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

Sign up for the Today in Islamophobia Newsletter
19 Oct 2021

Today in Islamophobia: The Biden administration has said Abu Zubaydah, who has been imprisoned by the U.S. for nearly two decades, can “send a declaration” to Polish investigators looking into the alleged torture of the suspect at a CIA black site in their country, meanwhile in Germany, the main far-right party AfD appears to be losing popular support as it lost seats in last month’s election and will almost certainly no longer occupy the role of main opposition party, and in the United Kingdom, a court has heard that images of graphic sexual violence were found on the laptop of a man on trial for allegedly planning to carry out an attack on an Islamic center. Our recommended read of the day is by Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, James Leibold and Daria Impiombato for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on their new report looking into the methods used by the CCP to oppress Uyghurs and other indigenous communities in Xinjiang. This and more below:


19 Oct 2021

Exposing the Chinese government’s oppression of Xinjiang’s Uyghurs | Recommended Read

In China’s distant northwest city of Ürümqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Political and Legal Affairs Commission sends ‘micro clues’ to neighbourhood committees and the police when someone does something irregular. That might be having an unexpected visitor at home, driving a car that belongs to someone else, receiving an overseas phone call, or using a file-sharing app. The committee is a powerful organ of the Chinese Communist Party that oversees the ‘political and legal affairs system’, which includes the police, the procuratorate or Prosecutor General’s Office which controls the investigation and prosecution systems, the courts, the justice department and other security organs. Elsewhere in China, the committee is typically a coordinating body without operational capabilities, but in Xinjiang it has prompted millions of investigations at the grassroots level. Between July 2016 and June 2017, it flagged 1,869,310 Uyghurs and other citizens in Xinjiang for using the Zapya file-sharing app. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has dubbed the political and legal affairs system the party’s ‘knife handle’ and insists that it must be firmly in the hands of the CCP and the masses. How this vast system of coercive state control works is examined in a new project from ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre, The architecture of repression: unpacking Xinjiang’s governance. Analysing thousands of pages of leaked police files, ASPI researchers have gained rare insights into the methods used by the CCP to oppress Uyghurs and other indigenous communities in Xinjiang. read the complete article

19 Oct 2021

Secretive Body Leads Xinjiang’s AI Policing, Report Finds

A secretive Communist Party organ is taking an unusually hands-on role in directing a vast predictive policing effort in Xinjiang, according to a report that claims to unmask Beijing’s political architecture in the far Western region. The Political and Legal Affairs Commission is managing a real-world “Minority Report” system that has used mass data collection to prompt investigations into millions of Uyghurs often for reasons as trivial as downloading a file sharing app, said Australia- and U.S.-backed research institute Australian Strategic Policy Institute. While elsewhere in China the PLAC is a coordinating body that oversees the nation’s law and order system without significant operational capabilities, in Xinjiang the PLAC’s “budget and responsibilities” expanded markedly in recent years, the report found. “It is a party organ as opposed to a government one and party officials in Xinjiang may have preferred for the party to directly control new surveillance technologies,” said report co-author Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, of the group that reports to China’s top executive body the Central Committee. read the complete article

United States

19 Oct 2021

In 2008, some Republicans claimed Obama was a Muslim. Colin Powell pushed back

While many remember the four-star Army general for his history-making tenure as the nation's first Black secretary of state and his controversial and misleading justification for the U.S. war in Iraq, the longtime Republican's legacy also includes a notable break from his party to endorse Democrat Barack Obama in his first White House bid. That presidential race, in 2008, became one of the most politically and socially consequential contests in American history. Obama was the first Black nominee of a major American political party. His Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, was a Vietnam War veteran who ran as the natural successor to the hawkish neoconservative movement that President George W. Bush had overseen in office. As the presidential race went on, a cloud of racism and xenophobia settled over the contest, and many attacks from the right hinged on the lie of birtherism, including the false assertion that Obama was not only not a U.S. citizen but a closeted Muslim, which some in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks viewed as inherently disqualifying for a potential president of the United States. Powell had donated to McCain in the early days of his candidacy but pivoted his support in 2008 to Obama, calling him an inspiration and "a transformational figure" for the world stage. Turning his attention to the stream of racist attacks that had emerged against Obama, Powell forcefully denounced the Islamophobia that he said had been apparent in the Republican Party and dismissed out of hand the idea that there should be anything wrong with a Muslim American seeking public office. read the complete article

