Rising Islamophobic posts by Indian expats in Middle East worries many

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Indian expat in the UAE, Rakesh B. Kitturmath was sacked this week from Emrill Services where he worked as team leader. Kitturmath is currently facing police action after being fired for his Islamophobic post on social media.

Post 2014, there has been a surge in hate filled posts directed against Muslims by the expats who migrated to different parts of the world in search of better living conditions and jobs. Only few of these hate comments get reported on a large scale and even fewer face police actions and deportation for such actions.

However, in a welcome depart from the normal, Stuart Harrison, CEO of Emrill Services in Dubai sacked Kitturmath stating the organization has “zero policy of tolerance towards hate crimes.”

In the UAE alone there are 3.3 million Indians working in different sectors, from manufacturing to heavy machinery handling. And the atmosphere on social media, much like India itself, is witnessing an alarming trend of posts filled with anti Muslim hate. Especially the recent Tablighi Jamaat controversy has spiraled anti-Muslim comments on the web coming particularly from expats working in gulf countries amid coronavirus pandemic.

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One can easily watch these online battles between good Samaritans and extremists on Twitter, where some of the expats have increasingly taken on themselves to defend the Hindutva ideology far away from their homeland.

Under legislation passed in 2015, the UAE outlaws all religious or racial discrimination. The anti-discrimination/anti-hatred law prohibits all acts “that stoke religious hatred and/or which insult religion through any form of expression, be it speech or the written word, books, pamphlets or via online media.”The legislation mainly aims to fight “discrimination against individuals or groups based on religion, caste, doctrine, race, color or ethnic origin.”

Last week Abu Dhabi resident Mitesh Udeshi was sacked for posting a cartoon mocking Islam on his Facebook page, and simultaneously a police complaint was filed against Sameer Bhandari of Future Vision Events & Weddings, Dubai after he asked an Indian Muslim job seeker to ‘Go back to Pakistan.” While the UAE has outlawed any kind of racial or religious discrimination, it remains to see how stricter action might be implemented against the rising trend of Islamophobia in future, considering that hate speech has become a cause of concern on social media of Indian expats working abroad.

On the other hand, many netizens have taken it upon themselves to keep a constant vigil on the rise of hatred. A few of them on Twitter have started reporting malignant content to the employers of offenders.

One such post that sought immediate attention from authorities was from a twitter handle @DeadZedb. User @DeadZedbhad had called out Pankaj Joshi for using slur words against students of Jamia Milia Islamia University, commenting that the University is “producing terrorists.”

Another Balakrishna Nakka, Chief Accountant at Dubai’s Moro Hub Data Solutions Company had posted a cartoon showing Muslims as suicide bombers and spreading the Coronavirus. Appalled by Nakka’s comments, Moro Hub sacked him and said in their official statement that they “take zero tolerance attitude to material that is or may be deemed Islamophoic or hate speech.”

After Moro’s official statement, the twitter handle @DeadZedb told TwoCircles.net: “I acted in my capacity as a good resident and reported criminal hate speech,” implying that it was genocidal hate speech that could get people killed back in India and someone had to report them. However, due to harassment by the rightwing Twitter handles, @DeadZedb later had to deactivate his account.

Similarly, many handles have begun to tag employers and call on governments in these countries to take action. Another Twitter user, @RizwanRzaKhan has compiled a list of all expats living in the Middle East who are involved in online hate comments.

Rizwan had expressed that once such a list is compiled, they would be reported to the local authorities in respective countries. He had also later revealed that when the list had been readied and these names were reported through social media, many from the rightwing IT Cell started boycotting Muslim employees and businesses. As a response to this, Rizwan said that, “It is funny and sad these IT Cell guys are defending expats by using the same language their bigot friends did.”

Another user named @brumbyozhad retweeted email IDs of the officials to be reported in case of hate crimes.

However, the hate comments from extremists have their own legion of supporters. After user @DeadZedb’s posts went viral, many Islamophobes continued to hunt down those who reported such content until they deactivated their accounts. One such user @divyasoti has termed the people who are exposing Islamophobia to be “doxxing.”Another Twitter user, Iyervval Mitra, has asked the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to take action against people who report hate speech online.

When Twitter handle @alghurair98, originally a Dubai-based Social Media Influencer mentioned how UAE has strict laws for hate against all religions, @divyasoti declared that “India has zero tolerance for any kind of Hindutva violation.”

However, Twitter handle @brumbyoz believes that some of the expats living in Gulf countries are bringing a bad name to India and prompting religious animosity through social media and should be booked for spreading hate.

He added that they should be brought to book before the whole Indian workforce is profiled as problematic in such countries.

Responding to the rising Islamophobic posts among Indian expats, Saudi Scholar Abidi Zahrani has proposed that those individuals involved in spreading hatred against Muslims in the Middle East should be sent back to India from Gulf countries. Zahrani, in a tweet, has reminded that Gulf States host millions of Indians, some of whom are infected with COVID19 and are being treated free of charge regardless of their faith “while fascist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu terrorist gangs while following the Hindutva agenda are committing crimes against it own Muslim citizens.”

UAE’s royal family member Princess Hend Al Qassimi in a tweet on Thursday said anyone that is “openly racist and discriminatory in the UAE will be fined and made to leave”.

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