CAIRO: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced hate speech and racism on Tuesday in a landmark address at Al-Azhar in Cairo.
“Hate speech is entering the mainstream, spreading like wildfire through social media and radio,” the UN chief said at the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution.
“Around the world, we are seeing ever-rising anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. We see it spreading in liberal democracies and as well as in authoritarian states.
“In this time of difficulties and division, we must stand together and protect each other.
“Nothing justifies terrorism, and it becomes particularly hideous when religion is invoked. We must uphold and promote human dignity and universal human rights.”
Guterres’s warning against growing hatred of Muslims came less than a month after Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant killed 50 worshippers in a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, as they took part in Friday prayers.
His speech echoed the theme of “Preachers of Hate,” the campaign launched by Arab News last month to profile, contextualize and analyze extremist preachers from all religions, backgrounds and nationalities.
Guterres was welcomed to Al-Azhar by the grand imam, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb.
The imam said Al-Azhar carried a universal message of peace.
He said Al-Azhar received thousands of students from all over the world, and provided them with the knowledge and values necessary to carry this message of humanity.
Guterres is on a two-day trip to Egypt. After his visit to Al-Azhar, he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.