As the relations between the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the Muslim world are getting intense, #IStandWithFrance and #WeStandWithFrance appeared to be the top trends on Indian Twitter in recent days. According to a report in Al-Jazeera, thousands of Indian users are expressing their solidarity with France.
Other hashtags related to Macron’s remarks that trended on Indian Twitter on Tuesday included #WellDoneMacron and #MacronTHEHERO.
Notably, earlier this year, India received five French-made Rafale fighter jets, the first batch of a controversial $9.4bn deal with France signed in 2016.
What has really happened?
Macron has sparked outrage across the Muslim world by accusing French Muslims of “separatism” and describing Islam as “a religion in crisis all over the world”.
The matter escalated after Macron said his country would not “renounce the caricatures” of Prophet Muhammad in the wake of the killing of a French teacher who showed them to his class.
That led to outrage in the Muslim world, with protesters in several Muslim-majority nations, including Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh, calling for a boycott of French goods and demanding the expulsion of the French ambassadors to their capitals.
Anti-Muslim sentiments in Modi’s India
In India, where critics say anti-Muslim sentiments have intensified since the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, many rallied behind the French leader. “Tolerance should be secular too. #IStandWithFrance. Well done French President,” tweeted Parvesh Sahib Singh, a BJP member of parliament.
— Parvesh Sahib Singh (@p_sahibsingh) October 26, 2020
Since 2014, dozens of Muslims have also been lynched by Hindu mobs over suspicions of slaughtering cows, considered sacred by many Hindus. Rights groups have criticized India for a slow rate of conviction in cases of hate crimes against Muslims.
Is India losing friends from the Muslim world?
After India’s controversial law targeting Muslims, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in a two-part tweet condemned the violence in Delhi, ‘expressing its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and describing the acts as ‘heinous’.
“The OIC calls on Indian authorities to bring the instigators and perpetrators of these acts of anti-Muslim violence to justice and to ensure the safety and security of all its Muslim citizens and the protection of Islamic holy places across the country,” the tweet said.
#OIC condemns the recent & alarming violence against Muslims in #India, resulting in the death & injury of innocent people & the arson and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties. It expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the victims of these heinous acts. pic.twitter.com/NQjKVoLgXQ
— OIC (@OIC_OCI) February 27, 2020
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged India to ‘confront extremist Hindus’ and ‘stop the massacre of Muslims, adding to the international fallout over deadly violence in New Delhi.
“Iran condemns the wave of organized violence against Indian Muslims,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, in response to which New Delhi summoned the Islamic Republic’s ambassador and lodged a protest.
Similarly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out against ‘massacres’ of Muslims in India after communal riots in New Delhi left at least 50 dead. “India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims? By who? Hindus,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara after violence broke out this week between mobs of Hindus and Muslims over a citizenship law.
In this regard, Professor Christophe Jaffrelot, a senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris, professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at King’s India Institute, London, and Haider Abbas Rizvi, an Uttar Pradesh-based Information Commissioner, wrote an article for The Indian Express to highlight that India has lost friends due to the incumbent government’s anti-Muslim policies.
The authors argue that “Muslim countries with which India had increasingly good relations have become less friendly,” but, at the same time, Pakistan was able to seek diplomatic support in order to present its case for Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK).