‘No compromise on honour of Prophet’: Minister explains Bangladesh stand on row
Prophet comment row: Bangladesh information minister Hasan Mahmud said Dhaka has no intention to instigate the matter and welcomes action taken by Indian authorities against the two BJP spokesersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal
DHAKA: Bangladesh will not compromise on any issue involving the honour of Prophet Mohammed, though the controversy triggered by remarks by two former BJP spokespersons is largely an “external issue”, Bangladesh information minister Hasan Mahmud has said.
The Bangladesh government welcomes the action taken by Indian authorities against the BJP spokespersons and has no intention to “instigate the matter”, Mahmud told a group of visiting Indian journalists late on Saturday.
Mahmud, a senior leader of the ruling Awami League party, is the first member of the government to speak out on the controversy over the remarks against Prophet Mohammed by the two former BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal. Formal complaints have been registered against the spokespersons for allegedly spreading hate in Delhi and Maharashtra..
Muslim-majority Bangladesh stood out for the silence of the country’s government on the issue, especially after Iran, Kuwait and Qatar summoned the Indian envoys to protest and more than a dozen countries, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, condemned the remarks.
“We are not compromising [on] the honour of the Prophet,” Mahmud said. “Wherever [something] happens against the Prophet, we condemn it. But we congratulate the Government of India at the same time [for taking] legal action against those who said [something] against Prophet Mohammed.”
He added: “First of all, this is an external issue, this is not an internal issue. This is an issue of India and I don’t think that we have to say many things about this... It has not got much attention here, not like in the Middle East, Indonesia, Pakistan or the Maldives.”
Cities across Bangladesh, from the capital Dhaka to the border region of Teknaf, witnessed protests over the issue after the Friday prayers on June 10. In Dhaka, thousands joined the protest near the Baitul Mukarram national mosque and shouted slogans against the Indian government. They also called for a boycott of Indian products.
The protests were largely organised by hardline groups such as Jamiat Ulema Bangladesh, Khelafat Majlis and Islam Oikyajot, which frequently accuse the Awami League – under whose government ties with India have dramatically improved in areas such as trade and connectivity – of selling out Dhaka’s interests to New Delhi.
People familiar with the matter said the Bangladesh government adopted a low-key approach to the controversy in order not to give Islamic groups a handle to beat the Awami League.
“If the government had taken a tough position publicly, the hardline groups would have pressured to do more. If nothing was done by the Indian side, the Islamic groups would have said the Bangladesh government is doing nothing to push India on the issue,” one of the people said.
The people said Bangladeshi authorities also worked overtime to ensure the matter was not blown up by the local media or by religious groups as it had the potential to be misused by Islamic fundamentalists to target the country’s minorities.
Mahmud noted he condemned the controversial remarks at a public meeting, and that the legal process in India will take due course against the BJP spokespersons. “An FIR has been registered...Then, afterward the action will follow. But why should I instigate the issue here?” he said.
He brushed aside a question about controversial remarks made by home minister Amit Shah regarding alleged illegal infiltration from Bangladesh, saying such comments are usually an outcome of “domestic politics”.
“Because of domestic politics, he has said so. We have very good relationship. For domestic politics, politicians sometimes say many things. You don’t need to give attention [to such remarks] all the time,” he said.
Mahmud said his government has worked overtime to resolve issues involving Bangladesh’s Hindu minority, which accounts for a little more than 10% of the population of around 170 million. Referring to sectarian attacks targeting Durga Puja pandals in Comilla, Chittagong and Rangpur areas last October, he said he personally led efforts to protect Hindus in the Pirganj sub-district, the hometown of Wazed Miah, the late husband of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.