LONDON (Dispatches) -
Thousands of Muslims have rallied across the South Asia nations of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan over derogatory remarks on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by two officials from India’s ruling party that has triggered a diplomatic backlash against New Delhi.
Protests were reported from various Indian cities, including capital New Delhi, on Friday as Muslims marched after the afternoon congregation prayers, raising slogans against the government and calling for the arrest of the members belonging to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Anger has been growing in India and Muslim-majority nations across the world since last week, when two BJP officials – spokeswoman Nupur Sharma and Delhi media cell head Naveen Kumar Jindal – made comments seen as insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The BJP suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal, saying it denounces insults of religious figures. The right-wing party also asked its spokespersons to be “extremely cautious” on religious matters in primetime “debates” on Indian news channels.
But India’s Muslims, who are facing a sharp rise in Islamophobia and attacks on them since Modi came to power in 2014, say those actions are not enough.
Several parts of Indian-administered Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority region, also observed a spontaneous shutdown to protest the derogatory remarks by the two BJP officials leaders against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
In Bangladesh – home to the world’s fourth largest Muslim population - thousands of people on Friday taken to the streets in Bangladesh’s capital to protest offensive comments by two Indian figures against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), urging Muslim-majority nations to cut off diplomatic ties with India and boycott its products.
The protesters marched after Friday prayers through streets near the main Baitul Mukarram Mosque in downtown Dhaka in protest against the offensive comments.
They also criticized the country’s government for not publicly criticizing the comments made by two officials in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
This silence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been criticized by the opposition parties and the people.
Anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh over the treatment of India’s Muslim minority has grown since Modi came to power in 2014.
On Thursday, thousands of people also rallied in Pakistan and briefly scuffled with police in Pakistan’s capital, urging Muslim countries to cut diplomatic ties with New Delhi over the remarks by two BJP officials that were derogatory to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH SA).
The scuffles between demonstrators from the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan party and police erupted when the protesters tried to march toward the Indian embassy in Islamabad but were stopped by police.
In Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, dozens of people took to the streets, demanding the government shut down the high commission of India and a boycott of Indian products.
“The government must shut down the Indian high commission in Pakistan and boycott India economically,” protester Shabana Ummul Hasnain said.
Demonstrators also burned India’s national flags and pictures of Modi and Sharma.