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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21 Oct 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United States, “Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only lawmaker to have voted against the invasion of Afghanistan, is renewing a legislative push to pass a resolution that would limit the White House’s ability to wage war,” meanwhile in Canada, Muslim leaders have condemned “violent and vile Islamophobia” toward the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre in Thornhill, Ont., which has experienced a number of hate-related incidents including threats, vandalism and harassment over the past few weeks, and in India, the RSS is stoking religious tensions and promoting conspiracy theories by claiming that the “Hindu majority was declining due to religious conversions and illegal migration.” Our recommended read of the day is by Maha Hilal for NBCU Academy on how criticism over the “Jihad Rehab” documentary’s “recycling of Islamophobic tropes and issues of consent” is about ethical concerns, and should not be warped into conversations about “cancel culture.” This and more below:

United States

21 Oct 2022

Stop Confusing Ethical Concerns With Cancel Culture | Recommended Read

“Do you think that you are you a terrorist?” This is a question director and producer Meg Smaker asks of Mohammed, a former Guantanamo prisoner she interviews less than 30 minutes into her documentary “Jihad Rehab.” The documentary, which she has since renamed “UnRedacted,” features four men released from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center, which claims to rehabilitate terrorists. Smaker said her motivation for the film was to understand how and why the 9/11 attacks happened — insight she hoped to gain from the men effectively detained at the Saudi center. The film was selected for the Sundance Film Festival last December and garnered some good reviews. But even when the documentary’s name was just a whisper, Muslim filmmakers and advocates had criticized “Jihad Rehab” for its recycling of Islamophobic tropes and issues of consent. The documentary, which I saw online at its Sundance premiere, avoids any significant critique of Guantanamo, including the fact that the men in the documentary were held but never charged with a crime. Smaker also doesn’t question the broader paradigm of the War on Terror that brought these men to the rehabilitation facility in the first place. Nor is there much attention paid directly on the bin Nayef Center itself and how its concept of supposed terrorist rehabilitation is situated in a larger context. Then there is the issue of consent — whether, and the extent to which, the men in the film could give their approval to be interviewed since they were effectively prisoners. read the complete article

21 Oct 2022

US lawmaker reignites effort to curb presidential war powers

US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only lawmaker to have voted against the invasion of Afghanistan, is renewing a legislative push to pass a resolution that would limit the White House's ability to wage war. In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, Lee, along with anti-war groups and other lawmakers, is mobilising support to repeal the resolution that paved the way for the military intervention, the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The AUMF is a resolution passed by Congress that gives the president permission to wage military action, without the need for Congress' approval, as laid out in the specific terms set in the measure. There are currently multiple AUMFs active: a 1991 AUMF and a 2002 AUMF that were both for Iraq; and a 2001 AUMF that gives the president the ability to wage war against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. The authorisations have been continually used by the past four administrations to launch military campaigns and strikes across the Middle East. read the complete article

21 Oct 2022


The controversy around “Jihad Rehab” began before many people would have a chance to see those opening minutes of the film. The announcement that it would be screened at Sundance Film Festival this year triggered objections among some Muslim American filmmakers, who expressed concerns about its content and how it was produced. Sundance would eventually apologize for screening the film, leading other prestigious film festivals to rescind their invitations. A recent front-page New York Times article about the subject framed the controversy as a culture war issue centered around the identity of the filmmaker, Meg Smaker, and whether she, as a white American woman, had the perspective necessary to produce a film about the lives of Arab Muslim former prisoners. If the dispute about “Jihad Rehab” were just a case of “white lady bad,” it could be seen as “woke” excess, left-wing identity politics run amok. The full story is a bit more complex. While Smaker’s identity and the notion of authorship have been part of the debate over the film, particularly on social media, they were not the entirety of the public and private discussions over “Jihad Rehab.” Nor were they the focus of the early questions raised to Sundance Film Festival. Those questions initially came in the form of an email sent to Sundance last December by a group of six Muslim American filmmakers, including Assia Boundaoui, creator of the award-winning documentary “The Feeling of Being Watched,” after the film was announced in the lineup for the January festival. Boundaoui shared the email — sent after some signatories had viewed excerpts of the film, but not its entirety — with The Intercept. It raised three broad concerns, none of them having to do with identity politics. The authors questioned the movie’s title, the scope of Saudi government involvement in its production, and possible bias in the framing of its subjects. “Jihad Rehab” deals with a sensitive subject — the plight of former Guantánamo Bay prisoners ­— and, rather than the identity of the filmmaker, that is what seems to have touched a nerve with most critics. In March, an open letter about the movie from a larger group of filmmakers again raised questions about the issue of informed consent when making a film about former Guantánamo prisoners, even adding specifically that their concern about the movie was not primarily about authorship. read the complete article


