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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03 May 2021

Today in Islamophobia: American Tik Tok users tell their own stories as a trend of Muslim creatives look to change the Hollywood narrative, as London Assembly Muslim hopeful Hina Bokhari is expected to make history as Britain’s first Muslim women to hold the title, and in India, COVID-19 infection rates continue to skyrocket as the country battles the consequences of the ruling BJP party’s decisions. Our recommended read of the day is by Hannah Beech on the impact ofMyanmar’s military coup on the nation’s ethnic minorities. This and more below:



30 Apr 2021

‘Now We Are United’: Myanmar’s Ethnic Divisions Soften After Coup

The Myanmar military’s disinformation was crude but effective. Army propagandists claimed an ethnic group called the Rohingya was burning down its own villages and wanted to swamp Buddhist-majority Myanmar with Islamic hordes. The Rohingya were spinning tall tales, the military said in 2017, about soldiers committing mass rape and murder. The truth — that troops were waging genocidal operations against Myanmar’s ethnic minorities — was perhaps too shocking for some members of the country’s Bamar ethnic majority to contemplate. But as Myanmar’s military seized power this year and killed more than 750 civilians, Daw Sandar Myo, an elementary-school teacher, realized that the decades of persecution suffered by the Rohingya and other minorities was real, after all. “After the coup, I saw soldiers and police killing and torturing people in the cities,” she said. “Then I started to feel empathy for Rohingya and ethnic people who have been suffering worse than us for many years.” Another transformation is quietly underway: a growing acceptance of the nation’s ethnic diversity, something that was notably absent during an earlier political transition. With the military’s violence unleashed once again, some are acknowledging that democracy cannot flourish without respecting the ethnic minorities who have endured decades of persecution. “Myanmar never had real democracy because there was no hope for ethnic people,” said Lieut. Col. Mai Aik Kyaw, a spokesman for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, one of the ethnic insurgencies struggling for autonomy in Myanmar. “If you compare it to what ethnic people have suffered for 70 years, what Bamar people are suffering right now is nothing.” With the military’s power grab, Myanmar is careening toward full-fledged civil war, the United Nations has warned. The country could even disintegrate, it said. “In the midst of all this horror, the transformative nature of the resistance against the military has to be acknowledged and applauded,” he said. “A new generation of political action has emerged that has transcended old divisions and old prejudices and gives great hope for a future Myanmar that embraces, and is at peace with, its diversity.” read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day

United States

30 Apr 2021

Humanitarian Day reborn, Umar Hakim celebrates Ramadan his way

Last year, Ramadan ended just days before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as the first wave of COVID-19 was beginning to intensify. It was the beginning of a year when the burden and isolation of the pandemic left Black Muslim activists like Umar Hakim feeling depleted on the one hand, and targeted on the other. “It’s 2021 and we’re still advocating for our freedom, like we’re not just as human as the next person,” said Hakim. “It makes me wonder, what’s the bigger truth? Why are we so targeted? Why do we need to be held down? Why do nobody want to share power?” For Hakim, executive director of the Intellect Love Mercy Foundation, a Muslim organization that advocates for the homeless through community organizing and interfaith work in South Los Angeles, Ramadan 2021 couldn’t come fast enough. For 10 years, Hakim has organized ILM’s Humanitarian Day, one of the country’s largest Muslim-led charity events. On a single weekend during the last 10 days of Ramadan, Hakim, 51, brings together nearly 800 volunteers and more than two dozen organizations to provide food, medical and dental services, and hygiene kits to an estimated 3,000 homeless people across Southern California, from Los Angeles’ Skid Row to Pomona and San Bernardino. Last year, COVID-19 forced Hakim to move Humanitarian Day online. As the summer went on, a dozen other events, including “actions” for Floyd and two other victims of violence, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, went online as well. Hakim, used to managing one of the biggest Black Muslim-led charity events in the nation, instead spent last Ramadan bottled up. “Ramadan for me is the chance to work, to bring people together, to organize,” said Hakim, from home on Zoom. “I really believe that the good deed of it all is a blessing from Allah. And, (during) this time, I also get to show off my skills, my talents, my abilities.” “Humanitarian Day embodies why Islam is relevant in America today,” said Margari Aziza Hill, the executive director of the MuslimARC, also known as the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. “It’s why many Black Muslims embraced Islam, to be part of the solution, not only in their personal lives, but in their communities. “When we’re serving our community,” she added, “we’re serving ourselves and fulfilling our own religious obligation to address a social ill with our hands.” read the complete article

30 Apr 2021

'Normalizing who we are': TikTokers are showing Hollywood how to tell Muslim stories

