Muslim issues not adequately addressed in party platforms, argues advocacy group campaigning for dedicated federal anti-Islamophobia office

New advocacy group but not any new issues:

A new advocacy organization is arguing the federal parties aren’t making sufficient promises related to combating hate crimes against Muslims, and is campaigning for whichever party wins the election to develop an office for combating Islamophobia.

“We don’t think Islamophobia or issues related to Canadian Muslims are being adequately addressed in party platforms. We would have liked to see more concrete commitments, and we don’t see that,” said Sarah Mushtaq, a spokesperson for the Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council (CMPAC). “We’ve seen the rise of anti-Semitism, of anti-Asian hate crimes, and then specifically Islamophobia. The idea of having this federal office with resources and funding would be [to look] at these issues in a way where we can actually address them from a systemic perspective.”

The CMPAC, a lobby organization dedicated to advancing the interests of Canada’s Muslim population, launched on Sept. 10. Advocacy priorities for the organization include urging the federal government to implement a strategy to address online hate, and to create a federal office that would develop and implement an anti-Islamophobia strategy. The CMPAC is looking for a commitment of $5 million towards a federal anti-Islamophobia office, according to Ms. Mushtaq.

Police-reported hate crimes in Canada reached 2,669 incidents in 2020, representing a 37 per cent increase compared to the 1,951 police-reported hate crimes in 2019, according to Statistics Canada. About 46 per cent of Canadians have an unfavorable view of Islam—more than for any other religious tradition—according to a report on Islamophobia in Canada submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur in Freedom of Religion or Belief on Nov. 30, 2020. The report was submitted by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, the Islamic Social Services Association, and the Noor Cultural Centre.

“We believe that having an office to address Islamophobia could help address these issues in a more fulsome, systemic way, and address hate crimes across the country instead of just kind of letting communities individually deal with them,” said Ms. Mushtaq. “Having this national framework to address hate crimes would be really helpful to ensure that no community is left behind.”

As part of the launch, the CMPAC released a comparison of the various federal parties’ platforms in the 2021 election, which highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each party when it comes to addressing issues such as Islamophobia, systemic racism and immigration.

The Liberal Party platform failed to address specific asks of the Muslim community based on the input gathered during the National Action Summit on Islamophobia, according to the CMPAC platform comparison. The summit, held virtually on July 22, provided a platform for Muslim communities to discuss ways to combat Islamophobia in Canada. The Liberal platform has not included any proposal to help prevent Muslim charities from being targeted by audits from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which was the “number one” issue raised at the summit, according to the CMPAC. Muslim-led charities are “exceptionally vulnerable to audits” and to the revocation of their charitable status, according to a report released on March 29 by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto.

On Aug. 5, Minister of National Revenue Diane LeBoutillier announced that Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson François Boileau will investigate the concerns of Muslim charities in their experiences with the CRA. An update on Boileau’s examination is expected to be provided to the National Revenue minister on Jan. 1, 2022, according to an Aug. 5 press release.

“Together with my office, I commit to examining the concerns raised and will engage charitable organizations led by racialized communities to ensure that the service rights we so strongly represent, are upheld by the CRA. But before we take action, we need to take the time to listen and deepen our knowledge of the issues,” said Mr. Boileau in the press release.

The CMPAC said on its website that Boileau’s review is “non-binding and limited in scope,” and criticized the Liberal government for not proposing any reforms in its platform to address the issues facing Muslim-led charities.

As examples of how the Liberals are addressing Islamophobia in their election platform, the CMPAC lists the party’s plan to present a national action plan for combating hate by 2022 as part of an anti-racism strategy, and a proposal to increase investments in the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence to combat hate crime.

The CMPAC argues that the NDP platform makes numerous mention of Islamophobia in addressing hate speech and crimes, but, similar to the Liberals, has not included a commitment to address CRA audits of Muslim-led charities.

Regarding the Conservatives, the CMPAC comparison document argues the party’s platform makes no direct mention of Islamophobia. Steps proposed by the Conservatives that could relate to combating Islamophobia includes a plan to fight online incitement and hatred by criminalizing statements that encourage violence.

Ms. Mushtaq said that the CMPAC plans to register on the federal lobbyists’ registry following the federal election on Sept. 20.

Other organizations currently active on the federal lobbyists’ registry related to advocacy for Muslims includes the Muslim Association of Canada and the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“The Muslim community is not monolithic. It’s a large community and there’s room, as the community continues to grow, for multiple organizations serving the interest of the community together,” said Ms. Mushtaq. “We definitely want to work together. There might be some things that one organization works on, but there’s definitely going to be a lot of work together behind the scenes, as well.”

Islamophobia was the subject of headlines during the 2021 election, when Lisa Robinson, the Conservative candidate in the Toronto riding of Beaches–East York, was dismissed from the party on Sept. 10 for allegedly posting anti-Islamic statements on social media years prior.

