Muslim women ‘put up for sale’ online decry Islamophobia in India

Muslim women ‘put up for sale’ online decry Islamophobia in India
On Thursday, Delhi police registered a case against ‘unknown persons’over a complaint after the Delhi Commission for Women raised the matter. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 12 July 2021

Muslim women ‘put up for sale’ online decry Islamophobia in India

Muslim women ‘put up for sale’ online decry Islamophobia in India
  • Police investigate hundreds of social media photos on website

NEW DELHI: Delhi police on Saturday said they were investigating online harassment involving hundreds of Muslim women, who were put up “for sale” on a now-defunct app and website titled “Sulli Deals,” many of whom also received rape and death threats.

The women, active on social media platforms such as Twitter, found their profile pictures displayed on GitHub, a web platform that hosted the open-source app, as the “Sulli Deal of the day,” offering people the chance to “bid” on them in a mock auction.

GitHub immediately shut down the website for “violating its policies,” but several of the women say the app’s purpose was to degrade and humiliate them.

The term “sulli” is a derogatory slur for Muslim women in India, commonly used by Hindu nationalists.

On Thursday, Delhi police registered a case against “unknown persons” under IPC Section 354A (concerning sexual harassment) over a complaint received through the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal after the Delhi Commission for Women raised the matter.

“We have lodged a case on this issue, and we are now investigating,” Delhi police spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal told Arab News on Saturday.

Many whose pictures were uploaded on the site are prominent, vocal Muslim women, including researchers, pilots, journalists, and artists. 

However, despite their prominence, several said they doubted the police would do enough to find and charge the perpetrators.

“If one goes by experience, then I don’t think any action would be taken against the perpetrators,” Nabiya Khan, a Delhi-based poet and writer, told Arab News.

“I am exploring legal action against these men and perpetrators. I hope to get justice. I hope my complaint is not met with animosity but dignity,” she added.

SPEEDREAD

• Many whose pictures were uploaded on the site are prominent, vocal Muslim women, including researchers, pilots, journalists, and artists.

• However, despite their prominence, several said they doubted the police would do enough to find and charge the perpetrators.

Khan said she is still being harassed online “day in and day out, with people sending all kinds of pictures and pornography to me.”

Commercial pilot Hana Mohsin Khan, whose photo was also uploaded, said she is seeking closure and justice in the case, especially since “traumatized women’s concerns have to be addressed.

“Not everyone is strong, and there are many women who are traumatized after the experience,” she told Arab News.

“We should make sure that those people who are harassing are behind bars; only then will (the victims) have closure. If we don’t do that, they would be permanently traumatized.”

Mohsin Khan said she only heard about the case when a friend shared a link to a tweet that took her to an image of hers being featured on the site. 

“I did not understand (what it meant) in the beginning. When I clicked on it, random girls’ pictures came, and on the fourth click, my name came, it said ‘Sulli Deals of the day’ and ‘click here to share on Twitter.’ I have never been so angry in my life. 

“That anger has been constant,” she added, saying she immediately filed a complaint with the police. “I did not want these guys to get off scot free.”

Media professional Sania Ahmed said she tried to confront the men responsible for harassing the women “despite the constant threat” she faces from them.

“When I raised the issue with guys who were doing it, they started harassing me, threatening me with rape and all. The (person operating the) unknown account was not scared of any exposure, and the account kept on harassing by changing names,” she said.

“It’s extremely offensive and violative of me as a woman. They are doing it because I am a woman and a Muslim,” she added.

Ahmed lamented the fact that Twitter had failed to block the accounts, despite complaints.

“One account ran a poll for 24 hours with the question: “Which one of these women would you choose for your harem? And my name was on the poll. I complained to Twitter, but it did not take it down” she said.

Twitter was unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News on Saturday.

Ahmed blamed the current political climate for “this surge in hatred and Islamophobia.”

Since assuming top office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of remaking India into an authoritarian, Hindu nationalist state with the latest attack seen by the women as part of an effort to target Muslims.

“The impunity with which they are doing this is because they are not afraid; maybe they (the perpetrators) have political patronage, maybe they have political support — that’s why they are not scared of consequences,” Ahmed said.

Mohsin Khan agreed, drawing focus on an “extension of majoritarian politics,” which makes it “hard to be a Muslim” in India.

