An international diplomatic storm has engulfed India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, following the sanctioning of two party spokespersons for insulting remarks the couple allegedly made towards the prophet Muhammad.
BJP national spokesperson Nupur Sharma was suspended from senior party members on Sunday for comments made during a recent TV debate, while BJP Delhi media operations chief Naveen Kumar Jindal also been expelled, according to BJP and media documents.
Sharma allegedly insulted the Prophet and his wife Aisha during a televised debate last week. Following an outcry over comments made during the debate, Sharma’s colleague Jindal reportedly posted a now-deleted tweet about the Prophet, which also angered many.
The remarks were blamed on clashes in an Indian state and also prompted calls for the arrest of the spokeswoman in India.
India’s ambassadors to Kuwait and Qatar were summoned on Sunday to receive official protest notes over the comments, and Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the “highly derogatory remarks” and BJP’s response.
“These totally unacceptable remarks have not only deeply hurt the feelings of the people of Pakistan, but also those of billions of Muslims around the world,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The BJP’s attempt at clarification and the belated and superficial disciplinary action against these individuals cannot alleviate the pain and anguish they have caused the Muslim world,” the ministry said.
Qatar’s foreign ministry summoned the Indian ambassador to present him with an official note “expressing the disappointment of the State of Qatar and its total rejection and condemnation of the controversial remarks”, the Qatari news agency reported. QNA status.
While welcoming the BJP’s statement and the suspension of personnel, Qatar expects a public apology and condemnation of the Indian government’s remarks.
“The State of Qatar calls on the Indian government to immediately condemn these remarks and publicly apologize to all Muslims around the world,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Mohammed Al Ansari said.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs @majedalansari : Qatar demands public apology from Indian government for ruling party official’s remarks against Prophet Muhammad#MOFAQatar pic.twitter.com/NnN1khKw6X
— Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Qatar (@MofaQatar_EN) June 5, 2022
Kuwait also summoned the Indian ambassador and said it had given the ambassador a protest note in which Kuwait rejected and denounced statements made by the BJP official, Reuters reported.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation – the world’s second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations, with a collective population reaching over 1.8 billion – also added its voice to the condemnation.
“The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation expresses its strong condemnation and denunciation of the recent insults uttered by an official of the ruling party in India towards the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,” the organization said. 57 Member States in a press release. statement.
Saudi Arabia condemned the remarks, calling the spokesperson’s remarks “insulting” and calling for “respect for beliefs and religions”, according to a foreign ministry statement.
“International price to pay”
Delhi-based journalist Saba Naqvi told Al Jazeera that the BJP had previously benefited politically from the “mobilization” against Muslims in India.
“But in this case, there was an international price to pay,” Naqvi said.
“India has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, so it has come to the world’s attention that this is happening,” she said.
In a statement on Sunday, the BJP said it respects all religions and “strongly opposes insulting any religious figure of any religion”.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party is also firmly against any ideology that insults or belittles any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy,” the party said.
“The Constitution of India entitles every citizen to practice any religion of his choice and to honor and respect every religion.”
The statement did not directly refer to the insulting remarks or punishment of the two party officials.
The controversy has drawn the ire of social media users in Arab countries who have called for a boycott of Indian products, denounced the escalation of hatred against Islam and Muslims and accused India of following in the footsteps of the France and China in promoting Islamophobia.
In April, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged the US State Department, for the third consecutive year, to place India on a list of “countries of particular concern” in terms of religious freedom.
The independent bipartisan panel accused India of “engaging in and condoning systematic, continuous and gross violations of religious freedom“.
“During the year, the Indian government has intensified its promotion and enforcement of policies – including those promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda – that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and other minorities. nuns,” the commission said in its annual report (PDF).
In its statement, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said it was “also deeply concerned about the alarming rise in communal violence and hatred directed against Muslims in India”.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also weighed in on the controversy, accusing the Modi government of being “allowed to get away with its Islamophobic policies”.
Strongly condemn the hateful attack by a BJP spokesperson against our beloved Holy Prophet PBUH. Modi’s government deliberately followed a policy of provocation and hatred towards Muslims in India, including inciting vigilante violence against them.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) June 5, 2022
Qatar’s Deputy Foreign Minister Lolwah al-Khater also said “Islamophobic discourse” had reached “dangerous levels” in India – a country well known for its “diversity and coexistence”. Hate speech against Muslims in India must be officially confronted, al-Khater said.
Islamophobic discourse has reached dangerous levels in a country long known for its diversity and coexistence. Unless officially and systematically confronted, the systemic targeting of hate speech #Islam in #India will be seen as a deliberate insult to the 2 billion Muslims. https://t.co/YcYyAoZcE3
— لولوة الخاطر Lolwah Alkhater (@Lolwah_Alkhater) June 5, 2022
In a tweet on Sunday, suspended BJP spokesperson Sharma responded to the controversy by saying she had said things in response to comments made about a Hindu god but it was never an “intent to hurt anyone’s religious feelings”, and that she wanted to “unconditionally withdraw my statement”.
In a subsequent tweet, Sharma said a “security threat” had been made against her family.
The Reuters news agency reported that Jindal, his colleague who was expelled by the party, said on Twitter that he had questioned some comments made against Hindu gods: “I only questioned them, but that does not does not mean that I am against a religion”.