India has been forced to calm down its friends from the Arab world after 2 members of the government made Islamophobic comments against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nupur Sharma, made offensive remarks during a TV debate, sparking nationwide protests. On the other hand, BJP’s media head Naveen Jindal also tweeted something similar. The ruling party suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal for what they said.
BJP Distances itself from Islamophobic Comments
The media reports were reluctant to repeat whatever the leaders said as they were highly offensive. BJP stated that it strongly denounced insulting any religion or religious personality. It claimed that it did not support any ideology that degraded other religions. The party also denied promoting such people and philosophies. It suggested that those 2 BJP leaders were “fringe elements” and did not represent India’s views. However, critics and experts shared different points of view. They were not convinced by India’s response and figured that it was trying to avoid the risk of losing diplomatic ties with influential Muslim countries.
In her apology, Sharma stated that she had constantly been listening to several insults against the “Mahadev” for many days. She referred to a “Shivling” allegedly discovered in the Gyanvapi mosque. The suspended BJP leader said she could not tolerate how it was being called a fountain or a roadside sign, so she said “some things in response”. Later she withdrew her statement and said she was sorry for hurting the religious feelings of others.
Opposition Sees Hypocrisy in Apology
The Congress responded to BJP taking action against its own party members for Islamophobic comments and disrespecting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). They called it a “blatant deception” and termed the government statement a “sham attempt at damage control”.
The opposition further accused BJP of repeatedly insulting India’s centuries-old civil code of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The World is One Family) by turning different religious communities against another to meet its goal of spreading hatred, polarization, and division in India.
Many reports reveal that religious polarization in India has increased dramatically since BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power in 2014.
Muslim World Fires Back at India
Following the Islamophobic comments by Sharma, several Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, issued statements condemning India. Iran, Kuwait, and Qatar summoned their Indian ambassadors to register protests. On the other hand, India’s neighbour Pakistan also leaned in with a strong response calling the world to reprimand India.
India enjoys a fruitful trade relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Oman. According to reports, it stood at 87 billion USD in 2020-21. Millions of Indian nationals live and work in these countries and send remittances back home. India also imports oil and gas from these countries. PM Modi is a regular visitor to GCC. According to reports, he has already signed a free trade agreement with the UAE and seeking to widen its deal with GCC.
Several analysts believe that India has landed in a difficult situation with its Arab friends, and only the sincere efforts of the leaders can prevent blowback. The country already has an official Citizenship Act that considers Muslims second class citizens. Many also shared memes on social media that spread awareness regarding BJP’s atrocities against Indian Muslims.