India softens toward Muslims after Islamophobia outcry

India softens toward Muslims after Islamophobia outcry
A Muslim man, among 29 people arrested by Indian authorities, walks towards an ambulance before being taken to a prison from a quarantine center in Prayagraj. (Files/AP)
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Updated 29 April 2020

India softens toward Muslims after Islamophobia outcry

India softens toward Muslims after Islamophobia outcry
  • Growing attacks on Muslims undermine India’s positive image, says analyst

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has called for unity and religious harmony after an international outcry over increasing Islamophobia in the country.

The Muslim outreach attempts began after influential figures in the Arab world objected to the government blaming an event organized by the religious missionary group the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) for “contributing to a 30 percent rise in the coronavirus cases” in India.
On Sunday the head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s paternal organization and masthead of Hindu rightwing nationalism, called upon people to “come together and fight the menace of coronavirus jointly.”
“All 130 crore Indians are our family,” said RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. “We are one. We should not blame the entire community for the mistake of a few individuals. People who are more mature in both communities should come forward and start a dialogue to remove prejudices among people’s minds.”
A day earlier Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Muslims on the start of Ramadan.
“I pray for everyone’s safety, well-being and prosperity,” he tweeted. “May this Holy Month bring with it abundance of kindness, harmony and compassion. May we achieve a decisive victory in the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and create a healthier planet.”
Blaming TJ placed New Delhi’s carefully cultivated relationship with the Middle East under the microscope after the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) strongly disapproved of hate speech by Indian nationals accusing the missionary group of deliberately exacerbating the pandemic.
Princess Hend Al-Qassimi, a member of the UAE royal family, reprimanded an Indian expatriate in Dubai for targeting Muslims and blaming the TJ for the spread of the outbreak.

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Princess Hend Al-Qassimi, a member of the UAE royal family, reprimanded an Indian expatriate in Dubai for targeting Muslims for the spread of the outbreak.

She shared a UAE law which banned hate speech, adding that anyone who was “openly racist and discriminatory” in the UAE would be fined and made to leave.
She further stressed the need “to reject hatred and replace it with love on earth to live together.”
On Friday, India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar called his counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and reassured them about the situation in India.
“Pandemics further highlight the need for international cooperation,” he tweeted after the talks. “Few better examples than our relationship with #UAE. Applaud the generosity of spirit and clarity of policy that has characterised its approach. Thank HH @ABZayed for the warm conversation.”
Analysts said that such strong reactions from the Gulf countries were “causing anxiety” in the government.
“This is the first time in many years that we are witnessing a trenchant reaction coming from the Arab world about the happenings in India,” Sanjay Kapoor, editor of English magazine Hardnews, told Arab News. “It is unusual and is causing anxiety in the government as well amongst all those who do business with the Gulf. Modi has to be wise in how he deals with the Arab world, not just due to the remittances that the workers send, but much of its politics in that region is linked to the support that Saudi provides.”
Prof. Sujata Ashwarya, of New Delhi-based Jamia Milia Islamia University, said that the growing Islamophobia in India undermined the positive image of India in the Muslim world.
“The consequences could be grave,” she told Arab News. “Once you lose your touch, it is difficult to get that back easily. Soft power is the twin of hard power.”


World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

Updated 6 min 43 sec ago

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row
  • Letter sent to Afghan president comes amid corruption claims linked to new government controls on public-private partnerships

KABUL: The World Bank has threatened to close the taps on $200 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if Kabul fails to share banking sector data.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance on Wednesday said that the World Bank had warned the country’s President Ashraf Ghani that it would halt its assistance if the information was not forthcoming.
In a letter dated Nov. 23, Henry G. Kerali, the World Bank’s country director for Afghanistan, mentioned issues that “remain to be resolved” and “may impact” the bank’s capacity to disburse the full amount of $200 million.
The issues included the World Bank’s inability to obtain banking data from Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country’s central bank.
“The letter has actually been addressed to the president, and copies of it have been sent to relevant offices. The issue will be resolved in the coming week,” finance ministry spokesman, Shamroz Khan Masjidi, told Arab News.
“In the past, we would have shared a number of non-sensitive banking data with the World Bank. Now, a misunderstanding has appeared with the central bank which has not shared it with it (the World Bank) … the issue will be resolved.” The World Bank’s Kabul office declined to comment on whether the letter, a copy of which has been seen by Arab News, was a warning to Ghani. In an equivocal statement issued on Wednesday, the lender said: “No letter from the World Bank to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been released to the public.” Ghani’s spokesman declined comment.
The World Bank’s purported threat comes amid complaints over increasing corruption after the presidential palace in recent months took control of public-private partnerships (PPP) from the Ministry of Finance through amendments to the country’s PPP law.
Reliant on international assistance, Afghanistan is considered one of the most corrupt countries.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the US government’s leading oversight authority on Afghanistan reconstruction, in a letter on Nov. 11 said that the Afghan government “often makes paper reforms, such as drafting regulations or holding meetings, rather than concrete actions that would reduce corruption, such as arresting powerful actors.” Even Ghani’s brother, Hashmat Ghani, spoke against the PPP law move. “Taking away PPP office and authority from the finance ministry has been a mistake. It should be reversed immediately,” he said in a tweet on Thursday.
Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan and International Monetary Fund adviser, said the World Bank’s letter was “not a good signal” for Afghanistan.
“The reason for which it is interrupting the payment is that the president wants to move a number of important state-owned enterprises and the management of PPP to the palace where there is no oversight of the parliament at the palace as opposed to the ministry (Finance Ministry),” he told Arab News.
“So, this is how corruption creeps in, and the international community is worried about what is going on and the World Bank expresses it in a diplomatic language in this letter.” Sediq Ahmad Usmani, a lawmaker from the parliamentary financial affairs committee, said: “The executive power, particularly, the presidency, has created another government of its special circle which deals with appointments and budget’s expenses. All the power lies with the president and without his knowledge they cannot do anything.” “This has been our concern and we have shared it with the donors and have asked them to prevent such wayward acts,” he added.
Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, denied the existence of any “circle” under the president. “These MPs, I am sure they know the whole process and the authority of government officials and the president on budget spending. Budget issues must not be politicized.
“The government sends details of the budget to the parliament in a very transparent way and they have the legal right to oversee the spending. It is an open budget system, there is no circle.”