In a statement published Tuesday, the al-Qaeda terrorist organization threatened to unleash a string of child suicide bombings across India in response to an ongoing controversy surrounding remarks about Muhammad made by a now-former spokeswoman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
During a cable news debate last week, former spokeswoman Nupur Sharma – discussing widespread mockery by Muslims of Hindu gods following the debated discovery of a sacred Hindu relic in a mosque – suggested that Hindus should mock the Islamic hadith, or holy writing, stating that Muhammad married a girl named Aisha when she was six years old. Sharma also mentioned several other Quranic statements she considered potential fodder for jokes.
“Should I start mocking claims of flying horses or the flat-earth theory as mentioned in your Quran? You are marrying a 6-year-old girl and having sex with her when she turned 9. Who did it? Prophet Muhammad,” Sharma reportedly said on the cable news network Times Now. “Should I start saying all these things that are mentioned in your scriptures?”
The Aisha hadith has been the subject of centuries of controversy, as the scripture indicates Muhammad was in his 50s when the marriage occurred. As the hadith are not part of the Quran, their validity often prompts debate. Some Muslim scholars suggest other evidence outside of that particular hadith indicates that Aisha was at least an adolescent at the time of marriage.
Sharma’s comments resulted in her suspension from the BJP for six years and riots featuring thousands of people across the country demanding her arrest for “blasphemy.” Insulting religions generally is a crime in the Indian penal code.
In addition to the riots, Sharma’s comments have become a diplomatic crisis for India as much of the Muslim world responded by demanding further condemnation of the remarks. Multiple foreign ministries – including those of neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan (run by the Taliban) – and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have vocally condemned India’s government and demanded more punishment for the alleged blasphemy.
Sharma herself has received many death threats, prompting the government to offer her and her family special police detail.
Al-Qaeda joined the chorus of outrage on Tuesday by vowing that its terrorists would “fight for the dignity of our prophet.”
“Saffron terrorists should now await their end in Delhi and Bombay [Mumbai] and in UP [Uttar Pradesh] and Gujarat,” the al-Qaeda statement, published through its online communications networks, read in part, according to India’s NDTV. “Saffron terrorists” is a reference to Hindus, later referred to as “Hindutva terrorists occupying India;” the listed locations are regions of India.
“They shall find refuge neither in their homes nor in their fortified army cantonments. May our mothers be bereaved of us if we do not avenge our beloved Prophet,” the statement continued. “We shall kill those who affront our Prophet and we shall bind explosives with our bodies and the bodies of our children to blow away the ranks of those who dare to dishonor our Prophet.”
“We shall fight for the dignity of our Prophet, we shall urge others to fight and die for the honour of our Prophet,” the statement reportedly concluded.
The Indian outlet the Print further translated part of the statement claiming that “an apocalyptic war on India that will precede the Yawm al-Qiyamah, or God’s final day of judgment” would soon arrive.
“We bring tidings of death and destruction to the rulers of India, of executions and hangings, of imprisonment and being bound with chains,” the statement added, according to the Print.
The Times of India reported that al-Qaeda terrorists also published a video to their Telegram channel “exhorting followers of the terrorist group to vow revenge.” The Hindustan Times claimed that al-Qaeda also threatened to bomb Bangladesh for an unrelated reason: the conviction of several Muslims for killing two people accused of “blasphemy.”
Speaking to the Print, an anonymous “senior intelligence official” described the new threats as an escalation, as al-Qaeda had largely focused their attacks on other countries.
“Although India was significant to various local and Pakistani jihadist groups, it never really attracted the attention of the transnational groups like al-Qaeda or the Islamic State,” the officials was quoted as saying. “The danger is that events in India are drawing a great amount of unwelcome attention from the jihadist community.”
The Hindustan Times blamed Pakistan for the al-Qaeda message, citing unspecific “intelligence inputs.”
“The two statements are also indicative of the fact that there is a rise of Al Qaeda in Af-Pak [Afghanistan-Pakistan] region after the Taliban virtually chased out the American troops on August 15, 2021,” the Indian newspaper claimed (in reality, President Joe Biden withdrew the American troops after extending the war past March; the withdrawal announcement for September prompted the Taliban’s arrival in Kabul).
“Intelligence inputs indicate that Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is based in Afghanistan through [sic] the ruling Taliban denies it and has conveyed to India that the global terrorist has taken shelter in neighbouring Iran,” the Times continued. “According to national security planners, the AQIS statements against both India and Bangladesh seem to have been orchestrated by the Pakistani deep state with the sole objective of making New Delhi and Dhaka targets of Islamists on charges of blasphemy.”
The Hindustan Times did not offer on-the-record evidence for its accusation against Pakistan.
The Taliban terrorists were among the many Muslim governments condemning India in the aftermath of Sharma’s comments.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns the use of derogatory words against the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him) by an official of the ruling party in India,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote in a statement on Twitter on Monday, referring to the Taliban by its preferred name for itself. “We urge the Indian government not to allow such fanatics to insult the holy religion of Islam and provoke the feelings of Muslims.”
Following the OIC condemnation this week, the Indian government issued a statement criticizing Muslim countries’ “unwarranted and narrow-minded comments” against India.
“The offensive tweets and comments denigrating a religious personality were made by certain individuals. They do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India,” a spokesman for the Indian External Affairs Ministry said. “Strong action has already been taken against these individuals by relevant bodies.”