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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25 Oct 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In India, Rohingya refugees are not only facing deplorable living conditions but are also increasingly persecuted for their religion, meanwhile in the United States, an anti-Muslim remark from a teacher to a 17-year old Arab American student has “sent shockwaves through Ridgefield Memorial High School,” and Murtaza Hussain explores how “drone operators have become more like judicial executioners: putting people on trial on the other side of the planet without due process and meting out death sentences by remote control.” Our recommended read of the day is by Newley Purnell and Jeff Horwitz for the Wall Street Journal on how Facebook is being used to spread hate and disinformation targeting Indian Muslims and creating dangerous divisions in the world’s largest democracy. This and more below:


25 Oct 2021

Facebook Services Are Used to Spread Religious Hatred in India, Internal Documents Show | Recommended Read

Mark Zuckerberg praised India in December as a special and important country for Facebook Inc., saying that millions of people there use its platforms every day to stay in touch with family and friends. Internally, researchers were painting a different picture: Facebook’s products in India were awash with inflammatory content that one report linked to deadly religious riots. Inflammatory content on Facebook spiked 300% above previous levels at times during the months following December 2019, a period in which religious protests swept India, researchers wrote in a July 2020 report that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Rumors and calls to violence spread particularly on Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service in late February 2020, when communal violence in Delhi left 53 dead, according to the report. India is Facebook’s biggest market with hundreds of millions of users. Hindu and Muslim users in India say they are subjected to “a large amount of content that encourages conflict, hatred and violence on Facebook and WhatsApp,” such as material blaming Muslims for the spread of Covid-19 and assertions that Muslim men are targeting Hindu women for marriage as a “form of Muslim takeover” of the country, the researchers found. read the complete article

25 Oct 2021

Facebook dithered in curbing divisive user content in India

Facebook in India has been selective in curbing hate speech, misinformation and inflammatory posts, particularly anti-Muslim content, according to leaked documents obtained by The Associated Press, even as its own employees cast doubt over the company's motivations and interests. From research as recent as March of this year to company memos that date back to 2019, the internal company documents on India highlight Facebook's constant struggles in quashing abusive content on its platforms in the world's biggest democracy and the company's largest growth market. Communal and religious tensions in India have a history of boiling over on social media and stoking violence. The files show that Facebook has been aware of the problems for years, raising questions over whether it has done enough to address these issues. Many critics and digital experts say it has failed to do so, especially in cases where members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP, are involved. read the complete article

25 Oct 2021

In India, Facebook Grapples With an Amplified Version of Its Problems

On Feb. 4, 2019, a Facebook researcher created a new user account to see what it was like to experience the social media site as a person living in Kerala, India. For the next three weeks, the account operated by a simple rule: Follow all the recommendations generated by Facebook’s algorithms to join groups, watch videos and explore new pages on the site. The result was an inundation of hate speech, misinformation and celebrations of violence, which were documented in an internal Facebook report published later that month. “Following this test user’s News Feed, I’ve seen more images of dead people in the past three weeks than I’ve seen in my entire life total,” the Facebook researcher wrote. The report was one of dozens of studies and memos written by Facebook employees grappling with the effects of the platform on India. They provide stark evidence of one of the most serious criticisms levied by human rights activists and politicians against the world-spanning company: It moves into a country without fully understanding its potential impact on local culture and politics, and fails to deploy the resources to act on issues once they occur. With 340 million people using Facebook’s various social media platforms, India is the company’s largest market. And Facebook’s problems on the subcontinent present an amplified version of the issues it has faced throughout the world, made worse by a lack of resources and a lack of expertise in India’s 22 officially recognized languages. The documents include reports on how bots and fake accounts tied to the country’s ruling party and opposition figures were wreaking havoc on national elections. They also detail how a plan championed by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to focus on “meaningful social interactions,” or exchanges between friends and family, was leading to more misinformation in India, particularly during the pandemic. Facebook did not have enough resources in India and was unable to grapple with the problems it had introduced there, including anti-Muslim posts, according to its documents. Eighty-seven percent of the company’s global budget for time spent on classifying misinformation is earmarked for the United States, while only 13 percent is set aside for the rest of the world — even though North American users make up only 10 percent of the social network’s daily active users, according to one document describing Facebook’s allocation of resources. read the complete article

25 Oct 2021

G7 doubles down on fighting Uyghur forced labor

G7 trade ministers on Friday reiterated a commitment to tackle forced labor worldwide at a meeting in London and added specific phrases to make clear that Beijing was in their crosshairs. "We, the G7 Trade Ministers, share and are guided by the concern expressed by our Leaders in Carbis Bay in 2021 regarding the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains, including state-sponsored forced labour of vulnerable groups and minorities, including in the agricultural, solar and garment sectors," the joint statement reads, in a barely veiled reference to China. There are deep concerns about China’s internment of its Muslim Uyghur minority in the western region of Xinjiang, which involves forced labor, including in the three sectors listed in the statement. read the complete article

