The UN General Assembly Unanimously Adopts Resolution on Combating Islamophobia 

Pakistan moved the resolution on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation

United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Credit: Osugi

By Islamic Horizons Staff

May/June 2022

A resolution proclaiming March 15 as the “International Day to Combat Islamophobia” was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly at its 61st meeting held on March 15, 2022.

While introducing the resolution (Document A/76/L.41) calling for this day’s establishment, Munir Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, stated that Islamophobia has emerged as a new form of racism that includes, among others, discriminatory travel bans, hate speech and the targeting of girls and women for their dress. 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had assigned Pakistan to present the resolution.

He stressed that his country’s president, Dr. Arif Alvi, has repeatedly called for efforts to address the phenomenon. Hate speech, discrimination and violence are proliferating in several parts of world, causing great anguish in the Islamic world. The special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief noted that since 9/11, other violations have escalated to epidemic proportions. Muslims often experience stigma, negative stereotyping, shame and feel like suspect communities that bear a collective responsibility for the actions of a fringe minority. 

This new form of racism, he continued, has an added gender aspect, as Muslimas who wear traditional attire are targeted due to their clothing and oppressed. Islamophobia is also being used in the political sphere, including discriminatory travel bans, visa restrictions and discourse among far-right groups for electoral gains. The situation remains poorly understood, he affirmed, with numerous UN officials and world leaders underscoring the need to address it.

Turkish representative Ümit Yalçın, who stressed that “We can never allow hate to take over society,” said the resolution is intended not to divide, but to unite. Islamophobia, he argued, is an injustice that plagues humanity, a rising threat that takes many forms, among them racism, xenophobia and violence. Examples abound in textbooks and social media, but often receive little attention, and the targeted Muslimas receive no protection or empathy. 

Everyone must do what he or she can to defend places of worship, protect human rights and combat intolerance. 

Indonesian representative Arrmanatha C. Nasir, speaking as an OIC member, stated that the resolution’s adoption is heartening, and that this day seeks to promote understanding. Indonesia, he pointed out, is a multireligious nation that hosts the world’s largest Muslim population. Trust between peoples and cultures need to be promoted, and positive narratives need to be constructed around Islam, he said, voicing the hope that the international community will stand united and create a harmonious world.

Iranian representative Majid Takht Ravanchi said the growing discrimination against Muslims is daunting. The UN, he declared, needs to strongly condemn hate speech and actions against Muslims and address this discrimination. No form of terrorism should be associated with any civilization or ethnic group. Iran supports all initiatives to challenge this trend, he proclaimed, conveying his country’s determination to address Islamophobia around the world constructively.

Guyana’s representative Carolyn Allison Rodrigues-Birkett declared that designating an international day is an important way of countering Islamophobia and its associated negative trends, such as limited access to housing, education and employment. Global action will help counter the increasing number of violent acts against Muslim individuals and communities around the world, she said.

Jordanian representative Sima Sami Bahous termed this resolution a landmark event, one that sends a message that the international community will not tolerate hate speech. It’s an important step to creating social inclusion and a culture of peace. Extremists use negative stereotyping as a recruiting tool. Jordan is at the forefront of combating Islamophobia and, he continued, promoting social inclusion and forging the common aim of creating international peace.

Qatari representative Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani welcomed the resolution’s adoption by consensus and noted that it helps promote a culture of peace in the face of discrimination. Qatar has created programs and institutions to build nations and people. The resolution demonstrates concern regarding discrimination against Muslims due to Islamophobia. It will help create an international dialogue that promotes peace, he said.

Moroccan representative Omar Hilale welcomed the consensus adoption, a reflection of the international community’s commitment to counter Islamophobia and promote a culture of peace. He added that this day should also be a moment of reflection and dialogue between religions and civilizations, promoting tolerance and coexistence. 

Iraqi representative Mohammad Hussein Bahr al-Uloom said the continuing growth of hate speech and Islamophobia require a message of tolerance among religions. Incitement must stop, as it impacts local, regional and international peace and security. The resolution is a message of solidarity, he argued, adding that his government undertakes to fight all hate speech and incitement to violence against all religions. He pointed to Pope Francis’ Feb.16 visit to Iraq as an example of this national approach and an illustration of a day of tolerance in his country.

Egypt’s representative voiced his support for the resolution, adding his rejection of all forms of racism, discrimination and other negative stereotypes of Muslims. With this resolution, the international community is paying attention to and rejecting this phenomenon. Welcoming the UN Secretary General’s efforts in this regard, he noted that the resolution reflects serious efforts to counter Islamophobia.

Saudi Arabian representative Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi proclaimed the resolution a step forward, one that corrects wrong thinking and is important to ending the mix-up of Islam with terrorism. Saudi Arabia has refused extremism in all its forms, he noted. Further, his country will mobilize the international community’s efforts to create a dialogue of international peace that will protect everyone’s rights. The adoption by consensus shows the intention to formulate a dialogue for life without racism.

Omani representative Mohamed al-Hassan said there is a clear reality, reflected in several resolutions, that Islamophobia is a growing phenomenon that affects the rights of millions of people worldwide. Covering it up with different words such as “freedom of expression” counteract the UN’s principles. He stressed the need to avoid attacking the symbols of any religion or belief, stating that respect is an obligation and that coexistence is a necessity.

Islamophobes Object

India, which continues its upward spiral as a perpetrator of Islamophobia, opposed the resolution. Its representative, T. S. Tirumurti, expressed deep concern over intolerance and violence directed at various communities around the world. India is a pluralistic country, he said, home to almost all religions of the world. While there was a global rise in sectarian violence, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia, he alleged that anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh examples abound as well. It’s time to acknowledge the abundance of phobias, rather than just one form. 

He contended that the resolution, which elevates one phobia to an international day, may downplay the seriousness of phobias toward all other religions. Noting that November 16 is already an International Day of Tolerance, he called on member states to always be inclusive, especially in the UN. While his country, he said, believes in pluralism, he noted that there was no mention of that word in the text. 

Another expected opponent was France. French representative Nicolas de Rivière aligned himself with the European Union’s statement. Islamophobia, he stated, has no agreed-upon definition in international law. France supports the protection of all religions and beliefs. However, creating an international day doesn’t respond to concerns about fighting all forms of discrimination. His country had proposed a text that endorsed the freedom of religion and belief, he declared, voicing his regret that none of those proposals were considered. All discrimination should be condemned with equal condemnation and vigor. Although the proposals hadn’t been considered, his delegation had decided not to oppose the resolution’s adoption.

Ambassador Olof Skoog, head of the European Union delegation to the UN [as observer], who spoke after adoption, stressed that the bloc is strongly opposed to all forms of hostility and violence. However, he noted his concern with the approach of singling out one religion, an approach that, he contended, risks undermining the universal approach. There should be a right to debate and criticize religion, he said. While not all concerns were considered, he nevertheless noted that the EU delegation had decided not to oppose the consensus generated around this day.

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