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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12 Oct 2021

Today in Islamophobia: A piece in the Los Angeles Times provides a historical analysis of Christopher Columbus’ Atlantic crossings, arguing that they were rooted in a “fear and hatred of Islam,” meanwhile Pakistan’s PM states that French President Macron’s anti-Muslim rhetoric will stoke a “cycle of violence” in France, and an article in the Washington Post notes that “one of the striking transatlantic developments of the past half-decade — marked by the rise and fall and potential re-emergence of President Donald Trump — has been the overt collaboration between right-wing politicians and activists in the United States and counterparts in Europe, particularly those on the far right.” Lastly, an excerpt from Dr. Darren Byler’s new book highlights the growing concerns around surveillance and automated racialization that is impacting ethnic minorities from the United States to China. Our recommended read of the day is by Imam Omar Suleiman for the Washington Post on remembering the Muslim political prisoners who remain behind bars after being targeted by the state in post-9/11 anti-Muslim hysteria. This and more below:

United States

12 Oct 2021

The last casualty of 9/11: Speaking up for Muslim political prisoners | Recommended Read

Elashi is one of the “HLF 5,” who led what was the largest Muslim charity in the country when it shut down in 2001. All of the defendants, well-known members of the Muslim community here in Dallas, were convicted in 2008, after a first trial ended in a hung jury. William Neal, one of the jurors in the first trial, said: “They kept showing us blown-up buses and they kept showing us little kids in bomb belts reenacting Hamas leaders. It had nothing to do with the actual charges. It had nothing to do with the defendants.” But by then, the fate of the Holy Land Foundation had long since been sealed. Many Muslims had abstained from supporting the charity once President George W. Bush declared that the group was raising money for “Hamas to support schools and indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers.” The government has yet to show any evidence of that claim, but in an Islamophobic post-9/11 climate, Muslim organizations daring to take a stance, much less question the fairness of the trial, could land on the infamous “unindicted co-conspirators” list. The “guilt by association” tactic was deliberately meant to intimidate and hang a dark cloud over practically every Muslim organization in America, with no due process or a chance to refute the false allegations. Now 20 years removed from 9/11, yet still living in a post-9/11 reality, many young Muslims wonder why so many high-profile Muslim political prisoners haven’t gotten the full support of their community or human rights advocates. The answer, in part, is that the War on Terror abroad perpetuated bigotry against Muslims domestically and locked down the Muslim community through law enforcement scrutiny. Muslim organizations were constantly fighting off smears of being “terrorist sympathizers” and were either unwilling or unable to risk the consequences of being affiliated with these prisoners. Those who got the shortest end of the stick were the prisoners who were targeted in malicious and politically motivated prosecutions. read the complete article

12 Oct 2021

Sikh Americans push for greater visibility, awareness against years of hate crimes, misunderstanding

“When I went back to work, people in passing cars on highways rolled down their windows to yell at me and flip me off,” Singh said. “Out on the streets, people gave me angry and anxious looks. It was almost everyone. Women, men, white, black, young and old. It was one of the most unsettling times of my life.” “This is coming from someone who has survived a genocidal massacre as a young boy in India in 1984 that consumed the lives of thousands of Sikhs.” Part of the Sikh faith requires Sikhs to not shave or cut their hair to honor what God has given them and for Sikh men to wrap their hair in a turban to represent an outward commitment to their faith. Unfortunately, in America, beards and turbans are often mistakenly associated with stereotypes of terrorists — a dangerous linkage that has been perpetuated for years in popular media. This association has left Sikh Americans, as well as Muslim Americans, Arab Americans, South Asian Americans, and others vulnerable to targeted hate, violence, and discrimination. Because some Sikh Americans are easily identified by their beards and turbans, they have a long history of being targeted by others looking for a scapegoat, reaching as far back as the 1907 riots in Bellingham, Washington, in which a mob of 600 white men attacked and drove 400 Sikh Americans out of town. However, they also have a long history of helping others and working for social justice. Over the past twenty years, the Sikh American community has come together to advocate, but also to help defend and uplift other marginalized groups. read the complete article

