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.

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22 Nov 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In the United Kingdom, police have said that a group of four women tried to rip the hijabs off two Muslim teenagers in a hate crime attack that occurred in October, meanwhile The Observer finds that “the real threat posed by Zemmour is not electoral. It’s ideological and cultural” as his divisive rhetoric “feeds off fear of change, fear of difference, fear of each other” in Europe, and in Yemen, a former Guantanamo detainee unjustly imprisoned by the U.S. for 14 years and then later tortured in a UAE prison ran away from family, and has been detained by Houthi militia members at a checkpoint. Our recommended read of the day is by Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan for the Guardian on how “Azeem Rafiq’s account [of racism and Islamophobia] and its reception point to the struggles of a community shaped by colonialism and exploitation.” This and more below:

United Kingdom

22 Nov 2021

It’s not just cricket. Racism against Yorkshire’s south Asian Muslims has a long history | Recommended Read

When Rafiq spoke about being physically pinned down and having red wine poured down his throat at age 15, I thought about the ways that action replicated the logic of a whole range of top-down policies and processes that have violently been imposed on people of colour. For instance, in response to the arrival of Commonwealth migrants after the second world war, 11 local councils adopted a policy of “bussing” immigrant children to attend schools elsewhere in order that they made up no more than 30% of the classroom. Three of the 11 councils that adopted this policy – Bradford, Huddersfield and Halifax – were in Yorkshire. Paraded as an “integration” project, the buses were soon termed “Paki buses” by local people, and children were taught in segregated sections of buildings. This exemplifies the paradoxical message that haunts us to this day: while we order you to integrate, we will continue to label you and punish you as outsiders. At the time, the “problem” was immigrants not speaking English. Later, in 1988, the problem would be rearticulated as one of cultural backwardness linked specifically to Islam, in light of images of Asian Yorkshiremen burning Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. By 2001, news media would invoke such images again when they spoke of riots in Bradford. The government review would explain the unrest as the result of “parallel lives” – suggesting that south Asians lived “apart from” the “rest of society”, rather than considering police brutality and fascist violence, or decades of deindustrialisation and unemployment, or racist labour and housing markets. After 7/7, in 2005, the narrative about Yorkshire’s Asian Muslim population (both terms conflated since the war on terror began) would be solidified when three of the bombers were found to be from my hometown, Leeds. After so many decades of positioning Yorkshire’s Asians as a menace to the nation, the locale would be deemed explanation enough for their violence. Multiculturalism was declared a failure, and south Asian Muslims were seen to require surveillance at every level – now blatant through the Prevent strategy and counter-extremism, which criminalise our identities in every public institution. Entire Yorkshire towns would go on to be castigated through Islamophobic and racist stereotypes. Think of Rotherham and you think of “grooming gangs”; think of Bradford and you think of documentaries like Make Bradford British. To fully understand this racism, we need to look deeper into the social and economic forces that shaped Yorkshire’s Asian population. British colonialism, working-class exploitation and racist border legislation can all shed light on the distinct manifestation of racism that Rafiq, and all of us, well know. read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

Muslim schoolgirls attacked after mosque prayers by 4 women trying to rip off hijabs

A group of four women tried to rip the hijabs off two Muslim teenagers in a terrifying hate crime attack, police have said. The shocking incident took place at around 7.40pm on October 14, when the girls, aged 14 and 13, were leaving a place of worship in Sheffield. Police say they were approached by four unknown women, who assaulted them both by grabbing them and trying to remove their traditional Muslim dress and hijab. The two girls suffered minor injuries in the attack. Since the incident, which is being treated as a hate crime, police officers say they have carried out extensive lines of enquiry and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward. read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

Islamophobia Awareness Month calls for change on UK anti-Muslim hate

Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) is aiming to combat the deepening crisis of anti-Muslim hate in the UK this November. The annual campaign, which the NGO Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) cofounded nine years ago, has made Time for Change its 2021 theme, seeking concrete improvements. Events this year include reading groups, talks and exhibitions hosted by Muslim organisations, plus companies, local councils, university students' unions and more. The UK's Home Office last month found 45 percent of religious hate crime in England and Wales was aimed at Muslims during the year ending March 2021. MEND CEO Azhar Qayum said: "Close to 50 percent of… religiously motivated hate crime directed at, you know, 4.8 percent of the population is quite a serious thing." read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

