Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday urged U.N. General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid to take cognizance of derogatory remarks about Islam’s Prophet by senior officials of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as an indicator of rising Islamophobia in the country.
According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, the foreign minister conveyed this to Shahid during a phone call. It said that Bhutto-Zardari had stressed that “willful and deliberate provocation had deeply hurt the sentiments of billions of Muslims around the world,” adding that the “muted response” of the Indian leadership on the incident could be taken as complicity, and could lead to further incitement to violence, communal discord and hate incidents.
“Noting the U.N.’s positions on hate speech and Islamophobia, the foreign minister expected that the forum of the United Nations would be utilized for constructive debate among member states, also with a view to redressing this issue that has caused such pain and resentment among Muslims,” read the statement.
It said the foreign dignitary had “underscored the important role of the General Assembly and the need for the membership to work together on these issues,” adding that both the foreign minister and the U.N. General Assembly president had agreed to remain engaged.
Last week, a spokeswoman for the BJP made derogatory remarks about Islam’s Prophet during a televised debate, provoking controversy that has since gone global. As reports of the BJP spokeswoman’s comments spread on social media, several Muslim-majority states conveyed their displeasure to India and demanded an apology. The BJP has, in a rare move, issued a statement maintaining that it “respects all religions” and “strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion.” It has also suspended Nupur Sharma from her party position.