IHEU comments on Islamophobia report

  • post Type / Humanists International News
  • Date / 25 October 2007

IHEU has called a UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur’s report on Islamophobia “seriously flawed”.

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 – Contemporary Forms of Racism and Defamation of Religion
Statement by IHEU main representative, Roy W. Brown, 25 September 2007

Mr President.

We wish to return to the report on Islamophobia by Mr Doudou Diene, the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism [A/HRC/6/6]. We find his report to be seriously flawed in three important respects.

First, the Special Rapporteur 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, legitimate concerns regarding the rise of Islamic extremism.

Secondly, he fails to recognise the important differences that exist between the Islamic and modern European worldviews; differences that need to be addressed if increasing tension is to be avoided. Rather than dismissing Europe’s defence of its identity, which he describes as ‘based on intangible “values”’ in scare quotes, he should recognise that these values are neither intangible nor exclusively “European”. 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 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 whom he says 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.

Thirdly, and in common with the OIC and its repeated calls to “combat defamation of religion”, the Special Rapporteur 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.

Mr President, the small but regrettable level of hostility towards Islam among indigenous Europeans did not arise in a vacuum, but largely as a reaction to Islamic extremism. More and more European mosques are promoting hard-line Islamic ideology [1], including the demonisation of Jews, infidels and homosexuals, and contempt for Western culture and civilisation.

It is regrettable that the Special Rapporteur failed to address in any meaningful way the contribution of Islamic extremism to the rise of religious confrontation in Europe.

Thank you sir.

[1] Cf. Channel 4 Dispatches, “Undercover Mosque” 15 Jan 2007, and The Times, “Hardline Takeover of British Mosques”, 7 September 2007: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2402973.ece

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