Labour tells Tories to tackle Islamophobia in society and within own ranks

Labour has called on the Conservative Party to “get serious” on tackling Islamophobia as statistics showed that nearly half of all religious hate crimes last year targeted Muslims. Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds has written to her Tory counterpart Oliver Dowden telling him to not only tackle Islamophobia in society but in his own party ranks. In the letter, Ms Dodds and Manchester Gorton MP Afzal Khan, chair of Labour’s Muslim Network, said Muslims “remained consistently, and especially, vulnerable to religiously motivated hate crimes – a trend that shows no signs of abating under the Conservative Government”. The pair questioned whether the Singh Investigation released earlier this year “presented a full picture of Islamophobia within your own party” and said Labour would be keeping a close watch on the approaching deadlines the party had set itself for responding to the probe. And they said the Conservative Party refused to use the term Islamophobia, instead referring to “anti-Muslim hatred”, which they said – coupled with a refusal to adopt the definition of Islamophobia agreed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims – was “undermining (the party’s) credibility over tackling this problem”. read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

If tackling racism is just a box-ticking exercise, the urgent imperative to change our ways is lost

For some, it was a gotcha moment. For others, an occasion to parade their own prejudices. Yet others celebrated the end of the “attempt to destroy English cricket”. On Tuesday, Azeem Rafiq gave devastating testimony to a parliamentary committee about the racism he had faced as a Yorkshire cricketer. On Thursday came revelations of antisemitic texts he had exchanged with a fellow cricketer a decade ago. Rafiq apologised immediately, an apology acknowledged by leading Jewish figures. Critics, however, saw in the affair only Rafiq’s “double standards” and the tawdriness of his original allegations. In fact, the exposure of Rafiq’s previous antisemitism, ironically, strengthened one of the core arguments in his story: the way people can be blind to bigotry in one context while alert to it in another. What stood out in Rafiq’s testimony was not just his account of racist bullying, harrowing though they were, but also his comments about the current England Test captain, Joe Root, a fellow Yorkshireman. Root, Rafiq confirmed, was a “good guy”, who “never engaged in racist language”. What “hurt”, though, was Root’s insistence, after the scandal broke, that he could not recall any racism at Yorkshire despite, according to Rafiq, being present when the abuse occurred. “It shows how normal it was that even a good man like him doesn’t see it for what it was,” Rafiq suggested. That could be said of Rafiq’s antisemitism, too. One reason Rafiq’s allegations feel so shocking is the degree to which Britain has changed. Had he spoken out 40 years ago, few would have cared. Then, “Paki-bashing” was a national sport and racism viscerally woven into the fabric of society. Today, racism remains embedded – witness everything from discrimination in employment to the Windrush scandal – but it is of a different character and threat from that of the 1970s and 80s. Most people today abhor what Rafiq had to endure. There is a long history of passing off racism as “banter”. That it should still be happening is particularly dispiriting given the broader decline of racism. If someone had abused Rafiq as a “Paki” on the streets, most of his teammates would probably have recognised it as racist and sprung to his defence. In the dressing room or in a social setting, however, what they may elsewhere have acknowledged as racism becomes invisible, transformed into banter. The drive to root out racism has in recent years become as much managerial or administrative as moral or political. A determination to tick the right boxes, a desire to appear diverse, a resolve to undertake training – it’s an exercise in looking right more than in being right. And in this process, the moral imperative on individuals to challenge real racism where they see it has diminished. read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

Muslim Athlete Charter: Wakefield Trinity become first Super League side to sign pledge

Wakefield Trinity have become the first Super League side to sign the Muslim Athlete Charter. Championship side London Broncos became the first rugby league side to sign up to the pledge in August this year. "I am delighted to launch this charter with a commitment to becoming a more socially diverse and inclusive club," chief executive Michael Carter said. "We already do great work across the district, and have great links with the local Muslim community." He added: "I want people of the Muslim faith to feel that they can become a part of Wakefield Trinity, whether that is as a player, coach, staff member or fan, and look forward to working progressively together on this charter." The charter aims to actively support Muslim athletes at all levels. read the complete article

United States

22 Nov 2021

Facebook’s race-blind practices around hate speech came at the expense of Black users, new documents show

