Secretary-General’s message on the International Day to Combat Islamophobia

I thank the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for your timely focus on tackling the global challenge of Islamophobia, anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination.

Just days ago, a report to the Human Rights Council found that suspicion, discrimination and outright hatred towards Muslims has risen to “epidemic proportions”.   

The report detailed a host of examples:  disproportionate restrictions on the ability of Muslims to manifest their beliefs, the securitization of religious communities, limits on access to citizenship, socioeconomic exclusion and widespread stigmatization of Muslim communities.

The report also highlighted the intersectional dimensions of anti-Muslim bigotry — where Muslim women confront triple levels of discrimination because of their gender, ethnicity and faith.

Unfortunately, far too often, stereotypes are further compounded by elements of the media and some in positions of power.

Anti-Muslim bigotry is sadly in line with other distressing trends we are seeing globally —a resurgence in ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism, stigma and hate speech targeting vulnerable populations including Muslims, Jews, some minority Christian communities as well as others.

Let us also remember that many acts of intolerance and suspicion may not appear in official statistics — but those acts degrade people’s dignity and our common humanity.

Discrimination diminishes us all.  It prevents people — and societies — from achieving their full potential.

We must also place a special focus on safeguarding the rights of minority communities, many of whom are under threat around the world.

Minority communities are part of the richness of our cultural and social fabric.

Yet we see not only forms of discrimination but also policies of assimilation that seek to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities.

We must continue to push for policies that fully respect human rights and religious, cultural and unique human identity.

As the Holy Quran reminds us:  nations and tribes were created to know one another.

Diversity is a richness, not a threat.

As we move toward evermore multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies, we need political, cultural and economic investments to strengthen social cohesion and tackle bigotry.

For all these reasons, fighting discrimination, racism and xenophobia is a priority for the United Nations.

And it is why we launched a first-of-its-kind UN Strategy on Hate Speech as well as a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.

We also fully support vital work towards fostering interfaith harmony such as the Document of Human Fraternity co-authored by His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr. Ahmed Al Tayyeb.

Let us keep working together to advance the shared values of inclusion, tolerance and mutual understanding — values that are at the heart of all major faiths and the United Nations Charter.

Once again, thank you for your efforts to stand up against anti-Muslim bigotry and for human rights.  Let us keep striving for justice, dignity and inclusion.  For our Muslim brothers and sisters — and for all humanity.

Thank you.

New York

17 March 2021