Source: European Union Delegation to the United Nations – New York
On Tuesday January 17, representatives from government, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, academia, and the private sector gathered at a High Level Forum at the United Nations to discuss ways to combat anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred. Efforts to combat anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred have taken on particular urgency due to growing populism, rising xenophobia, and increasing violent extremism. The meeting follows the September 2016 High Level Forum on Global Antisemitism and reflects the international community’s shared concerns over all forms of discrimination and hatred.
A few key themes were discussed throughout the day.
- There was a clear recognition of the rise of anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred in many parts of the world. The global migration crisis, the rise of xenophobic movements, identity politics, the spread of violent extremist ideology, and terrorist attacks around the world, along with misinformation and negative stereotypes disseminated through various forms of media, have contributed to the challenge.
- Many speakers underscored the connections between anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred and other forms of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, including Antisemitism and anti-immigrant discrimination. In discussing possible solutions, there was broad recognition of the need to address all forms of discrimination and hatred, in particular on the basis of religion or belief, in all parts of the world by applying universal standards to provide equal protection to all individuals.
- There was widespread consensus on the need for a concerted effort by all sectors of society to focus on solutions to this growing challenge. Three expert panels focused on key mechanisms to address this issue: i) Government Policies to Combat Anti-Muslim Discrimination and Hatred; ii) Civil Society Coalition-Building; and, iii) Positive Narratives to Promote Pluralism and Inclusion.
UN Secretary General António Guterres delivered by video opening remarks at the Forum, outlining the broad challenge facing the international community and calling for action. Additional opening speakers included high level officials representing the President of the UN General Assembly and each of the co-sponsoring delegations. UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed delivered closing remarks.
During the panel discussion on government policies to combat anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred, expert representatives from governments and intergovernmental organizations presented various strategies and best practices for combating anti-Muslim discrimination. They noted the particular challenges in dealing with political actors and movements advocating discriminatory and xenophobic policies, and stressed the need to preserve and protect the rule of law and equal rights under the law. UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, a consensus resolution on combating discrimination, intolerance, and violence based on religion or belief, was also noted as providing a practical action plan for governments to address these challenges.
A diverse group of civil society leaders discussed the importance of civil society coalitions to combat discrimination and reinforce societal norms of equality and pluralism. They presented innovative initiatives – including interfaith and inter-ethnic coalitions – to combat hatred against Muslims and members of other groups vulnerable to discrimination. The panel highlighted the vital role played by civil society in building and protecting societal resilience against prejudice and intolerance.
Finally, the panel on positive narratives to promote pluralism and inclusion highlighted the vital role played by various forms of media in framing social understanding of Muslims and minority groups in general. There was a clear recognition of the challenge of access to media outlets for members of vulnerable groups and the importance of accurate and effective representation of such groups. Panelists stressed the urgency of addressing media misinformation and creating platforms for positive narratives of pluralism and diversity-based inclusion.
The High Level Forum was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Canada, the United States, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations.