New United Nations Report Says Islamophobia Rising To ‘Epidemic Proportions,’ Urges States To Act

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr. Ahmed Shaheed.

March 16, 2021

A new report issued by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, warns that anti-Muslim hatred or Islamophobia is rising to “epidemic proportions” around the world. In the report titled Report on Countering Islamophobia/Anti-Muslim Hatred to Eliminate Discrimination and Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief, Shaheed urged states to act to curb the rise of anti-Muslim hatred. 

Shaheed presented the findings of his report at the 46th Session of the United National Human Rights Council on March 4, 2021. In his statement to the council, Shaheed said “The dangers of Islamophobia have been vividly manifested through heinous and violent attacks against Muslims across the globe that have captured headlines and international attention, but the majority of the human rights violations and abuses engendered by Islamophobia often gain little media attention, and, by some estimates, largely go unreported.”

Highlighting how widespread anti-Muslim prejudice has become, Shaheed also noted that, The dissemination of Islamophobic narratives is not confined to extremist propaganda, however, and extends to the media, academia, schools, healthcare settings, and parliamentary bodies.” 

A press release about the report issued by the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner further explained that “numerous States ­­­— along with regional and international bodies ­— have responded to security threats by adopting measures which disproportionately target Muslims and define Muslims as both high-risk and at risk of radicalization.”

The report references European surveys in 2018 and 2019 that showed 37 percent of the population holding unfavorable views of Muslims. In 2017, about 30 percent of Americans surveyed viewed Muslims negatively.

UN Photo/Mahmoud Abd El Latiff
Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at the al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, expressing his solidarity and underscoring the need to fight the scourge of Islamophobia, as well as all forms of hatred and bigotry. 2 April, 2019.


The report: explains the concept of Islamophobia, documents the experiences of affected communities and proposes recommendations to address and mitigate the impact of Islamophobia in accordance with international law.

Mr. Shaheed noted that the rise of anti-Muslim hatred followed the 9/11 terror attacks as well as other acts of terrorism that were carried out in the name of Islam. As a result, Mr. Shaheed explains that governments have imposed measures that restrict Muslims from living according to their belief system, limit access to citizenship, encourage socioeconomic exclusion and cause rampant stigmatization of Muslim communities.

Shaheed strongly encouraged states to “take all necessary measures to combat direct and indirect forms of discrimination against Muslims and prohibit any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence.”

As UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Shaheed has been a staunch advocate on the international stage for the freedom of religion or belief for members of all faiths, free of discrimination. In 2019, for example, Mr. Shaheed issued a report on the dangerous of rising anti-Semitism around the world and suggested a list of prescriptive polices to combat the hatred of Jews.

The full report on countering Islamophobia is available here.