UN report Religious extremism is "ever-growing scourge"
By Anthony Goodman
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 (Reuters) - A U.N. investigator called religious extremism "an ever-growing scourge" and said this was epitomised by Afghanistan, whose Taleban rulers had "taken an entire society hostage."
"Once again, the situation with regard to intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief is alarming," wrote Abdelfattah Amor, a special reporter of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Amor, a Tunisian appointed to the post in 1993, has the task of examining and recommending remedies for incidents inconsistent with the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief.
His report, circulated on Thursday was based on 39 communications he sent to 25 countries.
"Several communications transmitted in the framework of this report cite an ever-growing scourge, namely religious extremism, whose primary victims are vulnerable groups, such as women and minorities," he wrote.
"The case that epitomises this is that of Afghanistan, where the Taleban, in the name of their own interpretation of Islam, but in reality using religion as a political tool in the interests of power, have taken an entire society hostage," Amor said.
"This attempt at enslavement mainly affects women, who are relegated to a pariah status and therefore afflicted by social, economic and cultural exclusion," he added.
"Also specifically targeted by Taleban extremism are religious minorities and, of course, non-Muslim communities, whose religious identity is directly threatened by a policy of forced conversion to Islam."
Amor said extremism was also manifested with varying intensity in Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, "always through non-state entities, but in diverse forms and modalities with different goals."
"Clearly, despite the good will of many states, it remains very difficult to contain and combat religious extremism. The active contribution of the international community outside and the civil society within remains crucial in this regard," the report stated.
Amor said he considered it essential that the U.N. General Assembly should, like the U.N. Human Rights Commission, "devote the fullest attention to religious extremism."
"States and the international community must condemn that phenomenon unequivocally and combat it relentlessly in order to preserve the human rights to peace," he said.
Emphasising the urgency of prevention, he encouraged all states, intergovernmental organisations, the main religions, other religious or spiritual communities, and nongovernmental
bodies to contribute actively to a conference to be held in Madrid in November next year on school education in relation to freedom of religion, tolerance and nondiscrimination
The conference will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. Declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief.
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