The United Nations Joins Battle Against Islamophobia

The United Nations has declared March 15 the "International Day to Combat Islamophobia".  Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first world leader who highlighted the global rise in Islamophobia in a speech in September, 2021 at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Khan's speech was followed by the adoption of a Pakistani resolution at the UNGA co-sponsored with the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) on March 15, 2022 to observe "International Day to Combat Islamophobia" on March 15 every year.  

Ex Prime Minister Imran Khan Speaking at the United Nations. 

In his September 2021 speech at UNGA,  Imran khan said that “the worst and most pervasive form” of Islamophobia “now rules India”. The “Hindutva ideology” being promoted by the Narendra Modi Government has unleashed “a reign of fear and violence” against India’s 200-million Muslims.

India is the Largest Contributor to Islamophobia on Social Media. S...

India has just 5.75% of global Twitter users but the country accounts for 55% of all anti-Muslim tweets, according to a recent report entitled "Islamophobia in the Digital Age" published by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV). It also found that the US, the UK, and India contributed a staggering 86% of anti-Muslim content on Twitter during a three-year period. It should be noted that both the US and the UK have a sizable  Indian diaspora infected by hateful Hindutva ideology. 

The growing hate that Muslims face is not an isolated development, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told attendees at a a high-level March 10 event at the UN Headquarters in New York. “It is an inexorable part of the resurgence of ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazi white supremacist ideologies, and violence targeting vulnerable populations including Muslims, Jews, some minority Christian communities and others,” he said. 

The UN HQ event was co-convened by Pakistan, whose Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, underscored that Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and pluralism. Although Islamophobia is not new, he said it is “a sad reality of our times” that is only increasing and spreading.

“Since the tragedy of 9/11, animosity and institutional suspicion of Muslims and Islam across the world have only escalated to epidemic proportions. A narrative has been developed and peddled which associates Muslim communities and their religion with violence and danger,” said Mr. Zardari, who is also Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers. “This Islamophobic narrative is not just confined to extremist, marginal propaganda, but regrettably has found acceptance by sections of mainstream media, academia, policymakers and state machinery,” he added.

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Comment by Akhtar Hussain on March 16, 2023 at 3:35am

Dear Riaz sb.

I hope you are well. I have to point out that India has had a field day with the problems in the Muslim world. It seems like India's existence is based on maligning Pakistan and Islam, and it does this well by hiding behind Britain and America. Especially after 911, India has benefited the most by labeling, even the freedom fighters in Palestine and Kashmir as terrorists. Having really close ties with Israel and continuing to defy the west by buying Russian oil to indirectly support the war in Europe.   

Pakistan has not been able to attract many European and American businesses, but India's rhetoric is always something attractive to the west. India can do no wrong in the British media.  Gandhi wanted the British out of India, but he is hailed as a hero, while Jinnah is labelled as the destroyer of the British Raj.

This reminds me of my cousin who used to visit us during his summer break, at a boarding school in England. He instigated and planned all the mischief, but successfully blamed me for everything if we were caught in the act. I could never figure out why I always got the beatings. Then I finally figured out that he was learning all the bad things at the boarding school, where all the bad kids were sent by the rich elite.  Moral of the story is you need bad company to look good. Learn to blame others for your bad behavior. But this is exactly the opposite of what my parents were teaching me; "always tell the truth."

Reminds me of the famous saying by Abe Lincoln; "You can fool some of the people ........" Enjoy !

Take care !

~ Akhtar.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 18, 2023 at 8:36am

#Modi is the World’s Most Popular Leader. It's an emerging personality cult and an authoritarian streak that is dragging #India backward. Some argue it is a Jim Crow #Hindu nationalism that marginalizes #Muslims. #Hindutva #Islamophobia #BJP #bigotry https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/18/opinion/modi-india.html?smid=tw-...


All over the Indian capital these days loom posters of Narendra Modi, presenting him as the great modernizing prime minister pulling India forward. But those posters also hint at the opposite: an emerging personality cult and an authoritarian streak that is dragging India backward.

In immediate political terms, the personality cult perhaps succeeds. With approval ratings at home of about 78 percent, Modi is far and away the most popular major leader in the world today, according to Morning Consult.

With the opposition in disarray, Modi is expected to win a third term as prime minister in next year’s elections.

