UN rapporteur warns against Islamophobia but recognizes right to criticize Islam


Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, expressed concern about the rise of Islamophobia, saying that since the terrorist attacks of September 11, suspicion against Muslims ” has assumed epidemic proportions ”.

Shaheed raised these concerns in a “Report on Combating Islamophobia / Anti-Muslim Hate” presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council which met in the spring of 2021.

The report maintains, however, that “criticism of the ideas, leaders, symbols or practices of Islam” is not in itself Islamophobia and that “international human rights law protects individuals, not individuals. religions ”.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, compared Islamophobia to an “epidemic” but distinguished between anti-Muslim hatred and legitimate criticism of Islam

Shaheed, a former Maldives foreign minister, argued that there is “collective blame on Muslims for terrorist acts allegedly carried out in the name of Islam, as well as Islamophobic attitudes which are based on negative generalizations about Islam ”.

He further argues that there are views “which describe [Muslims] as threatening and centered on constructions of irreconcilable cultural difference between Muslims and the values ​​of majority populations ”.

These, Shaheed suggest, “fueled acts of discrimination, hostility and violence against Muslim individuals and communities.”

“I strongly encourage States to take all necessary measures to fight against direct and indirect forms of discrimination against Muslims and to prohibit any appeal to religious hatred which constitutes incitement to violence”, he said. -he adds.

UK-based group suggests introduction of ‘Islamic curriculum’

A report on Anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination submitted to the Special Rapporteur by the United Kingdom’s Islamic Human Rights Committee (IHRC) in November 2020, set out some suggestions on the measures the IHRC deemed necessary.

These include countries devoting the recognition of “double and even multiple identities” for their citizens by introducing, for example, “the office of an independent mufti or a council of ulemas, which would facilitate education. traditional Islamic values ​​practiced for many centuries ”. .

The IHRC also suggests the introduction of an “Islamic curriculum that will teach traditional Islamic norms, which will be taught alongside the general curriculum as part of giving citizens a dual space to realize their rights to religious and cultural expression ”.

Nonetheless, the IHRC’s submission links Islamophobia with racism affecting individual Muslims rather than criticism of Islam as a religion.

The charge of Islamophobia used to “punish legitimate critics”

Shaheed’s concession that criticism of Islam does not constitute Islamophobia unless accompanied by “hatred” of Muslims as individuals seems to offer some protection to those who comment on it. Islamic teaching or practices.

Shahid explained in a press release to the UN Human Rights Council that, “My report does not deny that fundamentalists and politicians exploit the charge of” Islamophobia “to punish legitimate criticism of Islamic practices and beliefs or even to encourage sympathy for terrorism. “

“Others,” he added, “responded to Islamophobia with misguided campaigns to criminalize expressions deemed“ blasphemous ”.

The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at the Palais des Nations in Geneva is the meeting room of the UN Human Rights Council

In Dawa: The Islamic Strategy to Reshape the Modern World (2014), the international director of Barnabas Fund International, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, notes that since 1999 countries affiliated with the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have successfully adopted UN resolutions on religious defamation aimed at protect Islam from criticism.

Sookhdeo affirms: “These indeed tend to protect, reinforce and support Islamist terrorism and its sources of financing. Banning speeches critical of radical Islam and Islamist terrorism is a step towards legitimizing violence committed in the name of Islam.

Since 2011, however, the UN has shifted the focus from defamation of religions to discrimination against “people based on their religion or defamation” and were keen to protect freedom of expression. “

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