While news stories can (and should be) criticized for sensationalism, it remains imperative on all our parts to truly work towards raising awareness, sharing important news stories, and discussing the actions needed after becoming more educated about tragic injustices around the world.
2019 was a year marked by protests, climate change activism, the rise in populist politics, and solidarity movements. It was also marked by a dangerous rise in Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and open racism – but on the flip side, 2019 also saw the rise in activist movements and a push towards building awareness and fighting against oppression.
Genocide, as seen in the cases of the Uyghur Muslims in China and the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar, is quietly continuing on its course – and as 2020 begins, must be one of our main concerns. Fighting against the rise of right-wing terrorism as well must be a main concern of both society and governments, as seen in the horrifying example of Christchurch, New Zealand.
While news stories can (and should be) criticized for sensationalism, it remains imperative on all our parts to truly work towards raising awareness, sharing important news stories, and discussing the actions needed after becoming more educated about tragic injustices around the world. Here’s a look at some of our most-read news stories of the year, in the hopes that 2020 will bring more activism, awareness, and an instilled duty on all our parts to actively strive towards making a difference in our shared world.
US Confirms Detention of African-American Journalist, Marzieh Hashemi
American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was preparing for a documentary on Black Lives Matter activists in Ferguson, was imprisoned in an unknown facility in Washington DC on the 13th of January. Marzieh was arrested by the FBI at St Louis Lambert International Airport and transferred to Washington where she was detained, her hijab was forced off, she was only given pork options of food, and her family remained uninformed during the process.
Members of American Militia Admit to Minnesota Mosque Bombing
Two Americans, Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris, admitted in January to a bombing of a Minnesota mosque back in 2017. The two admitted that they had bombed the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in an attempt to scare American Muslims into leaving the US. They had also left messages after the bombing that stated Muslims were not welcome in the country. During and after the trial, President Trump issued no statement or comment.
Former Anti-Muslim Dutch MP Converts to Islam
A former far-right Dutch politician, Joram van Klaveren, announced in early February that he had converted to Islam. Serving as a member of parliament for the far-right Freedom Party, van Klaveren was half-way through writing an anti-Islam book when he became engrossed with the religion itself. Converting to Islam, van Klaveren shocked those of his party and government.
6 Year Old Child Murdered in Alleged Hate-Crime in Medina, Saudi Arabia
In an under-reported shocking attack, a six-year old boy was brutally killed in broad daylight in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia by a taxi driver. The taxi driver had allegedly found out that the boy and his mother were from a Shia Muslim background, causing him to pull over in rage and kill the boy with broken glass. While Saudi authorities quickly blamed the attack on mental health issues from the taxi driver, many others highlighted Saudi’s quiet but deadly sectarianism that often targets and kills the minority Shia Muslims in the country.
New Zealand Terrorist Attack: How the World Reacted
A horrendous far-right terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, saw an Australian citizen go on a mass shooting spree at two different mosques – killing 49 innocent Muslim worshippers during Friday prayers. The shooter had also published a manifesto, which detailed his anti-immigrant stance as well as his involvement with white-supremacist and right-wing ideology. One of the decade’s most deadly attack on Muslims, this highlighted the growing danger of right-wing terrorism.
Islamophobic Hate-Crimes up 593% in Britain after the New Zealand Terrorist Attack
In a shocking report by hate-crime watch-group Tell Mama, in the UK alone there were 95 incidents reported between March 15th and the 21st after the New Zealand terrorist attack, with 89% of those incidents containing direct references to the shooting in Christchurch. Some of the cases included Muslims being told “you need to be shot”, “you deserve it”, and “Muslims must die”.
Chelsea Fans Filmed Singing Islamophobic Chant Directed at Mohamed Salah
Footage emerged in early April of Chelsea fans in the Czech Republic singing an Islamophobic chant about footballer Mohamed Salah, which included the line “Salah is a bomber”. While Muslim football players have often been at the end of Islamophobic and racism abuse from fans, this incident highlighted the double standard when it comes to the support of football fans for teams.
Why Are We Ignoring the Persecution of the Hazaras?
On the 12th of April, a bomb exploded in the Hazarganji fruit and vegetable market in Quetta, Balochistan in southwestern Pakistan, killing 24 and injuring more than 50 people. Those targeted were from the Hazara Shia minority group, who have been at the center of an under-reported string of targeted attacks in the region for years. Reports state that since 2013, more than 500 Hazaras have been specifically targeted and killed in Quetta alone, although many human rights activists state this number is actually in the thousands.
Why I’m Not Celebrating Sports Illustrated or Playboy’s “Inclusive” Campaigns
Halima Aden, an American-Somali model, made headlines when she was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the first woman wearing a “burkini” or hijab in the magazine’s 65 year-long history. Divided over whether or not Sports Illustrated should be praised for diversity or criticized for appropriating a religious garment that is more often than not simply used for commercial gain, both the model and the magazine received intense debate.