25 Oct 2021


A series of innocuous actions, like Ahmadi loading water containers into his car, were interpreted in the minds of the operators watching as sinister preparations for a suicide bomb attack. After surveilling Ahmadi for several hours, the drone operators issued a death sentence, firing a Hellfire missile at his car as he drove up to his home, just as three children were rushing out to greet him. A total of 10 people, all civilians, were killed in the attack that the U.S. military had initially insisted had targeted a terrorist working with the Islamic State. The deaths of Ahmadi and his family members were unique in the level of public attention they received. It was sadly unremarkable, though, in the context of the larger U.S. drone war that has been waged over the past 20 years. Armed drones have become a staple of modern American warfare, placing operators at a historically unprecedented remove from danger. At the same time, they have exposed those targeted, whether combatants or civilians, to a form of violence that they can neither defend themselves against nor surrender to. Freed from the traditional reciprocity of war, in which both sides put their lives on the line, drone operators have become more like judicial executioners: putting people on trial on the other side of the planet without due process and meting out death sentences by remote control. read the complete article

United States

25 Oct 2021

Rep. Ilhan Omar behind legislation for new special envoy to fight Islamophobia

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., wants to help the federal government tackle Islamophobia on a global scale — drawing on longstanding efforts to track and counter antisemitism worldwide. Omar is cosponsoring a bill, dubbed the Combating International Islamophobia Act, that would require the State Department to create a special envoy to monitor Islamophobia and document cases in its annual human rights reports. "We are seeing a rise in Islamophobia in nearly every corner of the globe," Omar said in a statement. Congress created a special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism in 2004 and has since elevated that job to the role of ambassador. According to a news release, the new proposed special envoy would help lawmakers better understand "the interconnected, global problem of anti-Muslim bigotry" while setting up a sweeping strategy for the U.S. to lead efforts to combat Islamophobia. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., is also a cosponsor of the legislation. Omar cited a rise of violence against the Uyghur and Rohingya communities in China and Burma, respectively, and recent white supremacist violence against Muslims in New Zealand and Canada. read the complete article

25 Oct 2021

Civil rights group fights to unseal records about death of Muhammad Muhaymin Jr.

National civil rights group Muslim Advocates is challenging the City of Phoenix fighting for court records regarding the death of Muhammad Muhaymin Jr. to be unsealed. Muhaymin died in Phoenix police custody in 2017. On Oct. 8, the organization filed a petition calling for the federal judge to reject the city’s request to keep the documents sealed. The motion is the organization's response to an opposition filed against them on behalf of the defendants asking for the documents to remain sealed. On Oct. 1, the City of Phoenix along with the 10 officers involved, asked the federal judge to reject Muslim Advocates' request and keep the records sealed. In the document, they argue neither Muhaymin's religion nor race is a factor in the case, contrary to what Muslim Advocates says. The group says this claim is false, and that the city never gave a proper reason to them as to why the court did not let people or media inside May's trial. The killing of Muhaymin, who was a Black, disabled Muslim man, sparked outrage and intense scrutiny of Phoenix police and use of force by its officers. read the complete article

25 Oct 2021

Remarks directed at Arab American student send shockwaves through NJ high school

A cruel remark directed at an Arab American student has sent shockwaves through Ridgefield Memorial High School. Mohammed Zubi, a 17-year-old senior, was in a math class asking a question when it happened. The comment caught everyone off guard, and was loud enough for other kids in the class to hear. "He responded saying, 'we don't negotiate with terrorists,' so I look around in shock, there's people laughing, and there's other people in shock, and I turn around and ask my friend, 'did he really just say that?' and she said yes," said Zubi. "The teacher got close to him and said 'we don't negotiate with terrorists,' knowing that Mohammed is Arabic and Muslim," said senior Vuk Tomasese. Senior Nichoalas Velez says everyone in the classroom was mostly in shock. Zubi is captain of the soccer team but has not been back in school since he is the target of the Tuesday morning insult. "I don't feel like going back, I'm really uncomfortable, " he said, "I don't want to see anyone, and I've been in my room all day -- don't want to see my friends, especially after what that teacher said to me." read the complete article


25 Oct 2021

China’s internment camps in Xinjiang are a horror. Survivors and participants alike must reconcile with the truth

Like nearly all of the 15 million Muslims in the region – a group roughly the size of Ontario’s population living in a space nearly equal to the size of Ontario and Manitoba – Qelbinur had in fact already heard about the several thousand Uyghur community leaders who had been sent to re-education camps as early as 2014. In May of that year, the Chinese state declared the People’s War on Terror in response to several violent suicide attacks targeting non-Muslim civilians carried out by small numbers of Uyghur criminals. In my ethnographic fieldwork in the region over that period, I heard over and over again about the arbitrary detention of community leaders who were accused of teaching others how to read the Quran or sharing information about the Arab Spring and similar “extremism” crimes. Like most people I interviewed, Qelbinur thought the unjustified detention sounded terrible – they had nothing to do with the violent crimes carried out by a handful of Uyghur youth. But she also thought that this had little to do with her, an urban Chinese-speaking Muslim woman. As she prepared for the new assignment, Qelbinur remembered what a co-worker from rural southern Xinjiang had told her through her tears in August, 2015: “People who prayed regularly, who wore long dresses, or who were imams, were being detained.” The woman’s three older brothers had been taken away after a mass show trial that had traumatized the whole community. “They gathered all of them in a big hall,” she told Qelbinur. “The police were carrying weapons. People’s names were called, their crimes were declared, and a sentence was given. Police then took that person away with a black plastic bag over their head,” Qelbinur recalled. “When she said this, we all cried with her.” Yet she also remembered that life soon seemed to go back to normal. Now the story her colleague had told came flooding back. “I thought it must be something similar because they kept saying over and over that it was a political assignment and that we were not allowed to tell anyone about it,” she remembered. “But I tried to push this thought out of my mind.” She could not imagine how her life would be turned upside down by what she would be asked to do as part of a swarm of low-level camp functionaries – a term Primo Levi uses for the common workers who are pressed into service in camp systems. read the complete article


