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“International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination”


It is true that throughout its history, the UN has claimed to work to eliminate racial discrimination. The UN Charter adopted in 1945, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948, and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination adopted in 1963, were notable milestones in working towards racial equality. The UN designated March 21st as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,[1] to provide an opportunity to renew commitment to “building a world of justice, equality and dignity,” where racial discrimination has no place.

Also read: Can Muslims be racist?

The UDHR was drafted after the world witnessed the horrors of genocide in World War II based on anti-Semitism. However, close to seven decades after UDHR’s adoption, history appears to repeat itself when sadly racism in all its forms is still a global reality. Racial discrimination and hatred, including hate-motivated actions, crimes and policies, remain far too prevalent across the world we live in. These threats are compounded by deepening inequalities, and rising exclusion and marginalisation, which weaken the fabric of societies at once globalised and atomised. Emerging trends, racism and a lack of accountability for racist acts continue to occur worldwide despite protection guarantees rooted in international laws.

Fear of the “other” is so widespread and ferocious in modernity that we may be tempted to think of it as an immutable attribute of the human animal. But people are not hard-wired for prejudice.  In some cases they are taught to hate.  In others, they are manipulated into it by leaders who exploit fear, ignorance or feelings of weakness. The promotion of Islamophobia today creates both prejudice and discrimination among the general population. Prejudice in turn plays a key role in the existence and proliferation of Islamophobia. Prejudice alone, as a negative judgment, opinion, or attitude, is a detriment to a population’s overall wellbeing. Prejudice combined with overt actions, rising to the level of discrimination, creates a dangerous environment for everyone.

Also read: Islamophobia IS Racism

Particularly in this continent, the notion of Europe being “invaded” by an Islamic other has gained considerable traction in the past decade and a half. The far-right milieu increasingly deploys the rhetoric of invasion and Islamification to present Muslims and Islam as a very real and tangible threat to the continent’s national and cultural unity. Islam’s tenets are frequently distorted and taken out of context, with the acts or practices of certain people fallaciously taken to represent or to symbolise the rich and complex Islamic heritage. In too many circles, disparaging remarks about Muslims are allowed to pass without censure, with the result that prejudice acquires a veneer of acceptability. Thus, Muslims are being made the new bogeyman, in a well-orchestrated campaign initiated and fuelled by a powerful Islamophobia industry; a new path to profit and a money-cruncher. As Peter Oborne said back in 2008 in an article on Islamophobia in the UK,

“We do not treat Muslims with the tolerance, decency and fairness that we so often like to boast is the British way.”[2]

This sad state of affairs is shaking the weak-hearted to the core and confusing those of us who, all of a sudden, find ourselves in the midst of a very disorienting storm, at a time when Islam is being attacked, whether from within, by people who skew and distort Islam to fit their malicious desires, or from outside by this rising tide of Islamophobia.  Islamophobia is at once a deeply personal issue for Muslims, a matter of great importance to anyone concerned about upholding universal values, and a question with implications for international harmony and peace. Thus, the resentment and sense of injustice felt by members of one of the world’s greatest religions, cultures and civilisations should not be underestimated.

In this context, how effective will the UN mechanism be in solely tackling the scourge of racism in general and Islamophobia in particular? Going by how the UN handled situations of this nature in the past and, more recently, the ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf resigning over pressure to withdraw a report on Israel’s Apartheid,[3] the prospects of the UN’s ability to act fair and just and stand up bravely to the threats of the Big Powers seems bleak. Adding salt to fresh wounds, Muslim rulers and the OIC also appear to be passive and losing their influence to demand effective and pragmatic action against the criminalisation and victimisation of Muslims who form part of a quarter of humanity.

Also read: Islam is the Cure to Racism

What can Muslims therefore do to combat this menace which seeks to degrade their dignity? This new racism must be made known and fought against. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General highlighted eight factors that must have a place in any strategy to combat Islamophobia:  laws and norms, education, limiting the power and influence of hate media, leadership, two-way integration of cultures and peoples, dialogue (particularly interfaith dialogue), understanding of policy context, and combating terrorism and violence carried out in the name of Islam—or any religion. He stressed that any strategy to combat Islamophobia must depend heavily on education; not just about Islam, but about all religions and traditions, so that myths and lies could be seen for what they were.  It is important to prevent the media and Internet from being used to spread hatred, while safeguarding freedom of opinion and expression.  There is also a crucial need for leadership.  Public authorities should not only condemn Islamophobia, but ensure that law enforcement and other practices followed through on pledges of non-discrimination.

It is essential that solutions initiate from within the community. For any strategy to therefore work effectively to meet this challenge, the Muslim Ummah first and foremost should rediscover and reassert itself. It is therefore highly important initially in these times to take heart from our own guide—the Qur’ān—which gives us inspiration through stories of prophets; and from lessons from prophetic traditions and practices of the early Muslim generation—particularly during the Meccan period, when Muslims lived in a similar atmosphere.[4] Interestingly, the majority of the UN’s  mandates were based upon principles contained in the Qur’ān. The way forward is therefore to recognise that the true “defenders of the faith” were those who defended people’s God-given rights, be they minority rights, women’s rights, children’s rights and the rights of families, which constitute the pillars of society.

