UN adopts resolution as Pakistan warns of threat to global peace from Islamophobia, says Maleeha

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by Pakistan, that strongly condemns continuing violence and acts of terrorism targeting individuals, including persons belonging to religious minorities, based on religion or belief.

After the passage of the resolution that decried the recent Islamophobic terrorist attack in New Zealand, Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi highlighted the rise of extreme nationalistic and populist ideologies in the West and also in Pakistan’s neighbourhood.

That trend, she said in an obvious swipe at India’s Hindutva ideology, was giving rise to “bigotry, intolerance, anti-Muslim hatred and xenophobia.”

“Pervasive Islamophobia is a global phenomenon and calls for a global response: collaborative, coherent and committed action against incidents that fuel, funnel and fortify this narrative against Islam and Muslims,” she told the 193-member assembly.

“The adoption of the resolution today is a strong manifestation of our shared commitment to stand united against racial and religious hatred.” 

By the terms of Tuesday’s resolution, titled “Combating terrorism and other acts of violence based on religion or belief,” the assembly condemned in the strongest terms the heinous, cowardly terrorist attack aimed at Muslim praying in two mosques in Christchurch, and expressed its deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and the people of New Zealand.

Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi. – File Photo

In further terms, UNGA urged the states to protect and promote freedom of religion and belief and to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect.

Introducing the resolution, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, told the UNGA that the international community must stand up against the spiral of hate.

Sending condolences to the families of the Muslims who were martyred in Christchurch in a clearly planned terrorist attack, he said that Islamophobia and racism go hand in hand.

Rejecting the actions of reckless politicians who often use distorted historical narratives and toxic conspiracy theories to equate Islam with terrorism, he quoted the poet Rumi who said, “Listen with ears of tolerance, see with eyes of compassion, speak the language of love.”

In her speech, Ambassador Lodhi, noting that nine victims of the Christchurch attack hailed from Pakistan, said that profiling and stigmatising people from one country leads to drastic consequences.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and survivors of this cowardly terrorist attack.”

While expressing solidarity with the people and government of New Zealand, she saluted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her “exemplary leadership” in the face of the tragedy.

The Christchurch terrorist, she said, was only the latest manifestation of a growing phenomenon rooted in hate, bigotry, racism, and the extremist ideology of racial and white supremacy.

“The rise of extreme nationalist and populist ideologies in liberal Western democracies and elsewhere, including in our region, are fanning the flames of bigotry, intolerance, anti-Muslim hatred and xenophobia,” the Pakistani envoy added.

The growing prejudice against Islam was “evident in policies aimed at creating walls and barriers against displaced populations, as much as in attempts to denigrate Islamic beliefs and our sacred personalities on the pretext of freedom of expression.”

“The political falsehood of equating people of different religions with violent extremism, in order to garner political support for the forces of hate lies at the heart of this phenomenon,” Ambassador Lodhi said.

Freedom of expression, she said, was often used as an excuse to enable such vile expression to prosper and for hate speech to enter the mainstream.

The Christchurch tragedy also exposed social media’s radicalising role, she pointed out. 

“It is time that we evolve ways to ensure that social media companies are held accountable for their content that incites violence or spreads hatred,” the envoy said, adding that Islamophobia posed a grave threat to global peace and security.

“We must strengthen efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of tolerance, dialogue and peace at all levels,” she said, while emphasising respect for human rights and diversity as well as space for diverse voices, religions, worldviews and faith traditions.

Pakistan, she said, was committed to continuing its efforts to build bridges of understanding and challenge and resist those who seek to construct walls of bigotry and hatred.

“We look towards all those who believe in humanity’s common future, to help in evolving a consensus for action to combat the forces of Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism.”