US official calls religious intolerance in India ‘frightening’

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The chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Rabbi Abraham, has said that religious discrimination in India has reached a “frightening” level.

“India has done better in the past and has to change course because the cycle of downward spiral in a country of that importance and the number of people who are involved. It is quite frightening,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the US lawmakers during a Congressional hearing. Religious discrimination should not be a matter of national pride, he said.

The USCIRF has recommended that India be added to the US government’s list of Countries of Particular Concern, or CPC, because of the worsening limits on religious freedom in these countries. It also has called for targeted economic and travel sanctions against the Indian government agencies and officials involved in violation of religious freedom.

The scathing criticism comes only weeks after the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the White House and addressed a joint session of Congress. In 2005, the US State Department revoked Modi’s tourist/business visa because of his role in anti-Muslim riots in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002.

“So, we’re hoping that now that the trip has taken place and the victory lap has been earned and taken, there will be a serious review,” Cooper said.

Human rights groups have maintained that Modi’s government is fostering discriminatory religious nationalism targeting Muslim, Christian and Sikh religious minorities.

Amid recurrent incidents of religiously inspired violence, 12 out of 28 states in India have passed legislation criminalizing religious conversion.

Last year, the U.S. government did not list India as a country of particular concern despite a USCIRF recommendation to do so.

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