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EDITORIAL: Far-right anti-Muslim groups in Western countries are repeatedly causing Islamophobic provocations. Last Saturday in Sweden an extremist anti-immigration politician Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the holy Quran in front of the Turkish embassy after delivering an hour-long harangue, attacking Islam.

In July last year, leader of a Norwegian Islam hating party, Lars Throsen, drove along with some other activists to an Oslo suburb with a large Muslim community and placed a burning copy of the holy book in the middle of an intersection. Scandinavian Muslim hate groups seem to have taken that idea from Terry Jones, a Christian pastor in the US state of Florida, who performed that outrageous act in 2010.

Several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait have severely denounced the latest provocation. Turkiye, the main target of the offensive act, condemned “in strongest possible terms the vile attack on our holy book” and voiced a common sentiment among Muslims everywhere, saying “permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable.”

Ankara also cancelled the visit of Swedish defence minister planned to seek Turkiye’s support for his country’s bid for NATO membership. Like other Western governments after such incidents the Swedish foreign minister tried to defend the blatantly racist and Islamophobic act as freedom of expression though he added that “it does not imply that the Swedish government, or myself, supports the opinions expressed.”

Freedom of expression, indeed, is paramount in a democracy, so is freedom of religion or belief as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Attacks on religious beliefs of another people are reflective of intolerance and racism, contrary to the values all Western nations claim to uphold. But when it comes to human rights, double standards characterise their policies. Sixteen European countries and Canada have laws that make Holocaust denial a criminal offence.

A while ago, the European Union leaders also adopted a declaration, saying “anti-Semitism, in any form, is and must remain unacceptable and all steps must be taken to counteract it, including, where necessary, through legal measures at the European level.” By the same token, they should also take measures to counteract anti-Muslim hatred.

Towards that end, in 2021, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution, introduced by Pakistan, proclaiming March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. Among other things, the resolution called for strengthening international efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on human rights and diversity of religions and beliefs.

It was passed by consensus putting responsibility on all member nations to honour that commitment. Yet Western governments tend to ignore it when their people deliberately insult Islam.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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A despicable act

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