US commission recommends re-designating India on list of countries violating religious freedom

WASHINGTON: The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended that India be re-designated as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ because of the Modi government’s policies and treatment towards the Muslim population.

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“Perhaps the steepest, and most alarming deterioration in religious freedom conditions is in India,” the vice chair of the USCIRF vice said after the release of the Commission’s annual report.

The report also recommended 13 other countries to the State Department for designation as “countries of particular concern” because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom”.

These include nine that the State Department designated as CPCs in December last year, which were Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. The five others include India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

‘Act exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation’

“The Citizenship (Amendment) Act in India potentially exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation, and statelessness when the government completes its planned nationwide National Register of Citizens,” the Commission’s Vice Chair, Nadine Maenza, added.

Detailing Modi government’s policies in recent months that targeted Muslim population in particular, the report featured hateful comments made by various BJP leaders against the minority Muslim population.

The report recommended to the US government to impose targeted sanction on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States under human rights-related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations.

The USCIRF Commissioner appreciated Pakistan’s efforts saying, “One of the things that has been important for us with Pakistan is that the government has been willing to engage in dialogue about how religious freedom concerns can be addressed.”

Kuwait calls for preserving rights of Indian Muslims

Instead of using its own “Tier 2” category, as in past reports, the 2020 Annual report also recommended 15 countries for placement on the State Department’s Special Watch List for severe violations. These include four that the State Department placed on that list last year.

In a related development, Kuwait called on the Organisation of International Cooperation to take ‘urgent measures’ to preserve rights of Indian Muslims.

Kuwait has sought intervention of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment in India.

In a statement released on Monday, the General Secretariat of the Kuwait Council of Ministers expressed its “deep concern” about the treatment of Indian Muslims and called on the OIC to take “necessary and urgent measures” to “preserve the rights of Muslims there”.

‘Time for Muslims to speak up’

Abdullah al-Shoreka, a minister in Kuwait’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, tweeted that it was time for Muslims to speak up against the persecution of their co-religionists.

“Did those who commit crimes against humanity against Muslims in India and violate their rights think that Muslims in the world will remain silent about these crimes and do not move politically, legally and economically against them?” he said.

The statement follows comments last month in which Kuwait raised concerns about the treatment of Muslims in the country.

February saw riots erupting in the Indian capital Delhi that led to dozens of deaths, mostly Muslims targeted by Hindu nationalists.

Muslims being targeted across India

The rioting came in the wake of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s passage of a controversial citizenship law, which has excluded Muslims and undermined the principle of secularism in India.

Witnesses said that Delhi police initially did little to intervene as mobs fought running battles, with groups armed with swords and guns setting fire to thousands of properties and vehicles. Muslims have also been the subject of widely spread conspiracy theories in India around the coronavirus pandemic.

The Indian government has blamed a mass gathering of Muslims last month in New Delhi for helping spread the virus, while members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have appeared in interviews describing the gathering as “corona terrorism”.

Fake video clips purporting to show Muslims spitting on security officials led to the spread of a “CoronaJihad” hashtag on Twitter, despite the videos being debunked.

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