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Pakistan calls for action to combat the forces of xenophobia

United Nations: On Thursday, Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi and other speakers at an event held at the United Nations (UN) voiced serious concern over the increasing hate crimes targeting Muslims in the West, stating that the most effective action to reverse this dangerous trend lay in promoting interfaith cooperation. Decrying the rise of Islamophobia worldwide, Pakistan called for action to combat the forces of xenophobia and warned that if timely steps were not taken to check this disturbing trend, it could threaten regional and global peace and security.

They also stressed the need for unity among Muslims as they build bridges to other religious communities through stepped up interaction. The occasion was a side-event, organised by the Missions of Pakistan and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (IOC), as part of the annual observances of ‘World Interfaith Harmony Week’ (Feb 1 to 7).  A brainchild of Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, the side-event was entitled: Countering Xenophobia Through Interfaith Cooperation.

“This was a modest effort to bring us together in solidarity, in defence of our values and respect for each other’s faith, as part of human family to promote solidarity,” the Pakistani envoy, who co-chaired the event, told delegates in a full-to-the-capacity UN conference room.  In her concluding remarks, she also spoke of the current challenges and disturbing trends towards hate and discrimination, stating, “Hope, not fear should guide us in addressing this issue.”
OIC Ambassador Ufuk Golcen, the other co-chair, while highlighting the dangers of Xenophobia and bigotry, said interfaith cooperation was the way to bringing about a harmonious environment and peaceful conditions. Three prominent inter-faith activists — Dr. Faroque Ahmed Khan, Dr. William Vendley and Dr. Munir Al-Kassem — in their presentations called for dialogue among leaders and dialogue among religious communities in an effort to end the rising tide of religious and ethnic discrimination and bias incidents.

Al-Kassem narrated his experiences in Canada where his family migrated at the height of a civil war in Lebanon in 1976. Over the years, he said, discrimination against refugees and minorities had become strong in parts of Canada but this might change now with the rise to power of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a liberal politician. “Indeed, Trudeau has reclaimed Canada’s identity.” Al-Kassem said he had raised a total of 9.3 million Canadian dollars, with the help of Muslim communities in Canada, to help re-settle the incoming Syrian refugees.

Dr. William Vendley, Secretary-General of the Religions for Peace International, dialogue between religious communities should be taken to a level that they not only have good relations but also standby each other. He cited the example of Kenya where a terrorist group hijacked a bus and asked Muslims to leave but they didn’t in solidarity with others.

Dr Faroque Ahmad Khan, a founding member of the Islamic Centre of Long Island, at which he said he had also launched an inter-faith institute. With the help of video presentation, he explained how he has been able to bring together people of various religious groups on the Lond Island. Dr. Khan urged OIC’s New York office to establish closer links with the members of the Muslim community.

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