Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari urged the global community to unite and take unified and practical steps to tackle the menace of Islamophobia.
"Since the tragedy of 9/11, Islamophobia has only escalated in different parts of the world. Muslims are being associated with terrorism and extremism, and it has found acceptance in mainstream media too," he said while addressing a high-level event to commemorate the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
Co-convened by the General Assembly president and the Pakistani foreign minister, the meeting discussed ways and means to deal with growing Islamophobia, as highlighted in the 2020 Assembly resolution designating March 15 as an the international day to combat the phenomenon.
“The observance of this Day serves to reinforce our shared commitment to raise awareness about the insidious phenomenon of Islamophobia, advance mutual respect and understanding, and develop concrete measures to eradicate this contemporary plague,” he told delegates in the UN General Assembly Hall, while highlighting that Islam is a religion of moderation, tolerance and pluralism.
ilawal said that Islamophobia was an important challenge in the current age and that all countries will have to play their role to combat it.
"Islam and Muslims are routinely linked to terrorism. Social media platforms are being used to fuel Islamophobia. It surged during Covid. Islamophobia remains a big challenge even today," he added.
Read more: Bilawal calls for women’s empowerment, gender parity at ‘Women in Islam’ moot
He said that concrete actions needed to be taken as the virus of Islamophobia was spreading and some free societies were also getting infected.
"The virus of Islamophobia was spreading fast than we've been able to react. Not even the greatest democracies are immune. We have seen democratic societies impose Muslim bans. So-called free societies allow desecration of holy sites. Even my region is not immune."
He said that democratic and secular societies are under threat of being transformed into religious, nationalist and Islamophobic states.
"Today, we must renew our resolve to build inclusive society where different cultures and religions are celebrated and diversity is embraced. We can ill-afford to ignore dangerous ideologies and acts dividing us as humanity," he further said.
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“The policies and violent actions of those who deny the right of self-determination of Muslim peoples represent the worst manifestations of Islamophobia today,” FM Bilawal added.
In this regard, he urged the UN secretary-general to formulate an ‘action plan’, in coordination with the OIC countries, to halt and reverse Islamophobia.
Such an action plan, he said, could include:
—The appointment of a UN Special Envoy to combat Islamophobia;
—The adoption of measures to protect Holy Sites, including the thousands of Mosques and Mausoleums;
—The adoption of laws – at the national and international level – to outlaw hate speech, Holy Quran’s vandalization, and discrimination and violence against Muslims and other communities;
—The provision of legal assistance and appropriate compensation to those subjected to such Islamophobic acts and;
—The establishment of national and international judicial mechanisms and laws to hold those responsible for acts of Islamophobia accountable.
“Unfortunately,” the foreign minister said, “the virus of Islamophobia is spreading faster than we have been able to react.
“Not even the greatest democracies are immune. We have witnessed democratic societies impose Muslim bans. So-called free societies allow for the desecration of holy texts and holy sites. Even my region is not immune with democratic secular societies under the threat of being transformed to religious and Islamophobic states.
“Today, we must renew our resolve to build an inclusive society where different cultures and beliefs are celebrated and diversity is embraced. We can ill afford to ignore dangerous ideologies and acts dividing us as humanity,” he added.
“The declaration of 15th March as an International Day to Combat Islamophobia by the General Assembly is a demonstration of global solidarity with both known and unknown victims of Islamophobia,” FM Bilawal said.
Last year, the 193-member Assembly adopted Resolution 76/254 designating March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
Apart from Casaba Korosi, the Assembly’s President, present at the meeting, among others, were UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Miguel Moratinos.
A day earlier, Bilawal met the President of the UN General Assembly, Csaba Korosi, ahead of Friday’s high-level meeting to commemorate the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
Officials said that during the meeting, President Korosi congratulated FM Bilawal on the successful meeting Pakistan hosted on ‘Women in Islam’.
The foreign minister thanked the UNGA president for his participation in the day-long conference.
The two leaders also discussed the upcoming 2023 UN Water Conference.
The conference – formally known as the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028) – will take place at UN Headquarters in New York, from March 22-24, co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands.
FM Bilawal assured the UNGA president of Pakistan’s full cooperation as water was an issue of supreme importance to his country.
(With input from APP)