NAT Dr. Sohan Roy-1587294397651
Sohan Roy, founder, chairman and CEO of Aries Group, headquartered in Sharjah Image Credit:

Sharjah: A prominent Keralite businessman in the UAE has apologised for unintentionally hurting religious sentiments through his poem about coronavirus.

Sohan Roy, founder chairman and CEO of Sharjah-headquartered Aries Group and director of the sci-fi movie DAM 999, tendered the apology in a Facebook live video on Saturday after being accused of using coronavirus to fuel Islamophobia.

Titled ‘Viddi Janman’ (Fool’s life), the short poem which went viral on social media is in Roy’s native Malayalam language.

Loosely translated, it says: “When religious thoughts blind men and put hurdles on the path, When the preacher teaches ignorance. When we have to build walls to stop the germs, Those idiots are spreading them by creating divisions.”

The poem does not mention any community, but the visual that runs in the background as the narrator recites the verses shows the stereotyped image of a Muslim preacher leading a crowd of blindfolded men wearing kurta pyjama and skull caps.

The illustration alludes to members of the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group that’s being vilified for spreading the virus in India.

Honest mistake

Roy said the depiction was an ‘honest mistake’ on the part of his graphic designer based in Kerala, India.

“There was no malicious intent. It was an honest mistake. That said, I take full responsibility of what has happened. I am sorry if I have unknowingly hurt any religious sentiments. I don’t want to be dragged into a controversy. As soon as I realised that people had been offended I did a Facebook live video and apologised,” Rao said while talking to Gulf News on Sunday.

The 53-year-old who has since removed the poem from his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts said he’s been writing poems on social issues for two-and-a-half years.

“Every time I pen a poem. I send it to my public relations department in India where their creative team gets someone to recite it. They also add background music and visuals for special effects before posting the end product on various social media platforms. I don’t harbour ill-feelings against any community. My poem takes a dig at religious heads who have made a mockery of lockdown restrictions in India. These preachers are not necessarily Muslims because there have been several mass gatherings in Hindu temples too,” said Roy adding that his company has been at the forefront of the Indian government’s fight against COVID-19.

“Aside from giving my house as a quarantine facility for treating COVID-19 patients, I have provided ventilators and masks in hospitals and delivered food to hundreds of families affected by the lockdown in Kerala,” he said.

In recent days several Indian expats have been called out for spreading hatred through Islamphobic posts in wake of the pandemic. Many have been subsequently fired and referred to authorities.