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The UN has adopted a landmark resolution introduced by Pakistan on behalf of OIC, designating 15 March as International Day to Combat Islamophobia. The resolution, adopted by consensus by the 193-member world body and cosponsored by 57 members of the OIC, and eight other countries, including China and Russia, emphasizes the right to freedom of religion and belief and recalls a 1981 resolution calling for the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. Pakistan played a key role, both in and out of the United Nations, in the adoption of March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. March 15 was chosen as the anti-Islamophobia Day because it was on this day in 2019 that a right-wing Christian terrorist murdered over 50 Muslims and injured 40 others in a terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The resolution expresses deep concern at the overall rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence, regardless of the actors, directed against members of many religions and other communities in various parts of the world, including cases motivated by Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and prejudices against persons of other religions or beliefs. The resolution asks all countries, UN bodies, international and regional organisations, civil society, the private sector, and faith-based organisations to organise and support various high-visibility events aimed at effectively increasing awareness of all levels about curbing Islamophobia, and to observe the new International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
UN has finally recognised the grave challenge confronting the world of Islamophobia, now the challenge is to ensure implementation of this landmark resolution
After the adoption, India and France expressed reservations, arguing that the resolution should have covered all religions, instead of naming Islam. India and France put up resistance and brought a resolution to block it, arguing that they wanted a consensus, not a vote. Pakistan launched its efforts in 2019, when Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the United Nations-and raised the issue in his UNGA address. Pakistan again raised the issue in a conference of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2020 and the prime minister wrote to all Muslim rulers, emphasising the need to move a resolution on Islamophobia in the UN. The matter was discussed at the OIC conference in Niger in November 2020 and a core group was formed, which included Egypt, Iran, Indonesia, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The group presented a draft resolution in the OIC meeting, got it approved and started negotiations with others. China and Russia were the first to support the move. The group then approached the US and European nations and dealt with their reservations. India and the European Union, especially France were the biggest obstacles. China and Russia announced the authorship of the resolution, so the vote was not called, and the resolution was adopted by consensus.
The UN has finally recognised the grave challenge confronting the world: of Islamophobia, respect for religious symbols and practices and of curtailing systematic hate speech and discrimination against Muslims. The voice against the rising tide of Islamophobia has been heard now. Under its terms, the resolution strongly deplores all acts of violence against persons on the basis of their religion or belief and such acts directed against their places of worship, as well as all attacks on and in religious places, sites and shrines that are in violation of international law. Islamophobia’s manifestations — hate speech, discrimination, and violence against Muslims — were proliferating in several parts of the world. Such acts of discrimination, hostility and violence towards Muslim individuals and communities constitute grave violations of their human rights and violate their freedom of religion and belief. They also cause great anguish within the Muslim world. A report of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which stated that since 9/11 attacks, institutional suspicion and fear of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim has escalated to epidemic proportions. In such climates of exclusion, fear and distrust, Muslims often feel stigma, negative stereotyping and shame and a sense that they are suspect communities that are being forced to bear collective responsibility for the actions of a small minority.
The spread of Islamophobia, both in terms of the phenomenon’s momentum and outreach, is particularly alarming these days, for it has emerged as a new form of racism characterised by xenophobia, negative profiling and stereotyping of Muslims. The rise in hate crimes against Muslims, both offline and online, as well as discrimination in education, citizenship, immigration, employment, housing and healthcare sectors, among others, are well documented. The gender aspect of Islamophobia was also gaining prominence, with girls and women being targeted due to the mode of their dress and the general notion that Muslim women are oppressed and thus must be liberated, he pointed out. What indeed is worrisome, was that Islamophobia continues to find strong resonance in political spheres, ultimately leading to the institutionalisation of Islamophobia through new legislations and policies, such as discriminatory travel bans and visa restrictions. Various academic studies have revealed that Islamophobia is most visible in the media and in the discourse of far-right groups and political parties and groups, who tend to exploit and build on the general fear of Islam for electoral gains. In some countries, anti-immigration and anti-refugee rhetoric had taken an anti-Muslim overtone and had often become the central theme of political campaigns. Several media outlets continuing to propagate fear and negative stereotypes against Islam and Muslims, notably by acting as a platform for widespread dissemination of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Despite its pervasive impacts, Islamophobia remains poorly understood, and it is essential to promote greater information of this phenomena and promote solutions through greater understanding and full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Islamophobia is a reality. Its manifestations — hate speech, discrimination, and violence against Muslims — are proliferating in several parts of the world. The purpose behind this move was to promote tolerance, peaceful co-existence and interfaith and cultural harmony. The objective of observing this Day is uniting faiths, not dividing them. The objectives of the draft resolution served to achieve are: to raise international awareness about the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred; Send a clear message that the world opposes all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, negative stereotyping and stigmatisation; to promote the message of tolerance, peaceful co-existence and interfaith and cultural harmony among all religions, races and nation; and to demonstrate by commemorating on this day unfettered solidarity with all humanity, convey a strong message of respect for human dignity, and reiterate common commitment to unity in diversity. UN has finally recognised the grave challenge confronting the world: of Islamophobia, respect for religious symbols & practices & of curtailing systematic hate speech & discrimination against Muslims. Now the challenge is to ensure implementation of this landmark resolution.