13 June | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

UN Council adopts a resolution, rejects advocacy of religious hatred, condemns Quran burning

FM Bilawal Bhutto calls upon world to stand united against hatred, discrimination, intolerance, and promote mutual respect, understanding, and tolerance

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution in which it condemned and strongly rejected any advocacy and manifestation of religious hatred, including recent public and premeditated acts of desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden and some other countries.

With a vote of 28 in favor, 12 against and 7 abstentions, the UN Council adopted the resolution entitled “countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” The resolution underscored the need for holding those responsible to account in a manner consistent with obligations of states arising from human rights law.

It called upon states to adopt national laws, policies and law enforcement frameworks that address, prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and to take immediate steps to ensure accountability. The council requested the high commissioner to present an update on various drivers, root causes and human rights impacts of religious hatred.

Bilawal Bhutto says there is not a single Muslim country on planet that allows to desecration of holy text of other religions

Pakistan and other nations said they had been moved to action by the alarming rise in premeditated and public acts of religious hatred as manifested by recurrent desecration of the Holy Quran in some European and other countries.

Virtually addressing a session of an urgent debate, Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto called upon the world to stand united against hatred, discrimination, intolerance, and promote mutual respect, understanding, and tolerance. He said that deliberate desecration of the Holy Quran had continued under government sanction and with the sense of impunity.

Increasingly, he said these acts were designed to maximize propagating hate. “We must see this incitement to hatred, discrimination and attempts to provoke violence. We must join hands in condemning it, we must isolate those who stroke hatred.” He said three months ago the first international day to combat Islamophobia was observed where the first ever session was held to mark the occasion at the UN General Assembly.

“The Holy Quran is a spiritual anchor for two billion Muslims. It is important to understand the deep hurt that at public and premeditated act of Quran’s desecration causes to Muslims,” he remarked. Terming the desecration of the Holy Quran as an attack on the Muslim’s faith, he said the call in the draft text presented before this council for prevention and accountability was reasonable and necessary.

The UN Council also decided to organize an interactive panel discussion of experts at its fifty-fifth session to identify drivers and root-causes and human rights impacts of desecration of sacred books, and places of worship as well as religious symbols as a manifestation of religious hatred which could constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

Bilawal Bhutto said the hate speech and free speech must be segregated as the free speech was as indispensable as hate speech was indefensible. He said that there was not a single Muslim country on the planet that allows to the desecration of the holy text of other religions. He said such an act was unthinkable to any Muslim. “It is forbidden by faith, by culture and by law,” he said.

Volker Turk says hate speech must be combated through awareness, dialogue, education and interfaith engagement

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said speech and inflammatory acts against Muslims, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and actions and speech that target Christians — or minority groups — were manifestations of utter disrespect. “They are offensive, irresponsible and wrong,” he said.

He said hate speech must be combated through awareness, dialogue, education and interfaith engagement. He said that provocations such as holy book burnings appear to have been manufactured to express contempt and inflame anger; to drive wedges between people; and to provoke, transforming differences of perspective into hatred and, perhaps, violence.

“Powered by the tidal forces of social media, and in a context of increasing international and national discord and polarization, hate speech of every kind is rising everywhere,” he said. “It is harmful to individuals, and it damages the social cohesion necessary to the sound functioning of all societies.”

The most recent such high-profile incident came in Sweden on June 28, when a holy book burning outside Stockholm’s main mosque sparked global backlash among Muslims. Regardless of the law or personal belief, Volker Turk said people need to act with respect for others.

He said every national limit on the greater right of free speech and free expression of opinion must be so formulated so that its only task, its only outcome, can be the protection of the individual — and not the protection of religious doctrines from critical analysis.

He warned of the rising tide of hate speech, noting that individuals are continuously singled out for abuse because of their religion, skin color or sexual orientation. He said that social media fueled conflicts and polarization. He said that segments of societies struggled with religion’s being misused for political purposes. Here is how countries voted:

  • YES: Pakistan, Bangladesh; India; China; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Algeria; Argentina; Malaysia; Maldives; Morocco; Qatar; South Africa; Sudan; Ukraine; UAE; Uzbekistan; Vietnam; Bolivia; Cameroon; Cuba; Eritrea; Gabon; Gambia; Ivory Coast; Malawi; Senegal; Somalia.
  • NO: UK; US; France; Germany; Belgium; Costa Rica; Czech Republic; Finland; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Montenegro; Romania;
  • ABSTAINED: Nepal; Benin; Chile; Georgia; Honduras; Mexico; Paraguay