Islamabad to host Istanbul Process on religious intolerance

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By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will host the 8th meeting of the Istanbul Process next year with a focus to evolve responses to growing religious intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.
Federal Minister for Education and Prime Minister’s Special Representative on International Religious Freedom Shafqat Mahmood made this announcement today at The Hague, Netherlands during his keynote address at the 7th Istanbul Process meeting, according to Foreign Office spokesperson Dr. Muhammad Faisal.
The minister drew attention to the alarming levels of Islamophobia in many parts of the world, as evidenced inter alia, by growing incidents of hate crimes, negative profiling, assaults on hijab-wearing Muslim women, denigration of venerated Muslim personalities and symbols.
He cautioned against incendiary and populist rhetoric for electoral gains, often amplified by sections of the media, that served as catalyst for hate speech leading to acts of violence, systematic discrimination and in some cases acts of terrorism.
In the context of promoting human rights and addressing root causes of this phenomenon, Shafqat Mahmood underlined the imperative of upholding the right to self-determination for people under foreign occupation. He called for eschewing ambivalence and double standards by flag-bearers of human rights in the face of grave human rights violations including in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. He also expressed deep concerns over the growing incidents of systematic discrimination and state-sanctioned violence against Muslims in India.
Referring to the importance of upholding fundamental freedoms, the minister underscored that freedom of expression must be exercised with responsibility and the international community should begin to consider reasonable restrictions in this regard, both online and offline. Mahmood also shared the range of steps taken by Pakistan in the field of education, promotion of inter-faith harmony, tolerance, and freedom of religion or belief.