On January 8, the former Indian Express journalist Irena Akbar drew attention on social media after expressing her support for tourism in Lakshadweep, a Union territory with a 97 per cent Muslim population. This endorsement emerged amid widespread calls to boycott the Maldives following racist and derogatory remarks by Maldivian ministers about Indian citizens and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In response, many Indians pledged to divert their tourism spending towards Lakshadweep.
Akbar, however, clarified that she would not advocate boycotting the Maldives, a country with a 98.4 per cent Muslim population. Instead, she encouraged tourism in Lakshadweep, citing the religious demographics of the region as a reason for her preference.
She stated, “I am not for boycotting Maldives, but I am definitely for supporting tourism to Lakshadweep because it is 97 per cent Muslim. I will give economic preference to Muslims of India over those outside.”
The journalist’s stance ignited a wave of criticism on social media, with some questioning her loyalty to the country and others probing whether her allegiance was solely to the Muslim population.
In response to the backlash, Irena Akbar deactivated her account on X (formerly Twitter). Attempts to locate her username (@irenaakbar) on the platform result in a message stating, “The account does not exist.”
This incident is not the first time Akbar has courted controversy on social media.
In October of the previous year, she defended Hamas terrorists who had mistreated a German woman named Shani Louk.
In April 2021, she caused uproar by thanking Allah for the COVID-19 pandemic, linking it to a supposed prevention of anti-Muslim state violence.
She claimed “If it weren’t for Covid, Indian Muslims would’ve been in detention camps. I’m NOT being grateful for the virus which killed my aunt, sent my dad to the ICU & is causing tragedies across homes. I’m stressing the fact that while fascists were making their plans, God was making His.”
In February 2020, Akbar made divisive remarks about Dalits, claiming they could not be trusted by the Muslim community and accusing them of playing a role in communal riots in Gujarat in 2002.
“They did the dirty job of gang-raping and killing Muslims. I have never trusted them. They are ill-treated by their upper-caste Hindu brothers, not by Muslims. We owe them nothing,” she wrote.
The journalist has a history of controversial statements, including calling for boycotts of business establishments run by Hindus.