While Modi polls extremely well, many worldly Indians are aghast that he has made India less secular and tolerant, creating what some argue is a Jim Crow Hindu nationalism that marginalizes religious minorities, particularly Muslims. And it’s not just marginalization: Muslims are periodically accused of slaughtering cows, which are sacred to Hindus, and lynched. In a typical case this month, a mob in Bihar state accused a Muslim of carrying beef and beat him to death.

Modi has presided over a crackdown on news organizations, and Indians have been repeatedly arrested for their tweets. Sweden’s V-Dem Institute, in a new report, listed India not as a democracy but as an “electoral autocracy” ranking 108th among 179 countries in its electoral democracy index.

“It’s very scary what’s happening,” said Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot College, one of India’s most celebrated rural development initiatives. “I think we’re going into authoritarianism.”

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Pakistan was founded by a not particularly observant Muslim, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who drank alcohol and appointed a member of the (now persecuted) Ahmadi religious minority to be the country’s first foreign minister. But then in 1977, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq seized power and engineered a wave of conservative Muslim nationalism that still tears Pakistan apart.

That would be my nightmare for India, because the fires of religious extremism and grievance are easier to ignite than extinguish. But I honestly don’t think India will tumble that far. I agree with Urmi Basu, a civil society leader from Kolkata, that Indian democracy will get through this, just as it survived a retreat from democracy under Indira Gandhi. India still has a federal system that gives power to the states, and that constrains Modi.

-----------

Modi is now to all of India what he was for many years as the boss of the state of Gujarat. There he was a pro-business leader who oversaw strong economic growth, but his record was badly damaged by a pogrom against Muslims on his watch in 2002 — there is disagreement about his degree of complicity, but he certainly mismanaged it. He also undermined pillars of civil society like the Self-Employed Women’s Association.

Looking ahead, what I fear is that the authoritarian, Hindu nationalist Modi is eclipsing the economy-boosting, toilet-building Modi. To imagine a worst case, just look next door at the sad shambles of today’s Pakistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 5, 2023 at 7:32am

Braverman words on British Pakistani men discriminatory: Pakistan
Pakistani official says UK home secretary’s remarks signal ‘intent to target and treat British Pakistanis differently’.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/4/5/braverman-words-on-british-...

Pakistan’s foreign office has criticised British Home Secretary Suella Braverman for “discriminatory and xenophobic” comments after she said that British Pakistani men “hold cultural values at odds with British values”.

In an interview with Sky News on Monday, Braverman also alleged British Pakistani men worked in child abuse rings or networks that targeted “vulnerable white English girls”.


Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Mehnaz Baloch on Wednesday condemned Braverman’s remarks which, he said, painted a “highly misleading picture signalling the intent to target and treat British Pakistanis differently”.

Baloch said Braverman had “erroneously branded criminal behaviour of some individuals as a representation of the entire community”.

“She fails to take note of the systemic racism and ghettoisation of communities and omits to recognise the tremendous cultural, economic and political contributions that British Pakistanis continue to make in British society,” Baloch said in her weekly briefing in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

A British Home Office report on group-based child sexual abuse published in 2020 pointed out that research on offender ethnicity is limited, and tends to rely on poor-quality data.

However, it did highlight studies that show white men as being the majority of offenders, in comparison with Asian or Black men.

The report’s findings were pointed out to Braverman during the interview, but she went on to say that British Pakistani men “see women in a demeaned and illegitimate way and who pursue an outdated and frankly heinous approach in terms of the way they behave”.

Braverman’s comments have received a backlash on social media, with users saying the remarks will mislead the public and “incite violence against those with particular racial characteristics”.


Comment by Riaz Haq on April 8, 2023 at 7:21am

New Indian textbooks purged of nation’s Muslim history

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/04/06/india-textbooks-mus...


By Anumita Kaur


The Taj Mahal is one of India’s most iconic sites. But this year, millions of students across India won’t delve into the Mughal Empire that constructed it.

Instead, Indian students have new textbooks that have been purged of details on the nation’s Muslim history, its caste discrimination and more, in what critics say warps the country’s rich history in an attempt to further Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.

The cuts, first reported by the Indian Express, are wide-ranging. Chapters on the country’s historic Islamic rulers are either slimmed down or gone; an entire chapter in the 12th-grade history textbook, “Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts" was deleted. The textbooks omit references to the 2002 riots in the Indian state of Gujarat, where hundreds of Indian-Muslims were killed while Modi was the state’s leader. Details on India’s caste system, caste discrimination and minority communities are missing.

