UNITED NATIONS - A UN rights expert has called for countering challenges posed by the use of religion for political purposes, indoctrination of children to hate other faiths and the use of new technologies for inciting religious hatred - in a decisive effort to promote tolerance. Governments have a central role to play in either preventing or contributing to religious friction, Asma Jahangir, a prominent Pakistani lawyer who is the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, said, reminding states of their commitments to non-discrimination. Asma told a news conference in New York on Tuesday that there were preventive measures governments could take to avoid further polarisation on the basis of religion before it erupted into violence. She also noted that while governments were talking about issues such as defamation of religion, there was less addressing of the issue of religious incitement to violence, discrimination and hatred. She was responding to a question about the Islamic nations effort in the UN General Assembly to ban religious defamation, a move, which is being opposed by US and its western allies on the ground that it would conflict with freedom of speech. While stating she had nothing to do with the OIC resolution, she said it was not terminology that she preferred. If defamation of religion did become incorporated into human rights terminology, it would only serve to undermine human rights, she feared. In her presentation to the General Assembly last Friday, Asma discussed warning signs and prevention, as well as how religion is being used for political purposes. It is quite clear that as long as discrimination on religious grounds persists at the national or global levels, tensions will deepen and, indeed, also be exploited by various religious, political as well as militant forces, she had told delegates. Asma said on Tuesday that governments must meet the challenge with political announcements or messages that were in the right direction. While policies are one tool in the hands of govts to deal with the issue, she noted that they also have at their disposal political statements, education and inter-faith dialogues, as well as bringing young people together for discussions on each others religions, among others. A related issue is the indoctrination of children into hating other religions, she said. The government has an obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect children from this kind of mental abuse. She also discussed how women have become central to the prohibition or the allowing of religious symbols. There are countries that simply will punish women if they do not wear a headscarf and there are other countries where women, if she wears a headscarf, will be penalised or sanctioned, the special rapporteur pointed out. It has to be balanced, she said, noting that this is an issue related to freedom of expression, as long as that right is not impinging on the rights of others. In addition, she raised the issue of using technology for incitement to violence, and what capacity states have to tackle this in a way that does not intrude into the freedom of expression. In the area of womens repression, she said there were many different country situations. There is no true equality, but there are certain societies where a lot of progress had been made, she stated. There were states where women were being mainstreamed through affirmative action, just as there were also some states where, on religious grounds, women were not even allowed to drive a car, Asma Jahangir said. There were also forward-looking states that regulated womens sexuality and access to birth control through particular religious viewpoints. Then there were countries like India, were all sorts of traditional restrictions affected women, yet the state valued equality. Asked what countries were currently the worst offenders against the freedom of religion and belief, she said the worst cases were in countries she had not been able to visit, commenting that, usually, extreme states did not invite her so she could not make an assessment, though information was available through a variety of sources.