Indonesia, Malaysia protest to India over anti-Islam remarks

Published June 8, 2022
A man installs the symbol of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on a tent during an election campaign rally by the party in Prayagraj. — Reuters
A man installs the symbol of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on a tent during an election campaign rally by the party in Prayagraj. — Reuters

Jakarta/Kuala Lumpur: Indonesia and Malaysia summoned India’s envoys on Tuesday to protest over derogatory remarks made about the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) by two members of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The move came as anger spread across the Muslim world, with various Middle Eastern nations summoning New Delhi’s envoys and a Kuwaiti supermarket removing Indian products.

Remarks by a spokeswoman for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who has since been suspended, sparked the furore.

Another official, the party’s media chief for Delhi, posted a tweet last week about the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) that was later deleted.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said India’s ambassador in Jakarta, Manoj Kumar Bharti, was summoned, with the government lodging a complaint about anti-Muslim rhetoric.

BJP members asked to exercise caution

In a statement posted on Twitter, the ministry said Indonesia -- the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country -- “strongly condemns unacceptable derogatory rely marks” made by two Indian politicians against the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

The tweet did not mention the officials by name, but was an apparent reference to BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma and the party’s Delhi media chief Naveen Jindal, who was expelled from the BJP, according to Indian media reports.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it “unreservedly condemns the derogatory remarks” by Indian politicians, adding that it had conveyed its “total repudiation” to the Indian ambassador.

“Malaysia calls upon India to work together in ending Islamophobia and cease any provocative acts in the interest of peace and stability,” it said.

BJP admonishes members

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has instructed its members to be “extremely cautious” when talking about religion on public platforms after derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) drew protests from Muslim nations.

Muslims across India have felt more pressure on everything from freedom of worship to hijab during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule. There were Hindu-Muslim clashes during processions recently, following deadly riots in 2019-20.

Two BJP leaders said the verbal instructions were given to over 30 senior officials and some federal ministers who are authorised to take part in debates hosted by Indian news channels.

“We don’t want party officials to speak in a way that hurts the religious sentiments of any community...They must ensure the party’s doctrine gets shared in a sophisticated manner,” said a senior BJP leader and federal minister in New Delhi.

With about 110 million members, mainly Hindus, the BJP is the world’s largest political party, while Muslims comprise around 13 per cent of India’s 1.35 billion population.

Last week the BJP suspended the spokeswoman and expelled another official after Muslim nations sought apologies from the Indian government and summoned diplomats to protest remarks made during a TV debate.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Iran were among the nations that made their complaints public.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2022

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