As the India-born Islamophobic remark tainted social media, regional governments reacted to such “offensive” move by summoning India’s envoys and calling for a public state apology from the government of India.
Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al Khater slammed “insulting” remarks made about the Prophet Muhammad by a top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) official.
The Qatari official said “The Islamophobic discourse has reached dangerous levels in a country long known for its diversity & coexistence.
“Unless officially & systemically confronted, the systemic hate speech targeting Islam in India will be considered a deliberate insult against the 2 billion Muslims,” she added.
Navin Kumar Jindal, the head of the media department from the ruling BJP in Delhi and a prominent politician close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, took his Islamophobic remarks to Twitter where he criticised Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to his wife Aisha.
This move prompted a surge of Muslim reaction on both a societal and a governmental level, with many arguing his views are an extension of Modi’s aggressive Islamophobic policies.
On social media, the frustration with such Islamophobic move was coined under the hashtag #الا ـ رسول ـ الله ـ يا ـ مودي (#AnyoneButTheProphetOModi), securing the number one trend position on Twitter in Qatar and regional Arab countries.
Qatar’s foreign ministry (MOFA) summoned India’s ambassador 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 Muhammad.
“The State of Qatar affirmed that these insulting remakes would lead to incitement of religious hatred, and offend more than two billion Muslims around the world, and indicate the clear ignorance of the pivotal role that Islam has played in the development of civilisations around the world, including in India,” said MOFA.
Doha also 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.”
In response to Doha News regarding the statement issued by MOFA, the Spokesperson of the Embassy of India in Qatar said: “[The] ambassador had a meeting in the Foreign Office in which concerns were raised with regard to some offensive tweets by individuals in India denigrating the religious personality. 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.”
“We should work together against such mischievous elements who aim to undercut the strength of our bilateral ties,” the Indian embassy’s spokesperson continued.
The BJP party also issued a statement condemning the derogatory remarks made by Jindal and confirmed the official had been dismissed from his post.
Speaking to Doha News, Dr Farhan Chak, Associate Professor of Political Science at Qatar University said Qatar’s prompt statement highlighted strong leadership.
By coming, “forward and it 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.
On Sunday, Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned India’s envoy to Kuwait City, in an event where the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Asian Affairs handed him an official protest note expressing Kuwait’s categorical rejection and condemnation of such offensive commentary.
Dubbing the remarks as intolerance towards Islam, the ministry said it “demands a public apology for those hostile statements, the continuation of which without deterrence or punishment will constitute to increasing aspects of extremism and hatred and undermining elements of moderation.”
Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Indian ambassador to Tehran on Sunday. During the meeting, the deputy foreign minister informed the Indian envoy of the “deep sorrow” of both the Iranian government and the Iranian nation about the “regretful” incident.
Seeking to defuse a diplomatic row, the Indian envoy expressed regret and noted that any insult against the Prophet of Islam is unacceptable.
The Indian diplomat also added that the offender had no government position, and instead was a mere party member. He also specified that after the move he was fired from that party.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter on Sunday to condemn the remarks. He pointed to an India run by Modi and its onslaught of religious persecutions and Muslim intolerance.
“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 & persecuting Muslims. World should take note & severely reprimand India. Our love for the Our love for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is supreme. All Muslims can sacrifice their life for the Love & Respect of their Holy Prophet (PBUH).”
The year 2002 is considered one of India’s most “gruesome communal massacres” since its independence.
At that time, hate violence swept over 20 out of the 25 districts of Gujarat for several weeks, persisting in some places for months, with some arguing that “state officials chose to do little to stem or control the violence.”
Nearly 2,000 were slaughtered, hundreds of women raped and thousands of homes and mosques destroyed across Gujarat, one of India’s wealthiest states.
“The killings were exceptional not just for their numbers but for their ferocious brutality and for their ruthless targeting of women and children,” Indian Author, Harsh Mander wrote.
“Mass rape, sexual humiliation of women in public, and the battering and burning alive of girls, boys, women and men, marked those grim and overcast days. Tens of thousands of homes and small business establishments – petty shops, wooden carts, auto-rickshaws, taxi jeeps, eateries and garages – were set aflame, and cattle and lifetime savings looted,” Mander added.
“All of this was only for one crime: the god they worshipped.”
The violent pogrom unfolded under Narendra Modi’s “watch, as chief minister.”
“Attempts to indict chief minister Narendra Modi for abetting the massacre by directing police officers to not act, and also inciting communal violence by spreading inflammatory statements and hate speech against Muslims, have been rejected by investigators and courts on grounds that there is no ‘prosecutable evidence‘ against Modi,” Dr Mander said.
Several Indian cities and states have seen widespread systematic persecution of the Muslim minority in recent months, accompanied by violence from extremist Hindu militias.
For years, far-right Hindus have incited anti-muslim violence online, but it has only recently materialised in the streets.
Muslims account for roughly 13% of India’s population of 1.35 billion people.
The Indian population in Qatar exceeds 750,000, making up about 25% of Qatar’s overall population of 2,979,915.