Muslim states seek U.N. action on West's "islamophobia"
By Robert Evans
GENEVA (Reuters) - Muslim states said Wednesday that what they call "islamophobia" is sweeping the West and its media and demanded that the United Nations take tougher action against it.
Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought.
"People of Arab origin face new forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and experience discrimination and marginalisation," an Egyptian delegate said, according to a U.N. summary.
And Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the council's special investigator into religious freedom should look into such racism "especially in Western societies."
Acting for the OIC, Pakistan has tabled a resolution at the council instructing its special investigator on religious freedom "to work closely with mass media organizations to ensure that they create and promote an atmosphere of respect and tolerance for religious and cultural diversity."
The OIC -- and its allies in the 47-nation council including Russia, China and Cuba -- dub criticism of Muslim practices and linking of terrorism waged under the proclaimed banner of Islamism as "islamophobia" that pillories all Muslims.
BOUND TO PASS
Diplomats say the resolution, which also tells the investigator to make recommendations to the Human Rights Council on how its strictures might be implemented, is bound to pass given the majority the OIC and its allies have in the body.
The countries of the majority group, which also include India and Brazil, ensure that its members and their friends outside the council -- such as Sri Lanka and Iran -- are shielded from any serious criticism of their rights record.
The group ensures that council fire is largely aimed at Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territories and treatment of people living there as well as on the Israeli blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Tuesday, after hours of wrangling, the group allowed a statement to be read to the council by Norway on behalf of 56 U.N. member states strongly criticising Iran for its treatment of dissenters.
But although the statement was hailed by U.S. ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe as a victory for the Iranian people, diplomats noted that only just over a quarter of U.N. member states had backed it, of them only 14 countries in the council.
Human rights activists who are allowed to speak at the body if their organizations are accredited by the United Nations said the statement -- drafted largely by the United States -- was the best available substitute for a formal resolution.
"The Western group knows it could never get such a resolution passed in this council, and this is the only way they have of fighting back," said Roy Brown, long-time chief representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
Brown said the loophole was likely to be closed in a coming review of the council's activity since it was launched in 2006 to replace a discredited predecessor.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)
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