ISTANBUL: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday suggested a comprehensive global strategy to tackle rising Islamophobia, as foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) discussed the causes, impacts and way forward in the aftermath of the New Zealand terror attacks targeting two mosques in Christchurch, in which 50 Muslims, including nine Pakistanis, were killed by a ‘white supremacist’ during Friday prayers last week.
Foreign ministers from over 20 countries participated in the emergency meeting, alongside representatives from international organisations, including the United Nations and the European Union and Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. New Zealand’s foreign minister, Winston Peters, also attended the session.
Talking to reporters following the conclusion of the meeting, Qureshi announced that a joint communique by all the members had been issued which contains six proposals — four of whom were put forth by Pakistan.
“All four of our proposals received uniform acceptance and I would like to put these forward before you,” he said.
“The first proposal was that the scope and definition of terrorism be broadened. And the imposition of sanctions should not be limited to entities such as Al Qaeda, Daesh, etc — though those are important in their own right — but those elements which reek of Islamophobia should also be included in the list of those sanctioned.
“Our second proposal which came under discussion and was then accepted was that a special session of the United Nations General Assembly be held on the topic of Islamophobia.
“The third proposal we put forth was that the OIC secretary general should play a role in the removal of content on social media that is linked to Islamophobia and should devise a strategy to deal with how it incites hatred and how it can be tackled immediately because such content is leading to extremism taking root.
“The fourth thing that was proposed was that a special rapporteur be appointed who monitors Islamophobia and presents recommendations on how to counter it.
“So all four of these proposals by Pakistan have been incorporated into the joint communique. I am very happy I mentioned these in my speech,” he said in conclusion.
In his speech during the session, Qureshi said the Christchurch attack had shed light on a number of alarming trends ─ the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim sentiment by the rise of populist politics in many western countries; the undermining of a culture of respect and tolerance through narratives of exclusion and bigotry, and the implementation of anti-immigration policies by some in the west.
He reminded attendees that the attack was not an “isolated act of a lone maniac”.
“What happened in New Zealand is a grim reminder of the tide of Islamophobia sweeping the world. Every bullet fired by the terrorist was an assault on the values of pluralism and diversity that underpin modern multicultural societies,” Qureshi stated.
“It was an effort to resurrect a view of history based on reprehensible and unacceptable notions of racial superiority. It was the culmination of years of deliberately orchestrated prejudice against Islam and Muslims, in which the mainstream media has regrettably played a crucial role,” he said.
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani hailed Pakistan’s role for restoration of peace in Afghanistan and FM Quershi said that Pakistan would continue to execute its joint responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the region including in Afghanistan.
The foreign minister discussed systemic discrimination, and the social, political and economic marginalisation and humiliation of Muslims in India “at the hands of the Hindutva brigades”.
“Mob lynching of Muslims in the name of cow protection and attempts at Muslims’ forced conversion are commonplace, as indeed is violence against other minorities including Sikhs, Christians and Dalits.
“In Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, extra judicial killings, staged encounters, sexual harassment and use of pellet guns against unarmed protesters are a norm. Recently, an Indian court exonerated Hindu terrorists who had confessed to killing 68 people, mostly Muslims ─ including 44 Pakistanis ─ on a train in India.”
“There exists no United Nations architecture that can proscribe such individuals or address terrorism posed by Hindutva ideologues or white supremacists,” Qureshi pointed out.
The foreign minister called for introspection and concerted, collective action considering the current climate.
Addressing the meeting, OIC Secretary General Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen described the Christchurch attacks as “a turning point” for Muslims. He stated that Muslim nations would not be deterred from taking steps to curb such violence.
“Intolerance on the basis of ideology and racism have emerged as a major threat to global peace and security in our world today. Amidst these conditions, Islam and Muslims in many countries are subjected to defamation of their religion and humanity. They face growing negative stereotyping, racial discrimination and right-wing populist calls denying basic Muslim human rights,” Al-Othaimeen said.
“The common thread in all of these populist political parties is Islamophobia,” he said, pointing out that their supporters had been growing “at unprecedented levels”.