19 Oct 2021

Guantanamo detainee can pen letter on CIA mistreatment, US says

The Biden administration has informed the US Supreme Court that it would allow a Guantanamo Bay detainee to testify in a letter about being mistreated by the CIA. In a filing to the Supreme Court filed on Friday, the US government said Abu Zubaydah can “send a declaration” to Polish investigators looking into the alleged torture of the suspect at a CIA black site in their country. Zubaydah’s letter may be redacted to conceal information that “could prejudice the security of the United States”, acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher told the top court. “That review would not prevent him from describing his treatment while in CIA custody,” Fletcher wrote. Zubaydah’s lawyers have filed a complaint against Poland in Polish and European courts for its role in the harsh treatment he received from the CIA while detained at a secret site in the country. As part of the case, Zubaydah is seeking testimonies from James Elmer Mitchell and John Jessen, known as the architects of the CIA’s post-9/11 enhanced interrogation programme. Last week, Supreme Court justices questioned why Zubaydah cannot testify for himself. “Why not make the witness available? What is the government’s objection to the witness testifying on his own treatment and not requiring any addition from the government of any kind?” Justice Neil Gorsuch asked. In a previous court filing, Zubaydah’s lawyers said the US government is preventing him from speaking out “as the victim of a crime normally would”. read the complete article

19 Oct 2021

Ruminations on the Abu Zubaydah Supreme Court Oral Argument: Three Surprising Turns

The Supreme Court oral arguments in U.S. v. Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) took a number of surprising but welcome turns. I have represented Abu Zubaydah since 2007, shortly after the Bush administration shipped him to Guantanamo, and have been involved in the post-9/11 detention litigation since 2002, when colleagues and I filed Rasul v. Bush. This history inclines me to take the long view, and from that vantage, I wanted to reflect on the significance and possible implications of the arguments. By way of background, the question before the Court is whether my co-counsel and I can depose James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the architects of the CIA torture program, about what they did to our client at the black site in Poland. We seek this information to support a Polish investigation into crimes that may have been committed by Polish actors at the site. Mitchell and Jessen agreed to be deposed, but the U.S. government intervened, claiming their testimony is a state secret because it amounts to official confirmation that a site existed in Poland. We say Mitchell and Jessen can testify about what they did without saying where they were and without disclosing state secrets, as they have twice before. Indeed, they have already testified about what they did to Abu Zubaydah at the black site in Thailand, and they have testified about what they did to other CIA prisoners at the black site in Poland. They just haven’t testified about what they did to Abu Zubaydah in Poland. I want to center attention on three matters that emerged during the argument and that, in the fullness of time, may prove even more consequential to the war on terror than the question before the Court in Husayn. The first is torture. As others have observed, several Justices, beginning with Justice Amy Coney Barrett, repeatedly described the treatment that Abu Zubaydah endured as torture, plain and simple. As Justice Barrett said, “it’s not a secret that he was tortured.” No euphemisms, no equivocation. The constant repetition was striking, particularly when we recall how contentious this word has been. The second surprise during the argument came when Justice Neil Gorsuch wondered aloud why Abu Zubaydah can’t simply provide his own testimony about his treatment in Poland. The final surprise in the argument came when Justice Breyer announced in exasperation: “Look, I don’t understand why he’s still there after 14 years.” read the complete article

19 Oct 2021

'Dune' novels draw on Islamic motifs and have in turn inspired Muslim artists

Islamic and Arabic themes were a key influence on the seminal sci-fi novel “Dune,” which went on to influence many works in the genre — notably the most popular science fiction film franchise of all time, “Star Wars.” Oct. 22 will see the release of “Dune” to HBO Max, the second major motion picture adaptation of the 1965 sci-fi novel, which centers on the struggle for control of Arrakis, a desert planet that produces the galaxy’s most valuable commodity: spice. The original series of “Dune” novels by Frank Herbert is an exercise in building detailed fictional universes. The Duniverse, as some fans call it, is heavily influenced by ecology and sociology — as well as imagery from the Islamic world and the Middle East. Herbert also used Middle Eastern languages, in particular, Arabic, throughout his novels. Whether — and how — the movie will draw on the Islamic motifs of the books remains to be seen. In the trailer, the word “jihad” — used repeatedly in the novels — is replaced by “crusade.” “The problem with using crusade, (it) is a very anti-Muslim term, and that is the stuff that becomes problematic,” said Amir Hussain, a cultural critic and professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University. Hussain says that, as a kid growing up in the 1970s, he was personally drawn to Dune’s Islamic themes. “You have to understand, there weren’t Muslim ideas and storylines on television or in movies. Then, there was this book of science fiction that for myself, as a Muslim minority, I was able to see my culture, Islamic culture, as one of the sources for inspiration and being represented in a positive way.” read the complete article

