On May 27, 2022, at 11:31 AM, Alt News cofounder Mohammed Zubair set in motion things which have by now led to death of at least three people, two of which were murdered by Islamists just for ‘supporting’ a woman Zubair had initially dog-whistled against. Here is the tweet:
In the tweet, Zubair had accused Times Now for providing platform to ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma to ‘speak rubbish which can incite riots’. He even referred to her as ‘rabid communal hatemonger’.
In subsequent tweets, he calls Kumar a ‘clown’ by putting out an emoji and says how she has been running shows for a week by referring to the Shivaling discovered in the wuzukhana of Gyanvapi structure where the original Kashi Vishwanath Mandir once stood as ‘Shivling’. “But when someone says it’s a fountain, her sentiments are hurt,” he said, insinuating that Hindus who had their sentiments hurt over inappropriate jokes on the Shivling are clowns. He also appeared upset Kumar was running a hashtag that referred to the Shivaling as Shivaling. He then tagged her boss, Vineet Jain, Chairman of Times Group, and accused Kumar of ‘speaking against a community’.
Speaking for Hinduism was referred to as ‘speaking against a community’, thereby Zubair continued to espouse the us vs them theory that was in the root of Jinnah’s two-nation theory that led to creation of Pakistan.
From his tweets, it appears his initial target could have been Navika Kumar and Times Now. However, Nupur pointed out that the clip he had shared was not a full version and asked him to upload it. Zubair had cleverly edited out portion where the Muslim cleric was insulting the Shivaling and provoking other panelists and only put up portion where Sharma’s comments on Prophet Muhammad could be heard.
When Sharma pointed it out, Zubair again used clown emojis for a woman and asked Vineet Jain to put up the video of Dharam Sansad, that took place in December 2021.
It is imperative to note that in his original tweet also he had talked about said Dharam Sansad and Yati Narasighanand Saraswati of Dasna temple, who is already been facing death threats. Wonder what was the motive of speaking about something that had happened over five months back and was not even connected to the debate on hand on the Shivaling at Gyanvapi structure.
About an hour and a half later, he tweeted another tweet quoting the same tweet by Sharma and urged the Delhi Police to file an FIR against her for ‘inciting communal violence’. He referred to her comments on Prophet Muhammad as ‘giving hate speeches targetting a religion.’
Zubair wanted an FIR against Nupur Sharma for her comments on Prophet Muhammad. Essentially, under the blasphemy law.
A few hours later, Nupur Sharma started getting death and rape threats for ‘Gustakh-e-Rasool’ (insulting the Prophet).
Here, Zubair justified the threats she was getting because of what she said on live TV. Similar sentiments were echoed by the Supreme Court judges recently blaming the events that followed on Sharma’s ‘loose tongue’. He again accused Nupur of ‘triggering hate and violence’. Zubair then referred to himself as a journalist doing his duty, but as a ‘fact-checker’, he has not yet fact-checked whether what Nupur said in the Times Now debate was mentioned in the Islamic holy scriptures or not. It has been over a month and no fact-check has been done by the ‘fact-checkers’ yet who even ‘fact-check’ a meme to keep themselves occupied and appear busy.
Soon, Alt News cofounder Pratik Sinha came to Zubair’s rescue and gave him a clean chit that his tweets referring to Nupur as ‘rabid hatemonger’ and selectively showing only her clip on Prophet Muhammad which resulted in death threats against her, were not his fault at all. Zubair, too, played victim that he was now getting ‘attacked’.
Zubair now started referring to Nupur’s comments as ‘derogatory’. It shifted from ‘inciting violence’ to ‘derogatory’. Basically, blasphemy. So was the original concern about ‘hate speech targeting a particular community’ or ‘blasphemy’? Because, Zubair and Pratik themselves have indulged in derogatory comments on Hindu gods and goddesses and what is good for the goose should be good for the gander.
His subsequent tweets were about Times Now taking down the debate video and some random quote which he first wrongly attributed to Edward Snowden. Again, Zubair refers to himself as ‘fact-checker’ but clearly doesn’t even carry out basic checks before uploading things.
24 hours after Nupur Sharma started getting beheading and rape threats after Zubair’s dog-whistling, Zubair started a donation drive for Alt News.
