Anti-Islamophobia day

PM Imran describes it as 'a recognition of the grave challenge confronting the world'


March 17, 2022

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March 15 will henceforth be the International Day to Combat Islamophobia after the UN adopted a consensus resolution introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC. The landmark resolution establishing the international day also calls for expanded international efforts to create a global dialogue that will encourage tolerance and peace centred on respect for human rights and the diversity of religions and beliefs. It also condemns attacks on Muslims, their places of worship, and other religious sites. The resolution adopted by the world body is indeed an achievement of Prime Minister Imran Khan who has rightly described it as “a recognition of the grave challenge confronting the world” — the challenges of Islamophobia, respect for religious symbols and practices and of curtailing systematic hate speech and discrimination against Muslims. The next challenge indeed is to ensure its implementation.

All 57 OIC members and eight other countries, most notably China and Russia, sponsored the resolution. However, despite passing unanimously, some countries did express reservations, some of which were less convincing than others. The most common complaint was that the resolution singled out Islam while ignoring other religions whose followers may face similar discrimination and violence in different parts of the world. The EU ambassador noted his concern that singling out one religion risks undermining the universal approach and underscored that the resolution should not infringe on the right to debate and criticize religion. The French ambassador added to the EU comments, noting that Islamophobia has no consensus definition, and that all discrimination should be condemned with equal condemnation and vigour.

Similarly, the Indian ambassador said there was a global rise in sectarian violence, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia, anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh violence, but the resolution only sticks to one religion. He also decried the absence of a call for pluralism in the resolution, which in itself may have been a fair critique, had he not tied it his technically true, but practically false description of India as a pluralistic country. While the Indian constitution does encourage pluralism, the current regime in New Delhi has spent much of its time trampling the document in order to push its violent Hindutva ideology. Similarly, France and several other European countries have spent recent years policing what women can and cannot wear, often being forced to scale back certain restrictions after their backers realise that they would also affect conservatively dressed non-Muslim women.

Interestingly, several signatories from OIC countries actually did speak on such criticisms, with Jordan’s ambassador calling the resolution an important step to creating social inclusion and a culture of peace, and Oman’s ambassador calling for avoiding attacks on the symbols of any religion or belief, adding that respect is an obligation and coexistence a necessity.

At the same time, while religious hatred is indeed a widespread problem in many countries, Islamophobia has a special place because Muslims are one of the few groups being directly attacked by political leaders around the globe. Islamophobia “continues to find strong resonance in political spheres, ultimately leading to the institutionalisation of Islamophobia through new legislation and policies,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram said, adding that several far-right groups and political parties “exploit and build on the general fear of Islam for electoral gains.”

 

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2022.

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