Pakistan: Use Interfaith Harmony to counter Islamophobia

lodhiUNITED NATIONS – Pakistan has called for action to combat the forces of Islamophobia and warned that if timely steps are not taken to check this disturbing trend, it could threaten regional and global peace and security. The Pakistan Ambassador to the United Nations organised a side event at the UN on occasion of World Interfaith Harmony Week.


Speaking at an event organised at the UN by Pakistan Mission and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (IOC) on “Countering Xenophobia through Interfaith Cooperation”, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Maleeha Lodh said that Islamophobic acts are unfortunately happening in countries, which are the traditional champions of human rights and humanitarianism.

Lodhi regretted that some unprincipled politicians in the West have sought to build their political fortunes by spreading fear and xenophobia – promising to build walls against migrants; barring refugees, even widows and orphans; threatening to ban the adherents of a specific religion from entry to their countries’ shores.

Unfortunately, she said, this campaign of hate and prejudice has received a fillip from ignorant Western media portrayals of Muslims.

Maleeha further said that the purpose of the event– during a week at the UN, devoted to Interfaith Harmony – was to highlight the concern of Pakistan and OIC countries over certain recent developments which pose a danger to such harmony, to social cohesion and to the observance of human rights and humanitarian norms.

The instances of insults against Islam and Muslims are now legion, she said. Islam has been called unspeakable names; minarets have been portrayed as missiles.

These have not been empty insults, Lodhi said, adding, “Expressions of such hate and prejudice have provoked physical and psychological violence against Muslims and their businesses, mosques and community centers in some countries”.

“Almost all Muslim communities have been subjected to such intolerance. Many live in fear. Their alienation expands the divide between faiths and cultures within and among nations”.

She also highlighted the plight of refugees and migrants pouring into Europe. While initially this evoked many heartwarming acts of generosity, humanity and solidarity. But subsequently the purveyors of hate have sought to turn the tide against the advocates of openness and humanitarianism, especially after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris.

Terming such xenophobia and discrimination as a ‘dangerous trend’, she warned that such profiling of entire peoples and communities by religion or ethnicity, has grave antecedents. Seventy-five years ago, this led to the Holocaust.

Ambassador Lodhi said those who have declared the denial of the Holocaust a crime should hardly argue that the freedom of expression allows insults against Islam and hate speech and incitement to violence against Muslims.

The envoy told participants that as hate inevitably breeds hate, Islamophobia will breed its antithesis. “It is a recipe for a clash of cultures – a clash we must avoid if the world is to have any hope of collective action to end the chaos in the Middle East and eliminate all forms of terrorism”, she added.

Prominent speakers at the event included interfaith activists Dr. William Vendley, Dr. Munir Al-Kaseem and Dr. Faroque Ahmed Khan, who appreciated the timely initiative by Pakistan stressed the fact that this has become a global issue which needs to be urgently addressed. The event was attended by diplomats, senior UN officials and members of civil society.

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