US religious freedom panel again recommends India for blacklist | Religious News

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An independent commission in the United States, for the fourth year in a row, has recommended that the government of India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, be added to the religious freedom blacklist , saying that the country’s situation for religious minorities “continues to worsen. ” throughout 2022.

In its annual report on Monday, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) again asked the US State Department to designate India as a “country of particular concern”.

The independent panel has made appeals for the designation since 2020. The label accuses the government of “systematic, continuous [and] egregious violations” of religious freedom and opening the door to economic sanctions.

The group said the Indian government “at the national, state and local levels promoted and implemented religious discrimination policies” by 2022. These included “laws aimed at religious conversion, interfaith relations, wearing of hijabs and cow slaughter, which adversely affects Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and Adivasis (indigenous people and scheduled tribes)”.

The report noted that about 14 percent of India’s population of 1.4 billion are Muslim, about 2 percent are Christian, and 1.7 percent are Sikh. Almost 80 percent of the country is Hindu.

The panel also says that the Indian government, led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), “continued to suppress critical voices – particularly religious minorities and those who advocate the half”.

The US panel only offers recommendations and has no ability to set policy. Few expected the State Department to accept the commission’s position, as Washington and New Delhi have continued to strengthen their ties in an effort to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

In its report, the religious freedom watchdog noted that US President Joe Biden’s administration “failed to designate India as a ‘country of particular concern’ after making the recommendation in the years before that.

“The United States and India continued to maintain strong bilateral ties in terms of economic and technology trade. Trade will reach $120 billion in 2022, making India the largest trading partner of the United States,” the report said.

“President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted on several occasions, including the G20 and G7 Summits and the Quad Leaders Summit,” he said, referring to the group. informal of the United States, India, Japan and Australia.

The Indian government did not immediately respond to the latest report. After last year’s proposal, New Delhi’s foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi accused senior US officials of making “uninformed” and “biased” comments.

“As a naturally diverse society, India values ​​religious freedom and human rights,” Bagchi said in a statement at the time.

For its part, the American Indian Muslim Council said the latest USCIRF report “reaffirms what [the rights group] has been saying for years: that India’s government, under Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] has continued to violate the religious freedom of minority communities, especially Muslims and Christians”.

More tips for blacklisting

The report also asked the Biden administration to blacklist Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam, and for Myanmar, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia , Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The panel made the recommendation for Afghanistan last year, after the Taliban took over the country in August 2021. Afghanistan has long been on the commission’s watch list, and the Taliban itself was designated as “of particular concern ” in some of the earliest on the panel. reports, from 2000 and 2001.

The commission said that the organization “violates the freedom of religion or belief of religious minorities; women; members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community; and Afghans with different definitions of Islam.”

In Nigeria, the report focused on several blasphemy convictions in 2022 as well as crowd violence related to blasphemy allegations. He noted that the Biden administration did not accept a similar proposal made last year, although Nigeria was briefly nominated under former President Donald Trump’s administration.

In Syria, the panel highlighted government violence against Druze communities amid the country’s ongoing civil war.

In Vietnam, the commission said, “authorities controlled and persecuted religious groups”, including Montagnard and Hmong Protestants, Cao Dai followers, Hoa Hao Buddhists, united Buddhists and other religious groups. is not registered with the government.

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