Gulf anger on Indian right-wing; Will it go beyond Twitter?

An old tweet by BJP MP from Bangalore South, Tejasvi Surya has created a row, where Arab women activists took serious notes on it. Initially, it was UAE activist Noora Al Gurair who sparked the debate by posting the screenshot of the tweet abusing Arab women. In the post, Surya had cited controversial television personality and writer Tarek Fateh. “95% Arab women have never had an orgasm in the last few hundred years!” the BJP leader’s tweet read. “Every mother has produced kids as an act of sex and not love.”

Soon many male and female activists from across GCC noted it and several other Islamophobic tweets by right-wing activists from India. Many followers of these tweets who are working in gulf countries also landed in trouble for using abusive languages against Islam and Muslims. When many activists, some even from Royal families, started debating this, the issue got elevated to diplomatic level and Indian Ambassador to UAE had to buzz for a truce. The flood gate opened when right-wing Hindutva leaders and their media, including some officials, blamed an Islamic group for spreading the virus, and they targeted Muslims in a wave of violence. Activists said that Islamophobia in India was state-sponsored and the government is encouraged by their silence. Many mainstream media ventured a vulgar islamophobic campaign when the country was fighting words pandemic. 

This went to an extent that a religious scholar in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abidi Al Zahrani, called for the listing of right-wing Hindus in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries who were spreading hate against Islam, Muslims under the hashtag “Send Hindutva Back Home”. In another tweet, he noted that millions of Indians lived in the Gulf and were treated free of charge if they were infected by the COVID-19 virus, while Hindutva terrorist gangs are committing crimes against Muslim citizens. This has landed many in trouble and forced hundreds who allegedly made some comment which was against Islam and Muslims terminate their accounts. 

Though Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi tweeted to settle the dust, debate and argument went on and he could not scull thousands of islamophobic propaganda unleashed by his party members and supporters. 

The question many asked, why suddenly Arabs started sympathizing with Indian Muslims who have been the victims of Islamophobic nature of right-wing parties in India. PM Modi has had many global awards conferred upon him by many Muslim monarch countries such as Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). UAE honored him when the mob lynching was at its peak in India. 

Analysts believe that gulf countries are not sincere in their current approach, rather it is just an attempt to scull the influence of Turkey’s growing influence among the global Muslim community. Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war has shaped its strategic calculations in the Middle East. One of the most noticeable policy changes was Turkey’s increasing resentment toward Iran and its rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. Ankara’s policy in Iraq was perhaps the best showground to watch such transformative relations. In fact, in remarks after the referendum victory in April 2017, Erdoğan criticized “Persian expansionism” in the Middle East; a few months before, he had exchanged in a verbal spat with Iranian officials. Most tellingly, Erdoğan repeated his verbal attacks against Iran regarding “Persian expansionism in Syria and Iraq” in a recent interview, in which he calls for Saudi Arabia to “show its leadership,” and thus, to put an end to the Qatar crisis. The fact that Ankara reminds Riyadh of the two countries’ growing and shared interests in the region indicates how damaging the Gulf crisis may be to Turkey’s regional aspirations if it persists.

The influence is growing now in Asian countries, Asian Muslims look at Turkey rather than any Arab country. This has pulled the rug for Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia and UAE who want to be the epicenter of the Muslim world. As Turkey’s emotional influence is growing among the Muslim world day by day, this is the only way to mild the pace and regain some attention toward Arab countries. Thus, analysts believe that this outburst will end in some days and few common right-wing minded professionals working in gulf countries will lose the job, which will temporarily satisfy Indians in large number in gulf countries. It will not go beyond this. 

Mohammed Shariff is a senior journalist who has earlier worked with Indian Express, Times of India, and currently works at Madhyamam.

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