Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated his 70th birthday on September 17, 2020. News agency ANI published a story that same day claiming the Muslim community in Delhi gathered outside the Nizamuddin Markaz building to commemorate the occasion with prayers and cake cutting. “In the last 6 years, the PM has never spoken about religion, caste, or creed. He has only spoken about the 130 crore people in our country,” one Maulana Suhaib Qasmi was quoted in the report.

Nizamuddin Markaz is the global headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat network which was vilified by the media in early April after the Markaz was identified as a COVID-19 hotspot.

The ANI story was republished by Business World and Yahoo News.

A video of the event is viral on social media captioned as, “Maulana sahab celebrated Modi’s birthday in front of Nizamuddin Markaz gate. (मरकज़ निजा़मुद्दीन के गेट पर मौलाना साहब ने मनाया मोदी का जन्म दिन.)” Another wide-angle video is also being shared.

मरकज़ निजा़मुद्दीन के गेट पर मौलाना साहब ने मनाया मोदी का जन्म दिन

मरकज़ निजा़मुद्दीन के गेट पर मौलाना साहब ने मनाया मोदी का जन्म दिन। मुसलमानों में बेहद गु़स्सा

Posted by Millat Times on Thursday, 17 September 2020

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Fact-check

A video of a group of Muslim men celebrating PM Modi’s birthday outside Nizamuddin Markaz was uploaded by Suhaib Qasmi, the ‘maulana’ quoted in ANI’s report.

 

निजामुद्दीन मरकज पर मौलाना सुहैब क़ासमी की अध्यक्षता में देश के प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी जी का जन्मदिन मनाया गया और उनकी सेहत और लंबी उम्र की दुआ की गई और उनको खास मुबारकबाद दी गई जिसमें देश के कई प्रदेशों से उलमा इमाम और बुद्धिजीवी शरीक हुए

Posted by Suhaib Qasmi on Thursday, 17 September 2020

Qasmi’s Facebook bio says that he “works” with the RSS. He is also the President of the Ayodhya Varta Committee which was set up in 2016 “to resolve the Ayodhya land dispute by engaging influential people from both sides to discuss and find a solution to the issue,” Qasmi was quoted in a 2019 ANI report.

Another video where the same group of men can be seen honouring PM Modi on his 70th birthday was tweeted by Qasmi. This video was taken outside the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in Delhi. It may be pointed out here that Qasmi’s Twitter handle is @sahaibqasmibjp.

A man in this video, who is also visible in the viral video, has adorned an orange-green scarf of the BJP.

Qasmi in fact shared one more video of PM Modi’s birthday celebrations inside the BJP office. He has tagged the top brass of the party in his tweet.

The ANI report quotes another person—Firoj Bakht Ahmed, Chancellor of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad. “Modi ji truly does believe in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and we are proud to call him our leader. I hope that he remains in this position for the next 10 to 20 years,” reads a part of the statement attributed to Ahmed, the grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, first Education Minister of India.

Ahmed’s support to BJP’s political initiatives is not unknown. He has long-favoured the construction of Ram temple in the disputed land in Ayodhya, supported the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the removal of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir. Ahmed had also written an article published on the website of Muslim Rashtriya Manch, the Muslim wing of the RSS, where he attempted to explain how the Sangh has been ‘misunderstood’ as anti-Muslim.

This isn’t an isolated case when ANI published stories partially identifying Muslim figures, veiling their affiliation or support to the BJP. On multiple occasions in the past, the news agency has tweeted about “Muslim women from Varanasi” either celebrating Hindu rituals or praising the Prime Minister.

However, these women don’t merely hail from the Muslim community of Varanasi but are unequivocal supporters of PM Modi. The woman seen in the ANI tweets had floated the Bharatiya Awam Party (BAP) and declared unconditional support to the Prime Minister. BAP has also shared the stage with the RSS.

In 2018, ANI had portrayed RSS-affiliated Muslim organisation as “people in Lucknow” celebrating Bakrid by cutting a cake.

[Update: The reference to Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has been removed from the article. Suhaib Qasmi is the national president of Jamaat Ulama.]

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Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.