The Vatican this week expressed disappointment over a UN Human Rights Council report on “Islamophobia,” calling it potentially divisive for excluding other religious groups.
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said “reducing the negative-profiling and stigmatization” of groups “presents a real risk of facilitating a ‘we’ versus ‘them’ mentality.”
“Any legislation or practice that would single out a specific group based, at least in part, on religious criteria, represents a subtle form of discrimination, regardless of the intended effects or the real outcome of such laws or practices,” said the archbishop.
He said it is concerning that the UN Human Rights Council report has been “focused on a single religious group to the exclusion of others with the risk of polarizing the international community.”
Archbishop Jurkovič warned that it could create “more conflict that may further endanger the rights [that the council] should promote and protect.”
The UN Human Rights Council released the report that focused on “Anti-Muslim hatred/Islamophobia” last week. It had no reference to other faith groups around the world who are also victims of hatred, discrimination and persecution.
The archbishop, however, recognized the “significant work” presented in the report that outlines situations of discrimination, stigmatization, acts of violence and restrictions on the right to manifest one’s religion both individually and in community that are often experienced by Muslims.
He said that “all” acts of religious hatred, discrimination and persecution “are to be vehemently condemned.”
The Vatican official noted that with the growing erosion of religious freedom due to the need to protect human lives from the spread of COVID-19, “it is of paramount importance that the civil authorities commit themselves to respect, protect and defend the freedom of religion or belief, as the innermost dimension of the dignity of the human person, in his or her conscience.”
The UN Human Rights Council report that was released last week noted that the attack in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, was the starting point of an era of Islamophobia, targeting nearly 1.6 billion Muslims.
The report said that the acts of an extremist fringe has resulted in “institutional suspicion of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim.”
Islamophobia has “served to perpetuate, validate, and normalize discrimination, hostility, and violence towards Muslim individuals and communities,” said the UN report.
It said that the persistent, and even state-driven Islamophobia, do not only hurt Muslims, but anyone “perceived” to be as such as many conflate religion with race.