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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has urged the United Nations to convene a global dialogue on countering rising Islamophobia and promoting interfaith harmony and also reiterated to declare 15th of March as the “International Day to Combat Islamophobia”.

Speaking at high-level event in commemoration of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, organized by the OIC Group in New York in a virtual format, Qureshi said that the event will send a clear message against contemporary challenges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, negative stereotyping and stigmatization.

Besides, he added that it would help in raising international awareness about increasing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments, as well as promoting the message of tolerance, peaceful co-existence and interfaith and cultural harmony.

He said that 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,” Qureshi asserted.

Terming disinformation and distortion of facts as a common enemy, he said that it is these tools that purveyors of hate use to nourish their self-serving agendas. He pointed out that 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 added.

While the phenomenon of Islamophobia is not new, Qureshi added that it has 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 lynchings 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,” he added.

He pointed out that “Covid-19 should have united us, but has led to rise of negative narratives and hate speech in some countries, holding Muslim minorities responsible for spreading the virus.”

He said that the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has revealed that such policies have served to perpetuate, validate and normalize discrimination, hostility and violence towards Muslim individuals and communities.

“The natural reaction of the Muslims to situations like unresolved disputes and festering conflicts, foreign occupation, and denial of the right to self-determination, is political disagreement with specific policies. It should not be taken as or depicted as an “Islamic” reaction against universal values or freedoms,” Qureshi asserted.

“This misapprehension or misrepresentation evokes an anti-Islamic backlash and gives life to the thesis of a “Clash of Civilizations”. Islam is a religion of peace. It should not be judged by acts of a fringe group of extremists who exist in all societies, religions or belief system,” he added.

Qureshi said that 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 said that the way forward is dialogue and understanding, adding: “only if we are able to better understand each other’s perspective, will we be able to create peaceful and harmonious societies.”

He said that the UN is the best platform to nurture this understanding, adding that the Secretary-General should convene a global dialogue on countering rising Islamophobia and promoting inter-faith harmony, as a step to foster engagement.

He also 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”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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