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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06 May 2019

Today in Islamophobia: This weekend marked the beginning of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, but Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang cannot freely observe the holiday through fasting without fear of persecution from Chinese authorities. A Danish political party calling for the deportation of Muslims has received enough signatures to stand in the election; in Australia, Islamophobic social media posts lead to a disendorsement of a Liberal party candidate in Tasmania. This, and more, below:


06 May 2019

China’s high-tech repression threatens human freedom everywhere | Recommended read

As many as 1 million people have been confined to concentration camps where they are forced to renounce their religious practices and memorize the Beijing regime’s propaganda. That gross offense against human rights must be fully investigated and sanctioned. But of equal concern are some of the means China is using to carry out the repression. Xinjiang has become a laboratory for the development of a comprehensive, high-tech system for monitoring people and their behaviors, which poses an unprecedented threat to freedom — not just in western China, but potentially throughout the world. The police who follow up collect more data on people, from their blood type to the color of their cars. They examine their phones to see whether they contain one of 51 network tools deemed suspicious, such as virtual private networks and communications programs such as WhatsApp. They judge whether an individual fits one of 36 “person types” meriting special attention, including people who have traveled abroad, have more children than allowed or preach Islam without permission. All the data is sent back to the IJOP central system via the app, where it is stored in a database that also contains facial images and much other data. Human Rights Watch points out that similar surveillance systems are being put into place all over China. “These mass surveillance systems have woven an ever-tightening net around people across the country,” the report says. “The depth, breadth and intrusiveness of the Chinese government’s mass surveillance on its citizens may be unprecedented in modern history.” read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
06 May 2019

US accuses China of using 'concentration camps' against Muslim minority

The United States has accused China on Friday of imprisoning more than a million Muslims in “concentration camps” in some of Washington’s strongest condemnation of Beijing’s treatment of minorities. Former detainees have described being tortured during interrogation at the camps, living in crowded cells and being subjected to a brutal daily regimen of party indoctrination that drove some people to suicide. Some of the sprawling facilities are ringed with razor wire and watch towers. “The [Chinese] are using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps,” Randall Schriver, who leads Asia policy at the US defense department, told a Pentagon briefing during a broader discussion about China’s military, estimating that the number of detained Muslims could be “closer to three million citizens”. Schriver, an assistant secretary of defense, defended his use of a term normally associated with Nazi Germany as appropriate, under the circumstances. When asked by a reporter why he used the term, Schriver said that it was justified “given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to three million citizens out of a population of about 10 million”. read the complete article

06 May 2019

Xinjiang: collateral damage of China’s belligerent nationalism

Historically, nationalism has often relied on the identification of a counter threat, and sustained by the vilification of a perceived enemy. In much of the world today, that threat is Islam, deemed antithetical to the culture and identity of the modern nation state. In Myanmar, Islam was positioned as a threat to Buddhist self identification; in China, it is seen as a deterrent to sinicization. Twining further notes that unlike Mao-era nationalism– which had deep ideological roots— this new brand of Chinese nationalism centered identity, specifically Han Chinese culture and customs. This shift in strategy used ‘Chineseness’ as a tool in service of a strategic regional goal to which Xinjiang was central. In doing so, it isolated minority communities along racial and religious lines and set China on a collision course with many of its own citizens. What followed was a methodical targeting of difference. Once Han-Chineseness had been established as the norm, the CCP began targeting communal uprisings led by ethnic minorities. Xinjiang, the historically autonomous homeland of the Uyghurs, bore the brunt of it. In April of 1990, more than 60 Uyghurs were killed in clashes with Chinese troops over the building of a mosque; in July of the same year, authorities in Xinjiang announced the arrest of 7,900 people in a crackdown on “criminal activities of ethnic splittists and other criminal offenders.” Unrest in Xinjiang jeopardizes China’s ambitions of regional consolidation, in particular its Belt Road Initiative. Part of that initiative is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes right through Xinjiang, a region the CCP sees as hostile and seeks to tame. What is happening in Xinjiang, then, is mediated unquestionably by Islamophobia, but Islamophobia is symptomatic of a larger, more insidious agenda: one of economic gain irrespective of human cost. In China, and in much of the world today, the rise of Islamophobia runs parallel to the re-emergence of identity- based nationalism which ignores minority rights in favor of the ambitions of the state. read the complete article

06 May 2019

Chinese Fund Backed By Hunter Biden Invested In Technology Used To Surveil Muslims

