NEW YORK: Pakistan on Monday proposed a six-point plan to address the new manifestations of racism and faith-based hatred, especially Islamophobia at the United Nations headquarters, organised by Pakistan along with Turkey, the Holy See and the UN.
The plan was proposed by Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi at a session titled "Countering terrorism and other acts of violence based on religion or belief" in the wake of the launch last week by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of his strategy and action plan against hate speech.
Other speakers also called for effective steps to counter the challenge posed by the growing phenomenon of faith-based hatred and violence so as to promote peaceful, inclusive and just societies around the world.
"A particularly alarming development is the rise of Islamophobia which represents the recent manifestation of the age-old hatred that spawned anti-Semitism, racism, apartheid and many other forms of discrimination," the ambassador said in her speech.
She added, Prime Minister Imran Khan had repeatedly called for urgent action to counter Islamophobia at various forums. "We encourage the UN and other relevant organisations to address this issue."
Participants in the discussion that ensued at the event praised Ambassador Lodhi for the timely move. With an increasing trend of violence based on religion, and hateful narratives spreading across the world, this event was aimed at discussing this important issue and help in charting a way forward, the Pakistani envoy told APP.
Panellists included, apart from ambassadors of Turkey and the Holy See (Vatican) and Under-Secretary-General of Office of Counter Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, president of Cordoba House, and the UN Chief’s Advisor on Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng.
Among others who took part included ambassadors of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Somalia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. In her remarks, Ambassador Lodhi elaborated the six points to deal with hate-driven violence and Islamophobia.
Governments needs to adopt legislation to address the issue, she said, adding that tech companies must prevent digital technologies and social media platforms from becoming channels for inflammatory content, incitement and negative stereotyping.
As regards Islamophobia, she said it must be countered through a focused strategy as social tensions engendered by it posed a risk to vulnerable Muslim migrants and refugees in the West, besides potentially threatening the social cohesion of host communities.
Also, there was need to boost investment in enhanced research to monitor the trends and analyse the root-causes and drivers of violence incited by religious hatred. Engagement with youth and women as well youth was imperative to establish tolerant and inclusive societies as also the critical need to increase investment in education. "As hatred is born in the mind, education would be key to promoting peace and tolerance," the Pakistani envoy remarked.
Referring to the recent tragic events in Christchurch, Sri Lanka and Pittsburg, she said hateful views and words are not only consequential – they can kill.
More disturbingly, she said, this does not seem to be an isolated phenomenon limited to fringe groups on society’s periphery and called for addressing it. "Populist narratives are being exploited by demagogues as a strategy to achieve political objectives," she said.
"In many parts of the world, including our own region, hateful rhetoric is being used to secure narrow political and electoral gains." Ambassador Lodhi added, "Our efforts to promote more peaceful societies must be founded on the most fundamental of human values that call for tolerance and respect for human life.
"Let this be a moment for all of us to come together to reverse the tide of hate and intolerance and its violent manifestations. If we have to eliminate terrorism, we must eliminate its root causes.
"In his remarks, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov noted an alarming rise in hate speech, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry, which can incite violence.”
He pointed to a resurgence of anti-Semitism and Neo-Nazi organisations, while attacks on Muslims in several societies were on the rise. "Violence driven by ideology can only be effectively countered by more powerful ideological arguments," Voronkov said, adding that religious leaders and faith-based organisations have vital roles to play in promoting understanding and acting as advocates for peace and harmony.
Victims, he said, were extremely powerful and credible messengers, and their experiences put a human face to the impact of terrorism and help to counter the warped narratives of terrorists and violent extremists.
Turkish Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu called for stepping up efforts to combat racism as, "We can no longer turn a blind eye to this phenomenon, which is becoming more and more mainstream in several societies.
“All relevant actors, including teachers, community and religious leaders, had an important role to educate the young generation. "We also need to take a closer look at the root causes of these phenomena," he said.
"Children are not born with hatred. Hatred is taught, it is acquired. It is our responsibility to make sure that our children are taught to respect the other. "The Turkish envoy urged governments to work on increasing pluralism, inclusiveness and creating equal opportunities for all.
"We need to ensure that women play a full and active role in this process.” The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, said that protecting the right to freedom of religion, conscience and belief was an essential first step in countering terrorism and other acts of violence against religious believers and in promoting a culture of tolerance and inclusion.
"Religion is not a problem but a part of the solution,” he said, while stressing that teaching in schools, pulpits and through the internet do not foment intransigence and extremist radicalisation but dialogue, respect for others and reconciliation.
Adama Dieng, Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide referred to the challenge of hate speech, said in both liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes, some political leaders are bringing the hate-fuelled ideas and language of these groups into the mainstream.”
Addressing hate speech should never be confused with suppressing freedom of expression. Instead, it should keep it from escalating into something more dangerous, particularly incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence," Dieng said.
Saudi Arabian Ambassador Abdullah Al-Mouallimi stressed the need for building counter-narratives against religion based violence and terrorism. He said there was a need to address the root causes of the problem and that freedom of expression must not be used to incite violence and hatred.
Qatar’s Ambassador to the UN Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani reiterated the importance of quality education, social inclusion and justice for addressing this challenge. The Deputy Permanent Representative of Indonesia said that a whole-of-society approach is needed to address the issue of violence and terrorism incited by hatred. Interfaith dialogue was important for addressing this issue, and countries must join resources to tackle the problem, he said.
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