Islamophobia is a Result of Structural...
The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmad Shaheed, presented his report on countering Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred to the Human Rights Council. . The Special Rapporteur emphasizes that Islamophobic discrimination in both the public and the private sphere often make it difficult for a Muslim to be a Muslim.
He highlighted that:
- Expressions of discrimination, hostility and violence motivated by anti-Muslim bias were serious obstacles to the enjoyment of human rights.
- Over the past two decades, Muslim individuals and communities have borne the brunt of the use and abuse of counter-terrorism measures. Collective blame cast on Muslims for terrorist acts purportedly carried out in the name of Islam.
- While the precise character is context-specific, in its most prevalent form, the Islamophobic mindset treats Islam — a global religion with widely diverse interpretations and practices across the world — as a monolithic and fundamentalist creed that advocates violence, sexism and homophobia.
- The dangers of Islamophobia were manifested through violent attacks against Muslims across the globe, with the majority of the human rights violations often gaining little media attention. Evidence gathered for the report made clear that Islamophobia was a function of structural discrimination stemming from negative stereotypes.
- Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and other horrific acts of terrorism purportedly carried out in the name of Islam, institutional suspicion of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim has escalated to epidemic proportions.
- Numerous States -along with regional and international bodies- have responded to security threats by adopting measures which disproportionately target Muslims and define Muslims as both high-risk and at risk of radicalization.
- European surveys in 2018 and 2019 that show an average of 37 percent of the population held unfavourable views of Muslims. In 2017, some 30 percent of Americans surveyed viewed Muslims in a negative light.
- In Muslim minority states, Muslims are frequently targeted based on visible ‘Muslim’ characteristics, such as their names, skin colour and clothing, including religious attire, including headscarves.
- Islamophobic discrimination and hostility were often intersectional, such as where ‘Muslim women may face a “triple penalty” as women, minority ethnic and Muslim’.
The report emphasised that critiques of Islam should never be conflated with Islamophobia, adding that international human rights law protects individuals, not religions. The criticism of the ideas, leaders, symbols or practices of Islam is not Islamophobic per se; unless it is accompanied by hatred or bias towards Muslims in general. Main countries and regions on which he focused are Myanmar, Iraq, China, Pakistan, India and Europe.
The Special Rapporteur also urges States to prohibit any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. Furthermore, he calls upon the civil society, media and digital technology companies, employers and the UN to take action in addressing Islamophobia within the wider human rights framework. He is emphatic that all responses must be consistent with international human rights law and specifically recommends the utilisation of existing international human standards such as the Rabat Plan of Action and Human Rights Council resolution 16/18.