Liberal candidate Nathaniel Erskine-Smith posted a tweet on Sept. 10 containing screenshots from a Twitter account called “Ward 1 city councillor candidate,” which contained derogatory comments towards Muslims living in Canada. In his Twitter post, Mr. Erskine-Smith said that “’Ward 1 city councillor candidate’ is none other than Lisa Robinson.”

Ms. Robinson told The Canadian press she is still running as a “confirmed Conservative” candidate despite being officially dropped by the Party. She claims that she never wrote the online posts that led to her dismissal from the Conservatives. In a Twitter post response to Mr. Erskine-Smith, Ms. Robinson said that the Ward 1 city councillor candidate account was fake, and she had reported it to Durham Regional Police in 2018. She also said in her Twitter post that sharing “false information is defamatory” and that Erskine-Smith would receive a libel notice soon.

“They posted a fake picture, claimed that it must be true, and asked me—the victim, to provide proof that it is fake,” said Ms. Robinson in a statement on her campaign website. “If this can be done to me, then it can be done to anyone. Would you want your children subjected to this kind of abuse? If an elected official can spread false information and blame the victim candidate, what else can they be capable of?”

In an emailed statement to The Hill Times, Mr. Erskine-Smith said he would be “open to correcting the record if there is credible information.”

“When I initially saw Lisa’s claim that the account is fake, I privately messaged her and asked her if she had flagged it for Twitter. She said she’d never done so because of a lack of computer literacy, but that she eventually had it removed with the help of a friend. When I asked specifically how that had happened, she stopped responding to me,” said Mr. Erskine-Smith in the email. “I’ve now seen past posts of hers in which she has apologized for remarks, and also in which she has claimed she was hacked. None of it adds up.”

Source: Muslim issues not adequately addressed in party platforms, argues advocacy group campaigning for dedicated federal anti-Islamophobia office

AI’s anti-Muslim bias problem

Of note (and unfortunately, not all that surprising):

Imagine that you’re asked to finish this sentence: “Two Muslims walked into a …”

Which word would you add? “Bar,” maybe?

It sounds like the start of a joke. But when Stanford researchers fed the unfinished sentence into GPT-3, an artificial intelligence system that generates text, the AI completed the sentence in distinctly unfunny ways. “Two Muslims walked into a synagogue with axes and a bomb,” it said. Or, on another try, “Two Muslims walked into a Texas cartoon contest and opened fire.”

For Abubakar Abid, one of the researchers, the AI’s output came as a rude awakening. “We were just trying to see if it could tell jokes,” he recounted to me. “I even tried numerous prompts to steer it away from violent completions, and it would find some way to make it violent.”

Language models such as GPT-3 have been hailed for their potential to enhance our creativity. Given a phrase or two written by a human, they can add on more phrases that sound uncannily human-like. They can be great collaborators for anyone trying to write a novel, say, or a poem.

Source: AI’s anti-Muslim bias problem

Pew Research: Views of Muslims in the US, 20 years after 9/11

Of interest:

An unprecedented amount of public attention focused on Muslim Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. Muslim population has grown in the two decades since, but it is still the case that many Americans know little about Islam or Muslims, and views toward Muslims have become increasingly polarized along political lines.

There were about 2.35 million Muslim adults and children living in the United States in 2007 – accounting for 0.8% of the U.S. population – when Pew Research Center began measuring this group’s size, demographic characteristics and views. Since then, growth has been driven primarily by two factors: the continued flow of Muslim immigrants into the U.S., and Muslims’ tendency to have more children than Americans of other faiths.

In 2015, the Center projected that Muslims could number 3.85 million in the U.S. by 2020 – roughly 1.1% of the total population. However, Muslim population growth from immigration may have slowed recently due to changes in federal immigration policy.

The number of Muslim houses of worship in the U.S. also has increased over the last 20 years. A study conducted in 2000 by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership identified 1,209 mosques in the U.S. that year. Their follow-up study in 2011 found that the number of mosques had grown to 2,106, and the 2020 version found 2,769 mosques – more than double the number from two decades earlier.

How we did this

Alongside their population growth, Muslims have gained a larger presence in the public sphere. For example, in 2007, the 110th Congress included the first Muslim member, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Later in that term, Congress seated a second Muslim representative, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind. The current 117th Congress has two more Muslims alongside Carson, the first Muslim women to hold such office: Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., first elected in 2018.

As their numbers have increased, Muslims have also reported encountering more discrimination. In 2017, during the first few months of the Trump administration, about half of Muslim American adults (48%) said they had personally experienced some form of discrimination because of their religion in the previous year. This included a range of experiences, from people acting suspicious of them to being physically threatened or attacked. In 2011, by comparison, 43% of Muslim adults said they had at least one of these experiences, and 40% said this in 2007.

A bar chart showing that Americans are more likely to say Muslims face discrimination than to say this about other religions

In a March 2021 survey, U.S. adults were asked how much discrimination they think a number of religious groups face in society. Americans were more likely to say they believe Muslims face “a lot” of discrimination than to say the same about the other religious groups included in the survey, including Jews and evangelical Christians. A similar pattern appeared in previous surveys going back to 2009, when Americans were more likely to say that there was a lot of discrimination against Muslims than to say the same about Jews, evangelical Christians, Mormons or atheists.

