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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31 Oct 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United Kingdom, the government has dropped work on an official definition of Islamophobia that was promised more than three years ago, meanwhile in the United States, activists are calling on local lawmakers in New Jersey to adopt a bill that would define Islamophobia, which would be used to determine whether an act of violence is motivated by anti-Muslim hate intent, and lastly over the weekend, Guantanamo Bay’s oldest prisoner, Saifullah Paracha, 75, was released to his home country, Pakistan, after almost two decades of imprisonment without charge or trial. Our recommended read of the day is by Hannah Ellis-Petersen the Guardian on how “mosques have begun to be caught up in a wide-ranging project under the BJP to rewrite India’s history according to Hindutva ideology.” This and more below:


31 Oct 2022

Thousands of mosques targeted as Hindu nationalists try to rewrite India’s history | Recommended Read

VP Singh and his taller associate BP Singh – no relation – are discussing Shamsi Jama Masjid, the mosque that has stood in this small town in Uttar Pradesh for 800 years. According to the lawyers, this grand white-domed mosque, one of the largest and oldest in India, is not a mosque at all. “No no, this is a Hindu temple,” asserted BP Singh. “It’s a very holy place for Hindus.” Records dating back to 1856 make reference to the working mosque, and according to local Muslims, they have been praying there undisturbed since it was built by Shamsuddin Iltutmish, a Muslim king, in 1223. The Singhs however, have a different version of events. In July, they filed a court case on behalf of a local Hindu farmer – and backed by the rightwing Hindu nationalist party Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) – alleging that Shamsi Jama Masjid is not a mosque but an “illegal structure” built on a destroyed 10th-century Hindu temple for the god Shiva. Their petition states that Hindus have rightful ownership of the land and should be able to pray there. Mosques have begun to be caught up in a wide-ranging project under the BJP to rewrite India’s history according to Hindutva ideology. The version of history now propagated by BJP leaders, government-backed historians and school curriculums is that of an ancient Hindu nation oppressed and persecuted for hundreds of years by ruthless Muslim invaders, particularly the Islamic Mughal empire that ruled from the 16th to the 19th century. The alleged destruction of Hindu temples to build mosques has been central to this narrative. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

In Police Denial That Hindu Mob’s Killing Of Muslim In UP Village Was A Communal Attack, A Pattern Emerges

An attack in September by Hindus was not communally motivated, said the police. That means it will not be recorded as a communal incident, cases of which declined in 2021, according to the government. Eyewitnesses told us the mob chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’, while the police said there was a preparatory meeting at a temple before the attack. Nearly two months later, as traditional Hindu-Muslim ties fray, 13 alleged attackers are still at large. read the complete article

United States

31 Oct 2022

Religious Discrimination Persists in Zoning Proceedings, Despite Strong Legal Protections

Last Sunday marked a historic and joyful day in DeSoto County, Mississippi. The county’s first mosque, the Abraham House of God, finally broke ground in the City of Horn Lake. While the occasion was celebratory, it was also a relief to the mosque’s founders, who were forced to sue last year after city officials — motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice — denied them a critical zoning authorization. Represented by the ACLU, the ACLU of Mississippi, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, the mosque and its founders argued in a 2021 lawsuit that the zoning decision violated both the First Amendment, which prohibits singling out one faith for discriminatory treatment, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a federal law that provides heightened protections for religious groups seeking to establish a house of worship or to use property for other religious purposes. In a decisive victory, our clients quickly won a consent decree (a court order to which the parties agree) requiring the city to approve their construction site plan and prohibiting further discrimination against them. The Horn Lake matter is not the only recent incident in which minority-faith groups or houses of worship have faced discriminatory hurdles in zoning proceedings. In some instances, as in Horn Lake, the prejudice is overt and unmistakable. In others, the bias may be more veiled, cloaked in vague — and unsupported — allegations that the proposed land use will cause problems with parking, traffic, or noise. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