Hollywood has perpetuated harmful representations of Muslims for decades. But Anhar Karim is hopeful that major changes are happening — and TikTok is showing the way. Karim, an entertainment reporter for Forbes magazine, grew up with a love for the big screen. But as a Muslim American, he rarely saw himself in the protagonists. "Muslims are very, very heavily over represented on TV and movies. It's just that when they do show up, they're usually only in the context of terrorism, only as these violent, you know, characters — monsters really," he said. "I think what we as Muslims sort of want is, you know, just normal mundane representation, people going to work, people watching TV, people having normal everyday worries and concerns. And that's the lens of the Muslim experience that is almost non existent for most of our big screen productions." While poor representations may still be prevalent on the big screen, accurate representations have found their way on to many smaller screens, thanks to a video-sharing app called TikTok. "I made a 30-day TikTok series … talking about my experiences doing Ramadan under quarantine. And a lot of the comments were really these amazing questions of like, 'Oh, I didn't know Muslims do this. Oh, can you explain this? Oh, that's amazing. Wow, I can't believe you're fasting for 30 days!' People just genuinely curious and learning. And I think that's just, it was just really touching to see how they were receiving it." "What TikTok is doing now is that … they can be scrolling through their "For You" page, seeing all these people do random jokes, doing random skits, and then they scroll one video further, and suddenly they see a girl their age, wearing a hijab, also doing a skit. It's just such a powerful way of normalizing who we are," he said. read the complete article

30 Apr 2021

After an attack on its mosque, Moorhead refused to let hate have the last word

They scrubbed the swastika off the sidewalk. They washed the death threats off the walls. One image from the attack on the Moorhead mosque still lingers for Dr. Ademola Hammed. A little boy with a scrub brush. One of hundreds of neighbors and strangers who rushed to help after last weekend's attack on the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center. As volunteers swept up the broken glass and turned power washers on the filth that a vandal had spray-painted on the house of worship, Hammed watched the little boy scrub away at the floor — determined not to let hate speech have the last word. At that moment, he said, the story changed. "The story is now the love. It's no longer the hate," said Hammed, vice president of the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Community Center, who watched volunteers drive in from miles away to reach Moorhead, a close-knit college town on the banks of the Red River of the North. "That overshadowed everything. That is love. That is love." read the complete article

02 May 2021

Young, Muslim and progressive: is another AOC-style upset brewing in New York?

For Rana Abdelhamid, this neighborhood is home. On 14 April, Abdelhamid announced her run against the incumbent Democratic congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to represent New York’s 12th congressional district, a region made up of a significant portion of Manhattan’s East Side, Astoria and north Brooklyn. It ranges from the fantastically wealthy penthouse apartments that line Manhattan’s Central Park to the struggling working-class areas where Abdelhamid grew up. If elected, Abdelhamid would be one of the youngest members to ever serve in Congress and the third Muslim woman ever elected to the House.She has received the endorsement of Justice Democrats, a powerful progressive activist group that was instrumental in the victories of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman in their respective New York primary elections. Just as AOC and Bowman beat long-established Democrats and then rapidly ascended to prominence on left of the party, so Justice Democrats hope Abdelhamid will continue the trend of a leftwing revolution sweeping across New York City that has already had a major impact on national American politics. “My history in this district is rooted in my organizing, in my community, in my spirituality, in my education. I feel really connected. It comes from a place of love. This is why I’m doing it,” she told the Guardian in an interview at an outdoor cafe in Astoria. Born to Egyptian immigrant parents, Abdelhamid grew up in a one-bedroom apartment alongside her three siblings in the 12th district. Now, she’s looking for a chance to represent it. In the years following the attacks of 9/11, she recalled her mosque being surveilled by the FBI and NYPD advertisements for voluntary informants. “Overnight, I was seen as a Muslim. They would make terrorist jokes [at school] and so I felt a deep sense of isolation. People were very scared. They would change their name if they could. For me, this neighborhood was so important because I went to the mosque every single week. It was the only place where I felt not ashamed of my identity as a young girl. Where people said my name right. I felt comfortable in hijab and didn’t feel the need to take it off as soon as I walked down the street,” she said. At a time when Muslim American women were removing their hijabs out of fear of being profiled or harassed, Abdelhamid decided to embrace one. Two years later, she was attacked by a man who tried to rip off her headscarf. “Right after that incident, I just remember not speaking. I remember that because I talk a lot. I didn’t tell my parents for such a long time. My parents were scared and heartbroken but also defiant. That gave me strength. They’re not scared and I shouldn’t be scared either. For a lot of Muslim women post 9/11, it was a reclamation of identity. Definitely early on, when I wore my hijab, it was an act of ‘I‘m not gonna be ashamed. I’m going to be proud. I’m not going to fall to these narratives that are vilifying people that I love the most.’ ” read the complete article