A series of Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2014, 2017, and 2019 separately asked Americans to rate religious groups on a scale ranging from 0 to 100, with 0 representing the coldest, most negative possible view and 100 representing the warmest, most positive view. In these surveys, Muslims were consistently ranked among the coolest, along with atheists.

Over the last 20 years, the American public has been divided on whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, and a notable partisan divide on this question has emerged. When the Center first asked this question on a telephone survey in 2002, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were only moderately more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say that Islam encourages violence more than other religions – and this was a minority viewpoint in both partisan groups. Within a few years, however, Republicans began to grow more likely to believe that Islam encourages violence. Democrats, in contrast, have become more likely to say Islam does not encourage violence. Now, Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say they believe Islam encourages violence more than other religions.

Though many Americans have negative views toward Muslims and Islam, 53% say they don’t personally know anyone who is Muslim, and a similar share (52%) say they know “not much” or “nothing at all” about Islam. Americans who are not Muslim and who personally know someone who is Muslim are more likely to have a positive view of Muslims, and they are less likely to believe that Islam encourages violence more than other religions.

Source: Views of Muslims in the US, 20 years after 9/11

American Muslims Are 2 Times More Likely To Have Attempted Suicide Than Other Groups

Of note. Wonder if there are compable studies for Canada:

For an entire year that involved emergency room visits, legal proceedings, involuntary unemployment and the death of loved ones, Mehran Nazir struggled with a depressive episode. He would find his mind flooded with self-destructive thoughts. He’d faintly hope his plane from Newark to San Francisco would crash or that he would doze off at the wheel of his car and end up in a fatal accident.

The normally extroverted Nazir would lie paralyzed in bed for hours doing nothing, not wanting to speak with family and canceling plans with friends.

It came to a head when Nazir found himself on the brink of suicide. In his darkest moment, he drafted a will and decided where it would happen.

Eventually, Nazir found comfort in journaling. And when he shared his writings online, he quickly found that other Muslims shared his struggles.

“I realized that this is not something that is unique in my history,” Nazir told NPR. “This was not a random occurrence.”

Nazir was right. U.S. Muslims are two times more likely to have attempted suicide compared with other religious groups, according to a study published last month in JAMA Psychiatry. Nearly 8% of Muslims in the survey reported a suicide attempt in their lifetime compared with 6% of Catholics, 5% of Protestants and 3.6% of Jewish respondents.

“Anecdotally and in clinical settings, we’re definitely seeing an uptick in suicides and suicide attempts,” Dr. Rania Awaad told NPR. She’s the director of the Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab at Stanford University and a researcher on the study.

At the heart of these numbers are several issues

Researchers attribute the high suicide attempt rate to two factors: religious discrimination and community stigma — both of which, they say, prevent Muslim American communities from seeking mental health services.

Earlier this year, a murder-suicide involving a Muslim family in Allen, Texas, sent shock waves through the community. Brothers Farhan Towhid, 19, and Tanvir Towhid, 21, both of whom reportedly battled depression, made a pact to die by suicide and kill the rest of their family so they wouldn’t have to live with the grief. Since then, public discussions on mental health, trainings on suicide response and healing circles have taken on new urgency.

“We have a very long way to go,” Awaad said. “There is just the beginning of a discussion that is happening now.”

There’s still a community stigma surrounding mental health

Naureen Ahmed, now 39, remembers how her family would visit her mother, Seema, at a psychiatric hospital. But the family never openly discussed why she was there.

Some days, Seema would sing along to Bollywood music at home wearing red lipstick. Other days, she’d walk around the house brandishing knives — or jump out of the car on the highway, threatening to kill herself.

Ahmed, a social butterfly at school, was hesitant to invite friends over because she never knew which side of her mother she would get that day.

It wasn’t until she was 25 that Ahmed finally learned why her mom acted that way: she had bipolar depression and schizoaffective disorder, her grandparents told her.

“It was difficult to say it out loud, this secret that I had held inside my entire life,” Ahmed told NPR.

Of the many factors that prevent families or individuals from seeking mental health treatment, stigma is “perhaps the most significant,” according to a 2013 study that looked at the cultural backgrounds of Muslims.

“If you believe that your mental illnesses will bring shame on you or your family, then you tend to stay silent about it,” said Dr. Farha Abbasi, founder of the Muslim Mental Health Conference. Through the conference, hosted by Michigan State University for 13 years, Abbasi hopes to destigmatize mental illness within the Muslim community using open dialogue.

After Ahmed’s mother died in 2012, she created SEEMA to support families like hers who are shamed by the stigma of mental illness, are isolated by their communities or are suffering alone.

SEEMA, launched in 2018, hosts support groups with licensed therapists at community centers and mosques and awareness workshops highlighting the importance of mental health and how to care for someone struggling with a mental illness.

“We need to have these conversations to destigmatize and bring awareness because people think that they’re alone,” Ahmed said.

Religious discrimination makes them more vulnerable

Abbasi, who has studied the impact of growing Islamophobia on Muslims’ mental health, says she was not surprised by the results of the Stanford study.

“Right now, the exposure to toxicity is making us more vulnerable,” Abbasi told NPR.

U.S. Muslims were more likely to report suicide attempts than those from Muslim-majority countries, according to the Stanford study. As a religious minority in the U.S., Muslims are highly vulnerable to religious discrimination, which is associated with depression, anxiety and paranoia.

According to 2020 polling from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, 60% of Muslims reported personally experiencing religious discrimination. And the FBI’s latest hate crime statistics in 2019 suggest that, of the reported 1,715 victims of anti-religious hate crimes, 13.2% were victims of anti-Muslim bias.

“There’s just trauma over trauma over trauma,” Abbasi says. “The impact of growing Islamophobia, the violence that is being directed against Muslims, all that is having a huge impact on mental health.”

They sometimes find it hard to reconcile their feelings and their faith

Last November, 39-year-old Chicago investor Jessica Ali broke down after separating from her husband.

“I felt that I was unworthy and there was no reason for me to live,” she said. Ali, a mother of three, had attempted suicide for a third time. The first two were in 2008 and 2018. “I started believing that I was crazy, that I must be a bad Muslim.”

That was until she joined a Muslim support group. It was there that Ali, who was diagnosed with severe depression, first came to terms with her mental illness.

“It’s very likely that when you’re sitting at the masjid, somebody in your praying row has felt this way,” Ali told NPR.

Now, Ali takes medication and visits a therapist.

But unlike Ali, some Muslims may not get the help and support they need.

To help jump over these hurdles, Muslim mental health professionals across the country are providing more culturally appropriate and religiously sensitive resources for Muslims.

Culturally appropriate resources can help

Dr. Sameera Ahmed, executive director of The Family & Youth Institute, a Muslim nonprofit, developed a suicide prevention toolkit in 2017 that helps Muslim American families navigate suicide risks, intervention, assessment and prevention.

“There may be mental health providers available, but if an individual doesn’t trust the system, they’re not going to use it,” Ahmed told NPR. “We try to translate the research into culturally and religiously tailored mental health resources that are community informed and disseminated by Muslim American mental health professionals.”

In 2017, the Khalil Center, which offers Muslims faith-based mental health services, launched a hotline that provides a “safe and empathic space” for those in crisis situations. “There’s more awareness happening,” Khalil Center psychologist Dr. Fahad Khan told NPR. “We have seen a rise in those who are seeking services.”

Imams have an integral role in community mental health because Muslim Americans may be more willing to seek help from religious leaders. That’s why Awaad started a campaign to train 500 Muslim leaders on suicide response in their communities by 2022.

“A number of imams came forward and said, ‘We as the religious and community leaders of the Muslim community really need to step up to this discussion,’ ” Awaad said.

Dr. Heather Laird, founder of the Center for Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology, found that Muslims were more likely to seek psychotherapy if it aligned with Islamic values. So she ignited a movement toward Islamic psychology. By Laird’s definition, Islamic psychology is the treatment of the mind and soul within an Islamic context.

As for Nazir, he uses a combination of therapy and journaling to tend to his psychological wounds.

“This battle for mental health is not necessarily you solve it, you cure it, you move on,” Nazir said. “For me, it’s an ongoing journey.”

Source: American Muslims Are 2 Times More Likely To Have Attempted Suicide Than Other Groups

ICYMI: Fortress Europe: As Islam Expands, Should the US Imitate the ‘Christian’ Continent

Interesting discussion among European evangelicals along with related issues:

Within three decades, Muslims may comprise 14 percent of Europe.

The face of the historically Christian continent, tallied at 5 percent Muslim in 2016, may dramatically change by 2050 if high migration patterns hold.

And as Muslim families have a birth rate one child higher than the rest of the continent, the Pew Research Center projects nearly 1 in 5 people will be Muslim in the United Kingdom (17%), France (18%), and Germany (20%). Sweden is projected to become 30 percent Muslim.

And Austria, with its 20 percent projection, is on guard. The majority-Catholic nation recently published an online Islam Map, to identify mosques and other centers of politicized religion.

According to European religion experts, however, one-third of European Muslims do not practice their faith.

Conversely, this suggests that two-thirds of Muslims believe in and practice Islam. Contrast this with the 22 percent of Western European Christians who attend church at least once monthly and the 27 percent who believe in God according to the Bible.

Could the fear of some European Christians be plausible: an eventual Eurabia?

Or is it Islamophobia to say so?

Or, to the contrary, should Americans look across the ocean and consider French separatism laws and Swiss burqa bans in pursuit of a shared secularism?

For concerned evangelicals, Bert de Ruiter has his own questions—about their own faith.

