Nupur Sharma was reprimanded and suspended as spokesperson for India’s ruling BJP party on Sunday, after making her ill-judged comments during a TV debate. Muslim leaders roundly condemned her remarks for being “Islamophobic” and promoting the “spread of hatred”. Pakistan called upon the international community to “take immediate cognizance of the grievously aggravating situation of Islamophobia in India”.
Qatar demanded that New Delhi apologise for the “Islamophobic” comments during a visit to the country by India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu.
Egypt’s highest Sunni institution, al-Azhar, also waded into the controversy, denouncing the defamation of Islam for political gains.
It described such moves as a “call for extremism, spread of hatred and discord among followers of religions”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party insisted it respected all religions and emphasised that Ms Sharma’s views did not reflect those of the government.
Later, the Indian politician apologised for her comments, saying they had been made in response to criticism of a Hindu god.
She tweeted: “If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement.”
Ms Sharma’s remarks led to violent protests in the Indian city of Kanpur on Friday, where 38 people were arrested for rioting.
Violence erupted after groups of people tried to force shopkeepers to close their businesses.
Reports suggested that gun shots were fired and bombs were thrown during the unrest.
The BJP’s decision to suspend Ms Sharma sparked anger among Indian voters on social media, who accused the party of cowardice and throwing her “to the wolves”.
Anand Ranganathan wrote: “Suspending @NupurSharmaBJP is a cowardly act by the BJP.
READ MORE: India drops £413m weapons deal with Russia in major blow to Kremlin
The BJP has faced repeated criticism of inflaming anti- Muslim feelings within the country.
The Hindu nationalist party has been accused of implementing policies that discriminate against Muslims and other religious minorities.
Mr Modi was himself accused of allowing anti-Muslim riots to take place in Gujarat in 2002, when he was the Chief Minister of the Indian state.
Riots started after 60 Hindu pilgrims died when a train carrying them was set on fire.
Subsequently more than 1,000 people were killed in the ensuing violence.