In the past couple of weeks, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Kuwait government, a royal princess of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as a number of Arab activists have called out Islamophobic hate speech by Indians seen to be accusing the country’s Muslims of spreading the novel coronavirus.
A barrage of tweets and statements from individuals and institutions in the Gulf expressing their outrage over the hateful social media posts forced the Indian government to respond, including a Twitter post by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he stressed that “COVID-19 does not see race [or] religion”.
It started with right-wing Hindus accusing Muslims of a “conspiracy” to spread the coronavirus after dozens of cases were linked to a congregation of Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary movement, at their headquarters in New Delhi in the middle of March.
Hashtags such as #CoronaJihad trended for days on Twitter and panellists in TV debates called them “human bombs”, while many called for a ban on Jamaat. Its New Delhi office has been sealed.
On April 19, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said more than 4,000 of the nearly 15,000 cases detected until that day were linked to the Jamaat, whose chief Mullah Saad Kandhalvi was charged with “culpable homicide” and money laundering and is likely to be arrested.
On Thursday, the total number of coronavirus cases in India was more than 33,000, with more than 1,000 deaths.