“They are trying to humiliate minorities by doing such horrendous acts. It is no secret that it is very hard to be a Muslim in India, especially a Muslim woman. We are a minority within a minority,” the pilot said.

Ghazala Wahab, a Delhi-based author of “Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India,” believes the government has “incubated and nurtured” hatred.

“Such people enjoy immunity ... Even in the physical space, when you see someone making a hateful video, or somebody attacking a Muslim person or killing him, see the kind of sheltering that person gets,” Wahab told Arab News.

“Not being held accountable for what you have done further incubates and further nourishes the hatred,” she added.


3rd Ld-Writethru: Far-right presidential contender convicted of hate speech

3rd Ld-Writethru: Far-right presidential contender convicted of hate speech
Updated 17 January 2022

3rd Ld-Writethru: Far-right presidential contender convicted of hate speech

3rd Ld-Writethru: Far-right presidential contender convicted of hate speech
PARIS: French far-right presidential candidate Éric Zemmour was convicted Monday of inciting racial hatred over 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children.
A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of €10,000 (more than $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racism groups.
Zemmour said he will appeal the decision.
“I’m one more time the victim of a political justice,” Zemmour told reporters, adding “I absolutely do not regret” the comments.
Zemmour, who has two prior hate speech convictions, went on trial in November on charges of “public insult” and “incitement to hatred or violence” against a group of people because of their ethnic, national, racial or religious origin.
Samuel Thomas, president of Maisons des Potes (“Homes of Friends“), a network of anti-racism associations, said the sentence is “very light.”
“We had hoped for him to be deprived of civic rights,” Thomas said. “So Éric Zemmour will be able to continue his political career.”
He added: “When you’re inciting racial hatred, you’re also responsible for crimes that are committed by far-right thugs.”
Zemmour, a 63-year-old former TV pundit who is running in France’s April 10 presidential election, is drawing fervent audiences with his anti-Islam, anti-immigration invective. He is considered among the major challengers to centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who is seen as the front-runner, according to polls. Macron has yet to confirm he will run for a second term.
The case against Zemmour focused on September 2020 comments that he made on French news broadcaster CNews about children who migrate to France without parents or guardians, calling them thieves, murderers and rapists who cost France money.
Zemmour wasn’t present at court for his trial or the verdict. In a statement in November, he denounced “an attempt to intimidate (him)” from prosecutors and anti-racist groups. He maintained his comments and said the political debate doesn’t take place in courts.
Zemmour also has an appeals trial Thursday on a charge of contesting crimes against humanity — which is illegal in France — for arguing in a 2019 television debate that Marshal Philippe Petain, head of Vichy’s collaborationist government during World War II, saved France’s Jews from the Holocaust.
A court acquitted him last year, saying Zemmour’s comments negated Petain’s role in the extermination, but explained that he wasn’t convicted because he had spoken in the heat of the moment.
Zemmour has repeated similar comments in recent months, and lawyers contesting his acquittal plan to cite that point as evidence in the appeals trial.
Zemmour previously was convicted of incitement to racial hatred after justifying discrimination against Black and Arab people in 2010, and of incitement to religious hatred for anti-Islam comments in 2016. He was sentenced to pay court costs and a 5,000-euro ($5,660) fine.
He has also been tried in other cases where he was acquitted.
Zemmour is a descendant of Berber Jews from Algeria. He was born in France in 1958 to parents who came from the North African country, then a French colony, a few years earlier.

Afghan earthquake death toll rises to 26: Provincial spokesman

Afghan earthquake death toll rises to 26: Provincial spokesman
Updated 2 min 24 sec ago

Afghan earthquake death toll rises to 26: Provincial spokesman

Afghan earthquake death toll rises to 26: Provincial spokesman

HERAT: The death toll from an earthquake on Monday in western Afghanistan rose to 26, an official told AFP.
"Five women and four children are among the 26 people killed in the earthquake," said Baz Mohammad Sarwary, spokesman for Badghis province that was hit by the earthquake, adding that four more were injured.
Most of the victims died when roofs of their houses collapsed in Qadis district of the province.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Earthquakes can cause significant damage to poorly built homes and buildings in impoverished Afghanistan.


