India’s ruling party urges officials to tread carefully on religious issues after Islamic nations protest

MUMBAI, June 7 (Reuters) – Leaders of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party on Tuesday urged officials to be “extremely careful” when discussing religion on public platforms after derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad sparked protests from Islamic countries.

India’s Muslim minority has felt more pressure on everything from religious freedom to the hijab headscarf under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party. There have been recent Hindu-Muslim clashes in religious processions, following deadly riots in 2019-20.

Two BJP leaders said the verbal instructions were given to more than 30 senior officials and some federal ministers authorized to participate in debates organized by Indian news channels that are often broadcast live to millions of viewers.

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“We don’t want party officials to speak in a way that hurts the religious feelings of a community… They have to make sure that party doctrine is shared in a sophisticated way,” a senior party official said. BJP and Federal Minister in New Delhi.

With around 110 million mostly Hindu members, the BJP is the world’s largest political party, while Muslims make up around 13% of India’s 1.35 billion people.

Last week, the BJP suspended the spokeswoman and expelled another official after Islamic nations demanded an apology from the Indian government and summoned diplomats to protest against anti-Islamic remarks made during a televised debate. Read more

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are among the countries that have made their complaints public.

The influential Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has 57 members, said in a statement that the insults came against the backdrop of an increasingly intense atmosphere of hatred towards Islam in India and systematic harassment of Muslims.

Although Modi’s party has denied any rise in communal tensions during his rule, the BJP regime has encouraged extremist Hindu groups in recent years to champion causes they believe uphold their faith, stoking a rise in anti-government sentiment. Muslim.

The US State Department, in an annual report on international religious freedom released in June, said attacks on members of minority communities, including murder, assault and intimidation, have taken place in India throughout of 2021.

India’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the offensive tweets and comments in no way reflect the views of the government.

“We are not prohibited from talking about sensitive religious issues, but we must never insult the fundamental tenets of any religion,” BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal said.

In recent years, Modi has improved economic ties with energy-rich Islamic countries, India’s main source of fuel imports, but relations have been strained by anti-Islamic statements by the two BJP members. said foreign policy experts.

Small-scale protests erupted in parts of India as Muslim groups demanded the arrest of the suspended BJP spokeswoman.

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Editing by Mark Heinrich

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