The statements of the Prophet Muhammad raise a dispute between India and the Gulf countries | India

The Indian government has been embroiled in a diplomatic row with Gulf states after spokespersons for the ruling party were accused of making anti-Islamic and insulting comments to the Prophet Muhammad.

The ruling BJP suspended its national spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, and expelled its media chief in Delhi, Navin Kumar Jindal, after their comments spread to the Middle East, where they were met with a chorus of diplomatic outrage.

The governments of Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Afghanistan and Pakistan The comments were described as “offensive”.

In a televised debate 10 days ago on India’s right-wing news channel Times Now 1, Sharma made derogatory comments about Muslim worship and the Prophet Muhammad and mocked her Islamist opponent in the debate. After protesting the comments, Jindal posted a tweet about the Prophet – which he has since deleted – which also caused outrage.

Indian ambassador in QatarDeepak Mittal was summoned and an official reprimand was given to him, “expressing the disappointment of the State of Qatar and its total rejection and condemnation of the controversial statements made by an official in the ruling party in India against the Prophet Muhammad.”

Qatar demanded an apology from the Indian government, accusing it of fomenting a “vortex of violence and hatred”. Lolwa Al-Khater, Qatar’s assistant foreign minister, said India had reached “dangerous levels” of anti-Islamic rhetoric.

The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry also summoned its Indian ambassador, Sibi George, to express its “categorical rejection and condemnation of the insulting statements” made by BJP spokespersons.

The Grand Mufti of Oman, Ahmed bin Hamad Al-Khalili, fought in strongly worded words, denouncing the “obscene rudeness and insolence of the official spokesman for the ruling extremist party in India against the Messenger of Islam.”

Pakistan’s new prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, who recently sent conciliatory messages to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, said the comments were an example of how “India under Modi crushes religious freedoms and persecutes Muslims”.

As calls for a boycott of Indian goods began to gain momentum in the Gulf, an important trading and energy partner for India, the BJP government tried to dismiss the comments as “marginal elements” within the party and said it “in no way does it”. in a way that reflects the views of the Government of India.”

The BJP immediately turned away the spokespersons and said, “Strong action has already been taken against those who made these insulting statements.”

However, many observers noted that the two faced no action when their comments were first reported over a week ago by Muslims and civil rights activists in India. Instead, there have been calls from BJP supporters for the arrest of a journalist who called for anti-Islam comments on social media.

In India’s right-wing TV news channels, anti-Muslim rhetoric by BJP supporters is shown, but it is rarely countered with apologies or retractions.

The incident highlighted the growing tension between the domestic politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party – a Hindu nationalist party accused of systematic marginalization and oversight of the persecution of 200 million Muslims in the country – and India’s strategic foreign goals and its growing trade with the Muslim world. Nearly 40% of India’s gas needs come from Qatar and about 6.5 million Indians live in the Gulf region.

The diplomatic incident occurred during the visit of Indian Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu, to Qatar to deepen relations between the two countries.

The decision to expel Sharma and Jindal was met with anger from some BJP supporters, who called the decision “cowardly”.

A video has been circulating online showing Hindutva militant group leader Yati Narsinghan doubling down on his comments on the Prophet Muhammad and calling all Muslims “criminals”.

A US State Department report issued last week documented killings, attacks and intimidation of religious minorities in India. The Indian government was deeply concerned, calling the report “uninformed” and “biased”.