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 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Coronavirus intensifies Islamophobia in India. Writing for The Daily Sabah, Bridge Research Fellow Farid Hafez profiles Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Our recommended read today is by Rowaida Abdelaziz on Muslim doctors fighting COVID-19 on the front lines. This, and more, below:

United States

06 May 2020

Muslim Doctors Fight COVID-19 — And Islamophobia — On The Front Lines | Recommended Read

Syed Raheel Hassan, a doctor in New Jersey, sees nearly twice the number of patients he did before the coronavirus pandemic hit the state. Hassan’s days are packed as he moves from room to room at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, treating COVID-19 patients. But he takes the time to talk with patients so that they don’t feel alone, sometimes helping place calls to their families, knowing that the conversation could be their last. Hassan knows how important this is because he’s been there himself. Hassan contracted the coronavirus in March. Hassan thinks of these experiences when he sees patients. And his patients appreciate it: They know him as the Muslim doctor with the beard who helps families call their loved ones when things turn dire. One woman who lost her uncle recently called the hospital to thank Hassan for his work. Hassan is one of many Muslim doctors on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. They work despite the risk to themselves and their families. Many do so even while fasting during the day in observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Despite this, Muslims continue to be vilified in conspiracy theories and disinformation pushed by far-right groups and websites. Last month, President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that mosques could avoid social distancing orders during the coronavirus lockdown and that there was a “great disparity” in the treatment of mosques and churches. Nevertheless, Muslim medical workers continue to provide essential services as proud Muslims and proud Americans. HuffPost talked to several Muslim doctors about their work battling the coronavirus, Ramadan and their Muslim identity. read the complete article

Recommended Read
06 May 2020

CAIR-NJ Welcomes Charges for Man Who Allegedly Rammed Vehicle of Muslim Woman, Shouted ‘You’re a Terrorist’

According to a Nutley Township police report, on May 21, 2020, Michael Morrison, 55, attacked the victim while at a Carvel in Nutley, N.J. While inside the Carvel, Morrison allegedly yelled, “You’re a terrorist”, and “I’m going to kill you” at the victim, and her 16 year-old-son. After exiting the Carvel and driving away from the facility, Morrison reportedly proceeded to follow the victim in his SUV and purposefully crash into the driver’s side of the victim’s vehicle while she remained parked at a stop sign. Morrison allegedly then fled the scene. Later that evening Nutley Police arrested of Morrison at his home. read the complete article

06 May 2020

False claim: Pennsylvania Governor converted to Islam

Shared hundreds of times on Facebook, posts with the headline “Pennsylvania Governor Converts to Islam? Spotted Praising Allah” link to an article on This claim is false. The article, visible here claims: “Photographs of Pennsylvania’s Democrat Governor Tom Wolf indicate the lawmaker who has been accused of being ‘Christianphobic’ has converted to Islam.” Examples of posts sharing the article can be seen here; here The posts feature the governor pictured with former state representative Movita Johnson-Harrell, who was the first female Muslim member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Other images included in the article show the governor kneeling and praying alongside Muslims. The photos were taken during a celebration of the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha at the governor’s residence on August 5, 2019. The album of photos can be found here. read the complete article


06 May 2020

From celebration to crisis: The Austrian chancellor of exclusion

When Kurz was state secretary of integration, he had told a young lady that her niqab-wearing mother should defend her right to wear what she wants when she is bullied on the streets. The new Kurz implemented not only a ban of the niqab in 2017 as minister of integration but also a hijab ban for kindergartens, primary schools and parts of high school. He even vowed to expand this to universities and the public sphere when he was chancellor and governing with the far-right. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel usually begins her coronavirus speech with the words “Dear citizens” and the Austrian president begins his speech with the words “Dear Austrians and everyone who lives here,” the youngest leading statesman in the world, Kurz, only refers to “Austrians,” excluding 16% of the population who are native to the country. Many close observers saw in his rhetoric a nationalist notion of exclusion because it is known that Kurz and his team don’t leave his selection of words to chance. Only once did he thank “all people living in Austria” for having contributed to the lockdown measures against the spread of the virus. Still, 50% of all nursing staff comes from Romania and are even allowed to travel into the country despite the general closing of the borders. The exclusionary discourse becomes even more obvious when we take a look at the chancellor’s way of embracing religious holidays. The new minister of integration shares her greetings with Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians to congratulate them for Easter, and Jews for Passover, but disregards Muslims when they start Ramadan. This is at least the story for Facebook. While on Twitter, Kurz congratulated Muslims for Ramadan, but only in English. The explanation for this is obvious. On Twitter, Kurz's target audience is the diplomatic corps and international political leaders, not the Muslims living in Austria. read the complete article


