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

Sign up for the Today in Islamophobia Newsletter
04 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: A new investigation from Human Rights Watch into China’s large scale surveillance programs reveals that Uyghurs who simply store the Quran on their phone can be subject to a police interrogation, meanwhile, a delegation of Rohingya Muslims will visit Myanmar on Friday as part of efforts to revive a long-stalled plan to return the stateless minority to their homeland, and in the U.S., religious leaders and Muslim community representatives were invited to the White House on Tuesday to take part in a listening session on the rise of Islamophobia across the nation. Our recommended read of the day is by Shaheen Abdulla for Al Jazeera on how a Muslim group and individuals are offering up large cash rewards for evidence to back up claims made in The Kerala Story, a film that many have noted promotes harmful tropes about Muslims and amplifies conspiracy theories. This and more below:


Kerala Story: Film on alleged Indian ISIL recruits gets pushback | Recommended Read

A cash reward of 10 million rupees ($1,22,280) has been announced by a Muslim group in India’s Kerala state for providing evidence of claims made in an Indian film that thousands of Hindu and Christian women from the state were recruited into the ISIL (ISIS) armed group. According to the film’s trailer, The Kerala Story, produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah and directed by Sudipto Sen, claims to depict the “lives of innocent girls trapped, transformed and trafficked for terror” from Kerala. An earlier figure that was included in the text was that 32,000 girls were forced to join ISIL, a claim that is being challenged by Muslim and other groups as well as opposition political parties in Kerala and other parts of India. Makers of the The Kerala Story allude to the Hindu right-wing conspiracy theory of “love jihad” to back up their claims in the film. They say the film shows true stories of a Muslim “love jihad” plot, in which non-Muslim girls and women are supposedly romanced, lured to convert to Islam through marriage and then forced to join ISIL. This plot is central to the film despite India’s junior home minister telling parliament in 2020 that there is no such thing as “love jihad” and government investigations have dismissed the allegations. But Firos of the Muslim Youth League told Al Jazeera that the film reinforces “Islamophobic tropes”. “This is to tarnish the reputation of our state as well as the Muslim community,” he said. “We felt that passing statements or issuing legal notice was not going to make a difference. We wanted people to make up their minds before watching the film.” read the complete article

‘The Kerala Story’ Ushers in a New Era of Malicious Hindutva Propaganda

A thoroughly anti-Muslim film from India garnered attention when Nadav Lapid, who was one of the jury members at IFFI last year, called it a “propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival”. The Kashmir Files by Vivek Agnihotri showed none of the craft of Riefenstahl but was highly successful in its intent. It had the audience bellowing ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in cinemas. This reception seems to have encouraged other filmmakers who wanted to vent their Muslim hatred on screen as is clear from the recently released trailer of a film called The Kerala Story. When there have been only three women who converted to Islam and joined ISIS from Kerala, why is this film talking about the ‘gut-wrenching stories’ of 32,000 women? It appears to cater to the highly popular Hindu right-wing refrain of ‘Hindu khatre mein hai’. It popularises ‘love jihad’ as a weapon used by Muslim men to lure young Hindu women under false pretence of love and convert them to Islam. The trailer of the film flashes a disclaimer saying ‘suicide or self harm topics’ before starting to play. It displays unabashed and deep-seated hatred of Muslims. It shows a group of female students, one of whom is Muslim. She seizes any opportunity for religious conversion, saying that Allah is the only god. After an incident at a mall where the girls are sexually assaulted by some men, the same Muslim girl tells the terrified victims that no woman who wears a hijab is ever raped and that Allah always protects them. The usual bearded Muslim terrorist seems to have given way to the bearded Muslim pimp when they show priests/leaders of the recruitment cell telling young Muslim men that they have to conquer Hindu women by sleeping with them and ‘if necessary, impregnating them.’ read the complete article