21 Oct 2022

Images of unveiled Iranian protesters inspire. But there are risks, too.

It would not be the first time that depictions of Muslim women have been used to legitimize harmful foreign interventions. In the 19th century, for example, the French deployed images of oppressed Muslim women as a tool to popularize the colonization of Algeria, the confiscation of Algerian land and institutions and the continued war during the Algerian War of Independence. Though the historical and geographical contexts differ, revisiting the history of Algeria reminds us how ideas about emancipating oppressed Muslim women have been seductive for global audiences. States have used such ideas to build popular support for foreign interventions that ultimately harmed the women they claimed to want to rescue. This history reminds us to question such depictions of Muslim women more critically. The European obsession with the oppression of Muslim women extended beyond art and material culture. Claims about Muslim sexuality were used as the legal basis to legitimize the confiscation of Algerian land, wealth and institutions. French officials alleged, for instance, that Muslim family customs, including polygamy, were incompatible with French laws, so French citizenship could not be extended to Muslim subjects. Claims like this also justified separate legal systems for European settlers and Algerian subjects. Images of subjugated Muslim women remained pivotal to the French colonial project until its gasping final breaths. read the complete article

21 Oct 2022

US Ban on Xinjiang Imports Is Off to ‘Remarkably Good Start’

Four months into a sweeping ban on imports from China’s Xinjiang region, the top US customs official is signaling confidence that companies are observing the embargo. “There are going to be some rough spots along the way, but I think we’ve been off to a remarkably good start,” Chris Magnus, the commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, said in an interview at the Bloomberg News Washington office on Thursday. The ban, which is aimed at pressuring Beijing over the forced labor of the minority Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, puts the onus on importing companies to ensure none of their goods were even partially made in that region. The blanket measure has threatened to reshape the broader US-China trade relationship. “We’re seeing good examples of compliance so far,” Magnus said. “When you start to have some success stories, business starts to become more comfortable that there’s a way to work with this act -- and the issue of forced labor in general.” read the complete article

21 Oct 2022

Qatar World Cup stadium company ‘built Uyghur internment camp’

A Chinese construction firm that built the venue for the Qatar World Cup final previously built a prison used to detain Uyghur Muslims, according to a report in The Times. The China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), which helped build the Lusail stadium in Doha, had previously worked for the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a government body sanctioned for human rights abuses in the far west of the country, the London-based paper revealed on Thursday. Last March, the European Union joined the US in sanctioning Corps leadership for “atrocious human rights violations”. CRCC and the Qatar’s World Cup organising committee did not immediately respond to Middle East Eye's requests for comment on The Times' story. read the complete article


21 Oct 2022

Suspect sought after hate-motivated graffiti spray painted on Islamic centre in Markham

Police say just before midnight on Oct. 13, a male suspect spray painted three areas of the mosque with derogatory, anti-Iranian language, written in Farsi, aimed towards the Iranian government before leaving the property. The National Council of Canadian Muslims says this is part of a troubling pattern of Islamophobia in recent weeks that has focused on the centre. “We are deeply saddened to see Muslims in Canada suffer Islamophobic backlash as a result of events happening worldwide,” the council tweeted. “The recent Islamophobic attacks at the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre in Thornhill are a devastating example of this. Just recently, “Death to priests” was spray-painted onto the mosque, where children and the elderly congregate. The same mosque was subjected to numerous threats – one individual posted that it is “mandatory to bomb the mosque”. Another hypothesized getting COVID-19 and spitting on congregants.” read the complete article

21 Oct 2022

Muslim leaders condemn 'violent and vile Islamophobia' toward mosque in Thornhill, Ont.

