The United Nations on Friday marked the first-ever International Day to Combat Islamophobia with a special event, where speakers upheld the need for concrete action in the face of rising hatred, discrimination and violence against Muslims.
The observation follows the unanimous adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution last year that proclaimed March 15 as such an international day, calling for global dialogue that promotes tolerance, peace and respect for human rights and religious diversity.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that nearly 2 billion Muslims worldwide, who come from all corners of the world, “reflect humanity in all its majestic diversity.” Yet, they often face bigotry and prejudice simply because of their faith.
Moreover, Muslim women might face “triple discrimination” because of their gender, ethnicity, and faith.
The growing hate that Muslims face is not an isolated development, the UN chief stressed.
“It is an inexorable part of the resurgence of ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazi white supremacist ideologies, and violence targeting vulnerable populations including Muslims, Jews, some minority Christian communities and others,” he said.
“Discrimination diminishes us all. And it is incumbent on all of us to stand up against it. We must never be bystanders to bigotry.”
Stressing that “we must strengthen our defenses,” Guterres highlighted UN measures such as a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.
He also called for ramping up political, cultural, and economic investments in social cohesion.
“And we must confront bigotry wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. This includes working to tackle the hate that spreads like wildfire across the internet,” he added.
To this end, the UN is working with governments, regulators, technology companies and the media “to set up guardrails, and enforce them.”
Other policies already launched include a Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, and the Our Common Agenda report, which outlines a framework for a more inclusive and secure “digital future” for all people.
The UN chief also expressed gratitude to religious leaders across the world who have united to promote dialogue and interfaith harmony.
The high-level event was co-convened by Pakistan, whose Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari underlined that Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and pluralism.
Despite Islamophobia not being new, he described it as a “sad reality of our times.”
CURRENTPH NEWS SERVICE