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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28 Sep 2022

Today in Islamophobia: In the United Kingdom, Leicester’s head of police warns against “broad, sweeping comments” about the unrest in the city, noting that people should “move away from the idea that this is solely about the clash of two religions and faiths,” meanwhile in the United States, there is an “infiltration of Hindutva” into local New Jersey communities that predates the bulldozer incident from this past August, and in India, the government has banned a Muslim organization for five years, accusing it of funding terrorist activities. Our recommended read of the day is by Rayane Tamer for SBS News on how Muslim women from France to Iran are facing the same struggle: “the authority is trying to control our bodies.” This and more below:


28 Sep 2022

Burned in Iran, banned in France: Why women are fighting for choice on wearing the hijab | Recommended Read

The hijab - or headscarf - is often perceived as a highly-politicised symbol and is now at the centre of a revolt against hard-line Iranian officials. Tensions exploded on 16 September, when Ms Amini, also known as Jina, fell into a coma and died after she was arrested by Iran's morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab inappropriately. Frustrated with the conservative government's rules, scores of women are risking their lives in defiance against officials, burning their headscarves and chopping their hair off on the streets. But it's a different story in countries like France and some parts of India, where women have continually fought for their right to wear the hijab - yet are banned from doing so. So what exactly are the Islamic rules around wearing the headscarf, and why are governments making decisions about how Muslim women can dress? "There are some women who do believe that it is a religious obligation, but have for whatever reason chosen not to wear it." She explained reasons could include - but are not limited to - fear of harassment, Islamophobia and barriers to seeking employment. "There are others who don't believe it's religiously obligatory but choose to wear it out of solidarity for other Muslim women as a statement of belonging to their religious community or as a stance against Islamophobia." While in Iran, women are fighting to remove their hijabs, Muslim women in India are facing a significant court battle to uphold their right to wear their scarves at school. In France, wearing the headscarf and "other religious symbols" is banned in all state schools, as well as for public servants. In 2010, it became the first European country to enforce a nationwide ban on the face-covering burqa in public areas, such as parks, public transport and open streets. Dr Iner said that women in Iran, France and India are facing the same struggle: "the authority is trying to control our bodies". read the complete article

28 Sep 2022

Mahsa Amini: By focusing on the hijab, western media miss the point

As an academic focused on gender justice in the MENA region, I have been asked repeatedly for my take on the situation. I held back from responding immediately, as I am all too aware of how Muslim women’s modes of resistance are regularly co-opted and reported on in a reductive manner that strengthens harmful imperialist, Islamophobic and interventionist agendas, rather than offering any meaningful support or solidarity. The latest protests must be contextualised within the broader struggle for women’s and minorities’ rights in Iran, and within a wider history of grassroots resistance to the regime’s oppressive policies. They must also be understood within the context of women’s struggles for justice and freedom from overlapping forms of oppression elsewhere, making space for a transnational feminist solidarity that is truly inclusive and emancipatory. Since the beginning of the protests, international media have reported on the bravery of the protesters and on the fatal consequences inflicted by the Iranian government. While this has fuelled global support for the protests, it has also perpetuated an all-too-familiar, hypocritical saviour narrative from the West, which claims to support the same women and people that its policies, sanctions and brutal interventions have greatly harmed. In reducing the protest movement to the question of unveiling, rather than exploring it as a struggle for choice and freedom from intersecting forms of oppression, particularly on the basis of gender, religion and ethnicity, mainstream media narratives contribute to the victimisation and homogenisation of Iranian women. It presents them as all wanting one main thing: freedom from the headscarf. The focus on the veil also portrays the issue as one that is only happening “over there”. It builds on and perpetuates a reductive understanding of Islam (in this case, one that is brutally enforced by the regime and its institutions) as the root of Iranian women’s oppression, which in turn fuels Islamophobia and harms Muslim communities abroad. read the complete article

28 Sep 2022

How Iranian women's bodies became an ideological battleground

A strong Islamophobic component of Iranian keyboard activism has also abused the occasion to demonise the whole idea of Muslim women’s dress habits. Extreme caution is therefore necessary not to confuse this coterie of agent provocateurs outside Iran with the real uprising inside the country. There are plenty of Ahmad Chalabi and Kanan Makiya wannabes amongst Iranian expats too. Despite the coalescence of other equally, if not more important economic issues, at the heart of these current protests is the mandatory veiling of Iranian women against their will. What we are witnessing in Iran in the imposition of mandatory veiling is, of course, the reverse of what we see in much of Europe and North America where Muslim women are systematically harassed if they choose to wear the Muslim hijab. For decades not a single day passes without a racist, misogynist, bigoted violent attack on Muslim women in Europe and the US. Muslim women who wear the hijab are the primary target of this whole industry of Islamophobia for they are the most visible. These crimes are not just the work of a gang of racist goons well-funded by Islamophobic millionaires. Forced unveiling in North America, Europe, or India, is as pernicious as forced veiling in Iran, Afghanistan, or any other part of the Muslim world. Both practices, though opposite to each other in appearance, are identical in reality, turning the body of a Muslim woman into a battleground of opposing ideologies of bodily control and biopower. Insisting on the choice to wear the hijab is therefore as vital in North America and Europe as the right not to wear it in places like Iran or Afghanistan. read the complete article

