The storm that two disgraced BJP spokespersons have caused because of their reckless comments about the Prophet of Islam has now begun to wreak havoc on India. Last week anger erupted outside mosques after Friday prayers in cities across the country. This is a fire that could burn the building that Narendra Modi has so carefully built using the pillars of welfare and nationalism. In announcements promoting his government’s achievements, he says he has worked for the good of the nation as a “family member.” Didn’t he realize that there were almost no Muslims in this family and that his party spokespersons made it brutally clear?
If religion had not become part of our political discourse, none of this would have happened. But because of this, we have a situation in which it seems that BJP spokespersons have been encouraged to despise Islam. Wiser spokespersons would have known that to mock the prophet of Islam was to open the door to a discourse that can only end badly, because then why should they care about Hindus if the answer is for Muslims to start mocking- do you know about religious practices and Hindu gods? We may not have books that order punishments for the unbelievers, but we do have a caste system that kept a large portion of Hindus out of the temples because the priests decided they were “untouchable.”
What is essential, as Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal may have discovered, is that official spokespersons for political parties stay away from religious commentary. If this lesson has been learned from the shame and shame that his words have caused in India, then something good could have come out of this ugly incident. This seems unlikely, however, if you take into account that for months, BJP spokesmen have intentionally spread hatred against Muslims and Islam. To achieve this goal, they have had the help of private and friendly news channels and that vast theater of absurdities and abuses offered by social media.
They have mostly used it to argue that Indian Muslims are all traitors because they put religion above the nation. No opportunity has been lost to present this case. When COVID arrived in Delhi, the preachers of Islamic countries were blamed for taking him with them to a religious conference. Many spent months in prison. When the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) prompted Muslims to protest a discriminatory amendment, they were called traitors. When Article 370 was abruptly repealed and without consulting the Kashmiri people, those protesting in the Valley were also called traitors. The list goes on and on.
The campaign against Muslims and Islam by BJP officials has been most effective on Twitter and has a pattern. As someone who usually points out that gathering in a mob to lynch a middle-aged Muslim farmer shows despicable cowardice, I am usually bombarded with images of Hindus who have been killed by Muslims. The first tweet will usually accuse me of not speaking when the victims are Hindus and then will come a shower of tweets that attack me personally. The message I get is that if I keep saying that attacking a huge minority non-stop will end up hurting India more than the Muslim community, then I am a traitor. The harm he has done to India is now evident.
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The attack on the Prophet by spokespersons from the ruling party of India has angered the leaders of the Islamic countries with whom we do great business and from where Indian workers send half of our total remittances. These workers are among our poorest citizens. They already suffer discrimination and horrible working conditions, but they are forced to continue living their sad and lonely lives because it is not possible for them to earn so well in their home country with the work they do. After this episode, will they face more discrimination? Will some countries ban them from entering?
It is clear that the government of India was not prepared for the outrage that has come from almost all Islamic countries, or the consequences would have been handled more skillfully. The Vice President of India was in Qatar when the insult to the Prophet began to cause outrage in the Islamic world. A banquet was also canceled to pay tribute to him, apparently due to a Covid incident. Surely the poor man could have received some warning. Then came the description of the ruling party’s official spokesmen as “marginal elements”, which will become one of the dumbest answers in diplomatic history.
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The end has been abject apologies from India on behalf of the BJP, but will the BJP learn any lessons from embarrassing Bharat Mata in this way? Will he tell his spokesmen to avoid attacking Islam in the way they have done so far? Will they reject the hate campaign against Muslims that has now begun to create riots across the country? If these things happen, it is possible that a small amount of good will come out of this unpleasant episode. But Nupur Sharma states that after making his remarks about the prophet, the BJP’s senior leaders assured him that they would support him. This means that the campaign of hatred against Muslims will continue until it reaches a point where it will cause another international embarrassment for India. What it will do to the fabric of Indian society is another story.