LUCKNOW, India (Dispatches) - India tightened public security on Wednesday after the circulation of a letter warning of avenge derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammad (SA) by an official of the ruling Hindu nationalist party.
The security threat surfaced days after a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made comments about Prophet Mohammad during a TV debate.
BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma’s remarks sparked uproar among Muslims in India and triggered diplomatic protests from Persian Gulf countries demanding an apology from the Indian government.
Sharma has been suspended from the party while another spokesman, Naveen Kumar Jindal, was expelled over comments he made about Islam on social media.
Police in northern India arrested a BJP youth leader for posting anti-Muslim comments on social media, along with 50 other people who took part in sporadic unrest among minority Muslims in parts of India last week over Sharma’s remarks.
India’s foreign ministry said on Monday the offensive tweets and comments did not in any way reflect the government’s views.
Instructions have been issued to several senior members of the BJP to be “extremely cautious” when talking about religion on public platforms.
But domestic outrage gained fresh momentum after leaders from the Middle East including Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who demanded apologies from New Delhi and summoned diplomats to protest against the remarks in the TV debate.
The influential 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said in a statement that the insults came in the context of an increasingly intense atmosphere of hatred toward Islam in India and systematic harassment of Muslims.
India’s minority Muslims have felt more pressure on everything from freedom of worship to hijab head scarves under BJP rule. There were Hindu-Muslim clashes during religious processions recently, following deadly riots in 2019-20.
The new controversy has become a diplomatic challenge for Modi who in recent years has cemented strong relations with Persian Gulf nations.