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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14 Sep 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In India, a court agreed to hear a petition by a group of Hindu women for the right to worship in a mosque they believe was the site of a Hindu temple, rejecting a Muslim plea to throw out the petition, meanwhile in the United States, at least three panelists have withdrawn from the Jaipur Literature Festival following revelations that a leader from India’s ruling BJP would be participating at this year’s events in NYC, and lastly, a new book “gives insight into the experience of what it must have been like to live through the slow buildup of decades of discrimination and cultural control that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities underwent before China’s latest crackdown in Xinjiang.” Our recommended read of the day is by Yumna Rizvi for Inkstick on her reflections from inside the military base at Guantanamo bay, where residents go about their daily lives just miles from the prison that is notorious for the torture and ongoing imprisonment of dozens of Muslim men. This and more below:

United States

14 Sep 2022


There are a few things that come to mind when one thinks of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Terrorism. Torture. Anti-Muslim discrimination. 780 Muslim men held and 36 left. $500 million-dollar annual costs. An anxiety-inducing image of an arid, uninhibited piece of land lined with barbed wire and a chain-link fence tucked away in a remote corner of the world. Like an Alcatraz or even the fictional Azkaban, a place so far removed with a dark, horrifying history, that it doesn’t seem real. But when I read the material the Office of the Military Commissions sent me before visiting Guantánamo this summer, which recommended I visit the tiki bar and bowling alley, I was bewildered. A tiki bar at Guantánamo? A bowling alley? I spoke with previous visitors about their experiences, and I was told two things: yes, those and more places like that exist, and it is the strangest place they ever visited. Now I understand why. Over the last year, I have worked intensively on closing the Guantánamo detention center. I’m intimately familiar with its history and follow closely what’s happening there now. After a week-long visit, I can say that Guantánamo is a place I was not prepared for. We were at the bowling alley food court for dinner and decided to chat with the person behind us in line. Like the high schooler, this 20-year old also said there wasn’t much else to do on the base, and nobody talks or thinks about the detention center. When asked about his reaction when he found out he was to be stationed there for 2–3 years, he said the name sounded familiar, but he didn’t know why and Googled it. This caught us a bit off guard. The so-called “War on Terror” has spanned his entire life, as has indefinite detention at Guantánamo. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the United States became a fear-based, hyper-nationalist security state. So it surprised me that a younger person who joined the military was unaware of where he was going. But perhaps I also understand. I also largely grew up in the post-9/11 era. I wasn’t taught in school about “special registration” for Muslims, torture, or Guantánamo, which is rarely the subject of mainstream press. I suppose there’s a logic to that: the United States doesn’t have much incentive for transparency, having chosen to operate outside of both domestic and international law, arrogant as well as firm in those choices. And in the 20+ years since there’s been no meaningful accountability for the crimes the United States committed. read the complete article

14 Sep 2022

Panellists withdraw from New York literature festival over BJP presence

The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is normalising Hindutva in the United States, activists and writers have told Middle East Eye, following revelations that a leader from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would be participating at this year’s JLF events in New York City. As of Tuesday morning, at least three panellists, including authors Marie Brenner and Amy Waldman, had reportedly withdrawn from the JLF following calls from activists and writers to boycott the event over the presence of Shazia Ilmi, a national spokesperson for the BJP. The JLF is the world's largest free literature festival and holds events outside of India such as the one in New York from 12-14 September. Taseer, whose overseas citizenship of India was revoked in 2019 - shortly after he published an article criticising Indian PM Narendra Modi - said that many panellists were duped into believing they were attending a festival with “respectable, intellectual people with bodies of work behind them". He said that South Asian activists and writers more knowledgeable about the current political climate in India had to be mobilised to explain to participants that “these are full-on right-wing ideologues, including card-holding members of the BJP". “These people who are appearing from the New York side who are liberals would never be caught dead with these [BJP] people,” he said. “So it's a really, really insidious and sly thing that the JLF leaders have done." JLF is touted as one of the most prestigious literature festivals on the planet, but it has also been criticised for working closely with corporate sponsors as well as its willingness to include the Hindu right-wing at the festival. read the complete article

