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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07 May 2019

Today in Islamophobia: Despite criticism from the intelligence community, President Donald Trump doubles down on his plan to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Critics fear that this move could lead to the scapegoating of all Muslims. Elsewhere in the United States, Rep. Ilhan Omar refuses to be silenced, despite death threats aimed her way; meanwhile, an anti-Muslim activist raised $67,000 after being banned from Facebook. In China, Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang fear observing Ramadan will lead to repression, while the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka urges calm after devastating blasts killed 250 Easter worshipers in Colombo. Today’s recommended read of the day, by Alex Kotch, tracks how mainstream charities bankroll Islamophobic hate groups.

United States

07 May 2019

Mainstream Charities Bankroll Islamophobic Hate Groups, New Report Shows | Recommended Read

More than a thousand nonprofit foundations poured $125 million into 39 anti-Muslim organizations from 2014-16, according to a May 6 report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The donors included mainstream charitable organizations linked to companies such as Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab. The authors of the report, Dr. Abbas Barzegar, national research and advocacy director, and Zainab Arain, national research and advocacy manager, used federal tax filings to compile a database of the funders of the “Islamophobia Network”—groups that CAIR considers Islamophobic. CAIR describes the network as “a close-knit family of organizations and individuals that share an ideology of extreme anti-Muslim animus, and work with one another to negatively influence public opinion and government policy about Muslims and Islam. “Together, the expansive funding network revealed in this report demonstrates that the Islamophobia Network cannot be considered a marginal or passing phenomenon in American society. Rather, it is a shameful institutional feature of American philanthropy,” said Arain in a press release. read the complete article

Our recommended read of the day
07 May 2019

On Muslim Brotherhood, Trump Weighs Siding With Autocrats and Roiling Middle East

The Trump administration has has resurrected the proposal to brand the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, prompting a fierce debate between the government’s political appointees and its career experts. The designation would impose wide-ranging American economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the loose-knit Islamist movement that was founded in Egypt and is recognized as a legitimate political entity in many Muslim-majority governments. It is the president’s latest major foreign policy decision that appears to have been heavily influenced by autocratic leaders without first being fully vetted by career American government officials. Opposing the terrorist designation are United States counterterrorism, intelligence and defense officials, who worry it would divert resources from demonstrated terrorist threats, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, and roil American relations in the Middle East. Administration lawyers have argued strongly that federal courts would overturn the designation and that the criteria for designating a terrorist organization are not a good fit for the Muslim Brotherhood, given that its members call for a society in accordance with Islamic law and generally do not advocate for violence. Branding it a terrorist organization would not only jeopardize diplomatic or military relations with any of those nations, but also “politicize the designation process, which would undercut the strength of actual designations against terrorist groups,” said Andrew Miller, a former State Department official now at the Project on Middle East Democracy, a research group in Washington. read the complete article

07 May 2019

Opinion | Calling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group would make all Muslims scapegoats

That’s been a goal of many anti-Muslim activists and professional Islamophobes for years. The government has never gone along with the push to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, largely because intelligence officials and outside analysts agree that the group simply isn’t one. But the difference now is that Donald Trump is in the White House, and bashing Muslims without regard for the possible consequences fits perfectly with his politics. Even the CIA thinks it’s a terrible idea to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The agency’s experts warned two years ago that designation of the Brotherhood could actually “fuel extremism” and damage relations with America’s allies, Politico Magazine reported. The agency document, published internally on Jan. 31, 2017, noted that the Muslim Brotherhood — which boasts millions of followers around the Arab world — has “rejected violence as a matter of official policy and [has publicly] opposed al-Qaeda and ISIS” and other terrorist groups as well. For decades, the “Muslim Brotherhood” label has been deployed as very sloppy shorthand to refer to all American Muslim politicians, government officials and civic organizations with whom conservatives disagree ideologically. Anti-Muslim activists have also used it to attack Muslim government officials such as former congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin — and even Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who famously criticized Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. read the complete article