“If Islam is taking over Europe, is that a problem?” asked the European Evangelical Alliance’s consultant on Muslim-Christian relations. “Will God suddenly be in a panic?”

Muslims will not take over the continent, he believes, noting Pew’s other 2050 Muslim population estimates of 7 percent if “zero” migration and 11 percent if “medium” migration.

But more important is that under any scenario, God will be faithful to his church, says de Ruiter. Once chairman of a Dutch political party, he has a “passion for Muslims, to reach out with the love of Christ.”

Yet too many European Christians, he said, act instead like politicians. Worse, they betray the love of Christ for neighbor.

According to statistics collected in the 2019 European Islamophobia Report (EIR), 37 percent of Europeans have negative views of Muslims, while 29 percent would not feel comfortable working with Muslims. And in Denmark, 28 percent at least partially agreed with the idea that Muslims should be deported.

But again, flip the statistics, and substantial majorities treat Muslims just fine.

Farid Hafez, coeditor of the EIR report, said that among the main drivers of Islamophobia is propaganda pushed by far-right networks seeking to create a scapegoat. Amplified by politicians and aided by counterterrorism narratives, perception then creates the reality.

“The more hostility people go through, the more they feel attached to their religious community,” said Hafez, also a lecturer at the university of Salzburg in Austria. “But I don’t see the problem that others do; Muslims are a part of society.”

Labels like “no-go zones” and “parallel societies,” he said, reflect Europe’s inability to adopt an American mentality that accepts multiple identities. And the relationship with Muslims is not fixed but boils down to a collective choice.

“Austria once suffered the siege of Vienna, but it also allied with the Ottoman Empire,” said Hafez. “History provides many options for how to tell your story. So will we choose a narrative of cooperation or conflict?”

In his column for Evangelical Focus, an online news site focused on Europe, de Ruiter said there are many actors trying to shape the narrative.

Among them are majority-Muslim nations such as Turkey and Morocco that build mosques and supply imams. Transnational networks such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Sufi orders compete to gain adherents and to define Islam. Wahhabi preachers on the internet break down traditional lines of authority. And state-linked Muslim councils strive for integration within secular society.

Muslims came to Europe largely as invited migrant labor in the 1950s, following the destruction of World War II. Over time, they brought their families, married, and had children. Initially isolated because of language, increasingly they put their stamp on society, building mosques and opening schools.

A European society that once welcomed them began to grow uncomfortable.

“We invited guest workers,” said de Ruiter, quoting a frequent saying. “But it turned out they were actually people.”

People created in the image of God.

Therefore, the task for Christians, he recently wrote in an analysis for Evangelical Focus, is fourfold:

  • Research: Matthew 10 speaks of finding the worthy person in a village you come to. Likewise, Christians must learn the real situation of actual Muslims, not media-driven images.
  • Reflect: Psalm 139 invites God to search our hearts. Anti-Muslim prejudice is often unconsciously ingrained, and with humility Christians can repent and develop attitudes of compassion.
  • Relate: In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul describes how he shared his life with those he was trying to reach. Christians must develop relationships with Muslims, in hope of also sharing the gospel.
  • Relax: In Psalm 46, the Lord reminds believers to “be still, and know that I am God.” Whatever changes happen in Europe are according to God’s sovereignty, and he will be exalted among the nations.

In America, Warren Larson adds a fifth R: represent.

“As Christians, we must speak up in defense of persecuted Muslims,” said the senior research fellow and professor at the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University.

“We must take the initiative through acts of kindness, warmth, and generosity to Muslims, in our midst and around the world.”

A former missionary to Pakistan, Larson said his life was spared when Muslims defended his family against a mob that believed America was conspiring to undermine Islam. Today, he highlights the genocide underway against the Uighur Muslims in China’s northwest Xinjiang province.

But Larson has noticed something curious in his mentorship of Chinese Christians. Many are unaware of the atrocities or, like their government, deny them altogether. Some of it may be fear, he said, as China uses sophisticated technology to surveil its diaspora around the world.

But there may also be a parallel to Islamophobia in Europe and the United States. Chinese Christians from the mainland, he has noticed, speak out in defense of Hong Kong but not Xinjiang.

“One missionary to the Uighurs even said China was only dealing with terrorism,” said Larson. “Is it possible that she, along with most Chinese, fears what the Uighurs might do?”

Citing ethnic violence and acts of terrorism in Xinjiang that began in 2009, the Chinese media campaign against the Uighurs has been relentless. The United Nations has recognized a similar, though not state-run, pattern against Muslims in Europe.

A European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance report found that in the Netherlands, media descriptions most frequently call Dutch people “average,” even “beautiful.” Muslims, however, are predominantly described as “radical” and “terrorist.”

And in Switzerland, a federal commission found that news reports on Muslims focused on their failure to integrate, while only 2 percent of media coverage was of their normal lives and successful examples of integration.

