“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.” This belief is at the core of Islam, and Muslims view any criticism of the Prophet as sacrilege. The Islamic world is divided on several doctrinal and political issues—there are also various sects of Islam, though Sunnis and Shias are the two most important. Followers of both perceive any negative reference of the Prophet and his immediate family members as blasphemy. There have been countless examples of protests and fatwas on this count. Countries that have political differences and do not see an eye to eye on many issues, come together when it comes to any derogatory remarks against the Prophet.
It is not surprising then, that the BJP’s former national spokeswoman Nupur Sharma’s remarks evoked strong reactions in Muslim-majority countries, especially in the Gulf. It began with Qatar and Kuwait and spread across the Gulf in countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan, UAE, as well as in Shia Iran, with official protests registered with the Indian envoys in these countries. Other important Sunni Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia also reacted, along with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Maldives. Bangladesh was the one exception and preferred to keep quiet. What has to be noted is that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members are considered friendly to India and have excellent economic and political relations with PM Modi’s government. Ironically, the PM himself has invested time and energy to improve these relations. India’s reaction to these international complaints was to immediately expel Nupur Sharma as the BJP’s national spokesperson.