Indian embassies in the Gulf on Wednesday urged citizens to remain vigilant against a spate of derogatory posts on social media linking the coronavirus pandemic to the Muslim community in India.

This came a day after Pavan Kapoor, the Indian envoy to the United Arab Emirates, said any discrimination would not be tolerated.

The Indian embassy in Oman said it is important to stay focused and united in the fight to tackle the coronavirus spread and “not get distracted by fake news on social media with malicious intentions”. “The friendly relations between India and Oman are underpinned by our shared values of tolerance and pluralism,” the embassy tweeted. “Let us all commit to maintaining unity and social harmony at this critical juncture.”

The tweet also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s earlier comments that “unity and brotherhood” must be the response to the coronavirus, which does not see “race, religion, caste before striking”.

Meanwhile, the Indian embassy in Qatar posted screenshots of two Twitter accounts with the same display picture but different names. The two accounts had tweeted the Islamophobic comments. “It is clear that fake identities are being used by forces inimical to India, to create divisions within our community,” the embassy tweeted. “Please understand the reality and do not get swayed by these malicious attempts to sow discord. Our focus right now needs to be on Covid-19.”

Former Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Suri said the Emirates has strong laws against hate speech. “UAE has strong laws against hate speech,” he tweeted. “This applies to derogatory remarks against ALL religions...Hate speech emanating out of India is another matter. It provides fodder to those unhappy with India-UAE friendship.”

He added that unnecessary controversy does not help the bilateral ties.

The tweets came after a backlash in Arab countries over instances of Muslims being targeted in India amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had on Sunday urged the Narendra Modi government to take urgent steps to protect Muslims who are being “negatively profiled” and facing “discrimination and violence” in India.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tejasvi Surya’s derogatory tweet from 2015 on Arab women has also resurfaced on social media. The tweet, which has now been deleted, began doing the rounds after a business person in Dubai, Noora Al Ghurair, posted a screenshot of it. In the post, Surya claimed to have cited controversial television personality and writer Tarek Fatah. “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 act of sex and not love.”

The resurfaced tweet sparked strong reactions from Arab nationals. Princess Hend Al Qassimi, a member of the United Arab Emirates royal family, tweeted a screenshot of a law on hate speech. She said: “UAE law applies on nationals and non-nationals in terms of hate speech.”

On Tuesday, Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said India is heaven for Muslims and that their social, economic and religious rights are secure in the country.

Follow live updates on Covid-19 here

Also read:

  1. Now that the world has spotted Hindutva bigotry, Modi insists that coronavirus doesn’t see religion
  2. BJP MP Tejasvi Surya’s old tweet on Arab women sparks backlash, Indian envoy appeals for restraint