Hatred, Islamophobia not freedom of expression: Bilawal

ISLAMABAD  -  Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari yesterday said that hatred and Islamophobia do not fall un­der the freedom of expression. The minister was speaking at the 18th Extraordinary Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organi­zation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in a vir­tual format. Bilawal condemned, in the strongest terms, the Islamophobic and hateful acts of dese­cration of the Holy Quran, which manifested reli­gious hatred and intolerance.

The Extraordinary CFM was convened to debate the recurring incidents of the desecration of the Holy Quran, which has hurt the sentiments of Mus­lims across the world. Addressing the CFMs, he un­derscored that these acts, and the permission to carry them out, did not constitute freedom of ex­pression. The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Paki­stan’s commitment to work closely with OIC mem­ber countries especially in Jeddah, Geneva, and New York to highlight concerns about the wilful acts of the burning and desecration of the Holy Quran.

He welcomed the adoption of resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council & the UN General As­sembly advocating inter religious dialogue and shunning religious hatred. The Foreign Minister reiterated his proposal, made earlier this year on the occasion of the International Day to Combat Is­lamophobia, for an Action Plan which would inter alia include the appointment of a UN Special Envoy to combat Islamophobia and the establishment of judicial mechanisms to hold the perpetrators ac­countable. Earlier, the Extraordinary CFM adopted a comprehensive resolution expressing grave con­cern over the increasing incidents of intolerance, discrimination and rising Islamophobia.

It reaffirmed the importance of the 8-point ac­tion plan unanimously agreed upon by UN Human Rights Council to counter incitement to hatred, dis­crimination, stigmatization and violence based on religion and belief. It also called on all govern­ments to fully implement the existing legal and ad­ministrative framework or adopt new legislation to protect all individuals against hatred and violence based on religion and belief. Separately, Bilawal received a call from Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, and raised deep concern on the recent incidents of desecration of the Holy Quran in Denmark and other European countries.

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