Passages that connected Hindu extremism to independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi’s assassination were pruned as well, such as the 12th grade political science textbook line: Gandhi’s “steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate [him].”

The new curriculum, developed by India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training, has been in the works since last year and will serve thousands of classrooms in at least 20 states across the country. It follows long-standing efforts by Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to craft a Hindu nationalist narrative for the country — a platform that Modi ran on in 2014 and secured reelection with in 2019.

“The minds of children are now under direct onslaught in this kind of intense way, where textbooks must not ever reflect South Asia’s dynamic, complex history,” said Utathya Chattopadhyaya, a history professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “So you basically create a body of students who come out knowing very little about the history of social justice, the history of democracy, the history of diversity, and so on.”


India has been home to Hindu, Muslim and many other religious communities for centuries. British rule stoked tensions among communities, leading to violence in 1947 after the country was partitioned into Pakistan and modern India.

Hindu nationalism has intensified under Modi. It has led to violent clashes, bulldozing of Indian-Muslim communities and deepening polarization throughout India and its global diaspora.

The curriculum change is another step in the trend, Chattopadhyaya argued. BJP-led state governments have launched textbook revisions for years. But now it’s stretched to the national level.

“This is actually an intensification of something that’s been happening. It is a way of ‘Hindu-izing’ South Asian history and ignoring all other kinds of diverse plural histories that have existed,” he said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 9, 2023 at 4:49pm

Sanskrit poetry and literature flourished under Mughal Rule in India​


Last chance to read Mughal-era Sanskrit literature, before it is all deleted | Deccan Herald


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinio...erature-before-it-is-all-dele...

by Anusha Rao

The recent removal of chapters on Mughals from the NCERT syllabus presents us with an opportunity to look at the colorful history of Sanskrit during that period. The most vibrant personality of this era was perhaps the celebrity poet Jagannatha Panditaraja, who managed to sell the same praise-poem to three kings (Shah Jahan, Jagatsimha and Prananarayana), after swapping out their names. Panditaraja, i.e., the ‘king of scholars’, was a title that the Mughal king Shah Jahan bestowed on Jagannatha. Our poet clearly liked being wined and dined well. He writes: “Only two people can give me all that I want—God, or the emperor of Delhi. As for what the other kings give, well, I use that for my weekly groceries!"

Legend goes that Jagannatha fell head-over-heels in love with a Muslim woman called Lavangi and married her. This would explain the Muslim woman (“yavani”) who is the subject of so many of his verses, where he meditates on her skin smooth as butter and wants neither horses nor elephants nor money as long as he can be with her.

Aurangzeb’s uncle Shaista Khan had even learnt Sanskrit himself, and six poems written by him are preserved in the Rasakalpadruma. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan had learnt Sanskrit, too, and his project was to understand Islam and through each other. Another celebrity poet of this age was Kavindracharya, the head of the Banaras scholar community during Shah Jahan’s rule. He pleaded the case for abolishing the Hindu pilgrim tax so eloquently in front of the king that the indeed came to be abolished. Poems in praise of Kavindracharya poured in from all across the country, and they are preserved today in the form of a book, the Kavindra Chandrodaya.

South India had its fair share of Sanskrit poets who enjoyed the patronage of multiple kings of different faiths. Bhanukara, a 16th century Sanskrit poet, wrote verses that we find in many well-known verse anthologies. These anthologies attribute to Bhanukara verses in praise of various kings—hinting that among his patrons were Krishnadevaraya, Nizam Shah and Sher Shah, all ruling in the Deccan! And Bhanukara clearly enjoyed a good relationship with the Nizam, given his hyperbolic verses in praise of the king’s generosity, skill in military conquest, and even his physical appearance. Another well-known Sanskrit poet of the 16th century was Govinda Bhatta, who composed the Ramachandra-yashah-prashasti in praise of King Vaghela Ramachandra of Rewa. But Ramachandra was not Govinda Bhatta’s only patron. In fact, Govinda Bhatta called himself Akbariya Kalidasa, as a tribute to the most illustrious of his patrons, Akbar. In one his laudatory verses, he praises Akbar as being the crest jewel of Humayun’s lineage.