Ilhan Omar and the American Dream
The election of congresswoman Ilhan Omar was one of the most shocking, celebrated, criticized, and debated moments in the US elections. Under President Trumps’s constant attack, Congresswoman Omar continues to speak her mind when it comes to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, and immigrants to the US – but how much of a Muslim role model is Ilhan Omar?
Court Declares UK Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia a Breach of International Humanitarian Law
The UK court of appeal declared in early June that the UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are a breach of international humanitarian law, and have contributed to more than 100,000 civilian deaths in the Saudi-led bombing and fighting in Yemen since 2016. With the challenge brought to court by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), the ruling, although historic, did little to actually implement change in the UK government’s stance towards its relationship with the Saudi regime.
Muslim Women in France Are Protesting the Controversial “Burkini Ban”
Dubbed “Operation Burkini”, dozens of French Muslim women protested peacefully on the country’s ban on the “burkini”, or hijab-friendly bathing suit, at the Jean Bron public swimming pool in the city of Grenoble. Organized by the group Citizen Alliance of Grenoble in an effort to highlight the importance of respecting all women’s right to choose what to wear, each woman participating in the protest were fined £30 by French police officers for wearing a burkini.
Uyghur Concentration Camps in China May Be Largest Mass Incarceration Since the Holocaust
In early July human rights groups claimed that more than one million Muslim Uyghurs were being held in concentration camps across the northwestern province of Xinjiang in China, with accounts of torture, intimidation, forced conversions away from Islam, and death. China continues to claim these concentration camps are “re-education centers”, in its ongoing campaign to stem dangerous foreign influence and domestic terrorism.
Muslim Majority Countries Part of New Letter Defending China’s Concentration Camps of Uyghur Muslims
In response to an earlier open letter signed by 22 nations condemning China’s human rights abuses in regards to the treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in the country, 37 different nations signed a new open letter in support of China’s “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights”. These 37 nations made up an enormous percentage of Muslim-led Middle Eastern and North African governments, including countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan.
65 Year Old Hero Mohammad Rafiq Took Down Norway Mosque Shooter Before He Could Launch Deadly Attack
On the 9th of August, a heavily armed terrorist suspect attempted to kill Muslim worshippers at the Al-Noor Islamic Center Mosque in Baerum, right outside Norway’s capital of Oslo. A 65 year-old worshipper by the name of Mohammad Rafiq was able to restrain the attacker, and hold him down until the police arrived. Preventing what could have been a massacre, Rafiq was hailed a hero by many.
Kashmiris Allege Torture From India’s Army Amidst the Crackdown in the Region
In a shocking change of events, India’s government voted to revoke Article 370 of the constitution, which had given the region of Kashmir relative autonomy since India gained independence from Britain in the late 1940s. Amidst protests, the Indian government implemented a complete lockdown of the region, with house arrests, arbitrary detentions, and in a groundbreaking report, the use of torture on Kashmiri citizens to incite terror and fear among those who thought of joining the protests against India’s brutal crackdown. The region of Kashmir continues to be under heavy lockdown.
Sikh-Canadian Politician Goes Viral for Powerful Response to an Islamophobic Attack Directed at Him
Canadian politician Gurratan Singh, who represents the district of Brampton East in Ontario, went viral after a video of him calmly responding to an anti-Muslim attack directed at him surfaced at the MuslimFest in Mississauga. Responding to the Islamophobic and racist attack, Singh was widely praised for his calm and powerful response. In the video, which first surfaced on Twitter, Singh can be heard calmly telling the man who attacked him, “I condemn your racism. This has no place in Canada”. Later taking to Twitter, he wrote: “I will never respond to an Islamophobe by stating, ‘I am not a Muslim’. Instead, I will always stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters and say hate is wrong.”
US Drone Strike Intended for IS Kills 30 Afghan Farmers Resting After a Day’s Work
In late September, a US drone strike, intended for a supposed IS hide-out, instead hit and killed at least 30 innocent civilians in the eastern province of Nangarhar in Afghanistan. In addition to the deaths at least 40 more were injured, all coming from the pine-nut fields where they had been working for the day in the mountainous Wazir Tangi area. The workers were apparently resting after the day’s work, and had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when they were hit. Angered by the relentless killing of innocent civilians by both the US-led coalition in Afghanistan as well as by the recent increase in attacks by the Taliban and IS, many local Afghans staged a protest as they carried the dead to be buried in Jalalabad city. Many in Nangarhar province also called for a formal apology and compensation from the US government.
