Thursday, August 13, 2020

India receives harshest rating from U.S. government watchdog in religious freedom report

Apr 28. 2020
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By The Washington Post · Michelle Boorstein, Joanna Slater, Carol Morello · WORLD, ASIA-PACIFIC 

A U.S. government watchdog group on international religious freedom Tuesday gave India its harshest rating since 2004, saying that the government of Narendra Modi has allowed "campaigns of harassment and violence" against Muslims and other religious minorities.

The rating came in the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government body charged with monitoring religious freedom abroad and the U.S. government's response. USCIRF, as it is called, has no power to enforce its recommendations, but the State Department is required to consider them.

The commission recommended that the State Department designate India as a "country of particular concern," -- or CPC -- said Nadine Maenza, its vice chair, because it "tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom." The most "startling and disturbing," she said, was India's passage of a citizenship amendment act that fast-tracks citizenship for newcomers but only non-Muslims. 

"This potentially exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation and statelessness when the government completes its plan for a nationwide, national register," she said. 

The group said that religious freedom had also "continued to deteriorate" in China, where as many as 1.8 million Muslims have been detained in concentration camps. 

The report cited improvements in two countries in particular -- Sudan and Uzbekistan. USCIRF removed Sudan from the CPC list for the first time since the list was created in 2000 and Uzbekistan since 2005. The report praised the developments in both countries, which remained on the "special watch list."

The report also highlighted concerns about growing anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. It noted that four in 10 young European Jews are considering emigrating because of anti-Semitism and urged the Trump administration to "ensure that combating anti-Semitism is a key priority."

The report praises the administration for organizing events around religious freedom and issuing statements and said it had "prioritized" the topic. Maenza said President Trump had raised international religious freedom "to a level it's never been raised before." 

But the authors also said that the administration failed to use its powers to sanction foreign officials in cases of religious freedom violations. They noted that the administration cut the number of refugees -- including those fleeing religious persecution -- to 18,000, the lowest in history.

Among the recommendations, the report urges the U.S. government to "exert significant pressure on Turkey to provide a timeline for its withdrawal from Syria," while ensuring that its allies neither expand control of more land, nor "otherwise abuse the rights of religious and ethnic minorities there." It also calls on the United States to support vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities in Syria.

 

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