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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03 Oct 2022

Today in Islamophobia: As protests against the mandatory hijab continue in Iran, supporters of Hindutva express excitement as they “believe that this development vindicates their position that Muslim women should not wear the hijab in public place,” meanwhile in Canada, the Parti Québécois (PQ) has “suspended a candidate because of his comments about Islam and women who wear a religious veil,” and in the United Kingdom, the Forde report highlighted issues of racism and Islamophobia within the Labour party but nothing has been done by party leaders to tackle it. Our recommended read of the day is by Megan Specia for the New York Times on the recent violence in Leicester, which is just the “latest example of how the toxic politics that are roiling India — and leading to the persecution of Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities — have migrated to other parts of the globe.” This and more below:


03 Oct 2022

Tensions That Roiled English City Have Roots in India | Recommended Read

In east Leicester, decorations for the Hindu celebration of Diwali hang near a sign advertising a Halal butcher. The fish shop down the road is owned by a Muslim Indian family and staffed almost exclusively by Hindus. Everywhere, there is evidence of a diverse and sizable South Asian community that has called this central English city home, with people from different communities and countries living side by side for decades. So it was disturbing to many residents there when crowds of mostly Hindu and Muslim men tangled with one another last month on the city’s streets, a confrontation that devolved into brawls and scuffles with the police. One group made up largely of Hindu men chanted anti-Muslim slurs as it pushed toward a mosque. In retaliation, masked men tore down flags outside a Hindu temple. And rumor and disinformation, with lots of finger-pointing, swirled on social media, further inflaming the situation. Experts say it is only the latest example of how the toxic politics that are roiling India — and leading to the persecution of Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities — have migrated to other parts of the globe. Since India’s independence struggle, Hindu nationalists have espoused a vision that places Hindu culture and religious worship at the center of Indian identity. That view, once fringe, was made mainstream when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party came to power. Human rights observers have since documented a sharp rise in violence against minorities in India, particularly targeting Muslims, but also Christians. Activists and journalists, including many Muslims, have been jailed or threatened with prosecution under an antiterrorism law that has received scrutiny from India’s highest court. read the complete article

03 Oct 2022

Why does Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai want more Muslims in film and TV?

This week Malala Yousafzai called out Hollywood. The young Pakistani education activist, who was catapulted to fame after getting shot in the head by the Taliban, condemned the film and television industry for its near total absence of Muslims. Speaking at an event praising female creatives in the United States (US), she said: "I know that executives have passed on dozens of quality, equally amazing projects because they thought that the characters or their creators were too young, too brown, too foreign, too poor." "Sometimes it feels like they're saying we just don't belong here." According to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (AII), only 1.1% of characters in US and UK films are Muslim. In a 2021 report, which sampled 200 of the most popular films in the West, they found that an “epidemic of invisibility faces Muslim characters.” The picture is similar across Europe. In Germany – which has one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe – only 3.2% of those in the film and television (TV) industry are Muslim or Jewish, as per data by Citizens Europe. Likewise, in 2019, a group of artists in France signed an open letter denouncing the lack of diversity in French cinema. Yousafzai's comments touch on a long-running issue. Back in 1984, Jack Shaheen wrote a book called "The TV Arab" which highlighted several problems with how US TV and media dealt with Arabs, especially Muslims. Many of these issues surrounding the representation of Muslims still remain, with Yousafzai and other public figures, such as British actor Riz Ahmed, vocally criticising the status quo. read the complete article

03 Oct 2022

Meta Should Pay Reparations to Rohingya Refugees, Rights Group Says

Facebook’s parent company Meta should pay reparations to Rohingya communities who were driven out of western Myanmar in 2017, given the role that it played in enabling the campaign of ethnic cleansing, the human rights group Amnesty International said in a report published yesterday. In a new report published yesterday, Amnesty claims that Facebook’s “dangerous algorithms and reckless pursuit of profit… substantially contributed to the atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya people in 2017.” In August of that year, the Myanmar military launched a “clearance operation” against the Rohingya communities of northern Rakhine State in the country’s west, which drove more than 700,000 Rohingya civilians across the border into Bangladesh. During the assaults, hundreds of villages were burned to the ground, civilians were shot, and hundreds, possibly thousands, of women and girls were raped. Facebook’s role in enabling this ethnic cleansing – and possible genocide – of the Rohingya has long been recognized. In March 2018, the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar reported that that social media platforms, particularly Facebook, had played a “determining role” in the violence against the Rohingya, and had “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict” in the country ahead of their expulsion. Later that year, the New York Times conducted its own investigation into Facebook’s role in facilitating the violence, which concluded that Myanmar military personnel had “turned the social network into a tool for ethnic cleansing.” read the complete article

03 Oct 2022

Uyghur leader urges Japan to join call for U.N. debate on alleged abuses in China

Japan needs to do more than make an "empty promise" to stop human rights abuses in China, the leader of the largest ethnic Uyghur group in exile said in Tokyo on Friday. Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, said he had come to Japan to meet members of parliament and urge the government to press for a debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council on China's treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims. Japan's motions and statements on the issue are an "empty promise, not enough to stop the ongoing genocide", Isa told reporters. "Japanese parliament has some obligation to more actively engage in the Uyghur genocide," he said. read the complete article