12 Oct 2021

Coming of age in America in the shadow of the 9/11 terror attack

In the following years, Langone witnessed the politicization and desensitization of 9/11, which she says has plagued the American consciousness. “It was really disheartening and kind of jading to go through a teenagehood and watch ... politicians turn a national tragedy into a talking point,” Langone, now 32, tells me. She watched as the calamity became the justification for wars abroad and wiretapping at home. “I was a kid, a teenager, going through the mid-2000s,” Langone told me. “I saw the Iraq war. I saw the Afghanistan war. I saw the great recession. I saw how horribly we treated other people. I saw the Patriot Act.” Langone was impressionable. She observed the nation from the cocoon of youth. An Advanced Placement history teacher told her how history oscillated between civil liberties and security. She watched the pendulum shift to security and Muslim Americans lose their rights, as wars abroad--in Iraq and Afghanistan--continued unabated. And Langone saw this occurring in the name of revenge: for the deaths of her father and uncle. “It never made sense to me, and it made me really upset to see people using essentially my father, my uncle’s death to go to perpetrate more violence,” she says. read the complete article

12 Oct 2021

The Puzzle of Intersectionality

I love seeing the confusion that flashes through the eyes of a straight white man as he tries to decide what aspect of my identity to attack first. Should he go with the tried and true misogyny, or sneer at my caramel skin? Or perhaps he should settle for the low-hanging fruit and comment on my hijab. Intersectionality, or being at the crossroads of several different social identities, sets me up to be targeted in more ways than one. But in a way, it equally impacts the posture of the victim and the perpetrator. Just as my distinct identity as a brown Muslim American woman leaves me vulnerable to several avenues of slurs, a white cisgender man’s distinction leaves him in the perfect position to pick at such opportunities with few repercussions. If even one aspect of this man’s identity was different, these encounters would go very differently. The real burden of intersectionality, however, arises from the biases within the multiple communities we claim to be our own. I don’t fit in perfectly with my family in Bangladesh or my mosque in Texas or even among the diverse student body at Harvard. I find often that the only place I can truly fit like a puzzle piece is when I am surrounded by individuals who share the exact same intersecting identities as me, rather than among a diverse group. But I don’t think that should be. There is no “perfect fit.” I don’t believe that our communities are best pre-sectioned or that we should feel like we “fit in” only when we match perfectly. Rather, everyone should feel at home among any community that they recognize as theirs. read the complete article

12 Oct 2021

Tamar Herman: Seth Boyden Teacher’s Attorney Responds to Accusation of Removing Student’s Hijab

Tamar Herman is a teacher at Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, New Jersey who was accused on social media of forcibly removing a 7-year-old girl’s hijab in front of her class. Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad identified the teacher in an Instagram post. The school district has not confirmed the identity of the teacher. Samantha Harris, an attorney representing the teacher, said in a statement to ABC 7 News the incident was wildly misconstrued on social media, and that her client has been forced to seek police protection in response to outrage based on misinformation. Cassandra Wyatt, the mother of 2nd grader Sumayyah Wyatt, told ABC 7 New York that the girl no longer wants to wear her headscarf to school. The School District of South Orange & Maplewood issued a statement Friday, October 8, 2021, saying they are investigating the allegations and following their existing policy. read the complete article


12 Oct 2021

Op-Ed: Columbus’ fear of Islam, rooted in Europe’s Crusades, shaped his view of Native Americans

A primary force behind Columbus’ Atlantic crossings was a fear and hatred of Islam. This shaped how white Europeans engaged with the “New World” and its native peoples for centuries, and how today’s Americans understand the world. Columbus was born into Europe’s anti-Islamic mind-set in 1451, raised on tales of the Crusades and the territorial losses his hometown of Genoa suffered after the Ottoman Empire’s capture of Constantinople in 1453. As a teenager, he took to the Mediterranean as a sailor’s apprentice. Some of his first maritime voyages brought him face to face with the awesome power of the Ottomans in the Aegean and of other Muslim states in North Africa. He later sailed down the coast of West Africa where the region’s powerful Muslim kingdoms impressed upon him that Islam was everywhere, surrounding Christendom. When Columbus returned to Europe, he joined Spain’s fight against the Muslims in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, six months before he set off across the Atlantic. At heart, Columbus was a Crusader. Throughout his life, in his encounters with and then battles against Muslims, he felt the burden of holy war deep in his soul. As he bobbed westward on the high seas — with the formal mission of finding a trade route to the Far East that would circumvent the need to go through Muslim territory — his mind was occupied by neither a secular passion for discovery nor a calculating commercial vision. More than anything else, he sailed to the Americas imbued with a Christian zeal. This centrality of Islam to Columbus’ life explains one of the strangest and least acknowledged aspects of the Atlantic voyages. The answer lies in Columbus’ — and Europe’s — long history of crusading against Islam. The crucible of centuries of these religious wars, and the increasing encroachment of the Ottomans and other Muslims in the years after 1453, forged the notion of Islam as an enemy in the minds of Columbus, Cortés and the thousands of other Europeans who fought Muslims in the Old World and then American Indians in the New World. read the complete article

