Only Muslims Against Ram Billboards in NYC? OpIndia Ignores Facts
“Many diverse groups were working simultaneously. Some but not all of them were Muslim,” protesters told The Quint.
After a New York-based ad firm refused to air the images of Lord Ram on billboards at Times Square, several news websites reported that the move is a result of a campaign by “Muslim groups” in the United States. However, contrary to what was reported, we found that those protesting the ads were people from civil rights groups across all religions including Hindus.
News outlets such as OpIndia and India.com published reports claiming that the ad company –Branded Cities Network – that manages the NASDAQ billboard, has refused to provide the billboard after “Muslim organisations” filed a petition against it.
This comes a day after the company refused to run the ads due to protests by a rainbow coalition of South Asian civil rights groups.
FACTS OR SELECTIVE MEDIA OUTRAGE?
In their reports, right-wing websites OpIndia and India.com wrote that “several Muslim groups including Indian Minorities Advocacy Network- ImanNet, Justice for All, Coalition of Americans for Pluralism in India CAPI, North American Indian Muslim Association NAIMA, Islamic Circle of North America -Social Justice ICNASJ and The International Society for Peace and Justice filed the petition and asked the ad companies that manage the billboards not to project the images on the LED billboards managed by it.”
However, there was no mention of other organisations which were also opposed to the move.
On social media, users said that the move to refuse running the ads symbolises authorities bowing down to “jihadi forces”.
CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS THAT PROTESTED AGAINST THE BILLBOARDS
On 31 July, several civil rights groups across the United States wrote to the mayor of the New York City asking him to prevent the American Indian Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) from projecting “Islamophobic” billboard in Times Square on 5 August.
The letter further said that the display of ads at Times Square is “not a celebration of faith but that of hatred.”
The Quint accessed the letter which was signed by several organisations including both Muslim and non-Muslim groups.
These include Coalition against Fascism in India (CAFI), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), Global Indian Progressive Alliance (GIPA), Association of Indian Muslims, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus and others.
We also reached out to Sunita Vishwanath, co-founder and board member of the Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) organisation, who told us that there were many diverse groups working simultaneously.
“Some but not all organisations are Muslim. We have all put pressure on NYC elected officials, on the owners of billboards, and raised our voices in myriad ways.”Sunita Vishwanath, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights
She added, “The Indian diaspora in all our diversity must unite to speak up for Indian democracy, and help defeat Hindutva. The resistance movement needs to include all of us, including those who identify as Hindu.”
A representative of Global India Progressive Alliance (GIPA), another group which was a part of the coalition, told The Quint that protests were by the Indian-American diaspora and not people of any one particular faith or religion.
“Our statement is not to challenge the Supreme Court of India’s verdict on the land allotment, but as members of the community trying to build a morally just society, we, the global Indian diaspora feel compelled to speak out against the tone-deaf nature of planned commemoration at Times Square,” GIPA said in a statement.
While it is true that due to mounting pressure from the civil rights group, the ad firm refused to air images of the Hindu deity and Ram Temple on 5 August, the protest was a collective effort of various civil rights groups and not just Muslims groups as portrayed by OpIndia.
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