secrecy that has hung over that facility for decades; most recently, it was the source of a dispute between the governor and a former detainee at the prison who told The Independent Mr DeSantis was present for episodes where prison officials conducted force-feedings of prisoners, a practice the United Nations condemns. The governor has denied this claim. read the complete article

Q&A: Professor researches the many paths Islam took to Tennessee and Chattanooga

Off in college, she studied Arabic — and then came 9/11. She recalls feeling that a billion-plus people were being held responsible for the actions of a small few, and she began to study Islam. She received her doctorate researching pop cultural representations of Indian Muslims. Now a religion professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she's working to learn about the history of Muslims in the South. In a video call Tuesday, she said there's been little scholarship on the topic, which is widely misunderstood. Q: You've written that many enslaved people brought over from Africa had Muslim backgrounds. What's the story there? A: The scholarship tends to estimate that maybe 10% of the total slaves from Africa were Muslim, or identified as Muslim. The information for those kinds of statistics is people's names, people's family habits that we know about from their diaries or things they left. Those areas of West Africa that were involved in the transatlantic slave trade — they were at the time and still are today predominantly Sufi Muslim communities. read the complete article

Who is Ron DeSantis, the Florida man running for US president?

Ron DeSantis, who comes from a state known for Disneyworld, a diverse population and a thriving gay scene, has staked his political career on fighting the very things that characterise Florida. He announced his bid on Wednesday at a botched event with Twitter CEO Elon Musk, whose October 2022 takeover of the social media platform has spawned a proliferation of hate speech, including some of Musk's own tweets, or what the tech billionaire had described as standing up to the "woke agenda". As DeSantis passed a series of restrictive legislation garnering him popularity with his conservative base, the question is: can he win the US presidency on an "anti-woke" platform? For Rasha Mubarak, a Palestinian American progressive organiser and founder of the advocacy organisation Unbought Power, who grew up in central Florida and has long been concerned for her state's civil rights, it was evident when DeSantis was running for governor that he had ambitions for higher office. "I knew this person had higher aspirations," Mubarak tells TNA, pointing to his TV ads when he was running for governor, featuring his children and using the slogan "build the wall" (Florida is not a border state). "As a Palestinian woman raised in Florida since the age of five, it was horrifying to see how he was as a candidate anti-immigrant and anti-Black. When he was a candidate, he came after Black and brown organisations." She adds, "What's scary about him is that he's a lot more polished than Trump. DeSantis is consistent and follows through. He uses fear to engage voters on the right who might not otherwise vote." read the complete article

Said Murekezi, accused in St. Paul mosque fire, charged with breaking windows at restaurant

A man accused of setting fire to a mosque in St. Paul last week now faces an additional set of charges for allegedly breaking into a restaurant a few weeks prior to the fire. Said Murekezi was arrested and charged in connection to an attack on the Tawhid Islamic Center of Minnesota. Charging documents say he broke into the mosque on May 16 and stayed there overnight as he looked for things to burn. The next morning, surveillance video shows him near the building as smoke is visible, documents say. Murekezi was arrested last week, and during his interview, admitted to burglarizing a downtown St. Paul business. According to the charges, police arrived at the Lost Fox restaurant in the early morning of April 28 to find a window broken, as well as the glass on the front door. The owner said it would cost a total of $5,000 to repair. Liquor bottles behind the counter had also been broken, and change from cash register drawers had also been stolen, documents said. read the complete article

Rambling call about ‘9/11’ was threat to Charlotte mosque, Islamic Center leader says

A caller made a reference to 9/11 and “terrorists” in what the Islamic Center of Charlotte this week called a direct threat to the mosque. Tuesday’s call was similar to threats the center has received on its voicemail “from time to time,” but the center’s manager answered the call and told the person he was recording the conversation, center spokesman Jibril Hough told The Charlotte Observer. The caller rambled on incoherently despite being told of the recording, but he was clear and direct in his threat against the center, Hough said. A man who answered one of the numbers Wednesday told the Observer he was at work at the time of the call and the number must be wrong. A man who answered the other number said a 14-year-old family friend in his office “did something stupid” by calling the Islamic Center. The man, who identified himself only by a first name of “Dave,” said the call to the center “was inappropriate” but that he didn’t believe the 14-year-old “made any type of threat.” The man soon texted the Observer an apology related to what happened. read the complete article


Modi’s dirty war on ‘love jihad’

Liberals are livid. Ban the film, they say. It’s Islamophobic dross. India’s current ruler Narendra Modi, meanwhile, has waxed lyrical about The Kerala Story, a film about a Hindu woman hoodwinked into joining Isis. His praise has only intensified liberal vehemence. The opposition-controlled government of West Bengal has heeded the critics and yanked the film off cinema screens, whereas Modi’s minions in Madhya and Uttar Pradesh have waived the ticket tax to draw in the teeming masses. And so India’s culture wars wearily carry on, pitching liberal secularists against Hindu nationalists yet again. In The Kerala Story, Muslim fundamentalists are once again the villains of the piece. The theme is “love jihad”, an oxymoronic term that refers to a conspiracy theory now ubiquitous in India. Lascivious Muslim men, so Modi’s publicists have it, are seducing unsuspecting Hindu women only in order to convert them and increase the number of Muslim babies. This is the Indian version of the Great Replacement Theory, pedalled by the ruling BJP. Muslims are conspiring to become a majority, the argument goes, in order to impose sharia rule on Hindus and, ultimately, obliterate Hinduism altogether. Indeed, the very origins of Modi’s BJP lie in the fear of conversion. Its parent organisation, the Sangh Parivar, was born in the Twenties out of panic about lower caste conversions to Islam and Christianity. Most spectacularly, in 1981, more or less coinciding with the birth of the BJP, an entire village of Dalits embraced Islam. Class politics in India always needs to find a religious register. At the outset, these Dalits had contemplated converting to Buddhism before deciding against it, Islam being the epitome of subalternity. The shock of Islam was designed to draw Delhi’s attention to the injustices of the caste system as well as the enormity of state neglect. The war against “love jihad” is of a piece with this vision. Starting in the late 2000s, Hindu nationalists set about cracking down on miscegenation. These days, marauding gangs break up mixed couples in ice-cream parlours, cinema halls, and even register offices, forestalling marriages in the nick of time. It’s an uphill struggle, but Hindu nationalists seem to be winning. Interfaith relationships are on the decline. read the complete article

