India was in desperate attempts to placate the growing Muslim outrage, both at home and abroad, after two officials from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Anger in the Muslim countries, particularly in the Middle East, spread over the blasphemous comments, with the summoning of New Delhi’s envoys to lodging strong protests. At the same time, some supermarkets removed Indian products off the shelf.
At home, Indian authorities arrested 38 people for rioting in the northern city of Kanpur to quell religious tensions, yet the protests spread to other parts of the country with a demonstration in Mumbai, the country’s financial hub.
Some of India’s top officials were engaged in managing the diplomatic fallout as nations including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia, and Pakistan lodged strong protests and demanded an apology from the Indian government.
Over the weekend, Indian diplomats stationed in the Gulf and neighboring Islamic nations were summoned by officials in those countries to protest against the comments by BJP officials, an Indian foreign ministry official said.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in a statement, said: “These insults come in the context of the increasing intensity in hatred of and insults to Islam in India and the systematic harassment of Muslims.”
The influential 57-member bloc cited the latest decision to ban the hijab at educational institutions in several Indian states and the destruction of Muslim property to highlight what it said was the Indian government’s bias.
In further criticism of the Indian officials, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an umbrella group for the six Gulf countries, “condemned, rejected and denounced” the comments. Saudi Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque called them a “heinous act”.
Comments by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma during a televised debate last week were blamed for clashes in an Indian state and prompted demands for her arrest. Anger later spread overseas to the Muslim countries about the remarks.
India’s foreign ministry said in a statement the offensive tweets and comments did not, in any way, reflect the views of the government. “Strong action has already been taken against these individuals by relevant bodies…,” said Arindam Bagchi, a government spokesperson
The BJP suspended a spokesperson and expelled another official on Sunday for hurting the religious sentiments of a minority community. Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s two holiest sites, and Bahrain welcomed the action taken by the BJP to suspend the spokeswoman.
Modi’s party, which has frequently been accused of acting against the country’s Muslim minority, suspended Sharma on Sunday for expressing “views contrary to the party’s position” and said it “respects all religions”.
Sharma, a BJP spokesperson, said on Twitter that if her comments “have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement.”