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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01 Sep 2020

Today in Islamophobia: Muslim groups in Canada push for Toronto mosque attacks to be investigated as hate crimes. For her latest, Bridge Senior Research Fellow Mobashra Tazamal argues that Facebook’s failure to tackle hate speech on its platform is having real world consequences. Our recommended read today is on Donald Trump, and how the President “brought Nazis into Republican politics.” This, and more, below:

United States

01 Sep 2020

How Trump Brought Nazis Into Republican Politics

Trump has retweeted enough decontextualized, random videos of nonwhite people attacking white people — indeed, he shared the same 2019 subway attack clip in June — that it has lost its shock value. But it is this very banality that makes Trump’s behavior so significant. The president is in the habit of promoting a wide array of his supporters, and we all have grown accustomed to the fact that some of those supporters are, well, Nazis. Last week, Mary Ann Mendoza was removed at the last minute from the Republican National Convention after a reporter discovered she had promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Perhaps Mendoza was confused as to why it was acceptable to promote racist theories that smear a population of recent immigrants as inherently criminal yet unacceptable to promote racist theories that target a population of early-20th-century immigrants as inherently criminal. Or maybe she failed to understand why the president is allowed to endorse Nazi propaganda but she is not. Perhaps even more confusing is the fate of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican nominee for Congress in Georgia, and an avid proponent of QAnon. In addition to evangelizing for the notorious conspiracy theory that is advocated publicly by ten fellow Republican congressional nominees, Taylor Greene has promoted racist and anti-Semitic videos and other social-media content. Last week, Media Matters found that she has promoted a far-right video that “features anti-Muslim propaganda, quotes an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier saying that ‘Zionist supremacists have schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation’ and, as one reporter wrote, ‘implies that Jews are at the heart of a project to destroy Europe as we know it.’” The next day, she attended Trump’s RNC acceptance speech at the White House lawn. Trump’s evocation of racist tropes is not Nazism, exactly. It is better described as Nazi-adjacent. He has activated and energized open white supremacists, who for the first time in decades have been given a president who reflects their values closely enough to inspire open defense. If you peruse Nazi propaganda sites, they contain defenses of Trump on such matters like the Russia scandal, and — when excised of references to Jews — read pretty much the same as the polemics found in normal conservative publications like the Federalist, Breitbart, and so on. Where Nazis were once treated by both parties as an unambiguous source of pure evil, now they inhabit a gray area on the fringe of the Republican coalition. His now-infamous description of “Unite the Right” Nazi protesters as “very fine people” was not a flub or a one-off. Trump would never come out and praise Hitler, but he will stoke their race-war dreams. They are marginal members of the coalition, to be handled delicately. read the complete article

Recommended Read
01 Sep 2020

Trump's portrait of America is a monument to its racist past

The RNC's message coming from behind those barricades had an entirely different sound. There is a wide divide, a lucid and lurid disagreement, with regard to what America looks like now, and more importantly, the direction in which it should move forward. The blame, for those who stood on stage at the RNC, falls on the people, the protesters themselves - not law enforcement, or the government structures that abetted their violence, or the vestiges of American apartheid that created the racial inequities that persist today. These inequities sow the seeds of disproportionate Black vulnerability to unhinged police brutality in Minneapolis, Louisville, Kenosha, and virtually every American city beyond and in between. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City celebrated by the Right for "cleaning up the city," blamed the protests for inciting violence. Other speakers turned their ire on BLM specifically, calling them "thugs" and "rioters," using racial dog whistles to buttress the racist currents that underpinned the RNC, and more broadly, the first four years of the Trump administration. These opening speeches set the stage for Trump, the demagogue demanding "four more years" of a violently divisive presidency. But they also set the stage for another white man, rather, a teenager, to add fire to an already combustible situation in Kenosha. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from nearby Illinois, drove up to Kenosha on Tuesday fully armed and intent on leaving his own mark. On the second day of the RNC in Washington, Rittenhouse shot and killed two protesters, and left another seriously injured. Voices on the Right have lauded him as a warrior defending the community - the same defense his lawyer has mounted over the murder charges he faces, with longtime conservative pundit Ann Coulter praising Rittenhouse as "my president". read the complete article

