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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29 May 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Indiana Muslims call gunfire at Indianapolis mosque a possible hate crime. The U.S House passes bill to sanction Chinese officials for the internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Our recommended read today is by Swaminathan Natarajan and Moazzem Hossain on the Rohingya refugee crisis, outlining the increase in human trafficking in the camps in Bangladesh. This, and more, below:


29 May 2020

Rohingya refugee crisis: 'The bodies were thrown out of the boat' | Recommended Read

"Nobody knows how many people have died. It could be 50 or even more," recalls Khadiza Begum. The 50-year-old was among 396 Rohingya Muslims who had tried to reach Malaysia but who finally returned to the Bangladeshi shore after the boat carrying them was stranded at sea for two months. Her estimate on the number of deaths comes from the funerals her son officiated as an imam, a Muslim preacher, on the same boat. The human smugglers never delivered them to their longed-for destination. Khadiza had to run away from her home in Myanmar because of violence that UN investigators described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". Neighbouring Bangladesh gave her shelter, settling the fleeing Rohingya Muslims in what has now become the world's largest refugee camp. Around one million Rohingya are housed in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, and some among them, like Khadiza, hold dreams of a better life in Malaysia, lying across the Bay of Bengal. read the complete article

Recommended Read
29 May 2020

House passes bill that would sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang camps

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that would impose sanctions on senior Chinese officials responsible for the forced labor camps that have targeted Uighur Muslims and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region of China. The bill — introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — passed the upper chamber by unanimous consent earlier this month and is now heading to President Trump's desk. Under the legislation, Trump would revoke visas and inflict sanctions against Chinese government officials found responsible for human rights violations against Uighurs. The measure also calls for the State Department to assemble a report on human rights violations. read the complete article

29 May 2020

‘Jihad’ as a Universalist Project in Comparative Perspective

Studies of “jihadism” have proliferated since 9/11 and the inception of the global war on terror in 2001. Since then, researchers with varying degrees of regional knowledge, language skills and methodological training have responded to a sudden increase in demand for experts on al-Qaeda, and the quality of the resulting research varies accordingly. Some publications in this growing field echoed and probably contributed to rising Islamophobia in the United States and Europe by identifying Islam as a cause of violent extremism. Other works were not explicitly Islamophobic but nonetheless treated “jihadist” armed groups as an exceptional and uniquely radical category—different from other types of ideologically motivated movements that have also used violence to achieve political objectives, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a heterodox Christian armed group in Uganda, and the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan in the United States. In a provocative and deeply researched new book, Darryl Li argues that the concept of “jihadism” is not useful analytically and, worse, has contributed to the “demonization of Muslims.” The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire, and the Challenge of Solidarity proposes an alternative: reframing the phenomenon known as “jihadism” as a type of “universalism,” which is a political or ideological project that claims to transcend individual differences, whether racial, national or cultural. The first half of the book presents an ethnographic and archival account of the several thousand Muslim volunteer fighters who traveled from countries as different as France, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among many others, in the name of “jihad” to defend Muslims against mass atrocities during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. The second half of the book places the Bosnian jihad in comparative perspective with three other transnational phenomena that Li considers to be universalist projects: socialism in the states of the Non-Aligned Movement, United Nations peacekeeping and the network of global prisons created during the U.S.-led global war on terror. read the complete article

United States

29 May 2020

Far-Right Social Network Gab Has a Verified Account Waiting For Trump With 27,000 Followers

