As Muslims across the world protest and broaden their calls for a boycott of French products over comments by President Emmanual Macron about Islam and depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, hashtags with a different message are trending in Hindu-majority India.
#IStandWithFrance and #WeStandWithFrance were among the top trends on Indian Twitter on Monday and Tuesday, with thousands of Indian users expressing their solidarity with France. 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.
However, 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.
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. Other hashtags related to Macron’s remarks that trended on Indian Twitter on Tuesday included #WellDoneMacron and #MacronTHEHERO.
Anti-Muslim sentiments in India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been accused of pursuing anti-Muslim policies, with a controversial citizenship law that excludes the community being the most recent.
The Indian government defends the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), saying it aims to protect persecuted minorities in neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Protests over the law earlier this year led to the worst religious violence in New Delhi in decades, killing dozens of people, most of them Muslims, and displacing thousands. Many Muslims have been charged under a stringent anti-terror law following the Delhi violence, jailed and denied bail.
If a Christian/Hindu/Jewish teacher showed a cartoon of Mary/Krishna/Jesus and was later beheaded by a Christian/Hindu/Jew, of course it would be an act of radical Christianity/Hinduism/Judaism.
— Priyanka Deo Jain (@priyankadeo) October 27, 2020
Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s office pointed to three “problematic” Indian laws – including the CAA – that have led to the arrest of activists.
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 criticised India for a slow rate of conviction in cases of hate crimes against Muslims.