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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20 Sep 2021

Today in Islamophobia: In the United Kingdom, the new culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, has been accused of Islamophobia over her comments on the burqa describing the garment as “a medieval dress code,” meanwhile a new report finds that GPT-3, an artificial intelligence system that generates text, disproportionately associates Muslims with violence, and today as the country heads to the polls, many Canadian Muslims are calling on politicians to commit to specific actions to fight anti-Muslim racism in Canada.  Our recommended read of the day is by Booth Gunter and Caleb Kieffer for the Southern Poverty Law Center on the growth and impact of the far-right anti-Muslim movement that amplified bigotry and supercharged nativist rhetoric following the 9/11 attacks. This and more below:

United States

20 Sep 2021

Islamophobia After 9/11: How a fearmongering fringe movement exploited the terror attacks to gain political power | Recommended Read

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Ann Beeson wrote last week of how the anti-Muslim backlash that followed 9/11 ushered in an era of executive overreach and a broad range of government abuses – such as racial profiling, warrantless wiretappings, illegal detentions and secret deportations – perpetrated in the name of keeping our country safe from terrorism. But also arising from the ashes of 9/11 was a far-right anti-Muslim movement fueled by bigotry and the supercharged nativist rhetoric that followed the attacks. This movement was led by activists who portrayed Muslims in general as potential terrorists and trafficked in dark conspiracy theories about Islamist extremists secretly infiltrating the government and the U.S. legal system under assault by Sharia law. Ironically, a number of those anti-Muslim leaders were the ones who later infiltrated the government as President Donald Trump welcomed movement leaders into his orbit, appointed its staunchest allies to high-level national security and advisory positions and issued executive orders to implement a Muslim travel ban. Today, this movement – a well-funded, tight-knit network of grassroots groups and policy-oriented organizations – has lost its access to the White House. But even though it is diminished in stature and sheer numbers, it remains a political force, particularly in right-wing media and politics. read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Roseville woman charged with ethnic intimidation after assaulting Muslim woman on Spirit flight

A Roseville woman has been charged with ethnic intimidation after she assaulted a Muslim woman and shouted a racial slur at the victim following a plane ride to Detroit. Alexandra Farr, 39, was also charged with assault after she struck the victim who was trying to record her on a Spirit Airlines flight last weekend. She was given a $7,500 bond and ordered no contact with the victim. According to the Council of American Islamic Relations, Farr called a woman a "Muslim terrorist" on the flight, which happened on Sept. 11. The incident prompted the civil rights group to call on the prosecutor to press hate crime charges. read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Federal Judge Advances Muslim Women’s Lawsuit: Former NYPD Policy Forcing Hijab Removal Was Unconstitutional

“Does the United States Constitution permit the [NYPD] to require an observant Muslim woman to remove her hijab when sitting for an arrest photo?” U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres asked in the opening lines of her 18-page ruling. “The Court holds that it does not,” she immediately answered. The ruling affirms that the NYPD’s recent policy change did not avert a lawsuit by Muslim women Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz, who sued the department along with the civil rights group Turning Point for Women and Families in 2018. Their lawyer Andrew F. Wilson, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, called the decision “important” and “ground-breaking.” Though the Muslim women’s lawsuit spurred the policy change, the shift affected religious headwear across all denominations, including those worn by Sikhs and Jews. Judge Torres found the now-shelved policy counter to religious freedom and the NYPD’s own investigative interests. read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Black Muslims: Finding community and faith in South L.A.

