In a statement, BJP said it respects all religions and ‘strongly denounces’ the insult of any religious personalities.
India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has sanctioned two party spokespersons following an international outcry over insulting comments the pair are reported to have made regarding Prophet Muhammad, according to party documents and local media.
BJP national spokeswoman Nupur Sharma was suspended from the party’s primary membership for comments made in a recent television debate, while the BJP’s Delhi media operation head Naveen Kumar Jindal was expelled, the Hindustan Times reported on Sunday.
“Apart from complaints that have been filed in India against the spokespersons, anger had also been building up in recent days in several Arab countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” the Times reported.
Sharma is reported to have insulted the prophet and his wife Aisha in a TV debate last week. Following an outcry over the comments made during the debate, Sharma’s colleague Jindal is reported to have posted a now-deleted tweet about the prophet that also angered many.
Jindal said on Twitter that he had questioned some comments made against Hindu gods: “I only questioned them but that does not mean I am against any religion,” Reuters news agency reported him saying.
In a tweet on Sunday, Sharma said that she had said some things in response to comments made about a Hindu god but it was never an “intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings”, and that she wanted to “unconditionally withdraw my statement”.
In a subsequent tweet, Sharma said that a “security threat” had been made against her family.
— Nupur Sharma (@NupurSharmaBJP) June 5, 2022
In a statement on Sunday, the BJP said it respects all religions and “strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion”.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party is also strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy,” the party said.
“India’s Constitution gives right to every citizen to practice any religion of his/her choice and to honour and respect every religion”.
The statement did not directly reference the comments or mention the sanctioning of the two party officials.
Delhi-based journalist Saba Naqvi told Al Jazeera that the BJP had benefitted politically from “mobilisation” against Muslims in India.
“But in this instance, there has been an international price to pay,” Naqvi said.
“India has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, so it has come to the notice of the world that this is happening,” she told Al Jazeera.
The controversy has raised the ire of social media users in Arab countries who have called for a boycott of Indian products, denounced the escalation of hatred against Islam and Muslims, and accused India of following in the footsteps of France and China in promoting Islamophobia.
Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Indian ambassador on Sunday to present an official note “expressing the disappointment of the State of Qatar and its total rejection and condemnation to the controversial remarks”, the QNA news agency reported.
While welcoming the BJP statement and suspension of the staff member over the comments, QNA reported that “Qatar is expecting a public apology and immediate condemnation of these remarks from the Government of India”.
Kuwait also summoned the Indian ambassador and said it had handed the ambassador a protest note in which Kuwait rejected and denounced the statements made by the BJP official, Reuters reported.