FM urges UN Secretary General to convene global dialogue on countering Islamophobia, promoting inter-faith harmony

ISLAMABAD, Mar 17 (APP):Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday called upon the United Nations Secretary General to convene a global dialogue on countering rising Islamophobia and promoting inter-faith harmony, as a step to foster engagement.
“The way forward is dialogue and understanding. Only if we are able to better understand each other’s perspective, will we be able to create peaceful and harmonious societies. The United Nations is the best platform to nurture this understanding,” he added.
The foreign minister was virtually addressing the high-level event in commemoration of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Group in New York.
He thanked the OIC Group for organizing the high-level event, which, he said, would send a clear message against contemporary challenges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, negative stereotyping and stigmatization.
The foreign minister said the commemoration of the day, besides helping in raising international awareness about increasing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments, would also promote the message of tolerance, peaceful co-existence, and interfaith and cultural harmony.
“The idea behind commemorating this day is to exhibit unfettered solidarity with humanity, convey a strong message of respect for human dignity, and reiterate our common commitment to ‘unity in diversity’.”
“This day is about uniting, not dividing. Let us not allow those who want to divide us, to negatively portray this day as being against any region, religion or country,” he added.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said disinformation and distortion of facts was their common enemy. “And it is these tools that purveyors of hate use to nourish their self-serving agendas.”
He said the tragic events in Christchurch two years ago, in which 51 worshippers lost their lives, were a grim reminder of what the hateful ideologies could accomplish.
But the way the prime minister, the government and the people in New Zealand responded was both emphatic and empathetic, he maintained.
The foreign minister said while the phenomenon of Islamophobia was not new, it had grown considerably over the last two decades.
“Today, expressions of Islamophobia are unmistakable in the manifestos of far-right and neo-fascist parties, which openly call for expulsion of Muslims, politicization of the Hijab, frequent mob lynching by cow vigilantes, discriminatory laws, state-sponsored pogroms, deliberate vandalism of Islamic symbols and holy sites, and attempts to link and equate Islam and Muslims to terrorism.”
The foreign minister said,“COVID-19, that should have united us, has led to rise of negative narratives and hate speech in some countries, holding Muslim minorities responsible for spreading the virus.”
He referred to the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and said it had revealed that such policies had served to perpetuate, validate and normalize discrimination, hostility and violence towards Muslim individuals and communities.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said the natural reaction of the Muslims to situations like unresolved disputes and festering conflicts, foreign occupation, and denial of the right to self-determination, was political disagreement with specific policies. “It should not be taken as or depicted as an ‘Islamic’ reaction against universal values or freedoms,” he remarked.
“This misapprehension or misrepresentation evokes an anti-Islamic backlash and gives life to the thesis of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’,” he added.
The foreign minister said as Islam was a religion of peace it should not be judged by acts of a fringe group of extremists, who existed in all societies, religions or belief system.
“The world cannot continue on this spiral of hate. It benefits only extremists on all sides and results in polarized societies and ultimately violence.”
“We, Muslims, unequivocally condemn the practice of insulting Prophets of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Respect for all religions and Prophets is an article of faith with us. Similarly, we oppose all acts of violence on the basis of religion or belief. We only expect empathy and solidarity from others,” he added.
The foreign minister reiterated the call of the Foreign Ministers of the OIC countries that the General Assembly declares 15th of March as the “International Day to Combat Islamophobia”.
“A show of empathy and solidarity by the international community will go a long way towards curbing the menace of Islamophobia and advancing the cause of mutual respect and understanding,” he concluded.

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