IHEU speaks on racism and “Islamophobia”

  • Date / 18 June 2008

In a statement delivered to the UN Human Rights Council on 17 June 2008, IHEU has called attention to racism and intolerance in Sudan and India, and criticized the “Islamophobia” industry of victimisation.

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 8th Session (2-18 June 2008)
President: Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea

Agenda item 9. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Speaker: IHEU Main Representative Roy W Brown. Tuesday 17 June 2008 (am)

Mr President

In the context of racism, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance we wish to draw the attention of the Council to four examples of blatant discrimination that we believe merit far greater attention:

1. On 18 April 2005 during the 61st session of the Commission, Mr Simon Deng spoke movingly of his experience of being held for five years as the slave of an Arab family in the Sudan. He is not an Arab, but a black African from the south. Christian Solidarity International and others [including black African leaders of the Government of Sudan-sponsored Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWAC)] have documented tens of thousands of contemporary slaves in the Sudan [1].

2. In Darfur, non-Arabs are being attacked by Arab Janjiweed militias and so far more than 200,000 have been killed and more than 2 million driven from their homes. The UN has documented the enslavement of black African Darfuri’s by Arab militiamen, often for sexual purposes. [2]

Whether or not the tragedy of Darfur amounts to genocide, it can most certainly be described as an appalling example of racial discrimination. These people are being discriminated to death! The Council must continue its efforts on Darfur, building on the excellent report of its high-level investigation. It will be difficult, Mr President, to defend the functioning of this Council outside these walls while such barbarity is allowed to continue without condemnation.

3. In India there are over 170 million Dalits (untouchables) who suffer daily discrimination at the hands of upper caste Hindus. The government of India claims that it has done all it can by outlawing untouchability and initiating programs of positive discrimination, yet [we read every day of Dalits unable to take up positions notionally available to them because of obstruction]. Discrimination remains deeply embedded in Indian culture and the government could do more to eliminate it. It could accept the Human Rights Council position that discrimination based on work or descent is a manifestation of racial discrimination, it could initiate programs of education against caste discrimination, and it could make a far greater effort to ensure that its laws are enforced.

4. Finally, Mr President, we have heard much of an alleged increase in Islamophobia in the West. But as is well known, Muslims are completely free to practice their religion in Europe, and
a recent report [3] has shown that Muslims in the United States suffer less hatred that Jews, African Americans, Hispanics, homosexuals or even Asians and Pacific Islanders. Why then this misplaced emphasis on Islamophobia? [Taking their lead from the OIC and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism,] Islamist leaders have spawned an industry of victimisation, exaggerating the extent of Islamophobia while ignoring completely the institutionalised racism in much of the Arab world – such as Christians being driven en masse from Iraq [4], the treatment of the Copts in Egypt [5], and persecution by the Hamas regime of the few remaining indigenous Christians in Gaza [6], not to mention the daily demonisation of Jews.

We urge the new Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism to address this selectivity, and for the Council to act accordingly.

Thank you sir.

1The International Response to Sudanese Slavery by John Eibner (CSI) and Slavery and Slave Liberation: The Experience of the Dinka Chiefs Committee by James Aguer Alic (CEAWAC), papers presented to the Conference on Slavery in Sudan and its Impact on the Peace Process, St.l Antony’s College, Oxford University, November 5, 2005.
2 Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the UN Secretary General, Geneva, 25 January 2005, pp. 89-91: http://www.un.org/news/dh/sudan/com_ing_darfur.pdf.
3 FBI hate crime statistics 2006 http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2006/table1.html
4 See for example: CBS News, 60 minutes: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/29/60minutes/main3553612.shtml
5 See Tolerance.ca http://www.tolerance.ca/Article.aspx?ID=14713&L=fr and The Society for Threatened Peoples: http://www.gfbv.de/pressemit.php?id=359&PHPSESSID=ece72137a4fd3b200fcf2519a40f7456
6 See for example: http://www.compassdirect.org/en/display.php?page=news&lang=en&length=long&idelement=5416

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