Sunday, February 24, 2008

An Open Letter to Doudou Diene - UN Racism Expert

Dear Dr. Diene,

Your UN mandate charges you with speaking out against racial and religious intolerance, and you often have done so commendably. To give a recent example, in November 2005, after UN Watch and 30 other organizations sent you a complaint about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” you admirably took action by demanding that Iran explain itself. In your January 2006 report (E/CN.4/2006/16), you condemned the Iranian statement as “a manifestation of anti-Semitism.” I commend and thank you for your strong stand on this issue.

I write now to ask you to take action against another instance of contemporary racism and intolerance: state-sponsored anti-Semitic and anti-Christian school textbooks in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These books, for example, repeatedly refer to Jews and Christians as “cursed,” as “infidels,” as “unbelievers,” and as “enemies of Islam.” They teach schoolchildren that “the Jews are a people of betrayal and treachery” and that “a malicious Crusader-Jewish alliance [is] striving to eliminate Islam from all the continents.” Despite Saudi assurances of textbook reform, the May 2006 Freedom House report entitled "Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance" reveals that the teaching of hatred continues.

The non-governmental organization UN Watch sent you allegation letters about these textbooks in January and May of 2005. I urge you to respond to these letters without any further delay. Please raise these allegations with the Egyptian and Saudi governments and demand that they stop teaching this offensive curriculum of hate.

In your report E/CN.4/2006/17, you criticized the Danish government for lacking “commitment and vigilance [to] combating religious intolerance and incitement to religious hatred” because it was not, in your view, quick enough to condemn a private newspaper’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Surely governments whose official schoolbooks are, and have long been, promoting blatant anti-Semitism and Christianophobia should also merit your prompt attention, and should receive a strong rebuke. This rebuke against systematic and state-sponsored incitement of children to racial hatred should include a joint statement—as you did for the private Danish newspaper—by yourself together with the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion.


Walter@360 Degrees

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