United Kingdom

28 Sep 2022

Leicester disorder 'not exclusively' Hindus and Muslims - police

The recent disorder in Leicester did not only involve Hindus and Muslims, the city's head of police has said. Temporary Chief Constable Rob Nixon warned against "broad, sweeping comments" about the unrest. Tensions involving mainly young men from sections of the Muslim and Hindu communities culminated in large-scale disorder on 17 September. This has led to nearly 50 arrests, 158 crimes being recorded and nine people being charged. "Everybody likes to simplify the message, and make broad, sweeping comments that 'this is the Hindus versus the Muslims, and the Muslims against the Hindus'," Mr Nixon told the BBC. "Actually what we know is that this isn't representative of all the Hindus, it isn't representative of all the Muslims. In fact, it's a small collection of individuals who are connected with [those faiths], but not exclusively... because [some] people that have come to our attention have been linked with the Christian faith. "So I'm trying to encourage people to move away from the idea that this is solely about the clash of two religions and faiths." In an update to councillors earlier on Monday, Mr Nixon said the tensions in the city were "broadly more complex than just one or two issues". read the complete article

28 Sep 2022

Conservative MP Blaming ‘Islamist Extremists’ for Leicester Violence: Funded by Organisations Tied to Hindutva Militants

A Conservative MP who has written to the Home Secretary blaming “Islamist extremists” for the recent violence between Muslims and Hindus in cities such as Leicester has funding ties to far-right Hindutva followers supportive of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as the BJP’s parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – a Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer network linked to anti-Muslim violence in India. Bob Blackman – who represents Harrow East and is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus – has received more than £20,200 from groups directly linked to these organisations. Analysis by Byline Times of donations received by Blackman, recorded in the parliamentary register of interests, shows his long-standing ties with far-right Hindu nationalist organisations – some of which have been directly linked to anti-Muslim violence. He received the donations between 2016 and 2019, mostly to fund visits to India hosted by pro-RSS groups. read the complete article

United States

28 Sep 2022

US Hindu nationalist groups: What could this mean for Muslims and minorities?

Not only has the Indian American diaspora brought forth a rich diversity to the region’s cultural and business centres, but schools in the area also rank in the top percentages in the state of New Jersey. Real estate networks sell Edison as a town with a booming economy, progressing from being a manufacturing city to one that offers technological and innovation-based business ventures. More recently, however, the area’s politics and cultural hubs have been overtaken by Hindutva groups — a political ideology that refers to the predominant form of Hindu nationalism in India. This has deepened a rift between Middlesex County’s Indian American diaspora, and yielded a less optimistic future, from cultural and heritage celebrations in the area to local elections. Following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election in 2014, Hindutva has steadily risen to prominence in India. His ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stokes hatred of Muslims and other minority groups in India through its policies and rhetoric. One group in particular, the IBA, has been especially active in New Jersey’s Middlesex County. During the India Independence Day parade, an annual event organised in the area – which is normally a celebration of Indian culture and heritage – the IBA decided to include a bulldozer decorated with images of known Hindu nationalists and BJP leaders, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. What may seem like an awkward but otherwise unproblematic place for a construction vehicle, bulldozers carry different implications in the context of India. While the inclusion of a bulldozer at the India Independence Day parade sounded alarms across the state, the infiltration of Hindutva into local NJ communities long predates this event. The OFBJP and HSS have a history of operating in New Jersey and funding Hindutva groups in India. A report by the South Asia Citizen Web detailed the financial information and expenditures of 24 Hindu nationalist-affiliated groups. The report found that seven Sangh-affiliated charitable groups spent nearly $160 million on their programming, which includes sending funds to Hindu nationalist groups in India. read the complete article


28 Sep 2022

India bans Muslim group for alleged terrorist activities

India’s government banned a Muslim organization for five years, accusing it Wednesday of funding terrorist activities, providing armed training to its supporters and radicalizing people for anti-India activities. The ban followed the arrests and detentions of nearly 200 members of the Popular Front of India and raids on its offices this month. A counsel for the PFI rejected the accusations and accused investigating agencies of fabricating evidence and targeting the group. Muslims comprise more than 14% of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people. Tensions between Muslims and and Hindus have been rising, which critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi attribute to his government's Hindu-nationalist agenda. The group came into existence in 2006 to counter Hindu-nationalist groups with the merger of the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and the National Development Front. Mohammed Tahir, a counsel for the PFI, said the government failed to present evidence of the organization receiving outside money and funding terror activities in India by organizing riots in cities and attacks on Hindu organizations and its leaders. The PFI ban was invoked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which gives extraordinary powers to the government to deal with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. It can designate individuals as terrorists pending court trials. read the complete article

Today in Islamophobia, 28 Sep 2022 Edition


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