In a statement supporting the UN report on Islamophobia, issued in March, the World Evangelical Alliance praised its Swiss branch for condemning an arson attack on a mosque and contributing financially to its repair. Similar efforts at solidarity were praised in India, Sri Lanka, and the Central African Republic.

“We reaffirm the unique value of each and every member of the human family,” it stated. “We believe each one of us is created in the image of God.”

But of Muslims, said Asma Uddin, there is a different image.

“Many evangelicals view Islam as a satanic deception, fundamentally violent and evil,” said the Muslim author of The Politics of Vulnerability: How to Heal Muslim-Christian Relations in a Post-Christian America. “They then mistake standing up for Muslims as standing up for a religion they despise or distrust.”

Evangelical advocates she has worked with are devoted, she said, but “outliers.”

Nearly 2 in 3 white evangelicals (63%) said Islam encourages violence more than other faiths, according to a 2017 Pew survey. This was the highest level among religious groups.

But the issue is also partisan.

Over half (56%) of Republicans said there was at least a “fair” amount of extremism among US Muslims. Only 22 percent of Democrats said the same.

Since liberals are associated with defending the rights of Muslims, Uddin said, political tribalism leads many conservatives to dismiss the severity of discrimination.

The setting is different in Europe, according to Hafez.

While Muslims in the UK are well represented in academia and politics, they also represent a disproportionate 16 percent of the prison population. Germany continues to have issues integrating its large migrant community.

And France’s vision of secularism separates not just church and state but also religion and society. Combined with a lingering colonial superiority, Hafez ranks the nation as Europe’s worst for Muslim communities.

But Islamophobia, he emphasizes, is not about anti-Muslim cartoons. Neither is it the critique of Islam or the criticism of Muhammad. It is the construction of a scapegoat with a generalized identity, which is then excluded from the rights afforded to all.

Protestants in Europe, he said, often feel it also. In Austria, only since 1861 were they allowed to build a steeple. Today, many of them sympathize when Muslims want a minaret.

And similarly, many are troubled by the publication of the Islam Map.

Michael Chalupka, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Austria, said he would not accept this for his own community, joining the calls to take it down.

“When you are weak, you stand by the weak,” said Hafez, a Muslim. “Jesus also stood with the weak, and in Europe, Muslims are among the weakest.”

De Ruiter finds greater solidarity with Muslims on moral issues than he does with the secular Dutch. And he too knows the pain of generalization. Preaching once in Russia, he was queried repeatedly not about his sermon but about Holland’s lax laws on drugs and prostitution.

The state, he told CT, has a biblical obligation to provide security, justice, and human rights. But the believer is to welcome the stranger and love the neighbor. If the Christian values that shaped Europe are taken advantage of, the Christian cannot retreat.

After all, Jesus was crucified.

For this message, de Ruiter is often accused angrily: “Don’t you care to preserve what your grandfathers built?”

But the values they cherish, he said, usually center around materialism, identity, and place in society. If they desire instead to reverse the losses suffered in a post-Christian society, there is a better way than fearmongering of Muslims.

That fight employs the weapons of the world, and must be rejected.

It will lose the gospel, for all.

“If we want things to change, Muslims will have to see something real in us,” said de Ruiter. “But they cannot if we shut the door.”

Source: Fortress Europe: As Islam Expands, Should the US Imitate the ‘Christian’ Continent? | News & Reporting

Austria sparks uproar with ‘Islam map’

Seems like an easy navigation tool for anti-Muslim extremists as would be an equivalent map of synagogues and Jewish associations for anti-Semites:

The Austrian government came under fire Thursday for a new “Islam map” showing the location of mosques and associations around the country, with religious groups saying it would stigmatize Austria’s Muslim population.Earlier, Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled an Internet website called the “National Map of Islam” with the names and locations of more than 600 mosques, associations and officials and their possible links abroad.But the interactive map — compiled in collaboration with the University of Vienna and the Documentation Center of Political Islam — alarmed many of Austria’s Muslims and the ruling center-right OeVP party’s coalition partner, the Greens, also distanced itself from it.
It “demonstrates the government’s manifest intent to stigmatize all Muslims as a potential danger,” said the IGGOe Muslim representative council in a statement.
The Green party’s spokeswoman for integration Faika El-Nagashi complained that “no Green minister or MP was involved or even told about it. The project mixes Muslims with Islamists and is the contrary to what integration policy should look like.”
Raab insisted that the map was not meant to “place Muslims in general under suspicion.”
The aim was “to fight political ideologies, not religion,” she said.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has regularly criticized what he calls “political Islam.”
“Imagine if a similar map was drawn up for Judaism or Christianity,” said Tarafa BagHajjati, the head of another Muslim organization, complaining that it equated terrorism with religion.
He pointed out that around eight percent of Austria’s overall population of 8.9 million were practicing Muslims and most of them had no links with such organizations.
“It’s worrying and I’m disappointed with the government for adopting far-right ideas,” he said.
Since an extremist attack left four people dead in Vienna last November — the first to be carried out in Austria — a rise has been reported in the number of incidents in verbal and physical attacks against Muslims in the country.
IGGOe complained that “racism against Muslims is growing.”

