A Muslim leader in India blasted plans from some Democrat representatives to boycott Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to Congress on Thursday.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., announced Tuesday on Twitter that she would not attend Modi’s speech to Congress on Thursday, accusing Modi’s government of repressing religious minorities, emboldening violent Hindu nationalist groups and targeting journalists and human rights advocates “with impunity.”
Atif Rasheed, president of Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (Marginalized Muslim Front), responded to the claims by saying that Omar was “spitting poison” with her claims.
“I belong from religious Minority of India but I live freely with my religious freedom and religious identity in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India,” Rasheed wrote in a tweet.
“I have equal share in every resource here, I have the freedom to speak whatever I want in India,” he continued. “I also have the freedom to write what I want in India. I am sorry to say you are showing wrong picture of My India under your hate agenda.”
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley also ridiculed the representatives for the protest, telling Fox News Digital in a statement that “AOC and the Squad boycotting India’s democratically elected leader while they side with Palestinian terrorists and socialist dictators is exactly on brand. What an embarrassment.”
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Omar responded to Rasheed’s claims by saying that “what’s happening in India runs directly counter to our democratic values.” She accused Modi’s government of instituting an anti-Muslim citizenship law and “a purge of Muslim citizens in the Indian state of Assam,” as well as the revocation of autonomy from the majority-Muslim region of Kashmir and the illegal detention of dissidents.
“Dissidents, journalists, and their families are targeted with violence and political persecution,” Omar wrote. “Even advocates outside of India fear that their family members will be targeted if they speak out.”
“We are told we must now turn a blind eye to this repression because of foreign policy concerns – even though human rights are supposed to be at the center of our foreign policy,” she continued. “But Prime Minister Modi is not even a reliable geopolitical ally.”
“Modi has maintained close economic ties with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin even after his illegal invasion of Ukraine, and continues to rely on Russia for oil and weapons,” she wrote, adding that she will instead hold a briefing on the bilateral relationship, including a panel of human rights experts.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also announced plans to boycott Modi’s speech, saying the U.S. should not extend “the most prestigious invitations and honors” Congress can extend “for individuals with deeply troubling human rights records.” Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said she would be skipping Modi’s address “in solidarity with the communities that have been harmed by Modi and his policies.”
Neither Tlaib nor Ocasio-Cortez responded to a Fox News Digital request for comment by time of publication.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., called Modi’s appearance before Congress “unacceptable.”
“We’ve seen how Prime Minister Modi has incited dangerous nationalism and violence in India, has promoted Islamophobia, and more. Inviting someone like him to speak to Congress is unacceptable, and I will not be attending his speech,” Bowman said.
Siddhartha Dubey, adjunct professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, told Fox News Digital that the U.S. has given Modi a “very warm” welcome and that the congresswomen were justified in their boycotts.
“For the past three administrations of Obama onwards, human rights and civil liberties, the issue of human rights and civil liberties in India has been swept under the carpet because India is more of a strategic ally, an economic partner,” Dubey explained.
“Since the belligerence of China has risen not just in Asia but around the world and on American soil, [including] the recent or not so recent spy balloon incident, America needs India,” he continued. “Plus, it’s becoming a massive trading partner, so human rights has taken a backseat.”
“These representatives standing up and said that they will not attend Prime Minister Modi’s address in Washington later today is – I mean, it’s their own choice,” he said. “I support their choice. It’s a tiny bit of resistance and an overall very, very, very warm embrace Washington has given Mr. Modi.”
Modi told the Wall Street Journal that “India deserves a much higher, deeper and wider profile and a role,” adding that he did not see India’s role as “supplanting any country” but that the country is simply “gaining its rightful position in the world.”
India sits within key, but competing, organizations: the QUAD, made up of the U.S. and Indo-Pacific partners India, Japan and Australia, which is a dialogue between those nations on security matters; and two groups led by China and Russia called BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Fox News Digitals’ Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.