14 Sep 2022

21 Years Later, the Muslim Community Reflects on the Aftermath of 9/11 in Emerald Project Event

On Sept. 11, 2001, Zahid Nazir was working in the building across from the World Trade Center. His office was so insulated the workers normally could not hear any of the city’s noise. But, on that day 21 years ago, Nazir heard a plane. He remembers running to the Brooklyn Bridge, looking back and seeing the city cloaked in dust. After his building was permanently closed down due to contamination from the debris of the attacks, he tried to be around people so he could process the trauma he had endured. For the next few days, he shivered. After the 9/11 attacks, Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States spiked. In 2021, The Associated Press reported 53% of Americans have unfavorable views of Islam. On the 21-year anniversary of 9/11, a group of Salt Lake community members gathered in a room on the University of Utah’s campus to discuss the aftermath of 9/11 and the harms caused to the Muslim community. Lead by Emerald Project, an organization focused on combatting the misrepresentation of Islam, this event was organized to showcase the different realities of those whose lives were forever impacted by this day. Amber Pederson, a Westlake Junior High teacher, and Zahid Nazir, a Qualtrics program manager, sat at the front of the room, side by side, to talk about their experiences as a non-Muslim and Muslim, respectively, in the aftermath of 9/11. After the events of 9/11, Nazir saw a huge impact on the Muslim community in Brooklyn. He said many people lost their immigration and medical documents in different buildings, and some were rounded up and questioned. They were then detained and abused. Before 9/11, Nazir said Muslim individuals were able to live freely. Afterwards, however, their personal security became their top concern. read the complete article

14 Sep 2022

A Veteran’s Islamophobia Transformed, in “Stranger at the Gate”

In his new documentary, Seftel brings the camera home and follows a personal drama that embodies a societal collision. The film opens on a teen-ager addressing the camera. “Most of the time when I tell people this story, they tell me that they don’t believe me,” she says. The speaker, Emily McKinney, is the stepdaughter of the man at the center of the documentary, Richard (Mac) McKinney. Emily is referring to Mac’s plan to set off an I.E.D. at a mosque, the Islamic Center of Muncie, Indiana. Mac, a white combat veteran, describes his twilight tour in the military during the early and violent years of the global war on terror, and his abrupt return to small-town Indiana, in 2006. Reëntering civilian life, he became livid, and obsessed with the local Muslim community. During the periods he describes as “between being drunk and sober,” he brainstormed how he could attack Muslims—an action he thought of as continuing to protect his family and serve his country. His answer was to make a bomb. He describes making a plan for how he could “get the most bang for my buck” by targeting his local mosque, where he hoped to injure or kill at least two hundred worshippers. When he set out on a reconnaissance mission and visited the mosque—“to get the proof” of their threat—his story took a surprising turn. McKinney met the Bahrami family, co-founders of the center and themselves refugees of the Soviet Union’s ill-fated war in Afghanistan; and Jomo Williams, a Black local convert. The relationships were not easy ones—“These people were killers,” McKinney remembers thinking—but the members of the mosque saw that McKinney was troubled, and welcomed him. In the film, McKinney tells his version of the transformation that ensued. Emily, her mother, Dana, members of the Bahrami family, and Williams all speak directly into the camera as well. read the complete article

14 Sep 2022

Letta Tayler presents on costs of war over 20 years after 9/11

In a virtual event entitled “Legacy of the ‘Dark Side’: The Costs of Unlawful U.S. Detentions and Interrogations Post-9/11,” Political Science Lecturer Nina Tannenwald moderated a discussion with Letta Tayler, associate director in the Crisis and Conflict Division of Human Rights Watch. Tayler discussed the implications of indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay and expanded on U.S. policies regarding transfers, detention and torture in the more than two decades following 9/11. Tayler’s presentation drew from a research paper she co-authored with former HRW Advocacy Officer Elisa Epstein as part of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs’ Costs of War Project, which advances research on the “many hidden or unacknowledged costs” of the United States’ military response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Her talk discussed the 36 men who remain indefinitely detained at Guantanamo Bay since the United States’ transfer of 800 people to Guantanamo between 2002 and 2008. Of the remaining detainees, 24 have never been charged with any crime and Tayler said 12 have not received fair trials. “That’s because the military commission system that Bush created to prosecute suspects at Guantanamo is deliberately, fundamentally flawed,” Tayler said. “It gives a clear advantage to the prosecution, and it’s ensnarled … in legal arguments over CIA torture, destruction of evidence and interference in trial proceedings.” read the complete article


14 Sep 2022

A Uyghur seeks just a place to sleep in 'The Backstreets'

