IAMC condemns Quran burning incident by high school student in Chicago suburbs; calls for investigation into Hindu far-right influences - IAMC
Quran burning

IAMC condemns Quran burning incident by high school student in Chicago suburbs; calls for investigation into Hindu far-right influences

Naperville, IL (October 3, 2023)— The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), the largest advocacy organization representing diaspora Indian Muslims in the United States, expresses its deep concern over a recently discovered video depicting a Naperville high school student engaged in the reprehensible act of burning a copy of the Quran. This hateful act appears to be influenced by local Hindu supremacist groups with connections to extremist Hindu nationalist organizations in India.

Burning the Quran is unequivocally condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Council as a “religious hate act” due to its threatening, disrespectful, and deeply hurtful nature towards Muslims worldwide. The video, recorded in June, only recently surfaced on social media, showing the student holding a lighter to a copy of Quran, fanning it to make the flames spread, and then hurling it to the ground.

The student has confessed to the hateful action and claimed that his reasoning for doing so was because “[the Quran] said to kill all non Muslims and it slandered other religions,” an anti-Muslim myth he claimed to have seen on social media. 

Disturbingly, there is a pattern of anti-Muslim sentiment in the student’s history, seemingly influenced by Hindu supremacist ideology. In 2021, Hindu supremacist groups organized a campaign to push back against the construction of a new mosque in Naperville by leaving a plethora of opposition comments on the Naperville city website. A number of the comments were posted by people living in India as well as Hindu rightwing bots. According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the student responsible for burning the Quran reportedly left a comment opposing the mosque’s construction.

Furthermore, the language used by the student to justify his actions closely resembles the rhetoric of Hindu extremists in India, frequently disseminated on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook.  Similar language has also been used by prominent Hindu far-right groups in the United States, including the claim that Muslims are “barbaric” invaders of India on the website of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), which is an offshoot of India-based militant group Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

According to Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, VHPA’s leaders have a history of making anti-Muslim remarks, it has platformed far-right Hindu nationalists and recently has targeted American Muslim politicians and rights organizations who call attention to the persecution of Muslims and rising Hindu nationalism in India.

In 2018, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) participated in the World Hindu Congress (WHC) organized by VHPA in Chicago.

The VHPA and other American Hindu supremacist groups, notably the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the US offshoot of India based paramilitary group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have a strong presence in Naperville and greater Chicagoland area. They often masquerade as “benign cultural organizations” by conducting children’s programs and yoga appreciation campaigns.

Last month, members of the American Hindu right organized an event in Chicago featuring Sadhvi Rithambara, a prominent VHP leader and Hindu militant icon whose hate speeches have been described as “the single most powerful instrument for whipping up anti-Muslim violence” in India’s recent past. 

Last year, rightwing Hindu supporters pushed the enactment of a law that blatantly excluded Muslims from a proposed Indian American Advisory Council, which was created to “advise the [Illinois] Governor and the General Assembly on policy issues impacting Indian Americans and immigrants.”   

“Given the prevalence of such overtly anti-Muslim activities in Naperville and Greater Chicagoland area, IAMC suspects it highly likely that the student was and remains influenced by the rising Hindu supremacist radicalization,” said IAMC Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed.

The Indian American Muslim Council calls upon school authorities to ensure that the responsible student faces appropriate consequences for committing an act of religious hatred, especially in the current climate of escalating Islamophobia nationwide.

Additionally, we urge elected officials to condemn this incident in the strongest terms and call on local authorities to initiate an investigation to identify the root causes behind the anti-Muslim indoctrination. Furthermore, we call upon the FBI to collaborate with activists and advocacy groups, including those dedicated to countering Hindu extremist rhetoric, to safeguard the local Muslim community and investigate far-right Hindu supremacist organizations in the state of Illinois.

Anyone with more information about this incident, please email us at media.info@iamc.com.