Last year, researchers at Facebook showed executives an example of the kind of hate speech circulating on the social network: an actual post featuring an image of four female Democratic lawmakers known collectively as “The Squad.” The poster, whose name was scrubbed out for privacy, referred to the women, two of whom are Muslim, as “swami rag heads.” A comment from another person used even more vulgar language, referring to the four women of color as “black c---s,” according to internal company documents exclusively obtained by The Washington Post. The post represented the “worst of the worst” language on Facebook — the majority of it directed at minority groups, according to a two-year effort by a large team working across the company, the document said. The researchers urged executives to adopt an aggressive overhaul of its software system that would primarily remove only those hateful posts before any Facebook users could see them. But Facebook’s leaders balked at the plan. According to two people familiar with the internal debate, top executives including Vice President for Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan feared the new system would tilt the scales by protecting some vulnerable groups over others. A policy executive prepared a document for Kaplan that raised the potential for backlash from “conservative partners,” according to the document. The people spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters. The previously unreported debate is an example of how Facebook’s decisions in the name of being neutral and race-blind in fact come at the expense of minorities and particularly people of color. Far from protecting Black and other minority users, Facebook executives wound up instituting half-measures after the “worst of the worst” project that left minorities more likely to encounter derogatory and racist language on the site, the people said. Even the independent civil rights auditors Facebook hired in 2018 to conduct a major study of racial issues on its platform say they were not informed of the details of research that the company’s algorithms disproportionately harmed minorities. Laura Murphy, president of Laura Murphy and Associates, who led the civil rights audit process, said Facebook told her that “the company does not capture data as to the protected group(s) against whom the hate speech was directed.” “I am not asserting nefarious intent, but it is deeply concerning that metrics that showed the disproportionate impact of hate directed at Black, Jewish, Muslim, Arab and LGBTQIA users were not shared with the auditors,” Murphy said in a statement. “Clearly, they have collected some data along these lines.” read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

The GOP Dark Money Group Giving Big to White Supremacists

That’s the news in the latest IRS filing from Donors Trust—a conservative, Koch-aligned nonprofit which does not need to reveal the names of its donors and has been called the “dark money ATM of the right.” The disclosure, first obtained by CNBC, shows the group channeled major support for entities which fought to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory and organized the Jan. 6 rallies in Washington, D.C. Donors Trust also gave more than $2 million to groups linked to white supremacists, including the VDARE Foundation. These donor-advised funds are common across the ideological spectrum, and “act as a clearinghouse of donated money,” according to Phil Hackney, a nonprofit law expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. “Donors can contribute to these organizations and take a charitable deduction, and they let the group hold the money, invest it, and then contribute to other charitable organizations when the donor advises them to do so,” Hackney explained. While the group’s 501(c)3 tax status affords anonymity, reporting has identified several major conservative backers over the years, like the Koch and Bradley families. The biggest single donor this year contributed $158 million, and eight individuals accounted for $270 million in donations—75 percent of the total. Asked about the money raised for white supremacist and anti-democratic groups, Donors Trust president and CEO Lawson Bader provided a statement touting the fund’s financial success, claiming the organizations they support are “worthy causes” and that the donations “serve the public good.” read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

THE WAR PARTY: From Bush to Obama, and Trump to Biden U.S. Militarism Is the Great Unifier

MANY DEMOCRATS, LIBERALS, traditional conservatives, and even some leftists continue to tell themselves that the election of Joe Biden was the first step toward restoring U.S. standing in the world after the damage caused by Donald Trump. And in a variety of ways — many stylistic and some substantive — that perspective has merit. But when it comes to national security policy, the U.S. has been on a steady, hypermilitarized arc for decades. Taken broadly, U.S. policy has been largely consistent on “national security” and “counterterrorism” matters from 9/11 to the present. This reflexive bipartisan militarism stands in stark opposition to the Democratic Party’s sweeping and fallacious rhetoric that the bad face of the U.S. emerges only when Republicans seize executive power — and that the sole remedy is electing Democrats. Civilian victims of Barack Obama’s drone strikes might have another view. Before Trump, according to Democratic doctrine, the evils of U.S. policy originated with George W. Bush and his “co-president” Dick Cheney. Yet under both Trump and Bush, the rhetoric from many Democrats was pathologically disconnected from their support for ever-expanding militarist and surveillance policies. If the Democratic Party offered a true resistance to the GOP, the history of the post-9/11 world would be very different. Instead of California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee standing as the lone vote in the entire Congress against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force — the “blank check” for global war — days after September 11, 2001, we would have seen the majority of Democrats join her in a chorus of opposition and restraint. Sen. Russ Feingold, Democrat from Wisconsin, would not have been the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. The legislative authorities for the Iraq War would have been thwarted without the support of a majority of Democratic senators: 29 voted in its favor, including the current president. Without that backing, the Bush-Cheney administration would have had to openly and publicly own its maniacal belief that when it comes to “national security” policy, the executive branch can and should function as a de facto dictatorship. read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

