UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for 'sacred religious symbols'

The United Nations building in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. (AFP/File)
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Updated 03 December 2020

UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for 'sacred religious symbols'

  • Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 
  • Deliberate vilification and negative stereotyping of Islam perpetuates ‘clash of civilizations,’ Pakistan’s envoy to the UN says

ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition from the European Union and other western nations and India, the UN General Assembly Wednesday adopted a Pakistan and Philippines sponsored resolution on inter-religious dialogue that emphasized the need to respect “sacred religious symbols,” Pakistan’s state news agency reported on Thursday. 

The resolution received a majority of 90 votes, none against, with 52 abstentions, APP said.

Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over France’s response to a deadly attack in October on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to pupils during a civics lesson.

For Muslims, depictions of the Prophet are blasphemous.

Pakistan has condemned the recent re-printing of the cartoons. The French president has paid tribute to the murdered teacher, fueling further anger in the Muslim world. 

“Facing strong opposition from the powerful western bloc mainly based on freedom of expression, the Pakistan Mission worked hard to rally the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] and other developing countries to garner support for inclusion of new elements in the resolution,” APP reported. 

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated calls to the international community and the United Nations to counter Islamophobia and promote respect for religious sensitivities.

“Ambassador Akram also emphasized that the deliberate “vilification and negative stereotyping of adherents of one of the largest religions in the world –Islam — only perpetuates dangerous self-fulfilling prophecies such as the ‘clash of civilizations’ and must be addressed on urgent basis,” APP quoted the ambassador as saying. 

“After some intensive lobbying, the resolution acknowledges — for the first time — the significance and respect for religious symbols,” the state news agency added. “It also stressed that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and must therefore be subjected to legitimate restrictions.”

“The resolution condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence or discrimination,” APP said, “and underlines the importance of interrelgious and intercultural dialogue as a valuable tool for promoting social cohesion, and peace and development in the world.”

Diplomatic spat breaks out between Pakistan, India in United Nations General Assembly

Updated 42 min 9 sec ago

Diplomatic spat breaks out between Pakistan, India in United Nations General Assembly

  • The incident took place after Saudi Arabia introduced a resolution to protect rights of minority religious communities around the world
  • Pakistan described the adoption of resolution as 'a rebuke to the Hindutva extremists in India' who were trying to 'eliminate the heritage of Islam'

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations General Assembly once again witnessed some diplomatic wrangling between Pakistan and India on Friday as representatives of the two countries questioned each other's track record of dealing with religious minorities.

The debate took place after Saudi Arabia introduced a resolution, "Promoting a culture of peace and tolerance to safeguard religious sites," on Thursday which was co-sponsored by Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram described the adoption of the resolution as "part of the efforts initiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan to combat Islamophobia and outlaw attacks on Muslim religious shrines, symbols and sacred personalities in certain countries."

"The adoption of the resolution is also a rebuke to the Hindutva extremists in India who have launched a systematic and government backed program to eliminate the heritage and legacy of Islam in India through the destruction of Islamic shrines and monuments and to the transformation of India's Muslims into second class citizens, or non-citizens," he was reported as saying by the Associated Press of Pakistan.

However, India called it "ironic" that Pakistan was one of the countries sponsoring the resolution, claiming that a recent attack on a Hindu shrine in Karak was fully supported by Pakistani law enforcement agencies.

In response, Pakistani delegate Zulqarnain Chheena told India not to "feign concern for minority rights elsewhere," and called it "the most egregious and persistent violator of minority rights itself."

"The clear difference between India and Pakistan with respect to minority rights can be gauged from the fact that the accused in the Karak incident were immediately arrested, orders were issued for repairing the temple, the highest level of judiciary took immediate notice, and the senior political leadership condemned the incident," he said. "Whereas in India, blatant acts of discrimination against Muslims and other minorities take place with state complicity."

Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations expressed satisfaction after the resolution was adopted by UN member states.