US lawmaker urges Biden to act on anti-Muslim discrimination in India

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U.S. congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota

WASHINGTON : US congresswoman Ilhan Omar pressed one of President Joe Biden’s most senior diplomats on Wednesday on US support for India given what she said is a long-standing campaign against the country’s Muslim minority.

Omar, who is Muslim, directly asked Wendy Sherman, Biden’s deputy secretary of state, how US support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is “promoting a free and open region,” and lambasted what she characterized as a reluctance to openly criticize his government.

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“How much does the Modi administration have to criminalize the act of being Muslim in India for us to say something? What will it take for us to outwardly criticize the action that the Modi administration is taking against its Muslim minorities?” she asked.

Sherman said she agrees that the administration must stand up “for every religion, every ethnicity, every race, every quality of diversity in this world.”

Omar quickly retorted: “I do hope we make a practice of standing up not just to our adversaries, but to our allies as well.”

“Absolutely,” said Sherman, who also noted the US has raised concerns about India’s human rights record directly with New Delhi officials.

Indian Muslims have witnessed a deterioration of the right to practice their faith under the rule of Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to multiple international rights groups.

Human Rights Watch reported in 2021 that the BJP’s prejudices​​​​​​​ have “infiltrated independent institutions, such as the police and the courts, empowering nationalist groups to threaten, harass, and attack religious minorities with impunity.”

It noted that Modi and the BJP have adopted laws and policies that “systematically discriminate” against Muslims.— AA

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