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.