Define Islamophobia so that Violence Against Muslims in New Jersey is Accounted For

Earlier this month, a delegation of over 100 New Jersey Muslims and allies gathered at the State House in Trenton to meet with over 30 state legislators and push for six policy issues, most prominent among them the defining Islamophobia and establishing same-day voter registration bills. With Islamophobia steadily on the rise — New Jersey ranks among the top 10 states for anti-mosque incidents — and low voter turnout. Until local lawmakers adopt these key pieces of legislation, New Jersey’s Muslim community will continue to be targeted and marginalized populations will continue to go unaccounted for. If passed, the defining Islamophobia bill would be the first of its kind and, much like the bill to define anti-Semitism, would be used to determine whether an act of violence is motivated by anti-Muslim hate intent. The bill provides that, in reviewing or investigating a potentially anti-Muslim bias incident, a public official or law enforcement officer is required to take into consideration the definition of Islamophobia. This past year alone, the Council on American Islamic Relations’ New Jersey chapter documented over 100 cases of anti-Muslim discrimination and/or bias incidents. Between 2014 and 2019, there were at least 10,015 anti-Muslim bias incidents, which included 1,164 anti-Muslim hate crimes. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

American Muslims In The Midterms Aren't Long-Shot Candidates Anymore

During the 2018 midterms, American Muslims jumped into politics in record numbers. The candidates were mostly young, mostly inexperienced: long shots, in other words. Many of them didn’t run again after their losses, or left politics entirely. But then there were candidates like Rashid, who hasn’t stopped fighting for his chance to formally serve in public office. Four years later, a number of American Muslim candidates are still running — now with years of experience under their belts. “We’re seeing fewer long-shot candidates running and many more serious candidates running,” said Mohammed Missouri, the executive director of Jetpac, a nonprofit that works to increase Muslim representation in U.S. government and politics. This time around, rather than running as a direct response to Trump, Muslim candidates are aiming for long-term gains with more diverse policy platforms. They have developed mature political strategies and are focusing on securing seats in local and state politics. “It’s about running for positions where policy is being decided on a local level that impacts our community, and having a voice at the table and influencing those policies in a positive way,” Missouri said. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

FBI probes vandalism at North Dakota Muslim cemetery

The FBI is investigating the severe vandalism of a Muslim cemetery in the US state of North Dakota earlier this month, as the local community tries to repair the damage and understand the cause of the crime. The vandalism was discovered shortly before a funeral and reportedly occurred around 21 October, according to local news reports. The damage was extensive, with concrete vaults for burials destroyed. "This wasn't simple vandalism. This was targeted. They knew what those things were. It's one of those things where they wanted to cause harm," Jaylani Hussein, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota, told The New Arab. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

Guantanamo Bay: US releases oldest detainee Saifullah Paracha

Guantanamo Bay's oldest prisoner has been released to his home country, Pakistan, after almost two decades. Saifullah Paracha, 75, was arrested two years after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US and accused of being an al-Qaeda sympathiser. Mr Paracha was suspected of financing the jihadist group, but maintained his innocence and was never charged. Clive Stafford-Smith, Mr Paracha's lawyer, questioned why it had taken so long for his client to be released. "He's been cleared for release [for] well over a year... he used to hum to me The Eagles song Hotel California, where you can [according to the lyrics] check out 'but you can never leave'," Mr Stafford-Smith told the BBC's Newshour programme. Mr Paracha was captured in July 2003 in Thailand following a sting operation by the American FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigations]. After 14 months at a US military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan, he was transferred to Guantanamo. read the complete article


