India calls remarks of Islamic nations' group 'narrow-minded'
New Delhi: India faced more diplomatic heat on Monday with the strong reaction of Islamic countries to the controversial comments by two BJP functionaries against Prophet Mohammad even as it slammed the 57-nation OIC for its "motivated" and "mischievous" comments on the matter.
A day after Kuwait, Qatar and Iran summoned Indian ambassadors over the remarks by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, several Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Indonesia, Bahrain, Maldives and Oman also denounced the comments while some of them welcomed BJP's punitive action against the duo.
Even as it continued to assuage outrage in the Islamic world, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) categorically rejected criticism of India by the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif over the issue.
Reacting strongly to remarks by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India accords "highest respect" to all religions and that the statement by the 57-member grouping exposed its "divisive agenda" which is being pursued at the behest of "vested interests."
"The Government of India categorically rejects the OIC Secretariat's unwarranted and narrow-minded comments. The Government of India accords the highest respect to all religions," Bagchi said.
The OIC also urged the UN to take necessary measures to ensure that the rights of Muslims are protected in India.
Meanwhile, the Opposition on Monday pounded the Narendra Modi government after the fall-out over controversial remarks made by its two spokespersons, saying the ruling BJP has been defaming India at the international level and it is unacceptable that the country has to apologise for its mistakes.
Congress demanded that the two BJP functionaries Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal be arrested for their offensive comments even as it joined other parties in describing the action taken against the leaders as something that was done to pacify the international community.
Top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "divided internally, India becomes weak externally. BJP's shameful bigotry has not only isolated us but also damaged India's standing globally."
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said it was unacceptable that the nation has to apologise for the remarks made by BJP leaders, whom the ruling party described as "fringe elements". Congress Rajya Sabha Chief Whip Jairam Ramesh said: "Our dapper External Affairs minister got his spokesman to dismiss a US Government report on religious minorities in India as 'vote-bank politics' in international relations. US allies in the Gulf are giving a reply."
AAP's Sanjay Singh said India is "insulted and disgraced" at an international level because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP's "hate-riddled politics", which brings "shame and mockery" to the country.
On the other hand, Bagchi emphasised that strong action has already been taken against the two individuals by relevant bodies.
"It is regrettable that the OIC Secretariat has yet again chosen to make motivated, misleading and mischievous comments. This only exposes its divisive agenda being pursued at the behest of vested interests," he said.
"We would urge the OIC Secretariat to stop pursuing its communal approach and show due respect to all faiths and religions," he said.
Referring to criticism by Sharif and the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, Bagchi said the "absurdity of a serial violator of minority rights commenting on the treatment of minorities in another nation is not lost on anyone."
"The world has been witness to the systemic persecution of minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Ahmadiyyas by Pakistan," he said. Bagchi said the government "accords the highest respect to all religions. This is quite unlike Pakistan where fanatics are eulogized and monuments built in their honour."
In a tweet on Sunday, Sharif condemned the controversial comments and alleged that India is "trampling religious freedoms and persecuting Muslims." The Pakistan foreign ministry also criticised New Delhi over the remarks.
Also on Monday, Pakistan said it has summoned the Indian charg d'affaires to convey its categorical rejection and that the remarks are totally unacceptable and have not only deeply hurt the sentiments of the people of Pakistan but of Muslims across the world.
The comments by Sharma and Jindal triggered widespread anger in the Arab world as Qatar, Kuwait and Iran on Sunday summoned the Indian ambassadors. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Afghanistan also joined these nations on Monday to condemn the controversial remarks, stressing the importance of respecting all religious beliefs.
An official of the Omani Foreign ministry held a meeting with Indian Ambassador Amit Narang and raised the issue.
The Indonesian Foreign ministry in a tweet said: "Indonesia strongly condemns unacceptable derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad PBUH by two Indian politicians. This message has been conveyed to the Indian Ambassador in Jakarta." The Maldives also condemned the comments by Sharma and Jindal.
In a statement, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Affairs ministry expressed its condemnation and denunciation of the statements made by the BJP spokesperson, saying it insulted Prophet Mohammed.
The ministry reiterated its "permanent rejection of prejudice against the symbols of the Islamic religion."
Bahrain's Foreign Affairs ministry welcomed the BJP action, stressing "the need to denounce any reprehensible insults against the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, as a provocation to Muslims' feelings and incitement to religious hatred."
The ministry in a statement stressed "the importance of respecting all religious beliefs, symbols, and personalities, and the concerted efforts of the international community to spread the values of moderation, tolerance, and dialogue between religions and civilisations, and to confront extremist ideas that feed sedition and religious, sectarian, or racial hatred."
The interim Afghan government, led by the Taliban, strongly condemned the derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad, Pajhwok News, Afghanistan's largest independent news agency, said. A Kuwaiti supermarket pulled Indian products from its shelves even as Iran summoned the Indian ambassador as the row grew on Monday over remarks about the Prophet. Workers at the Al-Ardiya Co-Operative Society store piled Indian tea and other products into trolleys in a protest against comments denounced as "Islamophobic".