07 May 2019

Ilhan Omar Won't Be Quiet

“And so, people ask me, ‘Ilhan, do you feel afraid? Do you feel marginalized?’ And I don’t,” Omar said. “Because I know hundreds of my sisters are constantly walking with me in every single space I’m in.” “So thank you for the hugs,” she continued. “But know that I’m OK ― I got this.”Already this year, two people have been arrested for making threatening calls about Omar ― “I’ll put a bullet in her fucking skull,” one of them said ― and a third is being investigated for threatening to bomb a hotel that let Omar inside. Part of the fervor must be understood in the context of who she is: a Somali American, Muslim refugee who, at a time of rising Islamophobia, has become the first congresswoman in U.S. history to wear a hijab on the House floor. The rest can be explained by her own words, clumsy or hate-filled depending on whom you ask. Some pundits questioned Omar’s loyalty to the U.S. Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro suggested Omar might not fully support the Constitution because she is Muslim. Other used Omar’s comments as a reason to zero in on Minneapolis’ sizable and largely impoverished Somali population. It didn’t help that a handful of Twin Cities residents had joined jihadist groups overseas in recent years. Fox News published a story that repeatedly referenced Omar with the headline “How Minneapolis’ Somali community became the terrorist recruitment capital of the US.” A conspiracy theory circulated on social media falsely alleging Obama had brought in Somali refugees as part of a plan to elect Omar. “They’re trying to make her out to be this Muslim radical, who is an extremist, who is trying to infiltrate the government,” said Asma Mohammed, an advocacy director at the Minneapolis-based Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment. Such accusations have become normal in recent years, as a growing number of politicians have wielded anti-Muslim sentiment to their advantage. Trump, a particularly prominent practitioner, blatantly played into Islamophobic furor during his election campaign. “I think Islam hates us,” he said in 2016. Now, Trump reportedly wants to do so again by making Omar the new face of the Democratic Party heading into 2020. If Trump has rattled Omar in recent months, she hides it well. “As someone who certainly has survived far worse people than him, I’m going to be alright,” said Omar, who escaped civil war in Somalia as a child. read the complete article

07 May 2019

Opinion | Trump Helps Bigots Go Viral

In 2017, the Canadian right-wing activist and filmmaker Lauren Southern joined a group of young European nationalists on a boat in Mediterranean waters. Their mission was to interfere with humanitarian groups that rescue migrants at sea. The next year Southern released a documentary about the threat of “white genocide” in South Africa. She’s a proponent of the “great replacement” theory, which holds that white Europeans are being systematically supplanted by Muslim migrants. On Friday, her public profile got a boost from Donald Trump when he retweeted her. Last week, Facebook announced that it was banning a group of extremist figures from the platform. Among them were the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; Louis Farrakhan; and Paul Joseph Watson, a British former editor at large for Jones’s website, Infowars, who now makes anti-Islam and anti-feminist YouTube videos like “Why Are Feminists Fat & Ugly?” Trump tweeted that he was surprised to see “Conservative thinkers” like Watson de-platformed, and retweeted Watson’s call for solidarity: “The supportfor me has been incredible. This could actually lead to some genuine change. Keep up the pressure. Don’t let it rest.” That wasn’t all; Trump also tweeted an Infowars video, as well as retweeted a message from a conspiracy account that said, “The ‘elite’ proclaim America must submit to Islam or else!!!” It’s tempting to ignore Trump’s tweeting, even if his social media messages do occasionally cause global financial markets to plummet. Yet when Trump amplifies far-right voices, people on the fringes notice. On 8chan, the online hangout of both the man charged with slaughtering Muslims in New Zealand recently and the man charged in the Poway synagogue shooting, a poster wrote, “IF POTUS is retweeting something like this, the gloves are really off. It’s ON.” read the complete article

07 May 2019

Anti-Muslim Twitter Propagandist Raises $67K After Being Banned

Laura Loomer has raised more than $67,000 on her website. The reason for the existence of the fund is the fact that she has been talking quite a bit about impending Sharia Law in America on social media. Twitter banned her permanently, and shortly thereafter, she was banned from Facebook for 24 hours. Loomer says that she was banned from the social networking sites for stating “facts” about Sharia Law. Laura Loomer believes that Muslims are a threat to America, and any organization designed to help them, such as the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is going to usher in Sharia Law across America. There are obviously a lot of Americans out there who think the same thing, which is why she raised so much money. This a clear example of racism and religious hatred in America. read the complete article


07 May 2019

China denies having 'concentration camps,' tells US to 'stop interfering'