12 Oct 2021

'Selective pronouncements' on human rights are immoral: Pakistan PM on China's treatment of Uyghurs

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said "selective pronouncements" on human rights were "immoral", reacting to allegations against Pakistan's all-weather ally China's human rights violations on its Uyghur Muslim population in the restive province of Xinjiang. In a wide-ranging interview with London-based online news outlet, Middle East Eye (MEE), Khan denied pressure from Gulf countries to recognise Israel and that the international community's failure to engage with the Taliban in Afghanistan could push the state by 20 years, the Dawn newspaper reported. Khan described the 70-year-old relation between Pakistan and China as one that had "stood the test of time". In the interview with MEE, Khan said "selective pronouncements on human rights" were immoral, reacting to the allegation on China. He said Pakistan had spoken to China about the Uyghur issue and had been provided with an explanation. "Our relationship with China is such that we have an understanding between us. We will talk to each other, but behind closed doors because that is their nature and culture," he said. read the complete article

12 Oct 2021

Imran Khan: Macron’s Islamophobic rhetoric stoking 'cycle of violence' in France

“The first phone call after 9/11 I received was from the ITN’s Martin Bashir. ‘As a Muslim, aren’t you embarrassed by the attacks?’ was his immediate question. I was shocked, then realised what others would be thinking too. “Implying all the world’s 1.3bn Muslims should feel in some way responsible for an act of a handful of criminals is a bit like asking a Christian to feel responsible for Hitler,” Khan wrote. With a personal history which straddled East and West, Khan expected a backlash after 9/11 but had not anticipated its ferocity. He wrote: “The campaign to instil fear among Western populations about the threat from what has at times been hysterically referred to as islamofascism has given way to rising Islamophobia. “The ascent of rightwing, anti-immigration parties in Europe, the misleading and sometimes downright sensationalist reporting against Muslims in the rightwing Western media, France’s ban on the burka, Switzerland’s ban on minarets and the furore over the Muslim community centre near New York’s ground zero have helped the radical’s cause and alienated ordinary Muslims.” Today Prime Minister Khan, surrounded by aides nervously eyeing the clock, feels sadly vindicated. The list of western missteps has only lengthened in the ensuing decade as has the mutual incomprehension. read the complete article

12 Oct 2021

The GOP alliance with Europe’s far-right deepens

Toward the end of last month, a major right-wing summit in Hungary had a conspicuous guest. Former vice president Mike Pence joined Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a coterie of other illiberal, nationalist leaders from the continent in a two-day conference in Budapest on “family values” and demographics. The forum, which began in 2015, is one of the spaces where Orban champions his brand of Christian nationalism — raging against Western liberalism, non-European migration and LGBTQ culture. “Hungary must defend itself because the Western left wing is attacking,” Orban said. “It is trying to relativize the notion of family. Its tools for doing so are gender ideology and the LGBTQ lobby, which are attacking our children.” He went on to sign a declaration along with the right-wing leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia that insisted “increasing the number of European children is essential to preserving Europe’s Christian culture and other religious traditions for future generations” and warned European Union officials that “migration should not be seen as the main tool to tackle demographic challenges.” The former vice president is hardly alone in seeing Hungary as a source of encouragement in a broader ideological battle gripping the West. Prominent conservative American commentators, chiefly Fox News host Tucker Carlson, have had audiences in Budapest with Orban, who ranks as one of the E.U.'s longest-ruling leaders. Next year, Budapest will host an iteration of the Conservative Political Action Conference, the main annual gathering of the American right. But this deepening engagement extends well beyond Hungary. One of the striking transatlantic developments of the past half-decade — marked by the rise and fall and potential re-emergence of President Donald Trump — has been the overt collaboration between right-wing politicians and activists in the United States and counterparts in Europe, particularly those on the far right. read the complete article


12 Oct 2021

Germany's largest mosque to broadcast call to prayer on Fridays

Germany's largest mosque will be permitted to broadcast the call to prayer over loudspeakers on Friday afternoons, after an agreement between the city of Cologne and the Muslim community to ease restrictions, the city said on Monday. All 35 mosques in Cologne will now be permitted to broadcast the call to prayer for up to five minutes on Fridays between noon and 3 p.m., under a two-year initiative. That includes the Cologne Central Mosque, which was opened in 2018 after becoming a flashpoint for anti-Muslim sentiment from far right parties, particularly following an influx of asylum seekers in 2015-2016. "Permitting the muezzin call is for me a sign of respect," Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker wrote on Twitter. The call to prayer would join the bells of Cologne's cathedral - northern Europe's largest Gothic church - as sounds heard by those arriving at the city's main train station, she said. "It shows that diversity is appreciated and lived in Cologne." read the complete article


12 Oct 2021

Afghans are the next victims of Italy’s war on refugees

Consider, for starters, a recent article in the Italian newspaper Il Tempo, which warns that the Taliban’s reconquest of Afghanistan will unleash an “unprecedented wave of migrants” – a veritable “migratory tsunami” – that will soon inundate Italy with millions of Afghans. According to the article’s author, Afghan men often struggle to integrate into European society, and have already “committed hundreds of sexual aggressions against European women” – something European men obviously never do. The bottom line, we are told, is that the right to asylum must not continue to be a “Trojan horse for mass immigration[,] Islamism – and in some cases terrorism”. Other Italian media, too, have been hit by the wave of renewed xenophobic upheaval – an unsurprising state of affairs in a country where four-time prime minister and billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi once complained that Milan looked too much like Africa. Lest the moral of the story go unappreciated, he spelled it out: “Some people want a multicoloured and multiethnic society. We do not share this opinion.” Indeed, any good Orientalist rant requires situating Arab/Muslim antagonists in an ancient, barbaric past. Never mind more recent invasions – like, say, Italy’s imperialist and colonialist manoeuvres in Africa that helped set the stage for current migration patterns in the first place. read the complete article


12 Oct 2021

The covid tech that is intimately tied to China’s surveillance state

On a monitor in the boxy gray building, she saw her face surrounded by a yellow square. On other screens she saw pedestrians walking through the market, their faces surrounded by green squares. Beside the high-definition video still of her face, her personal data appeared in a black text box. It said that she was Hui, a member of a Chinese Muslim group that makes up around 1 million of the population of 15 million Muslims in Northwest China. The alarm had gone off because she had walked beyond the parameters of the policing grid of her neighborhood confinement. As a former detainee in a re-education camp, she was not officially permitted to travel to other areas of town without explicit permission from both her neighborhood watch unit and the Public Security Bureau. The yellow square around her face on the screen indicated that she had once again been deemed a “pre-criminal” by the digital enclosure system that held Muslims in place. Vera said at that moment she felt as though she could hardly breathe. Vera Zhou didn’t think the war on terror had anything to do with her. She considered herself a non-religious fashionista who favored chunky earrings and dressing in black. She had gone to high school near Portland, Oregon, and was on her way to becoming an urban planner at a top-ranked American university. She had planned to reunite with her boyfriend after graduation and have a career in China, where she thought of the economy as booming. She had no idea that a new internet security law had been implemented in her hometown and across Xinjiang at the beginning of 2017, and that this was how extremist “pre-criminals,” as state authorities referred to them, were being identified for detention. She did not know that a newly appointed party secretary of the region had given a command to “round up everyone who should be rounded up” as part of the “People’s War.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

12 Oct 2021

Man accused of plotting Fife mosque attack told mum he had been 'stupid'

A man on trial for terrorism offences told his mother he had "done something stupid" by pretending to set fire to a mosque, a court has heard. Sam Imrie is accused of preparing acts of terror, including planning an attack on an Islamic centre in Fife. Prosecutors allege he intended to target the Fife Islamic Centre in Glenrothes and live-stream it online. The 24-year-old denies all of the nine charges he is facing. Three of the charges come under the Terrorism Act. Giving evidence at the High Court in Edinburgh, the accused's mother, Joyce Imrie, 50, said that while passing her son on the stairs in the family home, he had told her: "Mum, I've done something really stupid, I pretended to set a mosque on fire." Asked about her son's demeanour when he told her this, she replied: "Terror, despair. Despair is the best word I could use. I think he was probably horrified by himself." Ms Imrie described her son as a "loner" and a "recluse". read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 12 Oct 2021 Edition


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