September 17, 2019
Amina J Mohammed
Deputy Secretary General
United Nations Headquarters
New York, NY 10017
Dear Deputy SG Amina Mohammed:
Though we appreciate your strong support for humanitarian and development programs around the world, we face a serious conflict with human rights protections that requires attention. We are deeply disturbed to learn that you will speak at a September 26 program in which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be giving an award to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, religious and ethnic minorities have been demonized and disenfranchised and organized mobs have systematically attacked Muslims while elected leaders call for violence. India has descended into dangerous, deadly and divisive politics that has consistently undermined human rights and democracy.
The situation in the state of Assam and Indian-administered Kashmir is cause for grave concern as well. In Assam, 1.9 million Indians have been stripped of citizenship; in Kashmir, since August, 800,000 Indian armed forces have kept eight million Kashmiris without phone or internet service for the last month. Because of these human rights abuses, children in Kashmir from Kindergarten to college are unable to attend school. In 2016 (the year the most recent data has been available), schools in Kashmir were open for only four months out of the year.
Finally, scholars inside and outside of India have never cleared Prime Minister Modi of his involvement in the horrific 2002 massacre of Gujarat. As a result, Modi was banned from entering the United States, the UK, and Canada for 10 years until he acquired diplomatic immunity by becoming India’s Prime Minister. To be sure, his role in that crisis as the then Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat cannot be ignored.
In view of these facts – and your own reputation and that of the United Nations as a whole– we respectfully request that you ask the Gates Foundation to present the awards not to Prime Minister Modi but to others involved in development work in India. Doing so will send a clear and powerful message that the Foundation should operate on principle, and according to its founding values. If the Foundation will not reconsider, in our view you should not participate. As you may know, others have already withdrawn from this ceremony.
Glossing over crimes against humanity, oppression, and disenfranchisement will undermine the SDGs, further serve to weaken adherence to the UN charter and betray the cause of human freedom we all share.
Abdul Malik Mujhaid
Chairman, Justice for All
Burma Task Force USA and Canada (Includes 38 Muslim American organzations)
Save Uighur and Faith Coalition Against Genocide at StopGenocide.org
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
Majlis Ash Shura of Metro New York
Interfaith Center of New York
Pax Christi USA (Catholic)
Pax Christi Metro New York
South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship & Training (SAFEST)
South Asian Solidarity Foundation
Labor Religion Alliance
Turning Point for Women and Families
US Campaign for Burma
World Rohingya Organization (WRO)
Rohingya Culture Center (RCC), Chicago
Rohingya American Society (RAS, Wisconsin)
Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma (JACOB)*
*Includes 24 Jewish American organizations including
The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
The Rabbinical Assembly
The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
The Shalom Center
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights