June 20, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10015

On Blasphemy Controversy, Did India Surrender To Iran? – Iran Foreign Ministry Says: 'Muslims Are Satisfied With The Stance Of Indian Officials'

June 20, 2022
Special Dispatch No. 10015

On June 8, 2022, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at the meeting of its 35-nation board of governors, passed a resolution, condemning Iran for its failure to provide technically credible evidence about the detection of nuclear traces at its three nuclear sites. While Russia and China voted against the resolution, India joined Pakistan and Libya to abstain from voting against Iran.[1] An Indian activist tweeted: "Iran joined Pakistan and Libya to slam India on #ProphetMuhammad issue and India joined Pakistan and Libya to abstain from vote on IAEA resolution slamming Iran. What kind of foreign policy our country is having?"[2]

Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian along with his Indian counterpart Jaishankar

Around the time of the IAEA vote, Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian visited New Delhi amid a raging controversy over a comment by Nupur Sharma, a spokeswoman of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who has since been suspended, about the marriage of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, to his youngest wife Aisha at the age of six and consummation of their marriage at the age of nine. The comments resulted in condemnations by the governments of a number of Muslim-majority countries, including Iran and Qatar.[3]

Right-wing Hindu activists, who constitute the core support-base of BJP, unearthed a video of Dr. Zakir Naik, the well-known Islamic scholar now self-exiled in Malaysia, in which he confirms what Nupur Sharma said. In the video, Zakir Naik is asked by a Muslim woman to confirm that Aisha's age was nine and not 19. Zakir Naik, speaking in English, quotes a hadith (a saying or deed of Prophet Muhammad) collected by Sahih Al-Bukhari, saying: "She was married to the prophet at the age of six and the marriage was consummated at the age of nine."[4] Dr. Naik discusses grammatical points and argues that those Islamic scholars who say Aisha's marriage was consummated at 19 are engaging in an "assumption" and that the hadith from Sahih Al-Bukhari is "an authentic hadith" both for the age of marriage at six and consummation at the age of nine.[5]

Based on this video, the Hindu activists argued that that the right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi should not have chosen diplomatic surrender to Iran since the Zakir Naik video confirmed Nupur Sharma's comments, which were supposed to have been blasphemous.

When the controversy arose over Sharma's outburst on Muhammad's marriage, Iran summoned the Indian ambassador to Tehran, Gaddam Dharmendra, on June 5 and lodged a "strong protest," while the ambassador expressed "regret" and said that any insult to the prophet of Islam was "unacceptable."[6]

Nupur Sharma (left) and Naveen Jindal, who triggered the controversy on Prophet Muhammad

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement, following a meeting between India's National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, in which Tehran quoted Doval as saying that action against the BJP leaders who made the controversial comments about Prophet Muhammad would be a "lesson for others."[7] This statement was viewed as a surrender by the Hindu rightwing in India. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has already suspended Nupur Sharma from the post of spokeswoman and expelled another party official for their comments on the founder of Islam.

The Iranian government statement quoting Doval triggered a diplomatic row, leading to consultations between the two foreign ministries. According to report by Indian television network, titled as "On Prophet Row, Iran Deletes, Then Doubles Down On Ajit Doval Quote," Iran deleted the statement and issued new statement. The report said: "The new statement [which also has been deleted], describing a meeting between Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and Ajit Doval, quoted the NSA as 'reiterating the respect of the Indian government and officials for the Holy Prophet, saying that it will be treated as a lesson for others.'"[8]

India's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (image:

The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency had quoted the Iranian statement as saying that Abdollahian had raised the issue of the "negative atmosphere" triggered by "disrespectful" comments on the Prophet Muhammad and that the Indian diplomatic side reiterated the Indian government's respect for the founder of Islam.[9] The Iranian statement quoted the Iranian foreign minister as saying: "Muslims are satisfied with the stance of Indian officials in dealing with the culprits."[10]

The visiting Iranian foreign minister tweeted: "Pleased to meet PM Modi, FM [foreign minister] Jaishankar and other Indian officials to advance our bilateral strategic dialogue. Tehran & New Delhi agree on the need to respect divine religions & Islamic sanctities & to avoid divisive statements. determined to bring relations to new heights."[11] Subsequently, the Iranian foreign ministry sought to downplay the blasphemy controversy, saying that the "arbitrary action [comments by Nupur Sharma and others] has been strongly rejected by the Indian government" and that India "has always moved in the path of peaceful coexistence and has lived in peace and tranquility all the time."[12]


[1] (India), June 10, 2022. The original English of the quoted text and tweets has been edited for clarity and standardization.

[2], June 11, 2022.

[4], June 7, 2022.

[5], June 7, 2022.

[6] (India), June 7, 2022.

[7] (India), June 10, 2022.

[8] (India), June 10, 2022;, The Iranian government statement has since been deleted.

[9] (India), June 10, 2022.

[10] (India), June 10, 2022.

[11], June 9, 2022.

[12] (India), June 9, 2022.

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