UN’s top human rights official urges action to combat ‘Islamaphobia’

15 March 2002

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today called for action to combat “Islamaphobia,” which she said was on the rise since the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States.

“Islamic communities need to become more active in countering ignorance through offering positive information on Islam and Islamic beliefs,” High Commissioner Mary Robinson told a symposium convened by the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Geneva. “Prejudice and misperception feed on ignorance and this needs to be confronted, especially through the mass media, with the truth,” she added, calling for individual Muslims to play their part in this process.

Mrs. Robinson pointed out that the world’s Muslims – comprising over 20 per cent of all people on Earth – come from a diverse range of cultures and geographical areas. “It is important to recognize the greatness of Islam, its civilizations and its immense contribution to the richness of the human experience, not only through profound belief and theology but also through the sciences, literature and art,” she said.

“No one can deny that at its core Islam is entirely consonant with the principle of fundamental human rights, including human dignity, tolerance, solidarity and equality,” the High Commissioner declared. “No one can deny, from a historical perspective, the revolutionary force that is Islam, which bestowed rights upon women and children long before similar recognition was afforded in other civilizations.”

She also paid tribute to the “acceptance of the universality of human rights by Islamic States,” commending their contributions to the drafting of international human rights treaties.

Mrs. Robinson, who had just returned to Geneva from a tour of several Arab countries and Afghanistan, said she was “very conscious of the worsening situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel” and called on the leaders there to respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

“I repeat what the Secretary General [Kofi Annan] has urged, that all parties must recognize that security and a political settlement are indivisible,” she said.

 

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