Several Muslim countries expressed their outrage to India after derogatory remarks about Islam and Muhammad made by leading members of the ruling Hindu nationalist partyprompting accusations of blasphemy in Arab countries and a backlash that New Delhi was trying to contain.
At least five Arab countries have lodged formal protests against India, with both Pakistan and Afghanistan reacting vehemently to the protests on Monday. Statements by two senior spokesmen for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. Discontent has grown on social media and in some countries calls circulated for a boycott of Arab products.
The controversial remarks follow a surge in violence against India’s Muslim minority by Hindu nationalists, encouraged by Modi’s habitual silence on such attacks since he was first elected in 2014.
For years, Indian Muslims have faced attacks linked to their food, clothing or interfaith marriages. Activist groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have warned that such attacks could escalate.
Rights groups have also accused Modi’s party of ignoring and sometimes facilitating anti-Muslim hate speechwho are 14% of the country’s 1.4 billion people but still numerous enough to be the second largest Muslim population in a country in the world.
Modi’s party denies the accusations, but Muslims in India say attacks on them and their religion have become constant.
“The offensive tweets and demeaning comments against a religious personality were made by certain individuals. They do not reflect, in any way, the views of the Government of India. Relevant agencies have already cracked down on these people.”the Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, reported in a statement on Monday.
Discontent has been mounting since last week, when the two spokesmen, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, made speculative comments interpreted as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha.
Modi’s party took no disciplinary action until Sunday, when Qatar and Kuwait summoned their ambassadors to India in protest and began the diplomatic outcry. Modi’s party suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal with a rare statement condemning insulting any religious figure, a move welcomed by Qatar and Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia and Iran later voiced their grievances to India, and the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the remarks came against a “context of growing hatred and abuses against India.” Islam in India and systematic practices against Muslims”.
New Delhi has so far made no comment on the protests by Islamic nations, but India’s foreign minister called the OIC’s statements “undeserved” and “narrow-minded.” The Indian embassies in Qatar and Doha released a statement on Sunday alleging that the views expressed did not correspond with those of the Indian government and noted that firm action had already been taken against the authors of the pejorative comments.
(with information from AP and EFE)
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