How Governments and Civil Society Can Help China's Uyghurs

Since late 2016, the Chinese government has vastly expanded its harsh repression of the Turkic Muslim population in Xinjiang, in China's northwest region, in what it officially calls its "Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism." This crackdown dramatically escalated Beijing's longstanding conflation of the distinct cultural, linguistic and religious identity of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China with political disloyalty or "separatism." Chinese authorities have arbitrarily detained as many as a million people in hundreds of facilities, which include "political education" camps, pretrial detention centers and prisons. Detainees and prisoners are subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, as well as cultural and political indoctrination. The oppression continues outside the detention facilities with a pervasive system of mass surveillance, controls on movement, cultural and religious erasure, and family separation. There have also been reports of forced labor and reproductive rights violations, including forced abortions, and sexual violence. If human rights violations of this scope and scale were taking place in Europe or the United States, one would expect Muslim-majority countries to have erupted in protest. Yet, years into this repression, these governments have maintained a deafening silence. Worse still, many have actively helped to whitewash these abuses. read the complete article

Rohingya team to visit Myanmar for refugee return plan

Bangladesh is home to around a million Rohingya, most of whom fled a 2017 military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar that is now subject to a UN genocide investigation. Both countries signed an agreement to return them later that year but little progress has been made since, and the United Nations has repeatedly warned that conditions were not right for their repatriation. The delegation will visit a site close to the Bangladesh border, where Myanmar's military regime plans to resettle more than 1,000 Rohingya in a pilot project. "We will be shown the camps built by the Myanmar government for the Rohingyas. We will see the facilities there," Badiul, a Rohingya community leader and member of the delegation, told AFP on Wednesday. Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mizanur Rahman will lead the delegation of 20 Rohingya refugees, a senior government official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. Rohingya refugees, who have spent nearly six years living in overcrowded and squalid relief camps in Bangladesh, have been consistently sceptical of the scheme since it became public knowledge in March. They say that none of their queries about security or recognition of their right to citizenship in Myanmar has been answered. read the complete article


For China’s Uyghurs, ‘never again’ is right now

Amid such scant media coverage of the ongoing persecution of the Uyghur minority in China, when was the last time you read about or saw a TV report on their plight? Likely, not lately. Given it’s one of the most egregious and appalling crimes against humanity of our time, the lack of attention paid to Uyghurs’ dire situation is disturbing. We know from the Holocaust and other genocides that in the face of extreme human rights violations, the world’s indifference, inaction and silence can be deadly for the victims, literally. Already notorious for widespread human rights abuses in Tibet and Hong Kong, Chinese dictator President Xi Jinping and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are doubtless delighted the minority it persecutes most — the Uyghurs — receives short shrift by foreign journalists and politicians. A mainly Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority group in China, the Uyghurs have long suffered from the CCP’s discriminatory actions. Numbering around 10 million, they live in the country’s northwestern province, known officially as Xinjiang. In recent years, the CCP has increased its repression of the Uyghurs, that many experts denounce as genocidal. It includes state-imposed restrictions on religious freedom, language rights, cultural expression and freedom of movement. read the complete article

China: Phone Search Program Tramples Uyghur Rights

Police in the Xinjiang region of China rely on a master list of 50,000 multimedia files they deem “violent and terrorist” to flag Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim residents for interrogation, Human Rights Watch said today. A Human Rights Watch forensic investigation into the metadata of this list found that during 9 months from 2017 to 2018, police conducted nearly 11 million searches of a total of 1.2 million mobile phones in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital city of 3.5 million residents. Xinjiang’s automated police mass surveillance systems enabled this phone search. “The Chinese government’s abusive use of surveillance technology in Xinjiang means that Uyghurs who simply store the Quran on their phone may trigger a police interrogation,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. “Concerned governments should identify the technology companies involved in this mass surveillance and social control industry and take appropriate action to end their involvement.” Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised concerns about China’s approach to countering acts it calls “terrorism” and “extremism.” China’s counterterrorism law defines “terrorism” and “extremism” in an overly broad and vague manner that facilitates prosecutions, deprivation of liberty, and other restrictions for acts that do not intend to cause death or serious physical harm for political, religious, or ideological aims. read the complete article

