UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan urged the international community on Wednesday to challenge xenophobia and racism in all its forms as leaders from nearly 60 countries spoke out against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who addressed the high-level event on Pakistan’s behalf, stressed the need to “send a clear message against contemporary challenges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, negative stereotyping and stigmatisation”.
UN Secretary General António Guterres called for greater investment in promoting social cohesion and tackling bigotry, reminding the world that “diversity is a richness, not a threat”.
In his address to this virtual meeting, held to commemorate the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, the UN chief also cited a recent UN report which found that suspicion, discrimination and outright hatred towards Muslims had risen to “epidemic proportions”.
The day was organised by the OIC Group in New York, which established the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) in 2005 to deal with the fallout of the Sept 11, 200, terrorist attacks in the United States.
The attacks strained relations between Muslim countries and Western nations and led to attacks on Muslims in some places.
The UN report highlighted how Muslim women face “triple levels of discrimination” because of their gender, ethnicity and faith and how the media had further compounded stereotypes against Muslims.
Foreign Minister Qureshi recalled the tragic events in Christchurch, New Zealand, two years ago, in which 51 worshippers lost their lives, adding that such tragedies were “a grim reminder of what hateful ideologies could accomplish”.
“But the way the prime minister, the government and the people in New Zealand responded was both emphatic and empathetic,” he added.
Mr Qureshi noted that right-wing parties in some countries were “openly calling for expulsion of Muslims, politicisation of the hijab, and frequent mob lynching by cow vigilantes”.
The UN secretary general highlighted this point in his message, noting that “anti-Muslim bigotry is sadly in line with other distressing trends we are seeing globally — a resurgence in ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism, stigma and hate speech targeting vulnerable populations, including Muslims and Jews.
“As the Holy Quran reminds us: nations and tribes were created to know one another,” said the UN chief while urging world leaders to “continue to push for policies that fully respect human rights and religious, cultural and unique human identity”.
Miguel Angel Moratinos, the current UNAOC High Representative, recalled the initiative was launched as a “political soft power tool” whose objectives include promoting mutual respect among diverse cultures and religions.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2021