UNITED NATIONS: Speaking on behalf of OIC countries, on Monday Pakistan raised in the UN General Assembly the concern of the 57-member body over the denigration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by India’s ruling party’s leaders, and slammed the defamation of Islamic holy personalities and religious symbols.
“While hate speech has proliferated across the globe, the OIC is particularly alarmed at the sharp rise in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred in many parts of the world,” Ambassador Munir Akram, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, told a high-level meeting of the 193-member Assembly on countering hate speech.
“Recalling the recent statements issued by the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) on ‘Republishing of Abusive Cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) by French Charlie Hebdo Newspaper’, ‘Burning of Copies of Holy Qur’an during Anti-Muslim Demonstrations in Sweden’, and ‘Denigration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by India Ruling Party’s Officials’, and other similar acts, the OIC remains concerned about willful provocations and defamation of Islamic holy personalities and religious symbols,” the Pakistani envoy added.
“Such Islamophobic acts hurt the sensitivities of over 1.5 billion Muslims and constitute a gross abuse of the right of freedom of expression,” Ambassador Akram said, while speaking for the OIC countries. The meeting was held to commemorate the first-ever international day for countering hate speech in pursuance of a General Assembly resolution, which was presented by Morocco.
This resolution, he said, marked an “important milestone” in advancing global efforts to address the scourge, as its aim was to promote inter-religious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance to counter all kinds of discrimination and xenophobia.
While the devastating effects of hate speech were not new, Ambassador Akram said, the scale and impact of hate speech was amplified today by new technologies of communication. “If left unchecked,” he said, “it can erode peace and development, since it creates the conditions for conflicts, religious tensions and wide scale human rights violations, and can be a precursor for atrocity crimes.
“Islam advocates social equality, peaceful co-existence and inter-faith harmony. It also prohibits discrimination on any ground,” Ambassador Akram said, citing the he Holy Quran which states: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allāh is the most righteous of you.”
“With such clear injunctions,” he said, “the OIC group unequivocally condemns the practice of insulting Islam, Christianity, Judaism and any other religion alike, and stands against all acts of hate and violence on the basis of religion or belief. “The willful provocations and incitement to hate and violence must be universally outlawed.”
On this Day, he said, the OIC “calls on the international community to display a collective resolve to confront all manifestations of hate speech including xenophobia, intolerance and incitement to violence on the basis of religion or belief, and work together for promoting inter-faith harmony and peaceful co-existence.
“That is the spirit behind the OIC’s initiative which led to the UN General Assembly’s designation of 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. This is a moment for all of us to come together and reverse the tide of hate and bigotry that threatens to undermine solidarity, peace and cooperation among and within nations.”
China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said that hate speech had led to even greater Islamophobia, and that anti- Muslim hatred had reached epidemic proportions. “Some Western media outlets give nearly eight times more coverage and over two times more articles to crimes by Muslim perpetrators than those committed by non-Muslims in an effort to induce greater public hatred and prejudices against Muslims,” he told the General Assembly.
China, he said, was committed, along with all parties, to eliminating hate speech and Islamophobia. To address and eliminate hate speech, the Chinese envoy underscored the need for all countries to adhere to mutual respect and carry out dialogue as equals. Feeling the pressure, India made no reference to Pakistan, but said that India, as a democracy, “doesn’t need selective outrage from outsiders like we heard today from OIC.”
India’s UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti also used the recent Gurdwara attack in Kabul to urge the UN to also recognize phobia against Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.