Statement by Foreign Minister of Pakistan Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Open Ended Emergency Meeting of the OIC Executive Committee at Istanbul, Turkey
(22 March 2019)
Your Excellency, Foreign Minister Mevlet Cavosoglu
Honourable Secretary General OIC, Dr. Yousaf bin Ahmad Al-Usay-mean,
Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalam-o-Alaikum and a Very Good Morning!
Let me begin by thanking the Republic of Turkey, the OIC Summit Chair for convening this Emergency meeting of the OIC Executive Committee.
We are meeting at a particularly somber moment, in the wake of the terrorist attack on two mosques and the carnage that followed, motivated by anti Muslim hatred in Christchurch on 15 March.
50 innocent lives lost in the brazen terrorist attacks, nine of the martyred were from my country. Among them, Mian Naeem Rashid who heroically confronted the terrorist to protect others. In choosing to render the ultimate sacrifice, he saved many others. He could not however save his own son, Talha, whose life was tragically cut short by the evil frenzy of terror.
In recognition of his valor the Government of Pakistan is awarding Naeem Rashid our highest civilian award for gallantry.
A similar tragedy struck the Raza family, which lost three members. Others including Haroon Mahmood, Sohail Shahid, Syed Areeb Ahmad and Jahandad Ali were not only respected members of their communities, but also loving parents, devoted husbands and sincere friends.
Their void will never be filled. For millions across the globe this was a moment of deep grief and anguish. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, the bereaved families, the impacted communities and the government and people of New Zealand.
We mourn for the departed; and pray for the recovery of those injured and incapacitated.
We appreciate also the exemplary leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government in supporting and reaching out to the victims and their families.
Pakistan is all too familiar with the pain of seeing innocent blood being shed mercilessly. Pakistan is a stranger neither to trauma nor terror; nor to selfless acts of heroism transcending all call of duty. In solidarity with New Zealand our flag has flown at half mast.
Much as this tragedy has rallied global opinion, it has also shone a disturbing light on a number of alarming trends:
Firstly, the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim sentiment by the rise of populist politics in many western societies. Secondly, the delicate undermining of a culture of respect and tolerance by narratives of exclusion and bigotry, and Thirdly, the implementation of anti-immigration policies by some in the west.
The Christchurch attack was not an isolated act of a lone maniac. What happened in New Zealand is a grim reminder of the tide of Islamophobia sweeping the world. Every bullet fired by the terrorist was an assault on the values of pluralism and diversity that underpin modern multicultural societies. It was an effort to resurrect a view of history based on reprehensible and unacceptable notions of racial superiority. It was the culmination of years of deliberately orchestrated prejudice against Islam and Muslims, in which the mainstream media has regrettably played a crucial role.
Christchurch was not the disease but a symptom. A manifestation of a malady far more insidious, widespread and deadly. Today, symptoms of this disease are writ large on the face of many societies.
It is writ large
− In manifestos of far right parties that call for expulsion of Muslims.
− In attempts at creating walls and barriers against displaced populations
− In the politicization and censorship of the Hijab
− In the vandalizing of Islamic symbols and sites
− In attempts at incitement in the name of free speech through deliberately hurtful caricatures and competitions
It is writ large in the growing racial profiling and stigmatization of Muslims, particularly where Muslims are in minority. And in such blatantly racist agendas as the White Supremacists’, or the more subtler notions of the ‘White Man’s Burden’. Nor is it restricted to the West alone.
Pakistan’s eastern neighbor, a self professed friend to many of those sitting around the table, prides itself in its democratic and secular credentials. In practice, it is anything but. In BJP’s India, Muslims face systemic discrimination, social, political and economic marginalization, and humiliation at the hands of the Hindutva brigades.
Mob lynching of Muslims in the name of cow protection and attempts at Muslims’ forced conversion are common place. As indeed is violence against other minorities including Sikhs, Christians and Dalits.
In Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, extra judicial killings, staged encounters, sexual harassment and use of pellet guns against unarmed protestors are a norm. Recently, an Indian court exonerated Hindu terrorists who had confessed killing 68 people mostly Muslims including 44 Pakistanis on a train in India.
There exists no UN architecture that can proscribe such individuals or address terrorism posed by Hindutva ideologues or white supremacists.
Brothers and Sisters,
The Christchurch martyrs are only the latest victims of this phenomenon. They are neither the first, nor the only ones. Sadly, they may not be the last. This moment warrants deep introspection, but also concerted collective action.
We consider the following steps to be vital:
ONE: We must call out Islamophobia for what it is, the fruit of the same poisonous tree that yields other forms of discrimination, including racism, anti-Semitism and apartheid. The moral ambivalence of those who treat Islamophobia as a less perverse form of discrimination is false and must end. It was telling how some used carefully chosen words to characterize the Christchurch attack. Islamophobia can neither be denied nor dismissed, it must be confronted.
TWO: We must effectively push back against the rising tide of populism that aims to ride its way to political power by stoking hatred against Muslims. Unity within our ranks is imperative to confront, counter and combat this trend.
THREE: We must debunk the pernicious fallacy of associating Islam with terrorism. Neither are all Muslims terrorists, nor are all terrorists Muslim.
To operationalize our responses, I would suggest that we gear ourselves to a more proactive approach. It is time we came up with a global strategy to combat Islamophobia.
Allow me to submit the following course of action.
Champion strengthening of international obligations enunciated in existing UNGA and OIC Resolutions on Religious Intolerance.
We must immediately:
A) Call for a Plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly to seek among other things, a comprehensive regime outlawing Islamophobia.
B) Support UN Secretary General’s plans to develop a system wide plan of action against hate speech and crimes
C) Propose a comprehensive overhaul of the counter terrorism listings framework at the UN that goes beyond Al Qaeda, to include terrorists of all colour and hue.
Create a united front against Islamophobia by engaging not just governments but also civil societies, religious and community leaders, academia and publics at large.
Employment of anti-Muslim extremist alternate facts need to be countered by presenting real facts and creating support within Western Societies.
Strengthen collaborative partnerships with social media platforms to prevent dissemination of anti Islam content. We must steadfastly resist all attempts by purveyors of hate to spread their toxic message in any garb or guise.
Strengthen and give teeth to OIC’s own regimes to monitor and counter anti-Islam, anti-Muslim propaganda. We can do so by scaling up OIC Observatory Reports to collect data and identify perpetrators in real time. OIC must then,
A. Spell out specific corrective and pre emptive measures required to be taken
B. Call out Individuals, entities and States that consciously and consistently orchestrate hate
C. Leverage our collective economic potential to sanction Islamophobes
Institutionalize mechanisms within OIC to report and safeguard rights of Muslim minorities.
The OIC must publish regular reports mapping large scale atrocities on Muslims in non-OIC countries and occupant territories, and sanctioning State-sponsored acts of terror.
Continue to root out hate, extremism and terrorism within our own ranks and in our own societies. Just as we wish others not to attack Islam, we must ensure, in our own interests, that our countries are not used to attack others.
Perhaps the most pressing need is for the Muslim fraternity represented at this forum, to forge unity and cohesion in its ranks. We cannot bring back those killed in Christchurch
But we can dignify their memory by acting resolutely and collectively against Islamophobia, disinformation, hate speech and hate crime. We must act to address underlying causes of marginalization, armed conflict, inequality and discrimination against Muslims. We must not let hate win.
I Thank You