The anger and outrage on social media in response to suspended BJP Spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s controversial remarks against the Prophet Mohammad spilled onto the offline world and gained international attention, putting the Modi government in a diplomatic spot.
The Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), that constitutes 57 member states, came out strongly, condemning Nupur Sharma’s comments made on May 26 during a prime time news show hosted by Navika Kumar on Times Now.
While Sharma withdrew her statement “unconditionally” after her suspension by the party on June 5, Gulf nations, beginning with Qatar followed by Kuwait and Iran, summoned Indian envoys to register their protest. Lodging a protest note, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi demanded a “public apology” from the Indian government even as Vice president Venkaiah Naidu was on a visit to the kingdom.
Why Is #BoycottQatar Trending?
The suspension of Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal almost 10 days after the remarks were made was hardly the quick fix that BJP government hoped it would be- the hue and cry over the incident continued on social media, with several handles calling for the boycott of Indian goods, while supporters of Sharma and the ruling dispensation sought to counter it with another trend, calling for the boycott of Qatar and Qatari products.
And as hashtags trend, misinformation gets a free pass. Newschecker scourged through the various trends surrounding the incident to bring you a few instances of misinformation that is being widely shared:
Claim 1: CEO Of Qatar Airways Mocked Indian Man Over Calls To Boycott Qatar airways
One of the most widely shared videos on the internet in the wake of the #BoycottQatar trend was a video showing an interview of the CEO of Qatar airways with Al Jazeera news channel over the boycott call.
Though intended as satire, the video was convincing enough for several people to fall for it, including Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut.
Originally posted by Twitter user @AhadunAhad11111, who described himself as ’Ibn Batuta of Social Media’ in response to Twitter user “Vashudev” who appealed Indians to boycott Qatar Airways. The account has since been suspended. You can see the archived copy of the same tweet here.
Notably, in the same tweet thread @AhadunAhad11111 has clarified that it’s a “spoof video.” He wrote, I had assumed the sarcasm is obvious but it seems the voice over ended up being too realistic. (sic)”
The original video was traced back to a 2017 interview of Akbar al-Baker, the CEO of Qatar airways by journalist Andrew Simmons over closure of airspace for the Qatari aircrafts by Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Claim 2: Qatar Airways responds to “Bycott Qatar Airways” Trend
Another viral image being shared in the context of the #BoycottQatarAirways trend was a screengrab of a tweet suggesting that the company was publicly reacting to the trend ‘BycottQatarAirways’ by taking a dig at the spelling mistake in the hashtag.
A basic analysis of the post reveals that the time stamp, which can be seen in all the posts on Twitter, was missing from the alleged screengrab. Furthermore, the font and alignment of the text in the viral tweet does not match with the text seen in the tweets by the official profile of Qatar airways. The viral image carried text“#brainless bhakts” after a screenshot of Twitter trends. Notably, Twitter does not display any text below the attached image or video.
Claim 3: Woman Breaking Ganesh Idols In Qatar
Result: False Context/Missing Context
Another hashtag that began trending in the wake of the Nupur Sharma standoff was #QatarExposed. One of the images that was being widely shared in this trend-thread showed a woman, with her face covered, standing over what appear to be Ganesha idols that have been smashed to bits.
A quick probe reveals that the image is from 2020, where a woman smashed idols of Ganesha kept for sale ahead of Ganesha Chaturthi, in a supermarket in Bahrain, claiming that they should not be sold in an Islamic country. The woman eventually faced legal action for ‘defaming a sect and its rituals’ after Bahrain’s interior ministry undertook a probe.
Interview of Akbar al Baker
Times of India report
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