03 Oct 2022

Mahsa Amini Was Arrested For ‘Bad Hijab.’ But the Only ‘Bad Hijab’ Is a Forced One

Recently, unprecedented images have emerged from the streets of Iran: defiant-eyed women ceremoniously cutting their locks in public; headscarves burning on the streets amid plumes of smoke; oceans of nameless demonstrators shouting together in a unified chant—all protesting against forced hijab laws, now behind the veil of government-imposed Internet shutdowns. Almost 20 years ago, during the height of the War on Terror, a Muslim schoolgirl in France took a similar action and publicly shaved her head in front of an audience of protesters, international media, and press cameras, making global headlines in a pre-social media era. Except, she was protesting for her right to wear it. This is no contradiction. Muslim women across the East and West have been fighting for the same thing for decades: the right to choose. That’s why at the same time as Iranian women are fighting with their lives for their right to take their headscarves off, Indian women are fighting for their right to keep them on. This March, in the face of increasing Hindu nationalism and widespread anti-Muslim violence, an Indian court upheld a policy allowing schools in the state of Karnataka to ban the hijab, provoking attacks targeting Indian Muslim women and girls. In 2021, Muslim women launched the viral social media hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab after French officials voted to ban young Muslim women and girls from wearing the hijab in public. read the complete article

03 Oct 2022

The Rohingya Refugee Taking on Meta's Bias Algorithm

In 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya became refugees after fleeing extreme violence and crimes against humanity during a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar military. Facebook (owned by Meta) contributed to violence and discrimination against them by spreading and amplifying anti-Rohingya content across the platform. However, the billion-dollar company has refused all requests from the Rohingya for providing meaningful remedy. Now, a group of Rohingya youth in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, have filed a human rights complaint against Facebook in the USA for its role in the abuses perpetrated against their community. They have asked for an investment of $1 million USD for educational projects in the refugee camp. read the complete article

03 Oct 2022

We need to approach world issues with broader perspectives

The defiance of Iranian women and protestors is incredibly courageous and solidarity with their fight is vital. However, it’s important to focus on the issue of bodily autonomy rather than creating a rhetoric of Western society versus Islam when supporting the cause. Western media must be especially careful not to perpetuate the existing orientalist views of Islam and the greater Muslim community. No one should decide what anyone else does with their body, be it forcing women to wear a hijab or banning them completely, as has been done in France and Quebec. If the feminist movement is to be intersectional and free of any political agenda, we must abandon the associated white saviour narrative. Rather than critiquing the government and how authoritative powers influence women’s rights issues, Western media is busy focusing on the hijab itself—this approach to reporting on the protest lacks nuance. Islam is certainly a factor; there’s no disputing that the Islamic Republic of Iran manipulates the religion to uphold its extremist conservative grip on the nation. However, the focus has shifted from the regime to a precise criticism of the hijab itself. This perception Westerners have of the East is perpetuated by narratives that paint the Islamic religion as inherently oppressive without understanding how authoritarianism corrupts its true teachings. An orientalist understanding of the Middle East ignorantly generalizes its residents. It reduces a complex region to a place lacking modern values that uses violence to resolve its issues due to Islam itself, rather than the wielding of religious teachings as a weapon to further a political agenda. read the complete article

03 Oct 2022

Hijab debate: In Iran and in India, Muslim women are fighting for control of their bodies

In Iran, demonstrations are continuing against the forced dress code for women. The protests have sparked great excitement in India, particularly among Hindutva supporters. They believe that this development vindicates their position that Muslim women should not wear the hijab in public places and that enforcing this idea will protect Indians from the sight of this garment, which they claim is retrograde and anti-woman. What they do not understand is that the protests of Iranian women are not directed not against the hijab per se. The real issue is women fighting to take back control over their own bodies. It is a question not only of women dispensing with the hijab should they choose to but also the manner in which they can dress, whether they can use lipstick and nail polish in public. But in India, these protests in Iran are being used by another totalitarian political party and the state it rules to make decisions about the way Muslim women should appear in public spaces. In Iran, it is an Islamic totalisation of the lives of women. In India, it is a Hindutva totalisation. The only difference is that in Iran the state describes itself as Islamic but in India Hindutva supporters claim it is secular. Hindutva supporters are deceptively using the Iran protests to justify their attempt to “secularise” the public image of Muslim women. read the complete article


03 Oct 2022

In Quebec, the Independence Movement Gives Way to a New Nationalism

“It’s a conservative nationalism that recalls the themes of culture, history and memory,” said Jacques Beauchemin, a sociologist and a leading intellectual behind this shift. “It’s a return to the meaning of identity.” But to critics, this nationalism threatens the cohesion of the increasingly diverse province by taking aim at immigrants, English speakers and other minorities. In its four years in office, the government of the premier, Francois Legault, has banned the wearing of religious symbols like the Muslim veil in some public areas and has further restricted the use of English. In his campaign for the election, Mr. Legault has doubled down on the issue of immigration, describing it as a threat to Quebec society — a stance at odds with that of the federal government, which is planning to increase immigration sharply over the next few years. The position is also at odds with the stance of Montreal, the multicultural city where the premier’s popularity is comparatively weak. “With this electoral strategy, Mr. Legault is deepening the divide between Montreal and the rest of Quebec,’’ said Gérard Bouchard, a historian and sociologist who is a leading intellectual in the province. “The result of this strategy is to marginalize immigrants and ethnic minorities who are concentrated in Montreal.” read the complete article