30 Apr 2021

Two police officers accused of punching Arab American teenager and then lying about it

Paterson Police Officers Kevin Patino and Kendry Tineo-Restituyo face civil rights and obstruction of justice charges over the alleged incident. Investigators have accused them of depriving Osamah Alsaidi, then 19, of his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and also claim they then lied about it on a police incident report. The December 2020 incident was captured on surveillance video and led to an investigation in February by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. Both Mr Patino, 29, and Mr Tineo-Restituyo, 28, handed themselves in to authorities on Tuesday and were released on $50,000 bonds. read the complete article

30 Apr 2021

Guantanamo detainee Abu Zubaydah to file complaint with UN agency

A Guantanamo Bay inmate alleges he was tortured by his American captors after the September 11 attacks and will file a complaint with the United Nations over his unending 19-year detention, his lawyer has said. Abu Zubaydah’s lawyer, Helen Duffy, said on Friday that the complaint will be filed with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention against the United States and six other countries, asking for intervention in his case. According to his lawyer, he was handed over to the CIA, which moved him through a series of secret units in several countries where he was brutally interrogated. He was the first of a series of detainees to go through waterboarding and other now-banned techniques as US intelligence sought to force information from him about others in the group. In 2003, he was transferred to Guantanamo, where he has stayed ever since. US officials have since admitted he was never a member of al-Qaeda or an important figure among outlawed groups. Moreover, one of his interrogators, an FBI agent, has said that he cooperated easily before he was tortured, so that he had nothing to add once he was subjected to the CIA’s extreme interrogation methods, which included 83 instances of waterboarding. Like most others among the last 40 detainees in Guantanamo, Zubaydah has never been charged and faces indefinite imprisonment. “His detention has no lawful basis in international law [and] offends all principles of due process,” Duffy said in a statement. The petition will ask the UN agency to find that the US is obliged to release him. It also demands that six other countries involved in his disappearance and rendition – the United Kingdom, Thailand, Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland and Morocco – use their powers to secure his release and relocation. read the complete article

01 May 2021

Trump’s Secret Rules for Drone Strikes Outside War Zones Are Disclosed

The Biden administration has disclosed a set of rules secretly issued by President Donald J. Trump in 2017 for counterterrorism “direct action” operations — like drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional war zones — which the White House has suspended as it weighs whether and how to tighten the guidelines. While the Biden administration censored some passages, the visible portions show that in the Trump era, commanders in the field were given latitude to make decisions about attacks so long as they fit within broad sets of “operating principles,” including that there should be “near certainty” that civilians “will not be injured or killed in the course of operations.” At the same time, however, the Trump-era rules were flexible about permitting exceptions to that and other standards, saying that “variations” could be made “where necessary” so long as certain bureaucratic procedures were followed in approving them. The Biden administration suspended the Trump-era rules on its first day in office and imposed an interim policy of requiring White House approval for proposed strikes outside of the war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. At the same time, the Biden team began a review of how both Obama- and Trump-era policies had worked — both on paper and in practice — with an eye toward developing its own policy. read the complete article

United Kingdom

02 May 2021

‘Sad but exciting’ to break barriers, says first London Assembly Muslim woman hopeful

Hina Bokhari has mixed feelings as she’s set to become the first Muslim woman to sit on the London Assembly, being second on the party’s local election list for the seat. Though the south London alderwoman describes the historic prospect as “exciting”, she carries an element of sadness about achieving this in 2021. Speaking toThe Independent, the 45-year-old Liberal Democrat councillor said: “It’s a wonderful thing to have the title but it’s also incredibly sad and shocking that it’s the case in 2021. “When I was first elected in 2018 as the first Muslim woman councillor in Merton, I thought politics was more diverse than it is – you hear about these amazing brown, black, ethnic minority women in politics but they’re the minority. “There really isn’t enough and the fact that I am the first really highlights that.” After entering politics in 2017 following the snap election, Bokhari has had to grapple with abuse including being targeted in an online campaign wanting to ban halal meat; having the address of her children’s schools posted online and being told that she should be “sweeping the streets, not canvassing on the streets”. Women in politics, she says, are “treated differently to men and subjected to more vitriol”. read the complete article

02 May 2021

Is Starmer’s Labour Party Picking Sides on Islamophobia?

