Pakistan, in an obvious reference to India, told a UN panel that a deliberate campaign of hatred in the region is targeting adherents of a particular religious group that led to state-sponsored violence against them and stepped up attacks on their places of worship. Speaking at the launch of a ‘Group of Friends of Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief’, Pakistani representative Qasim Aziz said that hateful political rhetoric and incitement to violence in Pakistan’s neighbourhood was routinely used as a weapon against vulnerable minority groups, while also expressing grave concern over the alarming rise of Islamophobia worldwide. Pakistan became the founding member of the new Group formed in pursuance of last year’s General Assembly resolution that it jointly tabled with Poland, along with other cross-regional member states. Under the terms of the resolution, August 22 was designated as International Day in support of the victims of violence based on their religion or belief. In his comments, the Pakistani representative drew attention to the rising global Islamophobia that he stressed represented the contemporary manifestation of a similar kind of age-old hatred that spawned anti-semitism, racism, apartheid and many other forms of discrimination. “Today, Islamophobia is slowly overtaking other forms of religious bigotry and violence,” Aziz said. “Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to practice, look and live as a Muslim in many parts of the world,” he said, pointing out that the Christchurch, New Zealand, attack last year was a grim reminder of this fact. The deliberate campaign of hatred in Pakistan’s neighborhood, Aziz said, targeted against a particular religious group, leading to repeated incidents of state-sponsored pogroms, increased attacks on their places of worship and in some instances highly discriminatory citizenship laws. Earlier, one of the main panelists, the UN Special Rapportuer on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, also expressed similar concerns about increased attacks against Muslims and other minorities in India. The Groups of Friends are coalitions of UN member states, who band together in order to further and actualize particular goals and outcomes related to specific issues or situations. As a member of the new Group, Pakistan plans to draw systematic attention to contemporary issues at the United Nations such as combating hate speech, xenophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination based on religion or belief, it was pointed out.