At the intersection of the freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, the freedom of religion or belief stands as one of the fundamental tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, even when such freedoms are part of the declared principles of some democracies, several groups and individuals keep being actively and/or structurally discriminated or targeted because of their religion or beliefs. Since 2019, the United Nations instituted an International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief on the 22nd of August to tackle this issue. ALDA also tackles discrimination against religion or belief – and any other form of discrimination that may lead to hate crimes – through the STAND UP project.
Aside from the long history of religious discrimination in several countries (for example, the antisemitic component of Nazism during World War II), this International Day tries to respond to an alarming surge of discrimination and violence against certain religious groups in more recent times. For example, although they are not the only victims, there have been increasing instances of islamophobia in the USA and many European countries – what the Secretary-General of the UN has defined as an ‘epidemic of hatred’ – especially after major terrorist attacks. Indeed, anti-terrorism rhetoric can often be linked with hate and violence against certain religions. The institution of this International Day exactly one day after the pre-existing UN’s International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism (21st of August) certainly attempts to prevent this risk.
Inclusiveness and non-discrimination represent key values of ALDA’s work and mission
In addition, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) denounces how Islamophobia is often another form of racism rather than a criticism towards a religion per se. All those practising a religion are assumed to have certain opinions or behaviours that are seen as negative or threatening; and those linked to a social group or ethnicity are assumed to be practising that religion and to hold specific negative values. Thus, victims of islamophobia often simply belong to a certain ethnicity but are not even Muslims.
Instances of racism, xenophobia, religious discriminations and other forms of marginalisation clearly intersect in the phenomenon of the acts of violence based on religion or belief, be it Islam or other religions. In order to tackle the issue, an intersectional approach that takes into account different aspects of identity and combining discriminating factors is needed. ALDA is particularly active in employing such an approach against overt violence via STAND UP, a project that aims at improving the reporting and prevention of hate crimes through localised and flexible analyses of hate speech. ALDA is also implementing an anti-discriminatory policy with the purpose of becoming more inclusive and to avoid marginalisation because of religion, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, (dis)ability and other factors.