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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26 May 2021

Today in Islamophobia: Conservatives in the UK issue an apology to British Muslims after the conclusion of a probe finds that anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the Tory party, as the Bridge Initiative’s Farid Hafez writes on the the growing “witch hunt” against Muslim civil society in Europe, and in China, a cutting edge AI emotion detection software was found to be tested on Uyghur Muslims. Our recommended read of the day is by he world’s largest democracy has become a source of hate and lies about Muslims around the globe. This and more below:


25 May 2021

The Israeli–Palestinian Conflict Has Further Stoked Anti-Muslim Bias All The Way In India

As violence escalated in Israel–Palestine earlier this month, Fatafta, who is Palestinian and works as a policy analyst for an online think tank focusing on Palestinian human rights in Berlin, had been posting pictures and stories about families killed in the Gaza Strip to her 14,000 followers. In response, she was being trolled. Some of the hate speech, which called Palestinians like her “terrorists,” came from far-right Israeli accounts. But many seemed to be from India — Fatafta said that they had Indian names and the Indian flag in their usernames. The conflict has also stoked an online wave of hate speech and misinformation against Muslims around the world. A full-page ad in the New York Times accused pop star Dua Lipa and models Gigi and Bella Hadid of antisemitism. Last week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, ran Facebook ads that superimposed Rep. Ilhan Omar’s face onto Hamas rockets, with the factually inaccurate caption: “When Israel targets Hamas, Rep. Omar calls it an act of terrorism.” Israel’s official Arabic-language Twitter account angered Muslims by tweeting verses from the Qur’an along with an image of an Israeli airstrike on Gaza (that tweet has since been deleted). That conflict in the Middle East could set off waves of hate and lies against Muslims is not new. But what is novel is the source: India. In the world’s largest democracy, anti-Muslim hate has steadily become mainstream, both online and offline. Just a year ago, politicians from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party as well as dozens of news channels accused a gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat, an international Islamic missionary group, of deliberately spreading the coronavirus in India after more than 4,000 cases were linked to it. At the time, #CoronaJihad was one of the top trending topics on Twitter in the region. On Saturday, First Draft News, a UK-based nonprofit that researches misinformation, published an analysis of more than 300,000 tweets relating to the Israeli–Palestinian crisis. They found a campaign containing thousands of tweets and hashtags that appeared to have been created in India, one of Twitter’s key markets. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
25 May 2021

Why is Europe on a witch hunt against 'political Islam'?

Aspectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of political Islam. From France’s fight against “Islamo-leftism” to Austria’s battle against “political Islam”, Muslims and Muslim anti-racist civil society groups are coming under more and more pressure from state authorities. In both countries, governments have shut down NGOs and mosques, limited freedom of expression, and raided homes and institutions under the pretext of the “war on terror”. Such measures intensified after terrorist attacks were carried out last year. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) appears set to follow in the footsteps of French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. While Macron was met with harsh international criticism for his anti-Muslim legislation, Kurz’s initiatives went nearly unnoticed. But they all seem to follow the same playbook, claiming to protect the majority of peaceful and law-abiding Muslims while targeting only the “dangerous” Muslims. In reality, they are dramatically widening the group of potentially "dangerous Muslims". According to a recent publication by the CDU/CSU alliance in the German parliament: “Islamism is not confined to a certain number of violent menaces. The ideology behind it is poison for our liberal society. It endangers integration and social cohesion by inciting Muslims against our democracy.” This crusader rhetoric does not come out of thin air. Statements like these build on a long and problematic history of “countering violent extremism” and “deradicalisation programmes”, which emerged after the “war on terror” was initiated two decades ago. read the complete article

24 May 2021

Modi silent on Muslim philanthropist’s offer of medical supplies for India

Across the Pakistan border, 44-year-old Sufi Muslim philanthropist Faisal Edhi is ready to move his fleet of 50 ambulances and medical supplies like oxygen to India, which is clocking half a million COVID-19 cases and more than 4,000 recorded deaths a day — the highest in the world. But even as the virus is burning through India’s cities, towns and villages, ravaging homes and livelihoods, there’s little Edhi can do but hope. Requests made a month ago to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow entry into the country have been met with silence. Edhi wrote to Modi April 23, promising medical and humanitarian aid to India if his volunteers are allowed to cross over the Pakistan-India border. Normally tightly controlled, border crossings have been all but closed since the second wave of coronavirus hit India this spring. Last March, Modi had proposed that South Asian countries must “chalk out a strong strategy to fight the coronavirus,” but the pandemic protocols have foundered on Pakistan-India mistrust and hostility. “Aid has poured into India from the U.S. and Europe, so why not us?” said Edhi. “We have vast experience in disaster management.” While the Indian government has welcomed medical aid from 14 countries in the form of oxygen concentrators, ventilators, rapid testing kits and life-saving drugs, it has chosen to overlook vital support from its neighbor. read the complete article

25 May 2021

Muslim countries seek U.N. probe into possible crimes in Gaza conflict

Muslim countries are calling on the United Nations to investigate possible crimes committed during the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Palestinian military group Hamas and to establish command responsibility. The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold a special session on the latest conflict on Thursday, at the request of Pakistan, as coordinator of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the state of Palestine. Those countries submitted a draft resolution late on Tuesday that would establish an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate all human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, since April 13. It would also examine all underlying root causes of tensions and instability, "including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity," the draft said. Reporting back in June 2022, it would identify those responsible to try and end impunity and ensure legal accountability. read the complete article

