Qatar protests over 'Islamophobia' as India VP seeks trade
Qatar on Sunday demanded that India apologise for "Islamophobic" comments made by a top ruling party official as India's vice president started a visit to bolster trade with the wealthy Gulf state.
Comments about the Prophet Mohammed made by a spokesperson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party during a televised debate last week sparked anger in several Gulf states.
Kuwait also said it had summoned India's ambassador, amid widespread calls on social media for a boycott of Indian goods in Gulf countries.
The Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation also condemned the remarks, without specifying the insult, saying they came in a "context of intensifying hatred and abuse towards Islam in India and systematic practices against Muslims".
India's ambassador in Doha, Deepak Mittal, was ordered to the foreign ministry on the second day of a high profile visit by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Indian business leaders.
Indians make up about one million of Qatar's total population of 2.8 million.
The envoy was handed an official protest letter which said "Qatar is expecting a public apology and immediate condemnation of these remarks from the government of India," according to a foreign ministry statement.
"Allowing such Islamophobic remarks to continue without punishment constitutes a grave danger to the protection of human rights" and "will create a cycle of violence and hate", it added.
India's Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday suspended its spokesperson Nupur Sharma for expressing "views contrary to the party’s position".
Modi's party, which has frequently been accused of acting against the country's Muslim minority, said it "respects all religions".
Sharma's comments have been blamed for clashes in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Friday and several Indian Islamic organisations have demanded her arrest.
Sharma said on Twitter that her comments had been in response to "insults" made against the Hindu god Shiva. "If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement."
New Delhi has made no immediate comment but its embassy in Doha released a statement saying that "strong action" had been taken against "fringe elements" who had made derogatory comments. The embassy gave no further details.