UN chief terms countering Islamophobia his ‘top priority’ after Pakistan highlights concerns

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 (APP):United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that countering anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia is his “top priority” and he “fully agrees” with the assessment that it could pose a threat to international peace and security.

The UN Chief gave the statement recently at the virtual meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states at the United Nations (UN) in response to the comments from Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, who drew his attention to the rising cases of anti-Muslim violence and Islamophobia in India and urged him to adopt a more focused and consistent system-wise approach to fully tackle the menace.

Speaking at the meeting organized by OIC on the theme of “COVID-19 Solidarity: Promoting Co-Existence and Shared Responsibility”, Guterres voiced his concern over the rise of Islamophobia and called for fighting this phenomenon collectively, the informed sources said.

In his remarks, Ambassador Akram raised concerns about the alarming rise in Islamophobia and stigmatization of Muslims in India in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also highlighted the oppressive measures imposed in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, last year when New Delhi annexed the disputed region in violation of UN resolutions.

While terming these developments a matter of “grave concern”, Ambassador Akram noted that such vitriolic hate speech, state-sponsored Islamophobia and deliberate targeting of Muslims in India was not only a human rights challenge but could also endangered peace and security in the region.

Earlier, the Permanent Representative of the OIC Observer Mission in New York, Agshin Mehdiyev, also noted the exploitation of COVID19-related fears where the public discourse had been weaponzied against Muslims by stoking Islamophobia.

In this regard, he made reference to the OIC’s latest statements urging the Government of India to take immediate steps to end discriminatory treatment of Muslims.

Earlier this week, Pakistan had proposed the establishment of a dedicated OIC Working Group on Islamophobia. Several OIC countries including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Malaysia and Egypt welcomed Pakistan’s proposal and need for a concerted OIC position on Islamophobia at the United Nations.

The remarks made by the UN Secretary-General indicate that the OIC will pursue Pakistan’s proposal for collective action to counter Islamophobia.