F.B.I. Agents Became C.I.A. Operatives in Secret Overseas Prisons

In the torturous history of the U.S. government’s black sites, the F.B.I. has long been portrayed as acting with a strong moral compass. Its agents, disgusted with the violence they saw at a secret C.I.A. prison in Thailand, walked out, enabling the bureau to later deploy “clean teams” untainted by torture to interrogate the five men accused of conspiring in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But new information that emerged this week in the Sept. 11 case undermines that F.B.I. narrative. The two intelligence agencies secretly arranged for nine F.B.I. agents to temporarily become C.I.A. operatives in the overseas prison network where the spy agency used torture to interrogate its prisoners. The once-secret program came to light in pretrial proceedings in the death penalty case. The proceedings are currently examining whether the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and his four co-defendants voluntarily confessed after years in the black site network, where detainees were waterboarded, beaten, deprived of sleep and isolated to train them to comply with their captors’ wishes. At issue is whether the military judge will exclude from the eventual trial the testimony of F.B.I. agents who questioned the defendants in 2007 at Guantánamo and also forbid the use of reports that the agents wrote about each man’s account of his role in the hijacking conspiracy. read the complete article


22 Nov 2021


ABDULQADIR AL MADHFARI was a young physician’s assistant who dreamed of becoming a doctor. No one could have imagined that at the age of 25, he would be imprisoned for the next two decades, first by the United States, then by the United Arab Emirates. Like many innocent Muslim men caught in the CIA’s dragnet immediately following 9/11, al Madhfari was abducted by American forces in Pakistan and flown, hooded and shackled, to Guantánamo Bay prison. Held indefinitely as a suspected member of Al Qaeda, he saw his future slip away within America’s most shameful jail. As one of the earliest Guantánamo detainees, he was subjected to torture during interrogation and held for 14 years. In 2016, with newfound hope that his ordeal was over, al Madhfari was released along with 14 other detainees. His homeland, Yemen, was too unstable to return to, but the UAE promised rehabilitation and resettlement. The third-country deal, negotiated by the State Department, came as President Barack Obama’s early resolution to close the notorious prison flatlined toward the end of his term. But instead of offering al Madhfari and his fellow Yemeni transfers a chance to recover from years of abuse, the UAE jailed them — a move the Trump administration ignored. One year of detention stretched into five, with no communication allowed to the outside world. Lawyers relayed to al Madhfari’s family that he was deteriorating in solitary confinement. Following pressure from lawyers and the media, al Madhfari and others were finally released from UAE custody last month and given over to the care of their families. Advocates had unsuccessfully sought the former Guantánamo detainees’ transfer to a safe third country like Oman or Qatar, warning against repatriation to Yemen — a country embroiled in civil war, experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. After his imprisonment in the UAE, a severely mentally disturbed Madhfari was no longer the same man his family had spoken with at Guantánamo. Immediate family members in Yemen were completely unrecognizable to him, Ameen al Madhfari, a brother living outside Yemen, told The Intercept. “He accused them of being Emiratis playing a trick on him.” He refused to speak to anyone and became agitated and fearful when approached. Blindfolding al Madhfari was the only way that UAE security forces could convince him to leave their base in Mukalla, a seaport in Yemen, and drive back to the capital with his brother and uncle. On November 11, al Madhfari asked to take a walk outside for the first time since arriving at his family’s home. While accompanied by his family on the streets of the capital, Sanaa, al Madhfari bolted. Panicked, the family had no idea what had happened until an acquaintance with the police confirmed their worst fears: He had been detained by Houthi militia members at a checkpoint. read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

