Sunday, May 26News For London

Is Islamophobia a game-changer in Indian Politics?

The growth of islamophobia accelerated in 2014, when the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a far-right political party known for strong Hindu nationalism and Islamophobic remarks came to power.

Religion card has always been played by the political parties in India to win the elections but it’s the first time since BJP came into power where the religion card is being played openly without any fear and has made it an open season for the party members to make derogatory and divisive remarks on Muslim people’s appearance especially on women who wear burqa or hijab. 

Credits: The Conversation

This open season went to another league during COVID when the whole nation was under lockdown and a substantial number of positive coronavirus cases were reported at a religious assembly organised by the Islamic missionary outfit Tablighi Jamat. This sparked outrage on social media, with some labelling it the start of terrorist organisations’ “corona-terrorism.” The Tablighi Jamat is a non-partisan religious movement that is unaffiliated with any terrorist group. Regardless, the hashtag #coronajihad became a new way of spreading toxicity about Islam at a time when Muslims around the world are already in a difficult situation.

This resulted in a nationwide hatred towards Indian Muslims. It is said to fear is the best elegant weapon and when people are afraid for their lives they will listen to anyone who is in charge and this is what precisely happened. Members of the governing party started making hate comments on Muslims and even the journalism of India went to dogs who are supposed to be the watchdogs. The media houses came with absurd theories of how #coronajihad will kill all the Hindus and they will take over the nation. 

Credits: Pourush Dixit

These attacks highlight the general public’s ignorance of Islam’s essential doctrines, which the BJP and other Hindu elites can easily exploit. In today’s populist narrative, linking all Islamic gatherings to terrorist actions has become the new normal. This new hashtag going viral even made WHO play its role. They issued a warning about coronavirus cases being profiled along racial, religious, and ethnic lines. During a worldwide public health crisis, such prejudice, according to the WHO, is extremely harmful. Many members of the BJP have used violence against Muslims as a result of the growth of Hindu nationalism. 

Another instance happened just before COVID hit India when the BJP brought Citizen Amendment Bill and put religion as a criteria for Indian Citizenship. The bill was summed up explaining how the process of getting citizenship for non-muslims will be fast-tracked from the neighbouring nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and etc. Whereas the reality was the majority of immigrants from these nations are Muslims. 

On February 8, 2022, the BJP released its manifesto for the next state elections in Uttar Pradesh, which states that if the party comes to power, anybody found guilty of engaging in “love jihad” will face a prison sentence. Some people refer to interfaith marriage between a Muslim man and a Hindu girl as “love jihad”. Those found guilty of committing ‘love jihad’ would face a minimum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of one lakh rupees. This step has added to the proof that the party’s goal is to target members of a specific religion, therefore violating the spirit of the Indian constitution.

Credits: Pourush Dixit

Another incident of islamophobia was exposed when a video went viral showing a 19-year-old girl being heckled  by a mob wearing saffron shawls and chanting “Jai Shree ram” or “victory of Lord Ram,” in the college and the girl standing her ground and shouting “Allah hu Akhbar” or “God is great.” Millions of Muslim women in India, like this girl, wear the hijab and burka every day, but the choice has become divisive in recent weeks. Students at a pre-university college in Karnataka’s Udupi county began protesting last month against a headscarf restriction – the college declared students could wear the hijab on campus but not in the classroom. 

Credits: Pourush Dixit

The issue has since snowballed as other schools began implementing a similar ban – and has taken on communal overtones with supporters of Hindu nationalist groups launching protests in support of the ban. An Indian court has said that students in the southern state of Karnataka should stop wearing religious garments in class until it makes a final ruling on whether a school there can ban Muslim headscarves, an issue that has stoked weeks of protests and violence and led the authorities to close schools across the state.