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US report lists attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan

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US report lists attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan

New York, Aug 16 (IANS) A US government report on religious freedom lists attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere as well as restrictions on Sikhs in France and Denmark.

The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2016 (IRFR) released on Tuesday in Washington by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that mentioned growing attacks on minorities in India, some ascribed to cow-protection activists, also chronicled attacks against Hindus in several countries.

It said that in Bangladesh “there were a significant number of attacks against religious minorities, particularly Hindus” and attributed some of them to the Islamic State (IS) and the Al Qaeda.

In October, hundreds of villagers in the eastern part of Bangladesh “vandalised more than 50 Hindu family homes and 15 Hindu temples, following a Facebook post believed by some to be offensive to Islam,” according to the IRFR.

At least 24 persons were killed in attacks by extremists organisations and they included Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other minorities, the report said.

In Pakistan, the IRFR attributed the attacks on Hindus to claims of blasphemy against Islam and said: “Members of religious minority communities stated the government was inconsistent in safeguarding minority rights, and official discrimination against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis persisted.”

The report said according to Christian and Hindu organisations girls from those communities “were particularly vulnerable to forced conversions”.

The IRFR said the French government continued to ban Sikhs turbans in public spaces, schools and government offices; while Denmark prohibited judges from wearing turbans.

These restrictions also affected other religions because the ban included “conspicuous” religious symbols. In Denmark the restrictions also included crucifixes.

While there were 2,372 anti-Muslim crimes in England and Wales between April 2015 and March 2016; 1,055 crimes against Christians and other religious groups, including Hindus and Sikhs, were reported according to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), IRFR said.

It did not provide a breakdown of crimes against Hindus and Sikhs.

In Malaysia, IRFR said that at least eight Hindu temples around the country were reportedly vandalised from April to November 2016.

One person who was accused of defiling a temple in Perak State was acquitted on grounds of insanity but prosecutors were appealing it, the report added.

“Hindu leaders and NGOs said police ignored the potential religious or ethnic motivations for the crimes and called on authorities to increase protection for places of worship and to investigate the cases of vandalism for any elements of ‘terrorism and extremism,'” the IRFR said.

Controversial Indian Imam and televangelist Zakir Naik was welcomed by the Malaysian government although Hindus protested his speaking tour to the country because they said “his message insulted Hinduism and promoted extremism,” it said.

In contrast, the Bangladesh government banned Naik’s Peace TV Bangla saying it “spread extremist ideologies” and closed “peace schools” affiliated with his teachings, according to IRFR.

Three Hindu temples were broken into and desecrated in January, August, and September in 2016 in Fiji, according to the report.

In Mauritius, the IRFR said: “Tensions between Hindus and Muslims continued; however, unlike in previous years, there were no reports of inter-religious violence.”

A Tamil temple was vandalised in Port Louis in December, according to the report.

The report included a bizarre incident in which vandalism at two mosques and a Muslim cemetery were apparently linked to US President Donald Trump, Hindus and the Bollywood.

In the Savanne District unidentified individuals wrote in Creole “Trump for them” and this had the implication that Trump supported Hindus and was against Muslims, the IRFR said.

“Also written was ‘Gabbar is BACK’ a reference to a famous Bollywood antagonist famed for murdering his enemies,” along with the letters HSS and a trident was also drawn, the report said.

“According to speculation in the press, HSS was a reference to the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS),” IRFR said, adding that the HSS denied involvement.

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