06 May 2020

The coronavirus pandemic intensifies Islamophobia in India

Along with its more than 37,000 positive COVID-19 cases and over 1,200 deaths so far, India finds itself battling against another threat. Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a country-wide lockdown on March 25, 2020, instances of Islamophobia have intensified and many leading news channels stand accused of adding fuel to the fire. This sudden uptick in COVID-19-related Islamophobia is related to a gathering organised by the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group, which took place in India's capital a day ahead of the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The event was largely blamed for the increase in India's COVID-19 cases. While Islamophobia against India's Muslim population has increased slowly since Modi came to power in 2014 — with multiple lynchings, riots, and mob attacks recorded — troll armies used the Tablighi Jamaat meeting to target Muslims on social media and elsewhere. Leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) referred to the Jamaat meeting as a “Talibani crime” and “CoronaTerrorism”. The resulting #CoronaJihad hashtag soon went viral and fake news plagued social media spaces. read the complete article

06 May 2020

The Tow Center COVID-19 Newsletter: India’s lockdowns and Islamophobia

Indian publications are divided on their portrayal of Narendra Modi’s BJP government. Recently, this division has shaped Indian coverage of COVID-19. On April 5, the government claimed to link more than a thousand positive COVID-19 cases to the annual meeting of a Muslim missionary group, the Tablighi Jamaat between March 8th and 10th. Vitriol against the group—and all of Islam—from “bhakts” (staunch Modi supporters), flowed online. Hashtags like #BioJihad and #CoronoJihad trended on Twitter, the latter seen by up to as many as 165 million people according to an analysis by Equality Labs, an activist organization in the US. Many in the media blamed the spread of Coronavirus on India’s Muslims. In the midst of this frenzy of hate, The Wire, a publication often critical of the Modi government’s Hindu nationalism, published a story on March 31 pointing out that the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Yogi Adityanath, okayed and attended a Hindu religious ceremony on March 25 along with dozens of others in violation of a nationwide lockdown. A day after the story ran, the UP government registered 2 FIRs—requests for information that might lead to future arrest—against The Wire’s editor, Siddharth Varadrajan. Two weeks later, some of the media turned its Islamophobic gaze on Mumbai. On April 14, 2,000 people gathered at a Mumbai train station—a dangerous violation of the lockdown. The throng was initially identified as migrant workers who believed special trains had been organized to take them to their home states from the camps in Mumbai where they are living while they are unable to work. But there were no such trains. read the complete article


06 May 2020

'Disturbing, Islamophobic' tweet about call to prayer in Brampton prompts investigation by Peel school board Social Sharing

A "disturbing, Islamphobic tweet" on the city of Brampton's decision to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer has prompted the Peel District School Board to remove one of its school council chairs and launch an investigation into comments it says are "never acceptable." "What's next? Separate lanes for camel & goat riders, allowing slaughter of animals at home in the name of sacrifice, bylaw requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents to appease the piece fools for votes," replied a user by the name of Ravi Hooda. According to the Peel District School Board, he was also an executive school council member for the Macville Public School in the city of Bolton. School councils are comprised of parents, staff and community representatives and advise principals on a range of topics including codes of behaviour, budget priorities, and curriculum delivery. That changed Tuesday morning, when the board tweeted that Hooda was being removed from his role as school council chair and will no longer be allowed to participate on council "in any other capacity." read the complete article


06 May 2020

Preserving Uyghur Art And Culture Amid Cultural Genocide

For victims of state violence or those witnessing its horror, knowing how to help and how to imagine a way forward may be the most urgent task. With that in mind, I was joined by Yī Xiǎocuō 一小撮 (who has written for SupChina before), creator of the Camp Album, to discuss the current state violence and concentration camps built and managed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang. In particular, we talk about why art and culture can be tools to push back against oppression and violence. “For minority populations that have been deprived a voice and freedom for so long, art is a way for self-empowerment and self-representation,” Yi says. “Even in the harshest circumstances, art has a way to deride power and authority to help people cope.” Yi Xiaocuo: I belong to one of the Turkic ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang. I was in grad school in North America when the situation in Xinjiang deteriorated after 2016-2017, and since then I never returned home. Yi Xiaocuo is my pen name, meaning “a small contingent” in Chinese, written as 一小撮. The Communist Party of China often uses this term to denigrate dissidents as just a “minority” that deserves to be violently crushed. I am now reclaiming this term to amplify the voices of those minorities. Being self-exiled under these circumstances, I first dealt with the stress and anxiety through drawing and writing. Eventually I realized I was not alone, so I decided to document the community’s collective experience coping with the distress. It is also my hope that this project can reach more people and raise awareness on the human rights crisis and cultural genocide in Xinjiang. read the complete article