Hundreds of Royal Mail Workers Go on Strike in Solidarity with Muslim Worker After Racist Comment
In an encouraging display of solidarity, Royal Mail workers at the Bootle and Seaforth delivery office in early October staged a walk-out and started a strike after a manager allegedly made a racist comment towards one of their Muslim colleagues. Hundreds of workers went on strike, which continued for almost a week. Speaking with reporters, one of the Royal Mail workers stated: “We stand up for one another, that’s the rule here”.
China Accused of Genocide Over Forced Abortions, Rape, and Sexual Torture of Uyghur Women
Reports of sexual torture, rape, and forced abortions by Chinese authorities continue to emerge from escaped Ugyhur women who were held in the numerous detention camps across the northwestern province of Xinjiang, however in mid-October human rights groups began to openly call the Chinese campaign against the Muslim Uyghur population of the country as a genocide. Stories of systematic rape, forced sterilizations, and younger and unmarried women being taken away from their packed cells at night only to be “returned” the next day are commonplace. In an open letter by a former guard at one of the Xinjiang detention camps, an ethnic Kazakh man named Berik described Chinese officials watching the women detainees through a monitor before choosing which one to rape: “There are two tables in the kitchen, one for snacks and liquor, and the other for ‘doing things’.”
Myanmar Formally Accused of Genocide Over Rohingya Crisis by The Gambia
In a groundbreaking and historic move, the small West African nation of The Gambia formally accused Myanmar of genocide at the United Nations. Myanmar has however continuously denied any wrongdoing in its ethnic war against the minority Rohingya population, and has also not signed up to the International Criminal Court, which may complicate the legal process – however it has signed the 1948 Genocide Convention, which holds them to account in the case of genocide. The Gambia, a majority Muslim country, is now leading a team of international lawyers and is supported by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation in its fight to formally accuse Myanmar of genocide.
Norway’s Capital Oslo Has Now Banned All Israeli Settlement Products and Services
The City Council of Oslo, Norway’s capital, passed an order that bans all Israeli settlement goods, products, and services in a groundbreaking move in mid-November. Oslo’s recently elected City Council, led by the Socialist Left (SV), Labour, and Green parties, is part of a wider movement of Nordic municipalities that are banning Israeli goods in support of the BDS movement. Sunniva Eidsvoll, the leader of the Oslo Socialist Left Party (SV) that now leads the City Council, stated: “The Palestinian people, who have to deal with the illegal occupation of their territory every single day, deserve international attention and support. It is a shared global responsibility to help ensure that human rights and international law are not violated”.
Leaked Chinese Documents Show Full Details of the Genocide of Muslims in Xinjiang
In one of the most significant and groundbreaking leaks from the ruling Chinese Community Party, 403 pages of internal governmental documents were leaked to The New York Times, showcasing the horrendous situation inside China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang, where more than one million ethnic Muslims are being held in concentration camps. In the leaked documents, now labelled the Xinjiang Papers, there was documented evidence of the Chinese state implementing a complete ethnic cleansing of the ethnic Muslims in the region.
India’s Parliament Approves Controversial Citizenship Bill that Excludes Muslims
In a shocking move, India’s Parliament voted in favor of a controversial citizenship bill that will grant citizenship to persecuted minorities from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – except this bill will exclude all Muslims who are currently living in India. Dubbed the ‘anti-Muslim’ bill, this new bill will specifically only grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who have either fled to or moved to India. All Muslims who fall under this same category will not be granted citizenship. Massive protests erupted across India, with reportedly a number of demonstrators killed by Indian security forces.
Afghan Father Travels 12km Daily to Make Sure Daughters Can Safely Attend School
A father from central Sharana of Paktika province in Afghanistan won the heart of the internet after a Swedish charity posted about his daily journey for his daughters’ education. Traveling 12 kilometers on a motorbike every single day to ensure his daughters get to school safely, Mia Khan then waits for hours outside the school until classes are finished to help take his daughters safely back home again. Speaking to the charity, the father stated: “I am illiterate, and I live on daily wage, but my daughters’ education is very valuable to me because there is no female doctor in our area. It is my greatest desire to educate my daughters just like my sons”.
Disposable Sterile Hijabs Introduced for First Time in UK Hospital
The Royal Derby Hospital believes that it is the first in the UK to provide disposable sterile hijabs for staff, nurses, and doctors to use while in the operating room. Junior Doctor Farah Roslan, who wears the hijab herself, first had the idea during her training at the hospital, and stated: “I’d been using [the same headscarf] all day which obviously wasn’t clean and ideal. I didn’t feel comfortable taking it off and I was pulled out from the theatre, respectfully, due to infection control…I’m really happy and looking forward to seeing if we can endorse this nationally”. The University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Trust have stated that these particular disposable headscarves will be ready for use this month in December.