Washington (ANTARA News) – The United States on Thursday voiced concern about targeting religious minorities in India and Pakistan, warning against the search for internal scapegoats during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a rare statement of US concern for India, Sam Brownback, the US ambassador to international religious freedom, pointed to physical and online attacks on Muslims.
“In India, we have seen reports of unfortunate rhetoric and harassment related to COVID, especially against the Muslim community, made worse by false news reports – misinformation – shared through social media,” he told reporters.
He did not blame the government, saying he was “encouraged” by public statements, including calls by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for unity.
The fact-checking by AFP has debunked hundreds of social media posts in India targeting Muslims, including dubious videos showing minority members licking fruit for sale.
Hundreds of thousands of online posts have used the hashtag #CoronaJihad, some of which have been shared by Hindu Nationalist Party member Bharatiya Janata from Modi.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which advises but does not set government policies, said last month that India should be blacklisted because of the dramatic decline in religious freedom under Modi.
New Delhi has sharply rejected criticism and it is highly unlikely that the State Department will act against India, an increasingly close ally of the United States.
Brownback also voiced concern about India’s historic rival, Pakistan, whose new commission on religious minorities does not include the Ahmadi sect, which has faced years of deadly violence.
“I really think they missed an opportunity by attracting nominated Ahmadi Muslims to participate,” Brownback said.
“I think their withering to public pressure is really sending a bad signal,” he said.
Referring to the pandemic, Brownback said: “However, people are tense, and then they are looking for scapegoats, and unfortunately you get someone who gives them one and you don’t enter the race.”
Pakistan legally states that Ahmadis are non-Muslims in their belief in a prophet after Muhammad, which is a deviation from orthodox Islam.
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