Minister Bhutto Zardari,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
اَلسَلامُ عَلَيْكُم وَرَحْمَةُ اَللهِ وَبَرَكاتُهُ
(Arabic translation: Peace be upon you and God's mercy and blessings.)
I am honored to be a co-convener of today's event affirming the need to combat Islamophobia.
I thank Pakistan and the OIC for drawing global attention to this important issue.
Last year's unanimous adoption of the GA resolution on it speaks volumes about the need for a global dialogue to encourage tolerance and peace.
A dialogue that should be based, to quote the resolution, "on respect for human rights and the diversity of religions and beliefs".
Yes, the freedom of every religion and belief. As a believer, I wholeheartedly support this notion.
You, the Member States, recognized with deep concern the rise in discrimination, intolerance and violence against "members of many religious and other communities" across the world, including cases roused by Islamophobia.
And with the establishment of this International Day, you vowed to do something about it.
Like so many such social ills, Islamophobia is rooted in xenophobia.
The fear of strangers. Of foreigners. Or, to put it more exactly, the fear of whatever is unfamiliar.
According to the American writer H. P. Lovecraft, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of it is fear of the unknown."
We see the reflections of this fear in discriminatory practices, travel bans, hate speech, bullying and the targeting of others – sometimes just for their clothing.
We see it in the generalized and unjustified worries stoked by bigots and populists, and in the coverage of Muslims in a part of the media as threats to certain ways of life.
Its harmful effects are amplified on social media, often by extremists who use this negative stereotyping as a tool for recruitment into their ranks.
On the other hand, unfortunately, we often see cases when teachings of the religion are hijacked and usurped for policies unreconcilable with their original, true intensions. And the extremist actions are often followed by blanket opinions and reactions – without distinction.
All over the world there are political movements and parties who want to benefit from spreading the myth that any foreigner or believer of a different faith can only be an enemy with evil intentions.
And they have a significant following, including many who are always happy to blame somebody else for their own failures.
Islamophobia is part of a broader resurgence of ethnonationalism, supremacy, stigma and hate that are targeting religious, national, ethnic and linguistic communities.
It is on us all to reverse these trends by embracing diversity and safeguarding the rights of minorities.
Freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – this is international law that must not be breached in any country.
I call on every Member State to uphold this fundamental freedom.
All of us carry a responsibility to challenge Islamophobia or any similar phenomenon, to call out injustice and condemn discrimination based on religion or belief – or the lack of them.
Education is key to learning why social phobias exist. Indeed, it can change our understanding of one another, it can be transformative.
Making Islam understood, instead of keeping it unknown, can be crucial in dealing with the phenomenon of Islamophobia.
Because, to quote the New York writer Christian Bovee, "We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them."
Let us struggle against that ignorance, let us show the real nature of Islam or any other religion.
Interfaith and intercultural exchanges that unite us around shared values can also help a lot.
Social media companies should also do more by removing hate speech from their platforms and curbing the spread of disinformation.
It is critically important that women and young people are involved in these efforts.
Women's voices should be equally included in discussions around Islamophobia, like the one we are having today.
Their important role in shaping Muslim communities was well emphasized during the "Women in Islam" event earlier this week.
In 1945, the UN emerged from a climate of fear and distrust as an advocate for all peoples.
Marking this International Day, let's continue to advance our shared values of solidarity and mutual respect that have been underpinning our UN Charter.
As the saying goes, "We build too many walls and not enough bridges."
Let us turn to building more bridges.
I thank you.
وأتمنى لكم المزيد من النجاح لهذا المؤتمر وشكرًا جزيلًا
(Arabic translation: I wish you further success for this conference and many thanks.)