Not all Sanskrit poetry about the Mughals is about kings though— the 17th century poet Nilakantha Shukla, a disciple of the famous grammarian Bhattoji Dikshita, wrote an epic poem on the romance between a Brahmin tutor and a Muslim noblewoman in Mughal Banaras.


As Sanskrit poets wrote in and of Islamic rule, a large number of Sanskrit classics were translated into Persian as well—including the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and even tales such as the Shuka Saptati. The Razmnamah, a Persian translation of the Mahabharata, commissioned by Akbar in the late 16th century, manages to strike a balance between the monotheistic god of Islam and the plethora of gods in the Sanskrit epic, retaining numerous divinities while weaving in Koranic phrases, and modifying prayers to address them to Allah. But how do we know all of this? Well, nobody struck these out from the manuscripts and inscriptions...

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 19, 2023 at 7:40am

In Pictures

Gallery
|
Islamophobia
The Rise and Rise of Islamophobia in India
Muslims have been subjected to violence for decades, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has only made things worse.

https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2023/4/18/history-illustrated-the...

By Danylo Hawaleshka
Published On 18 Apr 2023
18 Apr 2023
History Illustrated is a weekly series of insightful perspectives that puts news events and current affairs into an historical context using graphics generated with artificial intelligence.

Muslims in India are being targeted by vile propaganda, intense intimidation and mob violence.

For instance, Hindu nationalists in 1992 destroyed the 16th century Babri Mosque. Nationwide riots then killed about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims.

In 2002, 59 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a train fire in Gujarat state, which was blamed on Muslims.

Narendra Modi, who headed the state at that time, was accused of doing little to stop the violence.

In 2019, Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party enacted a citizenship law, seen to discriminate against Muslims.

Human Rights Watch said ensuing riots in New Delhi over that law killed 53 people, mostly Muslims, and that Hindu mobs injured over 200.

Propaganda films like The Kashmir Files demonise Muslims, a film Modi endorsed.

Today, mosques are often attacked, like the 300-year-old one in Uttar Pradesh razed for a highway.

This cycle of violence and vilification directed at a religious group is something history has seen before—and it never ends well.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 1, 2023 at 11:22am

#US religious freedom panel #USCIRF again recommends #India for blacklist. For a 4th year, the independent body says India should be singled out for discrimination against #Muslims and other #minority groups #Modi #Hindutva #Islamophobia https://aje.io/zgyyme via @AJEnglish

An independent commission in the United States has, for the fourth year in a row, recommended that India’s government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, be added to a religious freedom blacklist, saying that conditions in the country for religious minorities “continued to worsen” throughout 2022.

In its annual report on Monday, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) again called on the US Department of State to designate India as a “country of particular concern”.

The independent panel has made appeals for the designation since 2020. The label accuses a government of “systematic, ongoing [and] egregious violations” of religious freedom and opens the door to economic sanctions.

The body said that the Indian government “at the national, state and local levels promoted and enforced religiously discriminatory policies” in 2022. Those included “laws targeting religious conversion, interfaith relationships, the wearing of hijabs and cow slaughter, which negatively impact Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and Adivasis (indigenous peoples and scheduled tribes)”.

The report noted that about 14 percent of India’s population of 1.4 billion is Muslim, about 2 percent is Christian, and 1.7 percent is Sikh. Nearly 80 percent of the country is Hindu.

The panel further asserts that the Indian government, led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), “continued to suppress critical voices — particularly religious minorities and those advocating on their behalf”.

The US panel only offers recommendations and has no ability to set policy. There was little expectation the State Department would adopt the commission’s position, as Washington and New Dehli have continued to strengthen their ties in a bid to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

In its report, the religious freedom watchdog noted the administration of US President Joe Biden “failed to designate India” as a “country of particular concern” after it made the recommendation in previous years.

“The United States and India continued to maintain strong bilateral ties around economic trade and technology. Trade reached $120 billion in 2022, making the United States India’s largest trading partner,” the report said.

“President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted on multiple occasions, including the G20 and G7 Summits and the Quad Leaders Summit,” it added, the latter referring to the informal grouping of the US, India, Japan and Australia.

The Indian government did not immediately respond to the latest report. Following last year’s recommendation, New Delhi’s foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi accused senior US officials of making “ill-informed” and “biased” comments.

“As a naturally pluralistic society, India values religious freedom and human rights,” Bagchi said in a statement at the time.