The app relies heavily on facial recognition software supplied by Face++, a division of the Chinese startup Megvii, a relationship that sparked questions in the press for Megvii investors. One of the most prominent of these investors is Alibaba Group Holding, which was co-founded by Jack Ma, the wealthiest Chinese billionaire and an icon for the country’s image of entrepreneurship. The flurry of media reports this week about Face++, Ma, and the role of the private sector in building China’s increasingly sprawling surveillance state, however, left out another prominent investor in the company: Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden’s investment company in China, known as Bohai Harvest RST, has pooled money, largely from state-owned venture capital, to buy or invest in a range of industries in the U.S. and China. Bohai Harvest has put money into an automotive firm, mining companies, and technology ventures, such as Didi Chuxing Technology, one of the largest ride-hailing companies in the world after Uber. In 2017, Bohai Harvest bought into Face++, part of a $460 million haul in the company’s Series C investment round. Bohai Harvest’s website features Face++ in its portfolio of investments. read the complete article

06 May 2019

“Forgive my children for not fasting” - Ramadan in Xinjiang

In the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), Chinese authorities see fasting as a “sign of extremism”. Open or even private displays of religious affiliation – including growing an “abnormal” beard, wearing a veil or headscarf, regular prayer, fasting or avoidance of alcohol – are categorized as “signs of extremism” in some locations. Any of these can land you in one of Xinjiang’s internment camps, which the government calls “transformation-through-education centres” and are reportedly arbitrarily detaining up to 1 million people. Numerous counties in Xinjiang have posted notices on government websites in recent years, stating that primary and secondary school students and Communist Party members were not permitted to observe Ramadan. Mass internment and surveillance have intensified in recent years, but Muslim religious and cultural practices have long been discouraged in the region. This Ramadan, many Muslims in Xinjiang are separated from their loved ones – some are missing, while others are known to be in internment camps. Radio Free Asia journalist Gulchehra Hoja left China 18 years ago. It was only after she moved to the United States that she was finally able to fully observe Ramadan. Speaking of her time in Xinjiang, she said: “I remember only elderly people like my grandma were fasting and making dua (prayer) asking Allah to forgive her children for not fasting. Now it’s my turn to continue to pray for my family and the entire Uyghur people.” read the complete article


06 May 2019

Ramadan 2019: Why is it so important for Muslims?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. Healthy adult Muslims fast in Ramadan from dawn until dusk. This includes abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. Other acts of worship such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity are also encouraged during the holy month. Muslims also believe the Quran was revealed in Ramadan. During the holy month, Muslims wake up early to eat a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, and they break their fast with a meal referred to as iftar. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. There is also a verse in the Quran that prescribes fasting for all Muslims who are mature and healthy enough to do so for the full day. So Muslims fast as an act of worship, a chance to get closer to God, and a way to become more compassionate to those in need. Fasting is also seen as a way to learn patience and break bad habits. read the complete article


06 May 2019

The Powerful Group Shaping The Rise Of Hindu Nationalism In India

There are potbellied, middle-aged dads, retirees and a young boy in a soccer jersey and no shoes — all members of a local cell of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It's part of a vast all-male network that runs Hindu catechism classes, yoga sessions and these morning drill sessions, called shakhas. The idea is to celebrate more than 5,000 years of Hindu culture. "We recite the names of great people — sons and daughters of India — right from the ancient times to modern India," explains Ratan Sharda, 64, who has been an RSS member since childhood. "See, we have forgotten our history. We have forgotten the great deeds our people have done." Sharda believes that centuries of non-Hindu rule — British colonialism and the Mughal Empire before that — have left Indians without a strong sense of their culture and heritage. The RSS, he says, helps supplement their knowledge. The RSS, founded nearly 100 years ago, has profoundly shaped Indian society and politics — and Modi himself. As he runs for a second term, the RSS' influence is more apparent than ever — something that alarms members of India's religious minorities and those who believe in the country's secular basis, who accuse the RSS of chauvinism and fostering intolerance and hate. When Indians won their freedom from British rule in 1947, they established a pluralistic democracy based on secular principles, embracing their diversity. But the RSS' goal is to redefine India according to its majority Hindu faith. The group's mission statement describes it as "firmly rooted in genuine nationalism" and decries an "erosion of the nation's integrity in the name of secularism" and "endless appeasement of the Muslim population." Today, many members interpret that as a mission to bring Hindu scripture into Indian law and strip Indian Muslims of equal rights, or even expel them. read the complete article

New Zealand

06 May 2019

Anti-Muslim tirade and attack on vehicle leave taxi driver shaken

" Muslim, taxi driver," one of the young thugs yelled, before damaging the vehicle. Zaw Maung, who drives for Taxis Palmerston North, picked up two young men in the city in the early hours of Friday morning. He said after he ferried them around town, they told him they couldn't pay and then one of them abused him and damaged his car. Maung said he waited outside and a woman came out and paid, then one of the men reappeared and started threatening him, unleashing the tirade of expletive-laden abuse. "He said to his mate: 'Don't pay, we're going to smash the taxi'. The other one said: 'Don't do it'." That instruction was ignored. Maung said he felt unsafe and believed the aggressive man may have had a weapon. "I locked every door and then he jumped on the bonnet. He smashed the windscreen using his feet. read the complete article


