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US says ban on hijab violates religious freedom

Hussain, an Indian-American attorney and diplomat, is the first US Government official to publicly make a comment on the controversy
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 11 February 2022, 21:03 IST
Last Updated : 11 February 2022, 21:03 IST
Last Updated : 11 February 2022, 21:03 IST
Last Updated : 11 February 2022, 21:03 IST

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The United States on Friday said that the ban on wearing Hijabs in the schools in Karnataka violated religious freedom.

“Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one's religious attire,” Rashad Hussain, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, tweeted. “The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls.”

Hussain, an Indian-American attorney and diplomat, was appointed by President Joe Biden’s administration last year as the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

He is the first US Government official to publicly make a comment on the controversy that erupted in Karnataka.

This comes a day after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on the sidelines of a meeting of the Quad Foreign Ministers at Melbourne in Australia.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday hit out at the Government of India for depriving Muslim girls of education and called it a “grave violation of fundamental human rights”. “To deny anyone this fundamental right & (and) terrorise them for wearing a hijab is absolutely oppressive. The world must realise this is part of Indian state plan of ghettoisation of Muslims,” Qureshi posted on Twitter.

The Biden Administration has been tacitly conveying to the Modi Government concerns in the US over the perception that India was backsliding on human rights and freedom of speech and religion. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris subtly nudged the Prime Minister to protect democratic principles of India when they had hosted him in Washington DC on September 24 last year.

Hussain’s predecessor Samuel Brownback had in June 2020 expressed concern over violence and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities in India.

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom – an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission – on November 5 last year reiterated its plea to the Biden Administration to designate India – along with Russia, Lebanon and Vietnam – as a “Country of Particular Concern” in view of the impact of the policies implemented by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s government in New Delhi on religious freedom of the minority Muslims, Sikhs and Christians as well as of the Dalits and the Adivasis.

The Modi government, however, defended its track record in protecting democratic principles, human rights and religious freedom.

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Published 11 February 2022, 18:27 IST

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