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If UN can talk Islamophobia, why not Hinduphobia or anti-Sikhism?

Author: TS Tirumurti
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 7, 2022
URL:      https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/why-are-attacks-on-hindus-sikhs-buddhists-ignored/articleshow/94057546.cms

These are just as religiophobic as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Christianophobia

On March 15, 2022, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution on an “International Day to Combat Islamophobia” (IDCI), sponsored by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). India and France alone gave an Explanation of Vote expressing concern – that combatting the hatred against one specific religion was being elevated to an International Day for the first time.

How did we come to this pass? The UN has traditionally mirrored Christian values. Numerous sculptures and symbols in this spirit dot the UN, be it “Good Defeats Evil” where the “nuclear” dragon (made of dismantled US Pershing and Soviet SS-20 missiles) is being killed by St George, or the huge mural in the Security Council chamber, which combines elements from different Christian sources, including from the Greek Orthodox Church. A rare exception is the 11th century idol of Surya the Sun God, gifted by India in 1982 to the UN.

UN’s Abrahamic preoccupation:

The UN Alliance of Civilisations formed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack has now become nothing more than a dialogue between Islam and Christianity. The main donors keeping it afloat are Islamic countries.

Basically when Islam was added to the Christian and Jewish mix, the three Abrahamic religions got exclusive references in UN resolutions. But in recent years the Islamic world has found that the Europeans are too preoccupied with their own right-wing and consequently defensive against Islamophobia, as is the US with its own domestic right-wing and racial issues.

The time was ripe. So, when Islamophobia was sought to be introduced as a “justification” for terrorism (in June 2021), there was hardly a murmur from the West. India fought this alone and had the reference taken out.

In 2022 OIC jumped in with its resolution to declare March 15 as IDCI, even if many of the OIC flock were themselves not fully convinced that this was the right thing to do. These countries even rejected the inclusion of the word “pluralism” in the text. The West was predictably missing in action, barring the French.

Even as hatred against non-Abrahamic religions rises:

Unfortunately, IDCI is only a reflection of a deeper malaise which is the gradual division of the UN on religious lines: Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic. What it fails to acknowledge is that in the last decade and more, attacks on and hatred against non-Abrahamic religions have increased exponentially, in many cases emasculating minority voices.

Once again, it was India which sounded the warning note. MoS external affairs V Muraleedharan told the UN Security Council on October 12, 2021: “As regards religious identities, we are witnessing how member-states are facing newer forms of religious phobias. While we have condemned anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia, we fail to recognise that there are more virulent forms of religious phobias emerging and taking roots, including anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh phobias.”

Citing examples of destruction of temples and idols, massacre of Sikh pilgrims in gurdwaras, destruction of Bamyan Buddhas etc he added that “our inability to even acknowledge these atrocities and phobias only gives those forces encouragement that phobias against some religions are more acceptable than those against others.” He warned that we ignore this at our own peril. And sure enough, we have IDCI now.

India says, defeat divisive religious agendas at UN:

We continue to witness increasing attacks against Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and other places of worship. Taliban have not been able to stem such terrorist religiophobic attacks in Afghanistan, as can be seen in the terror blasts at Gurdwara Karte Parwan. In Pakistan, attacks against Hindu temples and forcible conversion of minority communities have become commonplace. Hate crimes against Sikhs and Hindus have increased in the West too, including the US.

These are conveniently brushed aside as terrorist attacks even though they are in reality religiophobic attacks, like the one on author Salman Rushdie – dubbed by media as an attack on freedom of speech when in fact it was obviously much more.

Even proposals for proscribing terrorists under Security Council Resolution 1267 are given a religious colour, as seen in Pakistan’s desperate attempts to have a Hindu listed on cooked up charges. It’s time we acknowledged and accosted such actions for what they are – contemporary forms of religiophobia.

India has to continue to take the lead in the matter of religiophobia against non-Abrahamic religions in the UN and defeat divisive religious agendas at the UN. Pluralistic democracies cannot watch the UN go down the slippery slope of religion. One can only hope that Surya shows an inclusive way forward.


-The writer served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York

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