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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31 May 2023

Today in Islamophobia: In India,”‘The Kerala Story‘ follows the familiar pattern of the Modi government’s not so secret backing of hateful and divisive cinema,” notes Debasish Roy Chowdhury in a t.v. interview, meanwhile in Germany, state police have launched a new probe over a suspected arson attack on a mosque complex in Hannover, and in China, Hui Muslims clashed with a large number of police in Yunnan after they were blocked from worshipping in a mosque that they said authorities plan to demolish. Our recommended read of the day is by Robert McCaw and Justin Sadowsky for Common Dreams on how the Biden administration should deliver on its promise to review the federal terrorism watchlist and the no-fly list, which continue to cause deep harm to the lives of Muslim Americans. This and more below:

United States

The White House Cannot Ignore the Islamophobic Watchlist—It Must End It | Recommended Read

When President Joe Biden ran for office in 2020, he promised the American Muslim community that he would respond to their concerns about the harmful impact of the federal terrorism watchlist and the no-fly list by reviewing both databases and changing the processes to remove names. Three years later, nothing has been done. And American Muslims are suffering the consequences. Created by the Bush administration in the aftermath of September 11, the watchlist—then officially the “Terrorist Screening Database,” now the “Terrorist Screening Dataset”—is a list of more than a 1.5 million names of people known or suspected to be terrorists maintained by an organization the FBI made up, called the TSC, though the FBI cannot decide if that is short for “Terrorist Screening Center” or “Threat Screening Center.” The men and women on the list are all accused by the government of being “reasonably suspected” of having some association with terrorism, but there are no meaningful standards for what qualifies. Thanks to a recent leak of a 2019 version of part of the list to a Swiss hacker, we now also know what everyone has long suspected—that the so-called terrorist watchlist is essentially a list of Muslim names. CAIR had statistical experts perform a study of the leaked names on the list, and that study concluded that over 98% of the people on the list are Muslim. In contrast, government reports make clear that the largest terrorist threat to the United States comes from white supremacists. Life for the Muslims on the list is a nightmare. Those on the list cannot fly without coming to the airport, waiting potentially hours to be cleared by desk agents to fly, and then going through invasive secondary screening. read the complete article

Race, Entrapment and Manufacturing "Homegrown Terrorism"

At what point does offensive speech cross the line from being constitutionally protected to criminal? Rarely—would be the response of a free speech purist. Indeed, the First Amendment is intended to protect unpopular, offensive, and even subversive speech. Although this lesson may be taught to American schoolchildren, it is not the lived experience of Muslim dissidents, especially at the more extreme end of the political spectrum. And yet, the white extremists whose racist and anti-government hate speech has skyrocketed since the election of President Obama have not received attention commensurate to their growing influence. Only after they seized the United States Capitol in January 2021 did the government shift its domestic security priorities to meaningfully address the threat posed by far-right-wing groups. Such disparate treatment of political extremists of different racial and religious identities prompts the question: Is the problem one of law or of law enforcement? This Article argues that selective counterterrorism enforcement allocates disproportionate resources targeting Muslim communities; all the while, entrapment law fails to protect these communities from predatory sting operations. The extent to which otherwise First Amendment-protected activities are criminalized is most glaring in post-9/11 terrorism prosecutions in which Muslim defendants ensnared in sting operations have raised an entrapment defense. Specifically, a defendant’s social media posts—prior to the sting operations—are used as evidence of his predisposition to commit a terrorist act, notwithstanding that the plot was developed and led by an informant or undercover agent. Offensive speech is bootstrapped into showing a defendant’s willingness to commit a crime. Although numerous journalists and lawyers have come to this conclusion, the empirical basis is underdeveloped. This Article empirically tests this normative claim, based on the author’s database of 646 federal terrorism-related cases brought against Muslims between 2001 and 2021. The analysis reveals a criminalization of religious and dissident Muslims who have engaged in extremist speech but who have not engaged in violence without government ensnarement, while far-right supremacist groups are simultaneously granted license to plan politically motivated violence, culminating in a siege on the U.S. Capitol. read the complete article

Muslim woman from Grand Rapids to sue after being forced to remove hijab for mugshot

A Muslim rights group plans to sue the Kent County Sheriff’s Office for forcing a Black Muslim woman to remove her hijab for a booking photo following her arrest. The photo was later posted on the sheriff’s publicly accessible website. In a notice of claim filed Tuesday, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) alleges the sheriff’s office violated the religious rights of Jannah Hague, a 21-year-old from Grand Rapids. Hague was arrested on April 8 following an alleged domestic altercation at her home. At the Kent County jail, deputies forcibly removed Hague’s hijab, despite her pleading with them to allow her to keep her head covered as part of her religious beliefs, according to the complaint. She was forced to stand in front of a male officer for the photo, which was later uploaded to the office’s website. CAIR-MI says the office violated its own policy regarding religious head-coverings. read the complete article

