21 March 2018, GENEVA – The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim calls for the promotion of equal citizenship rights to address racial discrimination and promote inclusive and tolerant societies.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman made this call on the occasion of the observance of the 2018 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and of this year’s annual theme “Promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination.”

Dr. Al Qassim said that “racial discrimination has witnessed a surge as a side effect of the increasing gap between the elites and the middle and lower income groups which has triggered a militant form of populism in advanced and modern societies.”

In parallel, he added - “foreign interventions, geopolitical power games and civil strife have played their part in destabilizing the Middle East and North Africa regions. A spillover to countries in other regions has created a vicious circle of violence and ‘retribution’ between terrorism and violent populism exacerbating marginalization and repression of marginalized groups and ethnic or religious minorities.”

In this context, Dr. Al Qassim recalled that Islam places strong emphasis on equality, proclaiming that all human beings are borne free and equal.

He quoted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who said to his followers that “an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety.” The right to equality – he said – is also emphasised in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and by other mainstream creeds and value-systems.

The convergence of religions, creeds and value-systems in the pursuit of equal citizenship rights” – he averred – “should become the starting-point for the enjoyment of equal citizenship rights as a prerequisite for the elimination of racial discrimination and intolerance.

“When all citizens are entitled to enjoy the same set of rights, privileges and duties, not only in stipulations of Constitutions or of legislation but in practice, regardless of racial or religious backgrounds, they will be looked upon as equal citizens. The effective granting of citizenship rights will pave the way for the celebration of cultural diversity and foster greater mutual understanding worldwide,” underlined the Geneva Centre’s Chairman.

In order to achieve this goal, Dr. Al Qassim stated that the Geneva Centre will organize a World Conference on 25 June 2018 in Geneva on the theme of “Religions, Creeds and Other Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights.” This international conference – he noted – aims at uniting the voices of religious and lay leaders in a joint effort to promote equal citizenship rights.

The conference will seek to capitalize on the underlying convergence of religions, creeds and value systems to mitigate the marginalization of minorities worldwide. There must be a move towards a world society prioritizing equal citizenship rights and the elimination of intolerance, whether it be related to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, cultural backgrounds or other reasons.  For this, we must strive to eliminate xenophobia.” 

Xenophobiahe concluded – “is based on two main causes: ignorance and prejudice. While ignorance can be addressed in the short- to medium-term through awareness raising, media, and education, the elimination of ethnic or religious prejudice requires political leadership at the highest levels which may clash with the geopolitical agendas that are dominating and undermining the human experiences of many,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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