In an effort to address the rising tide of hatred, discrimination, and violence against Muslims, the United Nations has designated March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. This day seeks to raise awareness and encourage tangible action to counter the growing problem of anti-Muslim sentiment across the globe.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reinforced the importance of this move, stating that it is a “call for action to stamp out anti-Muslim hatred.” Guterres urged people to stand up against discrimination, emphasizing the need to counter the forces of division by reaffirming our shared humanity.
This day of recognition was unanimously adopted last year by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), after a resolution was submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The establishment of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia comes as a response to a UN special rapporteur report on freedom of religion or belief, which highlighted that discrimination and hatred towards Muslims had reached “epidemic proportions.”
According to the UN report, Muslims in countries where they represent a minority often face challenges in accessing goods and services, finding work, and education. Furthermore, some countries deny Muslims citizenship or legal immigration status due to hostile perceptions that they represent a threat to national security. The report also noted that Muslim women are disproportionately targeted in Islamophobic hate crimes.
Heisam Galyon, a member of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, acknowledged the gravity of the issue, stating that for the UN to recognize Islamophobia as a worldwide problem shows how significant and pervasive it has become. Galyon believes that the only way to address this issue is to raise awareness and engage in open dialogue.
Csaba Korosi, the UN General Assembly President, also pointed out that Islamophobia is rooted in xenophobia, or the fear of strangers. This fear is manifested in discriminatory practices, travel bans, hate speech, bullying, and the targeting of other people. Korosi urged countries to uphold the freedom of religion and take action against hatred.
As Islamophobia continues to pose a significant threat to democracy, the United Nations’ International Day to Combat Islamophobia serves as a reminder to challenge prejudice, injustice, and discrimination based on religion or belief in order to foster a more inclusive and harmonious world.