[JURIST] A UN expert on racism warned Tuesday that instances of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are on the rise worldwide, and pose a special danger as they are not confined to extremist groups but have become integral to mainstream democratic systems. Senegalese lawyer Doudou Diene, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance [official website], was speaking to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [UN fact sheet] meeting in Geneva. Diene said that the fight against terrorism and other government initiatives had led to discriminatory immigration and asylum policies and a retreat from diversity and tolerance: racism was now "commonplace" and ethnically and racially-biased stances had become increasingly legitimized in intellectual discourse by respected scholars.
Speaking of recent events, he said the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] reflected a re-emergence of xenophobia, but encouraged the UN to regard the furor over their dissemination as a clash of competing values - freedom of expression and freedom of religion - rather than some "clash of civilizations", indicating that the balance between the two had to be negotiated through dialogue [press release] rather than law. UN News Center has more. Read the full UN summary of Diene's meeting with the Committee.