Thursday, January 29, 2015

Obama Warns India on Persecution, Muslims Elated - By Rudabah Simrah -

Obama Warns India on Persecution, Muslims Elated

By Rudabah Simrah
OnIslam Correspodent
Thursday, 29 January 2015 00:00

Obama warned that the prosperity of the country would be hampered if everyone did not have the freedom to follow his religion.

KOLKATA – Falling victims to religious persecution at the hands of extremist Hindu groups, India Muslim and Christian leaders have widely welcomed the caution given by US President Barack Obama to India’s leaders on offering religious freedoms to all sects and groups.

“It is imperative for all Indians to heed President Obama's call to resist any divisions along sectarian lines,” Umar Malick, the President of Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), the largest advocacy group of Indian American Muslims, told

“The deepening relationship between India and the US will be strengthened further when human rights and religious freedom are included in the framework of the US-India Strategic Dialogue.”
Indian Muslims, Christians Seek Obama’s Help
On the final day of his three-day visit to India, in a public speech in New Delhi, after pledging that US would be “India’s best partner”, Obama sounded a note of caution to India’s leaders that the prosperity of the country would be hampered if everyone did not have the freedom to follow his religion.

“Every person has the right to practice his faith without any persecution, fear or discrimination. India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith — so long as it’s not splintered along any lines, and is unified as one nation,” Obama said in his speech, hours before leaving the country on Tuesday.
Before the US President Barack Obama left the US for India, Christians and Muslims had urged him to raise the issue of growing Hindu extremism and the concerns of India's religious minorities while he was in India.

Christians posted a petition for Obama on the White House portal. And, on behalf on Indian Muslims Indian American Muslim Council wrote to him directly.

Representatives from both communities narrated in their letters to Obama how they are being targeted by the Hindu extremist groups in different ways in India.

Hindu activists are "forcibly" converting the Christians and Muslims, violently attacking the church workers and Muslims, and their leaders are openly threatening to turn India "100% Hindu", the letters said.

According to an associate editor of a major national English language newspaper, who spoke to on condition of anonymity, the news of the Christian and Muslim appeals to Obama was largely ignored by the mainstream media, notes
“Many, including some senior journalists, in India believed that Obama would avoid a sensitive issue like the accusation of persecution of the religious minorities in India because the ruling national government is led by a Hindu nationalist party (of Bharatiya Janata Party),” the editor said.

“Obama proved them all wrong. In his parting shot he has not only noted that he was aware of the rising Hindu extremism in India, in a fine diplomatic way he has noted that Modi was silent on the issue and sent out a suggestion to the Indian prime minister that he should act fast to rein in the divisive forces in the country.”


Fr Dominic Emmanuel, director of New Delhi-based Sadbhavana- Institute for Communication and Inter-religious Dialogue, said that as an activist working for the rights of the minorities he was “delighted” that Obama addressed the issue of concerns of the religious minorities.

“In his speech he covered most of the important issues between the two countries, from business cooperation to clean energy, to women's empowerment. The icing on the cake, however, was his rattling off of the Article 25 (1) of the Indian Constitution, reminding everyone around how religious freedom is the bulwark of a mature democracy,” Fr Emmanuel said to

“We have welcomed his speech as wholeheartedly as we welcome the truth from any corner of the world.”

Although persecution of Muslims has taken place in Hindu-majority India for many decades with many thousands of Muslims being killed in scores of anti-Muslim Hindu riots, Christians too have become a target of Hindu extremism in recent years.

With many of their leaders claiming that they would turn India “100% Hindu”, the Hindu right wing groups have stepped up their drive to convert Muslims and Christians in a controversial Hindu Gharwapsi (Homecoming) or “reconversion” program across the country in recent months.

As Christians and Muslims raised voices of protest against the Hindu Gharwapsi programs, the news of the allegedly forcible reconversion to Hinduism by the Hindu groups have found space in the international media.

Shillong-based North Eastern Hill University professor Prasenjit Biswas said Obama's comment on preserving religious tolerance and the matrix of harmony between religions in India “is a clear hint at recent atmosphere of majoritarian religious violence by the far right”.

“Obama held the present central government responsible for violation of religious freedom of minorities especially the Muslims. His caution against misuse of religion bears positive impact on strengthening India's liberal-secular traditions,” Prof Biswas, who is also known as a human rights campaigner, told

Noting that Washington recently lifted the visa ban on Modi, Prof Biswas cautioned that intolerance will effect economic growth of India by creating multiple social and economic rifts both at home and internationally.

“India's dependence in energy sector on the Gulf nation will be its first casualty. It will also create home grown terror that would cost more lives than the country can ill afford,” he said.
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