China flags Uighurs as ‘extremist’ for having Quran, report says

Chinese authorities monitor the phones of ethnic minority Uighurs for the presence of 50,000 known multimedia files that are used to flag what Beijing views as extremism with possession of the Quran enough to trigger a police interrogation, according to a forensic investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW). While the list of “violent and terrorist” content includes violent audio, video and images produced by armed groups such as ISIL (ISIS), it also includes material from organisations that promote the identity or self-determination of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority, in far-western Xinjiang. The organisations include the separatist East Turkestan independence movement, the World Uyghur Congress exile group and the United States government-funded news outlet Radio Free Asia. Some content flagged for review, however, is non-political, including a Chinese travel show filed in Syria called “On the Road”, readings from the Quran and Islamic songs, according to a metadata analysis of the list by the rights group. “The Chinese government outrageously yet dangerously conflates Islam with violent extremism to justify its abhorrent abuses against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at HRW. read the complete article

United States

Readout of White House Listening Session on Islamophobia

Yesterday, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, White House Domestic Policy Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Joshua Geltzer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain, and Office of Public Engagement Director Stephen Benjamin hosted a listening session with Muslim community leaders to discuss efforts to counter Islamophobia, which is hate, discrimination, or bias directed at people who are or are perceived to be Muslim. During the convening, Muslim leaders outlined the challenges facing their communities and shared recommendations for confronting Islamophobia and all forms of hate and bigotry. Biden-Haris administration officials conveyed their gratitude to the participants for their leadership and underscored the President’s commitment to countering Islamophobia. The listening session followed President Biden’s White House Reception to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, and is a part of the ongoing efforts of the President’s interagency task force to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination within the United States. 7) Rep. Ilhan Omar Crowns Tucker Carlson With Stinging New Moniker (United States) Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday slammed Tucker Carlson as the “king of hate” and explained why she’s both “relieved and terrified” following his abrupt exit last week from Fox News. Carlson for years used his prime-time perch to target Somalia-born Omar, who in 2018 became one of the first Muslim women in Congress, with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Carlson on his show called the Minnesota Democrat “loathsome,” “a symbol of America’s failed immigration system” and “living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country,” among other insults and dog-whistle comments. Talking to MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan on Tuesday, Omar said Carlson “loved fear-mongering and picking on immigrants and Muslims in many cases.” “I can’t tell you just how both relieved and terrified I am of where he might end up, and the kind of platform he might end up having,” she continued, adding it’s “hard not to make people understand just how dangerous this man was and how many lives he risked with his hateful rhetoric on a daily basis.” read the complete article


How the media helped shape a negative perception of the Rohingya

As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, it is essential to recognise the influential role that journalism plays in humanitarian crises, such as the case of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The media has the capacity to shape the public's perception of refugees, influencing opinions within a nation. The press in Bangladesh has undergone a significant transformation in its portrayal of the Rohingya, initially presenting them as innocent victims and later as threats and burdens, often echoing the government's stance. In August 2017, the media portrayed Rohingya refugees as hapless people, persecuted due to their ethnicity and religion, and in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Bangladesh was lauded for its "open border" policy, which saved countless Rohingya lives, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was hailed as the "mother of humanity." However, this narrative quickly shifted, and within months, the media focused on the economic strain the refugees placed on the host country. Reports of environmental destruction and rapid population growth among the refugees became widespread. Politicians labelled the Rohingya as a "security risk," resulting in harsh policies such as internet restrictions, SIM card confiscations, barbed wire fencing, forced repatriation, and relocating refugees to the isolated Bhashan Char. Local media in Ukhiya and Teknaf have played a significant role in fuelling anti-Rohingya sentiments, presenting a one-dimensional image of the Rohingya as a threat and a burden. These media outlets have skilfully exploited Facebook's algorithms to amplify their negative narratives, further contributing to the marginalisation of the Rohingya community. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 04 May 2023 Edition


Enter keywords


Sort Results