Source: Austria sparks uproar with ‘Islam map’

Switzerland’s Mid-Pandemic Burqa Ban Doesn’t Protect Liberal Values or Security. It Marginalizes Muslim Women.

Of note:

Switzerland, hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, has been in a partial shutdown since January. Face masks are mandatory everywhere from public transportation to the country’s idyllic ski slopes. But that reality didn’t stop a slim majority of Swiss voters from approving a ban on full-face coverings in public spaces in a March 7 referendum.

The new ban wasn’t motivated by anti-mask sentiment. In fact, it won’t apply to facial coverings worn for health reasons—now or after the pandemic. Rather, the measure was aimed at a minuscule minority of Muslim women who wear the burqa or niqab. And while similar initiatives in France, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria have always been controversial, the deeply ironic timing of Switzerland’s burqa ban proves once and for all that efforts to ban face coverings were never really about supposed security concerns surrounding face concealment in public spaces. At their core, burqa bans have always been an attempt to marginalize Muslim women—and they have succeeded in bringing anti-Muslim sentiment into the mainstream.

Switzerland’s referendum was the product of a people’s initiative launched by the Egerkinger Komitee, an advocacy group that includes members of the right-wing, national conservative Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and aimsto organize against “the claims to power of political Islam in Switzerland.” Arguing that “free people show their face” and “the burqa and niqab are not normal clothes,” the group in 2017 collected the required 100,000 petition signatures to put the issue to a referendum. On March 7, 51.2 percent of Swiss voters approved it.

The deeply ironic timing of Switzerland’s burqa ban proves it was never about supposed security concerns.

Clamping down on the visibility of Muslims in Switzerland is nothing new. Swiss Muslims have been under scrutiny since 2004, when Switzerland held a pair of referendums on measures that would have eased access to citizenship for second- and third-generation immigrants. The SVP’s strong mobilization against the initiatives transformed them instead into cultural referendums on whether Muslims are part of the Swiss national community, a notion the majority of Swiss voters rejected. Then, in 2009, the Egerkinger Komitee proposed an initiative that sought to ban minarets on the grounds that they are a symbol of political Islam. It was approved by 57.5 percent of Swiss voters despite the opposition of domestic Muslim organizations and church leaders from other religious groups.

In December 2014, the SVP first sought to prohibit full-face coverings via a parliamentary initiative to amend the Federal Constitution, arguing that burqas are a threat to national security. But the Swiss Council of States rejected it in March 2017 on the grounds that the small number of burqa-clad women in Switzerland meant public order was not disturbed. There was also concern that a ban would have a negative impact on tourism from Gulf countries.

Though the SVP and Egerkinger Komitee have been active for decades, Switzerland’s burqa referendum can’t be explained without the broader regional context: namely, Europe’s crisis of identity in a globalized, multicultural world. Switzerland is only the latest country to express and assuage this cultural insecurity by managing the visibility of Muslims and Islam, which are perceived as a political, ideological, and national security threat to European values and civilization.

Muslims have been part of Europe’s fabric for centuries, but they continue to be misunderstood and misrepresented in media and politics, where Islam is often framed as an inherently violent religion and Muslims are portrayed as incapable of integrating into European societies. While there is certainly some cultural anxiety—the natural result of rapidly changing demographics on the continent—most of the sensationalism is constructed, encouraged, and egged on by political parties that have a vested interest in creating a supposed “Muslim problem.” The purveyors of these ideas seek to convince the broad populace that Islam is a religion inherently at odds with Western values and that Muslims must be tamed and domesticated. Right now, they are winning.

In Switzerland, demonizing Islam, Muslims, and immigrants as hostile to human rights and freedom—of expression, religion, and sexual orientation—has long been a pillar of the SVP’s electoral strategy, as well as that of other populist national conservative parties such as the Federal Democratic Union of Switzerland and the Ticino League. Because this fixation has contributed to countless electoral victories for the SVP—transforming it into one of the most powerful parties in the country—others have adopted its strategy.

China’s Crackdown on Muslims Extends to a Resort Island

Relentless pressures and crackdowns…

The call to prayer still echoes through the alleys of Sanya’s nearly 1,000-year-old Muslim neighborhood, where crescent-topped minarets rise above the rooftops. The government’s crackdown on the tiny, deeply pious community in this southern Chinese city has been subtle.

Signs on shops and homes that read “Allahu akbar” — “God is greatest” in Arabic — have been covered with foot-wide stickers promoting the “China Dream,” a nationalistic official slogan. The Chinese characters for halal, meaning permissible under Islam, have been removed from restaurant signs and menus. The authorities have closed two Islamic schools and have twice tried to bar female students from wearing head scarves.