North Korea fires more suspected missiles, flouts new sanctions

North Korea fires more suspected missiles, flouts new sanctions
Updated 17 January 2022

North Korea fires more suspected missiles, flouts new sanctions

North Korea fires more suspected missiles, flouts new sanctions
  • Two suspected “short-range ballistic missiles” were fired east from an airport in Pyongyang early Monday

SEOUL: North Korea fired two suspected ballistic missiles Monday, Seoul said, its fourth weapons test this month as Pyongyang flexes its military muscle while ignoring offers of talks from the United States.
Despite biting international sanctions, Pyongyang has conducted a string of weapons tests this year, including of hypersonic missiles, as leader Kim Jong Un pursues his avowed goal of further strengthening the military.
Reeling economically from a self-imposed coronavirus blockade, impoverished North Korea has not responded to Washington’s offers of talks, while doubling down on weapons tests and vowing a “stronger and certain” response to any attempts to rein it in.
The launches come at a delicate time in the region, with North Korea’s sole major ally China set to host the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea gearing up for a presidential election in March.
Two suspected “short-range ballistic missiles” were fired east from an airport in Pyongyang early Monday, the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, with Japan also confirming the launch.
Fired just before 9 am (0000 GMT), they flew 380 kilometers (about 240 miles) at an altitude of 42 km, the JCS added.
The frequent and varied tests this year indicate North Korea “is trying to improve its technology and operational capability in terms of covert actions,” Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters.
Pyongyang said it successfully tested hypersonic gliding missiles on January 5 and January 11, with the second launch personally supervised by Kim.
In response, the United States last week imposed fresh sanctions on five North Koreans connected to the country’s ballistic missile programs, prompting an angry reaction from Pyongyang.
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman described the move as a “provocation,” according to state news agency KCNA.
If “the US adopts such a confrontational stance, the DPRK will be forced to take stronger and certain reaction to it,” the spokesman said hours before Pyongyang fired two train-launched missiles Friday.
Analysts said the Monday test also appeared to be an attempt to send the United States a message.
“It is signalling that it will forge ahead with tests despite criticism,” Hong Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul told AFP.
Hypersonic missiles are a top priority in Pyongyang’s new five-year defense development plan, unveiled in January 2021, which it has pursued while dialogue with the United States remained stalled.
With the country battling major economic hardship domestically after years of Covid-induced isolation, Pyongyang may be looking to offer citizens a military victory ahead of key domestic anniversaries.
“It needs to present something to North Koreans,” said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute.
“It now has become clear that it will be difficult for the North to score on the economic side.”
This weekend, a North Korean freight train crossed the Yalu River railroad bridge into China for the first time in over a year, according to the Yonhap news agency.
The move could signal the prospect of resumed China-North Korea land trade, which has been suspended since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
It is likely the missile launches will ease off ahead of the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics, said Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies.
“As stability on the peninsula is a prerequisite for the successful Beijing Olympics, the North will not cross a red line,” Yang said.


Japan’s Kishida says virus measures, defense top priorities

Japan’s Kishida says virus measures, defense top priorities
Updated 17 January 2022

Japan’s Kishida says virus measures, defense top priorities

Japan’s Kishida says virus measures, defense top priorities
  • North Korea on Monday fired two possible ballistic missiles, which Japanese officials said landed off the North’s eastern coast

