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UN expert warns counter-terror policies led to 'further stigmatisation' of Muslims

UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed said Islamophobia has reached 'epidemic proportions' across the world
UN expert Ahmed Shaheed said Muslim women face the triple threat of discrimination due to their gender, ethnicity, and religion (AFP)

A United Nations expert has warned that counter-terrorism policies adopted by countries after terrorist attacks done in the name of opposing radical Islam have led to the further stigmatisation of Muslims. 

Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, told the Human Rights Council on Thursday that more needed to be done to tackle Islamophobia, which he said had reached "epidemic proportions" across the world.

“Islamophobia builds imaginary constructs around Muslims that are used to justify state-sponsored discrimination, hostility and violence against Muslims, with stark consequences for the enjoyment of human rights including freedom of religion or belief,” said Shaheed.

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“In such climates of exclusion, fear and distrust, Muslims report that they often feel stigma, shame and a sense that they are ‘suspect communities’ that are being forced to bear collective responsibility for the actions of a small minority.” 
His report at the UN Human Rights Council highlighted how  Muslims, when a minority in a given country, are frequently targeted based on visible characteristics such as their name, skin colour, clothing and religious attire, notably headscarves. 

He also warned that Muslim women face threefold discrimination based on their gender, religion and ethnicity.  

The report emphasised that critiques of Islam should never be conflated with Islamophobia, adding that international human rights law protects individuals, not religions.

“I strongly encourage states to take all necessary measures to combat direct and indirect forms of discrimination against Muslims and prohibit any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence,” the UN expert said

Last month, UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ni Aolain released a report stating that many Muslim communities worldwide are being "hyper-regulated" due to counter-terrorism policies. 

She voiced concern over the "construction" of the Muslim family within counter-terrorism policy in certain countries and how the "Muslim home" is viewed as a site of risk, resulting in blame, pathology and state hyperregulation".

She added that in some instances, the "good mother" within a Muslim household ”is one who partners with the security state in preventing and countering violent extremism programmes, even as such programmes may stigmatise, marginalise and make her a frontline target within her own political context."

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