RIYADH/DOHA: Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and Muslim institutions on Sunday condemned the remarks against Prophet Muhammad by a top official in India’s ruling party, with some demanding con rete action to end such acts of Islamophobia.

The remarks by spokesperson for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party last week were blamed for clashes in an Indian state and prompted demands for her arrest, with anger spreading overseas to Muslim countries. Nupur Sharma made the inflammatory remarks during a TV debate about the Prophet Muhammad.

Riyadh described the spokeperson’s comments as “insulting” and called for “respect for beliefs and religions.”

In denouncing Sharma’s remarks, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “reaffirms its permanent rejection of prejudice against the symbols of the Islamic religion and refuses to prejudice all religious figures and symbols.”
The ministry also welcomed the action taken by the BJP to suspend the spokeswoman from work.

Sharma was suspended on Sunday as anger spread overseas to Muslim countries.

Apology demanded

Qatar demanded that India apologize for the “Islamophobic” comments, as India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu visited the wealthy Gulf state in a bid to bolster trade.

India’s ambassador in Doha, Deepak Mittal, was ordered to the foreign ministry on the second day of the high profile visit by Naidu and Indian business leaders.

The envoy was handed an official protest letter which said “Qatar is expecting a public apology and immediate condemnation of these remarks from the government of India,” according to a foreign ministry statement.

“Allowing such Islamophobic remarks to continue without punishment constitutes a grave danger to the protection of human rights” and “will create a cycle of violence and hate,” it added.

Kuwait had also summoned India’s ambassador amid widespread calls on social media for a boycott of Indian goods in the Gulf.

The Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said Sharma’s remarks came in a “context of intensifying hatred and abuse toward Islam in India and systematic practices against Muslims.”

The secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also issued a statement condemning Sharma’s remarks. Secretary General Nayef Falah M. Al Hajraf “affirmed his categorical rejection of prejudicing all the prophets and apostles as well as personalities and religious symbols, stressing the position that rejects provocation, targeting or underestimating beliefs and religions.”

In Cairo, Egypt, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif denounced the BJP official’s behavior as “a real terrorist action that helps to push the entire world to devastating crises and bloody wars.” It called on the world community “to firmly ward off such threats.”

Al-Azhar confirmed that the recent resort of some politicians to defame Islam to collect votes of extremists is a blatant call for extremism, spread of hatred and discord among followers of religions.

‘Contrary to party position’

In suspending the spokesperson, India’s ruling party said Sharma had expressed “views contrary to the party’s position.”

Modi’s party, which has frequently been accused of acting against the country’s Muslim minority, said it “respects all religions.”

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

“If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement,” she said.

New Delhi has made no immediate comment but its embassy in Doha released a statement saying that “strong action” had been taken against “fringe elements” who had made derogatory comments. The embassy gave no further details.