TOKYO: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday said fighting the pandemic was a “top priority” in his speech opening this year’s parliamentary session, as the Tokyo region was hit by surging infections.
Kishida also named stepping up defense measures against rising regional threats as a priority, hours after North Korea test-fired two possible ballistic missiles — its fourth this year.
“I will devote my body and soul to win this fight against the coronavirus,” Kishida said in his speech before the lower house, which marked the start of its new 150-day session. He called on people to help each other to overcome “the national crisis” of the pandemic.
The Japanese capital reported 4,172 new cases on Sunday, raising the hospital bed occupancy rate to 19.3 percent. Tokyo authorities have said that when that rate breaches 20 percent, they will request the government place the area under pre-emergency status and move toward restrictions like working from home and shorter hours for eateries.
Kishida reiterated his plans to keep Japan’s stringent border controls in place, banning most foreign entrants until the end of February, while the country tries to speed up booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines and reinforce medical systems to support an increasing number of patients being treated at home.
The highly transmissible omicron variant has driven infections higher and started to paralyze medical and public services in some areas, as more people are forced to self-isolate. Japan last week trimmed the 14-day quarantine period to 10 days.
Kishida urged companies to promote remote work, and called on schools to use online classes flexibly. Booster shots only started last month with medical workers and so far less than 1 percent of the population has had their third jab.
Japan recently cut the wait between a second and third shot for elderly people to six months from eight. In part because of a shortage of imported vaccines, most younger Japanese are not expected to get their turn until March.
In his parliamentary speech, Kishida also addressed what he said was an “increasingly severe and complex” regional situation. “I’m determined to protect the people’s lives and daily life,” the premier vowed.
North Korea’s repeated and escalating test-firing of ballistic missiles “are absolutely not permissible and we should not overlook its significant progress of missile technology,” Kishida added.
North Korea on Monday fired two possible ballistic missiles, which Japanese officials said landed off the North’s eastern coast.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, along with China’s rapid military buildup, have already prompted Kishida’s government to raise Japan’s military budget.
Kishida repeated his plans to review Japan’s defense policy, and consider the development of a controversial pre-emptive strike capability, to “drastically strengthen defense power”.
Kishida is set to hold an online summit with Pesident Joe Biden on Jan. 21 as the two leaders seek to further strengthen bilateral ties, Tokyo and Washington announced Monday.
Kishida called the US alliance “the lynchpin of Japan’s diplomatic and security policies.”
Kishida, who is from the city of Hiroshima that the US attacked with an atomic bomb in World War Two, also said he sought “a world without nuclear weapons” and plans to launch a conference with former and serving world leaders on phasing out nuclear weapons. He said he hoped the initiative would have its first meeting in his hometown this year.
Kishida pledged to promote energy reforms to meet the target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. He said he supported the use of “innovative” nuclear energy, nuclear fusion technology as well as renewables to meet this goal.


Chinese cities on high COVID-19 alert as Lunar New Year travel season starts; omicron spreads

Chinese cities on high COVID-19 alert as Lunar New Year travel season starts; omicron spreads
Updated 17 January 2022

Chinese cities on high COVID-19 alert as Lunar New Year travel season starts; omicron spreads

Chinese cities on high COVID-19 alert as Lunar New Year travel season starts; omicron spreads
  • China is yet to show any solid sign of shifting its guideline of quickly containing any local infections
  • Many local governments have already advised residents not to leave town unnecessarily trips during the holiday

BEIJING: Several Chinese cities went on high COVID-19 alert as the Lunar New Year holiday travel season started on Monday, requiring travelers to report their trips days before their arrival, as the omicron variant reached more areas including Beijing.
Authorities have warned the highly contagious omicron adds to the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission as hundreds of millions of people travel around China for the Lunar New Year on Feb. 1.
Cities such as Luoyang in central China and Jieyang in the south said on Sunday travelers need to report to communities, employers or hotels their trips three days ahead of arrival.
The southwestern city of Yulin said on Saturday those who want to enter should fill in an online form, including their health credentials and trip details, one day in advance.
Over the weekend, the capital Beijing and the southern technology hub Shenzhen each detected one domestically transmitted omicron case.
The possibility that the omicron case in Beijing was infected through imported goods can’t be ruled out, Pang Xinghuo, an official at the city’s disease control authority, said on Monday.
Li Ang, vice director at the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, said a local hospital had admitted nine omicron infections, with six still being treated. He did not say when the infections arrived or why they hadn’t been disclosed earlier.
The city of Meizhou in Guangdong province found one omicron infection linked to an outbreak in Zhuhai, state television said on Monday.
So far, at least five provinces and municipalities reported local omicron infections, while 14 provincial areas found the variant among travelers arriving from overseas.
China is yet to show any solid sign of shifting its guideline of quickly containing any local infections, despite a high vaccination rate of 86.6 percent. The strategy has taken on extra urgency in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, to be staged in Beijing and neighboring Hebei province starting Feb. 4.
Many local governments have already advised residents not to leave town unnecessarily trips during the holiday, while dozens of international and domestic flights have been suspended.
China’s aviation regulator said on Monday it would suspend two flights from the United States over COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of canceled flights this year from the country, where omicron is spreading, to 76.
China reported 163 locally transmitted infections with confirmed symptom for Sunday, official data showed on Monday, up from 65 a day earlier.
Sunday’s increase in infections was mainly driven by more cases in the cities of Tianjin and Anyang, where omicron has been found in local clusters.
Tianjin and Anyang reported slightly more than 600 local symptomatic infections from the current outbreaks, smaller than many clusters overseas, but authorities there still have limited movement within the cities and trips to outside.