CALL FOR THE RESPECT OF RELIGIOUS RIGHTS IN INDIA

The Islamic Council of New England raises serious concerns about recent attacks against Muslim citizens in India. These attacks must be condemned by all people of conscience since an attack on one faith in one part of the world emboldens attacks on people of faith elsewhere. Those who remain silent are quietly permitting the promulgation of hatred and intolerance. Inactivity is equivalent to complicity.

The Islamic Council of New England strongly condemns the recent decision of the Indian State of Karnataka to ban the wearing of head coverings (hijab) by Muslim women in public schools. Since the wearing of the hijab is a direct reflection of a woman’s piety, this ban interferes with her right to worship in a way she wishes as protected in both the Indian Constitution of 1950 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which India was an original sponsor in 1948.

The Indian Constitution proclaims, “to secure to all its citizens… Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship.” Article 15.1 further prohibits the state from discriminating “against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex place of birth, or any of them.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 states: “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion … (and) to manifest ‘their’ religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.” In addition, Article 26 declares everyone has a right to education, which should inter alia “promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups.”

We call on all citizens of India, regardless of their belief or religion, to respect the fundamental rights of their fellow citizens. As Muslims, we recognize the special protections all religions have under the law in the United States. Here, people of all faiths have benefited from religious tolerance and the freedom of expression. The ideals delineated in the United States Constitution remain a model democracy for other democracies around the world.

In that light, we call on the US Department of State to remind their counterparts in the Government of India of their commitment and obligations to their citizens in their Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as members of the international community of nations dedicated to democracy. We also ask major institutions and companies to review their partnerships with the Government of India and to point out to their associates in India that allowing discrimination and intolerance against any minority is not in their best interest when dealing with partners abroad.

The Islamic Council of New England is an umbrella organization representing many Muslim organizations and mosques throughout New England.


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