Opinion: The West needs to stand up for Muslims

The recent developments in the South Asian region demand the immediate attention of western governments.  

India is rocked by protests by its minority Muslim community after a spokesperson of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) made offensive remarks about Prophet Mohamad.        

Although Nupur Sharma has been suspended following outrage expressed by the Islamic nations, including the powerful ones who produce oil, the matter has not died down, as a result of the ongoing polarization of the Hindu majority against Muslims under the BJP. The attacks on Muslims have grown since 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power with a brute majority. After all, his BJP aspires to turn India into a Hindu theocracy.                    

Emboldened by successive victories in the 2014 and 2019 general elections, Modi introduced a divisive Citizenship Amendment Act that discriminates against Muslim refugees coming to India from neighbouring countries. He revoked special rights and limited autonomy granted to the only Muslim-dominated state of Kashmir, and has moved to construct a grand temple at the disputed site of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Hindu god Lord Ram. In 1992, the BJP goons had razed an ancient mosque that stood on the site, claiming that it was built by Muslim rulers after removing the original Ram temple. Since the cow is considered a sacred animal by the Hindus, Muslims are being harassed frequently on suspicion of consuming beef.  

Sharma’s remarks proved to be the last straw and forced Muslims to take to the streets. The BJP cannot get away with simply washing their hands by suspending her. They need to be held accountable for their agenda and their track record. It’s easy to scapegoat one individual rather than challenging an establishment. The Modi government needs to take blame for creating such a toxic environment in the first place, giving Sharma audacity to insult the Prophet. It will be foolish to accept the BJP statement condemning Sharma and claiming to be respectful of diversity, when we all know what the party actually stands for. The bigotry of BJP is a well established fact and not a fiction.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the right wing commentators aren’t let it go anyway, as some continue to support Sharma. It’s nothing but sheer hypocrisy and arrogance on their part, since they won’t tolerate anyone questioning the mythology of Hinduism or the authenticity of the story of Ram temple being demolished by Muslim rulers, but take it as their birth right to belittle the Muslim faith. On top of that they expect everyone to agree with Sharma.  

The West, which pretends to be a human rights leader in the world, needs to take notice of this. Considering that all levels of government have been making statements against Islamophobia, why don’t they see what is happening in India? It’s a shame that the west has mostly remained indifferent to the plight of Muslims in India, despite the fact that a number of activists have been raising their voices against this madness for the last eight years. Due to the silence of the west, BJP supporters have intensified their activities here too, but most of our leaders are happy to pay lip service and make hollow Eid greetings, with no meaningful action. They have been vocal about Uyghur Muslims being persecuted in China or elsewhere, but do not care for Muslims in India with which they are eager to have good trade relations. This has given Modi more legitimacy in the eyes of the west. Muslims in this country need to ask western politicians – is it only the burden of Islamic nations to react to what Sharma did? Why couldn’t western countries summon their Indian ambassadors to register a protest on behalf of its Muslim population?

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