What motivates people to act on hate? Retired professor shares insights on recent mosque attacks

Many in the local Muslim community are on edge from recent attacks on four Twin Cities mosques that caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Two suspects have been arrested for three of the attacks. Jackie Rahm Little is accused in two Minneapolis incidents, and was indicted on arson and a federal hate crime. Law enforcement authorities haven’t publicly stated the possible motives behind most of the attacks, but have said they don’t appear to be directly related aside from the fires Little allegedly set at Masjid Omar Islamic Center and Mercy Islamic Center in late April. The indictment against Little did not mention a potential motive. Sahan Journal spoke with University of Minnesota Sociology and Law Professor Joachim Savelsberg to explore why some people act out based on biases and beliefs about a group of people. Speaking via Zoom from his home in Berlin, Savelsberg offered three main reasons for why bias-motivated behavior started trending: a disruptive economy leading to discontent and hatred in some people, the scapegoating of these problems on certain groups of people reinforced by an echo chamber of media and social media, and public figures in positions of high authority who perpetuate this scapegoating through their platforms. “You see similar trends in other countries,” Savelsberg said. “But it gains a particular edge in the U.S.” read the complete article


Gujarat: Kajal Hindusthani spreads her divisive anti-Muslim agenda again, target audience Hindu women

Kajal Singhala a.k.a Kajal Hindusthani, the golden girl of extremist right-wing groups, is back from her break and has delivered two compelling speeches centered on the goals of Hindutva while using the occasion to spew anti-Muslim rhetoric. Hindusthani, who had been away from the limelight for some weeks after being arrested by Gujarat police a week after delivering a similarly incendiary speech on March 30 on the occasion of Ram Navami in Gujarat’s Una town. The purported speech, delivered at an event organised by Shree Ramkrushna Janmotsava Samiti, had triggered communal clashes in Una at the time. Through both the speeches, Hindusthani has majorly targeted and provoked Hindu women, urging them to take up arms to protect their dignity, their religion and their nation. As a part of our rigorous hate watch campaign, we have been diligently maintaining a record of the hate speeches being made by her on public platforms. From the pattern of her speeches, a major agenda behind her words, asking women to take the form of Goddess Kali, so that a false image of the revered Goddess combined with a perpetrated sense of insecurity from Muslim men is created in their minds, giving birth to more radicalised and provocative female leaders in like Sadhvi Rithambara and Sadhvi Pragya. read the complete article

Controversial Indian film 'The Kerala Story' blurs boundaries between fact and fiction

In India, a low-budget film has sparked huge controversy. "The Kerala Story" tells the fictional tale of three Hindu and Christian women from the southern Indian state, who are lured into the Islamic State group after converting to Islam. Indian PM Narendra Modi praised the film, saying it "exposed the consequences of terrorism in a society", while critics call it an attempt to spread hate and Islamophobia. We take a closer look and speak to journalist and author Debasish Roy Chowdhury. read the complete article


Germany probes arson attack on Hannover's largest mosque

German police launched a probe over a suspected arson attack on a mosque complex in Hannover late Monday. Recep Bilgen, chairman of the Muslim umbrella group Schura, said the largest mosque in Hannover was targeted in a suspected arson attack. "We demand a complete clarification and the protection of our houses of worship," he said on Twitter. Bilgen also underlined that the attack occurred on the 30th anniversary of the racist arson attack in Solingen, which left five members of a Turkish family dead. Hannover police said in a statement that the fire broke out on Monday night outside a restaurant in the mosque complex and was put out by the neighbors. Some chairs, the facade of the building and a window were damaged. The police have appealed for witnesses and requested anyone with information to come forward and assist in the investigation into the incident. Germany has witnessed growing racism and Islamophobia in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of far-right groups, which have exploited the refugee crisis and attempted to stoke fear of immigrants. According to the latest data, police registered at least 610 Islamophobic hate crimes in 2022 across the country. read the complete article

United Kingdom

The Irony of the Hate Crime Funding Application that Includes Engaging with Prevent

