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Pakistan, Saudi Join Fury Over Prophet Remarks Made by ‘Fringe Elements’ in India

In response to Pakistan’s statement, India has said that it is a “serial violator of minority rights.”
In response to Pakistan’s statement, India has said that it is a “serial violator of minority rights.”

Image Courtesy: Rising Kashmir

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia joined Qatar, Kuwait and Iran on Monday in condemning the comments made on Prophet Muhammed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and the party’s Delhi media head Naveen Kumar Jindal.

Meanwhile, Doha cancelled a lunch to be hosted by the deputy emir for visiting vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu, who had earlier cancelled a press conference on Sunday, when the controversy exploded.

Pakistan summoned the Indian chargé d’affaires and said that the “totally unacceptable” comments have “deeply hurt the sentiments” of Muslims across the world. The foreign office deplored the “belated and perfunctory disciplinary actions taken by the BJP government against” Sharma and Jindal saying they “cannot assuage the pain caused to the Muslims”.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had slammed the “hurtful comments”. “I condemn in strongest possible words hurtful comments of India’s BJP leader about our beloved Prophet (PBUH). Have said it repeatedly India under Modi is trampling religious freedoms & persecuting Muslims. World should take note & severely reprimand India,” he had tweeted.

Responding to Sharif and the Pakistan foreign office, ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that Pakistan should “focus on the safety, security and well-being of its minority communities instead of engaging in alarmist propaganda and attempting to foment communal disharmony in India.”

Tweeting India’s statement, he said: “The absurdity of a serial violator of minority rights commenting on the treatment of minorities in another nation is not lost on anyone. The world has been witness to the systemic persecution of minorities including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Ahmadiyyas by Pakistan.”

While India “accords the highest respect to all religions, this is quite unlike Pakistan, where fanatics are eulogised and monuments built in their honour”, he added.

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of foreign affairs welcomed the action against Sharma and Jindal but also expressed its “condemnation and denunciation of the statements insulting the Prophet Muhammed” and rejected any “prejudice against the symbols of the Islamic religion”.

On Sunday, Qatar, Kuwait and Iran has summoned Indian ambassadors to register their strong protest against the statements. Qatar’s foreign ministry summoned ambassador Dipak Mittal, handed him an official note and demanded a public apology from India. “Qatar is expecting a public apology and immediate condemnation of these remarks from the government of India,” it said.

Qatar pointed 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”.

Neighbouring Kuwait too handed a note to ambassador Sibi George denouncing the remarks and demanding a public apology. “… these hostile statements, the continuation of which would constitute a deterrent measure or punishment to increase extremism and hatred and undermine the elements of moderation”.

Iran summoned ambassador Dhamu Gaddam and strongly criticised the remarks against the Prophet, semi-official Mehr news agency reported. Expressing regret, Gaddam said that any insult to the Prophet is unacceptable.

On Sunday, the general secretariat of the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (IOC) of 57 countries had also strongly condemned the “abuse of the Prophet Muhammad” and expressed “strong condemnation and denunciation of the recent insults issued by an official in the ruling party”, The Indian Express reported.

“These abuses come in the context of the escalation of hatred and abuse of Islam in India and in the context of the systematic practices against Muslims and restrictions on them, especially in light of a series of decisions banning headscarves in educational institutions in a number of Indian states and demolitions of Muslim property, in addition to the increase in violence against them,” the IOC said in a strong statement.

“Categorically” rejecting the IOC “unwarranted and narrow-minded comments” on Monday, Bagchi tweeted India’s statement: “It is regrettable that OIC Secretariat has yet again chosen to make motivated, misleading and mischievous comments.

Urging the OIC Secretariat to “stop pursuing its communal approach and show due respect to all faiths and religions”, Bagchi added, “This only exposes its divisive agenda being pursued at the behest of vested interests.”

Defending the Narendra Modi government and the “strong action” of suspending Sharma and expelling Jindal from the party, Bagchi said that the Centre “accords the highest respect to all religions” and the “offensive tweets and comments denigrating a religious personality were made by certain individuals and do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the government of India”.

In a bid to control the diplomatic damage, India has said that the remarks made by Sharma and Jindal are the “views of fringe elements” and do not reflect the government’s opinion.

Mittal said the comments "do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the government of India. These are the views of fringe elements”. The embassy conveyed that the “in line with our civilisational heritage and strong cultural traditions of unity in diversity, the government of India accords the highest respect to all religions.

The embassy added that “vested interests that are against India-Qatar relations have been inciting the people using these derogatory comments” and both countries should act against such “mischievous elements who aim to undercut the strength of our bilateral ties”.

The Indian embassy in Kuwait too said that the remarks were the views of fringe elements, not the government.

Sharma’s comment, made during a TV debate last week, triggered communal violence after Friday prayers in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, with, at least, a dozen people, including two police personnel, getting injured. After the debate, Jindal had posted a tweet about the Prophet which he later deleted.

As the controversy erupted on Sunday, the BJP issued a statement before taking action against Sharma and Jindal but without mentioning their comments.

“The BJP strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion. The Bharatiya Janata Party is also against any ideology which insults or demeans any section or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy,” the party’s general secretary Arun Singh said.

Stating that it “respects all religions” and is “strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion”, the statement read: “During the thousands of years of the history of India. every religion has blossomed and flourished. The Bharatiya Janata Party respects all religions.”

Sharma unconditionally withdrew her controversial statement after her suspension and said that she was upset as Lord Shiva was being “insulted and disrespected continuously” referring to the purported Shivling discovered at the Gyanvapi Masjid, Varanasi.

“I have been attending TV debates for the past many days where our Mahadev was being insulted and disrespected continuously. It was mockingly being said that it is not Shivling but a fountain. Shivling was being ridiculed by comparing it to roadside signs and poles in Delhi. If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement. It was never my intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings,” she tweeted.

Jindal defended his tweet saying that he questioned those attacking and insulting Hindu deities and it was not meant to hurt the religious sentiments of any community. He told PTI that he was unaware of being expelled from the BJP and was yet to receive any letter from the state president.

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