India will have to challenge charges of religious prejudice: analysis
In some sections of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among other Islamic countries, there is concern that parts of Indian society and politics are showing signs of Islamophobia, especially after the disease pandemic by coronavirus (Covid-19). . Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to counter this sentiment. In an April 19 tweet, Modi emphasized the need for unity and brotherhood in fighting the virus for all targets. It conveyed that it was wrong to hold all Muslims accountable for the actions of Tablighi Jamaat. The same view was expressed more directly by a high-ranking official of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on these pages.
As in the past, this year too, Modi extended Ramzan’s greetings. He tweeted, “May this holy month bring an abundance of kindness, harmony and compassion.” Two years ago, Modi recalled the prophet Muhammad’s message of equality, brotherhood, and the value of charity. And in a speech to the Sufi World Forum in 2016, Modi spoke of the “rich diversity of Islamic civilization that lies at the solid foundation of a great religion.” In the same speech, he said: “It is this spirit of Sufism, the love for your country and the pride of your nation that defines Muslims in India. They reflect the timeless culture of peace, diversity and equality of faith of our land … “These moving words reflect neither Islamophobia nor prejudice against Muslims.
Why is it then that sections of the Islamic ummah are you concerned about the emerging orientations of India? This was not observed during Modi’s first term when, building on past policies, he strengthened relations with antagonistic West Asian nations. Therefore, Modi 2.0 government policies and actions that impact or are perceived to have an impact on India’s Muslims have to be examined. It should also be examined how Pakistan has tried to exploit these problems.
Four developments stand out: the constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA and the fear of Muslims that it is the precursor to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Delhi riots and the reaction to Tablighi Jamaat Congregation.
The constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir were considered political in the Arab peninsular countries and within the internal jurisdiction of India. Pakistan’s accusations that India violates international law, United Nations resolutions seeking to change the Valley’s demographic structure and disregarding human rights found no traction. His tirade against the Modi government and his ideological roots in Hindutva were also ignored.
The exclusion of Muslims from the CAA was based on the consideration that Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan policies as being theocratic are inherently discriminatory and sometimes persecutory. The Modi government correctly stated that the CAA did not impact the Indian Muslims. However, large numbers of Muslims were alarmed because they felt that it was the forerunner of the NRC, which could make many of them stateless.
The long upheavals that followed were noted in the Muslim world, including the Gulf countries. Although international liberal opinion was further altered as religion became a factor in granting nationality, despite Pakistan’s best efforts, the Gulf countries did not become hostile. However, Malaysia and Turkey did.
The Delhi riots and, in some cases, inflammatory reactions to the Tablighi Jamaat actions that contributed to the spread of sour sections of the Gulf view of Covid-19. This was due to reports in the international media that Muslims were a particular and violent target.
Some reprehensible comments made against Muslims in general in the wake of Tablighi Jamaat’s conduct, and some irresponsible demands that Muslims be boycotted, caused dismay and anger among some in the Gulf. This was accentuated by objectionable comments on social media from some Indian expats living in Gulf countries. This somewhat fertile environment has given Pakistan a chance to fan the anti-Indian flames through fake social media accounts and also unearthing its entire litany of charges against the Modi government. His current specific effort is to have the Islamic Cooperation Organization (OIC) approve restrictions, at a high level, against India for officially encouraging Islamophobia.
A few days ago, in a four-page note to OIC countries, he emphasized that the BJP rose to power on the “central plank” of “hatred of Muslims” and has promoted it thereafter.
Clearly, these Islamophobia charges must be challenged and fought. It is true that Islamic countries as theological political entities are basically discriminatory. Nor are they condemning China’s oppression of its Uighur Muslims. Making these points can work in a school debate, but not in the world of diplomacy, which, in any case, is not about adding points but about ensuring the national interest.
What is necessary, without being defensive, is to assure the Islamic nations that India is not straying from its constitutional moorings by ensuring harmony and effective action against those who disturb it regardless of their party affiliations. It is also necessary not to show disdain for global liberal opinion, but to engage with it.
Vivek Katju is a former diplomat
The opinions expressed are personal.