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EDITORIAL: One of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s important engagements on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, besides chairing a conference of OIC members, has been a meeting with the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).

Using the opportunity to draw attention to issues causing tension between civilisations, he said Islamophobia is a reality that is visible in a number of Western countries, but its most virulent manifestation is in India, urging the UNAOC to step up its efforts to halt and reverse Islamophobia, bigotry, and discrimination based on religion and belief.

Thanks to former prime minister Imran Khan’s highlighting Islamophobia in his 2020 address to the UNGA, and also the High Representative’s call for “mutual respect” — at a time European governments defended the right to insult religions as freedom of speech — the UNGA passed a resolution proclaiming March 15 as an International Day to Combat Islamophobia, which is a significant achievement.

But there is no effort to rein in India’s ultra-right nationalist BJP government and its ideological fountainhead, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). That the two organisations draw inspiration from the European fascist supremacist movements of the last century, as they go on promoting their Hindutva agenda aimed at systematic exclusion of Muslims through violence, intimidation, and new discriminatory laws is a fact.

Cow vigilantes have lynched several Muslims for transporting cows or on suspicion of eating cow meat. Muslim men who marry Hindu women can be punished with a jail sentence. In some states Muslim women are legally barred from wearing the head scarf.

The Citizenship Amendment Act offers citizenship to migrants of all faiths from neighbouring countries, except Muslims. Many old mosques have been demolished on the basis of false claims of having been built on Hindu temples.

In the illegally Indian occupied Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir arbitrary arrests, torture, extra-judicial killings, and demolition of homes constitute the order of the day. The courts also tend to lend a helping hand in this blatant abuse of human rights.

In the largest population state of Uttar Pradesh the anti-Muslim hate spewing monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath has been bulldozing Muslims’ homes and businesses on concocted charges. Hindu extremist leaders have openly called for Muslim genocide, without drawing a single word of condemnation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is not surprising.

He is complicit in all these crimes. Sadly for Hindus who cherish India’s multiculturalism and its founding ideal of secularism, the institutions are playing along the BJP-RSS combine to turn the country into a Hindu rashtra.

The culture of hate and intolerance is now spreading overseas as well. Earlier this month, the British city of Leicester was the scene of communal riots started by Hindu extremists.

Before that India’s Independence Day parade in two cities of US’ New Jersey state, led by a BJP spokesman Dr Sambit Patra as the Grand Marshal, included a bulldozer connoting appreciation for Adityanath whose giant-sized picture it carried along with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This though has prompted the local Democratic Party to pass a resolution, urging the state legislators to ask law enforcement agencies to take notice of foreign hate groups’ activities.

While the US has constantly been berating China for its mistreatment of Uyghurs, it needs to do something more than expressing concern (that, too, only in private meetings with Indian officials) about the crimes of that country’s rulers against its Muslim citizens.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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