US condemns ‘offensive comments’ made by Indian ruling party officials on Prophet Muhammad

New Delhi has been facing diplomatic backlash from Arab countries over the incendiary remarks

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 17 June 2022 12:04 BST
Al-Qaeda threatens attacks in India over ruling party's former spokesperson's insult to Prophet

The US has joined several Islamic countries in condemning derogatory remarks made against the Prophet Muhammad by two members of India’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Well, this is something that we’ve condemned. We condemn the offensive comments made by two BJP officials and we were glad to see that the party publicly condemns those comments,” state department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Thousands of Muslims across the country have taken to the streets to protest the incendiary remarks made about the Prophet by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and media chief Naveen Jindal. Both have since been removed from their roles.

Ms Sharma had made the comments in an appearance on right-wing Indian television news channel Times Now on 26 May and Mr Jindal had, in a now deleted tweet, made derogatory comments against Islam and the Prophet.

The remarks sparked a diplomatic row between India and Muslim-majority key trade partner countries across Asia, forcing prime minister Narendra Modi’s party to take action against the two.

While Ms Sharma was suspended from the party, Mr Jindal has been expelled after the mounting diplomatic backlash.

Protests in India turned violent in several states, with clashes erupting between Hindus and Muslims and protesters and the police.

Following the unrest, houses of Muslim activists in the northern Uttar Pradesh state were demolished by the state’s right-wing chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s administration.

Two of the razed houses belonged to people accused of throwing stones following Friday prayers, while the third was the family house of activist Afreen Fatima.

“We regularly engage with the Indian government at senior levels on human rights concerns including freedom of religion or belief and we encourage India to promote respect for human rights,” Mr Price said in his statement.

A bulldozer demolishes the house of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh
A bulldozer demolishes the house of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh (Reuters)

The US has on multiple occasions raised concerns about the rise of human rights violations and the erosion of religious freedom in India. The state department’s annual report on international religious freedom stated that religious minorities in India faced intimidation throughout 2021.

“Attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred throughout the year. These included incidents of ‘cow vigilantism’ against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or trade in beef,” the report said.

Earlier in April, secretary of state Antony Blinken said Washington was monitoring a spike in “human rights abuses” in India by the Modi administration, police and prison officials.

Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar shot back saying New Delhi also has concerns about human rights in the US.

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