Humanists UK at the UN calls for action to tackle anti-Muslim hatred

5 March, 2021

In its latest intervention at the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK has called for more action to be taken to address the worrying global rise in the persecution of Muslims, and for more research to be done into the links between laws prohibiting blasphemy and anti-Muslim hatred.

In an intervention made by video during the ‘interactive dialogue’ with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr Ahmad Shaheed, Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan first of all raised concerns about ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s Rakhine province of Rohingya Muslims and the mass internment and human rights abuses of millions of Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, adding:

Last year, we asked this Council to take a view on whether the treatment of Uighur Muslims meets the legal definition of genocide and what further steps can be taken to inspect and report on the internments in Xinjiang in the face of China’s continued refusal to engage with this Council. We ask the Special Rapporteur what steps he can take within his mandate to visit and report on these facilities.

She also then commented,

‘We are concerned about the link between the criminalisation of blasphemy and the rise in anti-Muslim hatred. In Pakistan, such laws have been used for decades to persecute and criminalise non-Muslims such as humanists and Christians, but also Ahmadi Muslims, who are subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, and charges of blasphemy because of their religious beliefs.

‘The penal code explicitly targets Ahmadis by prohibiting them from “indirectly or directly posing as a Muslim.” Ahmadis are banned from declaring or propagating their faith publicly, building mosques, or making the Muslim call for prayer. In 2020, there was a surge in targeted killings of members of the Ahmadi community, including Tahir Ahmad Naseem, who was fatally shot while appearing in court accused of blasphemy.’

The delegation from China then raised objections to the use of the word ‘genocide’ within the part of the intervention about Xinjiang. Humanists UK defends its use of the term as such policing of language is often used as a means of shutting down necessary scrutiny of human rights abuses.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

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