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Row over remarks on the Prophet: UAE and Maldives join Islamic world criticism; India hits back at OIC, Pakistan

Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation joined Qatar, Kuwait and Iran, which had summoned Indian envoys Sunday, in condemning the remarks against the Prophet.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi |
Updated: June 7, 2022 7:16:42 am
People holding placards shout slogans demanding the arrest of former BJP leader Nupur Sharma for her comments on Prophet Mohammed, on a street in Mumbai, India. (Reuters)

The United Arab Emirates and the Maldives, counted among India’s closest partners, Monday joined criticism from the Islamic world against remarks on the Prophet by the now-suspended and expelled BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal.

Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation joined Qatar, Kuwait and Iran, which had summoned Indian envoys Sunday, in condemning the remarks against the Prophet.

Expressing its “denunciation and rejection of insults of the Prophet”, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), in a statement, “affirmed the UAE’s firm rejection of all practices and behaviors that contradict moral and human values and principles.” It “underscored the need to respect religious symbols and not violate them, as well as confront hate speech and violence.”

“The Ministry also noted the importance of strengthening the shared international responsibility to spread the values of tolerance and human coexistence while preventing any practices that would inflame the sentiment of followers of different religions,” it said.

The UAE is India’s third largest trading partner — the second largest importer and exporter last year — and home to over 3 million NRIs.

Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, “strongly” condemned the “unacceptable derogatory remarks” by “two Indian politicians”. It said it had conveyed the message to the Indian ambassador in Jakarta.

The Maldives, where India has considerable influence, said it “unreservedly condemns all and any action that purports to pervert the true nature and teachings of Islam” and “attempts to demean” the Prophet. The Maldives government said it is “deeply concerned by the derogatory remarks made by some officials of BJP” but welcomed the “denouncement” by the Indian government of the remarks and the “prompt action taken by BJP against those officials.”

Bahrain too commented, but appreciated the action taken by the BJP against its two leaders.

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Amid the chorus of criticism, New Delhi rejected comments by the OIC as “unwarranted and narrow-minded” and slammed “its divisive agenda being pursued at the behest of vested interests.”

The Ministry of External Affairs also hit out at Pakistan over remarks by its Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, saying “the absurdity of a serial violator of minority rights commenting on the treatment of minorities in another nation is not lost on anyone.” On Monday, Pakistan summoned the Indian chargé d’affaires to convey its displeasure.

In a statement Sunday, the OIC expressed its “strong condemnation and denunciation of the recent insults issued by an official in the ruling party”.

“These abuses come in the context of the escalation of hatred and abuse of Islam in India and in the context of the systematic practices against Muslims and restrictions on them, especially in light of a series of decisions banning headscarves in educational institutions in a number of Indian states and demolitions of Muslim property, in addition to the increase in violence against them,” the OIC said.

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Responding to the OIC statement, Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the MEA, said, “We have seen the statement on India from the General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Government of India categorically rejects OIC Secretariat’s unwarranted and narrow-minded comments.”

Stating that the Indian government “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. Strong action has already been taken against these individuals by relevant bodies.”

He said it was “regrettable that the OIC Secretariat has yet again chosen to make motivated, misleading and mischievous comments. This only exposes its divisive agenda being pursued at the behest of vested interests.” He said the OIC Secretariat should “stop pursuing its communal approach and show due respect to all faiths and religions.”

In Islamabad, the Foreign Office summoned the Indian chargé d’affaires to convey its categorical rejection and condemnation of the remarks by two BJP leaders against the Prophet.

Responding to the statement, the MEA spokesperson said the “absurdity of a serial violator of minority rights commenting on the treatment of minorities in another nation is not lost on anyone. The world has been witness to the systemic persecution of minorities including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Ahmadiyyas by Pakistan.” He reiterated that the Indian government “accords the highest respect to all religions,” which is “quite unlike Pakistan where fanatics are eulogized and monuments built in their honour.”

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“We call on Pakistan to focus on the safety, security and well-being of its minority communities instead of engaging in alarmist propaganda and attempting to foment communal disharmony in India,” Bagchi said.

Saudi Arabia, one of the most significant voices in the Islamic world, also issued a statement late Sunday evening, but did not go as far as issuing a démarche like Qatar, Kuwait and Iran. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “its condemnation and denunciation of the statements made by the spokeswoman of the Indian Bharatiya Janata Party, which insult the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.”

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Criticism also came from Kabul. Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, in a statement, said the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns the use of derogatory words against the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him) by an official of the ruling party in India” and urged “the Indian government not to allow such fanatics to insult the holy religion of Islam and provoke the feelings of Muslims.”h

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First published on: 06-06-2022 at 10:09:23 pm
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