01 Sep 2020

US lawmakers demand probe into reports Muslim detainees forced to eat pork

Dozens of US House representatives are demanding an investigation into reports that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Miami has been "regularly" serving pork and expired halal meals to Muslim detainees. In response to a complaint filed earlier this month by two rights groups, Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib - the first Muslim women elected to Congress - sent a letter on Monday to the office for civil rights and civil liberties at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), calling for the investigation. Signed by at least 27 other representatives, the letter demanded that DHS, which oversees ICE, look into a complaint filed on 19 August which claimed that the ICE-run Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Florida, had been giving Muslims the choice between pre-plated pork meals and spoiled religious accommodations since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, ICE refuted the complaint, telling Middle East Eye that "any claim that ICE denies reasonable and equitable opportunity for persons to observe their religious dietary practices is false". But according to Monday's letter, lawmakers were not convinced. "While ICE has publicly denied the allegations, every aspect of the allegations has documented precedent," the letter reads. "Given the history of religious freedom violations across ICE detention facilities, including violations affecting Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, and Hindu detainees, we find the allegations of targeted violations of Muslim civil rights to be credible." read the complete article

01 Sep 2020

Support for Trump appears to be slipping in the military. And no wonder.

Meanwhile, the real defenders of freedom — the men and women of the U.S. military — aren’t getting love from Trump. And they’re sure not giving it. Unsurprising, given the way Trump didn’t even blink at reports that Russia was paying bounties to Afghan troops for American kills. Or that he was impeached for withholding military aid to Ukraine, putting global trust in America’s military at risk. Or that he keeps trying to take millions in military funding — gutting plenty of military projects right here in the D.C. region, including a day care for military kids — to build his wall. There has been waning support for Trump in the military over his four years. Some of it began with his bone-spur excuse to avoid the draft and his bravado at equating his private, military school cosplay with true military service. Social media is full of veterans explaining why they aren’t voting for Trump. Like Dave, a Marine Corps veteran from Wisconsin who served alongside Muslim Americans and was taken aback by Trump’s early anti-Muslim stances. Dave, who didn’t give his last name in the video he posted with Republicans Against Trump, generated a string of responses from other veterans on Twitter with similar fear for our Constitution. Some just gave him an “Ooooh-raaah!!” “We’re tired of the GOP chokehold on patriotism, and tired of hearing that Democrats hate America,” George Wright stated as the reason he founded the Kentucky Democratic Veterans Council. “We don’t seek members from the active-duty ranks,” Wright explained, after I asked about his retirement project. “But I’m pleased to see what appears to be increasing disenchantment with a president who’s an undignified con man.” read the complete article

01 Sep 2020

Tommy Hilfiger embraces modest fashion with launch of first hijab

Top American fashion label Tommy Hilfiger has launched its first hijab, in a move that some see as a welcome shift towards embracing more diversity but others see as a canny decision to tap into a growing segment of the fashion market. It’s not the first time the fashion industry has recognized the significance of so-called modest fashion. In 2016 at New York fashion week Anniesa Hasibuan was the first designer to show a collection where all models wore the hijab. Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY and Mango have done “Ramadan collections”, while worldwide Modest Fashion Weeks are happening from Miami to Amsterdam. After the fashion industry has been criticized for its lack of diversity and racism, following the Black Lives Matter protests, the Hilfiger hijab could suggest major fashion brands are stepping forward with inclusive practices. But Hassanah El-Yacoubi, founder of modest fashion brand PFH, says that it also shows market changes rather than cultural ones. “It’s more indicative of an ever growing Muslim consumer culture that is lucrative and thriving more than ever now,” El-Yacoubi said. The Islamic fashion industry is estimated to be worth $88bn by 2025, according to Grand View Research. “I think the timing reflects the need to address a growing desire in the market by consumers – especially millennials and Generation Z – for greater inclusivity from the brands they support,” said Arthur Zaczkiewicz, the executive editor of fashion industry publication Women’s Wear Daily. After years of being “othered” by mainstream fashion, the perception of modest fashion is altering. “I believe we are experiencing a permanent cultural shift instead of a fleeting style that’s in vogue temporarily,” said El-Yacoubi. Yet most observers believe the Hilfiger hijab is only a small step towards a wider acceptance of Muslim dressing. “No matter how mainstream or celebrated modest fashion has become, the reality remains that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments have been at an all-time high in the US,” said El-Yacoubi. Hate-crime violence hit a 16-year high last year in the US, while in 2019 52% of UK hate crimes were committed against Muslims. “Since modest fashion is generally perceived to be a phenomenon spearheaded by hijab-donning women, they usually bear the brunt of such beliefs,” said El-Yacoubi. read the complete article


