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 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In the U.S., Mohamed T. Khairullah, a local mayor from New Jersey, said that the Secret Service denied him entry to the White House for a reception hosted by President Joe Biden to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, meanwhile, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Rabbani and eleven others participated in an art exhibit in Karachi Pakistan, and in India, a community tries to rebuild amidst fear of further violence as an Islamic school in eastern India was set ablaze on March 31st, where over 4,500 printed books and manuscripts were destroyed. Our recommended read of the day is by Spencer Ackerman for The Nation on how a recent United Nations report reveals that Guantanamo Bay detention center is shifting into a phase of providing end-of-life care for its aging captives, news which is escalating the international call for the facility to be closed for good. This and more below:

United States

Emptying Guantánamo Is Not the Same as Closing Guantánamo | Recommended Read

Few of us are paying attention to Guantánamo Bay right now. But a recent United Nations report reveals that the post-9/11 forever prison is shifting into a macabre new phase: providing end-of-life care for its aging captives with its characteristic brutality. It’s a grim testament to how normalized Guantánamo is in 21st-century America. Some will see the impending detainee deaths as Guantánamo solving the problem of itself. President Biden, to his credit, isn’t one of them. He has accelerated transfers out of Guantánamo, but his approach has a central flaw: Even if transfers could vacate the detention camp, emptying Guantánamo is not the same as closing Guantánamo. And unless the camp is permanently shuttered, it’s only a matter of time before one of Biden’s successors takes up Donald Trump’s unrealized call to fill it back up with “some bad dudes.” It could well be Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s about to be the first presidential candidate with Guantánamo service on his résumé. DeSantis understands the role of Guantánamo in the conservative mind: It’s where impunity—fueled by patriotic vengefulness—postures as lawful. Every day that Guantánamo remains open is another opportunity to refill it. For those who’d prefer not to wait for the next turn of history’s ratchet, Guantánamo’s closure is urgent. read the complete article

Muslim New Jersey Mayor Says He Was Denied Entry To White House Eid Al-Fitr Event

A Muslim New Jersey mayor said Monday the Secret Service denied him entry to the White House for a reception hosted by President Joe Biden to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan. Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah told NBC News that Secret Service informed him shortly before he was due to arrive that he didn’t receive the clearance required to enter the premises. Khairullah added he believes his name was on an FBI watchlist by mistake. He said it has been an issue when traveling in the past, but he thought it had already been resolved. “I’m baffled,” he told NBC News. In a Facebook post, Khairullah wrote the incident “reeks of #Islamophobia by certain federal agencies.” The Secret Service confirmed Khairullah was denied entry, but declined to provide further details. “It’s not a matter of I didn’t get to go to a party,” he told AP about Monday’s incident. “It’s why I did not go. And it’s a list that has targeted me because of my identity. And I don’t think the highest office in the United States should be down with such profiling.” read the complete article

U.N. Body Demands Release of Guantánamo Prisoner Who Was Tortured by the C.I.A.

A U.N. human rights panel has urged the United States to immediately release Abu Zubaydah, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay and the first detainee waterboarded by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also said that after studying other cases at Guantánamo over the past 15 years, it had seen a pattern that could “constitute crimes against humanity.” The prisoner, whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Husayn, was captured in a raid in Pakistan in 2002 and has been held at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba without charges since 2006. The United States has argued that its basis for holding him indefinitely in the war against terrorism is that, although he was never a member of Al Qaeda, he helped jihadists reach Afghanistan for training before the Sept. 11 attacks.The body, which has no enforcement mechanism, also found that Abu Zubaydah had been denied a meaningful review of his detention and so was being unlawfully held. “The appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Zubaydah immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law,” the group said in an opinion. He was the first prisoner of a C.I.A. “black site,” a global network of overseas, secret prisons that held more than 100 men beyond the reach of U.S. law and the International Committee of the Red Cross from 2002 to 2006. Two C.I.A. contract psychologists devised a torture program of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” specifically for use on him in an agency prison in Thailand, in which he was waterboarded, deprived of sleep and confined in a coffinlike box. read the complete article