Muslim leaders have condemned "violent and vile Islamophobia" toward the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre in Thornhill, Ont., describing recent incidents as "a very serious matter" for the Muslim community in the Greater Toronto Area in particular, and Canada in general. At a news conference on Thursday Nadia Hasan, chief operating officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), outlined "a troubling series of events," saying the Muslim community has been thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. According to Hasan, the centre, located north of Toronto, has been "targeted" for some weeks now with "sustained Islamophobic actions, including threats, vandalism and harassment." The attacks began around the time unrest erupted in Iran after a woman died on Sept. 13 while in the custody of the regime's morality police. Mahsa Amini, 22, had been arrested for "unsuitable attire." She provided the following examples of the "violent and vile Islamophobia recently directed against the centre," which was established by Iranian-Canadian Muslims in 2004: The phrase "death to priests" was spray painted onto its walls. Someone said that "it's mandatory to bomb the mosque." Someone threatened to purposely contract COVID-19 and spit on the congregants. read the complete article


21 Oct 2022

Modi-Linked Hindu Group Stirs Muslim Tensions Ahead of Elections

A Hindu group linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party called for a national population policy that appeared aimed at minority Muslims, stoking religious tensions ahead of two key state elections. Dattatreya Hosabale, general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party -- said Wednesday that the Hindu majority was declining due to religious conversions and illegal migration. He provided no data for his claim, which is commonly repeated among right-wing Hindu groups that seek to erode India’s traditional secular character. “The population of Hindus has gone down owing to conversions in some parts of our country,” Hosabale said at a press conference. “There is a need for this subject to be considered holistically so that a uniform national population policy can be framed and made applicable to all.” The inflammatory comments come ahead of elections in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh and Modi’s home state of Gujarat later this year. National elections are also less than two years away. The unfounded idea that India’s Muslim population will become dominant has long been pushed by the Hindu nationalist BJP and its allies like the RSS. Hindus constitute 80% of India’s nearly 1.4 billion population, while Muslims account for a little over 14%. read the complete article


21 Oct 2022

China using influencers to whitewash human rights abuses, report finds

The Chinese Communist party is using social media influencers from troubled regions like Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia to whitewash human rights abuses through an increasingly sophisticated propaganda campaign, a report has claimed. The report published on Thursday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), described the videos by “frontier influencers” as a growing part of Beijing’s “propaganda arsenal”. Under the increasingly authoritarian rule of Xi Jinping, the CCP’s oppression of ethnic minorities has worsened, with major crackdowns in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Global condemnation has mounted, with a recent United Nations report finding there was a likelihood it was committing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has vociferously denied accusations it has detained an estimated 1 million people in re-education camps and suppressed religious and cultural activities, saying the policies are to counter extremism and alleviate poverty. The report examined about 1,700 videos created by 18 popular YouTube accounts each with between 2,000 and 200,000 followers over the last few years. It said the videos were mostly hosted by young women from ethnic minority communities, sharing mostly positive lifestyle content and presenting Xinjiang and other regions as happy and stable. Some videos explicitly attack western critics, including one showing the influencer speaking at one of the foreign press conferences organised by the CCP in recent years to deny accusations. “Xinjiang is the same as other places in China,” a Uyghur influencer says in one video. “People live and work in peace and happiness. There is no genocide and no forced labour … People from all over the world are welcome to Xinjiang.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 21 Oct 2022 Edition


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