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The Rise Of Islamophobic Vision Endangering Modi’s West Asian Policy – OpEd

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A wave of religious fanaticism has engulfed the entire globe, its magnitude no less in India, which has been witnessing the same trend.  The Indian state is in limelight due to the derogatory remarks by the ruling party BJP’s members Nurpur Sharma and Naveen Jindal on the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Anger is spreading in the Middle East over reproachful comments made by Indian officials and many states beckoned New Delhi’s envoy and demanded a public apology. India Muslims have been raising their voices time and again but were suppressed by the Indian government, but this time, it was not just Indian Muslims speaking out. Over the past few days, the governments of Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Turkey, Maldives, Iraq, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Pakistan, and Malaysia issued stinging statements condemning the comments. Similar statements were made by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council. India’s turn toward narrow-mindedness and communalism is finally provoking a retort from the world. 

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Therefore, India’s Prime Minister is under significant pressure after his two-party member made a filamentary statement regarding Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Modi has ordered to expel both party officials and he said that he respects all religions. It creates a great distance between Modi and these insulting remarks. Domestically, Modi doesn’t care about the Muslims of India and actively encourages violence against Muslims, even providing legal cover for the persecution of Muslims. For decades, Muslims are disproportionately the victims of communal violence. This communal violence against Muslims has worsened under the Hindu nationalist BJP’s government, particularly through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Shashi Tharoor wrote in an article published in November 2021 that “over the last seven years in India, the persecution of Muslims has been gradually normalized, and Indians have become increasingly inured to it. PM Modi and his BJP are entirely to blame”. His Govt has supported lynching bulldozing & humiliation of Muslims. Muslims have been lynched and beaten by mobs, women have been harassed for wearing Hijab, Mosques have been burnt by the supporters of Modi, and even the judiciary has been accused for support Modi by ruling his favor of banning Hijab in schools. In other words, Modi has zero regard for Muslims in India. 

Therefore, the statement from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to suspend a spokesperson and expelled another official for the insult of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), highlights that after denying the statement, BJP suddenly respects all the religion is not intended for Indian Muslims for whom he has no regards. Now the question is here who has directed him, what has made Modi preamble to get his party to release the statement, what made him suddenly worry about the reaction to repression towards Muslims the only answer you get is that the reaction of Muslims around the world that poses a serious threat to Indian economic interests. Videos have circulated of supermarkets removing Indian goods in the Arab World and the Mufi Oman has called for the boycott, Qatar and Kuwait have summoned the Indian Ambassador to issue complaints. Public anger is at its peak in West Asia even Saudi Arabia and UAE, two countries that have close ties with India despite their persecution of Muslims, have also stated condemnation. It is important to mention here that Modi does not care about the Muslims in India but he is just terrified of the Muslim countries who can punish him, therefore scrambling to create distance between himself and the insults to beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made by his representatives. 

Consequently, the BJP’s decision to ban the membership of his political workers is due to the importance of India’s 6.5 million expatriate population in the Gulf countries and her trade ties with the region. India is the largest importer of oil from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and India’s exports to GCC were worth the US $ 28.06 billion in 2020-21. According to an estimate, the bilateral trade during this period was US$ 87.36 billion.  India is also moving to reduce fossil fuel use and diversify towards renewables and hydrogen, which will become newer areas of collaboration with the Gulf. More than 5,000 Indian companies operate out of United Arab Emirates (UAE) special economic zones as the UAE has emerged as India’s third-largest trading partner. Saudi Arabia is the fourth-largest trading partner of India. Both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi recently have committed to invest $100 billion and $75 billion respectively in India. Hence, breaking relations with West Asian states would be a great dent in economic diplomacy and Modi is cautious about his situation.

To conclude, Islamophobia is rooted in colonialism and is deployed as a political tactic and serves to silence and stigmatize Muslim voices. India should seriously introspect its entrenched anti-minority mindset being destructively spawned by the RSS-BJP regime and discard state-sponsored discriminatory policies. 

The author is an Islamabad-based analyst and holds MPhil in Peace and Conflict Studies and can be reached at [email protected].

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