Minneapolis mosque fires suspect arrested and charged with arson

US authorities have arrested a man accused of setting fires at two Minneapolis mosques last week and charged him with arson, an act that the city’s police chief described as a “hate crime” aimed at instilling fear in the local Muslim community. A federal complaint alleged that Jackie Little, 36, entered the Masjid Omar Islamic Center on 23 April wearing a black jacket, blue jeans and a blue medical mask and lit a cardboard box on fire in the center’s second-floor bathroom. An employee reportedly chased Little out of the location. A day later, Little – this time in a green hooded sweatshirt and black pants – went to the Masjid Al Rahma Mosque, where a fire soon erupted on the third floor, according to alleged surveillance footage and court documents. Three men and about 40 children had to flee the building. A mosque representative estimates that the fire probably caused “tens of thousands of dollars in damage”, the complaint said. Reviewing surveillance footage and past booking photos, police in Plymouth, Minnesota, identified Little, who had a “known history of arson or suspected arson” that included cases in December 2021 and May 2022. He also had “several documented incidents of domestic assault and other violent crimes”, according to the federal complaint. Little’s mother told investigators that he had a “fascination with fire from a young age” and added that he “extensively harassed a Muslim female” when he lived in transitional housing, according to the federal complaint. read the complete article

Muslim mayor turned away from White House Eid event: ‘There is a secret list’

The US Secret Service denied security clearance for Mohamed Khairullah, the longest-serving Muslim mayor in New Jersey, and prevented him from attending a White House Eid al-Fitr event on Monday afternoon marking the end of Ramadan. “It’s disappointing and it’s shocking that this continues to happen under our constitution which provides that everyone is innocent unless proven guilty,” Khairullah, 47, told “I honestly don’t know what my charge, if you want to put it that way, is at this point, to be treated in such a manner.” Khairullah told that he sought out more information from federal officials on why he was detained but they would not disclose their reasoning. After he informed the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of what happened, the group reviewed a leaked copy of the federal terrorist screening dataset, which contains details on more than 1 million people suspected of being involved in terrorist activities, and informed him that his name and birthdate appeared in it. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has criticized the list for containing “almost entirely lists of Arabic and Muslim names” and called on the Biden administration to stop the FBI from spreading information from that terrorism dataset. Representatives for the group condemned the White House’s denial of entry to Khairullah, with the New Jersey chapter’s executive director, Selaedin Maksut, describing it as “wholly unacceptable and insulting”. read the complete article


US lawmakers query Shein, Adidas, Nike over Uyghur rights concerns

Multiple groups of US lawmakers have sought reassurances this week about clothing giant Shein and other brands facing allegations their products use forced Chinese labor or material from regions where such conditions allegedly occur. On Tuesday, a group of lawmakers sent letters to the CEOs of Adidas, Nike, Shein and Chinese shopping app Temu with questions about their supply chains. In the letters, seen by AFP, the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party cited witness testimony that alleged Nike and Adidas might be sourcing materials from China's Xinjiang region, in possible violation of US law. "We would like to offer" Nike and Adidas "an opportunity to respond to these serious allegations and to provide information regarding" compliance with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the letters read. The committee also reached out to Temu and Shein, asking their executives to explain how they verify the compliance of their supply chains with US law. The letters to brands came just a day after a separate bipartisan group of US lawmakers urged securities regulators to require Shein to attest it does not use forced Chinese labor as a condition of a public offering. Citing reports that the fast-growing discount apparel company uses cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, two dozen members of the House of Representatives urged action from the head of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. read the complete article