Gab, a far-right social network that is filled with conspiracy theories, racism and antisemitism, is rolling out the red carpet for the president, with a verified account that has already amassed over 27,000 followers. The account, which has the same handle and profile picture as Trump’s Twitter account, has a blue tick to show it’s a verified account. The holding page also claims Trump has been a member since 2016, even though he has yet to actually join and Gab itself only launched in 2017. In an email sent to its members on Wednesday night, Gab said that it was “a historic day” for the social network and that it had “reached out to the Trump campaign to let them know that we have an account for the President.” Trump lashed out at social media platforms in recent days, after Twitter fact-checked two of his tweets about mail-in voting. As a result, Trump is planning to target Twitter, Facebook, and Google by signing an executive order on Thursday that will require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review the protections provided to online platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 has allowed companies like Facebook and Twitter — and Gab — to avoid legal liability for the material their users post. If Trump did decide to open a Gab account he would join the likes of far-right radio host Alex Jones, far-right political commentator Milo Yiannopolous and British far-right activist Tommy Robinson, all of whom have been banned from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. read the complete article

29 May 2020

Senators Seek Answers on Coronavirus Protections at Guantánamo Bay

A group of senators has written the defense secretary expressing concern about the potential for a “significant outbreak” of the coronavirus at the Pentagon prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, seeking answers to how the military is safeguarding the 40 prisoners there and the American forces responsible for them. In the letter, circulated by Senator Elizabeth Warren and signed by 13 other Democrats and Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, the lawmakers cited “the lack of a comprehensive medical infrastructure” at the base, which sends all residents except the detainees to health care facilities in the United States for complex or protracted medical care. In their letter, the senators describe the 40 men imprisoned at Guantánamo, whom the United States has detained for 12 to 18 years, as an “aging and chronically ill population, some of whom retain the mental and physical wounds of torture.” The prisoners range in age from their mid-30s to 72, and the military has for years been planning for their end-of-life care. Some prisoners have recently told their lawyers that while some communal confinement continues, the guards have segregated more medically at-risk detainees, such as those with heart conditions and diabetes, from the younger prisoners. The military has said it has declined to test any of the detainees for the virus because none of them meet the criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has refused to disclose how many, if any, functioning ventilators there are on the outpost, which uses outside contractors to do maintenance and repair of some medical equipment. read the complete article

29 May 2020

USAID’s New ‘Religious Freedom Advisor’ Spent Years Bashing Islam

In May of 2015, a man who this week became a “religious freedom advisor” in the Trump administration shared an article celebrating the oppression of Muslims in China. It was one of many posts published by Mark Kevin Lloyd — a Tea Party activist, political consultant and new Trump administration official — warning of the dangers of Islam. Over the years, Lloyd has called the world’s second-largest religion a “barbaric cult,” described it as “violent,” and said then-President Barack Obama was sympathetic to “extremist Muslim convictions.” Now, Lloyd will become an adviser in the U.S. Agency for International Development, reportedly picked personally by its acting head. Lloyd’s tweet about China — “China Makes Major Moves To Ban Islam” — linked an article by the same name on the YouTube host Steven Crowder’s website. The post cheered the crackdown on ethnic Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region. read the complete article

29 May 2020

‘Ramy’ and the New American Muslims of TV

For fans, it’s the welcome return of a nuanced portrayal of a young New Jersey Muslim struggling with his identity — a wry blend of sacred and profane that earned Youssef a Golden Globe Award in January. But the freedom to work out one’s Muslimness on TV has only recently begun to be unburdened from the pressures to be a representative and palatable Muslim. I’m one of the underrepresented viewers who has waited a long time for more layered portrayals of the American Muslim experience. The problems always lay less in the dearth of Muslim images in popular culture, however, than in the responsibility foisted upon those representations. Yes, there were the many insidious Muslim characters in series like “Homeland.” But even when Muslims had a chance to counteract that image, their roles were too often reactionary, defined by victimhood, misrepresentation and the problem of terrorism. In the past few years, American Muslims have become a presence on television screens in a way that feels legitimately new. Earlier this month, the former Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj returned to Netflix with the sixth season of “Patriot Act.” “Hala,” a semi-autobiographical film from the Pakistani-American filmmaker Minhal Baig, debuted on Apple TV Plus last fall. The Apple anthology series “Little America” concluded with a triumphant episode about a gay Muslim refugee’s arrival in the United States. For a new generation of artists, the demonization of Muslims is a given — it just isn’t the subject of their stories. The new American Muslims of TV are freer, more experimental and frankly weirder than most who emerged in the burdensome age of countering stereotypes. read the complete article

