India is facing major diplomatic outrage from Muslim-majority countries after top officials in the governing Hindu nationalist party made derogatory references to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, drawing accusations of blasphemy across some Arab nations that have left New Delhi struggling to contain the damaging fallout.
At least seven Arab nations including UAE, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar have lodged official protests against India, and Pakistan and Afghanistan also reacted strongly Monday to the comments made by two prominent spokespeople from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party. Anger has poured out on social media, and calls for a boycott of Indian goods have surfaced in some Arab nations. At home, it has led to protests against Modi's party in some parts of the country.
Kuwait's deputy foreign minister for Asia handed over a note of protest to the Indian envoy over the issue. He also welcomed the announcement about suspension of BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma whose comments about the Prophet made recently on national television has sparked an uproar in the country and abroad, especially in Arab nations like Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, reports Hindustan Times.
India shares close ties with all these nations. Earlier in the day, Qatar's foreign ministry summoned Indian ambassador Deepak Mittal and handed him an official note, expressing disappointment and total rejection of the BJP leader's comments against the Prophet. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu is currently on an official visit to Qatar.
Later, Iranian news agency Mehr news agency said the Indian ambassador to Tehran was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs "by the Director General of South Asia on Sunday evening to receive the strong protest of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
''The Indian ambassador to Iran expressed regret and called any insult to the Prophet of Islam unacceptable,'' it said.
Pakistan prime minister Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter to slam India. "I condemn in strongest possible words hurtful comments of India's BJP leader about our beloved Prophet (PBUH). Have said it repeatedly India under Modi is trampling religious freedoms and persecuting Muslims. World should take note & severely reprimand India," he wrote.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, also condemned the remarks, saying they came in a "context of intensifying hatred and abuse towards Islam in India and systematic practices against Muslims".
A senior official of Oman's foreign ministry on Monday met Indian ambassador Amit Narang to raise an objection to the controversial remarks made by former BJP spokespersons on Prophet Mohammed, saying such statements do not serve relations of peaceful coexistence.
The controversial remarks follow increasing violence targeting India's Muslim minority carried out by Hindu nationalists who have been emboldened by Modi's regular silence about such attacks since he was first elected in 2014.
India has rejected comments by the grouping of Muslim nations as "unwarranted" and "narrow-minded".
Indian foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "The government of India accords the highest respect to all religions."
The BJP suspended Sharma and expelled the party's Delhi media cell head, Naveen Kumar Jindal, over their controversial remarks against the Prophet.
Ambassador conveyed that the tweets do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India. These are the views of fringe elements.
In line with our civilisational heritage and strong cultural traditions of unity in diversity, Government of India accords the highest respect to all religions.
Earlier in the day, the BJP distanced itself from the controversy and said that the party "respects all religions". In a statement signed by the party's national general secretary Arun Singh, the saffron camp said tit is "strictly" against any ideology that "insults or demeans any sect or religion".
"The BJP does not promote such persons or philosophy…it (the BJP) strongly denounces the insult of any religious personalities of any religion," the statement added.