People from the ‘ecosystem’ and ‘ummah’ contributed generously to Alt News, as can be seen from various retweets by Zubair and gang. Imagine making money when a woman is facing death threats because you ‘exposed’ how she ‘made derogatory comments’. Within hours, Alt News had collected 1 lakh in donation. The donation campaign lasted all the way till May 29.
His next tweet on this topic was on 29th May where he asked one Muslim leader who led the Shaheen Bagh protests that turned violent to not participate in television debates.
On May 29, two days after kicking up the storm, Zubair suddenly asked Muslim leaders and maulanas to not go to television debates. He urged Muslims to boycott TV debates. Maulanas in recent times have said certain provocative things during television debates, including giving derogatory statements against the Hindu faith. In one TV debate in November 2021, one maulana had claimed spitting and licking utensils is faith. This was a debate after many Muslim men were found spitting in food in various viral videos.
Zubair wanted Muslims clerics, scholars, maulanas to not go to television debates so that they don’t ‘become punching bags and get insulted’.
In a series of tweets he urged Muslims not to go on TV debates as they are ‘insulted’.
Indian News Channels invites @shoaibJamei & introduce him as an ‘Islamic Scholar’. They pretend to represent all Indian Muslims during a debate & become a punching bag, They insult & get insulted from other panelist.— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) May 30, 2022
Zubair was upset M Sajid Rashidi, a ‘tour operator’ was referred to as ‘Islamic scholar’ in a tv debate. However, Maulana Mohammad Sajid Rashidi is President of All India Imam Association and on the foundation laying ceremony of Ayodhya Mandir had said that a masjid will be built after breaking down the Ram Mandir. He had also justified the mockery of the Shivaling at Gyanvapi.
Does Zubair want to suppress the voices of Islamic scholars because their controversial statements could expose what the religious heads of other faith actually think of Hinduism and thereby pour water all over the ‘Ganga-Jamuni tehseeb’ farce?
Soon after, Zubair shifted from attacking Nupur and Navika to urging Muslims to boycott TV.
He also ‘demanded’ arrest for those who were calling for Nupur’s beheading.
Here also he first put it up as Abbasi was earlier BJP leader. That he is currently associated with an Islamist party becomes secondary.
On 30th May, too, along with sharing few ‘fact-checks’, Zubair continued to ask Muslims not to attend TV debates.
What was he afraid of? That the radicalised thoughts that are confined will now be out for all to see?
Indian News Channels invite some random guy Ali Qadri & introduce him as an ‘Islamic Scholar’. They pretend to represent all the Indian Muslims during a debate and become a punching bag & get insulted from other panelist. #WhenWillMuslimsBoycottTVDebates pic.twitter.com/Dbxj16azAk— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) May 30, 2022
Zubair really doesn’t like Ali Qadri. Zubair calls him ‘random guy’ because likely he does not know him. On an unrelated note, Alt News team had ‘fact-checked‘ with terrorists whether they had issued a threat letter to Hindus in Kashmir.
By 31st May, Alt News had raised almost 8 lakh in just 3 days when a dog-whistle by their co-founder laden with abuses led to death threats to a woman.
Thank you! We have received contributions close to 12 Lakhs in the month of May. Our monthly target is 12 Lakhs. Thank you for contributing towards the work we do at @AltNews 🙏 https://t.co/qGdDAoBvie pic.twitter.com/5xDK2xHJUQ— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) May 31, 2022
He continued to call upon Muslims to boycott TV debates and some sarcastic remarks on FIRs.
Things start getting interesting on 5th June onward.
Top trending in Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. pic.twitter.com/ybaZf2QaWb— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
Zubair was one of the first people to point out how calls were made to boycott Indian products in Middle East and how subsequently Sharma was suspended as party spokesperson. He excitedly shared data of top trends in Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the Islamic countries where ‘blasphemy’ of Prophet Muhammad is punishable offence.
Stores in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain etc remove Indian products after insulting tweets against Prophet Mohammad by @BJP4Delhi Media head and Spokesperson @naveenjindalbjp. He deleted both tweets now. Tweets archived ( Don’t want to share it here) pic.twitter.com/7uTZkNvUvu— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
He shared tweets by Pakistani propaganda handle to boast how stores in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and other place were removing Indian products ‘after insulting tweets against Prophet Muhammed’ by Naveen Jindal. Zubair was elated that after triggering such events, Nupur Sharma of the BJP had to apologise and how it was not his fault.
