ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and its member countries to condemn vilification of Indian Muslims for allegedly spreading the coronavirus (Covid-19).
“The extremist state in India has created & executed a campaign of Islamophobia, vilifying Muslims. I have written to Sec Gen @OIC_OCI and all FMs of member states to unite in global condemnation of these inhuman attacks. We cannot stand by and let another Gujarat happen #COVID19,” Mr Qureshi tweeted.
Allegations against India’s Muslim community for spreading the lethal infection were promoted by Indian media and some of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s leaders, who coined phrases like ‘Corona terrorism’ and ‘Corona Jihad’ to suggest that Muslims have conspired to propagate the disease.
The anti-Muslim propaganda started after the spread of the disease in India was linked to a Tableeghi Jamaat gathering in Delhi in March. The narrative built around this episode has stigmatised India’s about 200 million Muslims, exposing them to increased risk of social exclusion and violence.
This stigmatisation has led to increased incidents of hate crime against Muslims, boycott of their businesses, discrimination at work, and neighbourhoods banning their entry. There have also been sporadic incidents of violence against the Muslim community and, according to some reports, hospitals have refused to treat Muslim patients.
It is feared that the Muslims, who are already suffering from growing Hindu nationalism, could suffer more from the Covid-19 pandemic because of poverty, discrimination and lesser access to healthcare.
“The rising wave of state-sanctioned hate crimes and Islamophobia in India has emerged not only as a threat to Indian Muslims but is also a matter of grave concern for the Muslim world at large,” the Foreign Office said in a statement on Mr Qureshi’s diplomatic outreach.
The OIC had earlier expressed deep concern over rising anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia in India, but generally there has been a silence on the issue in Muslim world.
The FO said Mr Qureshi, in his letters to his counterparts in OIC countries, sensitised them towards this hate-mongering as a continuation of the RSS-BJP dispensation’s anti-Muslim and anti-minority agenda, which was rooted in extremist Hindutva ideology.
“The foreign minister has inter alia apprised about the BJP Government’s systematic campaign to demonise Muslims by holding them responsible for the spread of Coronavirus,” the FO said.
Mr Qureshi in his letters underscored that Indian actions contravened international conventions and undermined global efforts for religious harmony during these challenging times.
Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2020