India tightens security after militant threat

Several Indian media groups shared the June 6 letter attributed to Al Qaeda’s branch in the Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) in which threats were made to carry out suicide bombings in Indian states to defend, it said, the “honour of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

A federal home ministry official said intelligence agencies were checking the authenticity of the threats issued by AQIS.

“We have also ordered state police to ensure public gatherings or protests are not allowed as they could be targeted by the militant group,” a home ministry official in New Delhi said.

The security threat surfaced days after a spokeswoman for the BJP made comments about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) during a TV debate.

Nupur Sharma’s remarks sparked uproar among Muslims in India and triggered diplomatic protests from Muslim countries seeking an apology from the Indian government.

Sharma has been suspended from the party while another spokesman, Naveen Kumar Jindal, was expelled over comments he made about Islam on social media.

Police arrested a BJP youth leader in Uttar Pradesh for posting anti-Muslim comments on social media, along with 50 other people who took part in protests in parts of India last week over Sharma’s remarks.

India’s foreign ministry said on Monday the offensive tweets and comments did not in any way reflect the government’s views.

Instructions have been issued to several senior members of the BJP to be “extremely cautious” when talking about religion on public platforms.

But domestic outrage gained fresh momentum after leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran and Afghanistan sought apologies from New Delhi and summoned diplomats to protest against the remarks.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said in a statement that the insults came in the context of an increasingly intense atmosphere of hatred toward Islam in India and systematic harassment of Muslims.

Indian Muslims have felt more pressure on everything from freedom of worship to hijab headscarves under BJP rule.

The new controversy has become a diplomatic challenge for Modi, who in recent years has cemented strong relations with energy-rich Muslim nations.

Muslim rights groups in India said it was the first time influential foreign leaders had spoken out against humiliations experienced by the community.

“Our voices have finally been heard, only world leaders can nudge Modi’s government and his party to change their attitude towards Muslims,” said Ali Asghar Mohammed, who runs a voluntary rights group for Muslims in Mumbai.

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