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New Delhi: In a single day, Indian ambassadors in the Gulf region were summoned by their host foreign ministries while others issued strong statements condemning the remarks of Bharatiya Janata Party members against Prophet Mohammed.
It began with Qatar summoning the Indian ambassador to lodge a protest note and demanding a “public apology” from the Indian government over the remarks made by a BJP functionary against Prophet Mohammed. The Indian government conveyed that BJP had suspended the party members, and the “derogatory comments” were only the views of “fringe elements”.
The Gulf state of Qatar demanded a “public apology” from the Indian government over the controversial remarks.
India conveyed to Qatar that the BJP had already suspended the party members, and the “derogatory comments” were only the views of “fringe elements”.
After Qatar, Kuwait’s foreign ministry also issued a statement that the Indian ambassador had been summoned and handed over a protest note over “abusive statements” made by “an official in the ruling party”.
Late night, Iran also announced that the Indian ambassador Gaddam Dharmendra had been summoned the foreign ministry.
Thereafter, Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Gulf, issued a statement condemning remarks of the BJP members. The 57-member Organisations of Islamic Conference (OIC) has also condemned the comments and raised concerns against the “systematic” harassment of Muslims in India.
Throughout the day, the Indian government had to firefight the fallout from the remarks made by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on a private television channel and a tweet by BJP Delhi’s media head Naveen Kumar Jindal on the Prophet. The BJP removed their party membership and issued a general statement denouncing insults against the “religious personality”.
Qatar’s summoning of the Indian envoy is particularly significant as Indian vice president Venkaiah Naidu is on an official visit to the kingdom and held talks with senior government officials earlier in the day. While a scheduled lunch with a senior Qatari government functionary did not take place, it is not clear that it was due to today’s summoning.
The press release from the Qatari foreign ministry stated that Indian ambassador Deepak Mittal was summoned and handed over an official note “expressing the disappointment of the State of Qatar and its total rejection and condemnation to the controversial remarks made by an official in the ruling party in India against Prophet Mohammed (may blessings and peace be upon him), Islam and Muslims”.
The protest note was handed over by Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi.
Qatar welcomed the BJP’s suspension of the party functionary “from practicing his activities in the party due to his remarks that angered all Muslims around the world”.
Further, Qatar also called on the Indian government to issue a separate apology.
“Noting that the State of Qatar is expecting a public apology and immediate condemnation of these remarks from the Government of India, pointing out that allowing such Islamophobic remarks to continue without punishment, constitutes a grave danger to the protection of human rights and may lead to further prejudice and marginalisation, which will create a cycle of violence and hate,” said the press release issued by Qatar foreign ministry.
It added the two billion Muslims are guided by the Prophet Mohammed, “whose message came as a message of peace, understanding and tolerance, and a beacon of light that Muslims all over the world follow”.
“The State of Qatar affirmed that these insulting remarks would lead to incitement of religious hatred, and offend more than two billion Muslims around the world, and indicate the clear ignorance of the pivotal role that Islam has played in the development of civilisations around the world, including in India,” asserted Qatar’s foreign ministry.
The statement concluded by observing that Qatar has always given “full support for the values of tolerance, coexistence and respect for all religions and nationalities, where such as these values distinguish Qatar’s global friendships and its relentless work to contribute to the establishment of international peace and security”.
Additionally, Qatar’s assistant foreign minister Lolwah Alkhater tweeted that unless rising “Islamophobic discourse” in India was officially confronted, it would be considered a “deliberate insult against the 2 billion Muslims”.
The Islamophobic discourse has reached dangerous levels in a country long known for its diversity & coexistence. Unless officially & systemically confronted, the systemic hate speech targeting #Islam in #India will be considered a deliberate insult against the 2 billion Muslims. https://t.co/YcYyAoZcE3
— لولوة الخاطر Lolwah Alkhater (@Lolwah_Alkhater) June 5, 2022
Admitting that the Indian envoy had been called to the foreign office, the Indian embassy in Doha’s spokesperson responded that Mittal conveyed that the “tweets do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India”. “These are the views of fringe elements,” he added.
He noted that the Indian government accorded the highest respect to all religions “in line with our civilisational heritage and strong cultural traditions of unity in diversity”.
