India: more countries join Muslim protests over Muhammad remarks

Show caption Protests in Mumbai call for the arrest of Nupur Sharma, the BJP’s national spokesperson, over comments she made about the prophet Muhammad. Photograph: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock India India: more countries join Muslim protests over Muhammad remarks Disciplinary action against members of BJP fails to quell growing anger in Muslim world over comments insulting the prophet Amrit Dhillon in Delhi Tue 7 Jun 2022 12.26 BST Share on Facebook

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Six more countries have joined diplomatic protests across the Muslim world over derogatory remarks insulting the prophet Muhammad made by spokespeople for the party of Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Indonesia, the UAE, the Maldives, Jordan, Bahrain and Libya have joined Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Afghanistan in lodging official complaints over comments from representatives of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party. Meanwhile hardline party members have reacted angrily to disciplinary action against the pair after their comments went viral in the Middle East.

Indonesia, which has the largest number of Muslims in the world, summoned the Indian ambassador in Jakarta. “Indonesia strongly condemns unacceptable derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad PBUH [peace be upon him] by two Indian politicians,” read a tweet by the foreign ministry.

Bahrain called on “the need to denounce any reprehensible insults against the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, as a provocation to Muslims’ feelings and incitement to religious hatred”.

The BJP’s attempt to quell the anger by suspending its national spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, and expelling its Delhi media head, Naveen Kumar Jindal, and dismissing them as “fringe elements” who did not represent the government’s views has had little success in the Muslim world.

And at home Hindu hardliners who have frequently targeted India’s Muslim minority vented their anger over the climbdown, unusually for a party that has never faced any internal criticism in its eight years in power.

Many praised Sharma, who made the remarks during a debate on a rightwing news channel, and expressed incredulity that a BJP government could buckle to pressure from Muslim countries. Jindal was expelled over a tweet he made about the prophet which has since been deleted.

The hashtag “#ShameOnBJP” was trending on Twitter along with expressions of solidarity with the national spokesperson and, in a rare rebuke to Modi, hardliners have suggested that Uttar Pradesh’s firebrand chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, might make a better prime minister.

The party has contended that it cannot jeopardise India’s extensive trade links with the Arab world, its need for Gulf oil, and the requirement to protect the 6.5 million Indians who live in the Gulf.

Indian opposition leaders have meanwhile demanded the arrest of Sharma, who has told Delhi police she has received death threats, and Jindal, saying the action taken so far was a sham.

The Congress party leader, Rahul Gandhi, accused the BJP of dividing India internally and weakening it externally. “The BJP’s shameful bigotry has not only isolated us, but also damaged India’s standing globally,” he tweeted.