Beneath the glinting green dome of a mosque off Malcolm X Way in South Los Angeles, a spiritual leader in his late 80s is hammering home a vital message: African American Muslims must be engaged in their community and not let others make decisions for them. Imam Abdul Karim Hasan embraced Islam more than 60 years ago after hearing Malcolm X. He recalls listening, mesmerized, as the fiery Muslim minister and civil rights leader recounted the history of slavery in America — and that many of the Black captives were Muslim. African American mosques made up 13% of all U.S. mosques in 2020, according to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. That’s a drop from 10 years ago, when they accounted for 23% of all masjids. “The community is on the decline, so we have to put a robust effort towards keeping our youth and making sure that there are new Muslims also converted,” Saafir says. Researchers cite various reasons for the decline: fewer Black converts to Islam, the inability of mosques to attract and retain young adults and the overall aging of African American Muslims, many of whom converted in the 1960s and 1970s. read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Trump is gone, but Muslim federal workers say reforms are still needed

Muslim federal employees who say they felt discriminated against under President Trump are advocating for new federal policies to prevent workplace bias, with many backing a new initiative from Muslim Americans in Public Service aimed at getting the Biden administration to adopt measures that reflect the needs of Muslim Americans who work for government agencies. While Trump’s executive order preventing citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States attracted media attention, Muslim federal employees faced various forms of discrimination, harassment and unwarranted investigation from the Trump administration. The problem precedes the Trump administration, according to Maaty. In the Obama administration, he said, Muslim State Department staffers were dissuaded from establishing a formal schedule for Friday community prayer, though a meditation space was made available. And while then-Secretary of State John Kerry and other state officials made much of an annual iftar dinner during Ramadan, none of the department’s Muslim employees were invited. Similarly, he points out, an organization for Muslim congressional staffers formed after the turn of the millennium faced harassment and was eventually disbanded. A similar organization for Jewish congressional staffers still exists. read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

New Netflix series 'Grendel' first to use Muslim Arab man as lead in a comic book adaptation

Abubakr Ali was 10 years old when two hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks took place a year after Ali moved to the United States from Egypt, and they changed his life forever. From that day forward, the child in Ali became stifled, he says, aching under the weight of blame Muslim communities were forced to endure. Acting became his only escape, he says, a passion he discovered unexpectedly in high school after taking a required drama class. Now Ali is making Hollywood history as the first Arab Muslim male actor to portray a series lead in a comic book adaptation, Netflix has confirmed to CNN. The 30-year-old actor will be featured in the upcoming series "Grendel" as a vigilante hero who goes by the same name. read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Wisconsin Muslim Americans Promoting New Narrative Since 911

Twenty years ago, as Muslim Americans joined others mourning the victims of the 9/11 attacks, they also faced the increased threat of Islamophobia. The sentiment ranged from personal attacks on Muslims, and anyone who could be mistaken as Muslim, to words of bigotry. Harmful stereotyping and rhetoric alienated people as they lived and served in their communities. Muslim Americans in Wisconsin say they’ve had to increase community conversations and political involvement, and advocate against Islamophobic policies and rhetoric. That extra civic engagement has emerged over the two decades since members of al-Qaida hijacked airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. “I think that as a Muslim community we definitely have become much more aware and much more politically active and politically involved,” Janan Najeeb, president of Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and founder of the Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance, said. “Because we realize if we don’t present our narratives, there are enough people out there that don’t like us that would prefer to create the narrative that they want.” read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Woman seeks $250K from Ferndale over police making her remove hijab for booking photo

A Muslim woman who says Ferndale police forced her to remove her hijab headscarf for a booking photo said Thursday she is seeking a $250,000 financial settlement from the city. Helana Bowe, 40, said she had never been arrested before she was stopped on eastbound Eight Mile Road in June. Police said she was arrested after she told police she had an unlicensed electric stun gun in her vehicle. At the police station, Bowe said she was forced to remove her hijab for a booking photo before police would let her go. “The incident has left me traumatized,” she said. “Now I have moments where I become very sad and depressed, and feel emotionally disconnected … of course I want to be compensated.” read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

For Arizona Sikhs, a painful anniversary is a call for 'small acts of kindness' and love

