DISCRIMINATION against religious groups was condemned this week at the UN Durban Review Conference, which met in Geneva to assess the international struggle against racism. The conference, a follow-up to the international agreement against racism forged in Durban in 2001, was marked by a walk-out during a speech by the President of Iran, Mamoud Ahmadinejad.
In an Outcome Document, agreed on Tuesday, the Geneva meeting deplored “the global rise and number of incidents of racial or religious intolerance and violence, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia, and anti-Arabism”, and particularly the “derogatory stereotyping and stigmatisation” of believers.
“Poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation, social exclusion, and economic disparities are closely associated with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, and contribute to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices, which, in turn, generate more poverty.”
The walk-out had come when President Ahmadinejad said that “an entire nation”, the Palestinians, had been made homeless, “on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the abuse of the question of the Holocaust”. He condemned “Zionist domination”, and warned that Western liberalism, like Communism, had reached its end. But, contrary to earlier reports, he did not call for the eradication of Israel, nor describe the state as “illegitimate”.
The UK’s Jewish Human Rights Coalition condemned his speech. “It was a travesty that the UN allowed Ahmadinejad to hijack an Anti-Racism conference is this way,” Jeremy Newmark, CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, said on behalf of the Coalition. Members of the International Dalit Solidarity Network, present in Geneva, said that the Outcome Document had not met their aims. “There is no reference to caste discrimination in the document that was adopted yesterday,” Gitte Dyrehagen, the UN Programmes officer for International Dalit Solidarity, said on Wednesday.