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Religious freedom & no intolerance and Islamophobia in India?

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agarwalvj
agarwalvj
Born in village Kotah (Saharanpur), Vijendra Agarwal, left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee but always remained connected with his roots. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to the US in 1978. He served as faculty and academic administrator (Assistant Vice President, Associate Vice Chancellor, and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering) in several universities, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during Clinton administration. Following his voluntary retirement in 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US-based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. An Indian at heart, his passion for writing has no boundaries. This includes policy, politics and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement. Currently, he is the Brand Ambassador for Times of India and frequently blogs on Linkedin on various topics.

What can be a greater TRUTH than most people of diverse religions in India saying that they have religious freedom? This truth comes from a recent report by the Pew Research Center (PRC), an established institution, which conducted a survey on the ground of nearly 30,000 Indians of all faiths from different parts of the country. Let me quote, “The vast majority of Indians say they are very free today to practice their religion (91%), and all of India’s major religious groups share this sentiment: Roughly nine-in-ten Buddhists (93%), Hindus (91%), Muslims (89%) and Christians (89%) say they are very free to practice their religion, as do 85% of Jains and 82% of Sikhs.”

How much better can it get with 89% of Muslims admitting religious freedom in India? Yet, the lawmakers in the United States ignored the published facts vis a vis India and voted to approve the House Bill, H.R.5665 – Combating International Islamophobia Act which includes India to be monitored for Islamophobia. This bill if approved by the Senate will add another office for a “watchman diplomat” in the State Department to monitor Islamophobic activities in the rest of the world except the Islamic countries and the United States. According to the Bill, this office will monitor and combat acts of Islamophobia and Islamophobic incitement in foreign countries.

One must ask why the U.S. has to muddle in other countries affairs but if it has the propensity to monitor religious intolerance and discrimination leading to Islamophobia elsewhere why not first do it at home. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the champion of the bill, should know that a survey of American Muslims in the U.S shows:

  • 69 % personally experienced one or more incidents of anti-Muslim bigotry or discrimination and 83% said that they know a Muslim who has personally experienced the same.
  • 79% said that they witnessed or experienced increased anti-Muslim bigotry after the 9/11.

Should not Omar be engaged in monitoring Islamophobia at home before worrying about foreign countries? India for one does not deserve, desire, and appreciate any interference. In addition, the gross misrepresentation of facts by Omar, the so-called progressive Democrat from the State of Minnesota is unacceptable. I live in the same State where Hindu-phobia exists, partly because of her anti-India activism and yet Hindus at large are not united as usual. They are now advocating for the defeat of the Bill in the Senate hoping that. our advocacy will turn the tide against the bill.

What is even more reprehensible that Congresswoman Omar had the propensity to say on the House floor that, “ Prime Minister Modi’s government has moved to strip the citizenship of millions of Muslims.” Nothing can be further from the truth because, to the best of my knowledge, not even one Muslim born in India has lost or stands to lose the citizenship, let alone the “millions.” How can the order of magnitude difference between one and one million be explained except calling it a STRAK JIHASDISM OF FACTS?

Responding to the characterization of Omar as a Suicide Bomber by a colleague in the House, Omar tweeted, “Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress.” Similarly, I want Omar to know that grossly misrepresented anti-India statement has no place in Congress either. If anything, Omar must be held accountable and asked where she got her facts about “millions of Muslims,” being stripped of citizenship.

Ms. Omar has made many incendiary remarks which were anti-sematic in nature for which she later apologized. She loses her cool when she passionately defends Palestinian or the larger Muslim cause. Granted that she is a Muslim but that does not give her the license to create a hostile environment- Muslims versus the rest of the world’s religions. As a Muslim, she often plays a “victim” card which is undeserving of a policy maker. The Islamophobia bill is nothing more than creating a bigoted world based on religion and political rhetoric and putting Islam on a higher pedestal than others. If anything, the U.S. should engage in harmonizing religion-based conflicts globally including the Shia versus Sunni among Muslims.

A group of Americans called Understanding The Threat categorically states, “The bill was submitted and advocated for by jihadi Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) who works directly with the designated Foreign Terrorist Organization Hamas doing business as CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), as well as many other prominent U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organizations on an ongoing basis to overthrow the U.S. government.” Such emotions are unprecedented yet the Democrats did not care and voted for the bill along party lines. Even as a Democratic leaning individual, I disapprove the poor wisdom in the House but hope that greater wisdom will prevail in the Senate.

The CAIR is applauding the passage of Islamophobia Bill in the House and already at work to keep the momentum in the Senate. The Hindus, on the other hand, have moved and are moving with an incredibly slow motion? CAIR represents the highest order of unity as one voice of Muslims from anywhere but Hindus have too many voices with little or no unity. The diversity must be celebrated but we need to learn from CAIR to stand with “one Voice” when it is a matter of our heritage under attack for the sake of our future generations.

Let us briefly talk about the 11% Muslims in India who seem not to agree about “religious freedom.” I surmise, these are the “radical” type which also exist among Hindus. Perhaps, the radical types on both sides incite community conflicts, divisiveness, fear, and intolerance leading to phobia and hostilities. Some Hindus with justification think that if India was sadly partitioned based on religious grounds with Pakistan as an Islamic Republic, why India cannot/should not be a Hindu nation. Why should India have different set of practices and rules for Muslims? Many ongoing differential practices have created disharmony and occasionally communal violence in certain parts of India. Let us hope India brings a Uniform Civil Code for all people under one constitution.

One more set of data from PRC is people experiencing discrimination on a personal level in the last 12 months. Those saying yes include Muslims (21%), Hindus (17%), Sikhs (18%), Christians (10%), and Buddha and Jains (13% each). In other words, there was no widespread discrimination across India except for regional variations. With all the PRC evidence suggesting religious freedom and no widespread discrimination in India, why did Congresswoman Omar dare to include India for monitoring the non-existent Islamophobia and make such a blatantly false statement about India? It just shows her hatred for India and Hindus.

We cannot deny that every country and culture has historical conflicts among people of different races, regions, religions, and political ideologies. But that does not justify imposing an evil ideology in the form of legislation like monitoring Islamophobia which will only divide and not unify the world. Every nation including the U.S. and India deserves better. Together, let us create a better world with no religious phobias and stop people like Ilhan Omar from imposing her self-serving ideology and self-induced fear about Islamophobia because it exists in her own backyard.

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agarwalvj
agarwalvj
Born in village Kotah (Saharanpur), Vijendra Agarwal, left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee but always remained connected with his roots. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to the US in 1978. He served as faculty and academic administrator (Assistant Vice President, Associate Vice Chancellor, and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering) in several universities, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during Clinton administration. Following his voluntary retirement in 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US-based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. An Indian at heart, his passion for writing has no boundaries. This includes policy, politics and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement. Currently, he is the Brand Ambassador for Times of India and frequently blogs on Linkedin on various topics.
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