United Kingdom

25 May 2021

Conservatives apologize to victims ‘hurt by’ Islamophobia and racism in party

A report into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has been branded a “whitewash” after it rejected claims of institutional racism and declined to pass judgement on whether Boris Johnson breached a code of conduct by comparing Muslim women in burqas to “letterboxes”. Tory co-chair Amanda Milling issued an apology after the long-awaited probe branded the party’s complaint handling unfit for purpose and warned “anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem”. Ms Milling accepted all the report’s recommendations and promised an action plan in six weeks’ time, admitting: “It is clear that there have been failings in our complaints process.” She apologised to “anyone who has been hurt by discriminatory behaviour of others or failed by our system”. But Professor Swaran Singh’s report failed to satisfy critics, some of whom called for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to launch its own investigation. Warning of unfinished business, Sayeeda Warsi, a former Conservative chair, told The Independent: “The findings of the report do not support its conclusion that the party does not have an ‘institutional issue’.” Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, warned: “It doesn’t go far enough to really address the institutional nature of Islamophobia. read the complete article

25 May 2021

Tory Islamophobia report a ‘whitewash’, say Muslims in party

A long-awaited review into Islamophobia within the Conservatives has been condemned as a whitewash by Muslim Tories despite it including criticism of the language used by Boris Johnson and the mayoral campaign run by Zac Goldsmith for insensitivity. Lady Warsi, the party’s former chair who first demanded an inquiry into anti-Muslim sentiment within its ranks, disagreed with the review’s conclusion that there was no evidence of institutional racism, saying there were issues “from the top ... to the bottom” of the party. The report found that anti-Muslim sentiment was still present at local association and individual levels, but claims of “institutional racism” were not borne out by evidence. Warsi said that the party’s “processes, attitudes and behaviour” were at fault from its leadership to its grassroots. “The report concludes that from the top – from the prime minister at one level – to local associations at the bottom, there is an attitude issue and a problem and a behaviour issue in terms of Islamophobia,” she told Sky News. “So on each of those counts it satisfies the definition of institutional racism ... the way I see it, if it looks like institutional racism, feels like institutional racism, fits the definition of institutional racism, then I’m afraid it is institutional racism.” Sajjad Karim, who was a Tory MEP for 12 years and chaired the European parliament’s working group on Islamophobia, said the report had failed to identify endemic party prejudice aimed at Muslims. “The manner in which this inquiry has been conducted means it is nothing but an attempt to whitewash deep-rooted issues out of sight. read the complete article


25 May 2021

AI emotion-detection software tested on Uyghurs

A camera system that uses AI and facial recognition intended to reveal states of emotion has been tested on Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the BBC has been told. A software engineer claimed to have installed such systems in police stations in the province. A human rights advocate who was shown the evidence described it as shocking. Citizens in the province are under daily surveillance. "The Chinese government use Uyghurs as test subjects for various experiments just like rats are used in laboratories," he said. And he outlined his role in installing the cameras in police stations in the province: "We placed the emotion detection camera 3m from the subject. It is similar to a lie detector but far more advanced technology." He said officers used "restraint chairs" which are widely installed in police stations across China. "Your wrists are locked in place by metal restraints, and [the] same applies to your ankles." He provided evidence of how the AI system is trained to detect and analyze even minute changes in facial expressions and skin pores. According to his claims, the software creates a pie chart, with the red segment representing a negative or anxious state of mind. He claimed the software was intended for "pre-judgement without any credible evidence". read the complete article

United States

25 May 2021

What South Asian activists learned in the wake of 9/11, and how they're using it now

For South Asian activists, the increase in violence towards Asian Americans isn't unfamiliar. Many see parallels to the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when hate crimes against Muslims, Sikhs and other South Asians spiked. While organizing amid the coronavirus pandemic has brought its own unique challenges, organizations that were formed shortly before or immediately after 9/11 have been able to respond to the increase in violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. While some organizations, like South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), which focuses on education and empowerment, were founded before 9/11, it was the response to those attacks that kicked their operations into high gear. Other organizations, like the Sikh Coalition, followed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and according to their website, the coalition was formed on the night of Sept. 11, 2001. Kaur told TODAY that in the early days of the Sikh Coalition, they focused on providing representation and helping those who had experienced hate crimes navigate a "pretty complex" legal system, as well as working to resolve cases of discrimination. "When we were founded, it was very much as a firefighting organization," said Kaur. "The prediction was made as soon as 9/11 happened that there would be a backlash against the Sikh community, as well as many other communities, and that was very much the case, so a lot of our work in the beginning was about firefighting." SAALT, a national civil rights advocacy organization, was established in 2000 and examined the xenophobia and racialized Islamophobia that South Asians faced. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA), which had been founded in 1999, used the "really critical moment" to connect with others and address the backlash against South Asians. "They had to really respond to the political moment, understanding how to deal with the kind of anti-immigrant, xenophobic backlash that was happening in the days, months and years after the attacks of September 11," Sabiha Basrai, a co-coordinator at ASATA, told TODAY. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 26 May 2021 Edition


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