06 May 2019

Dumped Liberal Jessica Whelan denies lying about anti-Muslim posts

Dumped Tasmanian Liberal candidate Jessica Whelan has denied she lied to Scott Morrison about anti-Muslim Facebook posts and said she warned the party about her “strong opinions” on social media before she was pre-selected. Whelan resigned as the Liberal candidate for the seat of Lyons on Friday after the party made clear she would be disendorsed for posts attacking Muslims and Muslim immigration. She has denied responsibility for a post suggesting feminists who support Islam should have their genitalia mutilated. But she has admitted making other comments attributed to her, including calling for Muslims to be refused entry to Australia and saying in response to a story on refugees fleeing war zones in Syria and Iraq: “Don’t bloody send them to Tasmania. We don’t want them.” Whelan is one of several Liberal candidates who have resigned or been dumped during the campaign for anti-Muslim, homophobic and sexist comments, prompting internal frustration and calls for tougher procedures for vetting candidates. read the complete article

06 May 2019

NSW MP Jihad Dib says daughter bullied for being Muslim and called 'disgusting'

NSW Labor MP Jihad Dib has called out the normalisation of hate speech after he said his daughter was "constantly harangued" for being Muslim during a Sydney weekend soccer game. Mr Dib, who was the first Muslim person elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly, said that when he went to pick his 15-year-old daughter up after the game she was "deeply hurt and had been crying". He told SBS News that his daughter had been told that she "doesn't belong here" and called "disgusting". read the complete article


06 May 2019

Danish far-right party calling for Muslim deportation to stand in election

A far-right political party demanding the deportation of all Muslims and the preservation of the country for its “ethnic community” will be on the ballot paper in Denmark for the first time, in a general election due to be called within days. The Stram Kurs, or Hard Line party, led by Rasmus Paludan – a lawyer who is currently appealing against a conviction for racism – is feared to be on track to gain MPs after recently passing a threshold of voter support needed to stand in the election. Paludan, who has taken to regularly provoking unrest through anti-Islam demonstrations in areas of the Danish capital where large numbers of Muslims live, had tossed a book in the air he claimed was the Qur’an and let it fall to the ground. He is currently banned from commenting on Facebook following the posting of a picture the platform said broke its rules, which include a prohibition on hate speech aimed at people of a particular religion or ethnicity. He is also appealing against a conviction from April for expressing racist views about Africans in a video recording. read the complete article

United Kingdom

06 May 2019

‘I’m getting death threats,’ says man who threw milkshake on Tommy Robinson

Speaking to the Observer on video call from his home, where he lives with his mum, dad, and four siblings, Mahmud, 23, says he is still in shock. “I’m a low-key person, I didn’t anticipate this publicity and I don’t want it – I’m getting death threats on social media and I am worried about me and my family being targeted.” Mahmud says he was walking through the town square when he was invited to join protesters waiting to meet the English Defence Leaguefounder Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – on his volatile campaign trail to become an MEP for North West England. Robinson arrived in a Mercedes-type van, Mahmud recalls, and from there things got heated. Mahmud claims he was targeted by Robinson and his entourage. “The first time he approached me, he asked me if I thought he was racist and I said: yeah. Then he says: ‘do you know 80% of grooming gangs are Muslim?’ I go to him, ‘that’s a false statistic there, what about white paedophiles? Why are they not called Christian grooming gangs?’ – and then he goes off on one.” Mahmud says he was shoved and repeatedly abused. “I did join in with the protesters telling him he was scum, I admit it, but they [his supporters] had been really aggressive,” he says, alleging that some were shouting a racial slur at him and calling him a paedophile and a terrorist. Mahmud says he reported the incident to a police constable and left to go to his meeting. “They came running after me. At that point I was scared for my life. I looked calm but I knew that I was going to get beaten whatever the outcome was. He said I’d assaulted a woman, which wasn’t true. He said that I was aggressive and I couldn’t do shit so I just threw the milkshake in his face and ducked.” read the complete article

06 May 2019

Jayda Fransen sentenced over Belfast Islam speech

Jayda Fransen, 33, was found guilty of stirring up hatred during a speech about Islam in August 2017. She was also convicted for separate comments at a peace wall in the city. Convicting Fransen, of Moat Avenue in Donaghadee, County Down, a judge said her words were "a general, vehement attack against a religious group". The court heard that Fransen told those gathered at the rally that there was no moderate version of Islam and that "these people are baying for our blood". She added: "Islam says every single one of you wonderful people here today deserves to be killed." Those attending the rally were then told it was time for the world to come together against "the one common enemy". read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 May 2019 Edition


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