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Chairperson's Statement on the issue of the mosque in Buk-gu, Daegu City
-We must stand up to hate and discrimination as global citizens-
21 March is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination(CERD), which established this memorable day, was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1965. South Korea acceded to the Convention in December 1978 and has been a State Party since the following year, from 4 January 1979 to the present.
The Convention obliges States Parties to "condemn racial discrimination and to pursue without delay, by all appropriate means, policies for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and for the promotion of understanding between peoples, recognising that discrimination against human beings on the grounds of race, colour or racial or ethnic origin is an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between States and is likely to disturb the peace and security of peoples and even the harmony of peoples living side by side in the same country".
Even though South Korea has ratified the Convention for more than 40 years, it is not yet fully implemented on the ground. Recently, locals opposed the construction of Mosque in Dageu city and the NHRCK issued the following statement in support of a peaceful resolution. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Chairperson Song Doo-hwan, hereinafter referred to as 'NHRCK') issued following statement in support of the peaceful resolution of the mosque construction issue in Daegu.
Construction of a mosque in the Buk-gu, Daegu City began in September 2020, but the district office ordered the construction to be stopped in February 2021 due to complaints from residents. Construction was later resumed through a court case, but the mosque has not yet been completed.
Some residents of the area claim that the construction of the mosque is an act of reverse discrimination that threatens their livelihoods and harms them with noise and odours emanating from the mosque. In the early stages of the opposition, banners stating "Absolute opposition to the mosque, a hotbed of terrorism" and "Muslims who brutally kill and behead people, terrorists, leave now!" were hung around the construction site and Muslim international student residences, and a series of events were held to display a pig's head and to share pork, which is taboo in Islam.
As of 2019, there were around 260,000 Muslims living in South Korea, and more than 1 million Muslim tourists visited the country annually before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by Islam in South Korea. In 2018, when Yemeni refugees arrived in Korea, there was a lot of hatred and discrimination against Muslims, but Korean society has accepted Muslim refugees as close neighbours.
At the international community that respects the human right and dignity for all people, hate speech is no longer acceptable. In May 2019, the United Nations defined hate speech as “any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor" and called for an assertive response.
The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of Religion or Belief expressed concern in the report to the UN General Assembly in April 2021, that the "frequent and widespread incidents of violence against Muslims around the world, including incidents in which governments are alleged to have incited or participated in violence or otherwise failed to respond appropriately" and explained that Islamophobia is fuelled by intersecting prejudices against a range of characteristics, including ethnicity, race, foreignness, economic status, gender and religion.
Despite the fact that Islam strictly forbids eating pork, cooking and displaying pork in front of a mosque under construction, denigrating Islamic culture and expressing and inciting hostility towards it is a classic expression of hatred towards minorities on the basis of race and religion. It is dangerous behaviour that should be stopped immediately and should not be tolerated in our society. Korean Government must respond appropriately to the intolerance and discrimination contained in such hate speech, in accordance with its obligations under international human rights laws.
We call on Daegu City and its administrative bodies, to respond to, rehabilitate and prevent the recurrence of hateful discriminatory acts. We also call on local communities and the citizens of Daegu to pursue peaceful coexistence by being vigilant against hate in their daily lives, respecting each other's diversity, and expressing solidarity with the victims.
Now, in 2023, Daegu has become a place to test and confirm how local governments, communities and citizens should respond to hate speech that denies human dignity. We hope that Daegu, the city that drove Korea's industrialisation and sparked the democratisation movement, will become a global city and a place where 'equality' can flourish.
The NHRCK will contiune to promote and support national and local community efforts to tackle hate discrimination.