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        General Assembly
21 August 2007

Original: ENGLISH

Sixth session
Item 9 of the provisional agenda


Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène, on the
manifestations of defamation of religions and in particular on the serious
implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights

The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 4/9 entitled “Combating defamation of religions”, in which the Council invited the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to report on all manifestations of defamation of religions and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights at its sixth session.

In accordance with the Council’s request, in the present report which is to be read in conjunction with his previous reports on the issue, the Special Rapporteur focuses on the phenomenon of Islamophobia. However, he wishes to point out that this focus does not imply the establishment of any hierarchy in discrimination against different religions. As he conveyed in his previous reports, strategies to combat anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia should promote equal treatment of these phobias and avoidance of any prioritization of efforts to combat all forms of discrimination.


A. Islamophobia

15. Islamophobia is a growing phenomenon and a matter of concern in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001. Ongoing instability in the Middle East at large, particularly in Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the global war on terror have contributed to the rise of Islamophobia. In the typical expression of Islamophobia, Muslims are seen as opposed to so-called Western values and often portrayed as enemies and a threat to national values and social cohesion. Ensuing is a discourse that in many cases persuades Muslims living abroad to “assimilate” in local cultures, implicitly or explicitly requesting them to abandon their cultural and religious heritage and even their visibility.

16. These trends, along with the overarching climate of widespread and systematic suspicion against Muslims, conduce to all sorts of discrimination and intolerance, ranging from individual acts such as verbal aggressions and stereotyping to physical violence and institutionalized discrimination at large, including barriers to adequate housing, schooling, employment and, more generally, racial profiling. In the realm of freedom of religion or belief, one notices that in some regions, particularly in Europe, Muslims face growing difficulties to establish places of worship and carry out their religious practices (e.g. dietary regimens, burials, etc). In this context, political parties with open anti-Islamic platforms have joined governmental coalitions in several countries and started to put in place their political agendas. In sum, Islamophobia is in the process of being impregnated in all facets of social life.

17. The rise of Islamophobia thus increases the likelihood of social disorder and has economic and juridical repercussions for those affected. In particular, one should note how Islamophobia can lead to a vicious cycle of further exclusion and ultimately extremism. Its persistence leads to a sense of cultural inferiority and social vulnerability among young Muslims, who are likely to become marginalized and more open to influence by groups which seem to offer them a reaffirmed identity and reason for pride. Normal regular religious practices and expressions of faith, which are more broadly held and essential for an effective intercultural dialogue, have more difficulty in finding expression in many societies and countries, leading to even further discrimination against them.

18. In this section, the Special Rapporteur builds on his previous attempts to conceptualize and explain the causes of Islamophobia, tackling its current expressions and putting forward possible solutions and recommendations. In particular, in the present report, he will focus on present expressions of Islamophobia, trying to focus on how they are related to broad social and intellectual processes of acceptance and legitimization of racism and discrimination.


B. Anti-Semitism

37. Anti-Semitism is characterized by its long existence and capacity to adapt to new social and political contexts, as well as the acute levels it has reached throughout history. Jews have been demonized and persecuted for religious, racial, ideological and political reasons throughout history. The resilience and rise of anti-Semitism are linked to three key factors: its historical depth, the interpretation and impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the rising of anti-religious secularism.

38. Present expressions of anti-Semitism predominantly stem from political rather than religious or racial motives, relating Judaism to Israel and its policies regarding Palestinians. This amalgamation between the categories of “Jewish” and “Israeli” misses a crucial distinction between Judaism as a distinctive cultural and religious tradition and Israel as a multicultural State that encompasses citizens that are Jewish, Muslim, Christian and practitioners of other religions.

39. In the Arab-Muslim world, anti-Semitism continues to be a matter of concern. On the ideological level, one notes with preoccupation the dissemination of anti-Semitic books which had circulated in Europe in the nineteenth century, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, where the myth of Jewish conspiracy for world domination is represented. Furthermore, the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is markedly present in Arab-Muslim circles, reinforced by the daily images of the tragedy of the continuous occupation and suffering of the Palestinian people, the absence of an effective integration policy of Israelis of Arab descent.