Non-profit group MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development) – which campaigns for British Muslims to engage more effectively with political and media institutions and is one of the UK’s largest grassroots Muslim organisations – has said that Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party risks alienating voters in the upcoming local and parliamentary elections after he pulled out of attending a virtual Iftar during Ramadan alongside another group called the Ramadan Tent Project (RTP). MEND has also called on Starmer to apologise for not attending the Iftar and to explain why he decided not to attend the event. It believes he did so after pressure from the Jewish advocacy group, the Board of Deputies. The RTP’s chief executive Omar Salha had retweeted support for the boycott of Israeli dates during Ramadan. The Conservative Party has well-documented examples of Muslim hatred in its ranks, and Boris Johnson has promised a (much-delayed investigation into the issue) the Labour Party has looked into the issue. Last April, a leaked internal party report revealed a worrying past of Islamophobia and inaction within the party. It found that former senior members of the party supported Islamophobic views and discussed delaying investigations. At the time, MEND said that this provided evidence of inconsistent approaches to punitive measures and the purposeful mishandling of complaints as a result of “factionalism” within the party. A second report was released during Islamophobia Awareness Month in November by the Labour Muslim Network. The largest ever consultation of Muslim members and supporters of the Labour Party found that more than one in four had directly experienced Islamophobia in the party, while more than one in three had directly witnessed it. In addition, 44% of those consulted reported that they did not believe that the party takes the issue of Islamophobia seriously, with 48% of respondents saying that they did not have confidence in Labour to deal with Islamophobia effectively via its complaints process. read the complete article


01 May 2021

China warns Australia to avoid getting ‘burned’ by colluding with ‘terrorists’

China has accused Australian politicians of colluding with ‘terrorists’ in Xinjiang and warned Canberra it will get “burned” if it continues to back Uyghur activists. The comments are the latest salvo in a war-of-words over the region, where human rights groups warn the Muslim Uyghur minority face horrific abuses. Chinese media has seized on an article, published by fringe political group the Australian Citizens Party, criticizing local politicians’ support for the East Turkistan Australian Association (ETAA), a Uyghur advocacy group. Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said this showed Uyghur activists were given a “free pass” in Australia because they criticized China. Foreign Minister Marise Payne has resisted going that far, but said in March there were “credible reports of the systematic abuse and torture” of Uyghur women in the region. Beijing claims it is curbing a terrorist insurgency and Mr Weng warned Australia could be “burned” if it continued to support Uyghur groups. “We urge certain Australian politicians not to stand on the wrong side of history and to stop endorsing anti-China separatist activities and terrorist organizations to avoid getting burned itself,” he said. read the complete article

30 Apr 2021

America, the Afghan Tragedy, and the Subcontinent

Most Americans see U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September as closing the book on two decades of U.S. military intervention. The subcontinent, however, can’t forget the War in Afghanistan began long before the United States’ most recent involvement. It also can’t forget that Washington’s choices during more than four decades of war in Afghanistan have had—and continue to have—many unfortunate and unintended consequences for the region. Although the planned withdrawal leaves Afghanistan’s future open, it could lead to the next set of broader geopolitical shifts in the region. There is now a glimmer of hope that a normalization of relations between India and Pakistan could be part of the regional rearrangement after the United States departs, potentially limiting some of the negative consequences that have flowed out of Afghanistan in the last four decades. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S.-supported insurgency against the Russian-backed regime in Kabul from the borderlands of Pakistan, and the U.S. intervention after Sept. 11 produced three lasting consequences for the subcontinent. First was the injection of violent religious extremism into South Asian geopolitics. A second consequence of the Afghan war, and the United States’ long involvement in it, has been the growing tilt of Pakistan’s civil military relationship in favor of the army over the last four decades. A third consequence of U.S. policies on Afghanistan since 1979 was the sharpening conflict between India and Pakistan, including the introduction of nuclear weapons, a persistent sub-conventional war in Kashmir, and widening of the bilateral conflict to include Afghanistan. read the complete article

30 Apr 2021

Western companies face nationalist backlash in China over criticism from home countries

A new report released Friday details a pattern of abuse of Chinese workers along Beijing’s global development initiative, the Belt and Road. The West also accuses Beijing of exploiting ethnic minority Uighurs, using forced labor to produce cotton. Nick Schifrin reports how that Western criticism sparked a nationalist backlash in China, directed at Western companies. Nick Schifrin: On Chinese TV, aspiring pop stars were feeling good because their Adidas shirts were blurred after that company faced a boycott. And pro-Beijing lawmakers in Hong Kong looked lovingly for the last time at their Burberry scarves, also boycotted. In their place, Chinese blogger O Wang Xiao Ming told her million followers to buy Chinese. O Wang Xiao Ming (through translator): Take advantage of this opportunity to give our domestic goods a chance. We will confirm that no one and no country can order us around. Nick Schifrin: The boycott was launched when China's Communist Youth League criticized H&M and other companies for last year's statements expressing concern that cotton from China's Xinjiang region was produced by forced labor. Eighty percent of Chinese cotton comes from Xinjiang. The U.S. and Europe say that Uyghurs involved in the process are forced into that labor, and they accuse Beijing of genocide against the Uyghur people. Two days before the boycotts, the U.S. and Europe launched coordinated sanctions. read the complete article


