American Islamists are adding fuel to the fire of misinformation against India's recent amendment to a decades-old citizenship law.
The legislation "discriminates against India's religious minorities and could categorize India's 200 million Muslims and others as non-citizens as [sic] illegal aliens," said a release promoting a Washington, D.C. news conference earlier this month.
The news conference was organized by eight organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Circle of North America Council for Social Justice (ICNA CSJ), and the Indian American Muslim Council. The groups called on the Trump administration to pressure the Indian government to revoke the amendment and impose sanctions on Indian political leaders, including Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, one of the legislation's main drivers.
"[It] now looks like that the largest democracy is changing into [the] largest detention camp and maybe a huge genocide of Muslims over there," claimed ICNA CSJ Executive Director Zahid Bukhari.
Bukhari equated India's ruling nationalist government with Nazi Germany warning, "whatever we used to study, used to read in history books in what was happening in Germany, practically that is happening over there and about to happen more in a severe way." He also endorsed the conference's call for "urgent action" from the U.S. government and business community "to stop all this genocide."
Contrary to the Islamists' obscene hyperbolic comparison, India's Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will not lead to anything remotely like a genocide. It does not revoke anyone's citizenship. It creates no detention camps. Advocates say it eases the path to citizenship for persecuted religious minorities forced out of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan – the three Muslim majority countries in India's neighborhood.
The legislation's exclusion of Muslims has, however, sparked violent protests in India with its opponents, including India's leading opposition party, the Indian National Congress, claiming that the law is "discriminatory and divisive" and goes against the secular ethos of the country.
But India's ruling nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) accuses the opposition of "spreading misinformation and falsehood on CAA" and justifies its exclusion of Muslims on grounds that the legislation deals with persecuted non-Muslim minority communities in the Muslim-majority countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
The BJP adds that persecuted Muslims – such as Baluchis and Ahmediyas in Pakistan, and Rohingyas in Myanmar – are still eligible to apply for Indian citizenship under the country's 1955 Citizenship Act. In the past six years, 2,830 Pakistani citizens, 912 Afghani citizens, and 172 Bangladeshi citizens have been granted Indian citizenship.
"We are seeing the active political debate, the discussions in Parliament, the protests by people who are espousing their views on that law. We are also fully aware that there is a judicial process that's underway," a senior State Department official was reported saying in response to protests over the legislation. "And we respect India's democratic institutions and India's democratic practices, and we will continue to observe it on an ongoing basis," the official added.
On Wednesday, India's top court heard 144 petitions filed supporting and opposing the CAA, but refused to strike down the legislation without a government hearing on the issue.
Many of the groups leading the Washington news conference have deep ties to international Islamist movements.
ICNA, for example, is "openly affiliated" with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a South Asian Sunni revivalist movement that has provided an ideological platform and recruiting base for the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). The HM has been behind several attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
A longtime ICNA leader, Bukhari has promoted the JI on his Facebook page. In 2013, Bukhari re-posted a photo from the 1979 funeral prayers for JI founder and Islamist ideologue Maulana Syed Abdul Ala Maududi in the Pakistani city of Lahore originally posted by Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan. He also touts Islam as "the only answer and the only solution for all socio-economic, political and cultural problems."
"After the practical failure of all 'isms' we are to come with an alternative—Al-Islam—the complete system of life," he adds.
CAIR emerged in 1994 from a Muslim Brotherhood-created Hamas-support network called the Palestine Committee. CAIR operates under the guise of a benign civil rights group, but has a long history of serving as a front for Hamas, in undermining counter-terrorism actions and by fabricating conspiratorial narratives against the government in rationalizing the group's support of terrorism.
Speakers at the Islamist presser additionally claimed that an Indian government proposal to update an official record of Indian citizens, also known as the National Register of Citizens (NRC), targeted Muslims.
The Indian government denies any connection between the two pieces of legislation, stating, "CAA is a separate law and NRC is a separate process. The CAA has come into force nationwide after its passage from Parliament, while the NRC rules and procedures for the country are yet to be decided."
Through the proposed nationwide NRC, the government hopes to make it easier to identify infiltrators who have been living in India illegally and deport them to their countries of origin. Most countries have national identity documents that prove citizenship, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
But American Islamists are falsely using the legislations to predict an apocalyptic scenario for Indian Muslims.
"This is a path the Nazis took Jews down," said Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid. "It has been repeated in Burma with the Rohingya, and now India is doing the same with its 200 million-plus Muslims."
"Qital is an essential element of Islam" Mujahid, then-president of ICNA, said at the 1995 Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference. "And sometimes you don't like it. Qital is ordained upon you, though it is hateful to you, but it may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you ... And one example is, now we have 60 or so Muslim countries, and not a single one of them wants to go for Qital and jihad for Bosnia."
A group of 154 prominent Indian citizens, including former government officials and intellectuals, submitted a memorandum to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind Friday, asking the government to take "stern action" against elements spreading misinformation and "instigating" protests against the CAA. "The fear-mongering which is being spread across the length and breadth of India appears to be motivated and with a sinister design to harm the nation," the memorandum said.
By painting apocalyptic scenarios for Indian Muslims, American Islamists are spreading lies on the legislation. India remains home to the world's second largest Muslim population – one that continues to enjoy the same rights and privileges as Indians from other faiths. Legitimate criticism and debate over the amendment to the citizenship law is understandable. But by invoking genocide and making comparisons to Nazi Germany, American Islamists forfeit the right to be taken seriously.