Aside from India, protests sparked over outrage of derogatory Islamophobic remarks were also reported in other South Asian countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Two people were killed on Saturday as Indian police cracked down on protestors sparked over derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad by two members of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The deaths of two teenagers – Mudasir who was 14 and Sahil Ansari aged 19 – was confirmed by their families, who accused police of using “disproportionate force” against protesters in Ranchi, capital of eastern Jharkhand state, Al Jazeera reported.
The protests occurred following Friday prayers and saw demonstrators demand the arrest of the two BJP officials.
Similar scenes were witnessed in several other cities and states, including the northern Uttar Pradesh state, West Bengal, Maharashtra and the capital New Delhi.
Many were left injured after protests took a violent turn in some areas were counter protests organised by Hindus also erupted.
Footage that circulated online also appeared to show the demolition of Muslim homes, according to social media users in India.
‘Insults’ against Islam
While participating in a television debate earlier this month, BJP national Spokesperson Nupur Sharma insulted the Prophet and his wife Aisha. Shortly after, Sharma’s colleague, BJP’s Delhi Media Operation Chief Naveen Kumar Jindal wrote a now-deleted tweet further insulting the prophet of Islam, in what seemed to be a defence of his colleague following public outrage over her statements.
The BJP suspended its spokeswoman Sharma and expelled another leader after a diplomatic backlash from Muslim countries, with Qatar at the forefront demanding a public apology.
Aside from igniting protests across India and other neighbouring South Asian countries, several Muslim countries embarked on a summoning spree of ambassadors indicative of their discontent.
Since then, the Indian government has imposed curfew-like restrictions, including mobile internet services for security measures.
Mudasir’s uncle, Shahid Ayyubi, has demanded accountability for those responsible for his nephew’s murder, describing the police’s handling of the situation as bad.
“There are thousands of ways to control civilian protests like water cannons, rubber bullets, aerial firing but they fire directly on the head and body,” he told Al Jazeera.
In Ranchi, videos that went viral on social media showed police opening fire on Muslims. Similarly, in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj, videos circulating online showed police beating protesters using sticks while arresting a number of them.
“The Ranchi incident has put the state to shame. The job of the police is to protect, not to shoot,” Irfan Ansari, a Muslim legislator from Congress which is part of the ruling coalition in the state, wrote in a tweet on Friday.
Qatar takes lead in diplomatic response
Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al Khater slammed the “insulting” remarks made about the Prophet Muhammad by the BJP officials.
The Qatari official said: “The Islamophobic discourse has reached dangerous levels in a country long known for its diversity and coexistence.”
“Unless officially and systemically confronted, the systemic hate speech targeting Islam in India will be considered a deliberate insult against the two billion Muslims,” she added.
Last week, Qatar’s foreign ministry also summoned India’s envoy to Doha, Deepak Mittal, to deliver a letter of condemnation. In a statement, authorities in the Gulf nation said they rejected comments made by the official against the prophet.
Doha reiterated it expects a “public apology and immediate condemnation of these remarks from the Government of India, pointing out 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.”
Speaking to Doha News, Dr Farhan Chak, Associate Professor of Political Science at Qatar University said Doha’s prompt statement highlighted its strong leadership role in the region.
By coming forward Qatar “says to the whole world that look we are part of the international community, we are part of the world as well, we have our values as well [which] may not coincide with other people’s values and we have every right to protect our values and we have every right to respond when those values are ridiculed, when those holy personalities are targeted,” Dr Chak said.
Khaled Beydoun, a law professor at Wayne State University, tweeted at the time: “The apathy of western nations to Islamophobia combined with the silence of Muslim-majority governments in relation to Hindtuva supremacy has given Narendra Modi and the BJP free reign to unleash nonstop violence on its 220 million Muslim citizens.”
“Qatar finally took a stand.”
“The BJP suspended party spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled media head Naveen Kumar Jindal for hateful comments toward the Prophet Muhammad. Why? Because Qatar – one of the wealthiest nations in the world – reprimanded them,” Beydoun wrote.
#WithQatarAgainstTheHindus as top trend
Meanwhile, the Arabic hashtag for “WithQatarAgainstHindus” topped trends on Twitter as tensions continued to rise.
Social media users took their frustration on social media to express their stance against India’s relentless persecution of Muslims as well as rising Islamophobia in the Asian country.
The trend saw pictures of Lusail City’s Al Jaber Twin Towers, which have made global headlines for plastering the statement “إلا رسول الله” meaning “anyone but the prophet” on the two skyscrapers.