After the Indian envoy in UAE issued a statement, more Indian missions in the Gulf have joined in, urging the Indian community to remain vigilant against attempts to sow religious divisions, as ripples continue to be felt over the backlash against Islam phobic comments by some Indians on social media. The comments had come to the notice of and have been highlighted and criticized by prominent Arab intelligentsia.
The Indian embassy in Qatar on Tuesday posted screenshots of two Twitter accounts, which had the same display picture, but had different names; one of them claimed to be based in the Gulf kingdom. Both of them had posted anti-Islam comments, linking the spread of corona virus to the community. Asserting that the ‘fake’ Twitter accounts were being used to create divisions within our community, the Indian embassy in Doha posted, Please understand the reality and do not get swayed by these malicious attempts to sow discord. Our focus right now needs to be on COVID-19.
Similarly, the Indian embassy in Oman also took to Twitter on Wednesday to highlight the need to stay focused on fighting the corona virus pandemic and not get distracted by fake news on social media with malicious intentions. Asserting that relations between India and Oman were based on shared values of tolerance and pluralism, the embassy’s Twitter account posted, “Let us all commit to maintaining unity and social harmony at this critical juncture. As PM @narendramodi said: We are in this together”.
Earlier on April 20, the Indian envoy to United Arab Emirates, Pawan Kapoor had to take to twitter to stem the damage from possible repercussions over Islam phobic comments made by Indians living abroad in Arab countries as well as by several Twitter users who allegedly pretended to live there as well. The controversy had started over social media posts from a few Indian nationals based in UAE, who were posting against Muslims claiming that they had deliberately spread corona virus in India, an operation which purportedly ‘began’ with the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi.
Due to UAE’s strict laws, there are punishments and penalties for any use of internet to abuse any religion, promote sectarianism and harm public order. When some Indians were fired by their employees in the Gulf state for their social media posts, it had led to a Twitter support campaign for the fired individuals.
Meanwhile, some of the screenshots of these anti-Muslim posts, including that of an old tweet of an Indian member of parliament, came to the attention of influential Emiratis and intellectuals from other Arab states, like Kuwait. This led to Prime Minister Narendra Modi posting a tweet on Sunday that COVID-19, “does not see race, religion, color, caste, creed, language or borders before striking”. The Indian ambassador to UAE then posted his own message to the Indian community in the Emirates.
Former Indian envoys are concerned that the vicious comments by some Indian citizens may be harming India’s reputation. The UAE government had also allowed for the construction of a Hindu temple, despite objections from some quarters. They find all these comments against Muslims abhorrent. Indians are the largest expatriate group in UAE, which account for 60% of the population. “This shows how respected Indians are. These are exceptions by some foolish individuals. The law is non-discriminatory and will be applied in full force.