New Delhi: A top Facebook executive in India has apologized to Muslims for sharing a post on her Facebook page that called India’s Muslims a “degenerate community for whom nothing except purity of religion and implementation of Shariah matter.”
“Dear friends – The intent of my personal Facebook post was not to denigrate Islam. It was to reflect my deep belief in celebrating feminism and civic participation. I value all perspectives I have heard over the past days about how the post was received and as a result I have deleted the post. I genuinely regret any hurt it may have caused, including to my Muslim colleagues in the company,” Ankhi Das, Facebook’s policy director for India and South and Central Asia, wrote in an internal message to employees obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Das had shared a post in late 2019 which was written by a former Indian police officer in response to protests against a discriminatory citizenship law that gives Indian citizenship for South Asian immigrants belonging to most major religions except Islam.
Shielding Raja Singh
Das did not comment on a Wall Street Journal story that reported that she had shielded T. Raja Singh, a member of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and at least three other Hindu nationalists, from punishment for violating Facebook’s hate speech rules. She said staffers that doing so would amount bad effect on Facebook’s business in India. Singh, a BJP politician from the Indian state of Telangana, is known for anti-Muslim hate speech. In posts on Facebook, he reportedly called for “Muslims to be slaughtered, for Rohingya Muslim immigrants to be shot, and mosques to be razed”
“Thank you for acknowledging that the post was hurtful to the Muslim community. It is a first step in the right direction,” one person said, reported by Buzz Feed. “As a company, we now need to do an honest reflection of hate speech and Islamophobia against Muslims on our platform. In a market where public figures like T. Raja Singh engage in blatant hate speech, as well as incites [sic] violence, against the Muslim community, we need to do more to protect the vulnerable.” The person also demanded that Facebook designate the Hindu supremacist organization Bajrang Dal, and others like it, as dangerous, which can lead to organizations and individuals being kicked off Facebook platforms.
“[As] a company we need to examine what transpired in India more closely not to lay blame but to reform our processes,” said another Muslim Facebook employee, told the Buzz Feed. “Laying blame doesn’t do anything, making structural changes does and I feel we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues, our company, our users, and the world to do so as this will help us bring the world closer together and build better communities.”
WSJ story sets off political firestorm
The Wall Street Journal’s story about Ankhi Das – one of Facebook’s most influential executives, who has been with the company since 2011 – favouring the BJP MLA over his hate comments set off a political firestorm in India.
Das will be questioned by a committee with members from both the BJP and the New Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday on Facebook’s role in riots in New Delhi in February where more than 50 people were killed with most of them being Muslims.
An Indian parliamentary panel will also question Facebook executives about the company’s speech regulation policies in India on Sept. 2.
Hours after the WSJ report got published, Das received abuse and death threats on her social media accounts. In a police complaint, Das named six Facebook and Twitter accounts, including one belonging to a journalist. She asked police to provide her with protection.