Plan for UN outlines how social media firms can help prevent ethnic violence

Social media platforms will be urged to protect minorities and help prevent ethnic violence by hiring non-English language moderators and conducting safety tests on their algorithms, under proposals for a UN global code of conduct. A British trio whose work has influenced the regulatory framework behind the online safety bill in the UK has sent a detailed plan for tackling toxic content on social media and video platforms to a UN official drawing up anti-online hate guidelines. “Frances Haugen has raised the issue of weak systems and processes at social media companies causing harm,” said William Perrin, a trustee of the Carnegie UK Trust charity and co-author of the proposals. “This guidance provides a way of strengthening this process and reducing harm around the world. We have particularly picked up Haugen’s point about linguistic capacity: there should be adequate numbers of people at these companies who understand what is actually happening on these platforms in order to prevent hate speech harming minorities.” The proposals are being considered by the UN’s special rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, who is drafting guidelines on combating hate speech on social media that targets minorities. The guidelines will be submitted to the UN human rights council. read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

U.S. ignores recommendation to put India on religious freedom violation list

The State Department has bypassed a recommendation from an independent government commission to name India to its "red list" of countries engaged in "systematic, ongoing and egregious" violations of religious freedom — for the second consecutive year. Why it matters: The omission is the latest example of leniency applied to India by the administration and U.S. lawmakers. Strengthening ties with the world's largest democracy has featured prominently in both the Trump and Biden administrations' strategy for countering China. Nadine Maenza, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told Axios the Biden administration "missed an opportunity" to publicly pressure India by naming it as a "country of concern." "We're disappointed that they're not looking at the conditions on the ground and how they're deteriorating," she said. Since Modi's election in 2014, India has experienced democratic backsliding and frequent outbreaks of anti-Muslim mob violence. Critics say Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has turned a blind eye to discrimination and imposed laws designed to marginalize Muslims. read the complete article

22 Nov 2021

Marriott rejected Uyghur conference to maintain 'political neutrality'

The Marriott hotel in Prague refused to host a conference this month aimed at drawing attention to alleged human rights abuses in China, the hotel chain confirmed to CNN on Friday. The Prague Marriott cited "reasons of political neutrality" for its decision to decline to host the World Uyghur Congress, according to an email first reported by Axios. In a statement, Marriott International (MAR), Inc. said the Prague hotel's response to the group was "not consistent with our policies." Marriott said the Prague hotel's management team has reached out to the group to apologize. Marriott confirmed that last month, the Prague Marriott sent an email to the activist group explaining that the planned November conference would not be held at the location -- after consulting with corporate management. "Unfortunately, I have to inform you that we are not able to offer the premises. We consulted the whole matter with our corporate management. For reasons of political neutrality, we cannot offer events of this type with a political theme," the email said. Based in Germany, the World Uyghur Congress is made up of exiled Uyghurs and those seeking to draw attention to allegations of genocide in the Xinjiang region of China. An independent report by more than 50 global experts released in March found the Chinese government "bears state responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uyghur" in violation of the United Nations' Genocide Convention. read the complete article


22 Nov 2021

The Observer view on the far-right’s power beyond the French presidential elections

Eric Zemmour is unlikely to be the next president of France. In the first place, he is not yet officially a candidate. Second, his repellent brand of racist, far-right codswallop already has a well-established mouthpiece: Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally (formerly the National Front). That said, Zemmour is doing well in opinion polls and is significantly influencing the election agenda. Known as a TV pundit and polemicist, his latest bestseller, France Has Not Had Its Final Word, is a pseudo-intellectual requiem for “the death of France as we know it”, by which he means white, Catholic France. In short, Zemmour claims Muslims are out to capture the state. Such drivel might be dismissed out of hand but for the fact that, according to one recent survey at least, 61% of French people believe it is certain or probable that the white, Christian populations of Europe face extinction because of Muslim immigration from Africa. A civil war is coming, Zemmour warns; France could become an Islamic republic. A lot of voters appear to have taken fright. This pernicious argument is rooted in the “great replacement theory” peddled by French far-right “thinkers” and adopted by likeminded bigots in Donald Trump’s America and elsewhere. “The French people, their customs, their history, their state, their civility, their civilisation” are at existential risk, Zemmour claims. In the past, Protestants or Jews were the whipping boys. Now it’s Muslims. Thus it seems clear the real threat posed by Zemmour is not electoral. It’s ideological and cultural. It’s a threat to the social fabric of France and, by extension, of other European countries where febrile questions of identity, security and perceived national decline have fuelled the rise of xenophobic populist politicians. Divisive Zemmour feeds off fear of change, fear of difference, fear of each other. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 22 Nov 2021 Edition


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