Years of dogged investigation and brave whistleblowers have yielded incontrovertible evidence of one of the worst human rights abuses of our time: the extralegal detention and imprisonment of at least hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs in China's western region of Xinjiang since 2017. Much of this evidence is online, so anyone with a computer has immediate and detailed access to this work. The curious can peruse databases of stark satellite imagery of the many detention camps and prisons that have sprouted up across the region; view the heartbreaking headshots of those arbitrarily detained; or pore through the bureaucratic inanity of detention case files. None of these massive reams of information, however, gives insight into the experience of what it must have been like to live through the slow buildup of decades of discrimination and cultural control that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities underwent before China's latest crackdown in Xinjiang. Especially hard hit during each of China's "strike hard" policing in Xinjiang were young Uyghur men, and during the most draconian years of the detention campaign, they were conspicuously absent from Xinjiang's streets. An amalgamation of the experiences of these young Uyghur men is the primary subject of The Backstreets, a short novel by acclaimed Uyghur writer Perhat Tursun and now translated into English by anthropologist Darren Byler and an anonymous partner. read the complete article

14 Sep 2022

China’s atrocities against Uyghurs demand a response

The report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) found that “serious human rights violations have been committed” in Xinjiang, also referred to as “XUAR.” The report’s authors stated how the “implementation of these strategies, and associated policies in XUAR has led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights” that “often directly or indirectly affect Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities.” The report spoke of mass detentions, bans on prayer, sexual assaults, family separations, and other forms of persecution. China lobbied furiously against the report, especially against a genocide finding. One diplomat stated his belief that UN authors caved to Beijing’s pressure and watered down the section on forced sterilization to weaken genocide claims. Although Beijing would like to ignore the report’s shocking findings, its documentation puts the world on notice that international crimes, particularly crimes against humanity, were perpetrated against the Uyghurs by the Chinese government. The findings mirror what other countries and organizations have determined; several have concluded a genocide is underway. Therefore, the UN and rights-respecting member states should begin a process toward justice and accountability. Currently, no existing mechanism could collect and preserve evidence from Xinjiang and engage on the issue of international crimes against the parameters of international law. read the complete article


14 Sep 2022

Indian court to hear Hindu plea for worship in contested mosque

An Indian court on Monday agreed to hear a petition by a group of Hindu women for the right to worship in a mosque they believe was the site of a Hindu temple, rejecting a Muslim plea to throw out the petition. The Gyanvapi mosque in the northern Hindu holy city of Varanasi has become the latest potential flashpoint between India's majority Hindu community and its Muslim minority, which makes up some 13% of the country's 1.4 billion population. A mosque committee had asked a Varanasi district judge in the state of Uttar Pradesh to dismiss the plea from five Hindu women to allow them to worship and perform rituals for various "visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex". The committee had told the court that the mosque was established about 600 years ago and remained a place of worship for Muslims ever since. Petitioners have said a Hindu temple predated the mosque at the site and an idol of a deity and relics were still there. Judge Ajay Krishna Vishvesha said the Muslim side had failed to make the case for the plea's dismissal and set the next hearing of the case for 22 September, according to Shivam Goud, a lawyer for the Hindu petitioners. read the complete article

14 Sep 2022

Hijab row shows why we should see Muslim women’s rights through the dual lens of religion and gender

In the last part of this series, we tackle the on-going hijab ban hearings at the Supreme Court in India. Parts I and II dealt with discrimination in the criminal justice system, and Part III dealt with inherent bias in the employment practices, against Muslim women. In this part, I discuss the equality concerns with regard to the hijab ban. The arguments in this case are made on the constitutional validity of the fundamental right to freedom of religion (and the essential religious practice doctrine), the right to privacy (held to be part of the fundamental right to life and liberty by the Supreme Court in 2017), and the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. In addition, administrative law and statutory interpretation is also brought in when considering whether the government could regulate the dress code in schools. However, one aspect which goes hand in hand with the fundamental rights arguments is the one for equality and non-discrimination. Firstly, Article 15(1) of the Constitution prohibits intersectional discrimination. I have already discussed the concept of intersectionality and intersectional discrimination in the second part of this series. Muslim women are doubly discriminated against on the basis of religion, and gender. The Supreme Court’s judgments in Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. versus Union of India (2018) and Patan Jamal Vali versus State of Andhra Pradesh (2021), read together, expanded the interpretative scope of Article 15. The case of school and college girls wearing the hijab should be looked at from this dual lens of religion and gender. The issues formed in this case come from a place of patriarchal, religious ideology. It questions whether the hijab is an essential religious practice. This line of questioning and forming the issues takes away autonomy from Muslim women to make decisions on their religion, cultural practice and personal expression. It then becomes a question of what is allowed by the religion. However, Muslim women and girls, just like any other women, are diverse. Some may opt to wear the hijab while some may not. Some may profess their faith (openly), while others might be agnostic or atheistic. Despite this, the affiliation in society due to name and other identity categories would put all the women as Muslim. read the complete article

