Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Barack Obama causes outrage by saying religious conflict in India would have shocked Gandhi

US President Barack Obama said that religious conflict in India has produced "acts of intolerance" that would have shocked the country's icon of peace, Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, provoking a storm of outrage.

Obama made the remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, which also raised the ire of conservative Christians in the United States.

"Michelle and I returned from India – an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity," Obama said, "but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs."

The "acts of intolerance" would have "shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation," Obama said, employing the honorific used in India for the revered freedom fighter.  ["Gandhi" is not an honorific.  It is a surname]

"So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith," he added. "In today's world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try."

At the prayer breakfast, Obama was seated near the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who has long lived in exile in the hills in Northern India after fleeing Chinese repression. This irony was not lost on critics here.

"The best example of India's tolerance was the Dalai Lama sitting next to Obama," India's finance minister Arun Jaitley said Friday, according to the news channel NDTV. He also said that India has "a huge cultural history of tolerance; any aberrations do not alter that history."

Obama had also referred to the country's history of religious conflict during his final speech in New Delhi on January 27, saying "India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines." White House officials said later said the speech was about inclusivity and the power of diversity and was not aimed at Modi or his government.


The religious conflict in India is between Hindus and Muslims. Centuries of oppression by Muslims have not been forgotten by Hindus and they do as a consequence still loathe Muslims.  Obama is however right about Gandhiji.  He did oppose Muslim/Hindu conflict.  "Mahatma" and "ji" are both marks of respect in India.

1 comment:

Bird of Paradise said...