USCIRF, UN Decry Global Anti-Muslim Hate on International Day to Combat Islamophobia

On March 15, United Nations International Day to Combat Islamophobia, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called attention to the alarming global spread of anti-Muslim hate.

Muslim woman
Image by Jasmin Merdan/Moment via Getty Images

In a statement, USCIRF Chair Rabbi Abraham Cooper said, “Today marks five years since the terrorist attack on the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. This devastating attack initiated the creation of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. Given that the perpetrator broadcast these murders live over social media, USCIRF calls for better mechanisms to prevent widespread disinformation, hate speech, and incitement of violence toward religious minorities on all social media platforms. USCIRF also strongly urges the United States to call out foreign governments who fail to protect their Muslim communities from acts of anti-Muslim hatred wherever they occur. The scourge of anti-Muslim hatred must come to an end.”

Citing as evidence of exclusion, prejudice and atrocities perpetrated against Muslim communities in many parts of the world, USCIRF singled out six of the worst offenders: Burma and China, for their governments’ perpetration and complicity in genocide against the Rohingya and Turkic Muslims; India, for the leveling of mosques and Muslim homes, as well as unchecked violence against Muslims, including rape; and Algeria, Malaysia and Pakistan, for the targeting of the Ahmadiyya Muslims with wrongful imprisonment, denial of the right to worship and continued unrestrained vigilante violence against individuals.

“Divisive rhetoric and misrepresentation are stigmatizing communities.”

Moreover, in some European Union countries like Austria and France, legislation bars Muslim women and girls from donning religious garb in public. Other legislation attacks foundational religious practices common to both Judaism and Islam, like ritual slaughter and circumcision.

“This week is the start of Ramadan, the most holy month in the Islamic calendar. Given all that is happening in today’s world, Ramadan provides an especially important inflection point this year. USCIRF is particularly disturbed that Muslims and non-Muslims alike continue to have their right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion violated by governments, religious extremists, and non-state actors,” said USCIRF Commissioner Mohamed Magid. “All Muslims have the right to live in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, free from discrimination and acts of violence. USCIRF applauds the U.S. government for strongly condemning all forms of intolerance against Muslims and supports its efforts to combat hatred and discrimination against members of Muslim communities.”

Islamophobia, as defined by the United Nations, is “a fear, prejudice and hatred of Muslims that leads to provocation, hostility and intolerance by means of threatening, harassment, abuse, incitement and intimidation of Muslims and non-Muslims, both in the online and offline world.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres marked UN International Day to Combat Islamophobia by calling for an end to hate speech and falsehoods targeting minority religions. “Divisive rhetoric and misrepresentation are stigmatizing communities. Online hate speech is fueling real-life violence,” he said. Also, on March 15, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for international cooperation to promote “respect for religious and cultural diversity, as well as interreligious, interfaith and intercultural dialogue” to build “a culture of tolerance and respect among individuals, societies and nations.”

The resolution, entitled “Culture of Peace” was adopted by a recorded vote of 115 in favor, with none against, and called on the Secretary-General to appoint a United Nations Special Envoy to Combat Islamophobia.