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Monday, April 15, 2024

How India inspires violence against Muslims

India is home to some two hundred million Muslims, one of the world’s largest Muslim populations but a minority in the predominantly Hindu country. Since India’s independence, Muslims have faced systematic discrimination, prejudice, and violence, despite constitutional protections.

The anti-Muslim hatred in the world today is spurred through mediums that fall both in the traditional and digital realms. Western media has long capitalized on stories that paint Muslims in a negative light. There is also the Israel-funded Islamophobia Industry which pushes hatred against Muslims to give diplomatic cover to Israel’s criminal abuse of Palestinians. Then there are xenophobic and far-right political leaders with mass followings.

On top of all, according to a major new study, the number one source of anti-Muslim hatred in the world is the social media platform, Twitter, where nearly 4 million Islamophobic tweets have been posted during the past two years alone.

Read more: Indian govt stops female Kashmiri photojournalist from travelling to US

India’s Share in Online Hatred Against Muslims

Alarming but not surprising, Modi’s India is responsible for the lion’s share of anti-Muslim content on Twitter. Twitter users in India produce roughly 25% of all anti-Muslim hate, globally.

Meanwhile, the Hindu supremacists and religious extremist ideologues of Hindutva are directly responsible for more anti-Muslim hate than white supremacists in the United States and their neo-Nazi cousins in the United Kingdom. It would not be wrong to say that hate speech online translates to hate crimes offline.

The trajectory of some recent events is now making it more than evident that anti-Muslim hate in cyberspace generally and on Twitter specifically is encouraging violence against Muslims not just inside India but also in the West. Recent clashes in Leicester, England, indicate that the Hindutva’s expansionist footprints are rapidly reaching cities outside of India. This should act as a warning for dangerous times ahead.

The anti-Muslim hatred generated and floated online by Hindu extremists and ultra-nationalists in India is getting Muslims and other religious minorities killed in other countries of the world. But unfortunately, law enforcement authorities are slow to understand this. They are also slow to understand just how strategic and methodical Hindu ultra-nationalists have become in pushing anti-Muslim hatred online and violence targeting them in the streets.

These networks become more organized and linked when the Hindutva ideologues amplify hate speech content by Western politicians and far-right groups in India to bombard Twitter with hate speech during major newsworthy events, particularly those related to Islam, protests in the Muslim world, and terrorist attacks. This is causing widespread hatred and discrimination against Muslims everywhere.

Read more: TTP calling Pakistan a “butcher state” goes viral in India

The hate campaigns in the cyber sphere coupled with violent attacks on roads and in alleys are fueling a vicious cycle. Online hate speech provokes violence against Muslims, which in turn ignite more online hate, as is evident in the way anti-Muslim hate crimes surged upwards by nearly 600% in the days after a right-wing extremist killed 52 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand three years ago.

The Great Replacement Theory

The Great Replacement Theory is a hardline racist theory, which argues that non-white immigrants, particularly Muslims, are replacing white citizens which inspired a wave of racist terror attacks in Western countries.

The Hindutva ultra-nationalists borrowed and weaponized the theory within India where they claim that India’s Hindu majority was being replaced by the Muslim Invader. The radical factions of India believe that the Muslims are invaders and they are foreign objects being injected into Indian fabric.

In meshing various aspects of the Great Replacement Theory with the Hindutva ideology, Hindutva nationalists are not only generating violence against Muslims in India but also against Muslims in Western democratic countries. The attack on Indian human rights activists in California is one such case in point.

Hindutva Ideologues Following Nazis’ Footprints

Essentially, religious extremists and ultra-nationalists have united with far-right groups in the West to spread hatred against Muslims online.  One key feature of this convergence is the employability of the same hate speech techniques that Hitler’s Nazi Party used against the Jews.

Worthy of mention here is a technique called the “accusation in the mirror” which can be defined as a common technique for inciting genocide by accusing one’s intended victims of precisely the crime that one intended to commit against them or accusing your target of committing the same crime you are currently undertaking. The literature on genocide has also linked this technique to an “incitement of genocide.”

The Nazis used this hate speech technique to accuse the Jews of promoting and encouraging hatred of the German people, giving them the pretext to target Jews with discriminatory policies, and then ultimately mass extermination.

Read more: India to not tour Pakistan for Asia Cup 2023: BCCI

This is what Hindutva nationalists are doing against Muslims and human rights defenders today. They are using the “Accusation in a Mirror” technique to smear and vilify their opponents with bogus accusations of Hinduphobia while encouraging threats of physical and sexual violence against them.

Twitter’s Complicity

Lastly, at the same time, the Indian government has censored the Twitter accounts of those who regularly give coverage and highlight anti-Muslim violence in India. Meanwhile, given a former Twitter security chief has alleged the far-right Indian government forced the social media company to put a government agent on its payroll and give him access to sensitive user data. In other words, Twitter has now been held hostage to the demands of a regime that openly vows to commit genocide against Muslims and other religious minorities.

This should be the only thing we are talking about right now because Twitter and the Modi-led Indian government are working in cahoots to threaten the well-being of Muslims everywhere.


The writer is a Research fellow at South Asian Times and served as a Research Assistant at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.