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UN HRC 53: Statement on public acts of religious hatred

Thank you Mr President.

Today’s urgent debate has been called following certain recent events in Europe, and, with regard to these, let me be crystal clear that the burning of the Quran is deeply insulting and completely inappropriate.

We recognise the deep hurt that has been felt by Muslims the world over including by so many British Muslims. And we recognise that we must all, collectively and individually, work harder to build mutual understanding, combat intolerance and hatred based on religion or belief, and address potential areas of tension between members of different communities.

Mr President, we agreed to today’s debate, precisely because we recognise how important – and sensitive – these issues are. And because we hoped that it would serve to build greater understanding between states and this Council.

In combatting religious intolerance, we must always be mindful that other rights must also be respected. The exercise of the right to freedom of expression is not unlimited.  But it is something we hold dear, and which can only be limited under very clear, narrowly defined parameters under international human rights law. HRC resolution 16/18 managed to navigate these difficult issues through a consensual and action-orientated framework. We believe that this resolution continues to offer the best way of addressing religious intolerance and stigmatisation in this Council.

Regrettably, Mr President, some members of this Council who called for today’s debate have, so far at least, not shown the same willingness to debate a certain other largescale, and in this case, state-sponsored manifestation of religious intolerance affecting a significant Muslim community. We hope that this will change in the future.

We thank our OIC colleagues for their willingness to engage over recent days on the resolution relating to today’s debate. We hope to safeguard the precious consensus that this Council has maintained over the past decade on combatting intolerance and hatred based on religion or belief.

Thank you Mr President.

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