The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that posts by certain Twitter handles from Arab countries alleging discrimination against Muslim citizens were “propaganda” and cannot be used to define India’s bilateral relations with those countries, PTI reported.

India is facing backlash from Arab countries over instances of discrimination against Muslims amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had urged the Indian government to take urgent steps to protect Muslims who are being “negatively profiled” and facing “discrimination and violence” in India.

“Much of what you see is propaganda by interested parties,” foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said during an online press briefing, according to PTI. “Stray tweets cannot be used to characterise our bilateral ties with these countries. The real picture of these relations is very much different.”

The spokesperson added that Gulf countries are deeply committed to friendly relations with India and do not support any interference in its internal affairs. “What comes out clearly is that these countries are deeply committed to friendly relations with India,” he said. “They also do not support any interference in internal matters of India. It is, therefore, important that the friendly and cooperative nature of our relations is accurately recognised and the misuse of social media is not given credence.

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Responding to Oman’s Finance Ministry order asking all state-owned companies to replace foreign workers with qualified locals, Srivastava said it was not aimed at Indians working in the Gulf nation. “The policy is a decades-old one and not specific to India. It does not target the Indians in any way,” he said.

On Monday, India and Kuwait had rushed to do damage control after a Cabinet note from Kuwait criticising the targeting of Indian Muslims amid the coronavirus crisis was leaked over the weekend. The note, dated March 2, had called on global leaders and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to stop attacks on Muslims in India.

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

Muslims in India have been targeted ever since news broke that a convention held by the Tablighi Jamaat was a coronavirus hotspot. Videos circulating on social media platforms appeared to show Muslim men spitting on food, licking plates and sneezing in unison to spread the virus – all of these have been debunked as fake news. Even certain television channels and organisations like the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT Cell blamed Muslims for spreading Covid-19.

There have also been instances of attacks on Muslim vendors. On April 14, a group of people in Uttar Pradesh’s Mahoba district had allegedly misbehaved with some Muslim vegetable vendors and stopped them from selling their goods. The mob claimed that the Muslims were members of the Tablighi Jamaat. A BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh even told people to not purchase vegetables from Muslim vendors.

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