The United States is concerned at open calls being made for a genocide of Indian Muslims, US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain has said.
Dehumanizing rhetoric was escalating the persecution of India’s minorities, creating a challenge for the United States, Ambassador Hussain said at the three-day International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit being held in the US capital.
“We’ve had open calls for [a] genocide [of Muslims] in India. We’ve had demolitions of [Muslim] homes,” Hussain said at a panel discussion on Religious Freedom in India: Challenges for the US, organized by the Indian Working Group of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, the world’s largest civil society collective on the issue.
Noting that the Early Warning Project of the US Holocaust Museum had, “designated India as the number two country in the world at risk of mass killings,” Hussain said the “rhetoric” openly being used in India was “dehumanizing towards people, to the extent that one minister referred to Muslims as termites. When you have these ingredients, it’s important that we take note and we work to address the challenges that we face.”
Though Hussain did not name the Indian minister he cited, his reference clearly was to Home Minister Amit Shah, who is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deputy. At a stump rally three years ago, Shah had said “illegal immigrants” – a Hindu nationalist code for Muslims – were “termites” and had vowed to drown them in the ocean.
Hussain also referred to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), a discriminatory law passed by India’s Parliament in 2019 that, according to the US Commisison on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), will likely be abused to disenfranchize India’s 200 millions and potentially turn many of them into stateless noncitizens.
Saying that he had met with Indian Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and the indigenous people, Hussain added that the US was, “concerned about a number of religious communities in India,” and was, “dealing directly” with Indian officials to, “address the challenges… In order for any society to live up to its potential, we have to secure the rights of all people.”
Hussain also referenced US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks, “about [the] attacks on places and people of worship… in India,” made while releasing the US Department of State’s 2021 International Religious Freedom Report on June 2.
Hussain rejected the view that the US had no locus standi in assessing global religious freedoms. “Some people ask… “Who are you as an ambassador for international religious freedom,” or “who are you as the United States to make these assessments about other countries in the world?” The “fairly persuasive” answer was that the US was “founded on religious freedom: many of our founders were fleeing religious persecution themselves. The first amendment in our Constitution protects the freedom of religion.”
As “a country of immigrants,” the US was “comprised of people that come here from every corner of the planet. When they come here, they demand [that] their elected officials, their government, not only stand up for our values here but all over the world.”
Hussain said he was an Indian immigrant and “India is a country that I love… In many ways, India is my country as well.”
The India Working Group of the IRF Roundtable comprises US-based religious freedom organizations including Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, Jubilee Campaign, Justice for All, American Muslim Institution, Association of Indian Muslims, International Christian Concern, Center for Pluralism, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Sunshine Ministries.