29 May 2020

Indiana Muslim leaders call gunfire at Indianapolis mosque a possible hate crime

Someone fired gunshots at an Indianapolis mosque on Sunday, police said, a day Muslims celebrate a holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Now leaders of statewide and national Muslim organizations are calling the gunfire incident outside Masjid E-Noor a possible hate crime. "We ask for the public's help to identify the perpetrator of this crime," said Hiba Alami, executive director of the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network. During a Thursday news conference at the mosque, she and other Muslim leaders called on elected officials to condemn the attack and urged law enforcement to release all video surveillance images of the suspect. "We strongly suspect that the violence was motivated by hate and bigotry and urge the IMPD to run a transparent and thorough investigation," Syed Ali Saeed, president of the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network, said in a statement. read the complete article


29 May 2020

Does Law Allow Calls to Boycott Muslims During the COVID-19 Lockdown?

The increase of COVID-19 positive cases in India due to targeted testing following the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi on March 13-14 had led to a disturbing rise in cases of hate speech aimed at the entire Muslim community. Some in the media took to labelling the entire community as ‘corona criminals’ propagating ‘corona-jihad’. The Star of Mysore newspaper went to the extent of inciting genocide/ethnic cleansing of Muslims in India. The hate speech was soon followed by calls from across the country for a social and economic boycott of Muslims. This hate speech is then supplemented with fake news and tangible action in terms of direct attacks on Muslim relief volunteers and socio-economic boycott of Muslims in public spaces. For instance, in early April in Ankanahalli village in Ramanagara district on the outskirts of Bengaluru in south Karnataka, it was reported that an announcement was made to residents saying, ‘Listen, everyone! The gram panchayat is making this announcement. No sahibs (Muslims) should come into the village. No one should work for Muslims. If you do, you should pay a fine of Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.’ Article 15, which encapsulates one of the fundamental rights of India’s constitution, explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, besides race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 15(2) further proclaims that no citizen be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to ‘access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public’. read the complete article

29 May 2020

India's contact tracing app made open source, but will this thwart a surveillance state?

The app, which uses Bluetooth to locate infected phone users, was rolled out soon after the COVID-19 outbreak began as part of efforts to both track people afflicted with the disease and make aware those that were in close proximity to them. Following the decision to open-source the app, there must have been a collective, audible sigh of relief amongst those who were terrified that the app, which roughly translates to "Bridge to Health" in Hindi, would become a surveillance weapon. Siddharth Vardarajan, founder of online news publication, was one of those worried souls. Vardarajan has long been in the crosshairs of the Indian government for being one of the few people who have dared to criticise the current and previous bunglings of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu chauvinist henchmen. He saw the app as yet another example of Modi's dictatorial tendencies. Meanwhile, Indian author Arundhati Roy, forever pilloried by anyone right-of-centre in India, said: "The coronavirus is a gift to authoritarian states including India ... Pre-corona, if we were sleepwalking into the surveillance state, now we are panic-running into a super-surveillance state." The folks at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aren't terribly impressed with Aarogya Setu's safety quotient nor its collection of all manner of data beyond what contact tracing demands. A good app collects as little data as possible so that a user's privacy is protected, but Aarogya Setu have required continuous access to location history and Bluetooth. This, combined with the fact that they run on government servers, theoretically makes them tools that a government could easily use to track and monitor individuals. read the complete article

29 May 2020

Citizenship law: Is India using COVID-19 emergency to arrest protesters?

Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, who are part of the Pinjra Tod women's rights initiative, were arrested by police on May 23. The court, however, granted them bail, rejecting a police request for the women’s detention. The judge noted that Kalita and Narwal only participated in demonstrations; they did not commit any acts of violence. But they were re-arrested a day after their release. A special investigation team booked them under charges of murder, attempted murder, rioting and criminal conspiracy. The Pinjra Tod group condemned the arrest, saying the crackdown on student activists poses a big challenge. "However, we’ll continue to fight for equality and dignity," it added. Protesters have risen up across India in opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was introduced by the country's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The bill was passed by Indian parliament in December, 2019. Scores of people have died in violence surrounding the protests. Since February, police have arrested hundreds of protesters, including liberal students, who are the forefront of the anti-CAA campaign. "The government is misusing its power, especially during the lockdown to contain the coronavirus spread in the country," Shabnam Hashmi, an activist, told DW. read the complete article

United Kingdom

29 May 2020

Barrister appointed as one of first hijab-wearing judges in UK

Raffia Arshad, 40, was appointed a deputy district judge on the Midlands circuit last week after a 17-year career in law. “It’s definitely bigger than me, I know this is not about me. It’s important for all women, not just Muslim women, but it is particularly important for Muslim women,” she told Metro. Speaking to the outlet she said that as a young girl she feared that her working-class upbringing and ethnic minority background would alienate her from the profession. The newly appointed judge said that she wishes to use her platform “to make sure the sound of diversity is heard loud and clear”. read the complete article


29 May 2020

France Banned Muslim Women From Covering Their Faces. Now It Wants Everyone To Do Just That

Obviously, there are many differences between niqabs and medical masks. The absurdity arises from the French government bending over backwards to frame the blatantly islamophobic veil ban as affirming some vague general principle against covering one's face. Thus, the anti-niqab law was explicitly grounded in the notion the "Republic is lived with one's uncovered face". You can read as much on the government posters and leaflets published at the time and still displayed in many shop windows as a reminder of "the values of Republic". Today, with the adoption of laws and decrees forcing people to wear masks and thus to hide their faces, these "values of the Republic" seem contradictory and ambivalent. Comparing the two laws might seem like nitpicking, but the different meanings that "fundamental values" may have in various contexts actually do expose citizens to major legal insecurity. If you are a Muslim woman who hides her face for religious purposes, you are subjected to a fine and may have to complete a citizenship education class where you will be taught that being a "good citizen" means to uncover your face. Meanwhile, the same government is telling all citizens that in order to be a "good citizen", you must adopt "barrier gestures", which includes covering your face. This asymmetrical reading of the same behavior, depending on the context and the person who makes the action is at best arbitrary, at most discriminatory. It allows the government to judge people's intentions—why we do what we do—rather than judging the facts of our actions, which, in my view, rehabilitates the "crime of opinions" when it comes to Muslim religious freedom. read the complete article


29 May 2020

Terrorism laws have long been used against brown and black men. When will they be used to protect them?

Last week, two words—“terrorist activity”—attached to a murder charge against a 17-year-old who fatally stabbed a woman, signalled a massive shift in Canada’s national security framework. The teen, who can’t be named because of his age, allegedly wielded a machete against 24-year-old Ashley Noelle Arzaga at a Toronto massage parlour in February, killing her and injuring two others. The terror charge represents two shifts. First, out of some 60 charges of terrorism laid since 2001 in Canada, all but one have been related to Islamic terrorism. Second, it’s the first time the incel ideology, which stems from an online community of men who feel they are denied sex by women, has been criminally recognized as terrorism since the movement of “involuntary celibates” surfaced in 2014. According to a police source who spoke with Global News, “the accused in the massage parlour case said he wanted to kill as many women as possible.” The terror charge represents two shifts. First, out of some 60 charges of terrorism laid since 2001 in Canada, all but one have been related to Islamic terrorism. Second, it’s the first time the incel ideology, which stems from an online community of men who feel they are denied sex by women, has been criminally recognized as terrorism since the movement of “involuntary celibates” surfaced in 2014. According to a police source who spoke with Global News, “the accused in the massage parlour case said he wanted to kill as many women as possible.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 29 May 2020 Edition


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