UN report indicated that ‘suspicion, discrimination and outright hatred’ towards Muslims had reached ‘epidemic proportions’.

The United Nations is observing March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia with the goal of taking “concrete action in the face of rising hatred, discrimination, and violence against Muslims”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres affirmed that the move is “a call for action to stamp out anti-Muslim hatred”.

“Discrimination diminishes us all. We must stand up against it,” he said on Twitter. “Today & every day, we must counter the forces of division by reaffirming our common humanity.”

Last year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a unanimous resolution submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) deeming this day as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

The UN said that a recent UN special rapporteur report on freedom of religion or belief indicated that “suspicion, discrimination and outright hatred towards Muslims had reached ‘epidemic proportions’”.

The UN report indicates that in countries where they represent a minority, Muslims often face discrimination in accessing goods and services, finding work, and education, adding that in some countries, they are denied citizenship or legal immigration status due to hostile perceptions of foreigners that Muslims represent a threat to national security.

Muslim women are disproportionately targeted in Islamophobic hate crimes, the UN added.

‘A big problem’

“It says to me that we really have a problem, a big problem, in order for the UN to come out and recognise that Islamophobia is a worldwide issue and to talk against it,” said Heisam Galyon, a member of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

In a phone interview with Anadolu news agency, Galyon said the only way to address Islamophobia is to get the message out to the world.

“We need to talk about it. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t bring it up.”

UN General Assembly President Csaba Korosi also noted that “Islamophobia is rooted in xenophobia, or the fear of strangers, which is reflected in discriminatory practices, travel bans, hate speech, bullying and targeting of other people” and urged countries to uphold the freedom of religion and take action against the hatred.

“All of us carry a responsibility to challenge Islamophobia or any similar phenomenon, to call out injustice and condemn discrimination based on religion or belief – or the lack of them,” said Korosi.

Last week, the Turkish ambassador to the UN said that Islamophobia has become a “major threat to democracy” and desecration of the holy Quran and mosques is “on the rise”.

Sedat Onal said, “Islamophobia is a real and a rising threat.”