Today in Islamophobia: A new report blames US corporation for widespread anti-Muslim violence, while a WSU professor leads an investigation into Islamophobia in media. Virginia gained its first Muslim State Senator. Our recommended read today cites how the Notre Dame Cathedral fire conspiracy blaming Muslim attackers led to a Mosque shooting in France.
When the Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire in April, far-right pundits and extremists quickly spread groundless accusations that Muslim attackers started the blaze. Last week, a former far-right political candidate who had embraced that conspiracy theory went to a mosque in the French city of Bayonne and tried to set it on fire. He shot two Muslim men who confronted him. French civil rights groups have said that the nation’s politicians have failed to treat rising Islamophobia with the gravity it deserves. And although French President Emmanuel Macron called the Bayonne mosque shooting and arson a “heinous attack,” prosecutors did not charge Sinke with any terrorism offenses. Prosecutors have not yet detailed what sources led Sinké to believe the Notre Dame fire was set by Muslims. But in France and many other countries around the world, far-right pundits and politicians seeking personal and political gains have helped stoke disinformation campaigns that demonize Muslims, Jews and other minority groups, often resulting in violence. A hoax Twitter account pretending to be CNN claimed that the fire was an act of terrorism, according to a BuzzFeed analysis, and far-right conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson, who lives in England, seized on a quickly deleted and inaccurate tweet from a U.S. media commentator to write an InfoWars article suggesting someone deliberately set the blaze. Other members of the international far-right echoed the InfoWars piece and added an explicitly Islamophobic message. Prominent anti-Muslim extremists such as American Pamela Geller, Canadian Faith Goldy, and England’s Katie Hopkins (who is frequently retweeted by President Donald Trump) pushed misleading or false information about the fire. read the complete article
Decisions about U.S. aid are often no longer being governed by career professionals applying a rigorous review of applicants and their capabilities. Over the last two years, political pressure, particularly from the office of Vice President Mike Pence, had seeped into aid deliberations and convinced key decision-makers that unless they fell in line, their jobs could be at stake. ProPublica viewed internal emails and conducted interviews with nearly 40 current and former U.S. officials and aid professionals that shed new light on the success of Pence and his allies in influencing the government’s long-standing process for awarding foreign aid. Most people spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Trump administration’s efforts to influence USAID funding sparked concern from career officials, who worried the agency risked violating constitutional prohibitions on favoring one religion over another. They also were concerned that being perceived as favoring Christians could worsen Iraq’s sectarian divides. Last month, USAID announced two grants to Iraqi organizations that career officials had previously rejected. Political appointees significantly impacted the latest awards, according to interviews with officials and other people aware of the process. Typically, such appointees have little to no involvement in USAID grants, to avoid perceptions of undue political influence on procurement. One of the groups selected for the newest awards has no full-time paid staff, no experience with government grants and a financial tie that would typically raise questions in an intense competition for limited funds. The second organization received its first USAID direct grant after extensive public comments by its leader and allies highlighting what they described as a lack of U.S. assistance to Christians. The two groups — a charity that primarily serves Christian Iraqis and a Catholic university — were not originally listed as front-runners, according to a document seen by ProPublica. read the complete article
Racist trolls targeted a Somali refugee’s campaign. She still managed to pull off a historic victory.
With just a week to go before the election, Safiya Khalid was in tears. She had spent the past six months knocking on hundreds of doors in Lewiston, Maine, the city where she arrived as a refugee more than a decade earlier, and where she hoped to be the first Somali immigrant to win a seat on the city council. Suddenly, online trolls from as far away as Alabama and Mississippi were hurling vile abuse at her, telling her that Muslims had no place in American government and she should go back to where she came from. Khalid, a Democrat, was unsettled by the fact that someone had posted her address on social media. But she was also worried the hate-fueled attacks would become a distraction. So she deleted her Facebook account, asked friends to look out for worrisome comments and went back to pounding the streets with her leaflets and her clipboard. On Tuesday night, she won her race by a significant margin. The victory, she told supporters, showed “community organizers beat Internet trolls.” read the complete article
The paper, “Fanning the Flames,” was published Thursday (Oct. 31) by the Action Center on Race and the Economy’s Crescendo Project in partnership with the Public Accountability Initiative. “Corporations with global reach in the tech, finance, and media sectors especially have reliably resourced anti-Muslim individuals and groups both domestically and internationally and have created the infrastructure for anti-Muslim messages and bigotry to spread and thrive,” the report states. The report calls companies including Facebook, Amazon, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, iHeartMedia and Sinclair Broadcast Group “the unindicted co-conspirators of the Christchurch shooter,” who massacred 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March. “Anti-Muslim bigotry is on the rise because corporations like Google, Amazon and Fidelity have decided they are OK with white supremacy and anti-Muslim bigotry as long as they can make money off of it,” Saqib Bhatti, ACRE’s co-executive director, told Religion News Service. “These corporations have this line about how they give ‘equal opportunity’ to all users. Social media platforms will say, ‘Well, everyone can share what they want,’ and donor-advised funds say they allow people to give money to any nonprofit,” Bhatti said. “But these corporations weaponize the idea of neutrality, and they hide behind it. Making money off letting white supremacists organize, fundraise, recruit and strategize is not neutral. As such, these corporations all have blood on their hands.” read the complete article
