NGOs gagged again at UN Human Rights Council

  • Date / 16 September 2007

IHEU was prevented from speaking this week following the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Doudou Diene’s report on “Islamophobia”. Only four NGOs were able to speak in the total of 10 minutes allotted to NGOs. NGO participation at the HRC is becoming more myth than reality. IHEU’s representative will be writing formally to the president of the Council asking for, as a minimum, the right to submit written statements when denied the chance to speak.

The statement that IHEU would have made, if it had been given the chance, follows. It was on behalf of IHEU and three other NGOs. It refers to two major omissions from the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Doudou Diene’s analysis of “Islamophobia”.

International Humanist and Ethical Union
Joint statement with Association for World Education, Association of World Citizens and World Union of Progressive Judaism

Human Rights Council, Sixth Session 10 – 28 September 2007
Agenda Item 9 – report on Islamophobia by the Special Rapporteur on Racism
Statement by IHEU main representative, Roy W. Brown, 14 September 2007


Mr President.

The report on Islamophobia by the Special Rapporteur on Racism [A/HRC/6/6] is deeply flawed in two important respects:

First, he fails to distinguish between, on the one hand, Islamophobia, which he defines as “baseless hostility and fear vis-à-vis Islam”, and on the other hand, genuine concerns regarding the rise of Islamic extremism. Secondly, he fails to recognise that there are important differences between the Islamic and other worldviews that contribute significantly to the problem.

Rather than dismissing Europe’s defence of its identity which he describes as ‘based on intangible “values”’ (which he puts in scare quotes) he should recognise that these values are neither intangible nor exclusively “European”, but universal. They include, inter alia, the dignity and autonomy of the individual, equality of the sexes, democracy, and human rights – surely the very rights that this Council should be seeking to defend. That these differences do exist and are far from intangible is evidenced, for example, by the OIC’s promotion of the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam as an alternative to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet rather than recognising the existence of such differences, the Special Rapporteur condemns as Islamophobic those who portray Islamic values as “fundamentally opposed to those of Western civilisation”. Why does he ignore the fact that there are an increasing number of Islamic leaders who present Islam in precisely this way? It is not “Islamophobia” to oppose such views. It is rather a necessary and legitimate expression of concern.

In common with the OIC and its repeated calls to combat defamation of religion, the Special Rapporteur also fails to distinguish between opposition to Islamic extremism and hostility towards Muslims. Opposition to Islamic extremism is both necessary and legitimate. Hostility towards Muslims is neither. To imply they are the same thing is to obscure an important step in understanding the problem.

What little hostility towards Islam that does exist among indigenous Europeans has not arisen in a vacuum, but is largely a reaction to Islamic extremism. More and more European mosques are promoting hardline Islamic ideology , including demonisation of Jews, infidels and homosexuals, and contempt for Western culture and civilisation.

Mr President, in his report the Special Rapporteur fails to address in any meaningful way the problem of Islamic extremism and its contribution towards the rise of religious hatred. In our view, he has rendered a disservice to the Council and to the cause of tolerance which he espouses.

Thank you sir.

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