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UN Gathering Confronts 'Islamophobia'

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (file photo) 8 December 2004 -- The United Nations has held its first-ever seminar on confronting "Islamophobia," or fear of Islam.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the one-day meeting yesterday with a plea not to judge Muslims and Islam by the acts of extremists who deliberately target and kill civilians.

Annan also urged Muslims and others to condemn terrorist and violent acts carried out in the name of Islam.

"The reaction to such events can be visceral, bringing an almost personal sense of affront," Annan told the gathering, according to Reuters. "But we should remember that these are political reactions -- disagreements with specific policies. All too often, they are mistaken for an Islamic reaction against Western values, sparking an anti-Islamic backlash."

Annan was addressing an audience of Islamic scholars, writers, and religious leaders as well as representatives of other religions.

"When the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development," Annan said. "Such is the case with 'Islamophobia.'"

The one-day seminar represented the UN's second such gathering on religious intolerance, following a similar forum in June devoted to anti-Semitism.

(compiled from wire reports)

[For more on "Religion and Tolerance," click here to see RFE/RL's dedicated webpage.]