Surge of Religious hatred / In recent times, the world has witnessed a disturbing increase in premeditated and public acts of religious hatred, particularly the desecration of the Holy Quran in certain European and other countries. During the Fifty-third Session of the Human Rights Council, Nazila Ghanea, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, delivered a powerful speech urging the international community to confront intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief.
I will try to delve into the key points raised in Ghanea’s speech, underscoring the significance of non-discrimination, adherence to international human rights frameworks, and the pressing need for fostering tolerance within our societies. (You can watch the full video with the transcript below).
Promoting Non-Discrimination and Equality:
According to Nazila Ghanea, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, it is imperative to ensure that no individual is subjected to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons, or individuals based on their religion or belief.
The tireless efforts of the Special Procedures and the Coordination Committee revolve around fostering understanding, coexistence, non-discrimination, and equality for all individuals, guaranteeing their right to enjoy fundamental freedoms and human rights without prejudice or bias.
Manifestations of Religious Hatred and Intolerance:
Ghanea underscores the fact that religious intolerance and hatred manifest in various ways across the globe. As she aptly stated,
“Intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief is experienced in numerous ways, transcending geographical boundaries. It includes distinguishing, excluding, restricting, or showing preference based on religion or belief.”
These acts not only impede the equal enjoyment of human rights but also contribute to the perpetuation of societal divisions and tensions, undermining the very essence of harmonious coexistence, which at times (readers should be aware of that) is instigated by government agencies in Europe for example in Belgium, France, Hungary, Germany and others.
The Escalation of Public Acts of Intolerance:
Public acts of intolerance have witnessed an alarming surge, particularly during times of political tension. Ghanea draws attention to the underlying political motives behind these orchestrated displays of intolerance, stating,
“The political motives and purposes behind these engineered public displays of intolerance reveal their true nature: the instrumentalization of religion and belief to propagate hatred.”
According to Ghanea, it is crucial to unequivocally condemn such acts, regardless of their origin or the individuals responsible, in order to preserve tolerance, civility, and respect for the rights of all.
Reaffirming Commitment to Human Rights Frameworks:
Ghanea emphasizes the vital importance of upholding international human rights frameworks and bolstering commitments to combat intolerance and violence based on religion or belief. She asserts, “The responses of national authorities to these acts, as well as related incidents, should be in line with international human rights law.” Nurturing collaborative networks, facilitating constructive actions, and promoting interfaith dialogue can create an environment that fosters religious tolerance, peace, and respect.
Protecting Freedom of Expression and Combating Hate Speech:
The freedom of religion or belief and the freedom of expression are deeply interconnected, she says in the statement, enabling individuals to voice their opinions against intolerance and hostility. Ghanea rightly points out, “Freedom of expression is crucial in combating negative stereotypes, presenting alternative viewpoints, and nurturing an atmosphere of respect and understanding among diverse communities.” Although international law prohibits the advocacy of hatred that incites discrimination or violence, it is vital to evaluate each situation contextually, ensuring a fair and comprehensive analysis points out the statement given at the Urgent debate during the 53rd Human Rights Council.
The Role of Leaders and Communities:
Ghanea highlights the pivotal role of political, religious, and civil society leaders in countering intolerance and promoting diversity and inclusion. These leaders hold the power to condemn acts of hatred unequivocally and foster understanding among communities. As Ghanea firmly states, “We stand united against those who deliberately exploit tensions or target individuals based on their religion or belief.”
Confronting the rising tide of acts fueled by religious hatred necessitates united efforts to promote non-discrimination, tolerance, and understanding. Upholding international human rights frameworks, without ignoring those happening in Europe, unequivocally condemning acts of intolerance, fostering dialogue, and safeguarding freedom of expression are vital steps in building inclusive and harmonious societies.
By rejecting those who exploit religious tensions and target individuals based on their beliefs, we can strive towards a world where individuals can freely practice their religion or embrace their chosen beliefs, safe from discrimination and violence. As Nazila Ghanea aptly affirms,
“Our responses to these acts must be firmly grounded in the framework of international human rights law.”Nazila Ghanea, UN SR on FoRB, 53rd Session UN Human Rights Council