The world observed International Day to Combat Islamophobia on Wednesday, with the United Nations calling for "concrete action in the face of rising hatred, discrimination and violence against Muslims."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres affirmed that the move is "a call for action to stamp out anti-Muslim hatred."
"Discrimination diminishes us all. We must stand up against it," he wrote on Twitter. "Today & every day, we must counter the forces of division by reaffirming our common humanity."
U.N. General Assembly President Csaba Korosi said: "Islamophobia is rooted in xenophobia, or the fear of strangers, which is reflected in discriminatory practices, travel bans, hate speech, bullying and targeting of other people" and urged countries to uphold the freedom of religion and take action against the hatred.
"All of us carry a responsibility to challenge Islamophobia or any similar phenomenon, to call out injustice and condemn discrimination based on religion or belief - or the lack of them," said Korosi.
The U.N. in its message said all countries "must confront bigotry wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head," including tackling online hate speech, adding that it is working with governments, regulators, media and technology companies "to set up guardrails and enforce them."
The United Nations General Assembly recognized March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia last year, after it adopted a unanimous resolution submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
To mark this year's event, Istanbul-based Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) held it's 4th International Conference on Islamophobia between March 11-13.
Titled "Examining the Cultural and Geopolitical Dimensions of Islamophobia in Muslim-majority Countries," the conference brought together 51 speakers from 12 countries.
Experts at the conference said accepting plurality, holding dialogue and working together are important elements in the fight against Islamophobia.
"We have to accept the diversity of our nations, the plurality of the nationalities, the colors, the ethnic groups, political orientations and intellectual orientations ... We have to admit and accept them," Muhammad Muzaffari, from the University of Religions and Denominations in Iran, told the conference.
Muzaffari stressed that Muslim societies must "start constructive dialogue not only with our brothers but also with seculars."
"Because if we want to manage our society ... we want to open a new horizon for our future, we have to do it through constructive dialogue," he said, calling Islamophobia in Muslim-majority nations a "challenging task."
Calling for a deeper understanding of Muslim problems, Asim Qureshi, research director at the U.K.-based CAGE Advocacy Group, said "we are not uncritically regurgitating narratives that are in the longer term unhealthy for us ... because it is very easy to reach for easy answers."
Enes Bayraklı, an associate professor at Turkish-German University and co-editor of the annual European Islamophobia Report, called for "political activism" in combating Islamophobia.
Lauding the U.N.’s declaration of March 15 as the Day to Combat Islamophobia as an "important turning important and first step," Bayraklı said while there was "enough literature" available on Islamophobia, "what we have to do now is establish a nongovernmental organization."
The main job of this NGO, he said, "would be to fight Islamophobia," stressing the daily collection of data on anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Bayraklı also called for steps to declare an "Islamophobic country, politician, movie or novel of the year."
"So that we put pressure ... so that there is a price, for being Islamophobic, to pay ... at least politically," he said.
The Turkish academic also urged the need for advocacy work and building alliances while also challenging Islamophobic incidents in courts, which "needs lots of funding."
Bayraklı said there was a need for funding academic research on Islamophobia at all levels.
Fahad Qureshi from the U.K.-based University of Salford emphasized the need for collaboration among academics and groups in the fight against Islamophobia.
"Coming together, working together, learning from each other ... as how Islamophobia is operating in different countries," Qureshi said, calling the conference "very important" to combat Islamophobia, which is a global phenomenon but "has local flavors."
Uveys Han, a research fellow at CIGA, said there was a "need for more precision about trying to make sure that states don’t hide behind this kind of language or order to justify the Islamophobic actions."
Han also stressed focusing on a long-term strategy impacting the psychological elements of colonialism through social media, especially through creating safe spaces for Muslims to have more open conversations
While most of the social media messaging "is managed," Han said it was "no longer a safe space for our youth and ourselves ... There is false information."
"We need to start to look at technological interventions which we are so embedded in and roll out solutions that will allow for, especially the next generation, to be less and less prone to interacting with tech spaces where Islamophobia is normalized," he said, pressing on the "social and spiritual well-being of Muslims" to combat Islamophobia.
Professor Sami al-Arian, the director of CIGA, discussed four areas "resulting" in islamophobia in Muslim-majority nations, including "authoritarian regimes, which use Islam for their own purposes; the role of foreigners or colonialists to serve colonial economic or geopolitical interests; secular elites at the intellectual and cultural levels and established structures within Muslim societies such as the court system, media, academia, political class and bureaucracy."