31 Oct 2022

Hijab head coverings - a woman's choice

This year I had a rather unpleasant encounter in a public car park. I backed my car into a four wheel drive. Luckily, the impact didn't feel strong enough to cause any damage, but the startled driver definitely needed an apology. He wasn't in the mood though, shouting expletives he told me to get lost. And I happily obliged. His frustration was justified after all. But then I heard these words: "Maybe if you took that thing off your head you'd be able to see". I froze in my tracks. I wear the hijab. I noticed hot angry tears welling up in my eyes, the voice in my head told me to be the bigger person and walk away, but I didn't want to. So I went back to him and politely asked if he realised what he had just said was racist and quite hurtful. To his credit, he apologised. In that moment I felt empowered by my hijab, it is a taonga. And it's my right to choose what I wear and not to be judged for it. I've been thinking about that car park incident a lot recently. The death of Mahsa Amini and the subsequent protests have made me think a lot about my own choice to wear a religious head covering. Every time I see images from Iran of women cutting their hair and burning their headscarves in defiance, I marvel at the contrasting worlds we live in. Those women, Muslims like myself, are protesting not to wear the hijab. It's painful for me to watch them set their headscarves alight, and to them it's liberating. In France, where the hijab is banned in government spaces, women are fighting for their right to wear it. And strange as it may sound, I support both sides. It is not ok to take choices away from women. How they dress is strictly their own business. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

In Iran, women are protesting the hijab. In India, they're suing to wear it

Footage of Iranian women protesting and burning their hijabs has fascinated Indians, in part because they are seeing the opposite scenario play out at home: Muslim women are suing India's government for the right to keep their hijabs on. Their lawsuit, brought by high schoolers banned from wearing headscarves in classrooms in southern India, has landed at the country's Supreme Court, where this month, judges admitted that even they have been unable to agree on the issue. It's a reflection of just how sensitive anything related to the hijab is in Hindu-majority India, especially under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Lawmakers from his Hindu nationalist party have been accused of inciting violence against India's 200 million Muslims — the country's largest minority. But Modi's Hindu conservatives are championing female Muslim protesters in Iran. The Iran protests fit a narrative popular among many in India's Hindu majority: that the hijab is an example of "radical Islam," a tool to control women and a slippery slope toward clerical control. Many Hindu nationalists see a contradiction in those who support Iranian women taking off their hijabs while also supporting Indian women who want to keep them on. But many women on the left and right in India say that misses the point. It's not about the hijab, they say. It's about choice. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

Hindutva In Indian Hindu Diaspora: Where The ‘Far-Rights’ Back Home Meet Their Global Cousins

For the Indian Hindu diaspora in first-world countries like the US and the UK, Sunak is the ‘poster boy’ – An Oxford-educated supporter of merit-based privileges with broad financial and cultural entitlements sprinkled with Hindu traditions and nationalist ideals. The nationalist ideals of the Tory party that led to Brexit bear a sense of lost glory that must be revived to make Britain great again. Such a revivalist approach could be found both in Donald Trump’s US and Modi’s India. This supremacist nationalist ideals, although for his own country - the UK, with an image of a devout Hindu is what makes Sunak the favourite of the Indian Hindu diaspora. For the Hindutva forces across the world, he is another ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ (the king of Hindu hearts) after Modi. However, seeing the fanfare that Sunak has among the Indian Hindu diaspora along with their support for BJP in the home, the question comes- how did the ideals of Hindutva make such a strong root among the Indian Hindu diaspora? Is it coincidental with the emergence of Modi in India or has it been a concerted long-drawn effort of the RSS that is now bearing fruits? Several kinds of research have been conducted to find the roots of the spread. A throwback to the existing literature shows for how long it has been operative. Our focus will be mostly confined to the US and the UK as the most powerful Indian Hindu diaspora stays in these countries. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

Forgotten Uyghurs locked up in Thailand face 'hell on earth'

