WASHINGTON: Mahatma Gandhi's legacy is an inspiration in dealing with intolerance in the United States and around the world, the White House said today, a day after President Barack Obama stated that acts of intolerance experienced by religious faiths in India in the past few years would have shocked the peace icon.
"Mahatma Gandhi's legacy is one we look to for inspiration in dealing with intolerance in the United States and around the world," Mark Stroh, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said.
The assertion came after Obama in his address to the high-profile National Prayer Breakfast yesterday said the "acts of intolerance" experienced by religious faiths of all types in the past few years in India would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi.
Stroh said, "In India and at the National Prayer Breakfast, the President's message was that freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom, and that every nation is stronger when people of all faiths are free to practice their religion free of persecution and fear and discrimination," he said.
"The President (in his speech) was clear that this is not unique to one group, nation, or religion," he said.
The US President, who has just returned from India, in his speech yesterday referred to violence against followers of various religions in India in the past few years.
Obama, however, did not name any particular religion. In fact he said that religions of all faiths have been attacked in the past few years.
"Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation," Obama said.
"This is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today's world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try," he said.
During his India visit in a US-style Town Hall address in New Delhi on January 27, the last day of his trip, Obama had made a strong pitch for religious tolerance, cautioning that India will succeed so long as it was not "splintered along the lines of religious faith".
The White House on Wednesday had strongly refuted allegations that Obama's remarks on religious tolerance were aimed at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying the speech in its entirety was about the "core democratic values and principles" of both the US and India.