19 Oct 2021


His contemporaries in the U.S. cannot find enough words of praise. “Colin Powell was the North Star to a generation of senior American military officers including me,” wrote retired Adm. James Stavridis. For Richard Haass, who heads the Council on Foreign Relations, Powell was “the most intellectually honest person I ever met.” It’s a different story in Iraq, where millions of people likely share the sentiments of Muntadher Alzaidi, who memorably threw his shoes at George W. Bush during a 2008 press conference in Baghdad. Reacting to Powell’s death today, Alzaidi expressed sadness only over the fact that he did not face a war crimes trial for his pivotal role in the invasion of Iraq. “I am sure that the court of God will be waiting for him,” Alzaidi wrote on Twitter. Powell’s friends in America tend to briefly note, in the soft glaze of his own regret, the most consequential act of his life. On February 5, 2003, Powell made a 76-minute speech to the United Nations Security Council in which he argued the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq. He insisted that Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, was overseeing a secret program to make weapons of mass destruction. Powell brandished satellite photos of what he confidently said were decontamination trucks, aluminum tubes, and other WMD paraphernalia. He even held up a vial that he said could contain anthrax. There was, of course, a big problem with all of his assertions: They were lies. The intelligence behind his speech was the opposite of emphatic — it was false, manipulated, and fabricated. The trucks were just trucks. The tubes were just tubes. There was no anthrax. There was, more fundamentally, no reason to invade Iraq. Nonetheless, thanks to Powell’s presentation, the Bush administration went ahead with its plans, and in the ensuing catastrophe, at least several hundred thousand Iraqis lost their lives, as well as more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers. read the complete article

United Kingdom

19 Oct 2021

Man on trial for terror offences had ‘dead girl pics’ folder on his computer, court hears

A folder named ‘dead girl pics’ containing images of sexual activity with mutilated women was found on laptop and phone found in the bedroom of a man on trial for terrorism offences, a court has heard. The images included photos of women who were believed to be dead, with parts of their bodies missing, including their breasts and heads. Some of the photos showed signs of sexual activity with the corpses. The devices are said to belong to Sam Imrie, who is on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh for posting statements on the social media platform Telegram suggesting he was going to carry out an attack on the Fife Islamic Centre in Glenrothes. The 24-year-old has also been accused of planning to stream live footage of “an incident”, and of taking, or permitting to be taken or made, indecent photographs of children. Among other charges, Imrie is accused of being in possession of neo-Nazi, antisemitic and anti-Muslim material. On the same computer recovered from Imrie’s bedroom there was a folder called “Hero’s”, which had sub-folders including one named Anders Breivik and another after Brenton Tarrant, both convicted of terrorism offences. Inside the folders were memes and photoshopped images portraying the killers as martyrs and saints and a “tribute” video celebrating Breivik’s actions. read the complete article


19 Oct 2021

How Germany’s far-right gained, even as it lost

On the face of it, Germany’s main far-right party should be licking its wounds. The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, dropped about 2 percentage points in last month’s elections from its showing in 2017, when it entered the country’s parliament for the first time and won the status of being the largest opposition party in the German Bundestag. With just about 10 percent of the vote, it has lost seats and will almost certainly no longer occupy the role of main opposition party as other more mainstream parties wrangle over the shape of the next government. On the campaign trail, AfD politicians peddled the same anti-immigration, Islamophobic agenda that energized their movement a half decade ago — scaremongering over an influx of Afghan refugees as they had grandstanded over the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the previous election cycle. They pandered to German skeptics of coronavirus vaccines and opponents of pandemic-provoked lockdowns, while railing against the eco-politics of the left. But the election results seemed to suggest the party, still viewed by many Germans as espousing politics that are beyond the pale, had hit a ceiling. Voter concerns over the economy, the pandemic and climate change meant the AfD’s angry nativism remained a somewhat fringe position. “Despite AfD rhetoric and media coverage to the contrary, most voters in Germany — and perhaps elsewhere — don’t find harsh anti-immigrant positions appealing,” political scientist Rafaela Dancygier wrote. “Instead, a centrist stance on immigration combined with center-left economics turned out to be a winning strategy.” read the complete article


19 Oct 2021

The days of U.S. tech companies fighting back against authoritarian regimes are long gone

Last week, the makers of a globally popular Koran app said Apple had kicked them off its app store in China. The app is used by millions of Muslims around the world to study the Koran and track prayer times. Though Islam is legal in China, the government has for years been attempting to limit the activities of those living in the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, taking steps like arresting imams and detaining hundreds of thousands of people in camps where they are sometimes tortured. In that context, removing a Koran app looks like Apple yielding to a government attempt to harass Muslims in the country. In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has only tightened its grip on business, media and other institutions, according to human rights group Freedom House. Technology has played a key role, with the country developing sophisticated surveillance systems to track and control the lives of its citizens. Repression of the Muslim-majority Uyghurs has intensified. Apple isn’t the only company to make some concessions to authoritarian governments while arguing there are long-term benefits to remaining in those countries. In Vietnam, the government has passed increasingly strict laws governing Internet content. The same goes for Thailand and the Philippines, also places where Facebook, YouTube and Apple are popular. Yet another example came last month on the eve of the Russian elections, when both Apple and Google removed an app from their app stores that directed voters to cast ballots for politicians opposed to President Vladimir Putin. The government had threatened to arrest employees if the companies didn’t comply. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 19 Oct 2021 Edition


Enter keywords


Sort Results