06 May 2020

A Lost ‘Little Africa’: How China, Too, Blames Foreigners for the Virus

By April 11, the authorities in Guangzhou had identified one hundred and nineteen “imported” cases of Covid-19, twelve of which concerned nationals of African countries. A cluster of local, non-imported infections in the city was traced to a single African restaurant. These incidents resulted in a severe crackdown, which may have led to an uneven and chaotic interpretation of official policies as the orders made their way down the bureaucracy. One Togolese student was unable to find a place to stay when he was evicted after his university shut down campus housing. He took to sleeping under a bridge until he was chased away by police. A Nigerian student was given just hours to evacuate his apartment and forced into self-isolation at a designated quarantine hotel (often at the “guest’s” own cost) even after testing negative for Covid-19. Sectioned-off sidewalks were barred to Africans. A McDonald’s employee was pictured holding up a sign stating that the restaurant was no longer serving black people. These and many other similar incidents captured on phone cameras traveled online across the world, along with a deluge of comments on Chinese social media justifying such actions and repeating racist stereotypes of Africans as “ungrateful” foreign migrants, carriers of disease, and criminal elements. Taken together, the experiences of Africans and the haunting chorus of racism suggest that this was about more than simply pandemic management. read the complete article


06 May 2020

What to know about US legislation aimed at punishing China for human rights abuses

In the past several years, China has thrown an estimated 1 million minority Uyghurs into concentration camps without any legal process, according to the United Nations. The Uyghurs largely come from China’s far-western Xinjiang region, of which they account for about 60 percent of the total population. China has long denied these allegations, claiming that the camps are mere vocational training centers providing job and language skills to the Uyghurs. As of May 2020, U.S. lawmakers have introduced two bills intended to put sanctions on companies and individuals associated with forced labor in these concentration camps. In December, the U.S. Senate passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. Introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the bill aims to condemn gross human rights violations of Uyghurs and calls for an end to “arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China.” Several months later Rubio and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., introduced another bill, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which aims to prevent goods made from forced labor in China from reaching the U.S. The latter bill, citing reports from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, listed multiple international corporations that are suspected of “directly employing forced labor or sourcing from suppliers that are suspected of using forced labor.” read the complete article

06 May 2020

Why Gulf States Are Backtracking on India

Over the last several years, especially under the tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India had made significant strides in its relations with the countries of the Persian Gulf. And it achieved those gains while also maintaining cordial ties with two of the principal antagonists in the region: Iran and Saudi Arabia. For an unabashedly Hindu nationalist government, this was no minor accomplishment, especially since Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates were historical partners of India’s archrival, Pakistan. But the relationships that New Delhi so carefully crafted over the past five years—drawing on the efforts of the previous government—are now at substantial risk. Domestic developments targeting its 200 million Muslims are beginning to unravel India’s diplomatic feat. Official reports suggest that the coronavirus outbreak has only had a limited impact on India’s population—at least so far. But despite the relatively low reported numbers of infections and deaths, India’s Muslim community has faced online and physical assaults during the coronavirus crisis—incidents in which members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are also implicated. The attacks came in the wake of news that an Islamic sect, the Tablighi Jamaat, held a large annual meeting in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin district in early March, right as countries were beginning to restrict public gatherings to prevent the virus’s spread. With nearly 3,000 pilgrims from over a dozen countries packed in cramped quarters, the coronavirus spread rapidly; the assembly has now been identified as a major source of infections in India. There is little question that holding this meeting—despite widespread knowledge of the virus—was reckless. But the blatant abuse of India’s Muslim communities now places at risk New Delhi’s carefully tailored diplomatic approach to the Middle East, and especially toward the Gulf states. Blaming Muslims for the spread of the coronavirus in India seems to be a step too far for important actors in the Gulf—and could even upend its relations with the region. One key factor is that India’s approach toward Muslims is no longer simply an internal matter if its citizens based in the Gulf also promote Islamophobic rhetoric. read the complete article

United Kingdom

06 May 2020

Trevor Phillips' firm's Origins software linked ethnic groups to crime

The involvement of Trevor Phillips’ consultancy in the inquiry into Covid-19’s impact on ethnic minorities has run into fresh controversy after it emerged its software has been used to identify whether different ethnic groups “specialise” in particular types of crime. Prof Richard Webber, Phillips’ partner in the firm Webber Phillips, says its Origins programme – which identifies people’s ethnicity/religion on the basis of their names – helps to ensure police investigations are “not based on stereotyping but on hard evidence”. Critics argue it promotes stereotypes and stigmatization. Writing about Origins in the industry journal Police Professional in 2017, Webber said it was wrong to lump different ethnic groups together. “Just as each community develops legitimate means of acquiring wealth, it would be surprising if there were not a parallel specialisation in forms of criminality,” he wrote. “Sometimes these go together; as, for instance, where the minority population most likely to run petrol stations is also the one that is most proficient in ATM fraud; or when those who run taxi services have the best opportunities to engage in abuse of young girls.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 06 May 2020 Edition


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