Correction: BJP suspends Nupur Sharma, Naveen Kumar Jindal over inflammatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed (Not minorities) https://t.co/GrXqkjxPEz— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
Zubair corrected news agency ANI that Sharma and Jindal were not suspended over their comments on minority (Zubair has till now maintained Nupur’s comments were targeted at minority, he did not say it was against Prophet Muhammad).
Zubair has still not ‘fact-checked’ Nupur’s claims on Prophet Muhammad.
Seriously? You respect all religions? Go through your old tweets, There are several old tweets of you using derogatory language in your tweets against Prophet Mohammed. I don’t want to share it here but your tweets are still available. Also archived. https://t.co/2k4D28voWM— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
Dog-whistling continued ten days later as well even when Sharma and Jindal had apologised.
Zubair was very excited that the day when Nupur apologised and Middle Eastern Twitter handles were attacking India by running hashtags, the Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu was in Qatar at that time.
By now, Qatar had summoned Indian envoy and demanded public apology from government of India on Nupur’s comments.
Qatar summons Indian convey over remarks of BJP members. Demands “public apology & immediate condemnation of remarks from Indian Govt, allowing such Islamophobic remarks to continue without punishment constitutes grave danger human rights & will create a cycle of violence & hate” pic.twitter.com/wnJpM7zN9g— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
Zubair excitedly shared the same on Twitter.
GoI : “Ambassador conveyed that the tweets do not, in any manner, reflect views of the Govt of India. These are views of fringe elements. In line with our civilisational heritage & strong cultural traditions of unity in diversity, GOI accords highest respect to all religions. pic.twitter.com/G6bO5znI7K— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
And as soon as India was embarrassed on an international platform, Zubair immediately made a call for donation, again.
Thanks for all the praises & appreciation for the work we do. ✊🤝 🙏🤲— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
As you are aware, @AltNews runs on ONLY public donations, WE GET PAID BECAUSE YOU DONATE. Please consider contributing/donating to fight Dis/Misinfo & Hate propaganda.
Donation link 👇🏽https://t.co/s5tbky6YeC pic.twitter.com/v7SwuQrhhd
And he gleefully shared the Qatar statement.
Several BJP Members, MLAs, MPs, BJP Spokespersons, BJP IT cells, Right Wing verified trolls, RW websites and their editors wanted me to be booked by Police, They ran a non stop campaign against me and others 2-3 for exposing this. 👇🏽 https://t.co/esxVVoJxIh— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
He taunted Times Now if they will have another debate now.
And he offered his services of sharing more tweets of BJP spokespersons.
When Kuwait summoned Indian Ambassador, Zubair jumped again.
After Qatar, Now Kuwait summons Indian Ambassador. https://t.co/mt74ZnZ3iX— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
After Qatar & Kuwait, Now Iran. 👇🏽 https://t.co/0rZz4sY3NK— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
And Saudi Arabia.
After Qatar, Kuwait and Iran, Now Saudi Arabia gives a statement https://t.co/65dXM5z0sD— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
Meanwhile, donations, many from his coreligionists, continued to pour in for Alt News.
On June 6, Zubair decided to get corporates, brands to stop putting advertisement on Times Now.
Are the advertisers aware about Times Now regularly organising propaganda debates by inviting hatemongers to abuse a religion & demean a community. pic.twitter.com/IxkX7gUN8w— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 6, 2022
Same day he also mocked those who were calling for his arrest.
Same day, UAE condemned the remarks on Prophet Muhammad.
And now UAE condemns statements insulting the Prophet in India. 👇🏼 https://t.co/H4l8PTDMvD— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 6, 2022
Indonesia too… https://t.co/oVZJl7pz31— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 6, 2022
Jordan.. https://t.co/Jks61cXTXW— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 6, 2022
Even war-torn Libya found time to condemn on a matter in India.
Malaysia, too, chipped in.
And Now A Statement by Libya… https://t.co/SK0VgQyXRH— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 6, 2022
And Now Malaysia.. https://t.co/EgLvtWnTwe— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 7, 2022
When Zubair, along with other Islamists like Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub and her brother Arif Ayyub, started getting called out for appearing elated over India’s embarrassment in Middle Eastern countries, he again shifted focus on news channels for ‘providing platforms’ to ‘self proclaimed Islamic scholars’.