Four days after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was planting some flowers around the edge of the gas station he owned in Mesa when a man, incensed by anti-immigrant sentiments and allegedly looking for revenge for the attacks, shot and killed Sodhi. The man would later shoot at a Lebanese-American gas clerk, thankfully missing, before finally driving back to a local bar to brag about the murder. Sodhi was a member of the Sikh faith, and their traditional garb often has made them the target by those who harbor hate towards the Muslim faith who see their traditional turbans as an indication of the Muslim faith. Many also harbor hate towards Sikhs due to anti-immigrant and other racist beliefs. “It’s painful when you lose someone from hate,” Rana Singh Sodhi, Balbir’s brother, told the Arizona Mirror Wednesday afternoon as he was preparing for a memorial service that night to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Balbir’s murder. “We’re celebrating his legacy and all the hate crime victims and all the 9/11 victims, and it is a very painful moment.” Sodhi’s murder marked what would become the start of a new wave of Islamophobia and anti-Sikh hate across the country. Sodhi was not a Muslim, his killer hated him for appearing to be connected to the Muslim faith, a common theme in attacks on Sikhs. read the complete article


20 Sep 2021

Imams ask Conservative candidate to quit over poor follow-up on apology for posts

The Canadian Council of Imams says the Conservative candidate in Nova Scotia’s Central Nova riding must resign because his apology for Islamophobic media posts was an insincere attempt at damage control. Two weeks ago, Steven Cotter apologized on Facebook for earlier posts he made about Shariah law and supporting a ban on the burqa worn by some Muslim women. However the imams say when Cotter met with local Muslim leaders on Sept. 15, he repeated his apology but “refused to say anything else” in answer to questions about what he would do to address Islamophobia. The imams say they can only interpret Cotter’s silence as a refusal to reflect and learn as he promised to do in his apology, and they say requests to the Conservative party for further engagements were turned down. read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Canada election: How are leaders combatting Islamophobia?

Canada has suffered more mass killings motivated by Islamophobia in the last five years than any other country in the G7, according to the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). While political leaders have made positive steps to combat Islamophobia, Canadian Muslims – who account for 3.2 percent of the country’s population – say much more still needs to be done to address the problem as Canada prepares to vote in the upcoming federal elections on September 20. There is a “sense of fear and frustration” among Muslims as many women have been verbally and physically attacked in Edmonton, Noor al-Henedy, the director of communications and public relations at al-Rashid Mosque in Edmonton, Alberta, told Al Jazeera. Some women and girls who wear the hijab, have opted to wear toques to cover their hair when they go out for walks especially in the evening, so that they are not visibly Muslim and a target, al-Henedy said. “They’re more vigilant. They don’t go for walks putting their air pods on. They try to go out in a group,” she said. “To be talking about attacks against [Muslims] is such a shock to us.” read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Muslim Canadians call on politicians to take concrete action to fight Islamophobia

Dareen Shilbayeh can't stop herself from looking over her shoulder while out in public. The London, Ont., resident who wears a hijab says she's been worried she'll be targeted because of her faith ever since a Muslim family was killed in the city this summer. "Every corner I take, even at the mall, when it's a public place, it's like, I have to be careful," said the 19-year-old who grew up in London and is a student at the city's Western University. It's a sentiment many Muslim Canadians have shared after four members of the Afzaal family, who were out for an evening stroll, were run down and killed by a vehicle in what police have called an attack motivated by hate. At a vigil held outside a London mosque two days after the June 6 tragedy, federal party leaders condemned Islamophobia and made promises to fight it. But some, including Shilbayeh, say there has been little action since then, and argue the issue hasn't been discussed enough during the campaign. read the complete article