01 May 2021

India's Covid crisis has revealed the real Narendra Modi

Today, the image of "India shining" — a publicity slogan the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tried so hard to promote in 2004 when it was first elected — is in tatters as news outlets around the world and social media carry images of Indians dying of Covid-19 in the streets as hospitals have run out of beds and oxygen and have had to turn people away. And then there are the gruesome images of mass cremations in parking lots and on sidewalks. India's second wave of the pandemic has once again revived images of a country of disease and death. With its health care system collapsing under the strain, the government announced this week that is welcoming foreign assistance, after 15 years of rejecting foreign aid. Countries like Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom and others are sending supplies to India despite the country being a vaccine manufacturing hub. Many blame the Modi government. When Covid first hit, India faced a vacuum of leaders that previous governments had been able to rely on to provide the sort of contingency planning necessary to weather a crisis. Throughout his tenure as prime minister, Modi has consistently accused former public officials and previous administrations of being out of touch and corrupt. He has undermined the institutions of democracy by compromising the independence of the judiciary and has suppressed protests over the controversial 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act which fast-tracks citizenship to immigrants from neighboring countries — but not if they're Muslim. The handful of US trained Indian American professors who returned to India to serve under Modi's government, like Viral Acharya and Raghuram Rajan, have left the administration. Despite being one of the major vaccine manufacturers in the world, the government has failed to provide adequate funding to ramp up the needed supply of Covid-19 vaccines. Instead, 60 million vaccines manufactured in India were exported to other countries as part of a "vaccine diplomacy" initiative. Although the exports were stopped in March, it was insufficient to make up for the shortages. These measures have had consequences. But lulled into complacency by the declining rates of infection last year, Modi acted as if the battle had been won and made a series of critical mistakes. Instead of focusing on getting the country vaccinated and making sure the health care system had adequate supplies, the prime minister turned his attention to winning state elections. Amid an election year, massive political rallies were allowed to take place without ensuring Covid protocols. Modi's minister of home affairs, Amit Shah, who he relied on as his political strategist was on the campaign trail rather than fulfilling his duties handling the pandemic, as several news outlets in India reported. They pandered to their Hindu base and allowed the Kumbh Mela to take place, a Hindu festival where millions gathered to pray over two months defying social distancing as Covid cases spiked. Thousands contracted the virus as a result and the events were deemed super spreaders. read the complete article

New Zealand

03 May 2021

New Zealand’s differences with China becoming ‘harder to reconcile’, Jacinda Ardern says

Ardern’s comments were made as New Zealand’s government comes under increasing pressure, both internally and from international allies, to take a firmer stance on concerns over human rights abuses of Uyghur people in China’s Xinjiang province. Last week, the Act party presented a motion for New Zealand’s parliament to debate whether the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang constitutes genocide – a motion that Labour will discuss this week. “Managing the relationship is not always going to be easy and there can be no guarantees,” Ardern said in her speech to the China Business Summit on Monday. “We need to acknowledge that there are some things on which China and New Zealand do not, cannot, and will not agree.” Ardern specifically cited the situation in Xinjiang, noting that “We have commented publicly about our grave concerns regarding the human rights situation of Uyghurs”. She also mentioned the “continued negative developments with regard to the rights, freedoms and autonomy of the people of Hong Kong”. Her comments come as the government attempts to balance its human rights commitments with the demands of its largest trading partner. Since November 2020, the value of exports to China alone has been greater than New Zealand’s next four largest trading partners – Australia, the US, UK, and Japan – combined. When Australia took a tougher stance on China, the country retaliated with tariffs, import restrictions and by warning its citizens not to travel to Australia. Analysis last year found China’s declared and undeclared sanctions against Australia cost the country around AU$47.7bn last year. Ardern was clear that she did not see the differences as irreconcilable, and said that “links remain strong”. “There are some things on which China and New Zealand do not, cannot, and will not agree,” she said. “This need not derail our relationship, it is simply a reality.” Ardern said there were still opportunities for New Zealand and China to work together on international trade, climate change, and response to the Covid-19 pandemic. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 03 May 2021 Edition


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