Why is @ZeeNews @sudhirchaudhary inviting people like Ilyas Sharafuddin who is seen insulting Hinduism and laughing at Hindu beliefs on a Live TV where Lakhs of people are watching the debate. This self proclaimed ‘Islamic Scholar’ is regularly seen in News debates on Godi Meida. pic.twitter.com/T4P0acqBfd— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 7, 2022
He was joined here by others from the ‘ecosystem’ to call out the ‘Godi media’ calling ‘fake maulanas’ for debate.
Wonder if they should start calling the maulanas accused of raping young children in madarsas for debates now? Or will Zubair now give out authenticity certificates to maulanas?
WOW! That awesome feeling when you see Ravish Sir discussing ur twitter thread on well planmed Maulana/Mahant Hindu-Muslim debates by Godi Media. Hope people speak against Maulana-Mahant being invited for TV debates. Do watch & share it with your Family Whatsapp groups. 🙂 1/n pic.twitter.com/7pieJvaFvt— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 8, 2022
Maybe ‘Ravish Sir’ would like to help here.
‘The purpose of these programs is not to reach any conclusion thru constructive discussion, but to ridicule & defame Islam & Muslims. If we boycott these TV channels debates, it will not only reduce their TRP but they’ll also fail miserably in their objective.’ #BoycottGodiMedia pic.twitter.com/R92Xv9SOSl— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 10, 2022
On June 10, All India Personal Law Board appealed to maulanas to stop appearing on tv debates as their only purpose is to ‘insult and ridicule Islam’. For a community that takes their faith a little too seriously and many members are okay with beheading someone over blasphemy and blowing themselves up in name of Allah, this kind of statement can instigate an average Islamist to perhaps take law into own hands and attack tv studios, journalists because they are told that they only ‘ridicule Islam’ is nothing short of dog-whistling and something that could be dangerous for society.
Next day, when even mainstream politicians in India started giving beheading threats to Nupur Sharma, Zubair posted how this was ‘hate speech’.
Here is AIMIM leader and MP Imtiyaz Jaleel provoking a crowd of thousands by stating, “Isko phansi dena hai to Aurangaband ki isi chourahe pe de.”. This is hate speech, pure and simple. pic.twitter.com/QfuSjvbqJ3— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 11, 2022
Hate speech is about creating hatred towards a community, race, religion. However, when it is a call to behead someone specific, it is not ‘hate speech’, it is instigating for murder. For rest of the day he sticks to sharing ‘fact-checks’.
On June 10, Friday, five days after Nupur Sharma was suspended from BJP and subsequently apologised for her statement and almost a dozen Islamic countries had issued statements on internal matter of India, violence broke out in Prayagraj after the Jumma namaz when Islamists were protesting against Nupur Sharma’s comments. Same day, riots broke out in Ranchi, too, after Friday namaz. From Delhi to Moradabad to Saharanpur to Kolkata, the country witnessed multiple incidents of violence. In Belgavi, an effigy of Nupur Sharma was hanged on a crane to send a message to those who ‘insult Prophet’.
OpIndia could not find a single tweet on Zubair’s timeline condemning the violence or urging people not to take to violence over ‘blasphemy’.
However, when violence accused Javed Pump’s house was demolished by Prayagraj authorities over illegal construction, Zubair quickly extended support to his daughter, JNU ‘student’ activist Afreen Fatima.
On June 13 he continued to target maulanas who appeared on TV and did not toe the line as they should be. Again, no condemnation of violence, no appeal for peace. From June 13 to 18, he only tweeted links of Alt News on obscure ‘fact-checks’.
On June 17, the next ‘Jumma’, security was increased to avoid violence by Islamists.
By now, netizens had started digging out Mohammed Zubair’s old tweets where he insulted Hindu gods and goddesses. On June 22, he tweeted he got a notice that the Government of India wrote to Twitter saying his account violated law in India. No action was taken by Twitter on it. But Zubair sympathisers saw this as an attempt to stifle his free speech. The stage was set to play victim since on 27th June 2022 he was arrested over the complaint of a netizen who said his tweet hurt his religious sentiments.
In the course of investigation, Zubair has been going out of his way to hide his face as well as features by putting a hand on his ears so they could not be recognised. Police has said he has formatted his phone and laptop and accused him of the destruction of evidence. Along with this, Alt News has also been accused of being in violation of FCRA norms. An investigation is currently underway and Zubair is lodged in Tihar Jail in Delhi while in judicial custody.