25 Oct 2021

Tobah: Fight against Islamophobia a decolonial battle

Recently, a Quebec City mayoral candidate reportedly called Islam a cancer in Quebec. While the comments are upsetting, they’re not surprising considering anti-Muslim hate long has been lethally on the rise. As many have pointed out, one of the most obvious sources of institutionalized Islamophobia in Quebec is Bill 21, the Legault government’s secularism law that bars public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols. While Bill 21 affects communities beyond Muslims, its predecessor, the now suspended Bill 62, sought to prohibit Muslim women from covering their faces with the niqab. De-veiling Muslim women is not a new phenomenon. It dates back to European colonization of Muslim countries. Through the 1800s in lands colonized by the French and British across the Mideast and North Africa, colonial governments sought to unveil Muslim women. British authorities in Egypt, for example, pointed to the covering of women as evidence of Egyptians’ inferiority. In occupied Algeria, French authorities perceived the unveiling of Algerian women as part of their civilizing project. This context is relevant to Canadian history and attitudes toward Muslims. Before 1960 and the Quiet Revolution, French-Canadian missionaries established missions to Algeria believing in the necessity of saving Muslim souls from their oppressive faith. While secularism has replaced Catholicism as the means of saving Muslims from themselves, the colonial attitudes persist. As a Canadian of Egyptian descent, I simultaneously participate in a system of colonization while having descended from survivors of it. And while I participate in privilege as a settler, I have not escaped the colonialist eye that scorns my faith and seeks to control and unveil those like me. read the complete article

25 Oct 2021

“You can’t tell me my fear is irrational”: U of T community reflects on Islamophobia following London attack

Salman Afzaal, Madiha Salman, Yumna Afzaal, and Talat Afzaal, four members of a Muslim family from London, Ontario, are dead because a terrorist ran the family over with his car on June 6, 2021. Fayez, a nine-year-old member of the family, survived but was seriously injured. The London attack is part of a larger pattern of violence against Muslim people across the world. The Varsity interviewed Muslim students and faculty, who reflected on Islamophobia in Canada. “Tragedies like this force us to confront the reality that Islamophobia, hate, and vitriol continue to exist within our communities,” read a statement made by the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) on June 10. In an email to The Varsity, Basmah Ramadan, vice-president external of the MSA, cited the Anti-Islamophobia Community Working Group as a positive step toward policy change from the administration that would help Muslim students and expressed hope that it would be followed by continued efforts against Islamophobia at U of T. The Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) also responded with a statement, writing that it was “horrified” and likening the attack to other instances of violence against Muslims in Canada. It called for the community to reflect on their own personal biases following the attack. read the complete article


25 Oct 2021

‘It’s Like We’re Caged Everywhere We Go’

After decades of persecution in Myanmar, culminating in the military’s genocidal crackdown in 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have sought refuge around the world. Many of those who fled are struggling to resettle in their countries of asylum—especially in India, where nearly 17,000 Rohingyas live in refugee camps. Many say opportunities and health care here are worse than in other countries, such as in Malaysia, Thailand, and Bangladesh. Rohingya refugees in India not only face deplorable living conditions but are also increasingly persecuted for the same reason they were in Myanmar: their religion. Anti-Muslim sentiment in the country has risen since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. Over the past few years, his government has introduced policy changes aimed at rendering Muslims powerless and invisible—from revoking the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state, to passing a controversial citizenship law widely protested across India that is said to render many Muslims effectively stateless. In the process, Rohingyas have become a target of the anti-Muslim sentiment right. Now, they worry they’ll be forced to flee once again. Sabber Kyaw Min, director of the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative and a refugee himself, can pinpoint when the hate against Rohingyas began. “Since 2017, our community is being targeted by extremist groups in certain states in India,” he said. “Camps were set to fire, refugees were beaten, and hate speeches increased against us, and many restrictions have been placed on the mediocre lives we live.” These restrictions include biometric verification and the placement of police personnel outside of refugee camps. In 2017, India’s then-minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, said “the government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals, including Rohingyas.” Although this went against Indian and international law, it provoked an unprecedented crackdown against the community. In October 2018, Modi’s government prevented refugees from obtaining the Aadhaar card, an essential biometric-based identification document necessary for access to basic services—such as banking, health care, education, and jobs—in India. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 25 Oct 2021 Edition


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