Charities and organisations working on social justice issues, especially immigration, will be aware of the difficult funding climate we navigate. Having to be reactive to constant policy and legislative changes means there is always a focus on the here and now, rather than the longer-term changes we want to see. So, when a new funding calls come out, like the one by the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to tackle hate and extremism, it can become a small beacon of hope for the work we want to deliver but lacking the resources to do so. We know that dehumanising language has led to a fuelling of racism targeted at minority communities, including migrants and refugees. At the Migrants’ Rights Network, we have been focused on the rapid descent into negative and dehumanising narratives from the Government, sections of our media and influencers. Disappointingly, what has stopped us from applying is the inclusion of the Prevent programme as part of the application process. Prevent is the Government’s counter-extremism programme which is outsourced to the public sector to report signs of radicalisation and/or violent extremist behaviour in individuals. It disproportionately targets and stigmatises Muslim communities, and reduces trust-building and engagement with Muslim people. The MOPAC application form advises “that you engage with the local authorities’ Prevent team/leads as part of the planning for your project prior to submitting an application, in order to gain their support for your proposal”. There is a growing issue with knowing where funding comes from and the conditions attached to these calls. Funding to focus on issues like hate crime are now being filtered through the Government’s counter-extremism strategy. Whereas, in the past, it used to have two forms – one addressing “community cohesion” and the other the security aspects of Prevent. read the complete article

MP known for Islamophobic remarks appointed by UK govt as reviewer into Leicester unrest

The British government on Friday announced an independent inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Ian Austin into tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the city of Leicester last year. The appointment of Lord Ian Austin has faced criticism due to his history of making Islamophobic remarks. Previously, he was compelled to issue an apology by a UK court following a libel lawsuit related to his comment referring to Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA), a UK-based NGO advocating against Israel’s illegal occupation in Palestine, as “Holocaust deniers. One of the Labour Councillors in Leicester Sharman Rahman criticised his appointment by saying it “ends any hope that this review will be conducted in a fair and balanced manner.” MP Austin faced further criticism for making racist and bigoted remarks on multiple occasions. One instance involved him sharing a manipulated image of TOM&JERRY ice cream with the label “HAMAS TERRORISM” on it. Additionally, he tweeted, “Ben and Jerry’s have stopped selling ice cream in the West Bank, but they’ve introduced new flavors for Gaza." The Labour Muslim Network had reacted to his tweet as “this is pure Islamophobia by a former Labour MP and should be condemned by every public figure with a conscience. Islamophobia is not only rife in our society, it’s mainstream in our politics.” read the complete article


GLOBAL: Rohingya reparations and human rights must top Meta shareholders agenda

Ahead of Meta’s Annual Shareholder Meeting on Wednesday (31 May 2023), Pat de Brún, Head of Big Tech Accountability and Deputy Director of Amnesty Tech, said:  “It is way beyond time that Meta fulfilled its responsibilities and provided an effective remedy to the Rohingya people of Myanmar. It is reprehensible that Meta still refuses to repair the harms it contributed to despite the overwhelming evidence that the company played a key role in 2017’s ethnic cleansing.  “The Rohingya people were killed, tortured, raped, and displaced in their thousands as part of the Myanmar security forces’ campaign of ethnic cleansing. In the months and years leading up to the atrocities, Facebook’s algorithms were intensifying a storm of hatred against the Rohingya, which contributed to mass offline violence. “Today, the vast majority of Rohingya survivors remain stranded in squalid refugee camps and internment camps under conditions of severe deprivation. Meanwhile, Meta continues to reap enormous profits from the same toxic business model that contributed to so much destruction for the Rohingya.  “Meta shareholders should utilise this shareholder meeting to demand that Meta’s leadership fulfils its responsibility under international human rights standards to provide reparations to the Rohingya.   read the complete article


Tensions flare in China as Muslim protesters clash with police over mosque demolition

Protesters of ethnic minority Muslims clashed with a large number of police in southwest China after they were blocked from worshipping in a mosque that they said authorities plan to demolish. Clashes broke out over the weekend outside the 13th-century Najiaying mosque in Yunnan province, which has a significant population of Hui ethnic group Muslims. The apparent crackdown on religious minorities comes amid Xi Jinping’s wider campaign to “sinicise” religion and seek greater control. Under Mr Xi’s plans to ensure “sinicisation”, which broadly means bringing religions in line with Chinese character or influence on religions, authorities are cracking down on ethnic minorities. In a 2021 meeting of his Communist party, Mr Xi called for the promotion of the “sinicisation of religion”. Witnesses told CNN on condition of anonymity that thousands of Hui residents had gathered around the mosque on Saturday, with nearly 1,000 police officers deployed outside the mosque. Residents took turns to guard the mosque through Saturday and Sunday night, fearing demolition of some parts of the building. In a 2020 judgement, a court ruled that any architectural additions to religious sites would be deemed illegal, ordering them to be demolished. Demolitions of parts of religious structures following the order have led to demonstrations among people. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 31 May 2023 Edition


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