Indonesia, Malaysia summon India envoys over 'derogatory' Prophet remarks

People in India demand the arrest of BJP member Nupur Sharma after her comments about Islam. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia and Malaysia have both summoned India’s envoys in their countries over “derogatory” remarks made about Prophet Mohammed by two officials with India's ruling party, their foreign ministries said on Tuesday (June 7).

It comes as anger spreads across the Arab and Muslim world, with various Middle Eastern nations summoning New Delhi's envoy and a Kuwaiti supermarket removing Indian products.

Remarks by a spokesman for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 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 Prophet that was later deleted.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah confirmed to AFP that India's ambassador in Jakarta, Mr Manoj Kumar Bharti, was summoned on Monday for a meeting in which the government lodged a complaint about the anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Monday, the ministry said Indonesia "strongly condemns unacceptable derogatory remarks" made by "two Indian politicians" against the Prophet Muhammad.

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

Malaysia also “unreservedly condemns the derogatory remarks” by the Indian politicians, its foreign ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday, adding that it had conveyed its “total repudiation” to India’s envoy.

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

Mr Modi’s party, which in the past decade has established dominance in India by championing Hindu identity, has frequently been accused of discriminatory policies towards the country’s Muslim minority.

On Sunday, it suspended Ms Sharma for expressing “views contrary to the party’s position” and said it “respects all religions”.

Ms Sharma said on Twitter that her comments had been in response to "insults" made against the Hindu god Shiva.

But the remarks, which stoked protests among Muslims in India, sparked another backlash from Indonesia's Muslim community.

Ms Sharma's words were "irresponsible, insensitive, caused inconvenience and hurt the feelings of Muslims worldwide", Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) senior executive Sudarnoto Abdul Hakim said in a statement on Monday.

He said the remarks also contradicted the United Nations resolution to combat Islamophobia, which was adopted in March.

The row follows anger across the Muslim world in 2020 after French President Emmanuel Macron defended the right of a satirical magazine to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in October 2020 by a Chechen refugee after showing the cartoons to his class in a lesson on free speech. Images of the Prophet are strictly forbidden in Islam.

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