Last year, the Collective for Countering Islamophobia in Europe (CCIE) reported a “remarkable rise of Islamophobia and the policies that it inspires”.
Qatar has voted in favour of a United Nations resolution on “countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination” on Wednesday in light of an alarming rise of Islamophobia cases across Europe.
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) approved the resolution following the majority vote, just weeks after another Quran-burning incident in Sweden had sparked outrage in the Muslim world.
The disturbing incident had prompted official meetings among the international community, including UN bodies, in order to address such religious discrimination.
“The draft resolution presented to the UNHRC on countering religious hatred doesn’t seek to curtail the right to free speech. It aims at striking a prudent balance between exercise of this right with special duties of states and individual responsibilities,” Dr. Hend Al Muftah, Qatar’s UN envoy in Geneva, said in a tweet.
A total of 28 UN member states voted in favour of the latest UN resolution, seven others abstained, and 12 other countries voted against the motion. While UNHRC resolutions are not legally binding, they often display the member states’ stances over different matters.
Some of the countries that opposed the resolution included the United States and the European Union, which is under fire for the repeated incidents of Quran burning across its member states.
According to Reuters, those who voted against the resolution said it “conflicts” with their view of freedom of expression, though they condemned the act of burning the Quran itself.
Activists have repeatedly rejected such arguments and have called for the preservation of the rights of Muslims globally while repeatedly accusing the West of taking a double standard approach to the issue.
Michele Taylor, Washington’s Permanent Representative to the UNHRC, said its concerns over the motion “were not taken seriously.”
“I believe with a little more time and more open discussion, we could have also found a way forward together on this resolution,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, the countries that abstained from voting included Chile, Benin, Georgia, Nepal, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay.
Pakistan had initially passed the resolution on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which entails the prevention and prosecution of “acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.
The motion had also called on the UN to “impede the prevention and prosecution of acts and advocacy of religious hatred.”
‘West in full retreat’
Marc Limon, director of the Geneva-based Universal Rights Group, said the vote indicated that “the West is in full retreat at the Human Rights Council”, as quoted by Reuters.
Khalil Hasmi, Pakistan’s envoy to the UN in Geneva, echoed concerns on opposition to the resolution and accused the West of “lip service” with regards to their anti-religious hatred efforts.
Hasmi said the countries that opposed the motion “lack political, legal and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the Council could have expected from them.”
“The opposition of a few in the room has emanated from their unwillingness to condemn the public desecration of the Holy Quran or any other religious book,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mexico, a country that abstained from voting, said that “not all criticism of religion amounts in and of itself to an incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
Chile’s ambassador Claudia Fuentes Julio echoed other members’ concerns over the resolution’s limitation of freedom of expression.
“Chile deplores that the constructive suggestions made during the negotiations were not duly reflected in the text,” Julio said.
‘Puzzling lack of accountability’
The latest Quran burning incident in Sweden had occurred outside a mosque in Stockholm on the first day of Eid Al Adha late June, a crucial time for Muslims worldwide.
An Iraqi migrant desecrated the holy book before lighting it on fire with the approval of local police. Since then, Swedish authorities said they received three new applications seeking permission to burn religious texts.
Multiple such incidents have been reported in Europe since the start of the year. The previous cases, all of which were carried out by far-right figures, were seen in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.
During a UNHRC urgent debate on public acts of incitement to religious hatred on Tuesday, Qatar called out the double standard approach towards Islamophobia in Europe.
In her virtual address to the UN body, Qatar’s Minister of State for International Cooperation Lolwah Al Khater pointed towards the “puzzling” lack of accountability regarding religion-based hate speech, especially against Muslims.
“We remain puzzled by the opposition that some countries expressed to stopping religion-based hate speech especially against Muslims, while they themselves introduce new legislations and statements every day defending new self-defined minorities,” the top Qatari official said.
“By the same token STOP ISLAMOPHOBIA.”
Al Khater further called out “the position of some European governments towards facilitating and even enabling the recurrence of such incidents with legal claims related to the discourse of freedoms and individual rights.”
“There has been accumulated evidence from far and wide that this criterion is nothing but selective. These countries strictly prohibit by legislation or custom, for example, but not limited to, anti-Semitic speech and acts,” she noted.
Qatar has been at the forefront of urging international action to combat all forms of religious hatred worldwide while calling on governments to fulfill obligations outlined in UN charters.
Last year, the Collective for Countering Islamophobia in Europe (CCIE) reported a “remarkable rise of Islamophobia and the policies that it inspires”, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.
CCIE, a Belgium-based anti-Islamophobia group, attributed the spike in incidents to the rise of nationalism with governments downplaying its risks.
Quantifying the incidents, CCIE said that it received 787 incidents of Islamophobia throughout 2022, including 527 Islamophobic acts. Other incidents out of the total figure included 467 acts of discrimination, 128 of provocation, 71 of insults, 27 of physical violence along with other harrowing cases.