Persecution in India: It matters only if it's about Muslims

Nice to know the New York Times cares so much about religious freedom in India -- at least for Muslims.

"For Nation’s Persecuted Muslim Minority, Caution Follows Hindu Party’s Victory," warns a headline in an 1,100-plus-word story on that nation's elections Friday. And the newspaper wastes no time in sympathizing, with these as the third and fourth paragraphs:

Discrimination against Muslims in India is so rampant that many barely muster outrage when telling of the withdrawn apartment offers, rejected job applications and turned-down loans that are part of living in the country for them. As a group, Muslims have fallen badly behind Hindus in recent decades in education, employment and economic status, with persistent discrimination a key reason. Muslims are more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities and less likely to qualify for bank loans.

Now, after a landslide electoral triumph Friday by the Bharatiya Janata Party of Hindu nationalists, some Muslims here said they were worried that their place in India could become even more tenuous.

The article then quotes an amazing nine sources: journalists, small businessmen, even a professor in London. They remind us of modern India's violent birth in 1947, when most Muslims were split off into Pakistan. They tell about housing discrimination, with some Hindus even complaining that Muslim neighbors would lower property values.

The sources tell about 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, who died in riots in 2002 in Gujarat, Modi's home state in India. (However, Modi was personally cleared of any participation.) And a member of the "liberal intelligentsia," as the Times calls him, fears that Modi is a "threat to India's secularism."

All that is certainly newsworthy stuff when 15 percent of all Indians belong to the world's second-largest religion. Helping nearly 190 million people feel safer is a good idea. But what about the safety of Indian Christians and other religious minorities?

Sure, they may amount to less than 28 million Indians, but they're members of the world's largest religion -- which, of course, is the majority of the Times' American readers. Yet a search of recent Times stories, especially connected with the election, shows no such concern for them.

Not that I really expected anything different after a former editor blithely said the Times "probably gives short shrift to religion." But wouldn't a religion-blind newspaper also be a Muslim-blind newspaper?

That selective blindness is even more pronounced when you see how easily the Times could have gotten leads on Indian Christians just by trolling the web.

Charisma News, citing Christian leaders in Andhra Pradesh state, reported that Hindu extremists committed 41 beatings, burnings and other violence there in 2013. The leaders voiced fears that a Modi victory would further embolden the extremists.

On the other hand, the Times of India scored a coup by interviewing India-born Christian evangelist K.A. Paul -- who is based nowadays in Houston -- on why he backed Modi.

Some Christian media, too, offer a nuanced view of the election that might have brought smiles at the Times. The Christian Post cites Indian Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Albert D'Souza of Agra, that religions can still coexist there. And last month, Christianity Today asked Indian Christians their opinions if Modi were to be elected.

The magazine found many were optimistic that the BJP would generate jobs. But some also remembered the party's political DNA:

Bishop Taranath Sagar, president of the National Council of Churches, an umbrella group representing 12 million Christians, says Modi has been emphasizing economic development. But once in office, some fear he may be pressured to further advance the Hindu nationalist agenda (Hindutva), which his party has promoted in recent years. This would include tough anticonversion laws, a crackdown on public criticism of Hinduism, and further limits on religious minorities. The BJP has pushed for anticonversion laws in several states, and Modi himself signed into law one of the most infamous ones in 2003.

Pretty urbane, seasoned reports, don’t you think? Worthy of, say, a New York Times. But only if the subject catches the Times' interest.

Video: Narendra Modi speaks with Times Now's editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami on "Frankly Speaking."

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