India is facing a firestorm over ruling party officials’ comments about Islam. India is trying to contain the diplomatic fallout as outrage grows in the Muslim world over derogatory comments made by ruling party officials about the Prophet Muhammad.
The United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Oman and Iraq were among at least 15 Muslim-majority nations that condemned the remarks, which were described as “Islamophobic”, and several countries summoned India’s ambassadors.
The incident sparked protests in neighboring Pakistan and prompted calls from across the region to boycott Indian goods.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s Hindu nationalist ruler, has sanctioned the two officials involved, but the firestorm involving India’s major Arab trading partners has yet to die down.
What is causing the reaction?
At the center of the controversy is Nupur Sharma, now the suspended national spokesman for the BJP, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.
On May 26, Sharma made comments during a televised debate on an Indian news channel about the Prophet Muhammad that were widely considered offensive and Islamophobic.
Most of the Indian media have not directly quoted Sharma’s original comments.
Sharma later withdrew his comments, saying it was never his intention “to hurt anyone’s religious feelings.”
On Twitter, Sharma said his words were a response to derogatory comments made during the debate about a Hindu god.
“If my words have caused discomfort or hurt anyone’s religious sentiments, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement,” he said.
Another BJP spokesman, Naveen Jindal, who has since been expelled, also made comments about the Prophet on social media.
The BJP’s decision to suspend its spokesperson failed to stop the controversy from escalating beyond India’s borders.
Qatar, Kuwait and Iran summoned the Indian ambassadors, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation issued condemning statements. Malaysia was the latest country to condemn the comments. His Foreign Ministry on Tuesday summoned the Indian High Commissioner to Malaysia to convey his “total repudiation of this incident.”
Protesters in the Pakistani city of Lahore called on Indian Prime Minister Modi to apologize. And some stores in Kuwait have pulled Indian products from their shelves following similar boycott calls.