Book Review | The Hijab: Islam, Women And The Politics Of Clothing By P.K. Yasser Arafath And G. Arunima

The collection is a run between the political and personal, foregrounding Muslim women and the hijab in consequence of each other or as entries within a political history of turbulent times in contemporary India. The collection is perhaps not offering answers but rather a compilation of varying concerns and questions emerging from the hijab- to ask what it means to veil/unveil as the most common of all to nuancing the political existence of Indian Muslim women critically understanding the genres and vocabularies of framing these questions. Divided into five parts, the collection opens by situating the context and questions of the hijab ban in pushbacks of conversations on secularism and its difficult gesturing to accommodate “uniformity” ahead of all diversities possible. This idea of unity is a strange quality of our times which coerces diversity as differences and thrusts for sameness by positing the different ways of being (here, in the hijab-wearing student in the classroom) as an unlikeable, unwelcome presence in the context of Karnataka’s hijab ban. This discussion on the state of uniforms in the first section extends us to think of hijab among others as a form of symbolic clothing easily possible for accommodation in educational spaces but here wrapped in spite of hate propaganda and minority bashing of the Hindutva project of exclusion. read the complete article


Racism and class struggle in France today

Another particularity of France also echoed round the world in the spring of 2022. Thirteen million people (41% of voters, making up 25% of the entire adult population) voted for the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, at the same presidential elections. This is a candidate whose party promises to stop non-French residents of France from receiving welfare benefits or social housing, to ban Muslim headscarves on the streets, and which puts the ‘unity of the nation’ at the centre of its racist programme, as well as maintaining discreet links with street-fighting nazis, (like those who this month set on fire the house of a small-town mayor who defended building a centre for asylum seekers). Le Pen’s ‘National Rally’ party often claims to be ‘the leading working-class party in France’. Racism and Islamophobia will be the key options for Macron’s new Right as it attempts to undermine the class unity shown in the present movement. The fact that Macron originally came from a current of right-wing thought which did not make a priority of attacking Muslims faded in importance as he realised how profitable such attacks could be. This is why we saw the introduction of last year’s ludicrous ‘law against separatism’ (making life harder for mosques and for Muslim charities), and other attacks whose main aim is simply to say to those who are voting Le Pen ‘Vote for us, we mistrust Muslims too’. This month, local education authorities in Toulouse asked teachers to cooperate with a police questionnaire which aimed at finding out how many pupils took the day off for Eid, a major Muslim festival. Any excuse is used to suggest that the big problem of the day is the presence of Muslims in our society. In this context, the capacity of the activist Left and of trade unions to loudly prioritise their antiracism is of the first importance. read the complete article

United Kingdom

Indian film branded ‘anti-Muslim’ will not be shown at Bolton cinema

‘The Kerala Story’ has been criticised for depicting Muslims as terrorists and opened in the UK on Friday 19 May. On a promotional poster, among the list of cinemas said to be showing the movie was the Light Cinema in Bolton. The cinema said it would not be showing this film ‘at any of their locations including The Light Bolton’. The cinema said it was wrongly added to the poster. REEL cinemas in Blackburn and Burnley had confirmed yesterday (Tuesday) they had no plans to show the movie despite being listed on a poster promoting the movie. The film has been criticised for being ‘anti-Muslim’ and for propagating stereotypes. It is said to falsely claim that thousands of women from the Indian state of Kerala have been converted to Islam and recruited into ISIS over the past decade. The true figure according to independent human rights groups was said to be around 200. There have been concerns over the plot and content which has been described as ‘right-wing’ Indian propaganda. read the complete article


How Zabiha Halal Fought Back Against Islamophobia with a Strikingly Authentic Film

Never underestimate storytelling. It’s an art which has the power to move us, question our beliefs, and, ultimately, change the world. The more authentic the story, the more impact it’s likely to make. For the past five years, that’s been the thinking behind Zabiha Halal’s consistently powerful ‘Sharing Halal’ campaign, which has set out to shine a light on the stories of real Muslims living in Canada - and fight back against the darkness of prejudice and ignorance. Earlier this month, the campaign’s latest instalment broadened the conversation out to non-Muslim Canadian folk. Invited to reflect on how they first came to connect with a Muslim friend, colleague, or partner, the film offers an honest and uplifting insight into the lives of Muslims in modern Canada. Alfredo Films director Adeel Shamsi was behind the lens for the project, and was tasked with eliciting the true stories of love, friendship, and allyship which form the heart of this campaign. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 25 May 2023 Edition


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