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Tackling discrimination against Muslims

30 April 2009

MRG and International Commission of Jurists highlight need to tackle discrimination against Muslims in counter-terror measures.

"Every Muslim family in the world that travels internationally is at risk of facing discrimination," said Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, in Geneva's Palais des Nations on Friday. "Any Muslim that arrives at a border knows that they may be singled out by immigration officials."

Ms Jahangir was speaking at an event on racism, counter-terrorism and discrimination against Muslims, organized by Minority Rights Group International and the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva on 24 April.

Introducing the event, MRG's Director Mark Lattimer noted that the attacks of 9/11 significantly changed global security priorities, and with it the perception of minority communities, in particular Muslim communities. Counter-terrorism measures since have led to allegations of racial profiling, attacks on freedom of religion, expression and association, and grave violations of rights to physical integrity. Ms Jahangir and other speakers described a pattern of discrimination associated with counter-terrorism measures in both Muslim and non-Muslim majority states, and emphasized the importance of observing international human rights standards and promoting tolerance.

Gerald Staberock, Global Security Director of the International Commission of Jurists, outlined the findings and recommendations of the Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, including the need to ensure that exceptional counter-terrorism measures taken by states are subject to time limits and independent review, to prevent them becoming normalized.

Kevin Boyle, Professor of International Law at Essex University and Chair of Minority Rights Group International, spoke on the need to combat hate speech while protecting freedom of expression, and Massoud Shadjareh, Chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, described cases of discrimination against Muslims in the United Kingdom.

The event took place against the backdrop of a UN conference to review the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Participants at the event discussed whether a consensus can emerge on what action can be taken internationally to help safeguard the rights of vulnerable communities while preventing terrorism and other forms of violent conflict.