Islamic Bloc Welcomes UN Official’s Focus on ‘Dangerous Xenophobes and Bigots Running for Office’

By Patrick Goodenough | September 15, 2016 | 4:28am EDT
U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein addresses the Human Rights Council in Geneva. (UN Photo/Pierre Albouy, File)

( – The Islamic bloc at the United Nations on Wednesday embraced the U.N. human rights chief’s new campaign of calling out what he calls “xenophobes and bigots” – a category in which he has lumped Donald Trump and populist right-wing politicians in Europe.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also used the opportunity to accuse media organizations of being overly eager to blame terrorism on “particular communities and religions,” warning that “the OIC believes it is now imperative to draw a clear line here.”

The OIC’s position was spelled out at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, a forum which the bloc of 57 mostly Muslim-majority nations has long used as a vehicle to promote a drive to outlaw “defamation” of Islam.

Opening a two-and-a-half-week session of the HRC, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a wide-ranging address earlier revisited an issue he has raised several times recently, targeting GOP presidential candidate Trump as well as a group of European politicians.

“In the next several months … a number of elections will be held in well-established democracies, with dangerous xenophobes and bigots running for office, and what falls to us then – what falls to us then – could begin to determine, as never before, the future course of ‘we the peoples’ of this Earth,” he told the HRC on Tuesday.

Zeid promised to address the issue further at a U.N. summit on refugees and migrants in New York next week.

The elections Zeid is referring to, judging from a provocative recent speech in The Hague, include the U.S. presidential election, Austria’s delayed presidential runoff in December (featuring far-right candidate Norbert Hofer), and parliamentary elections in the Netherlands (where candidates include the anti-Islamist party leader Geert Wilders.)

Responding to Zeid’s HRC address, Pakistani representative Tehmina Janjua, speaking on behalf of the OIC, welcomed his sentiments.

“The high commissioner has demonstrated his willingness to squarely address the critical issue of racial and religious prejudice being fanned by political leaders in certain regions,” she said.

“It is an issue which has generally been faced by a nervous silence, allowing bigotry and prejudice to become entrenched in mainstream national policies under the pretext of counter terrorism and security threats,” Janjua continued, adding that Zeid’s “forthright condemnation of these tendencies can only be welcomed by right-thinking people.”

The OIC, she said, speaks with one voice “against xenophobia, stereotyping and racial profiling under any pretext.”

Janjua said the OIC was seriously concerned about “the emerging cross-border bonding of demagogues and widespread acceptance of such phenomena in many supposed civilized societies.”

She said the Islamic bloc wanted religious and political leaders and “intelligentsia” to speak out against “bigots and populists masquerading as patriots and national saviors.”

The responsibility of the media – both mainstream and social – could not be overstated, Janjua said.

“Too often we have seen an irresponsible eagerness on the part of the media to ascribe incidents of terrorism and extremism to particular communities and religions.”

At the same time, media have provided “generous coverage to political demagogues and purveyors of prejudice and outright hatred,” she added.

“The OIC believes it is now imperative to draw a clear line here.”

In a speech at a security conference in the Netherlands last week, Zeid condemned what he called “demagogues and political fantasists,” naming Trump, Wilders, Hofer, as well as Czech President Milos Zeman, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

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