New York

22 March 2019

Secretary-General's press encounter at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York

As salaam alaikum.
I am honoured to be here on this holy day to pay my respects and show my solidarity with the Muslim community from New York to New Zealand and beyond.
The horrific terror attack in Christchurch took place exactly one week ago.  Our hearts remain heavy with grief and sympathy for the families of the victims.
Over the last few days, we have learned more about those victims and their stories. 
We have read about people like Haji-Daoud, Husna, Naeem, Hussain and other heroes and heroines who lost their lives saving others.
We have gazed upon the picture of young Mucad, the curious, bright-eyed three-year-old child mercilessly gunned down as he ran towards the shooter in confusion.
We have heard the words of Farid, a husband lost in grief over the death of his wife, yet extending words of forgiveness, because, as he said, and I quote, “that’s what Islam taught me.”
We have also been deeply moved by the extraordinary display of leadership, love and community from the people of New Zealand. 
The attack was utterly appalling — and yet, as many have noted, perhaps not utterly surprising. 
Around the world, we have seen ever-rising anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Semitism, hate speech and bigotry.
I have repeatedly warned about those dangers.  
Hate speech is spreading like wildfire. Social media is being exploited as a platform for bigotry, and public discourse is being coarsened. 
Many political movements are either openly admitting their neo-Nazi affiliation, or lip syncing their words, and cutting and pasting the symbols and images.
That cancer is spreading.  It is our duty to find the cure.
And the media has an important role to play.  A recent study by researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Alabama found that over roughly the last decade, attacks in the US by those claiming to be Muslim received 357 percent more coverage than attacks carried out by others.  We need, at all costs, to avoid this kind of discrimination.
I know this community – as many others around the world – is hurting and feeling vulnerable. 
And I salute efforts such as those by Mayor [Bill] de Blasio and New York police leaders who came here last Friday with a message of support, solidarity and security. 
We need to act against extremism in all its forms – whether it targets mosques, synagogues, churches or anywhere else. 
Here today, in the peace of this holy space, I am making a global call to reaffirm the sanctity of all places of worship and the safety of all worshippers who visit revered sites in a spirit of compassion and tolerance. 
People everywhere must be allowed to observe and practice their faith in peace.
This is why today I am asking the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Moratinos, to develop an Action Plan for the whole UN to be fully engaged in support of safeguarding religious sites. 
I ask the Alliance of Civilizations to reach out to governments and faith-based organizations, religious leaders and others – and explore actions to prevent these attacks and guarantee the sanctity of religious sites.
The reason is clear: Mosques and all places of prayer and contemplation should be safe havens, not sites of terror.
Worshippers must feel safe to worship. 
Today and every day, we must stand united against anti-Muslim hatred and all forms of bigotry. 
And so I am here today with a heavy and full heart to say to this community and to all others feeling targeted: 
You are not alone.  The world is with you.  The United Nations is with you, and I am with you.
Thank you.