For its part, the Indian American Muslim Council said the latest USCIRF report “reaffirms what [the rights group] has been saying for years: that India’s government, under Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] has continued to systematically violate the religious freedom of minority communities, particularly Muslims and Christians”.

More recommendations for blacklist
The report also called on the Biden administration to add Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam to its blacklist, and for the redesignation of Myanmar, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The panel first made the recommendation for Afghanistan last year, following the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August 2021. Afghanistan has long been on the commission’s watch list, and the Taliban itself had been designated of “particular concern” in some of the panel’s earliest reports, from 2000 and 2001.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 11, 2023 at 7:49am

In Modi’s India, hatred toward Muslims is being inflamed by authorities

By Rana Ayyub


https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/05/11/modi-india-musli...

In just the past four months, Mumbai and adjoining cities in the state of Maharashtra witnessed 50 anti-Muslim hate rallies attended by thousands of Hindus, often led and participated in by leaders of the BJP. I have attended four such rallies all across western India.

I saw vast crowds, from young children to 80-year-olds marching in the streets, expressing Hindu akrosh (Hindu rage), calling for “termites” and “bearded traitors” — all terms for Muslims in Modi’s India — to be wiped from the face of the country. I saw young women dressed in saffron performing traditional folk dances, holding placards asking Muslims to chose between “Pakistan or Qabristan” (Pakistan or the graveyard).

None of this has been spontaneous. Modi himself has been criticized for failing to take responsibility to stop the 2002 riots in Gujarat that killed more than 1,000 people while he was chief minister there — and even for inflaming passions in the run-up to the massacres.


Members of the BJP have continued to stoke hatred and intercommunal tensions since then. In but one recent example, Devendra Fadnavis, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, held a rally last month in Ayodhya, near where a Hindu mob famously demolished the iconic Babri mosque in 1992. Modi’s government is planning to consecrate a new Hindu temple on the same site ahead of the 2024 general elections. Fadnavis was there to drive the point home. “Whether you [say it out loud] or not,” he said before a crowd, “the fact is India has a Hindu majority. And in that sense, it is already a Hindu rashtra (state).”

Last month, another provincial minister of the Modi government, who heads the northern state of Uttarakhand, stated that the Modi government would not tolerate “land jihad” — a dangerous dog-whistle to extremists who believe that Muslim immigrants are buying up land to displace the Hindu majority.

The poisonous rhetoric is having an effect. Shortly after these speeches, during celebrations commemorating the birth of Lord Rama, multiple attacks took place all over the country. The most prominent attack saw about 1,000 Hindu rioters set fire to a century-old Muslim religious school in the northern state of Bihar. The school’s library was burned down.


The dangerous provocations continue. “Tolerant Muslims can be counted on fingers. Their numbers are not even in thousands,” Satya Pal Singh Baghel, Modi’s minister of state for law and justice said at a rally this week. “Even that is a tactic. It is to stay in public life with a mask.” Meanwhile, Modi was praising an extremely Islamophobic new film at a rally ahead of local elections this month.


--------


As foreign dignitaries and celebrities continue to visit India ahead of the G-20 summit, they must not turn a blind eye to what is happening. As Zendaya, Gigi Hadid, Tom Holland and Penélope Cruz flocked to Mumbai for the opening of a major new cultural center, Hindu mobs danced to music glorifying the extermination of Muslims, brandishing swords outside mosques. And around the time that Modi welcomed the Australian, Japanese and Italian prime ministers and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, three Muslims were reportedly lynched.

Modi is making the case that he is an irreplaceable global leader who holds the key to world peace. Western leaders are looking to him as a partner to stand firm against a rising China and to push back on Russia’s naked aggression in Ukraine. Never before in his career of Hindu nationalist politics has Modi found himself more emboldened. It’s unconscionable that the international community remains silent in the face of what is going on.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 15, 2023 at 6:14pm

#US asks #India to condemn #religious #violence. State Dept: "we're continuing to encourage (#Modi) government to condemn violence and hold accountable (those) who engage in rhetoric that's dehumanizing towards religious minorities" #Islamophobia #Hindutva https://news.yahoo.com/us-calls-india-condemn-religious-154934895.h...


The United States wants India to condemn persistent religious violence, a senior official said Monday, one month before a state visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The State Department on Monday released an annual report on religious freedom which listed attacks against religious minorities including Muslims and Christians in the billion-plus nation led by Modi's Hindu nationalists.

