Hindu American Foundation Welcomes Censure Of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia And Bangladesh In Annual Religious Freedom Report

DATE: May 15, 2005

TAMPA, FL: The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed support over portions of the annual report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last week. The report placed Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the Commission's list of most serious violators of religious freedom, the "Country of Particular Concern (CPC)" list. Bangladesh was placed on the Commission's "Watch List" for nations at risk for placement on the CPC list. These recommendations were forwarded to the United States Department of State, which considers them prior to publishing its own CPC list.

HAF particularly appreciated the attention the USCIRF report brought to the atrocities suffered by Hindus and other minorities in these countries. The foundation plans to release a report next month on the status of Hindu human rights in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India's State of Jammu and Kashmir for 2004 that will elaborate this issue beyond the scope of the USCIRF report. HAF previously issued a condemnation after Saudi religious police destroyed a Hindu temple and deported worshippers.

"Hindus are victimized today in Bangladesh, both by violent religiously motivated attacks that have left hundreds dead, and by prejudicial laws that allow the government to expropriate lands owned by Hindus," said Aseem Shukla, M.D., member of the HAF Board of Directors. "We are pleased that this year's USCIRF report mentions these abuses and has placed the Bangladesh government on the 'watch list.'"

The HAF report, according to the foundation, lists nearly 400 attacks that took place against Bangladesh's Hindus in 2004 alone. "We believe the Bangladesh government should more appropriately be named a CPC," said Dr. Shukla. "We sincerely hope that the United States will follow USCIRF's recommendations and apply sustained pressure on the Bangladesh government to ensure justice, safety and compensation for Hindu victims," he added.

Pakistan merited serious censure in the USCIRF report as a CPC country due to Sunni extremist group attacks against Hindus and Ahmadis, and the use of Islamic blasphemy allegations as an excuse to torture and terrorize these same groups. Still, HAF members were disappointed that Pakistan's sponsorship and support for Islamist militants that have attacked Hindus throughout the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir was overlooked in the report. Nearly 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus are living as refugees in their own country as Islamist militants have driven them out of their homes.

"HAF fully concurs with the USCIRF recommendation to place Pakistan on the CPC list; as should the U.S. State Department," said Sheetal D. Shah, a member of HAF and its Hindu human rights report taskforce. "Unfortunately, Pakistan's historical role in fomenting terrorism against Hindus in Kashmir-that continues today, albeit at a smaller scale after sustained international reproach-did not merit direct mention in the report."

Dr. Shukla said that HAF's first report on the status of Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir would detail atrocities in each country where Hindus were targeted specifically for their religious affiliation. The report will also describe the historical context that precipitated these attacks, he added.