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Ban Ki-moon Appeals For Calm Over 'Fitna' Video

Condemning 'offensively anti-Islamic' video, Ban Ki-moon appeals for calm

28 March 2008 - Secretary-General today led a chorus of United Nations condemnation of the Internet broadcast of a video made by the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, describing it as "offensively anti-Islamic," while he also called on those upset by the film to remain calm.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson after last night's airing of the film, entitled Fitna, Mr. Ban said "there is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here.

"I acknowledge the efforts of the Dutch Government to stop the broadcast of this film and appeal for calm to those understandably offended by it. Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility."

The Secretary-General stressed that the UN stands at the centre of global efforts to advance mutual respect, understanding and dialogue between different cultures, religions and groups.

"We must also recognize that the real fault line is not between Muslim and Western societies, as some would have us believe, but between small minorities of extremists, on different sides, with a vested interest in stirring hostility and conflict."

In 2005 Spain and Turkey established the Alliance of Civilizations under the auspices of the UN to promote better cross-cultural relations around the world, and last year Mr. Ban appointed the former Portuguese president Jorge Sampaio as the High Representative for the Alliance.

In addition, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said she joined in the condemnation of the tone and content of the video and urged all those who feel offended by its message "to restrict themselves to denouncing its hateful content by peaceful means.

"There is a protective legal framework, and the resolution of the controversy that this film will generate should take place within it," she said.

Three UN Special Rapporteurs also issued a joint statement condemning what they said was the film's distorted vision and irresponsibility and calling for dialogue and vigilance in response.

Doudou Diène, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; and Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression said the video "illustrates an increasing pattern that associates Muslims exclusively with violence and terrorism."

The three Special Rapporteurs, who serve in an independent, unpaid capacity and report to the UN Human Rights Council, said it was crucial that governments step up efforts to stop this pattern and to prevent wider incitement to racial and religious hatred.

"While on the one hand, freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that must be respected, it does not extend to include incitement to racial or religious hatred, which is itself clearly a violation of human rights. Public expressions that paint adherents of a particular religion as a threat to peace or global stability are irresponsible," the trio said in the statement.

They also stressed the need for vigilance and tolerance in the wake of the video's broadcast on the Internet, calling on all parties to refrain from any form of violence.

ENDS

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