Muslims took to the streets in huge protests around Asia after Friday prayers, sparked by offensive remarks against Prophet Muhammad (may blessings and peace be upon him) by an Indian ruling party official that embroiled the country in a diplomatic storm.
Anger has engulfed the Islamic world since last week, when a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party made the offensive remarks on a TV debate show.
Around 20 countries have since called in their Indian ambassadors and the party has gone into damage control, suspending the official from its ranks and insisting it respected all religions.
Yesterday saw the biggest street rallies yet in response to the furore.
In Pakistan, around 5,000 supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik held a march in Lahore after Friday prayers. The protesters called on the government to take stronger action against India over the comments.
More than 100,000 people mobilised across Bangladesh after midday prayers.
“We are gathered here to protest the remarks by Indian government officials,” said Amanullah Aman, a protester in the capital Dhaka. “We want death penalties for them.”
Crowds in the city chanted slogans denouncing Modi and warning enemies of the Muslim faith to “be careful”.
Meanwhile, members of India’s 200mn-strong Muslim minority community staged demonstrations in several cities, with a large crowd gathered on the steps of the 17th-century Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi.
Elsewhere in the capital, social media footage showed students of the prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia university burning an effigy of Nupur Sharma - the Bharatiya Janata Party spokeswoman whose comments set off the furore. In the Uttar Pradesh city of Prayagraj, riot police with shields charged and fired tear gas at crowds yesterday in a street strewn with broken bricks and stones, video footage from Reuters partner ANI showed.
A total of 109 people have been arrested from different districts of Uttar Pradesh by the police for their alleged role in the protests today, said Prashant Kumar, a senior Uttar Pradesh police official.
In Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi, protesters hurled stones at police and injured some officers, senior police official Anis Gupta said adding the situation was now under control.
Protests in other cities and town remained peaceful.
Authorities in Kashmir cut the territory’s Internet connections, restricted prayer congregations at mosques and imposed a curfew yesterday. A spontaneous shutdown saw businesses close across Srinagar, the region’s major city.
In Ahmedabad, the main city in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, protesters including children marched holding posters of the two BJP officials and calling for police to arrest Sharma.
“So far, no strict action has been taken against Nupur Sharma,” said protester Mohamed Jabir. “She should be arrested as soon as possible.”