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India’s BJP urges staff to exercise caution after Islamic nations protest

More than 30 members and some federal ministers of the Hindu Nationalist Party, who are allowed to take part in televised debates, have asked to be “extremely careful” when discussing religion, according to two BJP leaders.

People shout slogans during a protest demanding the arrest of suspended BJP member Nupur Sharma for his blasphemous comments on Prophet Mohammad, in Kolkata, India. (Reuters)

Leaders of India’s ruling Hindu Nationalist Party have urged officials to be ‘extremely careful’ when discussing religion on public platforms after derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad and his wife Ayesha sparked protests anger from Islamic countries.

Festival of the two Bharatiya Janata [BJP] The leaders said on Tuesday that the verbal instructions were given to more than 30 senior officials and some federal ministers authorized to participate in the debates organized by Indian news channels often broadcast live to millions of viewers.

“We don’t want party officials to speak in a way that hurts the religious feelings of a community… They have to make sure that party doctrine is shared in a sophisticated way,” said a senior BJP official and federal minister in New Delhi.

READ MORE: India faces outcry after ruling BJP officials insult Prophet Muhammad

Muslims under pressure

India’s Muslim minority has felt more pressure on everything from freedom of worship to the hijab headscarf under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.

Since he came to power in 2014, Hindu mobs have lynched dozens of people – mostly Muslims and Hindu Dalits – on suspicion of illegally transporting cows or consuming beef.

Far-right Hindu groups have targeted Muslims because of “love jihad”, the conspiracy theory that Muslims lure Hindu women with the aim of converting and ultimately dominating the country.

Muslims have also been accused of spreading Covid-19. In recent years, Hindu mobs have targeted Muslims praying on Fridays in northern India.

The BJP recently banned the wearing of hijab in classrooms in the state of Karnataka. Extremist Hindu groups later demanded such restrictions in more Indian states. Muslim mutton and fruit vendors have also become targets of far-right Hindu groups.

During a Hindu festival earlier in April, Hindu mobs threw stones at mosques in several areas while DJs played loud music outside mosques as worshipers prayed.

Hindu monks known for their inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric have called for a Rohingya-style ethnic cleansing of Indian Muslims.

With around 110 million mostly Hindu members, the BJP is the world’s largest political party, while Muslims make up around 13%, or about 200 million, of India’s 1.35 billion people.

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Widespread anger

Last week, the BJP suspended its spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled another civil servant Naveen Jindal after Islamic nations demanded an apology from the Indian government and summoned diplomats to protest against anti-Islamic remarks made during a televised debate.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are among the countries that have made their complaints public. Bahrain, Malaysia, the Maldives and Turkey also expressed outrage at the insulting comments.

Oman’s Grand Mufti has described Modi’s party’s “obscene rudeness” towards Islam as a form of “war”. Riyadh said the comments were insulting and called for “respect for beliefs and religions”. And Egypt’s Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni world’s leading religious educational institution, called the remarks “real terrorism (which) can plunge the whole world into serious crises and deadly wars.”

The influential Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has 57 members, said in a statement that the insults came against the backdrop of an increasingly intense atmosphere of hatred towards Islam in India and systematic harassment of Muslims.

India, however, dismissed the OIC comments as “unwarranted” and “narrow-minded”.

Although Modi’s party has denied any rise in communal tensions during his rule, the BJP regime has encouraged extremist Hindu groups in recent years to champion causes they say uphold their faith, stoking a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. .

India’s embassies in Qatar and Kuwait issued a statement saying that views expressed on the Prophet Muhammad and Islam were not those of the Indian government and were expressed by “fringe elements”.

US report on anti-minority policies

The US State Department, in an annual report on international religious freedom released in June, said attacks on members of minority communities, including murder, assault and intimidation, have taken place in India throughout of 2021.

India’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the offensive tweets and comments in no way reflect the views of the government.

“We are not prohibited from talking about sensitive religious issues, but we must never insult the fundamental tenets of any religion,” BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal said.

In recent years, Modi has improved economic ties with energy-rich Islamic countries, India’s main source of fuel imports, but relations have been strained by anti-Islamic statements by the two BJP members. said foreign policy experts.

Small-scale protests erupted in parts of India as Muslim groups demanded the arrest of suspended BJP officials.

READ MORE: US says some Indian officials ‘support’ religious attacks

Source: Reuters