India rejects OIC condemnation over Prophet Mohammed insult as Twitter users urge boycott
India said its government has the "highest respect" for all religions on Monday as it rejected an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) statement condemning an official in India's ruling party for "denigrating Prophet Muhammad".
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the head of its media team in Delhi separately made controversial remarks about the Muslim prophet in recent days.
The media chief was expelled from the BJP while the spokesperson was suspended, but a diplomatic crisis has fomented, with Twitter users threatening to boycott Indian products.
"The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation strongly condemned and denounced the recent denigration of Prophet Muhammad by an official of India's ruling party," the OIC tweeted on Monday.
"These cases of defamation are part of a growing spate of hatred and defamation of Islam in India."
The OIC statement also raised other issues such as the demolition of Indian Muslims' properties and the increasing violence they are experiencing.
It added: "The OIC calls on the Indian authorities to decisively address these incidents of defamation and all forms of insult to the noble Prophet and Islam and to bring those who incite and perpetrate violence against Muslims to justice and hold those behind them accountable."
In reply, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Shri Arindam Bagchi issued a statement saying the government "categorically rejects [the] OIC Secretariat's unwarranted and narrow-minded comments".
"The Government of India accords the highest respect to all religions," he added.
"The offensive tweets and comments denigrating a religious personality were made by certain individuals.
"They do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India."
Bagchi added that there had already been "strong action" against those who made the remarks by the "relevant bodies".
The spokesperson also accused the OIC Secretariat of having "yet again chosen to make motivated, misleading and mischievous comments".
"This only exposes its divisive agenda being pursued at the behest of vested interests," he said.
"We would urge the OIC Secretariat to stop pursuing its communal approach and show due respect to all faiths and religions."
Several Arab nations including Qatar have slammed the BJP officials' remarks about the Prophet Mohammed, and Twitter users have called for a boycott of Indian goods.
Recent tweets featuring the hashtags #BoycottIndia and #BoycottIndianProducts have included references to the Muslim Prophet, indicating users are responding to this incident.
Meanwhile, the incorrectly spelled hashtag #BycottQatarAirways was reportedly trending in India on Monday, as an attempt to impose an economic boycott on Doha.
But Marc Owen Jones, a disinformation specialist and assistant professor at Qatar's Hamad Bin Khalifa University, said there was "lots of farmed engagement and astroturfing type behaviour" on the hashtag.
This suggests it may have been boosted through manipulative means in a bid to influence users.