The western Chinese region of Xinjiang is home to a large population of Uyghur people, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group which has long had an uncomfortable and sometimes fractious relationshipwith the Han-majority Chinese government. In recent years, the government has detained large numbers of Uyghurs in what former detainees describe as re-education centers with prison-like conditions, aimed at eradicating Uyghur cultural and religious practices and instilling Communist Party propaganda—a practice described by one as "cultural genocide."However, Beijing has repeatedly denied the Uyghur citizens are being held in such large numbers and against their will, calling the camps instead "vocational education training centers." Speaking at his daily press briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said claims of concentration camps in Xinjiang were "simply not true" and claimed the mass camps were set up to "combat terrorism." "We urge the relevant US individual to respect the fact, abandon bias, exercise prudence in words and deeds, stop interfering in China's domestic affairs and earnestly contribute to mutual trust and cooperation between us," he said. read the complete article

07 May 2019

China cracks down on Ramadan fasting, prompting activist boycott of Chinese products

The restrictions are particularly enforced in the Muslim-majority Western province of Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities frequently stay at the homes of Muslim families to suppress religious activities, according to the Human Rights Watch and activists. Amnesty International said in a report released late last week Chinese authorities view Ramadan fasting — along with other displays of religious affiliation including beards, headscarves, regular prayers and avoidance of alcohol — as a "sign of extremism". While restrictions on Ramadan fasting in schools and government offices have existed for decades, mass surveillance and detentions have intensified over the past three years in an effort to stop families from adhering to Muslim traditions even within their own homes, Alip Erkin, a Uyghur media activist for the Uyghur Bulletin, said. Mr Erkin said people now feared they could be sent to internment camps "if they engaged in any religious activities or expressed their religious identities or traditional cultures". Aileen, 37, a Hui Muslim from the north-western Gansu province, said officials regularly searched homes and stayed with families in Xinjiang for about a week "to ensure there is no religious practice within the household". If items such as prayer mats or religious books were found, someone was usually detained, said Aileen. read the complete article

07 May 2019

China’s 'horrifying' new surveillance system could have global consequences

On Thursday, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report titled “China’s Algorithms of Repression: Reverse Engineering a Xinjiang Police Mass Surveillance App,” revealed how Chinese authorities have developed a mobile app for police to use. The app pulls data from China’s mass surveillance system – the Integrated Joint Operations Platform(IJOP) – to help police build detailed personal profiles on Uighurs and Turkic Muslims living in Xinjiang. In addition to gathering information like blood type, height, "religious atmosphere" and political affiliation, police can use the app to determine things like when a registered owner of a car is not the same person as the one buying petrol or when people take overseas trips for a length of stay that the authorities might consider worrying. Authorities are then prompted to interrogate the person, their relatives or acquaintances. The police are known to manually search through people’s phones for one of 51 internet tools considered "suspicious". Communication apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), are considered suspicious, the HRW report revealed. Dr Thomas Cliff from the Australian National University says the Xinjiang region’s location and recent history make it an ideal testbed for complicated mass surveillance programs. “I have argued that Xinjiang is both behind and ahead,” he told Dateline. “That means it’s a frontier, and some things get there later from the core areas. But it’s also a laboratory and a place of experimentation. There are certain things you can do in the frontiers further away from the core population, cultural areas and core political areas that you couldn’t test out there.” With China’s booming presence around the world, opportunities for expansion could be rife. read the complete article

Sri Lanka

07 May 2019

Sri Lanka's Catholic Church urges calm following Christian-Muslim clashes

Sri Lanka's Roman Catholic Church appealed for calm and an alcohol ban Monday after clashes between Christians and Muslims in a town scarred by Easter Day's suicide attacks. Hundreds of security forces entered Negombo to impose a curfew after dozens of Muslim-owned shops, homes and vehicles were attacked. St. Sebastian's church in the town 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of capital Colombo was one of three churches and three hotels hit by Islamic State group-linked suicide bombers on 21 April killing 257 people. "I appeal to all Catholic and Christian brothers and sisters not to hurt even a single Muslim person because they are our brothers, because they are part of our religious culture," said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo. "Therefore please avoid hurting them and try to create a better spirit of understanding and good relations between all the communities of Sri Lanka," he said in a video message to the country. "At least three people were injured in the clashes," the officer told AFP. "Although we have arrested only two suspects at the moment, many more have been identified and we will go after them." The officer said an alcohol-fuelled dispute between two groups degenerated into the clashes. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 07 May 2019 Edition


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