WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama drew flak from New Delhi for his remarks on religious intolerance in India during his speech at Thursday’s high-profile breakfast, and from his critics in the United States when he compared the atrocities of the Islamic State to the bloodshed committed in the name of Christianity in centuries past.

Speaking at the traditional National Prayer Breakfast, which brings together political and religious leaders, Obama referred to his recent visit to 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’s remarks came amid ongoing attacks on churches in New Delhi, where Police on Wednesday detained Christian demonstrators for protesting violence against the minority community.Reacting to Obama’s concern about religious intolerance in India, the Indian government on Friday said any ‘aberrations’ do not alter India’s history of tolerance, according to news reports. Two senior Union ministers - finance minister Arun Jaitley and home minister Rajnath Singh - claimed that India was a multireligious and multicultural country where communities including Muslim, Jewish, Parsis and Christians were present.

About his crusades remarks, Jim Gilmore, a former Republican governor of Virginia and his longtime critic, said the president’s comments the breakfast are the ‘most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime.’ ‘He (Obama) has offended every believing Christian in the United States’, he added Rush Limbaugh, an ultra conservative radio show host, devoted a segment of his programme to what he said were the president’s insults to the ‘whole gamut of Christians’ and Twitter’s right wing piled on. Guests on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show spent 15 minutes airing objections to the president’s comments.

‘Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,’ Obama said. ‘In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.’ Still, the president went on to focus on the terrorism carried out under the guise of Islam, saying that the last few months have shown the degree to which faith can be ‘twisted and misused in the name of evil.’

‘From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith - their faith - professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact are betraying it,’ he said, describing the Islamic State as ‘a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism.’  Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, said in a statement that Obama was trying to ‘deflect guilt from Muslim madmen.’ He said the president’s comparisons were ‘insulting’ and ‘pernicious.’  Gilmore further said the comments go ‘further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.’

The White House had no comment on Thursday night about the criticism. In his speech, Obama said the use of religion to justify violence and killings ‘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,’ he said.  The talk of terrorism was the sharpest note in a speech that was otherwise a reflection on religion and humility, and it was Obama’s latest effort to avoid branding recent violence by the Islamic State or those professing common cause with it as ‘Islamic’ extremism. His team has said that doing so would play into the hands of terrorist organizations, legitimizing their message.