01 Sep 2020

Growing Pressure on Brands to Cut Supply Link Tainted with Uyghur Forced Labor

In western China, there is alarming, increasingly irrefutable evidence that mass-scale, state-sanctioned forced labor — particularly of Muslim Uyghurs — is being used in farms and factories throughout the region. Dozens of international brands have been implicated, including Nike, Gap, Amazon, The North Face, Apple and Fila, to name a few. This is why, last month, a broad coalition of more than 180 labor rights groups, NGOs and advocates put out a clear call to all brands whose supply chains touch the Uyghur regions: Immediately cut off all suppliers; as, due the region’s inaccessibility, there is no way to know which ones are using forced labor, and which ones are not. This is unprecedented in its scope. The situation in the Uyghur regions of China has become increasingly worrying. What started out as a digitally enhanced police state morphed into the largest system of concentration camps since World War II, housing perhaps as many as three million Uyghurs and other mostly Turkic Muslim minorities. Alongside this is ongoing cultural genocide; as Mosques, cemeteries, shrines, and historic Uyghur neighborhoods have all been destroyed. Why is this happening? The history is complex. The Uyghurs are located thousands of miles from Beijing and have little in common ethnically with the Han majority, sharing more culturally with their brethren to the west — ethnic Kazakhs, Kygyz and Turkomen of Central Asia. It was unfortunate history that led to this region being incorporated into China after World War II, and the desire by Uyghurs to freely express their culture and religion has led to occasional violence against ruling authorities. This provided the cover for ruling Chinese authorities to embark on a campaign of repression to eliminate, once and for all, the idea of Uyghurs as a distinct ethnic group. read the complete article

01 Sep 2020

Rohingya refugees' lawyers lobby for International Criminal Court to sit in Asia

The ICC is investigating allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Myanmar government and military officials in 2017. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya - a stateless, mostly Muslim minority group - fled to neighbouring Bangladesh during the unrest. Myanmar's government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced accusations of failing to stop a systematic campaign of violence by security forces to wipe out the Rohingya minority, which Myanmar denies. Lawyers acting on behalf of Rohingya refugees have now lodged a pre-trial motion asking the court to investigate the possibility of holding a trial outside of Europe. Counsel at the ICC Kate Gibson is representing groups of Rohingya living in the Cox's Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh. Gibson said they were hoping the court would hold some or part of the hearings in Asia, possibly in Bangkok in Thailand, or even Bangladesh. "We're just asking the court to be aware of this massive gap that is existing between the Rohingya population in the camp who are cut off in every sense that you could imagine from The Hague to be aware that they feel like this," she said. "We think one of the most effective ways of doing that would be to look into whether the ICC can move its seat to somewhere closer to the victim communities." read the complete article

01 Sep 2020

Why are US companies buying tech from Chinese firms that spy on Muslims?

In April 2020, Amazon, the world’s wealthiest technology company, received a shipment of 1,500 heat-mapping camera systems from the Chinese surveillance company Dahua. Many of these systems will be installed in Amazon warehouses to monitor the heat signatures of employees and alert managers if workers exhibit Covid-19-like symptoms. Other cameras included in the shipment will be distributed to IBM and Chrysler, among other buyers. While Amazon’s move to protect workers from Covid-19 is welcome, it acquired this technology from a company researchers have shown is involved in human rights abuses. As Sanjana Varghese noted recently, the “humanitarian experimentation” work in pandemic surveillance of companies like Dahua doubles as technologies of population management. In north-west China, where Dahua is heavily invested, Dahua’s public health surveillance applications mask its involvement in a system of “terror capitalism” that has placed as many as 1.5 million Muslims in internment camps in the Uighur region in north-west China. Dahua received close to $1bn to build comprehensive surveillance enclosures which allegedly supported a “re-education” system of internment, checkpoints, and ideological training as part of a “people’s war on terror” in north-west China. Because of its role in human rights abuses, the US department of commerce has placed Dahua on a list that prohibits American companies from selling products to it. Like many computer-vision companies in China, Dahua got its start through partnerships with the ministry of state security, China’s version of the CIA. Like its rivals Hikvision, SenseTime, Yitu, and others, it now receives much of its funding from Chinese state security projects. These companies provide “smart city” tools to authorities that allow them to analyze and control populations in a manner that resembles the role of the US Department of Defense contractor Palantir, which provides analytics to police departments throughout the US. read the complete article

01 Sep 2020

Facebook's Failure to Tackle Hate Speech Online has Real World Consequences

The WSJ report is just the latest to highlight the role of Facebook and other social media platforms in promoting dangerous and dehumanizing speech, especially rhetoric which comes from state authorities. While Facebook presents itself as an apolitical organization, its executives have supported right-wing leaders (Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, has stated she admires Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi). In the United States, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerburg has grown close to current President Donald Trump, even dining with him at the White House. A June 2020 article in the Washington Post noted that the social media giant had altered its rules to allow Trump to continue promoting misinformation and threatening messages. The article notes that in recent years the company had “constrained its efforts against false and misleading news [and] adopted a policy explicitly allowing politicians to lie.” As a private corporation, Facebook’s ultimate aim is to make a profit. The company is aware of the business opportunities that lie in India with Sandberg noting, “India is a very promising market with very active Facebook users. It should become Facebook’s largest market…It’s an endless opportunity to grow with very active Facebook users.” The response from Das to the internal flagging of hate speech by Hindu nationalist politicians exemplifies how Facebook prioritizes profit over ethics, despite knowing that discriminatory rhetoric online has contributed to actual violence on the streets. read the complete article


01 Sep 2020

Facebook Oversight Board Should Hear the India Hate Speech Case

Facebook’s decisions about which posts from public figures to keep and which to remove often come with high-profile controversies. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook’s public policy chief for India quashed employees’ efforts to apply its rules against hate speech and content from organizations and individuals the company deems dangerous to posts by T. Raja Singh, a member of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, and three other Hindu nationalists. The Journal reports that Singh’s Facebook posts called for Rohingya Muslim immigrants to be shot and called traitors and for mosques to be destroyed, dangerous messages considering that violence against Indian Muslims has escalated under Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. Current and former Facebook employees told the Journal that the reason the policy chief gave for the decision to ignore what appear to be clear rule violations was that taking action against the violators might hurt the company’s business prospects in India, a factor acknowledged by the company. The newspaper also cites examples of content decisions that tended to favor Hindus over Muslims and evidence that the head of public policy herself might be supportive of both Modi and of anti-Muslim views. As the company struggles to respond, its newly-established Oversight Board suggested to Reuters that the panel has a role to play in this type of case. The board told the news agency in a statement that it has the authority to decide “[h]ow Facebook treats posts from public figures that may violate community standards,” including rules against hate speech, and “won’t shy away from the tough cases and holding Facebook accountable.” But the board, funded by $130 million from Facebook and including many eminent human rights lawyers, is not yet up and running. Even it were functioning today, it would face an uphill battle on this case and others of its ilk. read the complete article

