Sikhs, Hindus face discrimination in Afghanistan: US
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): Public opinion continued to be hostile toward Christians, with Hindus and Sikhs facing societal discrimination and intimidation in Afghanistan, the US said on Wednesday.
There was open hostilityin the country toward converts to Christianity and to organisations that proselytised, the State Department said in its annual report on International Religious Freedom for 2014.
“Although Hindus and Sikhs said they were able to practice their religion publicly, they reportedly continued to face societal discrimination and intimidation,” alleged the report released by Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Hindu and Sikh communities reported the Afghan government provided police protection from societal harassment during burial rituals and offered free electricity for temples, the State Department said.
The Taliban attacked and killed members of religious minority communities, in part because of their beliefs, it said, adding due to fear of persecution, Christians continued to avoid situations where they might be perceived as seeking to spread their religion.
During a session of parliament in July 2013, four MPs called for the execution of converts to Christianity and the lower house speaker stated security officials should investigate the spread of Christianity. No information on any ongoing investigation was available during the year.
The government banned the pan-Islamic movement Hezb-ut-Tahrir – which calls for the overthrow of existing governments to create a unified Muslim state – on the basis that it is an extremist organisation, the report said.
Noting the right to change one’s religion was not respected either in law or in practice, the report said Muslims converts risked annulment of their marriages, rejection by their families and villages, loss of employment and possibly the death penalty.
In previous years, Hindus and Sikhs stated they were not able to cremate the remains of their dead in accordance with their customsdue to interference from those living near the cremation sites.
While the government provided land for this purpose following the intervention of a Sikh senator, some Sikhs complained the land was far from any major urban area and in an insecure region that rendered it unusable.
“A member of parliament allegedly usurped the land bestowed to the Sikh community in Lata Band, outside of Kabul, and reportedly threatened to kill anyone who attempted to cremate a body there,” the State Department claimed.
During the year, the report said, the government designated a cremation site within the city and provided police support to protect the Sikh and Hindu communities while they performed their rituals.
Members of the Bahai faithcontinued to face challenges and discrimination when attempting to attend to their dead in accordance with their customs, the State Department concluded.
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