UN to celebrate March 15th annually

On March 15th 2019 a foreign gunman attacked Christchurch mosques because of a video posted by a Dunedin Mosque that showed NZ Muslims were the same as those he had witnessed wreaking havoc back in his homeland, Australia. So now resolutions have been adopted by the UN to celebrate March 15th annually as the day against Islamophobia, a still undefinable term.

This from the UN website:

The representative of Pakistan introduced the resolution “International Day to Combat Islamophobia” (document A/76/L.41).  Islamophobia is a reality, he stressed, noting that his country’s President [Arif Alvi] has repeatedly called for efforts to address the phenomenon.  Hate speech, discrimination and violence are proliferating in several parts of world, causing great anguish in the Islamic world.  The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief has noted that since 9/11, terrorist attacks and other violations have escalated to epidemic proportions.  Muslims often experience stigma, negative stereotyping and shame, feeling like suspect communities bearing collective responsibility for the actions of a fringe minority.

Islamophobia has emerged as a new form of racism, with an added gender aspect, as girls and women are targeted due to their dress and the notion that they are oppressed, he continued.  Islamophobia is also finding purchase in the political sphere, including discriminatory travel bans and visa restrictions, and discourse among far-right groups for electoral gains.  The situation remains poorly understood, he affirmed, with numerous United Nations officials and world leaders underscoring the need to address it.

By the text, the General Assembly, among other things, decided to proclaim 15 March the International Day to Combat Islamophobia and called for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and the diversity of religions and beliefs.

The General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus.

The representative of India, speaking in explanation of vote, expressed deep concern over intolerance and violence directed at various communities around the world.  India is a pluralistic country, he said, home to almost all religions of the world.  While there was a global rise in sectarian violence, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia, anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh examples abound as well.  It was time to acknowledge the abundance of phobias, rather than just one form; the resolution elevating one phobia to an international day may downplay the seriousness of phobias towards all other religions.  Noting there is already an International Day of Tolerance on 16 November, he called on Member States to always be inclusive, especially in the United Nations.  While his delegation believes in pluralism, he noted there was no mention of that word in the text, he said.

The representative of France, speaking in explanation of vote, aligned himself with the statement to be made by the European Union.  Islamophobia has no agreed definition in international law.  France supports the protection of all religions and beliefs.  However, the creation of an international day does not respond to concerns to fight against all forms of discrimination.  His delegation had proposed a text that endorsed the freedom of religion and belief, he said, voicing his regret that none of those proposals were taken into account.  All discrimination should be condemned with equal condemnation and vigour.  Although the proposals had not been considered, his delegation decided not to oppose the resolution’s adoption, he said.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, spoke after adoption, stressing that the bloc is strongly opposed to all forms of hostility and violence.  However, he noted his concern with the approach of singling out one religion.  This approach risks undermining the universal approach.  There should be a right to debate and criticize religion.  While not all concerns were taken into account, nonetheless, the European Union delegation decided not to oppose consensus today, he said.

The representative of Turkey said the resolution is intended not to divide but unite.  Islamophobia is an injustice plaguing humanity, a rising threat taking many forms, including racism, xenophobia and violence.  Examples abound in textbooks and social media, but often receive little attention, with women and girls who are targeted not even receiving protection or empathy.  “We can never allow hate to take over society,” he said.  It is incumbent upon all to take every measure to defend places of worship, defend human rights and combat intolerance.

The representative of Indonesia, speaking as a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, voiced concern over the issue, stating the adoption of the resolution is heartening.  The International Day seeks to promote understanding.  Indonesia hosts the world’s largest Muslim population, among other religions and beliefs.  It is important to promote trust between peoples and cultures and construct positive narratives around Islam, he said, voicing hope that the international community will stand united and create a world of harmony.

The representative of Iran said the growing discrimination against Muslims is daunting.  The United Nations needs to strongly condemn hate speech and actions against Muslims and address the discrimination against Muslims.  Terrorism in all its forms should not be associated with any civilization or ethnic group.  Iran supports all initiatives to challenge this trend, he said, conveying his country’s determination to constructively address Islamophobia around the world.

The representative of Guyana said any form of discrimination is an act against human rights.  There are growing acts of violence against Muslims and Muslim communities around the world.  Guyana supports global action to counter this trend, she said.  The designation of an international day is an important way to fight this scourge to counter Islamophobia and the negative trends associated with Islamophobia, such as limited access to housing, education and employment.

The representative of Jordan said this resolution is a landmark event and sends a message that hate speech will not be tolerated by the international community.  It is an important step to creating social inclusion and a culture of peace.  Negative stereotyping is a tool for recruitment by extremists. Jordan is at the forefront of combating Islamophobia and promoting social inclusion and forging the common aim to create international peace, he said.

The representative of Qatar welcomed the adoption of this resolution by consensus.  The initiative helps to promote a culture of peace in the face of discrimination.  Qatar has created programs and institutions to build nations and people.  The resolution demonstrates concerns regarding discrimination against Muslims because of Islamophobia.  It will help create an international dialogue that promotes peace, he said.

The representative of Morocco welcomed the consensus adoption, a reflection of the commitment of the international community to counter Islamophobia and promote a culture of peace.  The international day should also be a moment of reflection and dialogue between religions and civilizations, promoting tolerance and coexistence.

The representative of Iraq said hate speech and Islamophobia are growing in the world, requiring a message of tolerance between religions.  Incitement must stop, as it impacts local, regional and international peace and security.  The resolution is a message of solidarity, he said, adding that his Government undertakes to fight all hate speech and incitement to violence against all religions.  He pointed the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq on 16 February as an example of this national approach and an illustration of a day of tolerance in his country.

The representative of Egypt voiced his support for the resolution, adding his rejection of all forms of racism and discrimination.  There are negative stereotypes against Muslims.  With this resolution, the international community is paying attention to this phenomenon and rejects it.  The resolution reflects serious efforts to counter Islamophobia and welcomes the efforts of the Secretary-General in this regard.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said the resolution is a step forward and corrects wrong thinking.  The resolution reaffirms that it is important to correct the mix-up of Islam with terrorism.  Saudi Arabia has refused extremism in all its forms, he said.  Further, his country will mobilize the efforts of the international community to create a dialogue of international peace which protects the rights of everyone.  The adoption by consensus shows the intention for a dialogue for a life without racism.

The representative of Oman said there is a clear reality, reflected in a number of resolutions, that Islamophobia is a growing phenomenon affecting the rights of millions of people around the world.  Covering up that phenomenon with different wordings such as “freedom of expression” will counteract the principles of the United Nations.  He stressed the need to avoid attacking the symbols of any religion or belief, stating that respect is an obligation and coexistence a necessity.