While the international community rightly worries about extremism in the Middle East, we are giving a pass to a dangerous development: the rise of religion-based hatred in Europe, America and India. I would like to seize this opportunity to draw EU’s attention to a dangerous development that needs to be arrested and eliminated in its infancy. We still have time to support the good work of civil society groups in these three regions to stop this trend.
The twenty-first century’s first act of genocide based on intolerance and xenophobia took place in India, the largest democracy. In 2002, over 2,000 Indian citizens were picked up from their homes, shops and streets; men, women and children, and were burned alive. Those burned alive included a man called Mr Jafri, a member of the party that holds Mahatma Gandhi as an icon. He was burned alive and his only fault was that he belonged to the wrong religion.
Mr President, on 23 January 1999, Australian priest Graham Staines and his two underage boys Timothy and Philip were burned alive inside their car by a mob of Indian extremists. Twelve years later, the killers of Graham and his two kids are stronger today politically in India than at any other time.
In Europe, until recently a bastion of freedom and admirably so, xenophobes are not just raising their heads, they are coming to power. In the United States, an American politician is preparing a parliamentary witch-hunt of US citizens of Muslim heritage. My organisation and its members are alarmed at Germany’s new interior minister’s anti-Islam statement that offends German Muslims. We are alarmed to see strands of fascism infiltrating some governments in Europe.
An editorial writer in Paris wrote a comment in the International Herald Tribune calling Germany’s new interior minister ‘an international embarrassment’.
The New York Times has described this dangerous trend in Europe in this one line: ‘Not much spreads fear and bigotry faster than a public official intent on playing the politics of division.’ The paper was talking about Peter King, a US legislator spreading hate against American Muslims.
We see a trend in Danish cartoons, in the anti-Islam film in the Netherlands, the banning of Muslim headscarf in France, and the ban of mosque minarets in Switzerland. And now we have an act of religious extremism and hatred committed by two Americans who claim to represent our great religion, Christianity.
It is not enough to condemn acts of lunacy like the burning of Islam’s holy book by two US citizens. The US government must move to ban the denigration of any religion. In this context, we endorse OIC member states’ draft resolution on Defamation of Religions and urge all governments and NGOs to endorse it.
This trend must be nipped in the bud for Europe and the US to stake their claim to being bastions of freedom.
We urge the United Nations Human Rights Council to take note of the fact that denigrating religions and beliefs strengthens the hands of extremists everywhere. Deliberate denigration of any religion must be considered an act of extremism.
World Muslim Congress strongly urges the Council to take note of the backward slide in the great ideals of the Durban Declaration over the past decade. Let’s arrest the backward slide while we can.
My organisation joins the civil society groups and the good people in Europe, United States and India in combating this rising trend of discrimination and xenophobia in these regions.
Lastly, my organisation would like to thank the Lutheran Bishop of Berlin, Markuz Droge, for his condemnation of German interior minister’s attempt to single out Muslims in Germany for hate.
(Extracted from a statement delivered by the writer recently to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on behalf of the World Muslim Congress. The writer works for Geo TV).
NOTE:This is a crosspost.