01 Sep 2020

Zafar Islam, BJP's Emerging Muslim Face, Once Worked Closely With Congress

Those who have known Syed Zafar Islam, the new Muslim face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the party’s nominee for Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming by-election, well before his entry into politics say that this is not entirely true. “He not only met Congress leaders but also worked for the party for quite some time before joining the BJP,” an old acquaintance of Islam’s told The Wire. This information was corroborated by at least three more people who have known Islam for over a decade. Prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which Modi was declared as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, special efforts were made by the party to recruit Muslims to the BJP. Businessmen like Zafar Sareshwala, scriptwriter Salim Khan and some others were roped in to give the impression that the BJP in general, and Modi in particular, were not hostile to Muslims. Coincidentally, a book titled Modi, Muslims and Media: Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat by Madhu Purnima Kishwar was also launched before the elections. The book’s foreword was written by screenwriter Salim Khan, father of actor Salman Khan. The efforts yielded positive results as some Muslims, with considerable traction, switched loyalties and joined the BJP. Former journalist and general secretary of the Peace Party, M.J. Akbar had joined the BJP earlier in August 2013, with his supporters. M.J. Khan, on the other hand, is currently the main force behind a newly launched Muslim advocacy group called the Indian Muslims for Progress and Reforms (IMPAR). This is what distinguishes Islam from the rest. Since there is almost no public memory of Islam being a Congress supporter and worker, he can’t be accused of political opportunism like others who have switched their loyalty for political gain. Being an alumnus of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) also seems to have worked in Islam’s favour. Moreover, apart from acting as a spokesperson of the party, through his writings, Islam has strongly defended the party and the prime minister on a range of issues of considerable importance, both as an expert on finance and as a member of the Muslim community. read the complete article


01 Sep 2020

Canadian Muslims want Toronto mosque attacks investigated as hate crimes

Muslim groups in Canada are demanding local police do more to keep their communities safe after a string of break-in attempts at Toronto mosques. According to the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), which administers Masjid Toronto and other Muslim places of worship in downtown Toronto, there have been at least six attacks on its mosques in the past three months. In addition to break-in attempts and racist graffiti sprawled on the mosque's walls, the windows at Masjid Toronto have been broken at least three times in three weeks, with the last attack coming on 16 August, according to MAC. Toronto police said two arrests have been made and six investigations are curently underway, but a decision to label a 29 July attack an act of "mischief" has stirred outrage among the Muslim community. "We want more from the police," Mariam Manaa, the public relations manager at MAC told Middle East Eye. "We want to hear from them and we want to see better action because we're frankly very concerned for our community. We're concerned about the staff at the mosque." So far, MAC says the first four incidents have not been resolved, and the decision to label the fifth as an act of mischief was deeply troubling as they should all be viewed as "acts of hate". read the complete article

01 Sep 2020

'Sulah' program aims to address hate crimes through restorative justice

A new program called Sulah has been running for about a year in Waterloo region and aims to handle hate crimes through the restorative justice process. It means rather than going before a judge for some kind of sentence, like a fine or jail time, the accused goes through a process where the people impacted by the crime talk to them about what it means to them and they develop a resolution. The program is a collaboration between the Coalition of Muslim Women of Kitchener-Waterloo and Community Justice Initiatives. Sarah Shafiq, the co-ordinator of Together Against Islamophobia for the Coalition of Muslim Women of KW, calls the work they're doing "pretty groundbreaking." "When we think about punitive approaches, and if a hate crime had occurred already, there is definitely that response to punish," she said. "But really, what will that achieve? How will that person's views change, the person who has committed that act?" she added. "It seems that it would be more useful to try this other approach of accountability." In the past three months, they have worked on four cases, which Shafiq says is positive news because they didn't really promote the program. Now, the program has received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to expand. Julie Friesen, director of programs for Community Justice Initiatives, says it was important for them to partner with the coalition because it's "something that neither of our organizations can do alone." "We are not experts in Islamophobia and a lot of our mediators are white," Friesen said. Instead, their role is to connect members of the a community to provide an opportunity for them to identify what's concerning to them and then find ways to move forward when a hate crime occurs. "And that's not us telling them what to do. It's providing that space for people to together try to figure out how can they build something together that is better than it was before," Friesen said. read the complete article


01 Sep 2020

Facebook Improving Hate Speech Detection Ahead of Myanmar Election

Facebook Inc said on Tuesday that it was preparing for Myanmar's general election in November by improving the detection and removal of hate speech and content that incites violence and preventing the spread of misinformation. The company said in a blog that between now and Nov. 22, it would remove "verifiable misinformation and unverifiable rumours" that are assessed as having the potential to suppress the vote or damage the "integrity" of the electoral process. "For example, we would remove posts falsely claiming a candidate is a Bengali, not a Myanmar citizen, and thus ineligible," Facebook said. The platform came under fire in Myanmar after a military-led crackdown in 2017 that forced more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the country. U.N. investigators said Facebook played a key role in spreading hate speech that fuelled the violence. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 01 Sep 2020 Edition


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