On Tuesday 15th March, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution declaring March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia. It marks the day three years back when a gunman entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 victims and injuring 40 others. The day will appear as an annual reminder of the need to combat Islamophobia.
This resolution was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The 57 members of the OIC, as per expectation, sponsored the resolution. Eight other countries including China and Russia also sponsored this resolution. However, the representatives of India, France, and the European Union expressed reservations about the resolution.
15 March is declared as International Day to Combat Islamophobia
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 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.
The resolution recognizes an “overall rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance, and violence, regardless of the actors, directed against members of many religious and other communities.”
There are many forms of Islamophobia, faced by the Muslim communities across the world, which include exclusion of Muslims from jobs, limited access to housing and education on the basis of their faith, ban of hijab in educational institutions and workplaces, and, the most violent form is the state-sanctioned attacks and programs targeting the Muslim community. The recent ban on Hijab at educational institutions in Indian state Karnataka is an example of this state-sponsored program. Islamophobia should not be covered up with different wordings such as freedom of expression.
In this context, the 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. The designation of an international day is an important way to fight this curse to counter Islamophobia and the negative trends associated with Islamophobia.
The adoption of this resolution by consensus will help to promote a culture of peace in the face of discrimination. The resolution demonstrates concerns regarding discrimination against Muslims because of Islamophobia and shows the intention for dialogue for life without racism. It will also help create an international dialogue that promotes peace. The resolution is a step forward and corrects wrong thinking. It reaffirms that it is important to correct the mix-up of Islam with terrorism.
Islamophobia started after 9/11 particularly when the then-American President George W. Bush equated Islam with terrorism and termed the war on terror as “crusades”. Although, he was quoted as saying that he has been misinterpreted especially in the use of the term “crusades”.
Pakistan has been actively raising the issue of Islamophobia at the international forum. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first to raise this issue at the UN in his historic 45-minutes address to 74th session of the General Assembly on 27th September 2019 at New York while drawing the attention of the world that “Islamophobia is creating divisions; hijab is becoming a weapon; a woman can take off clothes but she cannot put on more clothes”. He questioned the use of the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism and said that there was only one Islam.
PM had repeatedly called for international attention and efforts to address it
It was the Pakistan Prime Minister who proposed to launch a TV channel of the Muslim world to counter Islamophobia. The adoption of the resolution follows years of discussion by Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia about the need for an international day to combat Islamophobia; particularly dialogues initiated in Makkah in 2019 following the New Zealand mosque attacks are noteworthy.
At the United Nations General Assembly meeting, the Indian representative at the UN Ambassador TS Trimurti complained that the resolution did not cover anti-Hindu phobia, among other religions. It is strange to note that India where the anti-Muslim hate phenomenon is growing rapidly and all this is state-sanctioned because RSS elements are being given complete freedom and space to target the Muslims on the basis of their faith and belief and right-wing Indian youth politically aligned with BJP is carrying out lynching of the Muslim on the basis of only suspicions.
However, it is also the need of the hour to avoid attacking the symbols of any religion or belief because reverence of all religions and beliefs is an obligation and coexistence is essential. Now, it is the responsibility of the UN to ensure the implementation of its resolution which it has passed by consensus. It is also a challenge for the 57-member OIC to monitor the implementation of the UN resolution in its true letter and spirit.
Dr. Tahir Ashraf holds PhD in International Relations from the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and writes extensively on global politics. He teaches at the Department of International Relations, Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan, Pakistan and can be contacted at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.