The insulting remarks of the now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a TV program draw wide condemnation from around the globe also leading to protests across India.
IQNA has reached out to Kaleem Kawaja, Executive Director of the Association of Muslim Indians of America, to further discuss recent developments.
Here are the text and videos of the interview:
IQNA: Experts say the ruling BJP government’s promotion of a right-wing Hindu-focused policy has emboldened the Hindu extremist to increase pressure on Muslims. What is your take on this?
Kawaja: The BJP have been an anti-Muslim government for a few years. They have been persecuting the Muslims and harassing them. In the last month of Ramadan – one month ago – they created a lot of problems for Muslims. They prevented Muslims from going to the mosque; they came in front of mosques and made loud noise and music and threw stones, making it very difficult for Muslims to pray in the holy month of Ramadan. It happened not in one but in several cities. Mostly their targets are Muslims who are in the lower-income group because they do not have the ability to defend themselves and do not have contact with government officials. That is what they have been doing for some time. Some of their activists who are supported by the government also call for the genocide of Muslims. In a convention, they asked a lot of Hindus to conduct a genocide of Muslims.
I want to clarify that there are a lot of good Hindus in India. 80% of Hindus in India are good Hindus. They are not against Muslims. Just a small minority of 20% are belligerent and fanatic and extremist and unfortunately, the government leaders support them. A smaller number of people who are going around the country, creating trouble. Now they decided to go further. And you saw that the national spokeswoman of the BJP Party Sharma made a very insulting remark. This was just to aggravate Muslims and then, they beat the Muslims and smashed them. This is an anti-Muslim group that is also against Christians.
Though, the number of Christians in India is small while there are 200 million Muslims in the country. Muslims have jobs, industries, businesses, colleges, and schools, and they are well educated. So they are targeting Muslims.
They target both Muslims and Christians. Last year in December, during the month of Christmas, they targeted Christians; they attacked many churches and prevented Christians from holding Mass. In the month of Ramadan, they targeted Muslims. And now they are emboldened further and last week they attacked our holy Prophet (PBUH). This is their strategy.
IQNA: In the wake of the recent insult to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by two BJP officials, some countries summoned Indian ambassadors and even called for an official apology by the ruling BJP. Do you think the BJP will offer any apology other than just suspending the two spokespersons?
Kawaja: In my opinion, I seriously doubt that they will do anything more than the flimsy words which I cannot call an apology. They only said that it was the fault of a few fringe elements. But they are not fringe elements. She was the chief spokesperson of the party. But she is not alone as I said; they are supported by several people. So I seriously doubt that they change their attitude to give a bigger apology or make any reform and try to control these people
For example, the woman who made that statement has not been arrested. She has only been suspended from the party. I seriously doubt that they will do anything more than what they have done such as a bigger apology or introducing reform in the party.
IQNA: How do you evaluate the response and reactions of Muslim nations to this insult?
Kawaja: On behalf of the Indian Muslims who live in America I should say we are very satisfied. 20 Muslim nations across the Middle East and Southeast Asia have come out and spoken. The Indian government has been in power for eight years and they have been harassing Muslims a lot including the demolition of their mosques and making it difficult for Muslims to pray. This is the very first time that Muslim nations, both Shia and Sunni, have come together and they have not only condemned but also they sought an apology. This is a very good step in my opinion. And Muslims in India feel good about the Muslim countries. But I say that they should continue to do that and continue asking the [Indian] government to improve their policies.
IQNA: The Muslim community in India has faced many challenges in recent years, such as the developing case of the Gyanvapi Mosque. What is the best answer that Indian Muslims can give to these challenges?
Kawaja: The best thing that Muslims can do is to take a legal course because they cannot do much politically as the BJP party is very strong and the opposition parties are weak. Although some opposition parties are friends with Muslims, they are weak politically. Remember that 80% of people in India are Hindus and the BJP Party champions itself as the party of Hindus. Indians can also go overseas not only to Muslim nations but also to Western nations; because India is very much depending on Muslim nations for its economy as a lot of Indian people work in the Middle East and the Western countries, such as the US.
So the pressures of countries such as the US, England, France, and Germany will help because India is dependent on them for business and technology and a lot of Indian people work there.
IQNA: What do you think is the responsibility of other Muslim nations with regard to what happens in India?
Kawaja: The Muslim nations should realize that, as our Prophet (PBUH) told us, all the Muslims are one Ummah. So all the Muslims whether they are located in the Middle East or in America or England or Japan or China or India are all one nation. Indian Muslims are patriotic about India but when they are being persecuted and harassed and their prophet is being maligned, then it is the same prophet and the Quran for all Muslims no matter where they live, no matter what is their ethnicity. For example, I am ethnically different from you but we both believe in the same Quran, the same principle of Islam and the same prophet. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of all the nations, firstly Muslim nations and next Western nations also because they pride themselves as being higher in civilization and knowledge and technology, they should also come together just for example like what happened in Ukraine. America and Western nations supported Ukraine after Russia attacked them. So similarly when Muslims in India are being harassed and attacked and subjected to violence, Western and Islamic nations and Asian nations also – like China – should come forward and make the Indian government change their policy.
We live in a world in which all the countries are dependent on each other for various reasons such as trade, technology, and education. No one country can live by itself, and neither can India. So Muslim nations should get the leadership role in this affair.
Interview by Mohammad Ali Haqshenas