United Kingdom

14 Sep 2022

King Charles III’s Unique Relationship with Islam Could Bridge Divides

Almost 30 years ago, then-Prince Charles declared that he wanted to be a “defender of faith,” rather than simply “Defender of the Faith,” to reflect Britain’s growing religious diversity. It created a bit of a storm in a teacup, as he had clearly not meant that he would be changing the traditional role so much as adding to it. The new King is a particular type of Anglican: one that on the one hand, is incredibly tied to the notion of tradition; but on the other, has shown a great deal of affinity for both Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Islam, two religions clearly outside the Anglican fold that he must now titularly lead. Beyond these esoteric matters, the King has been quite public about his admiration for Islam as a religion, and Muslim communities, both in Britain and abroad. Although it’s not unusual that a tolerant monarch would be polite and respectful about all the faiths practiced in their country—one could argue that’s simply good politics— the new King has gone much further than that in an era of all-too-common Islamophobia. When it came to Muslim communities worldwide, he stated clearly at a famous speech in 1993, “For that which binds our two worlds together is so much more powerful than that which divides us. Muslims, Christians—and Jews—are all ‘peoples of the Book’.” Privately, he’s shown a lot of sympathy for where Muslims are in difficult political situations, both in Europe and further afield. Robert Jobson’s recent Charles at Seventy claims that the King has significant sympathies for the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, for example. It’s also claimed that he disagreed with dress restrictions imposed on Muslim women in various European countries. read the complete article

14 Sep 2022

King Charles III: Five things the new British monarch said about Islam and Muslims

Charles, who became the new monarch last week following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, aged 96, is not a secret Muslim - but his admiration and knowledge of the Islamic faith is well documented. The 73-year-old, who is now the head of the Church of England, has made several speeches whilst king-in-waiting on theological and historical subjects related to Muslims and Islam. He even once revealed that he had been learning Arabic in order to understand the Quran better - a fact praised by Cambridge Central Mosque’s imam last week during a sermon. Middle East Eye takes a look at some of Charles III’s most significant references to Islam over the decades. read the complete article


14 Sep 2022

Alberta in showdown with human rights chief in Islamophobia controversy

A day after Justice Minister Tyler Shandro publicly directed the head of Alberta’s human rights commission to quit, the commissioner’s office lobbed the issue back at him, saying it’s Shandro who does the hiring and firing. “The commission does not have any information to share regarding the status of Collin May’s resignation,” the Alberta Human Rights Commission said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “The minister of justice and solicitor general is responsible for managing who is appointed as chief of the commission and tribunals. “Please get in touch with (his office).” It’s the latest turn in an issue that beset Collin May even before he was officially appointed chief of the commission in July. At that time, critics pointed to a book review he wrote in 2009 and said the article raised concerns that May was Islamophobic and therefore unfit to serve as head of the commission dedicated to ensuring Albertans don’t face discrimination. May responded in a statement, categorically rejecting the Islamophobic allegations and promising to “commit to continuing my personal education about Islam and all faiths.” read the complete article


14 Sep 2022

In My Words: After five long years, the Rohingya people continue to seek justice

We recently marked the five-year anniversary of the start of the Rohingya genocide. This ethnic and religious minority has spent five long years seeking justice. The facts are both clear and stark. Five years ago the Rohingya people became the victims of a genocide by the military junta controlling Myanmar. Since the start of the genocide in Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 800,000 Rohingya have now fled into Bangladesh. In addition, some 140,000 Rohingyas were internally displaced in the melee and herded into camps within their home country, where they have remained ever since. Though the Rohingya diaspora is nearly global in reach, most are concentrated in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India, with the vast majority of these genocide victims residing for the last five years in the largest refugee camp in the world in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Five years is a long time to live as a refugee, to have lives, careers, education and hopes put on hold or severely restricted. Five years seeking justice is too long. Here are more facts that speak to the injustice the Rohingya people have endured, and the challenges that must be overcome to restore their freedom. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 14 Sep 2022 Edition


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