Islamophobia: Can Modi's India Afford to Alienate the Entire Arab Muslim Middle East?
Last week, two official spokespersons of India's ruling BJP party insulted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on an Indian television channel known for promoting Islamophobia. Mohammad Zubair, an Indian Muslim journalist, tweeted a video clip of the TimesNow primetime show featuring BJP's official spokeswoman Nupur Sharma attacking the Prophet (SAW) revered by more than a billion Muslims around the world. As the video clip went viral, a long a growing list of Muslim countries has officially protested to the Indian government. The UAE, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq, the Maldives, Jordan, Libya, Bahrain and Pakistan have now joined Kuwait, Iran and Qatar, calling Indian ambassadors to register their protest, and Saudi Arabia has issued a strongly worded statement. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its condemnation and denunciation of the statements made by the spokeswoman of the BJP," the Saudi statement said.
|India's Ties to the GCC Nations. Source: Advaid
The BJP's entire domestic politics is built on the hatred of Islam and Muslims. At the same time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who many hold primarily responsible for promoting Islamophobia in India, wants to have strong economic ties with the Arab Muslim Gulf states. This latest crisis has exposed the built-in contradictions in the BJP's domestic and international agenda. Indian analyst Aakar Patel calls the ruling BJP party "a party of bigots". Here is his analysis of the situation:
"The (Modi) government has not bulldozed properties of Muslims for resisting rioting; it has conducted civic acts related to unauthorized construction. India is not targeting its Muslims through CAA-NRC pincer; it is only showing solidarity with non-Muslims from neighboring nations. Allowing mobs to prevent congregational prayers in designated spaces is really to ensure traffic flows smoothly. There can not be many who are innocent of what is going on. Certainly, there are none among the votaries of Hindutva. The problem is having democratized violence against Muslims across the country, and having been electorally rewarded for this, Modi must consider what it means for India. He has been given a taste of that this week, and as the sequence of events shows, he has not found it appealing. Trouble on this front will return unless Hindutva retreats and returns India to its normative secular state its Constitution prescribes. This is not going to happen under Modi, of course. The next best thing is to backpedal Hindutva a bit and calibrate Hindutva to a level where it pleases its constituency but doesn't offend the world. This will not be easy as we are about to find out".
It is important to note that nearly 9 million Indians work in the Arab Gulf nations, 60% India's crude oil comes from the Middle East and the UAE is India'a third largest trading partner. Half of all remittances to India ( nearly $40 billion) come from just 5 Gulf nations of the GCC.
The Hindu Nationalists led by Prime Minister Modi are particularly hostile toward Muslims but also other Abrahamic faiths and the West. American journalist Walter Russell Mead described it in a recent Wall Street Journal Op Ed as follows: "Many BJP supporters want the Indian government to defend India’s Hindu civilization and culture from Islam, Christianity and Western secular liberalism. This form of Hindu nationalism leads to controversial policy initiatives". The fact that the United Arab Emirates has joined to protest is particularly significant. The Arab Muslim UAE, a grouping of seven Arab Muslim kingdoms, has now become the number one destination for education and employment of people from Hindu India, according to the government data from the two countries.
India is now ruled by the right-wing Hindu BJP party headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose entire politics is based on extreme hatred of Islam and Muslims. In 2020, Emirati Princess Sheikha Hend bint Faisal al-Qasimi strongly criticized Islamophobia in India. She also expressed solidarity and sympathies with Indian Muslims and Kashmiris.
|Indians Students Abroad. Source: Economic Times
Over 1.2 million Indian students are now studying overseas, twice more than a decade ago. The UAE has 219,000 Indian students, Canada 215,720, the US 211,930, Australia 92,383, Saudi Arabia 80,800, Britain 55,465, and Oman 43,600, according to the data from India's Ministry of External Affairs.
|UAE Expat Population. Source: Global Media Insight
In addition to students, there are millions of foreigners working in the UAE. Currently, the Indian population in UAE is the highest with 2.75 million, followed by Pakistanis with 1.27 million. The UAE has around 0.75 million Bangladeshi nationals, 0.56 million Filipinos, and 0.48 million Iranians. There are also people from Egypt (0.42 million), Nepal (0.32 million), Sri Lanka ( 0.32 million), China (0.21 million) and the rest of the world (1.79million).