Indian PM Modi Accused of Spreading Anti-Muslim Hatred in Election Rally

Indian PM Modi faces backlash for Islamophobic remarks, raising concerns about religious polarization in India's secular democracy ahead of crucial elections.

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Nitish Verma
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Indian PM Modi Accused of Spreading Anti-Muslim Hatred in Election Rally

Indian PM Modi Accused of Spreading Anti-Muslim Hatred in Election Rally

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under fire for allegedly making Islamophobic statements during an election rally in Rajasthan, where he equated Muslims to "infiltrators" and perpetuated stereotypes about the community. Modi claimed that if the opposition Indian National Congress party came to power, it would distribute the country's wealth among "those who have more children," which was seen as a thinly veiled reference to Muslims.

The statements have triggered widespread anger and condemnation from prominent Muslims, opposition members, and civil society groups. The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) strongly denounced Modi's "inflammatory rhetoric," stating that it violates Indian law and legitimizes narratives that fuel violence against Muslims. The opposition has accused Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of using divisive language and Hindu nationalist policies to drive religious polarization in the country, leading to a rise in Islamophobia and communal tensions.

Complaints have been filed with the Election Commission of India, urging the body to investigate whether Modi's comments breach the Model Code of Conduct, which prohibits candidates from aggravating existing differences or creating mutual hatred between different communities. The opposition Congress party has also petitioned the Commission to take action against Modi for allegedly violating election laws that forbid appealing for votes on the grounds of religion.

Why this matters: Modi's statements have raised concerns about the deepening polarization in Indian politics and the dangerous consequences of using religious tensions for electoral gain. The incident highlights the ongoing debates around the role of religion in India's secular democracy and the treatment of its largest minority community.

Modi's government has repeatedly faced accusations of discrimination against Muslims, with rights groups and foreign governments expressing alarm over policies they say are aimed at marginalizing the community. "The BJP has denied any discrimination based on religion, but research and rights groups have documented a significant increase in anti-Muslim speech, particularly in BJP-ruled states," according to one of the summaries. Analysts suggest that Modi's comments mark a significant shift in his election campaign strategy, as he has previously focused more on his government's economic and social development achievements.

The upcoming national elections, widely expected to result in a rare third term for Modi, will serve as a crucial test for the BJP and its brand of Hindu nationalism. Critics argue that a BJP victory would further embolden right-wing extremists and escalate violence against India's 200 million Muslims. The Indian American Muslim Council has called on the Biden administration to condemn Modi's rhetoric, denounce the pervasive anti-Muslim violence in India, and designate the country as a "Country of Particular Concern" for religious freedom violations.

Key Takeaways

  • Modi accused of making Islamophobic remarks equating Muslims to "infiltrators"
  • Remarks trigger widespread anger and condemnation from Muslims, opposition, civil society
  • Complaints filed with Election Commission, alleging violation of Model Code of Conduct
  • Modi's statements raise concerns about deepening polarization and use of religious tensions
  • Critics argue BJP victory would embolden right-wing extremists, escalate violence against Muslims