Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday called Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha and discussed the rise of Islamophobia in India, with particular reference to the derogatory remarks against Islam’s Prophet by two senior officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) earlier this month.
In a statement, the Foreign Office said that Bhutto-Zardari had observed that the “derogatory remarks made by the high-ranking BJP officials had deeply hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the globe.” It said he had noted that the BJP’s “attempted clarification,” and the party membership suspension of the two officials “could not assuage the pain and anguish they had caused to the Muslim world.”
Strongly condemning the high-handed response by Indian authorities to peaceful protests over the derogatory remarks, he described it as “the latest manifestation of the Indian government’s ongoing persecution of Muslims.”
The foreign minister, read the statement, urged the OIC and its member states to step up their efforts for protecting the life, dignity, property, culture, heritage and religious freedoms of Indian Muslims. “He further urged the organization to take immediate cognizance of the aggravating situation of Islamophobia in India,” it added.
According to the Foreign Office, the OIC secretary general expressed deep concern over the insulting remarks, as well as the unending plight of Indian Muslims. “[The] OIC was sensitive to the growing trend of Islamophobia and the need to take collective action to combat it,” it added.
“Both sides recalled the resolutions and pronouncements of the U.N. and OIC on Islamophobia, and decided to remain in contact to explore avenues of combatting Islamophobia in India, and mitigating the sufferings of Indian Muslims,” it stressed.
Earlier this month, two senior officials of India’s ruling BJP passed derogatory remarks against Islam’s Prophet, prompting condemnation and backlash from Muslims in India and abroad. Since the remarks became public, several Gulf nations have sought an explanation from Delhi, with reports of Indian products being removed from store shelves and calls for a reduction in ties without an adequate apology.
Prior to the phone call between Bhutto-Zardari and Taha, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced he had requested National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to hold a debate on, and subsequently adopt, a resolution to condemn the BJP leaders’ blasphemous remarks during the session set to commence on Monday. In a posting on Twitter, he a “clear message” needed to be conveyed.
“We want to send out a clear message to the entire world by passing a resolution that we are ready to render any sacrifice for the honor of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him),” he said, adding that the sacrilegious remarks had hurt the sentiments of 1.25 billion Muslims globally.