Bilawal, OIC chief discuss persecution of Muslims in India

FM urges OIC, member states to step up efforts for protecting life, dignity, property, religious freedoms of Indian Muslims

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday had a telephone conversation with Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha, in which the two leaders talked about a series of Islamophobic actions by the ruling dispensation in India, particularly the derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made by two senior officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Bilawal, who is also the chair of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, observed that the derogatory remarks made by the high-ranking BJP officials had deeply hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the globe. He noted that the BJP’s attempted clarification, and the so-called ‘disciplinary’ action against the responsible individuals, could not assuage the pain and anguish they had caused to the Muslim world. He strongly condemned the highhanded treatment by the Indian authorities of the peaceful protests after Friday prayers over the derogatory remarks, which was the latest manifestation of the Indian government’s on-going persecution of Muslims.

The foreign minister 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 organisation to take immediate cognisance of the aggravating situation of Islamophobia in India.

The OIC secretary-general also expressed deep concern over the insulting remarks, as well as the unending plight of Indian Muslims. He said the OIC was sensitive to the growing trend of Islamophobia and the need to take collective action to combat it. Both sides recalled the resolutions and pronouncements of the United Nations and the OIC on Islamophobia and decided to remain in contact to explore avenues of combating Islamophobia in India and mitigating the sufferings of Indian Muslims. It may be mentioned here that earlier in the day, Indian police cracked down on protests that erupted across the country over the profane remarks by BJP members.

Clashes over the remarks simmered across the country, as some in the minority Muslim community see them as the latest instance of pressure and humiliation under BJP rule on issues ranging from freedom of worship to the wearing of hijab head scarves. Two teenagers were killed when police opened fire on protesters in the eastern city of Ranchi last week. Sporadic riots in northern Uttar Pradesh state led to the arrests of over 300 people.

In the eastern state of West Bengal, authorities enforced an emergency law prohibiting public gatherings in the industrial district of Howrah until June 16. At least 70 people were arrested on charges of rioting and disturbing public order, with Internet services suspended for over 48 hours after the latest communal violence.