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Ambassador Donahoe Expresses Deep Concern about Attempts to Offend Members of Religious or Ethnic Groups
August 5, 2010

Below is the text of a letter from Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay.

Dear Madame High Commissioner:

As United States Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, I wanted to register strong support for the request sent to you by my colleague, Ambassador Zamir Akram of Pakistan, in his capacity as Coordinator of the OIC Group on Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues in Geneva, dated July 9, 2010.  In his letter, Ambassador Akram called to your attention a report that the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida plans to hold an “international burn a Koran Day” on 11 September 2010 in alleged remembrance of the victims of 9/11 and to demonstrate against “the evil of Islam.”

The United States government in no way condones such acts of disrespect. To the contrary, the United States is deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups.  President Obama made clear in Cairo in his speech on June 4, 2009 that he considers it part of his responsibility as President to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they occur, a responsibility I share. I also note that many Americans of all faiths disagree with this initiative by the Dove Outreach Center.  The Council on American-Islamic Relations, for example, is using education and outreach to counter this “Burn the Koran” campaign with a campaign to share the Koran.

As you know, Madame High Commissioner, the United States strongly believes that the best antidote to intolerance is a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach to minority religious groups, and the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression.  As we have discussed in the past, the United States supports the full use of your office and moral authority to speak out against intolerance and instances of hate speech where they occur.

Yours truly,

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe