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'Religious minorities continue to be discriminated'

world Updated: Oct 24, 2008 15:34 IST

Religious minorities in different parts of the world, including India, continue to be discriminated against, with some living in 'perpetual threat', an independent UN expert has said.

Human rights activist Asma Jahangir told UN News Centre that at national levels, religious minorities continue to suffer, and the more despotic a regime, the more suffering of religious minorities.

India, she said, with its multitude of cultures, languages and religions, "oozes" diversity, and is a vibrant democracy with many people committed to secularism.

"And yet some of the worst forms of killings have taken place in India," she said as she spoke about communal tensions and violence witnessed over the years.

The groups that she receives reports about include the Baha'is in Iran, Buddhists in Tibet and Ahmadis a religious group that identifies itself as Muslim in a number of countries.

At the same time, she pointed out that violations of this basic human right which manifest themselves in, among others, not being allowed to gather together for worship, desecration of religious sites, and being prevented from making pilgrimages

Do not just occur in countries with certain types of political systems.

"One would have imagined that such incidents only take place in countries which have been unfortunately left behind, where political systems and social values have remained stunted," she stated.

In more multicultural and diverse societies, tensions can be expected to arise, she noted.

"There are still States that heavily discriminate that persecute religious minorities. And these minorities live in perpetual threat," said Jahangir, who continues to receive reports of arrests, torture and intimidation by "States and their agents.

An important issue, which Jahangir highlighted on Thursday in her speech to the General Assembly's social, humanitarian and cultural committee, is the compulsory mentioning of one's religion on official identity cards or passports, which she stressed carries a serious risk of abuse.

"I don't think there is any reason to indicate religion on identity cards or passports," she reiterated on Friday. "But there can be a situation where, for the purposes of governance and for the purposes of giving affirmative action, like in India and Pakistan, people have to identify their religions, or for census purposes.