U.S. Special Representatives on Anti-Semitism and Muslim communities call for combatting intolerance

 VIENNA, 17 February 2011- The U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, and the U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Farah Pandith, addressing the OSCE Permanent Council today, said that more needs to be done by OSCE and other stakeholders in respecting fundamental freedoms and combatting all forms of intolerance.

“Fundamental freedoms and human rights – particularly freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression – these are essential elements to combat all forms of intolerance, and, unfortunately, these fundamental freedoms are not yet fully respected in the OSCE region,” Pandith said. “Protecting individual rights and ensuring space for civil society must remain a singular priority”.

The need to join efforts to overcome hate crimes and guard against indifference to injustice was stressed. “We must strive to ensure that no group can be marginalized, stereotyped or discriminated against on racial, religious or social grounds,” Pandith said.

“We clearly understand that the experiences of each religious group are not the same,” Rosenthal said. “Issues surrounding anti-Muslim speech or anti-Semitic language are separate and distinct, but the essence is the need to do more to be respectful of the other and to embrace pluralism.”

The Special Representatives expressed their strong support to the efforts of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in promoting tolerance and non-discrimination, in particular through programmes to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, intolerance and non-discrimination against Muslims, Christians and members of other religions.

The visit of the U.S. Special Envoys to the OSCE Permanent Council took place under the 2011 Hours Against Hate campaign launched this year. Under the campaign, historical examples of different communities peacefully living together in the OSCE region will be visited to enable young people “in conjunction with highlighting symbols of the past, create new histories of ‘mutual respect’”.

The Permanent Council is one of the OSCE's main regular decision-making bodies. It convenes weekly in Vienna to discuss developments in the OSCE area and to make appropriate decisions.