H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
The Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Lands
January 25-27, 2016
At the outset I would like to commend His Majesty King Mohamed VI for his leadership and the Kingdom of Morocco for hosting this important meeting on this critical issue. This timely meeting provides the opportunity to address one of the most pressing issues: The Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Lands.
Allow me to start by stating an obvious fact, that despite human progress in all spheres of life, human suffering continues to inflict the lives of millions of people around the world we share , largely due to a wide array of complex reasons.
However, you will find one common thread : a lack of respect of differences in religions, beliefs and an absence of noble human value: tolerance.
I must stress here, that before tolerance, there should be acceptance. Acceptance of “the other” who is essentially a human being with human rights.
Sadly today, we see these tragic circumstances unfolding in too many parts of the globe. The horrific impact of the terrorist attacks and acts of violent extremism against certain communities such as the Sunnis, Shiites, Yazidis Christians, Jews and Muslim Rohingas as well as others , who are perceived as different given their ethnic or religious background, can be counted , in many cases, as acts of ethnic cleansing.
This meeting focus is on the rights of religious minorities in societies which are pre-dominantly Muslim. The hateful ideology that the extremist groups are advocating for, is the exact opposite of the values enshrined in Islam.
It runs contrary to what the rest of humanity and the global community consider the foundation of our coexistence: that we are at our best when our communities are inclusive, diverse, peaceful, and respectful of differences.
I am an Arab Muslim and I am very proud of my heritage. As a child growing up in a pre-dominantly Muslim community I do not recall that faith denomination has ever been a question. Looking back at history, the Charter of Medina provide a good basis for citizenship rights. As the document sets forth the principles of peaceful coexistence among diverse tribal and religious communities based on equality, mutual recognition and respect, freedom of faith and sanctity of life and property.
I echoed the same sentiments this past September, when I participated in the Paris Meeting that was co-chaired by the Governments of France and Jordan on a similar theme.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), I have seen the benefits of engaging in project activity that promotes our shared values of tolerance, inclusivity and diversity. While the UNAOC may be a young organization, I am proud of our contribution to the international community’s efforts to counter the dark narrative propagated by the terrorists. With more financial means we could certainly do more.
Our mission is both immediate and long-term. There are those who will distinguish between countering violent extremism and preventing violent extremism. I believe we need to do both. We must counter this terrible threat wherever it has taken root. And we must just as certainly act wherever possible to prevent its spread to areas not yet affected.
When we consider the plight of minority communities, we must avoid highlighting differences and rather re-affirm the UN’s core values of diversity and peaceful co-existence. The topics covered by our activities form an important framework for longer-term strategic action. The sum of our efforts have been focused on Youth, Education, Media and Migration.
In conclusion, let me share with you my hope that by addressing the needs of our youth, by ensuring that our shared human values become part of basic education, and by strengthening the institutions that promote those values, we can combat the scourge of violent extremism that faces us now and into the future. While governments and the formal institutions of the international community – the Security Council above all – have the immediate, primary responsibility for protecting minorities, we must also engage with partners in civil society to eradicate the germ of fanaticism and hate at its roots and make sure that such extremist ideologies will never threaten humanity again.