A senior US official, briefing reporters on the report on customary condition of anonymity, spoke of India's "vast potential" and said he was "saddened" by the persistence of religious violence.

"Regarding these concerns, we're continuing to encourage the government to condemn violence and hold accountable (those) who engage in rhetoric that's dehumanizing towards religious minorities," the official said.

The official promised to speak "directly" with Indian officials and said: "We'll continue to work very closely with our civil society colleagues on the ground (and) with courageous journalists that are working every day to document some of these abuses."

The State Department report, based on direct research as well as accounts by media and advocacy groups, pointed to concerns about home demolitions against Muslims and public flogging by police of Muslims accused of injuring Hindus in the state of Gujarat.

New Delhi has long hit back at American criticism on religious freedom, particularly by the autonomous US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which earlier this month once again recommended that the State Department put India on a blacklist over its record.

Later this year Secretary of State Antony Blinken will list "countries of particular concern" on religious freedom but it is virtually certain he will spare India, with which the United States has been building warmer relations for decades, partly as a bulwark against China.

Blinken, presenting the report, did not mention India as he voiced alarm by actions by authorities in China, Iran, Myanmar and Nicaragua.

"We defend the right to believe -- or to not believe -- not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because of the extraordinary good that people of faith can do in our societies and around the world," he said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 18, 2023 at 8:22pm

#India’s deadly #traincrash: Forget the truth, blame it on #Muslims. It’s the latest instance of how in an #Islamophobic India, justice and accountability have themselves been derailed. #Hindutva #Islamophobia #Modi #BJP https://aje.io/dqenql via @AJEnglish

By Apoorvanand

Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at the University of Delhi. He writes literary and cultural criticism.

It happens only in India that even a train accident is used as an opportunity to demonise Muslims.

Just after the recent terrible train crash near Balasore station in the eastern state of Odisha, in which more than 280 people died, posts started circulating on different social media platforms and WhatsApp groups, blaming Muslims for the accident.

Could it be a coincidence that it was a Friday when three trains collided with each other in Odisha? As if the Friday angle was not sufficient, a lie was invented that the station master was Muslim. To make it look more sinister, the photo of a religious shrine near the railway track where the accident had taken place was spread on social media claiming that it was a mosque, suggesting that there must be some link between the mosque and the accident.

It was immediately exposed as a lie. It was a Hindu temple and not a mosque. But imagine if it had actually been a mosque – the baseless conspiracy theory would have received fresh wings.

Sadly, fact-checking only cements doubts created by fake news in minds that are already prejudiced against Muslims and are being told day and night that Muslims are conspiring against the nation. These are minds trained to think that there is a need to keep an eye on Muslims and to subjugate them using laws and, if necessary, violence.

The railway minister ordered an inquiry into the accident by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has long given up the pretence of acting as an independent investigative agency and is principally used to target political opponents and probe cases along ideological lines laid down by the country’s ruling masters.


In this case, handing the case over to the CBI circumvents the normal process in such situations, which is an investigation by the commissioner of safety. The result: Instead of paying attention to flaws in safety measures, which could raise uncomfortable questions for the government, the investigation into the accident will now keep alive a criminal conspiracy theory. It aligns with the rumours spread just after the accident.

Close on the heels of this accident, the chief minister of the state of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, made a speech to discourage the use of chemicals in farming. Giving it an anti-Muslim twist, he vowed that “fertiliser jihad” would not be allowed. He was using this occasion to target Bengali Muslims in his state, whose main occupation is farming. Suggesting that they were spoiling the land by using chemicals, he was giving yet another justification for evicting Bengali Muslims and taking away their land, building on a campaign he has relentlessly pursued in recent years.

Sarma is recovering from the defeat of the BJP, his party, in the legislative election for the state of Karnataka, where he was a star campaigner. He, along with other leaders of the BJP, turned the election into an anti-Muslim hate campaign, saying that he had closed hundreds of madrasas and would ensure that all are closed. He also parroted familiar tropes about Indian Muslims, portraying them as against family planning. Statistics show that rates of polygamy are almost identical among Hindus and Muslims in India, and Muslim fertility rates have fallen sharply in recent decades. But facts are inconvenient when the aim is to spread lies about a religious minority community.

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