Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Twitter feed is lighting up with comments from irritated members of Canada’s Indian community, after he used an Arabic word to wish them a happy Diwali.

The Diwali festival of lights is traditionally observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. But it’s not of particular significance to Muslims, whose religious texts are in Arabic. Nevertheless, Trudeau used the Arabic word for “blessed” in wishing people a happy Diwali on Twitter this week.

“Diwali Mubarak!” Trudeau tweeted on Monday. “We’re celebrating in Ottawa tonight. #HappyDiwali!” The tweet included a photo of Trudeau lighting a candle, while wearing an Indian sherwani.

His use of Arabic triggered a flood of comments on the tweet, with some eager to correct the PM on his choice of language.

“We are not Arabs,” user Shankara wrote.

“Thank you sir… but it’s NOT Diwali Mubarak… that’s (the) wrong way of greeting,” user @docsandeep112 tweeted.

Others came to his defence, with some pointing out that there are Arabic- and Urdu-speaking parts of India where "Diwali Mubarak" is more common.

“‘Mubarak’ is as Indian as ‘Shubh,’” wrote user @RubyKhan9.

“Shubh” means “happy” or “auspicious.”


A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said that the expression has been used in the past by other politicians.

Indeed, Trudeau isn’t the first to use the phrase. In 2013, then-Conservative MP and Minister of National Defence Jason Kenny tweeted the expression in French. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Gujarati people a happy new year in 2015 by tweeting “Gujarat-Saal Mubarak.”

Trudeau tweeted a video wishing people a happy Diwali on Thursday morning. He did not repeat the phrase "Diwali Mubarak" in the video.