03 Oct 2022

PQ suspends candidate for controversial anti-Muslim remarks

The Parti Québécois (PQ) has suspended a candidate because of his comments about Islam and women who wear a religious veil. Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon suspended the PQ candidate in Rousseau, Pierre Vanier, but said that he's waiting to speak with him to make a final decision on his candidacy. In a series of social media posts made in 2015 and 2016, the PQ candidate in Rousseau, Pierre Vanier, questioned the intelligence of women who wear veils and accused Muslims of "killing democracy." The comments resurfaced in a "Journal de Montréal" piece. "Give a hammer to a sovereignist, he will build a country," he wrote in June 2015. "Give a hammer to a Muslim, he will kill democracy." In January 2016, he lashed out at women who wear religious veils. "Why do Western women choose to drape themselves in these accoutrements? As one of my colleagues said: they're missing out on a 15-minute undercooked noggin." read the complete article


03 Oct 2022

Bollywood under siege as rightwing social media boycotts start to bite

In August this year, a week after the release of Laal Singh Chaddha, Bollywood’s adaptation of Forrest Gump, a Twitter account with about 280,000 followers, tweeted: “#Urduwood is trending. Thanks to all who have accepted this term to accurately define the anti-national, anti-Hindu paedophile cabal that takes your money to destroy you.” The tweet received more than 1,700 retweets and about 5,800 likes. For those not familiar with the term “Urduwood”, it is a pejorative popular among far-right social media and politicians. Urdu is an Indian language with a Perso-Arabic script, and the national language of Pakistan; hence it is associated with Muslims and its use is a way to claim the film industry is “Hinduphobic”. For decades, India’s Hindi film industry, known as Bollywood, has been one of the country’s most popular products, for Indians themselves and the world at large. But the consolidation of Hindu nationalism under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has marked a cultural shift. Laal Singh Chaddha stars, and is produced by, Aamir Khan, one of Hindi cinema’s trio of superstar Khans (Shahrukh and Salman are the other two, all unrelated). On its release, social-media platforms witnessed a tidal wave of targeted attacks calling for a boycott of the movie. The resurfacing of remarks made by Khan on the rise of “intolerance” in India in 2015, as well as clips from his 2014 film PK (which criticised blind-faith belief) were coupled with targeted tweets. Laal Singh Chaddha has fared poorly at the box office, but the calls for a boycott have not stopped. Other movies, such as Vikram Vedha, Dobaara, Shamshera and Brahmastra, are also in the line of fire, the last two owing to the recirculation of 11-year-old remarks by the lead actor, Ranbir Kapoor, on eating beef. “Bollywood is an industry where Muslims have had representation and success, which bothers the Hindu right,” the Bollywood actor Swara Bhasker said. Bhasker herself has repeatedly been on the receiving end of rightwing ire, including a death threat. She adds: “If a popular mass-medium of entertainment is so organically secular, pluralistic and diverse, then to further their agenda of a Hindu nation and discredit secularism, they have to discredit that medium.” read the complete article

United Kingdom

03 Oct 2022

As Labour marches forward, is racism in the party being swept under the carpet?

Labour is leading in the polls, and if Starmer retains this advantage over the next two years, he is on his way to a coronation, vindicated in playing the long game. But there is another side to this story of a party hitting its stride. You may have heard a lot about Islamophobia in the Tory party. But not so much, I would wager, about Islamophobia in the Labour party or racism toward Black MPs and staff. Or misogyny. Which is odd, because it has been reported by members of the party, MPs and an actual inquiry in the shape of July’s Forde report. That reality is in sharp contrast to the image of the party that leadership projects – one of zero tolerance of prejudice and fast, decisive action to enforce discipline, most recently suspending the whip from the MP Rupa Huq for comments about Kwasi Kwarteng. The testimonies in the report are not light on detail, nor are they from junior staff. And they are all consistent in the patterns they report: receiving racist abuse, taking it to relevant parties higher up, then being summarily ignored. Ali Milani, who was a parliamentary candidate in Uxbridge and South Ruislip and has written a book about his experience, tells harrowing stories of being called a “terrorist” by Labour members in the local selection campaign, and receiving chilling hand-delivered death threats to his home. “I recall sending complaints about such behaviour and activity to the legal and governance unit (GLU),” he says, only “to be met with silence for over 13 months.” Despite his experience, Milani was still shocked when the Forde report came out, with its detail of “underlying racism and sexism” in WhatsApp exchanges between the party’s “most senior staff”, and party members explicitly “spelling out their experiences of discrimination – racism, Islamophobia, sexism – in constituency parties and in party processes”. What happened? Broadly, nothing. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 03 Oct 2022 Edition


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