40. The Special Rapporteur is of the view that, on the basis of the various interpretations of this question, the following critical elements should be particularly scrutinized: anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism; anti-Semitism and criticism of the policies of the State of Israel. The Special Rapporteur notes the importance of recognizing the historical depth and current significance of anti-Semitism, by considering that while anti-Zionism and criticism of the Israeli Government’s policy may, in certain circles, have an anti-Semitic connotation, reducing these two elements to anti-Semitism could result in questioning the legitimacy of democratic political debate and, more importantly, in a trivialization of anti-Semitism. The recognition of Israel’s right to exist by the United Nations, its Member States, in particular Arab States, in addition to its recognition by the Palestinian people, undermines the central argument of a link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, which reduces anti-Zionism to a refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a State.

41. There is a crucial need to identify when anti-Zionism is tainted by anti-Semitism. Experts’ analysis point to the following cases of such superimposition:

(a) When language, images and character traits attributed to Israel are imbued with recognizable anti-Semitic stereotypes;

(b) When Israelis and Jews are represented as cosmic devils, blamed for global disasters and compared with Nazis;

(c) When Israelis and Jews who support the State of Israel are singled out, attacked, and treated in a manner that is out of proportion to the issue at hand and in comparison with the actions of other countries;

(d) When the legitimate right of Israel as a Jewish State to exist is questioned.



73. The Special Rapporteur recommends that the Human Rights Council call upon Governments of Member States to continue to work for the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which needs to remain the cornerstone in the combat against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

74. The Special Rapporteur invites the Council to call upon Governments of Member States to express and demonstrate a firm political will and commitment to combating the rise of racial and religious hatred. In this context Governments should be particularly vigilant in combating the political use of discrimination and xenophobia, notably the ideological and electoral impregnation of racist and xenophobic platforms into the programmes of democratic parties, and should strongly reaffirm the principle that the respect for human rights, including the eradication of the roots of the culture of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, constitute the strongest pillar of national security and democracy and should not be dependent on any ideological and political convenience.

75. The Special Rapporteur invites the Council, in measures adopted to combat racism and discrimination, to take fully into account the increasing intertwining of race, ethnicity, culture and religion that characterizes the current political and ideological context, and to call upon Member States to integrate, in their national policies, the promotion of the dialogue between cultures and religions and avoid policies, postures and statements inspired by the divisive concept of the clash of civilizations.

76. The Special Rapporteur recommends that the Council invite Governments, in the fight against racial and religious hatred, to fully abide by their obligations concerning both freedom of expression and freedom of religion, as prescribed in the pertinent international instruments, and in particular articles 18, 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in respect of their interrelation and complementarity.

77. In the light of the polarized and confrontational reading of these articles, the Special Rapporteur wishes to recall the recommendation made to the Council in his joint report with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (A/HRC/2/3) to promote a more profound reflection on their interpretation. In particular, both Special Rapporteurs encouraged the Human Rights Committee to consider the possibility of adopting complementary standards on the interrelations between freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination, in particular by drafting a general comment on article 20.

78. The Special Rapporteur recommends that the Council invite Member States to adopt approaches in the promotion of dialogue between cultures, civilizations and religions taking into consideration:

(a) The need to provide equal treatment to the combat of all forms of defamation of religions, thus avoiding hierarchization of forms of discrimination, even though their intensity may vary according to history, geography and culture;

(b) The historical and cultural depth of all forms of defamation of religions, and therefore the need to complement legal strategies with an intellectual and ethical strategy relating to the processes, mechanisms and representations which constitute those manifestations over time;

(c) The fundamental link between the spiritual, historical and cultural singularity of each form of defamation of religions and the universality of their underlying causes;

(d) The creation of conditions facilitating the encounter, dialogue and joint action of all religions and spiritual traditions for social harmony, peace, human rights, development and combat against all forms of racism, discrimination and xenophobia;

(e) The need to pay particular attention and vigilance to maintain a careful balance between secularism and the respect of freedom of religion. A growing anti-religious culture and rhetoric is a central source of defamation of all religions and discrimination against their believers and practitioners. In this context governments should pay a particular attention to guaranteeing and protecting the places of worship and culture of all religions.

79. The Special Rapporteur strongly recommends that the practice of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue start at the national level. Efforts to promote cultural and religious pluralism domestically constitute a necessary and credible first step to providing a long-lasting solution to the problem of defamation of religions.

80. The Special Rapporteur recommends that the Council invite the religious and cultural communities that are victims of these forms of defamation of religions not only to promote in-depth intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, including through the establishment of joint structures in each country in which they coexist, but also to explore the internal factors in their beliefs and practices which may have contributed to these forms of defamation of religions.


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