Art in the time of detention

Guantanamo Bay prison, it turns out, has quite a few such stories. One of them is that of a Rohingya Muslim by the name of Ahmed Rabbani. A group exhibition, which mainly highlights Rabbani’s works, titled The Unforgotten Moon: Liberating Art from Guantanamo Bay began on Tuesday evening at the Indus Valley School (IVS) of Art and Architecture Gallery. On the whole, it showcases paintings which interpret ‘textual description of censored imagery’. “The focus of this project is Ahmed Rabbani, a Rohingya Muslim, born in Makkah in 1969. Ahmed was working as a taxi driver in Karachi, newly married, with a baby on the way, when on Sept 10, 2002 Pakistani authorities arrived at his home in the middle of the night and abducted him and his brother Abdul. The Rabbanis, misidentified as terrorists, were sold to the Americans for $5,000. The Americans were told that he was a known terrorist by the name of Hassan Ghul. “After spending 540 days in the CIA-run Dark Prison in Kabul, Ahmed was taken to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and remained there without charge for 20 years. During his incarceration, he experienced unrelenting torture, humiliation, and dehumanising conditions. In Guantanamo, he painted the torture he had experienced in the Dark Prison and Guantanamo itself. These paintings were deemed a ‘threat to national security’ and confiscated by the US military. “Ahmed’s human rights lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, had seen each piece in legal meetings and documented the imagery in text, which he shared with the 10 artists participating in this exhibition. The artists were to interpret this text and produce artworks in response. In doing so, the artists can become the means to disrupt this attempt by the US government to silence prisoners like Ahmed, under the guise of national security.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

The changing face of the British far right

Far-right activity is now considered a major threat in most Western liberal democracies. In the UK alone, the far right is the fastest-growing form of extremism according to the most recent counter-extremism Prevent report. Moreover, this threat is not restricted to the violent Extreme Right (ER). The Populist Radical Right (PRR) influences the ER and vice versa. PRR groups are far-right groups that are non-violent and support democracy. They differ from the ER, normally associated with fascism, who use and endorse violence and oppose democracy. The PRR and ER often share similar concerns related to immigration, globalisation and Islam, among other themes, but have a different view on fascism and violence. What’s more, the Populist Radical Right narrative is changing, as my research, drawing on 15 interviews with supporters and leaders of the British far right, illustrates. Some far-right groups in the UK have evolved to become more compatible with liberal democracy. Researchers have highlighted the PRR’s adoption of some liberal values. This research found that while some supporters did strategically adopt some liberal values to appear more moderate, these individuals originated from the authoritarian-right side of the political spectrum and were therefore strategically liberal, while others were driven by different motivations. Although not representative of the British far right generally or far-right groups specifically, an example of the adoption of some liberal values is the use of women’s rights by two PRR leaders: Tommy Robinson and Anne Marie Waters. The quote below from an interview with the English Defence League’s Tommy Robinson highlights this appropriation of women’s rights to convey a liberal ideology: “I’d say, my opposition to Islam comes from my liberal views. I am a liberal… People say, you are against immigration. Nope, I would open the British embassy tomorrow and get every woman out of Saudi Arabia. Every single one of them. And just leave loads of cavemen scratching their heads going, what… is going on, all the women have gone”. The above quote is an example of femonationalism; the deployment of some women’s rights arguments to position so-called British values (perceived to be pro-women’s rights) as superior to so-called Islamic values (perceived to be anti-women’s rights). read the complete article


'What the violent destruction of a Muslim library in Bihar tells us about the troubling state of Islamic heritage in India'

On 31 March, the day of a Hindu religious festival and during Ramadan, an extremist mob set a Muslim school, the Azizia Madrasa, and its library ablaze in the city of Bihar Sharif in eastern India. More than 4,500 printed books and manuscripts of Islamic heritage were lost and damaged in the fire. The throng also threw petrol bombs into a nearby mosque and left explosives outside the madrasa’s classrooms. Since the attack, the district’s superintendent of police, Ashok Mishra, has stated that 77 people have been arrested. One person died in the violence, and several remain injured. Endowed by a woman named Bibi Soghra around a century ago, today the madrasa has 22 classrooms, which serve up to 450 students. Such madrasas form the core of Muslim communities and foster childhood development and education. Now, ashes of burned books line the floors of the school’s library. Images show an imam holding a manuscript with burnt edges and several destroyed handwritten books strewn across the grounds. The histories of these books are forever fragmented. This communal violence occurs in the wake of numerous recent laws targeting Muslims on both national and state levels in India. Yet these events have not drawn nearly as much uproar as previous cases, raising concerns as to whether this has become anodyne for the mainstream Indian public and media. Most recently, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (Ncert) dropped entire chapters and sections on Mughal history from Indian school textbooks, effectively erasing three centuries of Indian history from public education and skewing the perspectives of future generations. Leading historians across the world have condemned this, but it is unclear whether that will make any impact. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 03 May 2023 Edition


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