India deals with diplomatic storm after controversy over remarks on Prophet

New Delhi, Jun 6 (PTI) India on Monday faced more diplomatic heat with the strong reaction of Islamic countries to the controversial comments by two BJP functionaries against Prophet Mohammad even as it slammed the 57-nation OIC for its “motivated” and “mischievous” comments on the matter.

A day after Kuwait, Qatar and Iran summoned Indian ambassadors over the remarks by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, several Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Indonesia, Bahrain, Maldives and Oman also denounced the comments while some of them welcomed BJP’s punitive action against the duo.

Even as it continued to assuage outrage in the Islamic world, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) categorically rejected criticism of India by the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif over the issue.

In a strong reaction to the OIC’s sharp comments, MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India accords the “highest respect” to all religions and described the statement by the grouping as “motivated, misleading and mischievous” and that it exposed its “divisive agenda” which is being pursued at the behest of “vested interests.”

“The Government of India categorically rejects OIC Secretariat’s unwarranted and narrow-minded comments. The Government of India accords the highest respect to all religions,” Bagchi said.

“The offensive tweets and comments denigrating a religious personality were made by certain individuals. They do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India,” he said.

Referring to Sharif’s condemnation of the remarks by Sharma and Jindal, and the Pakistan Foreign Ministry’s criticism, Bagchi said the “absurdity of a serial violator of minority rights commenting on the treatment of minorities in another nation is not lost on anyone.”

Bagchi said the government “accords the highest respect to all religions. This is quite unlike Pakistan where fanatics are eulogized and monuments built in their honour”.

In a tweet, Sharif condemned the controversial comments and alleged that India is “trampling religious freedoms and persecuting Muslims.” The Pakistan foreign ministry also criticised New Delhi over the remarks.

The OIC slammed India for the remarks and even urged the UN to take necessary measures to ensure that the rights of Muslims are protected in India.

The BJP on Sunday suspended its national spokesperson Sharma and the party’s Delhi unit media head Jindal for allegedly making derogatory comments against Prophet Mohammad.

In its statement, Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the decision of the BJP to suspend the party’s spokeswoman and stressed the need to “denounce any reprehensible insults against the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, as a provocation to Muslims’ feelings and incitement to religious hatred.”

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed the importance of respecting all religious beliefs, symbols, and personalities, and the concerted efforts of the international community to spread the values of moderation, tolerance, and dialogue between religions and civilizations,” it said.

The UAE foreign ministry condemned the comments of the BJP spokesperson.

In a statement, it “affirmed the UAE’s firm rejection of all practices and behaviours that contradict moral and human values and principles.”

The Ministry also “underscored the need to respect religious symbols and not violate them, as well as confront hate speech and violence.”

The Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia condemned the remarks, describing them as “insulting” and called for “respect for beliefs and religions”.

It also welcomed BJP’s decision to suspend the spokeswoman from work.

An official of the Omani foreign ministry held a meeting with Indian Ambassador Amit Narang and raised the issue.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry in a tweet said: “Indonesia strongly condemns unacceptable derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad PBUH by two Indian politicians. This message has been conveyed to the Indian Ambassador in Jakarta.”

The Maldives also condemned the comments by Sharma and Jindal. “The Government of Maldives unreservedly condemns all and any action that purports to pervert the true nature and teachings of Islam and attempts to demean the holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH),” the Maldivian Foreign Ministry said.

“In this regard the Government of Maldives is deeply concerned by the derogatory remarks made by some officials of BJP, India, insulting the holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the religion of Islam,” it said.

It welcomed the “denouncement by the Government of India of the derogatory remarks by the concerned officials and the prompt action taken by BJP against those officials.”

Though the MEA slammed the OIC and Pakistan PM for their reactions on the issue, it did not comment on criticism by other Islamic countries.

The Indian embassies in Kuwait and Qatar issued separate but identical statements on Sunday after the Indian ambassadors were summoned.

The embassies said the “offensive tweets” by individuals in India “do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the government of India”,

Sharma’s comments, made in a TV debate nearly 10 days back, and Jindal’s now-deleted tweets sparked a Twitter trend calling for a boycott of Indian products in some Arab countries.