Bangladesh strongly protests top US Senator's remarks

Brajesh Upadhyay, Washington
Published : 15:11, Feb 21, 2020 | Updated : 18:27, Feb 21, 2020

File photo: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asks a question during a Judiciary Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2017 ReutersBangladesh has expressed its strong protest against top US Senator Chuck Grassley’s comments accusing the country of authoritarianism and persecution of citizens for their faith and religious beliefs.

Rejecting the remarks, the Bangladeshi embassy in Washington DC issued a statement urging Senator Grassley to correct his narrative and understanding about Bangladesh based on facts and realities on the ground.

“The Embassy strongly protests and categorically rejects the remarks made by Senator Grassley that are farthest from the truth,” said Embassy spokesperson Shamim Ahmed.

Senator Grassley on Tuesday had stated that the United States should help “citizens from countries like Russia, Bangladesh and Sudan who live under authoritarian regimes and face persecution for faith and religious beliefs”.

The statement from the most senior Republican in the Senate came as a surprise to the embassy officials here in Washington DC as Bangladesh was not on the list of State Department’s “countries of particular concern” or the “special watch list” for the governments that have engaged in or tolerated  severe violations of religious freedom.

Also, last year’s US Commission on International Religious Freedom Report had recommended to the State Department that India along with several others be listed as a Tier 2 country of particular concern (CPC). Pakistan was recommended to be put as a Tier 1 CPC country. There was no mention of Bangladesh under either of the categories.

“The Embassy clearly states that the remarks made by Senator Grassley are not only biased and motivated but also absolutely contradictory to the 2019 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF),” said Mr Ahmed.

The embassy also expressed its “extreme disappointment” over the fact that instead of appreciating the government of Bangladesh for sheltering more than 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar, Senator Grassley chose to criticise the country that saved their lives.

The Embassy stated that Senator Grassley was welcome to visit Bangladesh and see for himself the values of democracy, freedom, openness, inclusivity, and religious harmony that exist in the country.

Senator Grassley is the chairman on the Senate’s powerful Finance Committee.  He was also appointed president pro tempore of the Senate of the 116th US Congress, making him the third in the presidential line of succession after tthe Vice-President and Speaker of the House.