“Strong action has already been taken against those who made the derogatory remarks. A statement has also been issued by concerned quarters emphasising respect for all religions, denouncing insult to any religious personality or demeaning any religion or sect,” said the embassy spokesperson.
The Indian embassy also claimed that “vested interests” have been using the “derogatory comments” to incite people against India-Qatar relations.
“We should work together against such mischievous elements who aim to undercut the strength of our bilateral ties,” he said.
In Kuwait, the Assistant minister of foreign affairs to Asia handed over the protest note to the Indian ambassador Sibi George “against the politician who offended the Muslim world through such heinous act”, as per state news agency Kuna.
Similar to Qatar, Kuwait’s foreign ministry welcomed the suspension of the official from the ruling party but also demanded a separate apology.
“The ministry welcomed the Indian ruling party’s measures to suspend the offender for these irrational statements. However, the ministry demanded a public apology on part of the perpetrator for such extreme and vile statements, which opposed all elements of moderation,” said the news report by Kuna.
Such act reﬂected ignorance towards the clear peaceful nature and message of Islam and its role in building civilizations and nations, including that of India, Kuwait foreign ministry added.
The Iranian foreign ministry release said that the Indian envoy was handed over a protest note by the director general of South Asia on Sunday afternoon.
As per the Iranian readout, Dharmendra told the senior Indian diplomat that his country expressed regret about the “unacceptable” comments on the Prophet. He also noted that the person who had made the objectionable remarks did not have a government post and had also been expelled from the ruling party.
The Indian envoy also stressed that the statements did not reflect the position of the Indian government, “which has the greatest respect for all religions”.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry also issued a condemnatory statement before the end of the day.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its condemnation and denunciation of the statements made by the spokeswoman of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, insulting Prophet Muhammed peace be upon him. And reaffirms its permanent rejection of prejudice against the symbols of the Islamic religion and refuses to prejudice all religious figures and symbols,” said the Saudi foreign ministry.
#Statement | The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its condemnation and denunciation of the statements made by the spokeswoman of the #Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (#BJP), insulting the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. pic.twitter.com/VLQwdXuPuq
— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) June 5, 2022
The statement also welcomed the suspension of Nupur Sharma from the party.
Incidentally, the post of Indian ambassador in Saudi Arabia has been vacant for over two months.
‘Increasing anti-Muslim activities in India’: OIC
Condemning the comments by the BJP functionaries, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) secretariat’s statement observed that it had occurred against the backdrop of increasing anti-Muslim activities in India.
“These abuses come in the context of the escalation of hatred and abuse of Islam in India and in the context of systematic practices against and harassment of Muslims, particularly in the light of a series of decisions to ban headscarves in educational institutions in a number of Indian states and demolitions of Muslim property, as well as increased violence against them,” said the statement.
The Islamic bloc called on the Indian government to address abuses against the Prophet and to also ensure the safety of India’s Muslim community.
“The Secretariat calls on the international community, particularly united nations mechanisms and special procedures of the Human Rights Council, to take the necessary measures to address practices targeting Muslims in India,” said the OIC statement.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the Pakistan foreign ministry also issued a statement condemning the remarks and calling on the international community to take note of rising attacks against Muslims in India.
Pakistan said on Monday that it has summoned the Indian charg d’affaires to convey its categorical rejection and condemnation of the controversial remarks by the two BJP leaders against Prophet Mohammed.
The Indian diplomat was told that these remarks are “totally unacceptable and have not only deeply hurt the sentiments of the people of Pakistan but of Muslims across the world,” the Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement.
The FO “conveyed the Government of Pakistan’s categorical rejection and strong condemnation of the highly derogatory remarks made by two senior officials of India’s ruling party BJP.”
“The Indian diplomat was further told that Pakistan deplores the belated and perfunctory disciplinary actions taken by the BJP government against the said officials, which cannot assuage the pain caused to the Muslims,” the FO said.
Note: This report, first published at 9:05 pm on June 5, 2022, and subsequently updated on the same day with news on Kuwait, and Iran summoning Indian ambassadors, and on the statement issued by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, was republished at 8.30 on June 6, 2022, with an additional update on Saudi Arabia’s reaction.