Almost a decade after fleeing China, more than 50 Uyghurs are languishing in Thai detention facilities, living in constant fear of being sent back. China has been accused of grave human rights abuses in Xinjiang against the Uyghurs dating back to at least the 1990s, with the United States branding Beijing's treatment of the mostly Muslim minority a "genocide". A damning UN report released in August detailed violations including torture and forced labour and "large-scale" arbitrary detention in what Beijing calls vocational training centres. Many Uyghurs have fled China over the years, with some travelling through Myanmar to Thailand, but dozens have ended up stuck in detention there - the apparent victims of what observers say is the kingdom's desire to avoid angering either Beijing or Washington. The group of Uyghurs, arrested in 2013 and 2014, are currently being held in immigration centres around Thailand while authorities ponder their fate. read the complete article

United Kingdom

31 Oct 2022

Banned British far-right figures return to Twitter within hours of takeover

Key figures on Britain’s far right who were previously banned from Twitter have been able to open new accounts, apparently without restrictions, after the platform’s takeover by Elon Musk. Britain First, an extreme group whose leader has spent time in jail for hate crimes against Muslims, rejoined the social media network on Friday. It had been banned in 2017 under Twitter’s hate speech rules after posting inflammatory anti-Muslim videos. Some videos posted by its then deputy leader were retweeted by US president Donald Trump. Twitter has mechanisms to detect when banned users set up accounts, and the new Britain First account quickly had its features limited after being found to violate rules. But it was later restored to full functionality, according to screenshots shared with members in a group for Britain First supporters. The account was still live on Saturday evening. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

Glasgow councillor spat on and had hijab ripped off after 7/7 bombings

A Glasgow councillor had her hijab ripped from her head, was spat on and was told to 'go home' in the wake of the 7/7 bombings in London, she has revealed. Councillor Fyeza Ikhlaq shared her experience with members of the city council as they debated a motion to tackle hate crime in the city. And her colleague SNP councillor Zen Ghani, revealed he had once been asked if he was carrying a bomb in his bag by a group of men as he made his way home from his mosque. Councillor Zen Ghani brought forward the motion highlighted the importance of listening to victims of these hate crimes, and said: “Many Muslim citizens across Glasgow will be able to give their own experiences of Islamophobia. “It is important that we listen to their experiences so we can learn from them as being subject to Islamophobic abuse can be one of the most horrendous things a person can experience in their life. “One of my own experiences, which I remember so vividly to this day, was when I was coming out of a mosque in Pollokshields. A group of older men, who were intoxicated, began calling me a terrorist, asking me if I was carrying a bomb in my bag and began pulling me by my shirt. “I made no eye contact and said nothing to them but by just coming out of a mosque late at night, I was being subject to awful, racist abuse. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

Leicester disorder: Hindu groups set to boycott review

Large-scale disorder broke out in September following tensions involving mainly young men from Muslim and Hindu communities. On Wednesday, the review was launched by hate crime expert Dr Chris Allen. But a group representing Hindu and Jain temples said they would not take part as they felt previous comments by Dr Allen undermined his impartiality. The disorder gained international attention with the Indian government calling for Hindus to be better protected, while the Pakistani government said Muslims needed greater safeguards. At the review's official launch city Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby emphasised its independent nature and said he expected conclusions by early next year. Dr Allen said he would follow the facts and was not going to "placate anybody or any particular constituency or group". However, objections have now been raised to the timing of the announcement and Dr Allen's appointment. read the complete article

31 Oct 2022

Government drops plan to combat anti-Muslim hatred with official definition of Islamophobia

The government has dropped work on an official definition of Islamophobia that was promised more than three years ago, amid mounting concern over inaction on the issue. Muslims are the most frequently targeted group for religious hate crimes in England and Wales, while a string of scandals have exposed anti-Muslim hatred within the Conservative Party. Ministers will be questioned on the issue in parliament on Tuesday, which marks the start of Islamophobia Awareness Month. Labour MP Afzal Khan is to raise a point of order asking why successive prime ministers have not responded to any of his letters concerning the matter for two years. “Their lack of action since 2018, coupled with the damning allegations made by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, all show that they simply do not take the issue seriously,” he told The Independent. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 31 Oct 2022 Edition


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