Comment on Prophet: Qatar, Iran, Kuwait summon Indian envoys
Qatar and Kuwait summoned the Indian ambassadors on Sunday as BJP spokespersons’ derogatory comments on Prophet Mohammed triggered outrage in West Asia and provoked calls for a boycott of Indian goods from the region’s public.
Quoting the Tehran-based Mehr news agency, PTI said Iran, too, had summoned the Indian ambassador who “expressed regret and called any insult to the Prophet of Islam unacceptable”.
The BJP issued a statement pronouncing “respect for all religions” and suspended one of the two senior spokespersons who had made those remarks and expelled the other.
The Narendra Modi government blamed the comments on “fringe elements” although the punished duo, Nupur Sharma and Navin Jindal, were part of the BJP when they made the comments and continued to be so until the action on Sunday.
But neither the BJP’s actions in Delhi nor the presence of Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu in Qatar stopped the Qatari foreign ministry from summoning India’s ambassador in Doha, Deepak Mittal, to express disappointment at the remarks.
Mittal was summoned to Qatar’s foreign ministry on Sunday and handed an official note expressing Doha’s disappointment and “its total rejection and condemnation to the controversial remarks made by an official in the ruling party in India against (the) Prophet”.
A statement issued by Qatar’s foreign ministry — while appreciative of the BJP’s statement and the disciplinary action taken on Sunday — made it clear that Qatar expected a public apology from the Indian government.
Kuwait too summoned the Indian ambassador to that country and expressed its complaint through a note. Like Qatar’s, Kuwait’s government appreciated the BJP’s actions but said it expected a public apology from those who had made the remarks.
Qatar said that “allowing such Islamophobic remarks to continue without punishment constitutes a grave danger to the protection of human rights and may lead to further prejudice and marginalisation, which will create a cycle of violence and hate”.
Responding to the Qatar foreign ministry’s statement, India’s embassy in Doha said: “Ambassador conveyed that the tweets do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India.”
Further, the statement described the comments as the “views of fringe elements” although Sharma was a national spokesperson and Jindal was head of the Delhi BJP’s media cell. Sharma had also been the BJP candidate against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the 2015 Assembly elections.
The embassy in Doha said the Indian government accorded the highest respect to all religions in line with the country’s civilisational heritage and strong cultural traditions of unity in diversity.
It highlighted the BJP’s statement and the action the party had taken. Further, it sought to shift the blame by saying “vested interests that are against India-Qatar relations have been inciting the people using these derogatory comments”.
“We should work together against such mischievous elements who aim to undercut the strength of our bilateral ties,” it added.
The Indian mission in Kuwait issued a statement almost identical to the one issued by the Indian embassy in Doha.
In Islamabad, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif issued a statement condemning the hurtful comments.
In Delhi, the external affairs ministry chose to leave to the BJP the heavy lifting on the backlash in several West Asian countries.
The ministry, which had two days ago ticked off the US for expressing concern about attacks on religious freedom in India, remained silent to media queries for a response to the call for a boycott of Indian products sounded in several West Asian countries over the past two days.
The Arab reaction is of concern to New Delhi partly because of the large number of migrant Indian workers living in those countries. In at least three West Asian countries, Indians outnumber locals.
Also, the Gulf is a big market for Indian products, and a boycott can hurt. Strategically, a sizeable amount of India’s oil supplies comes from the region. Besides, India has for decades been invested in West Asia, and Modi has continued that policy.
The controversy drew considerable international coverage as the boycott calls spread across the region through social media influencers and prominent voices in the Gulf spoke out against the derogatory reference to the Prophet.
The Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman, Ahmed bin Hamad al-Khalili, described it as a “war against every Muslim in the east and west of the earth”.
A hashtag on the issue with a reference to Modi became a top trend on Twitter.
According to reports from the Gulf, supermarkets in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain removed Indian products. Videos floating around social media showed shop sections selling Indian brands being covered up and plastered with slogans about boycotting India.
⚫ The Bharatiya Janata Party respects all religions
⚫ The BJP strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion
⚫ The BJP is strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion
⚫ India’s Constitution gives right to every citizen to practise any religion of his/her choice and to honour and respect every religion