23 September 2008

"This is impossible, sir."

Today David Littman was stopped cold by Egypt and the Council president while trying to read a statement on Islamaphobia and antisemitism. Stepping away from the microphone, he exclaimed, "This is impossible, sir."

Shortly thereafter, Roy Brown made it through (with one interruption) the following statement on behalf of the Center for Inquiry and the IHEU:

Mr President,

We were pleased to note the desire of Mr Githu Muigai, the new Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, to move the discussion from the idea “defamation of religions” which many agree has no place in human rights discourse, “to the legal concept of incitement to national, racial and religious hatred, hostility or violence”.

We also applaud his proposal to gather data on hate speech in order to make “fully informed, empirically sound and factually robust analysis about this phenomenon”. Racial discrimination and xenophobia are indeed a serious and widespread problem. It is essential when dealing with such a complex issue, involving education, language skills, economic opportunities, deprivation, media sensationalism, and opportunism, that proposed solutions be based on accurate information.

In our view, the term “Islamophobia” is both misleading and unhelpful. It falsely implies that any criticism of Islam is based on “irrational fear” and must lead automatically to hatred of Muslims.

The widespread use of the term “Islamophobia” may actually be exacerbating the problem by confusing the issue. Immigrants, and not only Muslims, do face discrimination, but this problem will not be solved by such catch-all, simplistic labelling. The accusation of “Islamophobia” is now widely used as an ad hominem weapon to silence opponents by equating any criticism of Islam with racism. Mr President, criticism of Islam, or of any other religion, is not racism: it is a human right.

There is now some evidence that the incidence of hostility to Muslims is being exaggerated. We cite for example, the United States government’s latest data on hate crimes which show that [There were 147 reported cases of hate crimes against Muslims in 2006, and 362 reported cases against Jews. Yet the population of Muslims in United States (estimated at 9.5 million) exceeds that of Jews by a ratio of three to two , so] Jews are on average more than three times more likely than Muslims to be the victims of hate crimes even in the United States, which in 2001 was the victim of the world’s worst ever terrorist attack, carried out by Muslims.

Finally, Mr President, we wish to comment on two glaring omissions from the last report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mr Doudou Diene. He makes no mention of attacks on Christians, Bahais , Ahmadis and others that have become commonplace in several Arab states, and in Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh . And whilst he mentions growing Antisemitism in Latin America and its historical roots in Europe, he makes no mention of it in the Muslim world, where according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center : “anti-Jewish sentiment is endemic”. These omissions again call into question the impartiality of that Special Rapporteur.

May we respectfully suggest that, rather than focussing exclusively on “Islamophobia”, States address the deep-rooted Antisemitism and general hatred of “the other” within their own societies?

Thank you, Sir.

http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2006/table1.html http://www.factbook.net/muslim_pop.php http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/usjewpop.html http://www.bahai.org/persecution/iran/update http://www.thepersecution.org/ai/aius0411bd.html http://bangladeshwatchdog.blogspot.com/2006/05/amnesty-international-report-2006.html http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=248

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