#Islamophobia: Stoking Fear and Prejudice in the 2018 Midterms was published this week by the Social Science Research Council, which funded the project, and its Media & Democracy program. In the study, Lawrence Pintak – professor of communications in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication – and his team examined more than 113,000 tweets posted in the lead-up to the 2018 mid-term election mentioning then-congressional candidates Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Omar Qudrat. Omar and Tlaib, both Democrats, were elected to represent Minnesota and Michigan, respectively, while Qudrat, a California Republican, lost his bid for Congress. The most striking finding concerned the fact that much of the anti-Muslim narrative was driven by a small handful of accounts. Their tweets were disseminated through throngs of automated bots and sock puppet accounts that conceal the true identity of their owners. The fact that more than 10 percent of accounts in Omar’s and Tlaib’s networks were suspended for violating Twitter’s standards or were deleted less than a year after the election underscores the online presence of anti-Muslim actors. read the complete article
Ms. Hashmi, who came from India to the United States at the age of 4, pulled up to the community college where she worked, parked her minivan and felt frozen with fear. As a Muslim who had lived in the United States nearly all her life, she wondered, did she still have a place in the country she called home? She shed those doubts on Tuesday when she became the first Muslim to be elected to the Virginia State Senate, a milestone that comes amid a wave of Muslims running for elected office across the country and increased visibility for Muslim women in politics. Ms. Hashmi, 55, upset the Republican incumbent to represent a district based in Chesterfield County, which includes suburban Richmond. Her victory helped to flip the Senate on a night that Democrats took control of both chambers and consolidated power across state government for the first time in a generation. A former literature professor and community college administrator, Ms. Hashmi campaigned on issues that included improving education, taking action on gun control and expanding access to health care. In addition to becoming the first Muslim in the State Senate, she will be the first Muslim woman to serve in the Virginia General Assembly, according to her campaign. At least two Muslim men serve in the House. “Muslims in America are just like any other American,” Ms. Hashmi said in an interview on Wednesday. “I have been a troop leader for Girl Scouts. I have been active in my daughters’ school and volunteer work. All the things that another suburban mom might be doing, I’ve been doing.” read the complete article
Can Boris Johnson keep his seat? A young Muslim immigrant is challenging the British prime minister.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday launched his Conservative Party’s campaign for the general election. But there’s a hitch. Johnson has to win back his own seat — fending off a challenge from a young Muslim immigrant who represents the Labour Party. It could be a tight race. That makes him vulnerable, said Ali Milani, 25, the Labour challenger, who touts his credentials as a local. Milani lives in Uxbridge and went to Brunel University here (where he was a student leader). He said Johnson’s failure to stop a third runway at Heathrow international airport — years ago he had pledged to lie down in front of the bulldozers — will also hurt the prime minister. read the complete article
Nour Farhat always dreamed of becoming a Crown prosecutor. At 28, she is a newly minted lawyer with a master’s specialization in criminal law. As a young woman of colour, her presence in Quebec courtrooms caught the attention of judges, other attorneys, even defendants – all of whom, she said, were happy to catch a glimpse of a rare non-white lawyer. “In Montreal, they say that a third of people come from somewhere else, and you really see it in court. There’s a lot of black people, Arab people, Hispanics, and they were so happy to see me,” she said. After a year articling with the Quebec vehicle licensing bureau Farhat was hopeful for the future. But the Quebec government dashed those dreams in June when it passed Bill 21, a controversial secularism law prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols by certain public-sector employees. Farhat wears a hijab, a non-negotiable item of clothing and expression of her Muslim faith. “It really shut all my doors,” Farhat said of the law. “Five months ago I would have told you ‘I’m a future Crown attorney.’ I was so sure of my path. And now I’m like, OK maybe I’ll become an expert in insurance law?” Farhat is just one of thousands of people whose careers have been derailed by Bill 21, which was rammed into law at 4am on a Sunday in June, after 16 hours of debate. She is watching closely as mounting legal challenges take on the discriminatory and possibly unconstitutional law. The latest was filed last month by one of the province’s biggest school boards. Another challenge, also launched on a teacher’s behalf, is due back in court at the end of November. The law disproportionately affects the province’s education sector, where 74.5% of teachers are women. read the complete article
The Supreme Court, which concluded its hearings in the case last month, will decide by mid-November whether a Hindu temple should be built in place of the medieval era Babri mosque, which was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992. Hindu groups claim the site was where their deity, Lord Ram, was born, while Muslims say they prayed at the mosque for generations until 1949, when an idol of Ram was surreptitiously placed inside the mosque. read the complete article
A group of eastern German conservatives have caused outrage within Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and among Jewish groups by demanding the party hold talks with the far right in the eastern state of Thuringia. The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has capitalized on anti-immigrant sentiment since the 2015 migrant crisis, came second, ahead of the CDU, in last month's Thuringia election that was won by the radical Left party. That outcome has made building a viable governing coalition extremely tricky. It is taboo for Merkel's party to cooperate with the AfD, whose hardline leader in Thuringia, Bjoern Hoecke, wants German history books to be rewritten to focus more on German rather than Jewish suffering in World War Two. However, some 17 CDU members called on the party there to "actively take part in a process of talks with all democratically elected parties in the Thuringia assembly". read the complete article