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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05 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In Spain, far-right nationalists are using social media to stir up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant fervor and to undermine faith in the country’s multicultural democracy, meanwhile in an interview with Al Jazeera, Bridge Director, Dr. John Esposito explores Islam’s influence on the United States and talks about the globalization of Islamophobia, and in India, an election is underway in the state of Karnataka, where the BJP has employed “communal and divisive politics.” Our recommended read of the day is by Eric Lewis for The Independent, on the unjust imprisonment of Abu Zubaydah, who US authorities captured in 2002 and tortured including waterboarding him 83 times, as Lewis notes that Zubaydah has been imprisoned for 22 years without charge or trial. This and more below:

United States

Shot, waterboarded, held in boxes the size of coffins - why is Abu Zubaydah still at Guantanmo? | Recommended Read

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released a report which methodically documents multiple grave breaches of treaties and bedrock international norms by the United States, including those forbidding torture, degrading treatment, arbitrary detention, and discrimination based upon religion or nationality. The report concerns our client, Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian who grew up in Saudi Arabia. Mr Zubaydah was shot and captured in March 2002, waterboarded 83 times, held in boxes the size of coffins and smaller, administered forced enemas, deprived of food, clothing, and necessary medical attention, and subjected to sexual violence, among other cruelties dreamed up by people working for the CIA in the wake of September 11. After one waterboarding, he had to be resuscitated. This was not the kind of evidence-based intelligence gathering so sorely needed in the face of the terrorism threat – rather, it was the brutal fumbling of amateurs using Mr Zubaydah as a guinea pig to win government contracts to interrogate the hundreds of captured detainees captured in the so-called war on terror. These methods were approved at the highest levels of the US Government. In 2008, the US government conceded that Abu Zubaydah was not a member of Al Qaida. The United States had to admit it had gotten it wrong, after six years of torture. Today, Abu Zubaydah remains at Guantanamo, never tried or charged, and in his twenty-second year of captivity. read the complete article

Biden’s Middle East policy not much different than Trump: Expert

US policies on the Middle East and the wider Muslim world have not shifted significantly under Joe Biden, a leading Western scholar on Islam has said, despite the United States president and his top officials promoting human rights and a message of tolerance globally. John Esposito said in an interview with Al Jazeera’s new Digital series Centre Stage that there has been growing awareness of Islam in the US, with more university students learning about the religion. But that has not meaningfully affected US foreign policy, said Esposito, a distinguished professor of religion, international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University in the US capital. “When you look at the policies of the [Biden] administration, sadly – sad to say, from my point of view – there’s no significant difference when it comes to their approach to the Middle East or to the Muslim world,” Esposito told Al Jazeera’s Soraya Salam on Wednesday. read the complete article

White House hosts 'listening session' on anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry

Muslim representatives invited to The White House "listening session on Islamophobia" discussed a range of issues from "the unjust and unconstitutional" profiling of American Muslims to rising cases of violence and discrimination against the community. On Tuesday, high-level officials from the Biden administration hosted an event, which took place one day after President Joe Biden celebrated Eid al Fitr with Muslim leaders. Representatives of the American Muslim community that took part included Imam Mohamed Magid, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Government Affairs Department Director Robert McCaw and Shia Muslim Foundation President Rahat Husain. "During the convening, Muslim leaders outlined the challenges facing their communities and shared recommendations for confronting Islamophobia and all forms of hate and bigotry," said the White House. "Biden-Harris administration officials conveyed their gratitude to the participants for their leadership and underscored the President’s commitment to countering Islamophobia," it added. read the complete article

Tarrant County’s top elected official held meeting with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist

Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare held a meeting this spring with an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist whose organization offers “threat” trainings for law enforcement and elected officials about “communist & Jihadist networks.” O’Hare’s calendar, which the Star-Telegram obtained through a public records request, includes a March 31 meeting with John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and the founder of the Dallas-based group Understanding the Threat. The organization has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It’s unclear what O’Hare and Guandolo discussed in their meeting. Guandolo has gained notoriety for blatantly inaccurate and Islamophobic remarks, including that all Muslims “share the same ideology as ISIS” and that “the purpose of Islam … is to wage war against non-muslims.” Guandolo’s Twitter account was suspended in 2018 after he posted a tweet that tied the Democratic Party to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Five years ago, Guandolo hosted a law enforcement training in San Angelo. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement then rejected the training because it “paints an entire religion with an overly broad brush” and “does not seem to provide any law enforcement training value to attendees,” according to the Texas Observer. This isn’t the former FBI agent’s first foray into Tarrant County. In late 2018, the Tarrant County Republicans planned a six-hour event featuring Guandolo shortly before a vote on whether to remove a Muslim man from a party leadership position. The event was titled “Islam and Sharia Law versus the U.S. Constitution; are they Compatible?” the Star-Telegram reported at the time. read the complete article


Anti-Muslim Twitter feed in Spain: 'A recipe for disaster'

The person who operates the Twitter account claims to be an Islamic fundamentalist living in Spain, empathizing with violent extremists and longing for the days, more than six centuries ago, when Muslims ruled the country. The views are as fake as the account, part of a loose and informal effort by far-right nationalists in Spain to use social media to stir up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant fervor and to undermine faith in Spain's multicultural democracy. In some cases, they exploit Twitter's loose rules to spread hateful messages and threats of violence, while in others they pose as Muslims as a way to disparage actual followers of Islam. By harnessing the power of social media to communicate, coordinate and evangelize, those behind the so-called Reconquista movement are relying on the same playbook used by far-right extremists in the U.S., Brazil and other countries who have used social media to expand their power and recruit new followers. Reconquista takes its name from the successful effort by Christian leaders to reconquer vast parts of the Iberian peninsula from its Islamic rulers and expel Muslims during the Middle Ages. It's a term embraced by some on the far-right, who see their opposition to Islam and immigrants as a divinely ordained sequel of sorts to that bloody, centuries long conflict. read the complete article

