This royal intervention has opened the floodgates to comments from other sources. An academic based in the US, specialising in Islamophobia, Khaled Beydoun, wrote in The New Arab about how the entire Indian Muslim community had been stigmatised for the transgressions of the Tablighis: they were being “scapegoated as disseminators of the novel virus in India”, through such appellations as “Corona jihad” and “Muslim virus”.
He said that Islamophobia in India was “state-sponsored”, and, referring to the communal riots in Delhi in February, held Prime Minister Modi responsible for the spread of “this pandemic violence”. He thought that this “novel strain of the Hindutva menace” was capitalising on “national anxiety” due to the global pandemic to demonise Muslims. A religious scholar in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abidi Al Zahrani, called for the listing of “militant Hindus” in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries who were “spreading hate against Islam, Muslims or our beloved Prophet” under the hashtag “Send Hindutva Back Home”. In another tweet, he noted that millions of Indians lived in the Gulf and were treated free of charge if they were infected by the COVID-19 virus, “while Hindutva terrorist gangs are committing crimes against Muslim citizens”.
Another Gulf resident, Preeti Giri, an executive director with a major local company, in her tweet told her followers that the actor Amir Khan belonged to the Tablighi Jamaat which was “Sunni, Hanafi ideology which was 99% Deobandi”; she exhorted them not to be so naïve as to “run after his films”. A prominent Emirati businesswoman, Noora al Ghurair, reprimanded Giri: “By your hateful logic Sunnis by association are terrorists because of propaganda against Muslims in India? Do U know [in] the country you live in all rulers are Sunnis? U want to boycott us?”
An academic of Indian orign, Ashok Swain of Sweden’s Uppsala University, wrote an opinion piece in Gulf News, Dubai, on April 22 in which he detailed how the pandemic had been deliberately communalised by Hindutva elements.
He said: “Islamophobia has reached its peak in India with the increasing rise of coronavirus crisis. This is not just a primordial reaction of society, but a very well planned and finely executed political project.” Noting the mis-steps of the government in handling the pandemic and the attendant serious economic crisis, Swain concluded: “India’s Hindu nationalist regime aims to give the coronavirus crisis a communal colour, which will give it an escape route from its abject policy failures and also at the same time the increasing anti-Muslim environment will bring them political benefits in the coming elections in crucial states like Bihar.