NAT Navdeep Suri-1587547587160
Navdeep Suri, former Indian Ambassador to the UAE Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Former Indian ambassador Navdeep Suri has praised the UAE’s efforts to promote tolerance amid raging online battles over rising Islamophobia.

The senior diplomat shot off a series of tweets on Wednesday in what he described as his “effort to provide some context on the ongoing controversy.”

“UAE pro-actively promotes tolerance and celebrated 2019 as Year of Tolerance. Apart from allowing a major Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, they are also building a church, a mosque and a synagogue in the same compound,” Suri said.

He also sounded a cautionary note to Indian expats some of whom have lost jobs or faced legal action because of their derogatory social media posts or insensitive WhatsApp messages.

“UAE has strong laws against hate speech. This applies to derogatory remarks against ALL religions,” Suri said, reminding them about the message of Indian envoy Pavan Kapoor, who had tweeted along similar lines on Monday.

“Hate speech emanating out of India is another matter. It provides fodder to those unhappy with India-UAE friendship,” said Suri as he gave a low down on the ties between the two countries.

“UAE is a strategic partner - our third largest trading partner, source of foreign direct investment, partner in energy security, home to 3.4 million Indians who sent to US$17 billion in remittances to their families,” said Suri.

“Bilateral ties are strong and will endure but unnecessary controversy doesn’t help,” he added.

On Monday, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pawan Kapoor also reminded expats against discriminatory behaviour.

“India and UAE share the value of non-discrimination on any grounds. Discrimination is against our moral fabric and the rule of law. Indian nationals in the UAE should always remember this,” Kapoor said in a tweet.

He also referred to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s earlier statement that said the Coronavirus “does not see race or religion”.

In recent days several Indians have lost jobs or face charges over social media posts linking the coronavirus pandemic to Indian Muslims.

On April 18, prominent Sharjah-based Keratlite businessman and filmmaker Sohan Roy was forced to apologise for a video which depicted Islamic clerics leading blindfolded men in skull caps in an adaptation of his poem on religious bigotry.

Earlier this month, technician Rakesh B. Kitturmath, chief accountant Bala Krishna Nakka and finance analyst Mitesh Udeshi were fired for similar derogatory social media posts that violated the UAE law while a police complaint was filed against Sameer Bhandari, CEO of Future Vision Events & Weddings’ after he asked an Indian Muslim job seeker to “Go back to Pakistan” in text message.

Last month Dubai-based chef Trilok Singh was sacked for an online rape threat against Delhi-based law student Swati Khanna who had opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act. Anti-Muslim posts on social media by Indian expats have also invited censure from prominent social media handles in the region.

Recently, Princess Hend Al Qassimi, a member of a UAE royal family warned that “anyone that is openly racist and discriminatory in the UAE will be fined and made to leave the country.”

She also slammed Dubai-based Indian expat Saurabh Upadhyay who had put out several tweets targeting Muslims and ridiculing Islam. Sharing screenshots of his tweets, Al Qassimi said: “You make your bread and butter from this land which you scorn and your ridicule will not go unnoticed.”

Minutes later Upadhyay deactivated his account.

Similarly, Dubai-based businesswoman Noora Al Ghurair called out Tejasvi Surya, a member of parliament of India’s ruling Bhartiya Janta Party for an obnoxious comment he had posted about Arab women in 2015.

Noora Al Ghurair said she pitied his [Surya] education that has taught him to disrespect women”. She also warned him against “travelling to Arab lands if he is ever bestowed a foreign ministry.”