Indians Are in Deep Trouble Over Islamophobic Tweets… Some Might Be Asked to Leave the Middle-East

Social Commentary

Indians Are in Deep Trouble Over Islamophobic Tweets… Some Might Be Asked to Leave the Middle-East

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

One of the biggest headlines to emerge on Monday on Indian Twitter was that eminent influencers from Arab countries had taken note of certain hateful messages on the timeline of BJP MP Tejasvi Surya.

Abdur Rahman Nassar, a Kuwaiti citizen with an audience of over 244,000 followers on Twitter, brought the offending tweet, wherein Surya was quoting Canadian author Tarek Fatah, to the attention of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Shortly after Nassar tweeted about Surya, and was joined by a wave of other prominent citizens in Kuwait, UAE, and other Middle-Eastern nations, PM Modi put out a tweet of his own calling for unity and brotherhood.

However, Surya’s was not the only Indian Twitter handle that came under scrutiny for posting Islamophobic content. Over the past week, social media has served as an archive that is now being accessed by citizens of other countries to reveal the deep-seated anti-Muslim prejudices in the Indian right-wing.

Sheikha Hend Al Qassimi of the United Arab Emirates also called out the bigoted social media history, noting that some of the handles tweeting against Islam belonged to users who actually resided in Muslim countries. She shared the example of one user named Saurabh Upadhyay (the handle has since been deactivated), warning that discriminatory content would be punished with fines and removal from the country.

Another Indian national who is the CEO of a firm headquartered in Sharjah, UAE, had to tender an apology on his Facebook profile, after first publishing a poem which insinuated through its accompanying visuals that Muslims were guilty of spreading the virus. The businessman Sohan Roy said that he never meant to offend any particular community and that the offending image was a result of a miscommunication between his graphic designer and him.

Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti human rights lawyer named Mujbel Al Shureeka has taken note of the discriminatory comments made by BJP member Subramanian Swamy, sharing a video of an interview where Swamy says Muslims should be second-class citizens in India.

Al Shureeka has also claimed that he will be taking up the cause of discrimination against Indian Muslims at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

This is only the latest round of consequences for Indians accused of using social media. Earlier this year, a case had emerged of an Indian national, Trilok Singh, who worked as a chef in Dubai, and was sacked following an expletive-laden rant where he threatened a Delhi-based law student with rape, and worse. His restaurant promptly fired him and sent his visa for cancellation. This case in itself was almost a throwback to a controversy from 2018, when Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar was also sacked by a Dubai restaurant after he accused Islam of having “terrorised Hindus for 2,000 years”. It just goes to show that Indian Twitter has long been a place where hate is normalised, but now that the international community is taking notice, it’s leaving us red-faced.

Unfortunately for the people who equate discrimination toward Muslims with patriotism, it is their own words that are making the country appear in a poor light on the global platform.