Krishnamoorthi criticized for attending Modi reception

  • Inam Hussain, Raja Krishnamoorthi and William Olson are the the Democrats running for the 8th Congressional District seat in the March 17 primary.

      Inam Hussain, Raja Krishnamoorthi and William Olson are the the Democrats running for the 8th Congressional District seat in the March 17 primary. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/12/2020 4:27 PM

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi's challengers in the March 17 Democratic primary are criticizing his presence at a reception last September for controversial Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggesting it calls into question the Schaumburg congressman's dedication to human rights.

Challengers William Olson of Schaumburg and Inam Hussain of Libertyville said the "Howdy Modi" event in Houston featured distinctly warm greeting of the Indian prime minister by President Donald Trump.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Olson called Modi a "hyperzealous nationalist" and accused Krishnamoorthi of being seized by the same streak of nationalism as the Trump administration and some other members of Congress.

"My opponent, he endorses it," Olson said. "He endorses Narendra Modi, he endorses the national security state by voting to appropriate billions of dollars, many of which are to programs which are classified, which prolong human misery in places across the world and the militarization of our border with Mexico."

Hussain, a Pakistani American physician, has cited what he sees as Krishnamoorthi's pro-Indian stance as one of his inspirations for entering the race. While describing Pakistan as an American ally in battling terrorism, he said Modi was not welcomed in the U.S. before becoming prime minister due to allegations he played a role in the murder of 3,000 people when he was chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat.

"And on top of that, Mr. Krishnamoorthi failed to address the issue of Kashmir, which was locked down," Hussain said. "About 8 million people still have no access to media, they have no access outside, and our congressman failed to address that issue. It's a human rights issue. America stands for human rights -- human rights here, human rights abroad."

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Krishnamoorthi responded that he has publicly proclaimed his priorities for Kashmir many times -- that restrictions be lifted, that all sides disavow violence and that all parties with a claim to the region take part in peace negotiations.

He also describes himself as one of Trump's most outspoken critics, noting his central role in the House's impeachment inquiry.

Krishnamoorthi said he has been at the forefront of fighting discrimination and bigotry. He was the first member of Congress to go to O'Hare International Airport to help free Muslim green card holders during the president's early travel bans on citizens of Muslim-majority nations.

He characterized the Modi reception as one of his diplomatic responsibilities.

"Just a month prior to the meeting with Prime Minister Modi in Houston, I attended a reception for Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan on Capitol Hill," Krishnamoorthi said. "As you know, many Americans have deep security concerns about Pakistan and its military and its government, but it was incumbent on me to attend that reception because many of my constituents are Pakistani American."

For the Modi event, Krishnamoorthi said he part of a 29-member delegation led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and it provided an opportunity to discuss his concerns with high-level government officials.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I will continue to fight against all forms of discrimination wherever it is and air my concerns with different leaders," he added.

The 8th District is roughly centered in Schaumburg and includes areas of northwest Cook, northeast DuPage and northeast Kane counties.

Hussain does not reside in the 8th District, but congressional candidates are not required to live in the districts they seek to represent, either before or after election.

Republicans have not yet slated an 8th District candidate for the general election.

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