20 Sep 2021

AI’s Islamophobia problem

It turns out GPT-3 disproportionately associates Muslims with violence, as Abid and his colleagues documented in a recent paper published in Nature Machine Intelligence. When they took out “Muslims” and put in “Christians” instead, the AI went from providing violent associations 66 percent of the time to giving them 20 percent of the time. The researchers also gave GPT-3 an SAT-style prompt: “Audacious is to boldness as Muslim is to …” Nearly a quarter of the time, GPT-3 replied: “Terrorism.” Others have gotten disturbingly biased results, too. In late August, Jennifer Tang directed “AI,” the world’s first play written and performed live with GPT-3. She found that GPT-3 kept casting a Middle Eastern actor, Waleed Akhtar, as a terrorist or rapist. In one rehearsal, the AI decided the script should feature Akhtar carrying a backpack full of explosives. “It’s really explicit,” Tang told Time magazine ahead of the play’s opening at a London theater. “And it keeps coming up.” The point of the experimental play was, in part, to highlight the fact that AI systems often exhibit bias because of a principle known in computer science as “garbage in, garbage out.” That means if you train an AI on reams of text that humans have put on the internet, the AI will end up replicating whatever human biases are in those texts. read the complete article

20 Sep 2021

Advocates fear US weighing climate vs. human rights on China

President Joe Biden came out strong from the start of his presidency with sanctions over China's abuse of the Uyghurs, and his administration this spring called it genocide. But the U.S. desire for fast climate progress versus China's desire that the U.S. back off on issues such as human rights and religious freedom is creating conflict between two top Biden goals: steering the world away from the climate abyss and tempering China’s rising influence. It would be “disastrous in the long term for the United States government to backtrack, tone down, let the Chinese manipulate the issue," said Nury Turkel, a Uyghur advocate and the vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an advisory panel that makes policy recommendations to the White House and Congress. read the complete article

United Kingdom

20 Sep 2021

UK culture secretary’s ‘medieval burqa’ comments decried

The United Kingdom’s new culture secretary has been accused of Islamophobia over her views on Muslim women and description of the burqa as a “medieval” dress code. Nadine Dorries, 64, was appointed to the senior government role this week as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle. Like Johnson, she has a history of making controversial statements on a range of issues. In 2018, when Johnson – then an MP – wrote in a now-infamous newspaper column that the burqa is “oppressive” and the women wearing it looked like “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”, Dorries called for a ban on the full-face veil. “I’m very disappointed in Boris that he did not go further and actually use that newspaper article to call for a complete outright ban on a dress code – a medieval dress code – which was designed to cover up women’s beauty and their bruises,” she told Sky News, suggesting the garment was used to hide scars of domestic abuse. “Women should be allowed to choose what they wear, and many of these women are not allowed to choose. As I have said, they are not even allowed to choose who they marry. read the complete article


20 Sep 2021

Far-right French writer pledges to ban Muslim names if elected president

Far-right French political writer Eric Zemmour has said that he would ban Muslim names like Mohammed if he were to be elected as president. During an appearance on We Are Live to promote his latest book “La France n’a pas encore dit son dernier mot” (France has not yet said its last word), Zemmour said he would ban the name Mohammed “as it is not French”. It is rumoured that the polemicist will be running for the French presidential race in 2022, but he has said that he will announce it once he decides. read the complete article


20 Sep 2021

Now is the time to recognize the genocide in Burma

With the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) getting underway, the high-level session provides an important opportunity for the United States and United Kingdom to place the topic back on the global agenda—by calling the crimes committed by the country’s military (the Tatmadaw) a “genocide.”   Multiple American and British administrations have debated the question. And in the meantime, Burma’s military junta has continued systematically attacking the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities. A military-led coup in February served as a further distraction. Calling the Tatmadaw’s actions a “genocide” before UNGA would remind the world about this crisis. It would also discourage future atrocities by heaping new pressure on the regime. Evidence of wrongdoing, aimed at destroying Burma’s Rohingya population because of its ethnic and religious identity, is plentiful. After extensive research, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum found “compelling evidence” that Myanmar’s military committed ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingya. Soldiers killed thousands, while some 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. A US State Department report found the violence to be “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents.” It concluded that “the scope and scale of the military’s operations indicate they were well-planned and coordinated.” read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 20 Sep 2021 Edition


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