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India Has Arrested This Muslim Journalist And Government Critic For “Insulting Religious Beliefs”

Mohammed Zubair, a Muslim Indian journalist and a prominent critic of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, has been arrested on charges of insulting religious sentiments and promoting enmity between religious groups.

Zubair is the co-founder of Alt News, a fact-checking website that is known for combating misinformation and fake news in India, according to the BBC.

He is a vocal critic of Modi and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party’s (BJP) Hindu Nationalist worldview.

Zubair, who has more than half a million followers on Twitter, was arrested in Delhi on Monday June 27 following an anonymous Twitter user’s complaint that he had disrespected a Hindu god in a tweet from 2018, according to the New York Times, and sentenced to four days in jail late Tuesday.

Zubair’s arrest comes weeks after he highlighted derogatory comments Nupur Sharma, a BJP spokeswoman had made about the Prophet Muhammad, according to Guardian.

Sharma’s comments led to an uproar and a diplomatic row. At least 15 Muslim-majority nations condemned Sharma’s remarks, which many described as Islamophobic, according to CNN.

The BJP eventually suspended Sharma in a rare move, according to the Washington Post.

Modi and his government have been widely criticized for its Hindu-nationalist approach and his treatment of Muslims, who make up 13% of the population, according to The Washington Post.

Journalists and activists have condemned Zubair’s arrest, saying it is part of a crackdown on critical voices by Modi’s government.

“In a democracy, where every individual possesses the right to exercise the freedom of speech and expression, it is unjustifiable that such stringent laws are being used as tools against journalists,” DIGIPUB, a network of Indian digital news organizations, said in a statement.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Zubair and “cease harassing him in retaliation for his work.”

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