Pakistan proposed a six point plan to address the new manifestations of racism and faith-based hatred especially Islamophobia at a largely-attended forum at UN Headquarters organized by Pakistan with Turkey, the Holy See and the United Nations on Monday.

Other speakers too called for effective steps to counter the challenge posed by the growing phenomenon of faith-based hatred and violence so as to promote peaceful, inclusive and just societies around the world.

“A particularly alarming development is the rise of Islamophobia, which represents the recent manifestation of the age-old hatred that spawned anti-Semitism, racism, apartheid and many other forms of discrimination,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, said in her opening speech. She said Prime Minister Imran Khan had repeatedly called for urgent action to counter Islamophobia at various forums. “We encourage the UN and other relevant organizations to address this issue.”

Pakistan took the initiative to hold Monday’s side-event on “Countering terrorism and other acts of violence based on religion or belief” in the wake of the launch last week by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of his strategy and action plan against hate speech. Participants in the discussion that ensued at the event praised Ambassador Lodhi for the timely move.

With an increasing trend of violence based on religion, and hateful narratives spreading across the world, this event was aimed at discussing this important issue and help in charting a way forward, the Pakistani envoy told APP.

Panelists included,  apart from ambassadors of Turkey and the Holy See (Vatican)  and Under-Secretary-General of Office of Counter Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov,  Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, president of Cordoba House, and the UN Chief’s Advisor on Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng.

Among others who took part included ambassadors of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Somalia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

In her remarks, Ambassador Lodhi elaborated the six points to deal with hate-driven violence and Islamophobia. Governments needs to adopt legislation to address the issue, she said, adding that tech companies must prevent digital technologies and social media platforms from becoming channels for inflammatory content, incitement and negative stereotyping.

As regards Islamophobia, she said it must be countered through a focused strategy as social tensions engendered by it posed a risk to vulnerable Muslim migrants and refugees in the West, besides potentially threatening the social cohesion of host communities. Also, there was need to boost investment in enhanced research to monitor the trends and analyze the root causes and drivers of violence incited by religious hatred.

Engagement with youth and women as well youth was imperative to establish tolerant and inclusive societies as also the critical need to increase investment in education. “As hatred is born in the mind, education would be key to promoting peace and tolerance,” the Pakistani envoy remarked.

Referring to the recent tragic events in Christchurch, Sri Lanka and Pittsburg, she said hateful views and words are not only consequential – they can kill. More disturbingly, she said, this does not seem to be an isolated phenomenon limited to fringe groups on society’s periphery and called for addressing it. 

“Populist narratives are being exploited by demagogues as a strategy to achieve political objectives,” she said. “In many parts of the world, including our own region, hateful rhetoric is being used to secure narrow political and electoral gains.” 

Ambassador Lodhi added, “Our efforts to promote more peaceful societies must be founded on the most fundamental of human values that call for tolerance and respect for human life.

“Let this be a moment for all of us to come together to reverse the tide of hate and intolerance and its violent manifestations. If we have to eliminate terrorism, we must eliminate its root causes.”

In his remarks, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov noted an alarming rise in hate speech, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry, which can incite violence.  He pointed to a resurgence of anti-Semitism and Neo-Nazi organizations, while attacks on Muslims in several societies were on the rise.