Trump defends Modi on religious freedom amid protests in India
President Trump on Tuesday offered a defense of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the subject of religious freedom amid violent protests over a new law that gives citizenship to non-Muslims fleeing religious persecution from other countries.
Trump insisted that Modi, who hosted the U.S. president at a huge rally in India on Monday, “wants people to have religious freedom.”
“The prime minister was incredible in what he told me. He wants people to have religious freedom and very strongly,” Trump told reporters at a press conference toward the end of his two-day trip to India.
“He said that, in India, they have worked very hard to have great and open religious freedom. And if you look back and you look at what’s going on, relative to other places especially, but they have really worked hard on religious freedom,” Trump continued.
Trump was specifically asked about the violent demonstrations in New Delhi against the country’s controversial citizenship law and whether he was concerned about the developments.
Critics argue that the law, formally known as the Citizenship Amendment Act, is anti-Muslim. It has prompted violent protests in New Delhi around the time of Trump’s visit.
Modi is the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Trump told reporters that he and Modi did not specifically discuss the violence, but defended the Indian prime minister’s record broadly on religious freedom. Trump did not weigh in on the law or the riots, telling reporters that “it’s up to India” to handle.
“We talked about it for a long time and I really believe that’s what he wants,” Trump said of religious freedom at the press conference.
Trump has positioned himself as a champion of religious liberty and his administration has taken steps that officials argue encourage and protect religious freedom. But Trump has faced backlash over his policies and rhetoric, particularly with regards to immigration, with critics accusing them of being discriminatory against Muslims.
–This report was updated at 11:10 a.m.