The Utsuls, a community of no more than 10,000 Muslims in Sanya, are among the latest to emerge as targets of the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign against foreign influence and religions. Their troubles show how Beijing is working to erode the religious identity of even its smallest Muslim minorities, in a push for a unified Chinese culture with the Han ethnic majority at its core.

The new restrictions in Sanya, a city on the resort island of Hainan, mark a reversal in government policy. Until several years ago, officials supported the Utsuls’ Islamic identity and their ties with Muslim countries, according to local religious leaders and residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid government retaliation.

The party has said its restrictions on Islam and Muslim communities are aimed at curbing violent religious extremism. It has used that rationale to justify a clampdown on Muslims in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, following a series of attacksseven years ago. But Sanya has seen little unrest.

The tightening of control over the Utsuls “reveals the real face of the Chinese Communist campaign against local communities,” said Ma Haiyun, an associate professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland who studies Islam in China. “This is about trying to strengthen state control. It’s purely anti-Islam.”

The Chinese government has repeatedly denied that it opposes Islam. But under Xi Jinping, its top leader, the party has torn down mosques, ancient shrines and Islamic domes and minarets in northwestern and central China. Its crackdown has focused heavily on the Uighurs, a Central Asian Muslim minority of 11 million in Xinjiang, many of whom have been held in mass detention camps and forced to renounce Islam.

The effort to “sinicize Islam” accelerated in 2018 after the State Council, China’s cabinet, issued a confidential directive ordering officials to prevent the faith from interfering with secular life and the state’s functions. The directive warned against “Arabization” and the influence of Saudi Arabia, or “Saudi-ization,” in mosques and schools.

In Sanya, the party is going after a group with a significant position in China’s relations with the Islamic world. The Utsuls have played host to Muslims from around the country seeking the balmy climes of Hainan Province, and they have served as a bridge to Muslim communities in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The Utsuls’ Islamic identity was celebrated for years by the government as China pushed for stronger links with the Arab world. Such links have been key to Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative, a program to finance infrastructure projects across the world and increase Beijing’s political sway in the process.

The Utsuls have become “an important base for Muslims who have moved abroad to find their roots and investigate their ancestors,” said a government notice in 2017 hailing the role of Islam in Hainan in the Belt and Road plan. “To date, they have received thousands of scholars and friends from more than a dozen countries and regions, and are an important window for cultural exchanges among peoples around the South China Sea.”

Douglas Todd: B.C. Muslims rattled by confrontational Victoria imam

Certainly hate speech, and interesting point about the impact of the Harper government’s repeal of provisions allowing citizens to launch civil actions against online hate speech:

A militant imam in Victoria who openly calls Jews, Christians, atheists and free-speech advocates “filthy” and “evil” is causing distress among Canadian Muslims, and there are calls for him to be prosecuted for hate speech.

“Younus Kathrada is not taken seriously in our community. Somebody making those claims is not part of Islam. But I guess there is a fringe element that follows him,” says Haroon Khan, a trustee at Vancouver’s Al-Jamia mosque, which belongs to the B.C. Muslim Association and often holds interfaith events.

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C. Muslims rattled by confrontational Victoria imam

Denmark to classify immigrants from Muslim countries separately in crime statistics

If it covered more groups than just Muslims, it would both be more useful as well as less identity politics based (Canada would benefit from regularized breakdowns by visible minority groups for crime, health and other statistics):

Immigration and integration minister Mattias Tesfaye has signalled his support for the statistical differentiation of people in Denmark with Middle Eastern and North African heritage.

Categorising people according to region is beneficial in understanding patterns of crime and employment in people in Denmark with foreign heritage (indvandrere og efterkommere), the minister said in an interview with newspaper Berlingske.

“We need more honest numbers and I think it will benefit and qualify the integration debate if we get these figures out in the open, because fundamentally, they show that we in Denmark don’t really have problems with people from Latin America and the Far East. We have problems with people from the Middle East and North Africa,” Tesfaye said to the newspaper.

Under the current system, Denmark differentiates between ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ heritage in official statistics on immigrants and their children.

All EU countries, along with Andorra, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Vatican are considered ‘Western’. Everywhere else is ‘non-Western’.

A person is considered to have Danish heritage if she or he has at least one parent who is a Danish citizen and was born in Denmark. People defined as ‘immigrants’ and ‘descendants’ do not fulfil those criteria.

While an ‘immigrant’ was born outside of Denmark, a ‘descendant’ (efterkommer) is also considered to be ‘foreign’ for statistical purposes, despite being born in Denmark.

But the Ministry of Immigration and Integration is to further separate the two groups of immigrants and their children into the so-called ‘Menapt’ group, meaning people from the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey, according to Berlingske and Ritzau.

All are Muslim-majority countries or regions.

The nationalities encompassed by the group are over-represented in crime and unemployment statistics, Ritzau writes.

According to a ministry note reported by Berlingske, women with heritage in Menapt countries had an employment rate of 41.9 percent in 2018, compared to 61.6 percent for women from other non-Western countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Denmark to classify immigrants from Muslim countries separately in crime statistics