United Nations

New UN Day, International Day to Combat Islamophobia, is Adopted Unanimously But Not Without Controversy

The United Nations has unanimously adopted a resolution submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to set aside March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

United Nations
The UN unanimously passes the resolution to make March 19 the International Day to Combat Islamophobia (Photo by Ashitakka, creative commons license)

March 15 was selected because that was the day of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, when 51 Muslims died and 40 more were injured.

“I want to congratulate the Muslim Ummah today as our voice against the rising tide of Islamophobia has been heard,” tweeted Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in response to the resolution’s passage.

Munir Akram, Pakistan’s envoy to the UN, reminded the General Assembly that “acts of discrimination, hostility and violence towards Muslims – individuals and communities – constitute grave violations of their human rights, and violate their freedom of religion and belief.”

However, other nations had concern about the resolution’s emphasizing discrimination and hate crimes against a single religion.

Although he voted in favor of its adoption, T. S. Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said the resolution, downplayed “the seriousness of phobias against all other religions.”

Likewise, Nicolas de Riviere, Permanent Representative of France, felt the resolution did not “respond to the concern that we all share, to fight against all forms of discrimination, because they create a division within the fight against religious intolerance by only selecting one religion to the exclusion of others [and] without reference to the freedom to believe or to not believe.”

Even in Muslim-majority Indonesia, there was concern about the emphasis on Islamophobia.

Endy M. Bayuni, chief editor of The Jakarta Post from 2004 to 2010 and 2016 to 2018, and a co-founder and executive director of the International Association of Religion Journalists, wrote in an Op Ed in The Jakarta Post, “declaring a day in the year to mark the International Day of Combatting Islamophobia may be counterproductive, and possibly do a great disservice to Islam.”

While acknowledging that the Christchurch attacks were a tragedy that should be remembered, he believes that “singling out Islam as needing protection more so than any other faiths in the world may not be helpful to Islam and its followers, when we know that other religions, and their followers, have also been the targets of vicious and brutal hate and violence, both online and offline. And some of the deadliest hate and terrorist attacks have been carried out in the name of Islam.

“Exclusivism is not in the nature of Islam. It runs counter to the oft-cited Quranic verse rahmatan lil alamin, that Islam is a religion of mercy for all creation.”

According to a 2017 study by Pew Research Center, Jews and Hindus are even more likely to live in countries where their groups experience harassment than are Muslims.

And the nonprofit Open Doors USA reported that 360 million Christians last year lived in countries where persecution was “significant.” And it found there are 39 countries where Christians experience “very high persecution.” Open Doors also holds that Christianity is the most persecuted faith, but most religions face persecution somewhere.