Combatting Islamophobia is a much larger systemic challenge that requires a multifaceted approach involving different players. Islamophobia cannot be eradicated without the participation of religious and political leaders, the media and educators, and the private and public sectors.  The UN should also play a major part in building a modern notion of tolerance. It is also time to create a United Nations of hope so that future generations will not face the same difficulties as their forebears.

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] http://www.un.org/en/events/racialdiscriminationday/

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/the-shameful-islamophobia-at-the-heart-of-britains-press-861096.html

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-39310154

[4] https://www.islam21c.com/islamic-thought/do-muslims-belong-in-the-west/

About Lukman Harees


  1. Whatever “Malcolm” says (not the most knowledgeable, considering he said to me that “Sharia law civilised” Britain when we were “still living in mud huts”!!!) , Islam is a religion, ie a matter of opinion like all religions.
    It is most certainly not a “race”, rather encompassing numerous races, corresponding approximately to the lands conquered by Islam when it was militarily strong.
    The Muslim conquest of the Germanic areas of Europe was halted following a seven-year siege of Vienna, which failed. The Moorish occupation of Spain and Portugal was ended with the help of the French.

    How many Muslims actually have read of the Muslim invasions of many countries, especially the mass slaughters in India? They seem to believe any rubbish they’re fed, just we British did when we were kids about the British Empire. The difference is that most British now know the truth about our so-called Christian ancestors. Most Muslims I talk to don’t.
    Finally, as this is an anti-racism forum, can I ask if it’s racist for a Punjabi shop-keeper to call my wife a “prostitute” because she married me? Or much of her family to disown her because she married me?

  2. What does islam – a religion – have to do with racism? Indeed, a religion which proclaims that its followers are “the best of mankind” is hardly in a position to complain about other peoples’ beliefs in their own superiority, however deluded they may be. Europe has had a long history of invasion and enslavement by muslims, which explains the contempt and hostility to islam of many Europeans and the activities of many muslims in Europe – whether its Erdogan trying to retain control and dominance of Turks or religious fanatics in the UK trying to force acceptance of Islamic cultural “laws” on the country’s they live in – confirms them in their low opinion of muslims and islam.

    • Moderators, why do you keep approving this troll’s comments? I’ve noticed on 5 separate occasions people refute this very same ridiculous misconception and have tried to educate him as to what race actually is from sociologists to fellow trolls! He is obviously trying his luck again and again to distract people from his masters’ crimes. Gotta give it to him, though, he is more zealous than any of you lot even though his zeal is for falsehood whilst yours is for open information and knowledge.

      • Come on Malcolm, just where are these ” 5separate occasions people … tried to educate him as to what race actually is”?

    • dignity for all

      Hector . many thanks for your sermon . You talk of Muslim invasion of Europe. Please read this excerpt of what Karen Armstrong has to say

      The European powers colonized one Islamic country after another. France occupied Algeria in 1830, and Britain Aden nine years later. Tunisia was occupied in 1881, Egypt in 1882, the Sudan in 1889 and Libya and Morocco in 1912. In 1915 the Sykes-Picot agreement divided the territories of the moribund Ottoman Empire (which had sided with Germany during the First World War) between Britain and France in anticipation of victory. After the war, Britain and France duly set up protectorates and mandates in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Transjordan. This was experienced as an outrage, since the European powers had promised the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire independence. In the Ottoman heartlands, Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk (1881-1938), was able to keep the Europeans at bay and set up the independent state of Turkey. Muslims in the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia became subject to the new Soviet Union. Even after some of these countries had been allowed to become independent, the West often continued to control the economy, the oil or such resources as the Suez Canal. European occupation often left a legacy of bitter conflict. When the British withdrew from India in 1947, the Indian subcontinent was partitioned between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, which are to this day in a state of deadly hostility, with nuclear weapons aimed at each other’s capitals. In 1948 the Arabs of Palestine lost their homeland to the Zionists, who set up the Jewish secular state of Israel there, with the support of the United Nations and the international community. The loss of Palestine became a potent symbol of the humiliation of the Muslim world at the hands of the Western powers, who seemed to feel no qualms about the dispossession and permanent exile of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
      – From ‘An overview of European Invasion of the Islamic World’

      This European Tradition of invasion and plundering continues until today. Modern examples are Iraq, Afghanistan ,Libya and now Syria part from leaving Israeli Zionists a free hand to terrorize the Palestinians and their lands at will.

      • How do you suppose muslims got to be in the Balkans, Russia, India and Central Asia – and other countries – in the first place? How did “the Ottoman heartlands” get to be the Ottoman heartlands?

  3. Dear Islam21c.Com Great speech at the Anti Racism March on Saturday 18-3-17 by Moazzam Begg emphasising Britain’s historical multicultural roots:


    As Moazzam Begg speaks of the origins/ etymology connected to some of Britain’s iconic historical figures, including Richard1, the Royal family & Nelson, thousands of people amass in Parliament Square to protest against racism, and to welcome refugees.

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