By Arré Bench Apr. 20, 2020
It’s not just BJP MP Tejasvi Surya whose misogynistic and Islamophobic tweets have left India red-faced. Middle-East authorities are now digging up anti-Muslim rants and forcing Indians to apologise.
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.
— عبدالرحمن النصار (@alnassar_kw) April 19, 2020
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.
COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders before striking.
Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood.
We are in this together: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) April 19, 2020
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.
India is a large and ancient country, and people have coexisted peacefully between them of different religions and ethnicities for centuries, and these racist crimes against Indian Muslims will tarnish the image of India#India #Indian
— د. عبدالله الشريكة 🇰🇼 (@DrAlshoreka) April 18, 2020
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.
Anyone that is openly racist and discriminatory in the UAE will be fined and made to leave. An example; pic.twitter.com/nJW7XS5xGx
— Princess Hend Al Qassimi (@LadyVelvet_HFQ) April 15, 2020
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.
— Khaleej Times (@khaleejtimes) April 19, 2020
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.
— المحامي⚖مجبل الشريكة (@MJALSHRIKA) April 19, 2020
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.
I will adopt the cause of Muslims in India at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva for free#india
— المحامي⚖مجبل الشريكة (@MJALSHRIKA) April 17, 2020
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.
— Sridhar (@libtardtoo) April 20, 2020
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.