UN chief calls for stamping out ‘poison’ of anti-Muslim bias

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (center, front) speaks at a Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Jan 12, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for the elimination of what he termed "poison" of anti-Muslim bias at an event marking the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

"I thank Pakistan and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for focusing attention – and calling for action – to stamp out the poison of Islamophobia," the top UN official said at the high-level special event marking the day at the UN headquarters in New York.

The event was co-convened by the Office of the President of the General Assembly and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in its capacity as the chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Council of Foreign Ministers.

The secretary-general underscored that the world's nearly 2 billion Muslims reflect humanity in all its magnificent diversity and they hail from all corners of the world.

"They are Arabs, Africans, Europeans, Americans and Asians," he said.

Noting that they often face bigotry and prejudice for no other reason than their faith, the secretary-general said that "this anti-Muslim hatred takes many forms."

Discrimination diminishes us all. And it is incumbent on all of us to stand up against it. We must never be bystanders to bigotry.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General

"There is the structural, institutional discrimination. It manifests itself in socioeconomic exclusion, discriminatory immigration policies and unwarranted surveillance and profiling. It reveals itself in the wholesale stigmatization of Muslim communities.”

"And it is reinforced by biased media representations, and – shamefully – by the anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies of some political leaders," he added.

Guterres pointed out that beyond structural Islamophobia, Muslims suffer personal attacks, hateful rhetoric and stereotyping.

"Many such acts of intolerance and suspicion may not be reflected in official statistics, but they degrade people's dignity and our common humanity."

Noting that the linkages between anti-Muslim hatred and gender inequality are unmistakable, the secretary-general said that "we see some of the worst impacts in the triple discrimination against Muslim women because of their gender, ethnicity and faith."

Turning to the growing hate, Guterres said that the hate that Muslims face is not an isolated development.

"It is an inexorable part of the resurgence of ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazi white supremacist ideologies and violence targeting vulnerable populations including Muslims, Jews, some minority Christian communities and others," he explained.

"Discrimination diminishes us all. And it is incumbent on all of us to stand up against it. We must never be bystanders to bigotry," said the secretary-general.

"We must strengthen our defenses. This means pushing for policies that fully respect human rights and protect religious and cultural identities, particularly of minorities," Guterres said.

"We must recognize diversity not as a threat, but as a richness of our societies. This means ramping up political, cultural and economic investments in social cohesion," he said.

The UN chief called for confronting bigotry wherever and whenever "it rears its ugly head."

"This includes working to tackle the hate that spreads like wildfire across the Internet," said the secretary-general.

"We are pushing for a code of conduct to promote integrity in public information – so people can make choices based on fact, not fiction; education, not ignorance," he said, while talking about actions.