Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Islam for its contributions to the world and said "none of Allah's 99 names stood for violence", as he inaugurated the World Sufi Forum 2016 in New Delhi on 17 March. His speech quickly began trending on Twitter.
The event is being organised by the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) and aims to provide a platform for Ulama, Mashaikh, scholars, wrtiers and academics of the Sufi faith to contribute to the causes of "peace, dialogue, education and knowledge production". Through seminars, conferences and panel discussions, it brings together those interested in fostering peacemaking, countering extremism and participating in interfaith harmony.
Speaking at the event, Modi said: "In a world that struggles to assemble for peace and justice, this is an assembly of those whose life itself is a message of peace, tolerance and love. You have come from different lands and cultures but you are united by a common faith. You speak different languages but they blend together in a message of harmony. And you represent the rich diversity of Islamic civilisation that stands on the solid backdrop of a great religion."
The prime minister's speech comes amid increasing concern about India's religious minorities under the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On 4 March the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was denied a visa for its planned trip to India to investigate religious freedom under the Modi government.
Speaking at the time, USCIRF chairman Robert P George said: "We are deeply disappointed by the Indian government's denial in effect, of these visas. As a pluralistic, non-sectarian and democratic state and a close partner of the US, India should have the confidence to allow our visit."
Following Modi's speech at the World Sufi Forum, many took to social media to commend his words.