Advocacy statements

On the use of the term ‘Islamophobia’

  • Date / 2015
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 9: Follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 30th Session (14th September – 2nd October 2015)

General Debate, Item 9

Irrational and racist hate exists against people who identify as Muslim around the world. It can be seen quite visibly against minority communities in much of Europe. But also across Asia and the Middle East. Indeed, much anti-Muslim hate and bigotry is perpetrated by Muslims against other Muslims of a different denomination to their own.

It is important however to note that criticism of beliefs is not the same as anti-Muslim bigotry – or any other type of bigotry.

The discussion and criticism of religion is protected by Article 19 of the ICCPR and UDHR. To legislate against polygamy, or to protect apostates from those who want them dead; to promote and support freedom of expression and thought, or to protect art and free it from censorship are not acts that represent discriminating or hateful behaviour.  On the contrary they represent respect – treating others’ ideas as worth critiquing or questioning.

The confusion and too ready-use of the term ‘Islamophobia’ silences and shames people into keeping quiet in case they are seen as racist. This does nothing but create a quietly authoritarian climate of resentment and conservatism and dilutes the importance of tackling racism. Confusing hate crimes against Muslims with criticism of Islamic regimes or misogynist practices defended in the name of Islam does nothing to help challenge racism.

Moreover, the isolationist term of “Islamophobia” encourages divisive identity politics and reinforces divisions between faith groups and non-faith groups through stereotyping and an over-emphasis on a homogeneous religious identity.

Instead we urge the emphasis to be on the individual and her rights, regardless of belief. Not because of them.

The IHEU condemns all manifestations of hate and violence against Muslims, especially the millions of Muslims who are suffering daily under the “Daesh.”

For this reason we urge more inclusive language that targets all hate, and not divisive point scoring which reinforces the victim-hood of autonomous rights bearers.

Suggested academic reference

'On the use of the term 'Islamophobia'', Humanists International

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