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US is not anti-Muslim, says Robert Blake

Acting ambassador at the US embassy in New Delhi, Blake said US is opposed to the oppression of anyone regardless of religion, ethnicity or gender.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2004 19:04 IST
Sharat Pradhan (IANS)
Sharat Pradhan (IANS)

A senior American diplomat in India has sought to dispel perceived fears that his country is turning hostile to Muslims and said Islam is the fastest growing religion in the US.

"The United States is not anti-Muslim," was the repeated message of Robert Blake, charge d'affaires and acting ambassador at the US embassy in New Delhi, who was on a two-day tour of Lucknow.

Blake spent time with media persons, local business community, industrialists, people's representatives as well as non-governmental organisations involved in carrying out US-aided programmes in the state.

Addressing students at Lucknow University he regretted the "unfortunate and incorrect impression" around the world that US foreign policy is directed against Islam.

"Islam may well be the fastest growing religion in the United States today," he said in an attempt to dispel the impression that Muslims were unwelcome in America after the September 11 attacks.

According to him, in 2010 "the Muslim-American population will be the second largest in the nation after Christian Americans." The diverse American Muslim community comes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Middle East, North Africa, Iran and Turkey. They also hail from African, East European and South East Asian nations, he said.

The American Muslim community is young, educated and economically stable. According to him, 74 per cent of them are under 50 years and 58 per cent hold a university graduation. Half of the American Muslims earn more than $50,000 annually. The community also is active in politics with 80 per cent registered to vote.

"If you take a walk in the area around the Department of State in Washington D.C., within minutes you can be at a mosque, a synagogue, a temple or any of a large number of different kinds of churches," the diplomat said.

The United States has "over 1,200 mosques and 700 Hindu temples," Blake said stressing his nation's respect for other religions. Lauding India's secular character, he said the United States too continues to help "people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds share equally in building a great nation."

"Both of our countries are opposed to the oppression of anyone regardless of religion, ethnicity or gender," he added.

Blake pointed out that India-US bilateral relations were not confined to government-to-government relations but it meant a "flourishing people-to-people contact." Despite challenges of terrorism and fears, the US issued half-a-million visas to Indians through its consulates in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata and the embassy in New Delhi. The overall visa issuance rate for India has not changed after 9/11, he maintained.

First Published: Jan 17, 2004 19:04 IST