United Kingdom

UK Muslim surveyors’ network to push for greater inclusivity in property industry

A new initiative that aims to bring together British Muslims in the real estate and construction sectors will encourage inclusivity in the industry and help professionals to reach their full potential, a leading diversity specialist believes. “Islamophobia is a thing and it’s impacting professionals and getting in the way of them reaching their full potential. We need, as an industry, to have more of the uncomfortable conversations that we’ve been shying away from for too long,” Sybil Taunton, head of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said on Wednesday. Speaking at the founding of the Association of Muslim Surveyors held at the RICS headquarters in Westminster, Taunton said the new network will offer solutions to problems that British Muslims face in the industry and “bring uncomfortable conversations forward.” The initiative aims to support Muslim surveyors who are working or looking to start their careers in the property and real estate sectors. “Islamophobia is a topic that I don’t see talked about enough within our industry. If the Muslim community is not represented as well as it can and should be, why are we not having the conversations around it?” Taunton asked. “When individuals come together as a network, then we see movements, and that’s what we’re seeing through the Association of Muslim Surveyors. I’m really inspired by it,” she said. read the complete article


To edit Muslims out of India’s history is to deny them a future

India’s recent textbook purges show a similar disregard of history and facts with the government seeking to alter how it was traditionally taught and cherry-pick what it wants students to learn — and what it wants to ignore. Textbooks have been quietly edited to remove important chunks of history from India’s Mughal era, including the achievements of that Muslim dynasty, even though their legacy lives on in iconic architecture, cultural traditions and so much more. References to independent India’s first education minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad — a senior figure in the country’s struggle for freedom from British rule, a close comrade of Mahatma Gandhi and a beacon of Hindu-Muslim unity — have been eliminated. Yet the intelligentsia in India has barely registered even a whimper of protest over this brazen bulldozing of history. This is no less than lying to students. It hurts both serious academic scholarship and access to the most basic facts for future generations. The medieval historical period is such a crucial era of India’s past — one when the country’s economic might reached its peak, among other achievements — and excluding it from the curriculum would amount to gross intellectual dishonesty. read the complete article

An election under the shadow of hatred in India’s Karnataka

“Students and teachers would come and talk about how girls can do any job and go to any college they want, but they perhaps never meant Muslim girls,” said Muskan Khan, whose college life was reduced to being the poster girl of a huge row over hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women, in the state last year. “My life has turned upside down ever since,” she told Al Jazeera. On February 8 last year, a group of Hindu men heckled Khan for wearing the hijab at the entrance of her former alma mater – the PES College of Arts, Science and Commerce. Instead of being cowed down by the crowd that asked her to remove her hijab amid chants of “Jai Shri Ram” (“Victory to Lord Rama”, a religious chant that has turned into a Hindu supremacist war cry), Khan kept walking. At one point, she yelled back: “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is great”). More than a year after the state ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) banned the wearing of hijab in educational institutions, Khan was forced to move out of college and enrol in a distance-learning course. “The BJP has strategically targeted religious minorities, especially Muslims, through a series of incidents and laws in Karnataka. This is in line with the saffron party’s agenda of making India a Hindu Rashtra [nation]. It is also electorally beneficial for them, as we have seen,” Mansoor Ali Khan, general secretary of the opposition Congress party, told Al Jazeera. Critics say the BJP’s “communal and divisive politics was on full display” at the launch of its election manifesto in Bengaluru on Monday. Along with promises of a million new jobs and free cooking gas cylinders, the BJP in its vision document has promised to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Karnataka. read the complete article


A Saved Picture of the Quran Is Enough to Detain Uyghurs in China, Report Says

Simply viewing a photo of the Quran in the Xinjiang region of China is enough to be designated a dangerous extremist by government officials, according to a Human Right Watch report released Wednesday. Chinese police maintain a “master list” of around 50,000 video, audio, and photo files they claim contain violent and harmful content. Individuals found with copies of those files stored on their own devices were reportedly flagged and brought in for interrogation. That supposedly violent content? Quran readings and wedding songs, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW says it analyzed around 1,000 files flagged by police in more than 11 million searches during a nine-month period between 2017 and 2018. More than half (57%) of those flagged files were media HRW describes as “common religious material,” something any Muslim anywhere in the world might have saved on their phone. Only 9% of the flagged files contained explicitly violent content, and just 4% included calls for violence, according to HRW. read the complete article


Rohingya team visits Myanmar in refugee return scheme

A Rohingya refugee delegation arrived in Myanmar on Friday to tour new facilities built for the revival of a long-stalled plan to return the persecuted minority to their homeland. Bangladesh is home to about 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 conditions were not right for their repatriation. Bangladesh officials said Friday that 20 Rohingya and seven officials including a border guard officer were visiting two model villages erected for the pilot return project. "We departed from Teknaf jetty with 20 Rohingya members, including three women," Bangladesh's deputy refugee commissioner Mohammed Khalid Hossain told AFP. Rohingya refugees, who have spent nearly six years living in overcrowded and squalid 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

Today in Islamophobia, 05 May 2023 Edition


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