This summer season’s Quran burnings in Scandinavia weren’t anomalies however a part of a disturbing pattern. We’re witnessing a pointy rise in Islamophobic hate, fuelled and funded by far-right political actors throughout the globe. Muslims are more and more being focused, harassed and discriminated in opposition to only for being Muslims in Europe, in america, and past.
As a social employee and authorities affairs coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), I do know first hand how such hateful incidents can devastate communities and injury nationwide cohesion and belief.
Some issues could be accomplished, and are being accomplished, to place a cease to this new wave of Islamophobia.
In July, shortly after a Quran-burning stunt in Sweden led to protests throughout the Muslim world, for instance, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) put ahead a decision to try to deal with the difficulty.
The decision, amongst different issues, referred to as on international locations to take steps to “forestall and prosecute acts and advocacy of spiritual hatred that represent incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.
The proposal was finally handed with 28 “sure” votes from all around the world. But, somewhat than exhibiting solidarity with the worldwide Muslim group, some highly effective and influential states – together with the US, United Kingdom, Germany and France – opposed the proposal saying its content material conflicts with their positions on freedom of expression. Making issues worse, a lot of the worldwide media’s protection of this essential decision focussed on this so-called “free speech” debate somewhat than the real-life impression Islamophobia has on the wellbeing and on a regular basis safety of Muslims and what could be accomplished to place an finish to this international societal in poor health.
As Muslims in Europe and america are made to really feel there’s a goal on their backs due to their non secular identification, our elected officers have a accountability to take motion. As far-right agitators assault mosques and casually tear aside the Muslim holy ebook to impress and intimidate law-abiding residents beneath the guise of exercising their “free speech” rights, democratic governments can not afford to take a seat idly by. The governments of the US, UK, Germany, France and all of the others who voted “no” to the UN decision have to urgently transfer past the politically loaded discussions on the so-called free speech – hate speech dichotomy and begin addressing the foundation causes of anti-Muslim bias inside their international locations.
In any case, the free speech-related considerations over the HRC decision are misplaced. The decision doesn’t name for limitations on free speech, or a blanket ban on criticism of Islam or Muslims. It merely urges member states to sentence acts of provocation and hate like Quran burnings, and to fill the gaps of their respective nationwide authorized and coverage frameworks that permit unhealthy religion actors to incite non secular violence, hate and discrimination with impunity.
There’s already a transparent distinction recognised in legislation between criticism, lawful protest, and hate speech that the international locations who opposed the HRC decision appear to be ignoring. Whereas criticism of and disagreement with all religions, together with Islam, are rightfully protected in most free and democratic international locations, hate speech – which vilifies and dehumanises human beings and will result in violent acts in opposition to them – isn’t acceptable.
The international locations who voted “no” to the HRC decision this summer season, together with the US, missed an essential alternative to take a public stance in opposition to Islamophobia, however it’s not too late to reverse course and take constructive motion.
Within the US, our representatives in Congress can simply assist our combat in opposition to Islamophobia by strengthening hate crime legal guidelines to embody religiously motivated crimes and updating hate speech legal guidelines to deal with on-line hate speech and spiritual incitement. They will additionally set up new communication channels between the federal government and spiritual teams in order that considerations and proposals of communities beneath assault could be heard and acted on in a well timed method. Moreover, congressional leaders can assist consciousness programmes about Islam and spiritual range to foster group understanding and cooperation on a world scale.
By acknowledging and addressing Islamophobia with such easy and simple insurance policies and initiatives, the US can take important steps in direction of creating an inclusive society that values the wellbeing and safety of each single American, no matter race, ethnicity and faith.
Some argue that for the reason that most aggressive and inflammatory acts of Islamophobia, equivalent to Quran burnings, appear to happen in Europe, there isn’t any quick want for the US to implement insurance policies to fight anti-Muslim bias in American society. However such Islamophobic acts, even once they happen miles away in Europe, don’t exist in a vacuum.
Right now, we’re witnessing far-right efforts to demonise, criminalise and additional marginalise Muslims and different minority non secular, ethnic and racial teams throughout the Western world. This harmful model of radical far-right activism is very robust within the US, the place politicians and faculty boards are efficiently banning books that cowl race, historical past, faith and different protected traits.
We have now to recognise the ties between acts of hate in opposition to Muslims in Europe, equivalent to Quran burnings, and the rise of the far proper within the US. In spite of everything, the connections between the American far proper and the anti-Islam provocateurs of Europe are well-known and broadly reported on. Moreover, we can not ignore the methods through which European and American insurance policies inform each other.
If Western nations are actually dedicated to upholding and defending human rights at dwelling and overseas, they need to cease utilizing unfounded considerations over “freedom of speech” as an excuse for inaction on Islamophobia. It was undoubtedly a mistake for the US and its main European allies to vote in opposition to the HRC decision in opposition to Islamophobia earlier this yr. But they nonetheless can and may do what is correct, cease hiding behind obscure considerations over free speech protections, and do what is critical to make sure everybody dwelling inside their borders, together with their Muslim residents, can stay their lives freed from abuse and hate funded and promoted by the far proper.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.