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UN Leaders Speak Out Against Islamophobia And Anti-Muslim Hatred


Underlining that “diversity is a richness, not
a threat”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called
for greater investment in promoting social cohesion and
tackling bigotry in a message on Wednesday to mark the
International Day to Combat
Islamophobia.

“We must continue to push for
policies that fully respect human rights and religious,
cultural and unique human identity”, he said
in a pre-recorded video broadcast during a commemorative
event held online, organized by the Organization of Islamic
Cooperation (OIC).

“As the Holy Quran reminds us:
nations and tribes were created to know one
another.”

‘Epidemic’ of hatred

Nearly 60
countries are members of the OIC, which designated 15 March
as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

The
Secretary-General cited a recent report to the UN Human
Rights Council
which found that suspicion,
discrimination and outright hatred towards Muslims has risen
to “epidemic proportions”.

Examples listed
included disproportionate restrictions against Muslims
manifesting their beliefs, limits on accessing citizenship,
and widespread stigmatization of Muslim
communities.

The study also highlighted how Muslim
women face “triple levels of discrimination” because of
their gender, ethnicity and faith, he added, while the media
and some persons in power have further compounded
stereotypes.

‘Distressing trends’
globally

“Anti-Muslim bigotry is sadly in line with
other distressing trends we are seeing globally – a
resurgence in ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism, stigma and hate
speech targeting vulnerable populations including Muslims,
Jews, some minority Christian communities as well as
others”, the Secretary-General said.

Stressing that
“discrimination diminishes us all”, the UN chief called
for safeguarding the rights of minority communities, many of
whom are under threat.

“As we move toward evermore
multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies, we need
political, cultural and economic investments to strengthen
social cohesion and tackle bigotry,” he stated.

The
Secretary-General underscored that fighting discrimination,
racism and xenophobia is a priority for the United
Nations.

Promoting respect among
religions

Following a fall-out in relations between
many Muslim countries and some Western nations in the wake
of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States –
and subsequent attacks in London, Madrid and Bali – the
Organization established the UN Alliance of Civilizations
(UNAOC) in 2005.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, the current
UNAOC High Representative, recalled the initiative was
launched as a “political soft power tool” whose
objectives include promoting mutual respect among diverse
cultures and religions.

“Despite progress made in
building bridges of understanding through the promotion of
intercultural and interfaith dialogue, manifestations of
anti-Muslim hatred persisted and morphed into different
forms”, he said.

“Islamophobia
cannot be seen in isolation from the worrying increase in
xenophobia and hate speech against minorities including
immigrants and other faith communities.”

Mr.
Moratinos said mutual respect, interfaith harmony and
peaceful co-existence can be achieved “when there is broad
space for everyone to practice the rituals of their
religions or beliefs freely and safely.”

Solidarity,
equality, respect

For the President of the UN
General Assembly, Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir, any
form of discrimination, including based on religion or
belief, “is
a deeply personal attack
”.

He urged countries to
re-commit to the UN
Charter
, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights
and other related
instruments, expressing hope that they will lay the
foundation for national laws to end hate speech and hate
crimes.

“Today our conversation is focused on
Islamophobia, but the source of this scourge is a source
that imperils us all. The answer is solidarity, equality,
and respectfor the equal dignity and entitlement to
fundamental human rights of every individual”, he
said.

Mr. Bozkir added that protecting people from
extremism requires a global strategy that includes defeating
all forms of violent ideologies.

He called for
building resilience to discriminatory, exclusionary, and
intolerant teachings, and developing respect for the
religious and cultural practices of others.

Urging
tolerance, he looked to young people as a source of
hope.

“Young people are the leaders and upstanders
of tomorrow – and it is our duty to teach them that every
individual is entitled to equal dignity and inalienable
human rights” he recommended.

“Beyond formal
education, we must instil within them a moral compass to
help them navigate difficult situations. I applaud the work
of the UN Alliance of Civilizations for their programming
which promotes interfaith and intercultural dialogue for
young people. I believe this is critical to the progress of
humanity.”

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