Amid escalating hate speech against Muslims, UN rights officials denounce intolerance, incitement

Jennifer Welsh, Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect and Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras/Amanda Voisard

15 December 2015 – Expressing “grave concern” at the outpouring of intolerance and hate speech in public discourse and in the media in recent weeks, which focused particularly on Muslims, senior United Nations human rights officials have urgently called on those in positions of authority and political leadership to act responsibly and with respect for both international and national laws.

“We are sickened by blatant manifestations of hatred and intolerance, including by public figures in response to terrorist attacks by violent extremists, particularly the deliberate and dangerous spread of misinformation and the manipulation of people’s fears and concerns for political gain,” said the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh, in a joint statement.

The Special Advisers also “strongly and unreservedly” condemned all criminal attacks by violent extremists, wherever they may take place and underlined that the damaging effects of linking such attacks to a specific population, based on its identity has resulted in discrimination and targeting of Muslim populations.

Additionally, they recalled that any “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” is prohibited under international human rights law and by the national laws or constitutions of many countries.

The Special Advisers noted that in recent weeks, there have been numerous acts of intimidation and violence against Muslims and Muslim sites, including vandalism of mosques as well as discriminatory, xenophobic and racist statements.

Some of these statements, they said, have referred to all Muslims – and all refugees and asylum-seekers originating from Syria and Iraq – as “terrorists.”

The Special Advisers also referred to calls by politicians for Muslims to be prevented from entering the United States, to be registered in a national database, or to be forced to carry identification that would highlight their religion, and other calls for governments to refrain from accepting refugees from Syria and Iraq.

“This is unacceptable. Refugees from Syria and Iraq are fleeing precisely the kind of violence that we in the West also fear. To turn them away when they are seeking refuge is an affront to our common humanity,” said the statement.

“At this time when the world is facing complex challenges, including confronting extremist violent groups and individuals, Governments and other leading actors in society should publicly counter lies, prejudice and fear” the Special Advisers stated.

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