In his address to the 75th session of the General Assembly, Prime Minister Imran Khan had highlighted the incidents of Islamophobia and other provocations. He had also called upon the UN to declare an “International Day to Combat Islamophobia” Recently, at the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) held at Niamey, the OIC called upon the Indian government to take immediate steps to implement its commitment to reconstruct the Babri Mosque on its original site.
It also urged India to punish those responsible for the mosque’s demolition, to prevent the construction of a temple on its site, take immediate steps to ensure the protection of the other 3,000 historic mosques, and ensure the safety and protection of the Muslims and their holy sites throughout India. Pakistan has urged the world community, the United Nations and other organizations to play their role in preserving Islamic heritage sites in India from the extremist ‘Hindutva’ government of the BJP and to ensure protection of minorities in the neighboring country.
Adoption of resolution is part of Pakistan’s concerted efforts calling for universal prohibition on wilful provocation and incitement to violence. It is part of Pakistan’s diplomatic campaign to raise awareness about rising Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred, as well as defamation of sacred religious personalities and symbols. India is one of the epicentres of such negativeness.
Zafaryab Jilani, convenor of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) and All India Muslim Personal Law Board executive member, has called the proposed mosque to be built at the government allotted land in Dhanniur of Ayodhya as “against Shariat” According to Times of India, Jilani said that as per the Waqf Act, mosques and land for the mosques could not be bartered, making the proposed mosque against the Act.
Government of Uttar Pradesh had allotted the 5-acre land for the proposed relocation of Babri masjid approximately 25 KM away from actual site of mosque. Indian Supreme Court allowed the construction of Hindu Temple at the site of the
Babri Masjid. The flawed judgment in November 2019 not only reflected the preponderance of faith over justice but also the growing majoritarianism in today’s India, where minorities, particularly Muslims and their places of worship, are
increasingly under attack. Later, the Supreme Court conducted an in-chamber hearing of a bunch of review petitions filed against the ruling, court rejected them all in December 2019 after finding no merits.
India has a poor track record with regard to safety and security of religious symbols of its minority communities especially Muslims. On December 6, 1992, Hindu attackers had demolished and burnt the core structure of the 16th century Babri
Masjid. Thousands of Hindu zealots, supported by duty police personnel had razed to the ground the historic mosque an abominable act of anti-Muslim frenzy and blatant violation of religious and international norms. Thousands were killed in rioting that followed the mosque’s destruction.
The Recently a trial court acquitted all prominent BJP leaders from the case and ruled that demolition of the mosque was not pre-planned. There is compelling evidence with hundreds of eyewitness accounts that proves beyond doubt that the mosque demolition was pre-planned. The shameful acquittal of the criminals represented
another egregious travesty of justice.
The painful scenes of the demolition of the mosque still remain fresh in the minds of not only Muslims but all conscientious people in the world. The new illegitimate structure, which the Hindutva-driven BJP has campaigned for and is bent upon constructing as part of its agenda of converting India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, is a scar on the face of so-called ‘largest democracy’ in the world.
Twenty eight years down the timeline, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a Pakistan-Philippines sponsored resolution calling for respecting sacred religious symbols. Indeed too little, too late! It’s a non-binding resolution. And the counties which either sponsor such events or look the other way during such happenings have abstained. However, the silver lining is that there wasn’t even a single negative vote.
The resolution appreciates the recent “Call for Mutual Respect” issued by the High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations which stresses that insulting religions and sacred religious symbols provokes hatred and violent extremism
leading to polarisation and fragmentation of society. While reaffirming that violence can and should never be justifiable or acceptable response to acts of intolerance, the resolution underscores “that such violence should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic group.
Put to head count on December 02, the resolution received a majority of 90 votes, none against, with 52 abstentions. Despite vehement opposition from the European Union and other Western nations as well as India, the UNGA adopted the resolution aimed at promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue that for the first time acknowledges the significance and respect for religious symbols.
The only notable exception from the developing world was India that joined the western countries in abstaining on the resolution. India also tried to unsuccessfully mobilise support for the deletion of reference to opening of the Kartarpur Corridor by Pakistan. Resolution welcomes Pakistan’s initiative. Opening ceremony of the corridor on November 9, 2018 before a huge gathering of pilgrims from across the world, marking the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder, Guru Nanak Dev.
Such resolution is passed every year, however, this year, the sponsors amended the resolution to reflect new trends, such as the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the rise in religious intolerance, xenophobia, hate speech and the
upsurge in denigration of religious symbols. Throughout the negotiations, the EU and other western countries opposed the
inclusion of any language on the significance and respect for religious symbols.
The EU also tried to block insertions of the clearly established and internationally recognised limitations on the exercise of freedom of expression. Such a stance from the Europe was against the very concept of freedom of expressions, who would know it better than self-acclaimed civilized Europe that exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and must therefore be subjected to legitimate restrictions.
Facing strong opposition from the powerful Western bloc mainly based on pretext of freedom of expression, the Pakistan Mission at the UN went an extra mile to rally the OIC and other developing countries to garner support for inclusion of new elements in the resolution. The UN resolution reaffirmed the solemn commitment of all states to fulfil their obligations to promote universal respect for and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The resolution condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence or discrimination; and underlines the importance of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue as a valuable tool for promoting social cohesion, peace and development in the world. Extreme haste in starting construction of a temple at the mosque site – amidst the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the looming National Register of Citizens (NRC) to disenfranchise Muslims, the targeted killings of Muslims in Delhi with state complicity in February 2020, and other anti- Muslim measures shows how Muslims in India are being systematically demonized, dispossessed, marginalized and subjected to targeted violence.
Writer is a freelance contributor; email: [email protected]