Who are the USCIRF and what concerns have been raised by it over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 introduced in the Parliament ?

Published: December 12, 2019

The USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) is an independent federal government commission that was created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). It advises the US Congress and the administration on issues pertaining to international religious freedom. It acts as a conscience-keeper for the two branches in the US government – the legislature and the executive.

Mandate of the USCIRF – 

  • It monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad (not in the US).
  • It monitors this right using international standards and makes policy recommendations.

Main responsibilities of USCIRF – 

  • It documents conditions in about 30 countries, provides reports on significant trends and makes recommendations for US policy
  • It engages with the Congress by working with Congressional offices, advising on legislation and holding briefings on religious freedom issues
  • It aims to meet regularly meet with the Executive to share information, highlight situation and discuss recommendations for US policy 
  • To meet regularly with Executive Branch officials to share information, highlight situations of concern, and discuss USCIRF’s recommendations for US policy.
  • The Commission says that freedom of religion is an important human right recognized in international law and treaties.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said it was troubled by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha and considered sanctions against the Home minister and other leadership. 

Concerns raised – 

  • It said that the Bill provides a pathway for immigrants to get citizenship while excluding Muslins, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion.
  • It adds that the Bill runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the constitution which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith.
  • It fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test to obtain Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from Muslims. 
  • It believes that the promotion of freedom is a necessary component of US foreign policy.

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