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Government refutes but does not reject Obama intolerance charge

Rebutting the criticism by President Barack Obama that Gandhiji would have been shocked by the incidents of religious intolerance witnessed in India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “Aberrations don’t alter India’s history of tolerance. Any society must be a tolerant society is a fact that each one has to accept, it’s good to be tolerant.”

Home Minister Rajnath Singh also questioned the US President’s assertion saying religious tolerance is inherent in Indian culture.” Sects of all Muslims / Parsi / Christians are found in India. In our nation we do not discriminate on the basis of caste / creed / religion,” he said.

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama had referred to his India visit and said, “Michelle and I returned from India – an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity – 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 — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation”.

He did not name any particular religion and said the violence is not unique to one group or one religion.

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout  history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.

“In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow (racial segregation state and local laws) all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” he said, addressing the gathering of over 3,000 US and international leaders.

“There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. 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. And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe,” he said.

In a Town Hall address in New Delhi on January 27, the last day of his India trip, Obama had made a strong pitch for religious tolerance, cautioning that India will succeed so long as it was not  “splintered along the lines of religious faith”.

The White House yesterday strongly refuted allegations that Obama’s remarks on religious tolerance was aimed at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, saying the speech in its entirety was about the “core democratic values and principles” of both the US and India.

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