India's Hindu ruling party leaders tell officials to be cautious on religion

India's Hindu ruling party leaders tell officials to be cautious on religion

After derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammad, the leaders of India's Hindu nationalist ruling party on Tuesday told officials to be cautious when talking about religion on public platforms.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, India's minority Muslims feel more pressure on everything from freedom of worship to hijab head scarves. There were a number of Hindu-Muslim clashes during religious processions recently, following deadly riots in 2019 -- 20.

We don't want party officials to speak in a way that hurts the religious sentiments of any community. A senior BJP leader and federal minister in New Delhi said they must make sure the party's doctrine is shared in a sophisticated manner.

The BJP has about 110 million members, mainly Hindus, which is the world's largest political party, while Muslims comprise about 13% of India's 1.35 billion population. Last week, the BJP suspended the spokeswoman and expelled another official after Islamic nations demanded apologies from the Indian government and summoned diplomats to protest against anti-Islamic remarks made during a TV debate.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran were among the nations that made their complaints public. The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation OIC said in a statement that the insults came in the context of an increasingly intense atmosphere of hatred toward Islam in India and systematic harassment of Muslims.

BJP rule has emboldened Hindu groups in recent years to take up causes that defend their faith, stoking a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, even though Modi has denied any rise in communal tensions during his reign.

In a report on international religious freedom released in June, the U.S. State Department said that attacks on members of minority communities, including killings, assaults and intimidation, took place in India throughout 2021.

India's foreign ministry said on Monday that the offensive tweets and comments did not reflect the government's views.

Senior BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal said that we were not barred from speaking on sensitive religious issues, but we must never insult the basic tenets of any religion.

Foreign policy experts said that Modi has improved economic ties with energy-rich Islamic nations, the main source of India's fuel imports, but relations have come under stress due to the anti-Islamic utterances of the two BJP members.

In parts of India, small-scale protests erupted as Muslim groups demanded the arrest of the suspended BJP spokeswoman.

Read more: Maharashtra Police summoned Nupur Sharma for derogatory remarks against Prophet.