Monday 27, June 2022

Nupur Sharma: Prophet Muhammad row deepens India’s diplomatic woes

News Desk:

India's diplomatic nightmare over controversial comments made by two senior officials of the country's ruling party about the Prophet Muhammad is showing no signs of ending.

The UAE, Oman, Indonesia, Iraq, the Maldives, Jordan, Libya and Bahrain have joined the growing list of countries in the Islamic world that have condemned the remarks. Earlier, Kuwait, Iran and Qatar had called Indian ambassadors to register their protest, and Saudi Arabia had issued a strongly worded statement.

Indian diplomats have been trying to placate these countries, it shares cordial relations with most of them but the storm is far from over.

At the centre of this controversy is Nupur Sharma, who was a spokesperson of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She made the remark in a televised debate last month, and videos of her statement had gone viral. Naveen Jindal, who was media head of the party's Delhi unit, had also posted a provocative tweet on the issue.

Critics say Ms Sharma and Mr Jindal's comments reflect the deep religious polarisation that the country has been witnessing over the past few years. Hate speech and attacks against Muslims have risen sharply since the BJP came to power in 2014.

Their comments especially Ms Sharma's angered the country's minority Muslim community, leading to sporadic protests in some states. The BBC is not repeating Ms Sharma's remarks as they are offensive in nature.

The two leaders have issued public apologies and the party has suspended Ms Sharma and expelled Mr Jindal.

"The BJP strongly denounces insults of any religious personalities of any religion. The BJP is also against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy," it said in a statement.

But experts say that the BJP's response may not be enough after what looked like the country's internal matter took an international turn. The anger in the Islamic world is evident from some of the statement from these countries.

Qatar said it expected a public apology from India.

"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," Qatar's ministry of foreign affairs said.

Saudi Arabia also used some strong words in its statement. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its condemnation and denunciation of the statements made by the spokeswoman of the BJP," it said.

India's ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, said the remarks from some "fringe elements" did not represent the views of the Indian government. Senior BJP leaders and other diplomats have also condemned the controversial statement.

The 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and Pakistan have also criticised India. But Delhi criticised both, as it usually does, saying their comments were "unwarranted and narrow-minded".

Analysts say that the top leadership of the party and the government may have to make public statements on the issue. Not doing so, they say, runs the risk of damaging India's ties with the Arab world and Iran

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