About 200 people — most of them Indian-Americans — gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol on Sunday to protest a citizenship law recently enacted by the government in India that they fear represents an attack on religious freedom. Similar protests were held Sunday in at least 29 other cities across the U.S.
The measure applies religion-based criteria to immigrants seeking citizenship in India, fast-tracking naturalization for non-Muslim immigrants from some neighboring countries. Indian Muslims have staged protests across India for weeks, saying the law violates the country's secular constitution and marginalizes the country's Muslims.
The protesters in St. Paul called for U.S. sanctions against India for its "attacks on human rights and religious freedom."
"We the people of the Indian diaspora and we the people of Minnesota say 'no' to the Indian state's fascist plans and vow to protect India's constitution," said Medha Faust-Nagar, an activist who spoke Sunday.
As attendees waved American and Indian flags and held signs that read "Save Secularism in India," Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), encouraged protesters to talk to their friends and co-workers.
"Ask them, 'Are you aware of what's happening in India?' and then tell them," he said.
Sadia Tarannum, a CAIR-MN board member, said it's important that the issue not be viewed as relevant to only those with families in India: "This should be concerning to all of us who stand for religious freedom," she said.