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Trump admin’s religious freedom report says IS conducting genocide

Report says many nations, including Pakistan and China, deny their citizens the right to practice their religion or belief.

world Updated: Aug 16, 2017 18:35 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson,Donald Trump,international religious freedom
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson delivers remarks on the 2016 international religious freedom annual report at the state department in Washington on August 15, 2017.(Reuters)

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, releasing the Donald Trump administration’s first report on international religious freedom on Tuesday, accused the Islamic State (IS) of conducting genocide in areas it controls and named Pakistan and China among a short list of countries that deny their citizens the right to practice their religion or belief.

“To remove any ambiguity from previous statements and reports by the state department … ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled,” Tillerson said, using another acronym for IS.

The US first determined IS’s actions amounted to genocide in 2016, when Tillerson’s predecessor John Kerry said: “My purpose here today is to assert in my judgment, (IS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control.” It was called a historic announcement — Darfur, Sudan in 2004 was the last time the US had declared genocide anywhere in the world.

It could not be immediately determined if Tillerson’s statement suggested change in US policy or an escalation in hostilities against the terrorist outfit.

The top diplomat named IS at the top of his list of “most egregious and troubling” examples of violators of the right to practice religion. Others on his list, which he discussed at the release event, were Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, China, Bahrain and Sudan.

“Religious freedom was under attack in Pakistan, where more than two dozen are on death row or serving a life imprisonment for blasphemy,” Tillerson said. “The government marginalises Ahmediya Muslims and refuses to recognize them as Muslim.”

“It’s my hope,” he added, “the new prime minister, his government will promote inter-faith harmony and protect the rights of religious minorities.”

Pakistan’s had found a special mention in the 2015 report as well, because of its controversial blasphemy laws.

Tillerson did not name India in his list of egregious violators of the right to practice religion, but the annual report noted that “there were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and … increase in violent incidents by cow protection groups against mostly Muslim victims, including killings, mob violence, assaults, and intimidation”.

The report said: “Hindus threatened and assaulted Muslims and Christians and destroyed their property.” The 2015 report had used the phrase “Hindu nationalists” for a similar observation.

First Published: Aug 16, 2017 18:35 IST