Calling on the Indian government to take steps to protect Muslim minorities who are being “negatively profiled,” facing “discrimination and violence” amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has criticised what it called “growing Islamophobia” in India.
“[We] urge the Indian Govt to take urgent steps to stop the growing tide of Islamophobia in India and protect the rights of its persecuted Muslim minority as per its obligations under international Human Rights law,” said a tweet issued by OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (OIC-IPHRC) on Sunday.
PM’s call for unity
The statement came on the same day Prime Minister Narendra Modi had clearly said that “unity and brotherhood” must be the response to the coronavirus, which does not see “race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders before striking.”
The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the statement. Last week it had reacted sharply to two similar statements on religious “stigmatisation” of minorities in India by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
In one statement, the U.S. Commission criticised India, Pakistan and Cambodia for “failure to protect vulnerable religious communities” and “increased stigmatisation”.
In another specific statement, the USCIRF reacted to reports, which the government denied, that COVID-19 patients were religiously segregated at a hospital in Ahmedabad.
On Saturday, it also held an expert hearing on “Religious Freedom on South Asia”, organised by the “Hindus for Human Rights”, “Indian-American Muslim Council” and “International Christian Concern,” ahead of its annual USCIRF report release on April 28, where India has been categorised as a “tier 2 country of particular concern.”
Misguided reports: MEA
“As if its peremptory commentary on religious freedom in India is not enough, the USCIRF is now spreading misguided reports on the professional medical protocols followed to deal with spread of COVID-19 in India,” the MEA spokesperson had said.
Meanwhile, on March 30, the United Nations’ Office of The Commissioner for Human Rights had issued a more general statement against the “exploitation” of coronavirus-related fears by groups and politicians to “scapegoat minorities” in various countries.
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