IHEU attacks concept of “Islamophobia”

  • Date / 23 September 2008

IHEU has told the UN Human Rights Council that the concept of “Islamophobia” is unhelpful and misleading, wrongly implying that any criticism of Islam is based on “irrational fear” and must lead automatically to hatred of Muslims. The statement was given jointly with the Association for World Education and Center for Inquiry.


UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL – 9th Session (8–26 September 2008)
Statement by IHEU Main Representative Roy W Brown, Tuesday (pm) 23 September 2008
Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance

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 this connection, the term “Islamophobia” is both misleading and unhelpful. It 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 [1] 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) [2] exceeds that of Jews by a ratio of three to two [3], 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.

[At this point, the Egyptian representative raised a point of order.]

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 [4], Ahmadis [5] and others that have become commonplace in several Arab states, and in Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh [6]. 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 [7]: “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.

1 http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2006/table1.html
2 http://www.factbook.net/muslim_pop.php
3 http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/usjewpop.html
4 http://www.bahai.org/persecution/iran/update
5 See, as just one example: http://www.thepersecution.org/ai/aius0411bd.html
6 http://bangladeshwatchdog.blogspot.com/2006/05/amnesty-international-report-2006.html
7 http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=248

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